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New TV shows offer midseason relief

Television Critic

It’s a new year and traditionally the time when television’s dead are carried from the field and their replacements sent in. Good luck to you all; it’s murder out there. Trends? A few new shows about parenting (joining “Modern Family,” already in progress), a couple featuring comic-book action heroes (one actually a cartoon, the other based on a comic). The usual sprinkling of lawyers, doctors and lawmen. More of that northern weather that says “filmed in Canada.” Television, ever changing, ever more or less the same. Herewith, a not absolutely comprehensive rundown of new series coming to your TV before the vernal equinox.

January

‘Our Little Genius’

Fox, Wednesday

The fifth-graders you are not smarter than get their own quiz show.

‘Archer’

FX, Thursday

Ironically banal super-spy cartoon-cum-workplace comedy is an Adult Swim series in all but network. H. Jon Benjamin, the Olivier of deadpan cartoon voice-overs, plays the titular secret agent, with Jessica Walter as his mother and boss.

‘Human Target’

Fox, Jan. 17

Charming Mark Valley stars as a mysterious and expensive roving bodyguard. Plotting can be obvious, but the action sequences perform way above their pay grade. Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley lend a hand.

‘Life Unexpected’

The CW, Jan. 18

Spunky teen Brittany Robertson, out to emancipate herself from a life of bad foster homes, hunts up still-young birth parents Shiri Appleby and Kristoffer Polaha. They will form some new kind of family, despite themselves and other odds. Smarter than it is sappy.

‘The Deep End’

ABC, Jan. 21

“Grey’s Anatomy” in a law office, as first-year attorneys deal with the pressure, get busy when not too busy to get busy. Good and evil partners circle above them.

‘Caprica’

Syfy, Jan. 22

“Battlestar Galactica” prequel set 58 years earlier, when not everyone lived on a spaceship and Cylons were barely a glint in an electric eye. Reported plot points engage 21st century issues, including terrorism and the bubble economy. Esai Morales plays the future father of a character who will one day be played by Edward James Olmos, alongside Eric Stoltz and Polly Walker

‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand’

Starz, Jan. 22

And more blood. Sam Raimi is one of the producers of this risibly sanguinary sword-and-sandal epic, set in CGI. It’s the old Kirk Douglas classic but with bad language, soft porn interludes and a smorgasbord of severed body parts. Plus Lucy Lawless.

‘LA LA Land’

Showtime, Jan. 25

“Borat"-style high jinks from British comedian Marc Wootton, who dupes Hollywood professionals into acts of real-life improv, in the guise of an actor, a psychic and a director whose goal is to be “the first right-wing Michael Moore.”

February

‘Undercover Boss’

CBS, Feb. 7

Corporate bigwigs go incognito as their own underlings to discover how their business really runs, and other things they should have known before reality TV came knocking.

‘Past Life’

Fox, Feb. 11

Really Cold Case. Reincarnated unquiet souls settle old business with the help of the supernaturally sympathetic. Teary closure is their reward, and yours.

March

‘Parenthood’

NBC, March 1

Delayed from the fall on account of illness, with Lauren Graham in for Maura Tierney, alongside Craig T. Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia, Peter Krause and Monica Potter. Brothers, sisters, parents, kids, issues. Based on the Ron Howard movie, and so conceptually anterior to “Modern Family.”

‘Fly Girls’

CW, March 10

Reality miniseries follows Virgin America flight attendants, no snickering please, aloft and on the ground.

‘The Marriage Ref’

NBC, March 14

Executive producer Jerry Seinfeld transfers the essence of his old sitcom -- the hell that is other people’s little annoying habits -- into a reality series in which bickering couples have their cases decided by " celebrities, comedians and sports stars.” Arbitration possibly nonbinding.

‘Sons of Tucson’

Fox, March 14

Majestically disheveled Tyler Labine ( “Reaper”) is paid by three little kids to impersonate their currently imprisoned father in this series from Todd “Wonderfalls” Holland.

‘The Pacific’

HBO, March 14

Executive producers Steven Speilberg and Tom Hanks’ Pacific theater sequel to “Band of Brothers” rides along with the Marines for a front-line view. Battle scenes and idle conversations are rendered with equally loving naturalism.

Also Coming

‘Miami Medical’

CBS

Another hour of CBS prime time falls to Jerry Bruckheimer ( “CSI” and other assorted, explicit forensic romps), although in this hospital series the bloody bodies, instead of all being dead, have a chance at not being. Jeremy Northam is the quietly intense Bruckheimer alpha male, a surgeon of extraordinary gifts and strange habits.

‘Day One’

NBC

Post-semi-apocalyptic drama (world infrastructure goes kerblooey) suffered a semi-apocalypse of its own when its order was reduced from 13 episodes to four. (It’s a miniseries now.) Characters must survive without Google, Wikipedia or television.

‘Happy Town’

ABC

A northern gothic mystery in which an ironically nicknamed Minnesota town is plagued by mysterious disappearances. Sam Neill, owner of an improbable movie memorabilia shop, and Frances Conroy, as the rich woman who owns the big bakery, lend old-pro gravitas.

‘Tinsley’

The CW

New York City socialite and handbag designer Tinsley Mortimer works the person-brand in this follow-her-around reality series.

‘Justified’

FX

“Deadwood” marshal Timothy Olyphant jumps ahead a century and change to clean up small-town Kentucky in this Elmore Leonard-derived series.

‘Louie’

FX

Louis C.K. takes a second run at situation comedy, this time playing a version of himself (stand-up comic, divorced dad).

‘Treme’

HBO

Having completely disassembled Baltimore, David Simon ( “The Wire”) -- television’s own Dickens -- applies his sociopoliti- cal dramaturgy to post-Katrina New Orleans.

‘How to Make It in America’

HBO

A kind of East Coast " Entourage,” from some of the people who bring you the West Coast “Entourage,” set in and around New York’s fashion industry.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com


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