Coming at midseason
The following shows are expected to debut between November 2011 and April 2012:
Apartment 23 (Tuesdays at 9:30p starting early 2012) Watch trailer
A naive young woman (Dreama Walker) moves to Manhattan to start her dream job—with a company-provided apartment—only to be thrown out on the street when her employer unexpectedly goes under. After grabbing a job at a coffee shop, she quickly meets another young New Yorker (Krysten Ritter), who swindles her, sleeps with her fiancé, and, naturally, becomes her friend and roommate. Oh, and she's friends with James Van Der Beek, playing himself. It's a comedy, if that helps. It might also be a little too similar to CBS's 2 Broke Girls.
Cougar Town (Tuesdays at 9p starting Nov. tbd.)
Cougar Town fans will have to wait until Dancing with the Stars wraps its fall cycle before getting a third season of the sitcom, which could debut in November (and likely with the same name, though nobody working on the show actually likes it). Star Courteney Cox will make her TV directing debut with one of the early episodes, while Andy and Ellie's little-seen infant son Stan will grow up a bit and be played by a new child actor.
Good Christian Belles (aka GCB) (tbd) Watch trailer
Based on the book Good Christian Bitches by Kim Gatlin, this soapy drama centers on a single mother who returns to her hometown Dallas community—where, as a "mean girl" in high school, she would terrorize her lesser classmates—to re-start her life after the death of her husband following his highly publicized arrest for running a Ponzi scheme. Leslie Bibb, Kristin Chenoweth, and Annie Potts star. GCB comes from Steel Magnolias playwright Robert Harling and producer Darren Star (Sex and the City), while Off the Map's Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts will serve as showrunners.
Ashley Judd brings some star power to ABC (in her first TV role since NBC's Sisters in the early 1990s) as a single mother—and former CIA agent—determined to find her son after he vanishes under suspicious circumstances while studying abroad. Shot on location in Europe, this twist-filled, 10-episode drama from Gregory Poirier (National Treasure: Book of Secrets) also stars Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) as her late husband (he appears in flashbacks) and Cliff Curtis (Trauma) as a CIA agent who assists her search.
The River (tbd) Watch trailer
Michael Green (a writer for Heroes, Kings, and Green Lantern) and Paranormal Activity writer-director Oren Peli are among the producers for this supernatural thriller set in the Amazonian jungle. Combining an ongoing mystery with stand-alone storylines, the series centers on the host of a nature show (Bruce Greenwood) who vanishes in a magic-filled uncharted region in South America, and his loyal family and crew who begin searching for him -- while filming a documentary series about their adventures. The generally well received pilot is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown).
Scandal (tbd) Watch trailer
Though her most recent show (Off the Map) didn't last long, ABC certainly hasn't given up on Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. Her latest drama for the network ventures outside her medical show comfort zone, centering on a woman (Kerry Washington) who works as a professional "fixer" to the rich and powerful. Each week, the soapy procedural finds her and her team dealing with a new crisis, racing against the clock to avert a disaster while simultaneously dealing with their own personal issues. Henry Ian Cusick (Lost) and Tony Goldwyn also star. Just seven episodes were ordered.
Secret Millionaire (tbd)
The reality show about undercover business executives hanging out with poor people will return for a third season.
Work It (tbd) Watch trailer
Already pegged by many observers as the worst new show of the season (which, if you haven't been paying attention, is really saying something), Work It is TV's first cross-dressing buddy comedy since Bosom Buddies, centering on a pair of men—one a husband and father, the other a womanizer—who lose their jobs at a local car dealership when the economy tanks. The two friends are unable to find any decent employment until they learn about openings for sales reps at a pharmaceutical company. The only catch? The company is only looking for female reps ... but that's nothing a wardrobe change and some makeup can't solve. The multi-camera sitcom comes from Friends scribes Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen.
