As we reach the end of the fall 2011 TV schedule, there are several new series on the horizon which may quickly become fan favorites. There are also more than a few shows returning after a long absence that deserve another look from anyone who passed them up the first time.
CraveOnline has assembled a list of our top 12 new and returning TV shows coming up in 2012. Not every series will prove to be a hit, but it should be another interesting year for television
Premiere: February 07, 2012
Oren Peli has had a lot of success with his "found footage" horror films in the "Paranormal Activity" series. But it remains to be seen if Pell can recreate the same sense of horror on TV.
Peli and writers Michael R. Perry and Michael Green have created "The River," a new paranormal/horror series coming early next year on ABC. The premise finds a famous TV host and explorer, Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) vanishing under mysterious circumstances while pushing deep into the uncharted territories of the Amazon. Six months after Cole's disappearance, his estranged wife, Tess (Leslie Hope) and Cole's son, Lincoln (Joe Anderson) form an expedition of their own after Cole's emergency beacon resumes its transmission.
To account for the presence of the cameramen, the in-story explanation is that Cole's former producer, Clark (Paul Blackthorne) is funding the rescue mission in exchange for being allowed to film it. Eloise Mumford, Daniel Zacapa and Thomas Kretschmann also costar in the show.
"The River" has already received an enormous amount of hype from ABC, but it only has eight episodes in which to prove itself.
Premiere: March 15, 2012
Television seems to be a rite of passage for some movie actors. Once their star fades on the big screen, some actors and actresses take a stab at TV to reignite their careers. In "Missing," that honor goes to Ashley Judd, who steps into the role of a former CIA agent, Becca Winstone. When Becca's son, Michael (Nick Eversman) disappears while studying overseas, Becca goes on a rampage to find him, using all of her skills and contacts from her years as a spy.
So, it's essentially a gender reversal of the film "Taken."
Former "Game of Thrones" star, Sean Bean also costars as Paul Winstone, Becca's husband and fellow CIA agent. Despite the fact that Paul is seemingly dead ten years prior to the series, it seems likely that Bean will appear in flashbacks or that perhaps he isn't as dead as we're meant to believe.
Like "The River," "Missing" is only getting a small commitment from ABC. Ten episodes, in this case. Because footage from the pilot has barely been released, it's difficult to gauge if Becca's search will have enough juice to go beyond the short season ahead.
Premiere: Spring 2012
"Touch" not only represents a return to TV for Kiefer Sutherland (after eight seasons of "24") but also a chance for creator, Tim Kring to redeem himself after "Heroes" went off the rails for its final three seasons.
In "Touch," Sutherland will portray Martin Bohm, a widower who struggles to care for his mute autistic son, Jake (David Mazouz). Somehow, Martin discovers that Jake can communicate via a series of complex numbers that seem to predict future events. And when no one in the established medical or academic community can help him, Martin turns to Professor Arthur DeWitt, who is played by "Lethal Gun" veteran Danny Glover.
Between Sutherland and Glover, "Touch" already has a strong cast and an intriguing premise. The only question is if Kring and his team of writers can deliver a series that delivers on that promise without devolving into sentimental Hallmark Hall of Fame territory.
Premiere: January 08, 2012
Making a TV series sequel to a 20 year old novel (and an 18 year old film) isn't an obvious move. But NBC has so much confidence in "The Firm" that it has a 22 episode commitment, by far the highest of all the new shows coming next year.
Taking its cue from John Grisham's original novel, "The Firm" features Josh Lucas in the role of attorney, Mitch McDeere (played by Tom Cruise in the feature film adaptation). Ten years after the events of the movie and novel, Mitch and his family emerge from witness protection after Mitch helped the government bring down a legal firm that was being used as a front by the mob.
Unfortunately for Mitch, his enemies haven't forgotten him. In fact, Mitch's adversaries seem to have multiplied in the intervening years and now he has to protect himself and his family without the aid of the government.
Molly Parker, Callum Keith Rennie, Natasha Calis and Juliette Lewis costar, with "Battlestar Galactica" veteran, Tricia Helfer signed on for a recurring part. NBC could certainly use a hit and maybe this legal suspense/thriller is just what the network needs.
Premiere: January 2012
"Alcatraz" is Fox's latest stab at genre programming, courtesy of former "Lost" executive producer Elizabeth Sarnoff and J.J. Abrams.
The premise for the series involves inmates and guards reappearing in the present day despite the widespread belief that they had been killed at Alcatraz decades before. To further the mystery, the people who have returned don't appear to have aged a day.
Sarah Jones leads the cast as Rebecca Madsen, a Police Detective who has strong family ties to the famous prison, along with former "Lost" costar, Jorge Garcia as Dr. Diego "Doc" Soto, the world's foremost expert on Alcatraz who attempts to help Madsen uncover the truth behind the mysterious occurrences, alongside Government agent, Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) and his technician, Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra).
"Alcatraz" recently shutdown briefly for reshoots and Sarnoff has reportedly left the series that she co-created. Nevertheless, Fox still seems to be invested in this show.
Memo to Fox executives: we're willing to give this show a shot, but don't think for a second that "Alcatraz" will ever displace "Fringe" from our thoughts.
Premiere: Early 2012
"Awake" may have the best premise of any new TV series this season. Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) awakens from a traumatic car accident to find himself living in two separate realities. In one world, Michel's wife, Hannah (Laura Allen) survived the accident with him and in another reality, his son, Rex (Dylan Minnette) lived, but his wife died.
As Michael shifts from one reality to the other, he begins noticing links between events in both timelines. He also has a different partner and a different therapist on both worlds.
