The 5 Best New Midseason TV Shows

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment

There are heckuva a lot of intriguing new shows premiering in the near future, and while some of them haven't been made available for critics to preview (hello, Better Call Saul, my hopes are high for you), I can say I've seen all the shows below, they represent a broad range of genres and tones, and I think each is well worth your time to check out.

Empire (Fox)

It’s the show we didn’t know we needed: A nighttime soap about the music industry that gets the details right about hip hop and R&B, and challenges its actors to go over-the-top while staying in control. Taraji P. Henson, freed from Person of Interest, bursts through the TV screen as Cookie, fresh out of prison and eager to take her place as an executive at Empire Entertainment, the music company run by her ex-husband, played by Terrence Howard. As overseen by producer-director Lee Daniels, these three veterans of Hustle & Flow really do exhibit a lot of hustle and flow in the show's propulsive storytelling. Think Scandal crossed with Sparkle and you get some idea of how intriguing Empire is.

Togetherness (HBO)

This is something different for an HBO comedy — a half-hour less interested in provocation than in realism. Creators Mark and Jay Duplass tell the tale of a fraying marriage between Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey), Michelle's goofy-beauty sister, Tina (a quite amazing Amanda Peet), and Mark's earnest-loser best friend (Steve Zizzis). Right from the start, the details of harried married life and parenthood are sharply defined, the dialogue richly believable. You do spend the first half-hour wondering how the four adults are going to mesh, but by the second episode, you're drawn in by the loose yet confident rhythms of the storytelling. The show is at times poignant and moving. It’s also low-key, so please give it a chance — it's not the kind of arm-waving, look-at-me-I'm-clever HBO comedy that Girls is or Bored to Death was; Togetherness is its own, original creation.

Ben Mendelsohn as Danny Rayburn and Kyle Chandler as John Rayburn
Ben Mendelsohn as Danny Rayburn and Kyle Chandler as John Rayburn

Bloodline (Netflix)

Kyle Chandler returns to TV with a wiser, more cynical character than he portrayed in Friday Night Lights: he's the sheriff of a steamy Florida Keys town that has lots of secrets, many of them involving his parents, played by Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard, and his siblings, particularly his wastral older brother played with poignant swagger by Ben Mendelsohn. The show is from the creators of Damages, and is similarly structured with flashbacks and –forwards, but the pilot makes it look as though Bloodlines will have its own steamy originality.

Related: Winter TV Preview: Scoop on 25 New Shows

 iZombie (The CW)

iZombie
iZombie

You know that producer-writer Rob Thomas is good at presenting a female-led, hour-long show that mixes humor and drama, because he created Veronica Mars. What you may not know is that iZombie is based on an excellent comic book of the same name, about a recently-turned female zombie named Liv Moore (the charming Rose McIver), and adapting it is Thomas's new TV project. For a tricky concept — it might have been ridiculous to have Liv traipsing around with chalk-white skin and hair, making wisecracks — it works surprisingly well. Thomas understands what comics creators Chris Roberson and Mike Allred baked into their story: the notion that being un-dead implies being truly alive on a level regular humans never experience.

 Babylon (SundanceTV)

L to R, Brit Marling, James Nesbitt, Ella Smith and Paterson Joseph - in the SundanceTV original series Babylon - Photo Credit: Dean Rogers
L to R, Brit Marling, James Nesbitt, Ella Smith and Paterson Joseph - in the SundanceTV original series Babylon - Photo Credit: Dean Rogers

From filmmaker Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), an intriguing mix of cop drama and political satire. James Nesbitt — the anguished father in Starz's recently concluded The Missing — plays a police commissioner embroiled in lots of controversial criminal cases. An American public-relations executive played by Brit Marling arrives, ostensibly to help with the top cop's image, but instead becomes the target of his bitter resistance. Anglophile TV fans will detect a familiar ring of cutting sarcasm reminiscent of The Thick of It; Babylon was created by Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, makers of another British fave, Peep Show. This new show also benefits from the headlong pace that Boyle maintains throughout. There's more rapid-fire walk-and-talks than Aaron Sorkin ever crammed into The Newsroom.