The 2-2 (tbd)
On paper, it's just another crime drama about rookie police officers. But take a closer look at the people behind the series, and it becomes much more promising. Created by writer Richard Price (novels Clockers and Lush Life, also a writer for The Wire and movies like The Color of Money), the New York-set series is produced by Robert De Niro, and the pilot is directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, Cop Land). The ensemble cast includes Leelee Sobieski and Adam Goldberg.
Undercover Boss (tbd)
The reality show about undercover business executives hanging out with their own low-level employees will return for a third season. In the meantime, if there's a new guy in your office, be suspicious.
Untitled Rob Schneider comedy (tbd)
Despite passing on this new Rob Schneider sitcom in May—thanks to a pilot that tested poorly—CBS has given a tentative go-ahead to a retooled version of the show, which could arrive next spring. The still untitled comedy will find Schneider playing a version of himself as he marries into a Mexican-American family; Cheech Marin also stars.
The Frame (tbd)
Sort of like a high-tech, team-oriented Big Brother, twice-a-week reality competition The Frame asks ten, two-person teams to each live in their own stripped-down, single-room house for eight weeks, completely isolated from the outside world—and from other teams, save for interactions via video monitors. A variety of challenges, eliminations, and "punishments" awaits each team, some determined by viewer suggestions.
One Tree Hill (tbd)
Just 13 episodes remain as One Tree Hill concludes a nine-season run that began on The WB. One-time stars Tyler Hilton and Paul Johansson return to full-time regular status (the latter will also direct one of the upcoming episodes), while former DWTS competitor Chelsea Kane will guest.
This midseason reality show follows a group of hundreds of small-town modeling agencies who unite under the guidance of a fashion industry veteran to see if they can compete against the industry's major players.
Alcatraz (Mondays at 9p starting early 2012) Watch trailer
Lost's Jorge Garcia stars alongside Sam Neill, Robert Forster, Jonny Coyne, and Sarah Jones in this J.J. Abrams-produced mystery about a group of 302 Alcatraz prisoners and guards who resurface in the present day after disappearing 30 years ago. Abrams and Garcia aren't the only Lostees involved in the project; frequent Lost director Jack Bender has been added as a director and producer here, while Lost writer Elizabeth Sarnoff serves as showrunner. But the series will have to rebound quickly from a tepid pilot that hasn't impressed critics (so far) the way the original Lost episode did years ago.
American Idol (Wednesdays at 8p starting Sun. Jan. 22)
Idol's 11th season comes as the show faces increasing competition in the singing competition business from the likes of X-Factor (also on Fox) and NBC's The Voice. But for the first time in several seasons there will be some stability when the premiere arrives following the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, January 22, 2012: judges Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson, and Steve Tyler are all returning.
Bob's Burgers (Sundays at 9:30p starting early 2012)
The amusing animated series featuring the voices of H. Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal returns for a 13-episode second season in 2012 (temporarily replacing American Dad in Fox's Animation Domination lineup), with the possibility of nine additional episodes to come.
The Finder (Thursdays at 9p starting tbd 2011/2012) Watch trailer
A spinoff from Bones set in the Florida Keys and based on The Locator books written by Richard Greener, The Finder revolves around the character of Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults), a former Iraq War soldier with a brain-damage-induced gift for locating people and things, who was introduced on the parent show's April 21st episode. Michael Clarke Duncan will reprise his role from the Bones episode, though the role played by Saffron Burrows in the pilot will be recast. The 13 episodes will run during Bones' regular timeslot in the winter, with new episodes of Bones returning in the spring.
The Howie Mandel-hosted feel-good reality show (which debuted with a single episode last spring) will return with eight new episodes at midseason.
Napoleon Dynamite (Sundays at 8:30p starting early 2012) Watch trailer
This animated high school comedy about an awkward Idaho teen and his friends is based on the 2004 movie of the same name. Produced by the film's writers, Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess, along with Mike Scully (The Simpsons, Parks and Recreation), the series will feature the voices of many of the movie's stars, including Jon Heder, Tina Majorino, and Efren Ramirez, while Amy Poehler, Jennifer Coolidge, Sam Rockwell and Jemaine Clement will provide guest voices. Originally set to run for just six episodes, the first season could get bumped to 13.
