My colleague Drew McWeeny has already listed a slew of movies he’s looking forward to in 2009. In fact, he has a list of 187 of them, going all the way into December.
The TV business is a bit different. Anything beyond May is a mystery and there are even shows slated for the spring that don’t have premiere dates or schedule homes, plus there’s always the risk that FOX might scrap its schedule and start again. So instead of telling you what I’m watching for in 2009, I’m restricting this beginning-of-the-year piece of listmaking to things I’m anticipating for the spring, 15 of them to be specific.
This is hardly everything that’s premiering, returning or occurring this spring. If you don’t have DirecTV, for example, you may be champing at the bit for new episodes of “Friday Night Lights.” You may be looking forward to a new season of “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race” or, if you have a small amount of brain damage, a new run of “Celebrity Apprentice.” Plenty of folks are psyched for the return of “24,” but after watching the season’s first four hours, my enthusiasm is a bit more tempered. And as only a part-time viewer of “Nip/Tuck,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Closer,” “Flashpoint” or “Hell’s Kitchen,” I won’t get in the way of people clamoring for new episodes/seasons of those shows. And if you’ve stuck with it for this long, I’m sure the finale of “ER” will be mighty emotional for some of you.
The things I’m waiting for?
15) “American Idol” (Returns Jan. 13, FOX) – Ah, “American Idol.” My nemesis. Get ready for another season of recapping fun, kids.
14) Jeff Goldblum joins “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (Returns spring, USA) – USA abruptly pulled “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” from an early November premiere date without reason. That’s a bad sign. But when it finally returns for its eighth season, Jeff Goldblum will be joining the cast, replacing Chris Noth. I liked Goldblum’s short-lived NBC drama “Raines,” so I’ll gladly watch him an episode or two of quirky crime-solving on a show I otherwise don’t really watch.
13) “Big Love” (Returns Jan. 18, HBO) – Momentum is a tricky thing. “Big Love” hasn’t aired a new episode since August of 2007. That’s long enough ago that I don’t have any memory at all of where the show left off or much of anything that happened in its second season. But I know that way back in the day, I used to really like “Big Love,” so I’m hoping to get a reminder.
12) “East Bound and Down” (Premieres in February, HBO) – Danny McBride had a big summer, stealing scenes in both “Pineapple Express” and “Tropic Thunder.” Even in the tedious “Foot Fist Way,” McBride was occasionally funny. “East Bound and Down” is a minor league baseball comedy built around McBride, so I have at least tentatively high hopes, even though HBO hasn’t even begun to promote the series.
11) William Petersen exits “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (Jan. 15, CBS) – Although Laurence Fishburne is certainly a worthy replacement for William Petersen, I’ve read more than a few message board postings from “CSI” fans vowing to leave the long-running series when Grissom exits this month. Fishburne’s first “CSI” appearance in December wasn’t exactly a compelling character introduction, but his presence will actually make me more likely to watch.
10) “Lie to Me” (Premieres Jan. 21, FOX) – Even when he’s been making weird career choices — Ah, “Planet of the Apes,” how you stunk — Tim Roth is always an intriguing actor to watch. In FOX’s new human lie detector drama, he plays a character who’s part Hugh Laurie’s House and part Simon Baker’s Patrick Jane, which means he’s the sort of quirky crime fighting genius audiences dig.
9) “The United States of Tara” (Premieres Jan. 18, Showtime) – Diablo Cody went from former stripper underdog to overexposed fanboy punching bag in no time at all. I know it isn’t hip and elitist to say this, but I enjoyed “Juno” and I got a kick out of Cody’s brand of affected verbiage and syntax. Throw in Toni Collette and I see no reason not to be at least interested in “The United States of Tara.” Then again, I haven’t had a chance to watch my screeners yet, so my enthusiasm could fade by this weekend.
