'Tis the season for new TV 

Small screen offers big entertainment

Back in the day, new series and seasons on television started in the fall. Between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next, TV addicts had to subsist on grating reruns and the memories of the end-of-season, cliffhanger episodes of shows like Charlie's Angels. Come September, we'd gather in rumpus rooms, noses pressed to the cathode ray tube, to see how Jill, Kelly and Sabrina uncovered an industrial spy ring and then bathe in the flickering light of whatever new shows the three major networks might bestow upon us.

Reruns are certainly not a thing of the past, but with the advent of cable and satellite, hundreds of available channels mean they are no longer the only source of television entertainment between seasons. And many of the channels, including the non-cable networks, adhere to a mid-season premiere concept with new episodes and shows hitting the airwaves in January and February.

For the cable challenged, ABC drops new installments of Desperate Housewives, The Bachelor, Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, Lost and Life on Mars, a tepid version of the brilliant British import. (Sometimes they get it right, ahem, The Office, and sometimes they don't.) The network also premieres a new Ashton Kutcher/Tyra Banks joint True Beauty, a reality show that focuses on the importance of what's inside (gack).

NBC premieres Momma's Boys (a reality dating show executive produced by Ryan Seacrest), Superstars of Dance and The Biggest Loser: Couples. The biggest loser may actually be NBC's Howie Mandel vehicle, Howie Do It (ugh), which looks to be a beastly Island of Dr. Moreau-like cross between Punk'd and Candid Camera. My Name Is Earl, The Office, 30 Rock—which just received Golden Globes for best comedy best actor (Alec Baldwin) and best actress (Tina Fey)—and ER all return this month. NBC airs new episodes of Chuck, Heroes and Life in February. Ghost Whisperer, Numb3rs, CSI, The Mentalist, The Unit and Eleventh Hour return to CBS (an acronym which could stand for Crime-Based Shows) along with the umpteenth season of Survivor. The network also premieres its own reality-based prank show, Game Show In My Head with Ashton Kutcher at the helm (sigh).

Fox delivered the long-awaited seventh season of 24 with its now-standard, two-night, four-hour premiere. Fox also guarantees itself a large market share with the premiere of Joss Whedon's sci-fi show Dollhouse, starring Eliza Dushku, scheduled for next month. Dushku plays Echo, who Fox.com describes as "a member of a highly illegal and underground group who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas. Confined to a secret facility known as the 'Dollhouse,' Echo and the other Actives ... carry out engagements [which] cater to the wealthy, powerful and connected, and require the Actives to immerse themselves in all manner of scenarios." (A bunch of Buffy and Firefly geeks just peed their pants.) And another season of American Idol (luke)warms up with Seacrest, Jackson, Abdul and Cowell at risk of becoming parodies of themselves.

If you do shell out a portion of your paycheck for more channels, this month and next are full of enough new TV to leave you lolling on the couch for hours.

In January, Comedy Central presents new episodes of Comedy Central Presents, its stand-up showcase. January brings Dane Cook: Rough Around The Edges, debonair D.L. Hughley in the television premiere of D.L. Hughley: Unapologetic and Katt Williams' It's Pimpin' Pimpin'. Williams' no-holds-barred, frenetic, high-energy delivery obliterates economic, racial and social lines, making him one of the funniest little sharp-dressed men working in comedy today. The first episode of the channel's new sketch show by creator, executive producer, star and self-described "all around person" Demetri Martin entitled Important Things With Demetri Martin airs in February.

January brings a new season of Damages with Glenn Close and the graphic sex and surgery drama Nip/Tuck. The final season of SciFi's Battlestar Galactica takes off and TBS brings back the, er, comedy 10 Items Or Less and premieres Meet the Browns, a new creation by Tyler Perry (a guy who apparently never sleeps). USA delivers more Psych (but they probably already knew that), Monk and Burn Notice. Showtime's lesbian-themed The L Word returns as does HBO's polygamist program Big Love. The big hallelujah moment in January comes mid-month when HBO finally delivers the long-awaited second season of Flight of the Conchords, in which Jemaine and Bret try to manage themselves since Murray's time and energy is focused on the Crazy Dogggz.

For those who don't watch, don't like or claim not to like television, go ahead and enjoy skiing, snowboarding or whatever you do to entertain yourselves in January and February. As for the rest of us, we'll be meeting up in office corridors cringing over Michael Scott's latest exploits, crying over the 800-pound father-son team's progress, debating the dynamics of Sean and Christian's relationship and hoping Liz Lemon finally gets the respect she deserves.

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