Fox is so high on this new Kiefer Sutherland drama that it (unofficially) picked it up for midseason without a pilot ... or even a cast. Sutherland will star as the father of an autistic boy who has a gift for seeing patterns that no one else can see, which will gradually reveal a mystery that links seemingly unrelated characters across the world. Danny Glover has been cast as a professor who serves as the boy's guide, while Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Undercovers) will also star; the series comes from Heroes creator Tim Kring.
In addition to the above shows, there is still a possibility that the non-renewed Christian Slater comedy Breaking In could return at midseason. And Little in Common, a new comedy from Party Down/Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas, also has a small chance at cracking the midseason schedule.
30 Rock (Thursdays, time tbd starting early 2012)
Much as NBC did with Parks and Recreation last year, the network is delaying the return of Thursday night staple 30 Rock until midseason (likely January) to allow a new show (in this case, Whitney) to attempt to gain an audience in the fall. Alec Baldwin has repeatedly indicated that the upcoming sixth season will be his last on the program, though the network is still trying to convince him to stay on the Emmy-winning comedy.
The Apprentice (Sundays at 8p starting early 2012)
Donald Trump's decision not to run for president is a two-pronged gift to the American people; not only are we guaranteed a Trump-free White House, but we will be able to witness a 12th season of The Apprentice (it's another celebrity version) in early 2012.
Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea (tbd) Watch trailer
Loosely based on the best-selling comedic memoir of the same name by Chelsea Handler, this midseason comedy about the adventures of a group of quirky twentysomethings who live and work together stars Laura Prepon (That '70s Show) as hard-partying Chelsea, and—confusingly—Handler herself as Sloane, a character based on her own older sister. Unsurprisingly, an early look at the pilot left some critics thinking the show was too tame and watered down.
Awake (tbd) Watch trailer
Boasting some of the best buzz of any new drama, Awake is the second TV drama from Lone Star creator Kyle Killen (also screenwriter of The Beaver). The series follows a police detective (Brotherhood's Jason Isaacs) whose life is split into two alternate realities after a terrible car accident: one in which his teenage son lives, the other in which his wife survives. The split reality will, understandably, present challenges for his personal life as well as his crime investigations; fortunately, he has a therapist in each world. Cherry Jones (24), Laura Allen (Terriers), B.D. Wong (Law & Order: SVU), and Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show) co-star.
Bent (tbd) Watch trailer
Amanda Peet (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) stars as a type-A divorced mom who finds herself attracted to the "surfer-dude" contractor (David Walton) who is remodeling her kitchen. Jeffrey Tambor co-stars as the contractor's womanizing father in this single-camera comedy created by former Scrubs producer Tad Quill. Just six episodes were ordered.
Best Friends Forever (aka BFF) (tbd) Watch trailer
Upright Citizens Brigade alumni Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair write and star in this single-camera comedy about a recently divorced woman who re-starts her life by moving in with her best friend in New York, much to the consternation of her friend's live-in boyfriend. This show was a bit of a surprise pickup after NBC executives reportedly weren't fond of the original pilot, and the network still can't decide exactly what to call it.
Betty White's Off Their Rockers (tbd)
A Punk'd for the senior set, Off Their Rockers finds the ageless Betty White leading a group of senior citizens in a series of pranks on poor, defenseless, younger folk. The reality-comedy series is based on an award-winning Belgian series.
Fashion Star (tbd)
NBC's variation on the Project Runway formula comes from the original producers of that show, Magical Elves. A dozen unknown fashion designers will compete for the opportunity to win a multi-million dollar contract to launch their own fashion line, with a greater emphasis on real-world clothing and the business side of fashion than what is typically seen on Runway. In addition, each week's winning designs will go on sale to the public. Celebrity mentors include Nicole Richie, John Varvatos, and Jessica Simpson, while Elle Macpherson hosts.
