With a new series from Steven Spielberg plus the return of ‘Mad Men’ and many others, TV addicts have a lot to get hyped about.
By Jim Cantiello
“Revenge,” “American Horror Story,” “New Girl,” 2 Broke Girls,” “Girl Girl” (OK, we made that last one up). Coming off one of the most satisfying fall seasons in recent memory, 2012 has a lot to live up to in order to keep TV addicts hyped up in the new year. Admit it, couch potatoes: We’ve been spoiled.
Can the upcoming midseason keep the momentum going?
Perhaps the biggest hope for viewers is Steven Spielberg‘s “Smash,” a new musical series starring “American Idol” alum Katharine McPhee and “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing. Although “Glee” comparisons are unavoidable (OMG, people are singing songs and dancing on prime-time TV!), the extended previews suggest a more mature affair. “Smash” is a warts-and-all depiction of what it’s like to create a new Broadway show. Competing actresses, sparring producers, Anjelica Friggin’ Huston in your living room chewing scenery every week … What’s not to love?
Spielberg isn’t the only movie maverick headed to the television world this year. “Paranormal Activity” mastermind Oren Peli is partially responsible for ABC’s “The River,” in which a travelogue host goes missing in the Amazon, sparking a rescue mission led by his wife, son and former TV crew. Will Peli’s patented “found footage” device work on the boob tube?
Small-screen suspense is hot thanks to Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story,” whose addictive first season wrapped up before Christmas. However, Murphy’s Achilles heel is sustaining quality and buzz over multiple seasons (see “Nip/Tuck,” “Glee”), so fans are cautiously optimistic for its return in the fall. Murphy also has his hand in a new sitcom pilot about a gay couple and a surrogate that caused a bidding war between all the major networks, not to mention several feature films in development and the third season of “Glee,” which continues to roll along. Fingers crossed Murphy can stay focused enough on F/X’s breakout gothic hit to keep season two just as juicy and batsh– as its debut.
Speaking of shows that derailed after one season, “Heroes” creator Tim Kring is back on the network horse, bringing the touchy-feely father-son drama “Touch” to Fox this spring. The premise? Kiefer Sutherland plays a widowed dad struggling to take care of his mute, autistic son. Can’t wait to watch Ryan Seacrest awkwardly interview Kiefer in the “Idol” audience about that one.
There’s a mini-”Lost” reunion happening on Fox thanks to “Alcatraz,” J.J. Abrams’ latest. It’s a (what else?) convoluted mystery that takes place on an island! Instead of plane crash survivors, this one’s about long-deceased guards and inmates reappearing decades later. Hurley (a.k.a. Jorge Garcia) co-stars. No word yet on whether the smoke monster will make a cameo.
In 2011, MTV had a breakout year with scripted television thanks to action-packed “Teen Wolf” and sharply hilarious “Awkward.” Both of your faves will be back this summer, with “Teen Wolf” expanding to 24 episodes and “Awkward.” boasting new love woes for Jenna. Brooklyn-based comedy “I Just Want My Pants Back” will get the full-season treatment in February. And millions of fist-pumpers will be happy when America’s most popular partiers get belligerent in Seaside Heights when the fifth season of “Jersey Shore” spreads like an STD on January 5.
On the opposite end of the TV spectrum, AMC’s “Mad Men” will finally be back in March. We’ve waited longer than usual for new Don Draper exploits thanks to a behind-the-scenes kerfuffle between show creator Matthew Weiner and the cable network. Now that the contracts have been signed, we can all jump back into the adventures of the 1960s advertising world. For those of you who forgot where we left off (spoilers on the way), Don’s engaged to secretary Megan, his (crazy!) ex-wife is shacking up with a politician, Joan’s preggers and their preteen daughter is a chronic masturbator. And you wonder why this show wins a million Emmys.
The other Emmy favorite, “30 Rock,” has found itself stuck between a very odd rock and hilarious hard place now that Kim Jong-il has passed away. Remember, last season ended with Jack Donaghy’s wife, Avery Jessup, kidnapped in North Korea and forcibly married to Jong-il’s son Kim Jong-un. Given the breaking news, the show’s sixth season may need to re-vamp its planned plotline with Margaret Cho as the recently deceased dictator. Showrunner Robert Carlock recently told the press that “30 Rock” plans on airing the episodes they’ve already banked with Cho and aren’t even sure they’ll kill off her character at all. Sounds twisted!
Reality junkies are stoked for the second season of Lifetime’s “Dance Moms,” launching January 10. Pittsburgh’s leading instructor for aspiring Broadway starlets Abby Lee Miller is looking to add a new dancer to her competitive troupe. Grab-the-popcorn alert: A new dancer means a new mom with whom she will clash. Loudly. Plus, producers have smartly signed on rival Candy Apples dance instructor Cathy Nesbitt-Stein for another batch of episodes.
2012 will also bring us explosive new seasons of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” (long in the can and still making headlines thanks to public feuds between castmembers), Oxygen’s late-bloomer “The Glee Project” and a bigger, badder, bolder “X Factor” this fall. “X”-man Simon Cowell recently promised a “blood bath” behind the scenes. RIP awkward host Steve Jones?
Aspiring fashionistas have a lot to add to their DVRs. ABC Family’s latest is called “Jane by Design,” sort of a weekly “Devil Wears Prada” for the teenage set. NBC is premiering Elle Macpherson and Jessica Simpson’s reality competition “Fashion Star” in March. Lifetime is airing a full “Project Runway All Stars” season (featuring MTV News fave Sweet P!) as well as a new show called “24 Hour Catwalk,” hosted by Alexa Chung. The CW has a “Kitchen Nighmares”-type series about modeling agencies called “Running Out of TV Ideas,” I mean, “Remodeled.” Lastly, Rachel Zoe’s former assistant Brad Goreski gets top billing in Bravo’s “It’s a Brad, Brad World,” beginning January 2. That’s a lot of look.
And finally, as if you need any reminding, “American Idol” is back for its 11th season on January 18. Last year boasted beefy ratings despite star Simon Cowell jumping ship, a winner who shattered Billboard country records and more frilly scarves than HSN’s stockroom courtesy of new judge Steven Tyler.
However, last year’s “AI” premiered in a pre-”Voice,” pre-”X Factor” landscape. With NBC’s blind-auditions-and-Xtina-in-a-swivel-chair gimmick returning in a cushy post-Super Bowl spot (where, coincidentally, “Idol’s” sophomore season kicked off in 2003), and with “The X Factor” shattering pre-conceived notions of what reality production value can be, will the aging Fox staple now seem quaint? Or perhaps it will feel like a familiar hug from a grandmother. Regardless, even if the reality juggernaut loses half its audience, it will still make the network oodles of money. In other words, “American Idol” may outlive us all.
What shows are you most excited to see return? Any new series already set on your DVR? Let us know in the comments!