Mid-Season TV Replacement Shows Hope To Score Big

At this time of year, mid-season network television shows are coming to a small screen near you. Returning hits like American Idol premiere along with a batch of new shows launched to replace canceled titles from the fall. Jim Hibberd, who covers television for Entertainment Weekly, talks to Linda Wertheimer about some of the new replacement shows.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

At this time of year, midseason network television shows are coming to a small screen near you. Returning hits like "American Idol" premiere along with a batch of new shows, launched to replace canceled titles from the fall, things like "Charlie's Angel," "The Playboy Club" and "Free Agents."

James Hibberd who covers television for Entertainment Weekly. And he joins us from NPR West to talk about some of these midseason shows.

Good morning.

JAMES HIBBERD: Hi.

WERTHEIMER: Let's start with NBC. I gather that they are going to be trying quite a few new shows. Maybe I should say what they're trying for is a comeback.

HIBBERD: They've been trying for a combat for a while now. I mean you have to wonder how many years can NBC have the same story in the fall of these shows that don't pan out.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now they're launching "Smash." This is about folks who are working in the theater, trying to put together a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. I saw the pilot which seemed to be very classy; part music, part drama, kind of "Glee" grows up.

HIBBERD: It is. It's very much "Glee" for grown-ups. You know, I hear very wildly conflicting opinions in the industry about whether it will work. Everyone agrees it's a very well-done show.

WERTHEIMER: There are some beautiful production numbers like this one, which is from the play they're theoretically doing about Marilyn Monroe. This is about baseball.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SMASH" MUSICAL NUMBER)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Fellas.

CHORUS: Yeah?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Fellas.

CHORUS: Yeah?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Hey, team.

CHORUS: Off the benches, it's Marilyn.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) I just got a date...

CHORUS: (Singing) She's just got a date.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) ...with baseball's Jolting Joe.

CHORUS: (Singing) The lucky so-and-so...

WERTHEIMER: So what do you think? Give it 50 percent, better?

HIBBERD: It's one of the toughest ones to predict. I would say it's got about a 50/50 shot.

WERTHEIMER: Now, ABC had a surprisingly strong fall. It had a fairy story, the very creepy fairy story, "Once Upon A Time;" "Suburgatory." What's coming up for the midterm?

HIBBERD: Well, ABC has a really intriguing one called "The River," which is from "Paranormal Activity" director Orin Peli. And it's about a search in the Amazon to find a missing documentarian, played by Bruce Greenwood. And the pilot sort of plays like a mash up of "Lost Paranormal Anaconda Activity."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HIBBERD: It's all very familiar, but it's a very fast-moving mash up that definitely hooks your interest. And that will be on Tuesday nights in February.

WERTHEIMER: Now, on the other hand, "Work It" which is a cross-dressing sitcom. Two guys dressing up like women to get jobs. Now, there's a very peculiar concept.

HIBBERD: Yes. Yes. Yes. Two men dressing up as women to get jobs in pharmaceutical sales. And it's drawing these protests from GLAAD and the transgender community. And you have to wonder what ABC was thinking there. Because you're going to get people riled up, you want to at least do it for a show that you're proud of. And this was a show, that from the moment it was announced last May, that critics have been sharpening their knives to sort of tear into.

WERTHEIMER: Fox does very well with its "Idol," of course, and that starts over now. Doesn't it?

HIBBERD: "American Idol: Season 11," it's amazing. It just keeps going.

WERTHEIMER: There is another program coming from Fox. It's a see into the future plot. It's called "Touch." It sounds to me kind of like something I've seen before, except it does have Kiefer Sutherland in it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TOUCH")

KIEFER SUTHERLAND: (as Martin Bohm) Jake, I did what you wanted. I followed the numbers. They were saved because of you. I don't know if you understand a single word that I'm saying. I don't even know if you hear me. But I can hear you, Jake. Do you understand that? I can hear you now.

HIBBERD: Kiefer Sutherland was such a huge star for Fox for so many years with "24." And this is a moody, well-done drama about a man whose silent, special-needs son can predict the future. And it also marks the return of "Heroes" creator Tim Kring to prime time, so we're all looking forward to that one.

WERTHEIMER: I expect I will be tuning in.

James Hibberd is a senior writer for Entertainment Weekly. Thank you very much.

HIBBERD: Thank you.

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