Fear Factor (tbd)
It's the show that just won't die. Eight new episodes (including a pair of two-hour specials) of the once-cancelled, action-filled game show will air during the 2011-12 season, with Joe Rogan returning as host.
The Firm (Sundays at 10p starting Jan. tbd)
The Firm managed to secure a 22-episode order without shooting a pilot or signing a single actor. The reason? It's based on John Grisham's best-selling novel of the same name (which was previously adapted as a Tom Cruise movie). The legal drama will be set a decade after the events depicted in the original story, as attorney Mitchell McDeere (played here by Josh Lucas) and his family attempt to re-establish their lives in Washington, D.C. after bringing down a mob-affiliated law firm and spending time in a witness protection program. Grisham and Lukas Reiter (The Forgotten, The Practice) are among the producers, and Juliette Lewis, Molly Parker (Deadwood), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica), and Callum Keith Rennie (The Killing) round out the cast.
Smash (Mondays at 10p starting Feb. 6) Watch trailer
NBC does appear to be saving its best new shows for midseason. In addition to Awake, the first months of 2012 will bring Smash, an extremely promising musical drama produced by Steven Spielberg, who came up with the idea. Mostly unlike fellow TV musical Glee, Smash follows the cast and crew of a Broadway musical (about the life of Marilyn Monroe) in the months leading up to opening night. The cast includes Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston, and former American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee, and the show within the show will feature original songs by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, the Tony-winning composers of Hairspray. The early word on the pilot is terrific.
The Voice (Mondays at 8p starting Sun. Feb. 5)
Smash's fitting lead-in will be NBC's smash hit singing competition, returning for a second season. The Voice will launch with a special post-Super Bowl episode, and all four coaches (Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Christina Aguilera) are set to return.
In addition to the above shows, NBC is expected to launch a new primetime newsmagazine series hosted by Brian Williams.
America in Primetime (Sundays beginning Oct. 30)
This clip-filled, four-part look at television history (an unofficial follow-up to last year's Pioneers of Television) is divided into segments based on character types: "The Man of the House," "The Crusader," "The Independent Woman," and "The Misfit." The series will feature in-depth interviews with the likes of James L. Brooks, Garry Shandling, David Chase, Shonda Rhimes, Larry David, Shawn Ryan, Roseanne Barr, Mike Judge, Mitchell Hurwitz, and Mary Tyler Moore.
Downton Abbey (Eight-part series begins Jan. 8)
The Emmy-nominated British period drama created by Julian Fellowes (the screenwriter of Gosford Park) returns for a second installment as part of PBS' Masterpiece series. The ten new hours will take place during World War I, and a third miniseries is likely, assuming the response to the second is as positive as it was for the first. If you missed the first series, PBS will re-broadcast it beginning December 18.
Prohibition (Three-part series begins Oct. 2) Watch trailer
Ken Burns' latest documentary series focuses on that dreadful period of American history when the 18th Amendment was in effect. The nearly six-hour series will be aired across three consecutive nights; drinking games are optional. (Pan and zoom? Drink!)
Sherlock (Three-part series begins May 2012)
The excellent Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Sherlock Holmes (with the also excellent Martin Freeman back as Dr. Watson) for three new two-hour episodes in Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss's contemporary updating of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories, which impressed viewers and critics during its first run in 2010. This time, the mysteries will be drawn from Doyle's stories "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Hound of the Baskervilles," and "The Final Problem." Though BBC viewers may get the new series in early 2012, PBS viewers will have to wait until May.
What do you think?
Which shows are you most looking forward to this fall? Let us know in the comments section below. And don't forget to check our guide to the season's new and returning cable programs, as well as our complete calendar of premiere dates for all shows.