Snow Means New Shows: Midseason Television Brings Hits and Flops

newshowsMidseason television is, for lack of better term, a crapshoot. Sometimes viewers get fantastic, long running cult favorites (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and other times viewers scratch their heads wondering how certain shows get the green light (these shall remain forgotten). This season is no different.

Plenty of actors will be getting six degrees closer to Kevin Bacon on “The Following” (FOX, Mondays at 9 pm). This is probably the most buzzed about show this winter, but is it actually good? The pilot was actually really fantastic. Bacon stars as a former FBI agent who is called back to duty after a serial killer he originally caught has broken out of jail. The killer is concise and organized, planning every kill to relate to Edgar Allen Poe’s works. He isn’t working alone anymore though. He has developed a cult-like following on the internet. The thriller pushes boundaries for blood on network television. Be prepared to cringe. The acting is fantastic as is the writing. Kevin Williamson proved his knack for writing mystery with “The Vampire Diaries” and he brings that talent to “The Following.” It’s fast paced and creepy. It’s definitely worth watching.

“The Carrie Diaries” (The CW, Mondays at 9 pm) also has a lot of buzz but is not really worth the hype. The teen drama is a spinoff of the HBO hit “Sex and the City.” Viewers get to know Carrie (AnnaSophia Robb) in 1980s Connecticut as she deals with her mother’s death and gets an internship in New York City at a law firm. The book series by Candace Bushnell are bestsellers, but the show falls flat. It’s missing the wit and snark of the original series, which is surprising since Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (“The O.C.” and “Gossip Girl”) are executive producing. Also, there is a slight issue where the original series stated that Carrie’s father abandoned her and her mother when she was four, and the prequel series portrays him as a supportive single parent. The acting is better than usual for a CW show, but unless they figure out how to pick up the pace of both the plot and the dialogue, this spinoff will sink fast.

“The Americans” (FX, premieres January 30 at 10 pm) also takes audiences back to the 1980s, but it’s much more serious. The drama revolves around two Soviet Union KGB agents during the Cold War. The agents (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are based on real life sleeper agents that posed as Americans while infiltrating the United States’ government. The agents pose as a married couple and even have children together. The show demonstrates how their relationship works and the stress that comes with being an undercover agent. Getting American audiences to feel sympathy for characters who want to infiltrate our government is an odd approach, but it’s refreshingly unexpected. With a good combination of relationship drama and action-packed fight sequences, “The Americans” is likely to be a hit.

Also political, but much more lighthearted, is “1600 Penn” (NBC, Thursdays at 9:30 pm). The half hour sitcom revolves around Skip Gilchrist (Josh Gad), the fictional president’s son, and his crazy antics in the White House. Skip is the guy who can’t do anything right but has a heart of gold. He’s predictable and annoying, and it’s really disappointing that Gad’s talents are wasted on a stock character that isn’t even funny. However, the other members of the first family are actually interesting to watch. Jenna Elfman is really fantastic as the president’s second spouse, a woman who wants to connect to her stepchildren and be known as more than a trophy wife. It’s a decent show, but it sometimes tries too hard for laughs.

Don’t expect to laugh at “Do No Harm” (NBC, premieres January 31 at 10 pm). The drama is a new take on the classic Jekyll and Hyde story. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale) is a neurosurgeon who is only himself for 12 hours a day. At 8:25 every night, he becomes Ian Price, a dark, dangerous man, but wakes up at 8:25 every morning as Jason again. Jason has to piece together what Ian did the night before to destroy Jason’s life. He spends Jason’s money, has affairs with various women and has some violent tendencies. The premise is kind of weak. It’s actually very similar to last year’s short lived “Awake.” The show looks flashy with various pretty city shots and sets that look like expensive mansions. It doesn’t seem all that interesting, however. Jekyll and Hyde has been done many times before and nothing about this incarnation seems all that appealing.

Overall, it’s a decent year for midseason television, but nothing overly exciting. It’s enough to pass the time until next fall’s Avenger’s spin off and the “Boy Meets World” sequel series.

To catch up on any of the shows that already premiered, check out Hulu or the network’s website.