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Debuts blast open TV's winter season

You probably think this TV season started last fall.

You might remember the hoopla touting fall shows, from two weeks of coverage in TV Guide to a huge preview penned by yours truly. But there's evidence the real TV season starts right now. The shows coming over the next three months, some pushed back by the writers strike, are enough to make any fan of great television salivate.

There are the big guns that always come out in winter: Fox's American Idol (Jan. 13) and 24 (Jan. 11), along with ABC's Lost (Jan. 21). And there's new stuff, including TNT's Trust Me (Jan. 26); Fox's crime series Lie to Me (Jan. 21); NBC's miniseries with Mira Sorvino, The Last Templar (Jan. 25); and the return of CBS's Flashpoint (Friday).

As usual, cable offers much more, including new episodes from The Closer on TNT; Monk, Psych and Burn Notice on USA; Battlestar Galactica on Sci Fi; Big Love and Flight of the Conchords on HBO; and The L Word, Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Toni Collette's new series, The United States of Tara, on Showtime.

And that's just January.

Here are capsule reviews of big shows coming this week.

Confessions of a Teen Idol | 8 tonight, VH1

The lowdown: Except for TMZ, no television outlet has more adeptly profited from celebrity debasement than VH1, home of Celebrity Fit Club and Celebrity Rehab (Parts 1 and 2!). This show crams the Blue Lagoon's Chris Atkins, T.J. Hooker's Adrian Zmed, Baywatch's David Chokachi and four even more forgettable has-beens into one house for what feels like a decade.

Will it work? Young audiences will barely remember these second-string players. Those who do won't be surprised that Zmed is working on a cruise ship and Atkins is building pools.

The Bachelor 8 p.m. Monday, WFTS-Ch. 28

The lowdown: Jason Mesnick, rejected by Bachelorette DeAnna Pappas last year, breaks 24 hearts of his own as the first single dad to rule ABC's dating contest. Mesnick, right, is sure to lure fans who thought he was wrongly passed over last year. He's also the most boring bachelor I've ever seen.

Will it work? The words "boring" and "TV success" rarely meet in the same sentence.

Secret Life of the American Teenager 8 p.m. Monday, ABC Family

The lowdown: Pregnant teen Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley) considers eloping with her boyfriend. Creator Brenda Hampton offers lines so snappy, even Brat Pack refugee Molly Ringwald scores. She plays a confused mom whose marriage trouble prevents her from realizing Amy's plans until it may be too late.

Will it work? With characters this charming? No doubt.

Scrubs | 9 p.m. Tuesday, WFTS- Ch. 28

The lowdown: Salvaged from NBC, the new episodes feature Friends alum Courteney Cox, left, as a new chief of staff who seems friendly and accommodating, but turns out as twisted as the regular crew. Zach Braff's doctor J.D. still learns life lessons amid jokes about bromance and body odor.

Will it work? This perennially low-rated absurdist comedy nails its classic tone. But that may not win any new viewers.

Nip/Tuck | 10 p.m. Tuesday, FX

The lowdown: The gory soap opera continues, as do-gooder plastic surgeon Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) is left horrifically injured by a stalker. Meanwhile, his pretty boy narcissist partner Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) faces the worst kind of illness for a man of his fragile machismo. Will creator Ryan Murphy ever run out of ways to torture this put-upon twosome?

Will it work? The pungent mix of glamor, degradation and gore seems to have narrowed the show's fan base. These new episodes won't reverse that trend.

Damages | 10 p.m. Wednesday, FX

The lowdown: Deliciously complex and indirect, Glenn Close's drama about sharklike attorney Patty Hewes returns with extra star power in Oscar winners William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden. As the season starts, Rose Byrne's idealistic lawyer Ellen Parsons is bruised and cynical after learning mentor/boss Hewes tried to kill her. She vacillates between seeking revenge on Hewes and the ailing tycoon who killed her fiancee. Hurt is a scientist from Hewes' past with many secrets, including the key to a giant conspiracy. How that relates to the opening scene, which shows Parsons possibly shooting someone, will take an entire season to unravel.

Will it work? If we're lucky.

Debuts blast open TV's winter season 01/03/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 5, 2009 7:12am]
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