In the old days of television (circa 2005), the midseason was where networks dumped their dead bodies. Scripted shows that weren't good enough for the fall season would debut as "midseason replacements" for fall shows that tanked, and they'd run side-by-side with quick-buck reality shows.
Not anymore. The midseason is home to some of television's biggest hitters, including American Idol, Lost, and several premium-cable programs. So what should you keep an eye on in the first half of 2010? I chose ten comedy, drama and action programs I think will be worth watching (note: they're all scripted shows that are premiering this midseason; returning fall shows and reality programs were not included).
10. Life Unexpected — The CW, premiering January 18 at 9pm
For once, a new CW show that isn't remaking an old program with hot youngsters. Life Unexpected follows a 16-year-old girl's quest for emancipation from her biological parents, who gave her up for adoption. I've seen the pilot, and it's touching and honest without being too cheesy. A pleasant surprise.
9. Sons of Tucson — Fox, premiering March 14 at 8:30pm
Tyler Labine (Reaper's Sock) is a couple hundred pounds of comedy gold, and I'm psyched to see him play a con artist who pretends to be a dad to a trio of kids. The show will air right in the middle of Fox's animation block, so expect the same goofball comedy that fans of those other shows love.
8. Damages — FX, premiering January 25 at 10pm
The revolving door on television's best acting ensemble will bring in Lily Tomlin, Campbell Scott, and Martin Short this year. But the real attraction here is the show's twisted sense of storytelling; going through a season of Damages is like putting the pieces of a shattered mirror back together. Without the bad luck.
7. Treme — HBO, premiering in April
I'd put Treme higher on the list, but since The Wire is still vastly underwatched, I'll leave it here. This anticipated show from Wire creator David Simon follows musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans, so don't expect any forensics, psychics, explosions, or vampires. Just quality drama about the lifeforce of New Orleans.
6. The Tudors — Showtime, premiering April 11
The final season of cable's most lavish program will conclude the decadent life of Henry VIII. Spoiler alert: He dies. Who will have their head chopped off? Who will Henry bed? Who will be bedded by Henry and then have their head chopped off? These answers and more on the next season of The Tudors!
5. Big Love — HBO, premiering January 10 at 10pm
HBO's Mormon drama gets more attention every season, and deservedly so. The acting is top notch (Chloe Sevigny and Jeanne Tripplehorn are Emmy-worthy), the drama is as heavy as it gets, and the subject matter is delightfully frowned upon by religious officials.
4. Human Target — Fox, premiering January 17 at 8pm
If you like '80s action movies that star wise-cracking macho men, you'll like Human Target. Based on a
comic book graphic novel, Human Target stars Mark Valley as a man who poses as a person in danger. There's plenty of action and levity to make a bucket of popcorn mandatory during all viewings.
3. Chuck — NBC, premiering January 10 at 9pm
The action-comedy (just barely!) returns for Season 3, and I couldn't be happier. Why this show isn't more popular is beyond me; it has spy gadgets, hot chicks, and a charming lead in Zachary Levi. This new season sees our accidental spy endowed with more than just top-secret tidbits; this time he actually learns how to kick some butt.
2. Breaking Bad — AMC, premiering March 8
When we last saw Walter White, he was sifting through the wreckage of a plane crash that was indirectly his fault. Yikes. How is Season 3 going to top that? I don't know, but I have all the faith that television's best writing team to come up with something awesome.
1. Lost — ABC, premiering February 2 at 9pm
I know, shocker. But how could the final season of Lost NOT be number one? Old ghosts are back as we press the rewind button (or fast-forward button) to discover what happens if Jack's plan to detonate the H-bomb is successful. The four-toed statue, the bones of Adam and Eve, John Locke's destiny, it will all make sense. And if it doesn't, I'll hunt down the producers myself.
Which shows are you looking forward to?
Heckle TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom