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Midseason TV shows heat up winter

By Mekeisha Madden Toby, Special to CNN
updated 10:57 AM EST, Fri January 6, 2012
HBO's
HBO's "Luck" stars Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman as a gangster of sorts. The drama about horse racing debuts January 29.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It's that time again: midseason TV series
  • Offerings include ABC's "Good Christian Belles" and NBC's "Smash"
  • Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie will serve as mentors on "Fashion Star"

(CNN) -- Good things come to those who wait.

And that's exactly what viewers will be doing when TV's best midseason offering, "Good Christian Belles," aka "GCB," debuts March 4 on ABC.

Reminiscent of "Desperate Housewives" in its less desperate heyday, "GCB" follows Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), a woman who ruled in high school but has since been humbled by life when her marriage ends in scandal and she has to return home to Dallas.

Unfortunately for Amanda, a mother of two, her former "frenemies"-turned-socialites and their husbands haven't quite evolved, and they do everything they can to make her life miserable. Emmy- and Tony-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth stars as one of Amanda's rivals, and Annie Potts steals scenes as Amanda's meddlesome mother. The show is based on a best-selling book from Kim Gatlin.

While "Good Christian Belles" is the best, it's not the only show to look forward to this winter.

NBC's "30 Rock" is returning at 8 p.m. ET Thursday for a sixth season, TNT's gritty cop drama "Southland" will be back at 10 p.m. ET January 17 for a fourth season, and the 11th season of "American Idol" resumes at 8 p.m. ET January 18 and 19 on Fox.

There are also a slew of new offerings to sort through. For your channel-surfing pleasure, we've selected the good, the bad and the forgettable:

The good

• "The Firm" (debuts 9 p.m. ET Sunday, NBC): Based on the best-selling novel by John Grisham, this intense and sometimes cluttered courtroom drama, follows attorney Mitchell McDeere (this time played by Josh Lucas of "The Lincoln Lawyer" instead of Tom Cruise) a decade after he brought down a prestigious Memphis law firm. Every week, Mitch will fight for his clients but with a twist because the mob wants him dead as does a shadowy organization behind one of his controversial cases.

Don't worry. It sounds more complicated than it is, and Lucas is a treat to watch.

• "House of Lies" (debuts 10 p.m. ET Sunday, Showtime): Don Cheadle ("Crash") and Kristen Bell ("Veronica Mars") have undeniable chemistry in this testosterone heavy, raunchy comedy about a cutthroat business consultant (Cheadle).

• "Alcatraz" (debuts 8 p.m. ET January 16, Fox): America's most infamous prison becomes a time-travel portal in this trippy but fun new sci-fi drama from none other than J.J. Abrams ("Lost" and "Fringe"). "Alcatraz" stars Sam Neill ("Jurassic Park") and Jorge Garcia of "Lost" fame.

• "Luck" (debuts 9 p.m. ET January 29, HBO): The latest creation from David Milch ("Deadwood"), "Luck" stars Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman ("Rain Man," "Kramer vs. Kramer") as a gangster of sorts. Hoffman leads a stellar cast that includes Nick Nolte and Dennis Farina in this methodical and fascinating drama about horse racing and the troubled people who inhabit that world.

• "Smash" (debuts 10 p.m. ET February 6, NBC): Executive producer Steven Spielberg and NBC hope to steal the spotlight from "Glee" with this exciting new music-driven drama. "Smash" follows a Broadway musical from its planning stages to the big stage and stars Debra Messing and Oscar-winning actress Anjelica Huston ("Prizzi's Honor").

The bad

• "Work It" (airs 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesdays, ABC): Two unemployed men (Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco) dress as women to get jobs in a sluggish economy. But "Bosom Buddies" was better when it debuted in 1980.

• "Are You There, Chelsea?" (debuts 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, NBC): Based on comedic actress Chelsea Handler's best-selling and mostly autobiographical books, this mildly funny new comedy follows a 20-something (Laura Prepon of "That '70s Show") who parties as hard as she drinks. What's even less appealing is that Handler stars in the sitcom too but doesn't play herself. Good luck with that.

• "Rob" (debuts 8:30 p.m. ET Thursday, CBS): This new sitcom isn't offensive because of its liberal use of stereotypes.

It's offensive because it is unfunny and unoriginal. "Rob" follows a man (Rob Schneider) who marries a Latina and fails to fit in with her family.

• "The River" (debuts 9 p.m. ET February 7, ABC): Bruce Greenwood ("Star Trek" the movie) stars as an explorer and wildlife TV host who goes missing in the Amazon jungle. Leslie Hope ("24") plays his wife, a woman determined to find him who heads to the Amazon with a reality TV crew and her son (Joe Anderson of "The Crazies"). Instead, she finds lots of ghosts and questions.

The forgettable

• "The Finder" (debuts 9 p.m. ET Thursday, Fox): Geoff Stults ("Happy Town") and Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile") star in this dull but well-intentioned spinoff of "Bones."

• "Fashion Star" (debuts 10 p.m. ET March 13, NBC): In a lopsided attempt to imitate "Project Runway," former supermodel Elle Macpherson has created this reality competition series that features celebrity mentors Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie.

Yawn.

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