Your Midseason TV Preview (Returning Shows)

Earlier this week, we used random categories to sort out the new offerings from networks this winter. However, if we focused on only the new shows, we miss out on the excitement that comes from anticipating the return of our favorite shows. In an attempt to gauge our excitement, we will be using the Parks and Recreation Excitement Scale. The Parks and Recreation Excitement Scale establishes tiers based on how excited a character from the show would be about a certain item, person, or activity. We’ll go in descending order.

Chris Traeger and Everything

Game Of Thrones Blackwater Season 2 Episode 9

For those of the uninitiated, Chris Traeger is the most excitable person on the planet earth (here’s the proof). The man could get fired up over a ham sandwich. With that in mind, this tier is reserved for the shows worth getting excited about.

Shows of this caliber should be either incredibly fun to watch, incredibly engaging, or both. Going by that criteria, Game of Thrones, Justified, and Archer certainly apply here. Game of Thrones dazzles and amazes with its acting and sets. After a season of mostly chess piece-shuffling, readers of the books have assured me that season three should be very impressive. At this point, it’s impossible to expect anything less than excellence from this series.

Meanwhile, the two FX shows are some of the best ways to have fun while watching television. Justified does have some impressive dramatic moments, but at the end of the day, it’s about a US Marshall doling out justice to an amusing cast of criminals. Archer may lack the dramatic chops of Justified, but it’s one of the better comedies on television. It shouldn’t lose a ton of points because it’s animated. The dialogue is snappy, and the voice actors seem to work well together. And there’s always stuff like this.

Leslie Knope and Sugar

Girls (HBO) Leave Me Alone Episode 9

Whether she’s adding chocolate syrup and whip cream to her coffee or tripping on Sweetums Nutriyum Bars, Leslie Knope likes her sugar. Her enthusiasm may not be able to match Chris, but she can get pretty excited about/with her sugar. This next tier of shows will certainly generate buzz, but you shouldn’t be slobbering in front of your television waiting for them to come on.

The acceptable exception to this rule is Girls. Girls didn’t make the top tier only because the stupidity surrounding some of the conversation about the show is downright exhausting. It’s perfectly okay to dislike the show. After all, these women are extremely unlikable most of the time. That being said, the show is honest and real in ways very few television shows are these days. Regardless of where you stand on Lena Dunham’s vision of life in New York City for people in their mid-twenties, you cannot argue that she isn’t expertly articulating her vision of that world.

In addition, big fans of gore and nudity should be really excited for the final season of Spartacus: War of the Damned and the return of The Walking Dead. Basically, if AMC allowed graphic nudity, these shows are basically the same thing. Two increasingly isolated groups of people fighting an unwinnable war against a group that far outnumbers them. In addition, they also share the distinction of being two entertaining, yet deeply flawed television shows. Both shows are capable of hitting high notes, but both are also capable of producing fairly excruciating television. Both shows will attempt to close strong in 2013. For Spartacus, it will be the last we see of the Starz original series. Both shows are sure to leave a bloody mess all over the early spring of 2013.

Finally, USA returns its top blue sky drama in January (sorry Burn Notice fans). Suits is the best version of the USA brand. It has engaging characters, beautiful settings, and easily digestible drama. It’s a show that I never miss when its gone, but when it comes back, I inevitably have the “Hey, I like that show!” reaction. Now, if they’ll just tell us what is the deal with the can opener…

Ron Swanson Eating Breakfast Food

Ron Swanson is a man of simple pleasures. High on that list is breakfast food. The man has been known to clean out the entire stock of bacon and eggs at Indianapolis diners. However, he is a man of an understated nature. He’s going to be excited, but his excitement is quiet and inward. Likewise, these shows are going to generate excitement among critics and their core audiences. However, the excitement most likely won’t reverberate throughout the zeitgeist.

Downton Abbey, Bunheads, and Shameless all found their way onto various year end top ten lists. The people who watch these shows love them, but none of the shows have the juice to create an internet firestorm (Downton Abbey comes the closest). If you have never partaken in any of these shows, they are definitely worth a look. Either way, their fans will be excited to see them. Just don’t expect to hear a ton about it.

Tom Haverford with High-End Luxury Items

Community - Season 4

Tom Haverford does not shop at the local bargain shopping outlet. The man is all luxury, all the time. Granted, he’s probably horrendously in debt, but that’s a small price to pay to be able to “treat yo self“. He’s flashy and eye-catching, but maybe not the most practical guy in Pawnee, Indiana.

Similarly, this winter will also bring about the return of several high-profile shows (within the television community) that have either passionate fan bases or big stars at their core. In all of their cases, the show is probably more trouble than its ultimately worth.

Both Community and Cougar Town have small but passionate fan bases. They can throw out fun hashtags on Twitter or tell you in perfect detail how to play Penny Can. However, both shows briefly found themselves homeless in 2012. Cougar Town had to be rescued by TBS, and Community continues to return to the halfway house that is Thursdays at 8 PM. Cougar Town will definitely get a lot more rope than Community, but both of them will have pressure to deliver this season.

On Sundays, Showtime will trot out its star-centric, over-priced half hour comedies. While both shows definitely have their merits, nobody is going to be crying over the graves of House of Lies and Californication when they’re gone. Only in its second season, House of Lies will have plenty of time to show improvement, but the show needs to showcase a lot more beyond the amazing performance given by Don Cheadle. On Californication, locations may change, time may pass, but everything ultimately remains the same. Those waiting on some kind of transformation from Hank Moody should stop waiting. His continued stagnancy serves as a great metaphor for the series as a whole. Both shows are worth being excited about, but there isn’t as much there as we would like to be.

Andy Dwyer and Imaginary Law Enforcement Occupations

Shawn - Psych

Andy Dwyer is a man who can find the fun in any situation. He seems to get the most fun out of his well-crafted alter ego, Bert Macklin. The man strikes fear into the hearts of all those with malice in their heart. On occasion, he’s even been known to enlist help from some of the citizenry of Pawnee.

The natural fit with Bert Macklin is Shawn Spencer and Psych. Psych has definitely run a few seasons too long, but it still is capable of being clever on occasion. In addition, they’ve managed to not let the Juliet/Shawn relationship completely bog down their show. There is a lot of hype for season 7 which will feature a two-hour musical episode and a wedding over the course of 16 episodes. Fans better get all that they can. There are rumors that Psych could join Bert Macklin in retirement after its eight-episode eighth season.

April Ludgate’s Feelings About People

Smash Season Finale (NBC) "Bombshell" Episode 15 (1)

This clip pretty much speaks for itself. You definitely shouldn’t look for pity from Mrs. Ludgate. Likewise, neither of these shows are going to get pity from many people.

Body of Proof returns yet again to ABC this winter. The show that just won’t die will continue to chug along completely unnoticed and undiscussed. However, its companion in vitriol, Smash, will probably generate some heat when it makes its return. Granted, it will most likely be the wrong kind of heat, but at least the show will give everyone on Twitter something to do Tuesdays at 9. After doing away with Ellis and Debra Messing’s endless collection of scarves, what will the naysayers have to make fun of this year? I’m sure April could find plenty. We should ask her.

My work here is done. You should feel confident going forward into the wilderness that is the midseason TV schedule. Keep these columns and TV Equals’ Midseason Premiere Dates article to guide you. 2012 was a fantastic year for television. Hopefully, the start of 2013 will offer only more of the same.