Midseason TV preview

Ashley Adam | Cadenza Staff

The life of a Wash. U. student is fairly stressful, and we all need a release at the end of the day. The easiest way for us to escape from tests, papers and studying galore is to fall into the wonderful world of television. Sure, most students are fairly set in what shows they’ve been watching all year, but obviously, the networks aren’t just going to leave us alone. Their premieres for lots and lots of new and returning shows are airing soon, and we’re here to highlight the best ones.

New shows

Human Target’ (FOX; premiered Jan. 17; Wednesdays at 7 p.m.): Based on the comic book character of the same name, “Human Target” is less Bourne, more late-’90s Brosnan-Bond, with Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) squeezing silly phrasings between intense action sequences. He stands in stark contrast with Fox’s other huskier-voiced special agent, Jack Bauer, but if Bond has taught us anything, it’s that you can punch out the bad guy and smile afterward, too. Chi McBride (“Pushing Daisies”) nearly reprises his role as Chance’s handler, Winston, and his apathy is always fun to watch. So far, though, the show has treated its characters superficially. If “Human Target” is in this for the long haul, that will have to change.

Life Unexpected’ (The CW; premiered Jan. 18; Mondays at 9 p.m.): Popularly being billed as “‘Juno’ meets ‘Gilmore Girls,’” this show focuses on Lux, a 15-year-old girl stuck in the foster care system. Seeking emancipation, she has to track down her birth parents, two high-school classmates who conceived Lux during a one-night stand at a high school dance. Unfortunately, her parents haven’t seen each other since, so it gets super awkward when a judge awards them joint custody of Lux. This show is supposed to be the sweet comeback for the WB’s family drama days, but not in a bad way at all, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

The Deep End’ (ABC; premiered Jan. 21; Thursdays at 7 p.m.): This show follows five new law associates who work hard, hook up and basically pretend they are on “Grey’s Anatomy,” if only they practiced medicine. The show tackles relevant issues for young people in the cases the lawyers try to win, but the issues pop up in their personal lives as well. It’s funny but still heartfelt, and certainly something that can keep your interest.

capricaCaprica’ (SyFy; premiered Jan. 22; Fridays at 8 p.m.): This new show is a “Battlestar Galactica” prequel, but it has more of a soapy origin drama than the newest sci-fi hit. That being said, it is on the SyFy channel. “Caprica” explains many questions that “BSG” never touched on, like how the Cylons were born. This happens all set against the background of a terrorist bombing that killed many and changed the world in which they live. You don’t need to be a fan of the now-sequel, but it will definitely be more fun if you are already familiar with that world.

Parenthood’ (NBC; starting March 1; Mondays at 8 p.m.): This new dramedy focuses on the Braverman family—the parents, their four grown children and the grandchildren. Because “Parenthood” deals with issues many families face—mental illness, drug addiction and single motherhood—anybody can relate to this amusing yet sincere clan. There will be disappointments and disagreements, but delightfulness too, and it’s almost like stepping into my own living room—at least if my own family were that big!

The Marriage Ref’ (NBC; starting March 4; Thursdays at 9 p.m.): What is “The Marriage Ref”? Well, for starters, Jerry Seinfeld is the executive producer. But he isn’t actually in the show, is he? So that fact doesn’t really matter, at all. Second, the show fills one-fifth of the void left in the cancellation-wake of “The Jay Leno Show.” And…yeah, that’s about it. “The Marriage Ref” is equal to 20 percent of Jay Leno (so, roughly the size of his chin). And if that’s the only thing of note about this reality show on crumbling marriages, that its conception was due to a side effect of a late-night television feud, then there’s really only one thing you need to know about this show: How many episodes until it’s cancelled?

Returning shows

Chuck’ (NBC; on now; Mondays at 7 p.m.): Expecting cancellation last spring, “Chuck” did everything it could to get renewed, leading to a game changer of a season finale. Chuck became sucked into the CIA when he downloaded all of the government’s secrets into his brain, but now, he’s downloaded practical skills. With the tagline “No more Mr. Nice Spy,” “Chuck” guarantees to shake things up, and the first episodes of this season have done exactly as promised. So far, Chuck’s played in a mariachi band, performed surgery and, of course, fought some killer kung fu. Who knows what other skills he will magically pick up? Tune in to find out.

24’ (FOX; on now; Mondays at 8 p.m.): In the eighth season of “24,” Jack Bauer works to save the world over the course of the next 24 hours. Same format as “days” past, but there are many reasons “24” should attract new and old viewers this season. When the show opens up, Jack’s basically given up his life as a star CTU agent to be a grandfather. But of course, he gets sucked back in almost immediately and starts dealing with potential terrorist activity from the fictional country of Kamistan. Jack ends up at the New York CTU, where, somehow, no one (except for the always-lovely Chloe) knows how legitimate he is. Now Jack has to prove himself all over again, but I have a feeling the world will eventually be saved.

(Michael Becker / FOX)

(Michael Becker / FOX)

American Idol’ (Fox; on now; Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and Wednesdays at 8 p.m.): “Idol” has popped up all over the entertainment world in the off-season, just proving that even in its ninth season, it’s still America’s biggest reality phenomenon. Just following the news that Simon Cowell, the biggest star the show ever made, is quitting, this year promises to be especially interesting. So far, we’ve seen auditions in Boston and Atlanta. “Idol” is following its usual formula, but it’s one that works. Funny-terrible auditions mix with the first glimpses of America’s biggest stars. It’s our guiltiest pleasure of the year and definitely something you should not miss.

Lost’ (ABC; starting Feb. 2; Tuesdays at 8 p.m.): “Lost” has changed the American television landscape. Since its premiere five years ago, countless knock-ups have popped up, but “Lost” still remains the number one show in its genre.

The season five finale changed the whole game when (spoiler alert) Juliet detonated a hydrogen bomb to completely rewrite history. The producers have been so tight-lipped over the eight-month hiatus, and absolutely no one knows what will happen this year. But honestly, we’re expecting it to be amazing, and everyone at this school should watch.

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’ (CBS; starting Feb. 11; Thursdays at 7 p.m.): It is now the 20th season of “Survivor.” They always change some details each season to keep things fresh, but this season offers a huge change that promises to shake things up. Rupert, Colby, Boston Rob, Jerri and 16 other “all-stars” are back for another chance at $1 million, but the good guys and bad guys will be split up. The heroes-versus-villains setup will offer an interesting dynamic—you want to root for the heroes, but the other tribe is just so fun to watch. Still, everyone is going to have to play their strategic A-games, but this is one season in which all the blindsides will make for can’t-miss-it TV.

True Beauty’ (ABC, starting in February): This February, please welcome (or don’t) season two of “True Beauty,” the bastard love child of “America’s Next Top Model” and “Punk’d.” Miss Tyra Banks herself and that “prankster” Ashton Kutcher hold executive producer titles for ABC’s reality show that judges a handful of hotties on both their outer and inner beauty. The twist? These poor souls do not realize that their narcissism hurts their chances at the grand prize—an inclusion in “People” magazine’s list of the 100 most beautiful men and women. The show seems to have good intentions, but giving the show’s winner a huge ego boost is not how you make this “inner beauty” thing shine. Using physical measurements to give “beauty scores,” preaching plastic morals, and condoning hypocrisy is not my idea of what makes for a quality program. I will watch the show when the search for “true beauty” starts with those who are actually beautiful inside—but then and only then. Sorry, Tyra and Ashton. I’m going to have to sit this one out.