It's that time of year again. The fall TV shows are wrapping up (those that survived past the first few episodes), and a brand new flock of midseason premieres are heading to our living rooms.
I've watched a few of the pilots, and while some are questionable in terms of family viewing and overall quality, others are practically leaping off the screen and pulling me in...
(Keep in mind that these are first impressions, and it usually takes a few episodes to get a good feel for a show. Also, the screeners that TV critics get often don't have final music, credits or even actors. Then again, if a show tests so badly that the showrunners feel the need to change out a lead actor, that doesn't bode well.)
Let's take a look at five upcoming new shows, and see how they stack up for family viewing:
Work It. (ABC, premieres Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 8:30 p.m. ET.) The last time guys in drag were funny was when Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari starred in ABC's Bosom Buddies -- and, before that, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot.
Needless to say, I don't have high hopes for this show, but we'll see how it shakes out. Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco star as unemployed car salesmen who realize they're living in a woman's world. So they decide to dress up as women to score jobs as pharmaceutical reps.
You can see where this is going, and it does -- plenty of teetering in high heels, stuffing themselves into Spanx, and groan-inducing jokes about the opposite sex. I won't completely write it off, because if the writing is smart (it wasn't, in the pilot), and they don't rely on too many stupid stunts, it could work.
But it also doesn't have any recognizable names, so it's got that working against it. This show is okay for kids 13 and older, but I'm not sure it'll make big waves in the TV world. What do women want? Anything but guys dressed up so badly as girls that they wouldn't make the first cut on RuPaul's Drag Race.
The Finder. (Fox, premieres Thursday, Jan. 12, at 8 p.m. ET). I've watched only a few episodes of Bones, from which this series spins, so take my notes with a grain of salt.
The story revolves around Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults), a guy with the remarkable ability to find anything or anyone. That offers plenty of story possibilities, but the most intriguing thing about this show so far is Michael Clarke Duncan as Leo Knox, Walter's "legal advisor" with more than a passing similarity to Hunter Thompson's attorney in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I'd watch it just for him -- but if you or your kids are Bones fans, check it out. Okay for kids 12 and older.
Alcatraz. (Fox, premieres Monday, Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. ET.) I cannot wait to see more of this show. It's one of those twisty-turny-don't-know-what's-coming shows that I hope will gain momentum and stay on the air for at least five years (and I say this after having watched only the pilot).
Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia and Sam Neill come together to investigate the shocking reappearance of Alcatraz's most notorious prisoners -- 50 years after they vanished (and they haven't aged a day).
It's a great mix of veteran actors (including Robert Forster, who knows more than he's saying) and crew (producer Robert Hull worked on 24 and Gossip Girl), a mysterious story (where did the prisoners go and why are they back?), and great settings (including Alcatraz itself). But because of the violence and criminal themes, I don't recommend it for kids younger than 12.
Smash. (NBC, premieres Monday, Feb. 6, at 10 p.m. ET). With the popularity of Glee, I guess it's inevitable that we'd get a show about Broadway at some point.
Then again, they're very different shows.
Smash follows the behind-the-scenes drama of a Broadway musical based on Marilyn Monroe. Debra Messing is the woman in charge, Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty (at right below) are ingenues vying for the lead role, and Angelica Huston is a veteran producer who clashes with Messing's character.
This show has "smash" written all over it, because Americans, even those in flyover country, are fascinated with the whole idea of putting on a show. It's great for kids interested in musical theater, but adult themes (including a scene involving the casting couch) make it best for kids 14 and older.
The River. (ABC, premieres Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 9 p.m. ET.) Take one part Lost, blend with one part Heart of Darkness (check out the 1993 movie starring Tim Roth and John Malkovich), and sprinkle in a pinch of Jurassic Park.
What you get is The River, a show about famed explorer Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood), who goes looking for magic deep in the Amazon and never returns.
Six months later, his son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) is shocked when his dad's emergency beacon suddenly goes off. He teams with his mom Tess (Leslie Hope), Dr. Cole's ex-producer Clark (Paul Blackthorne), and a ragtag crew to go looking for him.
This show is dark, mysterious and a whole bunch of fun, but it's too edgy for kids younger than 13. Watch it with your teens.
What midseason shows are you looking forward to?