8) “Battlestar Galactica” (Returns Jan. 16, Sci Fi) – This is a lie. “Battlestar Galactica” simply isn’t my cup of tea. But I know darned well that for fans of the show, very few spring launches are more highly anticipated. Will “Battlestar” build to a satisfying conclusion? For the sake of HitFix’s awards blogger and editor-in-chief Greg Ellwood, I certainly hope so.
7) “Cupid” (Premieres March 24, ABC) – I really don’t get the business logic here. Why does ABC think that the time is right for an updated version of a show that failed a decade ago? Fortunately, the business logic (or lack thereof) is ABC’s affair. I’m happy to give series creator Rob Thomas the benefit of the doubt and hop back on the “Cupid” bandwagon, especially with leading man Bobby Cannavale, who probably should have been a TV star years ago.
6) “Damages” (Returns Jan. 7, FX) – If you ask me, people are too generous to the first season of “Damages.” Just a bit too generous. Yes, it had a fantastic beginning and a twisty, compelling ending. But in the middle, whole episodes went by where I wasn’t convinced that the writers knew where they were going or what was motivating the characters. But the chance to watch Glenn Close again every week, plus the brilliantly laconic William Hurt, makes up for any reservations I might otherwise have.
5) “Chuck” goes 3D (Feb. 2, NBC) – NBC is wasting the post-Super Bowl slot on a contrived “star”-studded episode of “The Office,” a show that probably won’t get any sort of boost out of that sort of showcase. Meanwhile, the network has a second year show with real breakout potential (not that you’d know it from the ratings) and that show just happens to have a 3D episode ready to go? Sigh. NBC makes so little sense. After a strong fall, it will be good to have “Chuck” back.
4) “Lost” (Returns Jan. 21, ABC) – I’d be looking forward to “Lost” even more than this, except that the show always scares me just a bit. When “Lost” is good, few shows are better, but when “Lost” has a misstep, no show is more disappointing. But following a season of creative rejuvenation, hopes have to be high for Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s delicate balancing act.
3) “Reaper” (Returns March 17, The CW) – After the inevitable creative retooling and after nearly a year’s hiatus, your guess is as good as mine what “Reaper” will look like when it returns to The CW this spring. That uncertainty is a concern, since few shows came back from last year’s strike stronger and more confident than “Reaper,” which seemed to find the proper blend of demonic mythology and soul-of-the-week wackiness. If viewers would actually tune in, they’d find that “Reaper” has a likable leading man (Bret Harrison), several properly wacky sidekicks (Rick Gonzalez and Tyler Labine) and Ray Wise, who really deserved an Emmy nomination last year for his work as Satan.
2) That Amy Poehler Show From the Creators of The Office (Sometime, NBC) – The only really tangible thing we know about this series from Greg Daniels and Mike Schur, starring Amy Poehler, is that it won’t be a spin-off of “The Office.” But we can safely assume it will be funnier than “Kath & Kim.”
1) “Dollhouse” (Premieres Feb. 13, FOX) – Joss Whedon’s fans may be TV’s most devoted, but they’ve also been trained into a certain amount of insecurity over the years, hence the only-partially-justifed rending of garments when FOX announced that Whedon’s latest drama, “Dollhouse,” would air on Friday nights and premiere on Friday the 13th. As I’ve said since the announcement, airing the Eliza Dushku vehicle on Fridays probably saves it from the sort of swift hook it might have faced leading into a make-or-break season of “24” on Monday nights. The premiere, already sent out to critics, feels more like a TV series than Whedon’s original pilot, which was written basically as a 50 minute movie. There’s still ample series mythology and philosophical underpinnings, but it’s also possible to imagine what Dushku’s Echo will be doing on a weekly basis. There’s little doubt “Dollhouse” will be an acquired taste, but Whedon’s fans should be happy and FOX may be satisfied to let the series build. [Denizens of the Whedonverse will also probably be anticipating the March 9 premiere of ABC’s “Castle,” which features “Firefly,” “Buffy” and “Dr. Horrible” veteran Nate Fillion as a mystery writer drawn into an investigation of a real-work killer using MOs from his books.]