"Awake" also has the distinction of having a very well received pilot episode judging by the early critical response. While "Grimm" has cooled down our enthusiasm for NBC shows, "Awake" could be the network's first truly successful stab at genre since the first season of "Heroes."
HOUSE OF LIES
Premiere: January 08, 2012
This January, Showtime adds another comedy to its lineup with "House of Lies," based on Martin Kihn's book, "House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time."
Given the current hatred towards the "1%" of wealthiest Americans, "House of Lies" may be more timely than anticipated. Oscar nominated actor, Don Cheadle stars as Marty Kaan, a remarkably cutthroat consultant who lets nothing get in his way to produce results for his clients. And if that means running all over the rich and powerful, then so be it. Dawn Olivieri costars as Marty's ex-wife, Monica; who happens to be his biggest competitor as well.
Ben Schwartz and Josh Lawson also costar as two of Marty's friends and colleagues, but Showtime has been particularly interested in promoting Kristen Bell, who appears as Jeannie Van Der Hooven, an up-and-coming Ivy League graduate at Marty's firm. Bell is making her return to series television following her starring role on "Veronica Mars" and her brief tenure on "Heroes."
But in case TV viewers have forgotten how attractive Bell is, Showtime has released footage of her character, Jeannie cavorting around in her underwear. Some screenshots of which we have helpfully included below.
Premiere: December 11, 2011
There are few upcoming TV series that can match the pedigree of "Luck." Created by David Milch ("Deadwood"), "Luck" follows Chester "Ace" Bernstein, a man newly released from a four year stint in prison as he eagerly returns to the world of horse racing. And stepping into the role of Ace is none other than film legend, Dustin Hoffman, making "Luck" his first ever starring role on television.
Nick Nolte, Dennis Farina, Gary Stevens, Kevin Dunn and Richard Kind are among the stellar supporting cast, with Michael Mann set to direct the pilot episode.
While HBO has been successful with wildly different TV darmas, "Luck" does pose a few risks. Somehow horse racing and the world surrounding it needs to be compelling on a week-to-week basis. And Milch's last HBO series, "John From Cincinnati" was one of the network's rare missteps.
Regardless, HBO has stepped up the series premiere to early in December, before the series launches in January 2012.
MAD MEN SEASON 5
Season Premiere: March 2012
It's been well over a year since "Mad Men" wrapped up its fourth season, but Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and company are coming back in March
The intolerably long delay was courtesy of some very difficult negotiations between AMC and "Mad Men" creator/showrunner, Matthew Weiner. With a deal finally in place, "Mad Men" seems likely to go for a full seven seasons before finally wrapping up.
Details are still sketchy about what's coming up for the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency and the memorable characters who work there. But presumably, there's going to be more about Don's sudden marriage proposal to Megan (Jessica Paré) as well as Joan's (Christina Hendricks) pregnancy.
Season Premiere: January 27, 2012
Technically, "Spartacus: Vengeance" is the second season of the series that began with "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." But it also marks a new beginning for the cast and the show itself.
Following the tragic death of Andy Whitfield, Liam McIntyre has stepped into the title role for the new season of "Spartacus;" which picks up with the escaped gladiators just weeks after rising up and killing their master Batiatus (John Hannah). Now Spartacus and his allies want to take on the Roman empire itself in their quest for freedom.
Joining McIntyre are returning cast members, Peter Mensah as Oenomaus, Manu Bennett as Crixus, Nick Tarabay as Ashur, Viva Bianca as Ilithyia, Craig Parker as Gaius Claudius Glaber and Lucy Lawless as Lucretia; who survived the events of the first season finale despite what appeared to be fatal wounds. Dustin Clare will also rejoin the series as Gannicus, the lead character from the prequel series, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena."
Thus far, Starz hasn't been able to match its success with "Spartacus" with other original series, so it should come as no surprise that Starz has already renewed "Spartacus" for an additional season… keeping us in togas and sword fights through 2013.
30 ROCK SEASON 6
Season Premiere: January 12, 2012
One of the funniest ladies on television is coming back.
After a long hiatus, Tiny Fey's "30 Rock" is returning to Thursday nights beginning in January for a full 22 episode sixth season.
There are rumors that this might be the last season for Alec Baldwin's iconic boss, Jack Donaghy; due to Baldwin's previously stated desire to leave the show. But if Jack is going to go out, I'd expect nothing less than an epic ending to his story. Maybe "30 Rock" will even revisit his wife, Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks); who was last seen stuck in North Korea and forcibly married to Kim Jong-un.
And will this be the year that Fey's Liz Lemon finally gets her life together? Probably not, but it should still be fun either way…
GAME OF THRONES SEASON 2
Season Premiere: April 2012
There are few shows more hotly anticipated than the upcoming second season of "Game of Thrones."
The new season is based upon "A Clash of Kings," the second novel in George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. In the wake of King Joffrey's (Jack Gleeson) assention to the throne and the open warfare between the Lannisters and the Starks, the conflict grows into the "War of Five Kings," as Robb Stark (Richard Madden), Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) lay their claims for power while battling Joffrey and each other.
"Game of Thrones" has also added a number of new cast members for the second season, including Liam Cunningham as Ser Davos Seaworth, Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, Gemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy, Natalie Dormer as Lady Margaery Tyrell and Carice van Houten as Melisandre of Asshai; among several others.
As before, "Game of Thrones" season two will consist of ten episodes, including the ninth episode written by Martin himself; which will depict the Battle of Blackwater, one of the most pivotal events in the entire series.
In short, it's going to be epic. And if you somehow managed to miss "Game of Thrones" before now, you have five months to catch up to the rest of us.