Mid-season TV is totally underrated. Largely seen as primetime’s second string, the slate of shows that pop up each winter to replace the fall season’s biggest failures has more to offer than you might think — especially at a time when cable and premium channels are challenging the networks’ traditional September-to-May schedule. With that in mind, there are a whole lot of new series debuting from December through February that we at Flavorpill can’t wait to watch. From Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell as corporate bloodsuckers to Kevin Smith’s comic-book store to the return of Deadwood creator David Milch, our ten most anticipated mid-season shows are after the jump.
Luck (HBO) Premieres: December 11
We’re not terribly interested in horse racing, but when Deadwood creator David Milch, director Michael Mann, and Dustin Hoffman come together to make an hourlong drama for HBO, we’re not going to quibble over subject matter. The show will approach the sport from multiple angles, following not only the jockeys and owners but also the gamblers — like Hoffman’s character, Chester “Ace” Bernstein. Did we mention that Nick Nolte’s also part of the cast?
Angry Boys (HBO) Premieres: January 1
If you loved Australian one-man comedy team Chris Lilley in the high-school spoof Summer Heights High, which aired on HBO after premiering Down Under, you’ll be pleased to know he’s returning to premium cable with yet another mockumentary. Angry Boys finds Lilley turning his attention to the plight of young men around the world. To that end, he plays no fewer than six characters — including an American rapper named S.mouse and a Japanese mother who’s obsessed with making her son a star skateboarder.
Project Runway All Stars (Lifetime) Premieres: January 5
Although there will be no Tim or Heidi on this Project Runway spin-off, there are plenty of reasons to watch — namely, the return of such favorites as Anthony Williams, Mondo Guerra, and a newly mustachioed Austin Scarlett. If the trailer is any indication, it’s going to be one hell of a colorful reunion.
House of Lies (Showtime) Premieres: January 8
What’s better than a half-hour comedy based on Martin Kihn’s biting memoir House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time? That same show, starring Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, and Ben Schwartz (who’s best known as Parks and Recreation‘s Jean-Ralphio) as the morally questionable consultants. After breaking our hearts by canceling The United States of Tara, Showtime is slowly winning us back with great shows like Homeland. Here’s hoping House of Lies lives up to its fantastic cast.
Alcatraz (Fox) Premieres: January 16
After sitting through last week’s phoned-in trailer, we have our share of concerns about the prison-set sci-fi/adventure series Alcatraz. But it’s still a brain-teasing J.J. Abrams drama that finds the Lost creator re-teaming with one of the show’s most beloved stars, Jorge Garcia — so the least we can do is give it a chance.
Unsupervised (FX) Premieres: January 19
Finally, a show about teenagers who aren’t depraved, drug-addicted sex maniacs. And yet, considering the animated comedy Unsupervised was created by the people behind It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and that the preview above includes a discussion of butt hair, we’re sure there will be no shortage of off-color humor. If that doesn’t convince you to watch, note that the voice cast includes Justin Long, Fred Armisen, and (the busiest woman on mid-season TV) Kristen Bell.
Inside Comedy (Showtime) Premieres: January 26
Now here’s a promising project: Steve Carell and David Steinberg (whose four-decade career includes over 130 appearances on Johnny Carson and directing credits on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm) make a ten-part documentary on comedy. The show will consist of Steinberg interviewing such guests as Chris Rock, Don Rickles, Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Silverman, Larry David, Garry Shandling, and Jane Lynch.
Key & Peele (Comedy Central) Premieres: January 31
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s combination sketch/stand-up show is already garnering comparisons to Chappelle’s Show — and watching the early clip above, it’s easy to see why. In a mere 30 seconds, Key and Peele bring the laughs while touching on such complex issues as self-stereotyping and internalized racism.
Smash (NBC) Premieres: February 6
NBC hasn’t had a great few years, viewership-wise, but this fall has been particularly bleak for the network. So we imagine they’re hoping to win over Glee‘s sizable audience with Smash, an ensemble musical drama about a team that’s come together to bring Marilyn Monroe’s life story to Broadway. Stephen Spielberg is an executive producer on the project, whose cast includes Debra Messing, Katharine McPhee, and — best of all — Anjelica Huston.
Secret Stash (AMC) Premieres: February 12
And finally, both because we’re comic geeks and because AMC has such a strong track record, we will be watching Secret Stash — a reality show set at Kevin Smith’s Red Bank, NJ comic store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. According to the network, the hourlong series “captures the world of the neighborhood comic book store and fanboy culture,” focusing on the community that grows up around a beloved local nerd hub. Perhaps this means it will finally be OK to love Smith again, post-Red State debacle?