It’s time for TV networks to make a course correction.
It was only a few months ago that we were given a new fall lineup of shows: bright, shiny and full of potential. Now we can see that very little of it thoroughly captivated viewers — and a sizable chunk of it is already piled on the trash heap of cancellation.
We believe the networks can get it right and create programming that’s worth watching. In fact, we keep hoping they’ll come up with shows that are downright irresistible. The new winter/midseason slate has plenty of misfires, but there also are some truly promising ones that caught our eye.
Here’s our rundown of the most interesting new series that TV has to offer in the months to come.
“1600 Penn" 9:30 Thursdays, NBC
Meet the Gilchrists. They’re a typical sitcom family — except for the fact that Dad (Bill Pullman) is the president of the United States and their home is the White House. Try to imagine a life in which every family issue, large or small, often deeply personal and quite embarrassing, routinely gets covered on the evening news. Making matters worse is that the president’s ne’er-do-well son Skip (Josh Gad) is a lightning rod for chaos. With Skip in the White House, the president, the first lady (Jenna Elfman) and the Secret Service are constantly putting out fires, sometimes literally.
“The Carrie Diaries" 8 p.m. Mondays, CW
Remember Carrie Bradshaw? She was the romance-challenged, Manolo Blahniks-obsessed Manhattanite who guided viewers through six seasons of New York sex- capades and female bonding on HBO’s “Sex and the City." Now the CW has wound back the clock to 1984, when Carrie (played by AnnaSophia Robb, a 19-year-old actress who you can sort of see maturing into Sarah Jessica Parker) was a naive 16-year-old from Connecticut, overcoming the death of her mother and getting her first taste of fashion and romance in the big city. As Carrie puts it, the first man in her life is Manhattan.
“Ripper Street" 9 p.m. Saturday, BBC America
In the aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, H Division, the precinct charged with keeping order in Victorian London’s Whitechapel district, works diligently to police the toughest district in the East End. It’s a fear-soaked community where imitators emerge, gangs terrorize and every new murder could mark the return of the Ripper. Leading the battle is Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), one of the lead investigators on the Ripper case, a man now driven to introduce technology and innovation into 1890s crime-solving procedures.
“The Americans" 10 p.m. Jan. 30, FX
This unconventional family-espionage hybrid stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as KGB spies posing as an ordinary Washington, D.C., couple in the final decade of the Cold War. Not even their kids, 13-year-old Paige and 10-year-old Henry, know the truth about Philip and Elizabeth Jennings’ identities. Complicating their dangerous mission here, which involves working with a network of spies and informants, are their romantic feelings for each other, their growing affinity for America’s values and an FBI counterterrorism agent who has moved into the neighborhood.
“The Following" 9 p.m. Jan. 21, Fox
This bloody action thriller, starring Kevin Bacon as a former FBI agent, opens with a notorious serial killer escaping from prison so he can tend to some unfinished business: a former victim who survived. But it soon becomes apparent that Joe Carroll (the charismatic bad guy, played by James Purefoy) isn’t the only threat out there. Seems that he has an entire network, or cult, of followers ready to begin killing sprees. Ryan Hardy, Bacon’s character, the broken-down agent who originally captured Carroll, is brought out of the alcoholic funk of retirement to work the case.
“Monday Mornings" 10 p.m. Feb. 4, TNT
After all these years of TV doctor shows, you’d think nothing new could be done with them. Then along comes this ensemble drama from producer David Kelley and CNN medical correspondent/ neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “Monday Mornings" is more about the failures than the triumphs as viewers sit in on the weekly morbidity and mortality conference, behind-closed-doors meetings in which doctors discuss cases that went wrong. It’s a refreshing change, albeit disconcerting if you’re planning to go under the knife, to see that doctors aren’t as infallible as TV often portrays them.
“Zero Hour" 8 p.m. Feb. 14, ABC
This globe-trotting, time-shifting action-conspiracy series starring Anthony Edwards involves an antique clock, a kidnapped wife, a mysterious map, genetic experiments conducted by Nazi scientists, a dozen modern-day Disciples and a cliffhanger at the end of every episode. Hank Galliston (Edwards), publisher of Modern Skeptic Magazine, gets mixed up in this madness after his wife is abducted. While racing the clock to save her, he learns that letting the map fall into the wrong hands could have cataclysmic consequences.