It's that time of year again -- the post-holiday period when networks trot out their mid-season offerings while some of their fall shows take a breather.
This year's midseason schedule is poised to deliver a grab-bag of viewing options, ranging from the spooky (Fox's "The Following") to the surreal (ABC's "Zero Hour") to the breezily nostalgic (the CW's "Sex and the City" sequel "The Carrie Diaries").
Here's a rundown of which midseason series, plus a few returning efforts that are coming back to the air, to look out for in the coming weeks.
"1600 Penn" Network: NBC Starring: Bill Pullman, Jenna Elfman, Josh Gad Premieres: Jan. 10 Why it's worth checking out: Pullman has played presidential before -- notably, in 1997's "Independence Day" -- but he'll offer a more tormented chief executive in this comedy about a dysfunctional First Family. "The Book of Mormon" star Josh Gad co-created and co-stars in the series, hamming it up shamelessly.
"Banshee" Network: Cinemax Starring: Anthony Starr, Ivana Milicevic, Ulrich Thomsen Premieres: Jan 11 Why it's worth checking out: We can count on former "True Blood" showrunner Alan Ball and "House M.D." executive producer Greg Yaitanes to pull out every stop to make this a gripping viewing experience. It's about a con who steals the identity of a small-town sheriff while carrying on his criminal ways.
"The Carrie Diaries" Network: The CW Starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Freema Agyeman, Chloe Bridges Premieres: Jan. 14 Why it's worth checking out: Because admit it: Some shallow part of you still misses "Sex and the City," no matter how far our culture has drifted from the carefree, affluent late '90s. And seeing Carrie Bradshaw as a young woman in the '80s, before she developed into the vapid, self-obsessed sex columnist of "Sex and the City," might help restore a little bit of your hope in humanity. Did we mention the '80s soundtrack? Don't even pretend this doesn't sound good.
"The Following" Network: Fox Starring: Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Maggie Grace Premieres: Jan. 21 Why it's worth checking out: Because it's Kevin Bacon, in his first crack at starring in a TV series. The "Footloose" star plays a former FBI agent who's dragged out of retirement to track down a serial murderer -- who happens to be leading an expanding web of killers. And it was created by "Scream" and "Vampire Diaries" vet Kevin Williamson, who seems uniquely qualified to pull off this creepily twisted tale.
"The Americans" Network: FX Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys Premieres: Jan. 30 Why it's worth checking out: A period piece about a pair of KGB agents posing as a suburban American couple in the Reagan era? Sure, it sounds like the makings of a wacky sitcom -- but it's actually a drama. CIA officer-turned-author Joe Weisberg ("Falling Skies") is behind the project, which mixes family drama with espionage. And there's enough egregious sex to thaw the Cold War.
"Do No Harm" Network: NBC Starring: Steven Pasquale Premieres: Jan. 31 Why it's worth checking out: The premise -- a successful neurosurgeon's life is turned upside-down after his alter-ego emerges and wreaks havoc on the doctor and those around him -- is intriguing enough to warrant an initial viewing. And it will be good to see Steven Pasquale play a main role -- or roles -- after being part of the supporting cast of "Rescue Me."
"Monday Mornings" Network: TNT Starring: Jamie Bamber, Alfred Molina, Ving Rhames Premieres: Feb. 4 Why it's worth watching: Centered on the professional and personal lives of the doctors at a fictional Portland, Ore., hospital, "Monday Mornings" is based on a book by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the most trusted medical professional of couch potatoes nationwide. And who isn't interested in seeing "Chicago Hope" creator David E. Kelley, who co-created "Monday Mornings," tackle the medical drama field again?
"Zero Hour" Network: ABC Starring: Anthony Edwards Premieres: Feb. 14 Why it's worth checking out: Another mind-bending concept -- this time, the editor of a skeptics magazine is pulled into "one of the most compelling conspiracies in human history" by a bizarre twist of fate. Plus, it stars Anthony Edwards in his first television role since "E.R." It could be his most compelling performance since "Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise."
"Cult" Network: The CW Starring: Matt Davis, Jessica Lucas Premieres: Feb. 19 Why it's worth checking out: Because it's freaky. It follows a journalist who begins investigating a hit TV show called, yes, "Cult," whose rabid fans are obsessed with the show's charismatic but seemingly sinister leader. Bonus: The TV cult leader in question is not named Glenn Beck.
"Red Widow" Network: ABC Starring: Erin Moriarty, Jaime Ray Newman Premieres: March 3 Why it's worth checking out: The widow of an assassinated criminal, forced to take her husband's place in a crime syndicate in order to protect her loved ones? Sounds like fun for the whole family. Another bonus: It's written and executive-produced by "Twilight" writer Melissa Rosenberg, and doesn't appear to involve any sparkly vampires or rock-abbed werewolves.
"Golden Boy" Network: CBS Starring: Theo James, Chi McBride Premieres: March 8 (following previews on Feb. 26 and March 5) Why it's worth checking out: Chronicling the rise of New York City's youngest police commissioner (James), the series was created by Nicholas Wootton, whose writing credits ("Law & Order," "NYPD Blue") suggest that he knows a thing or two about bringing a gritty urban crime drama to the small screen.
How to Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life) Network: ABC Starring: Sarah Chalke, Brad Garrett, Elizabeth Perkins Premieres: April 3 Why it's worth checking out: Sure, the whole "adult who's forced to move back in with her parents" thing is a little threadbare as a comedic conceit at this point. But "Everybody Loves Raymond" alum Brad Garrett is about 13 feet tall, and looks and sounds like a Muppet in the midst of a week-long NyQuil bender. And that's always hilarious.
"Anger Management" Network: FX Starring: Charlie Sheen, Selma Blair Returns: Jan. 17
Why it's worth checking out: Say what you will about Charlie Sheen -- he sure knows how to get attention, on and off the screen. Sheen's comeback project, following a very public meltdown and canning from "Two and a Half Men," drew record numbers with its series premiere last year. The ratings eventually leveled off, but remained strong enough to earn the show an order for another 90 seasons. Now that the rubbernecking factor has dissipated, it will be interesting to see if Sheen can hold people's attention.
"Dallas" Network: TNT Starring: Patrick Duffy, Jesse Metcalfe, Patrick Duffy Returns: Jan. 28 Why it's worth checking out: Larry Hagman, who reprised his role as corrupt oil tycoon J.R. Ewing for the TNT reboot, died in November, with the series' second season partway done with production. The network has since said that it will air a funeral episode for Ewing, leaving the series with its most suspenseful moment since the "Who Shot J.R.?" cliffhanger, as viewers wonder exactly how the show's producers will bid farewell to an iconic TV character.
"Community" Network: NBC Starring: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Donald Glover Returns: Feb. 7 Why it's worth checking out: It's been a long time since school's been in session at Greendale Community College -- too long, for the show's small but intensely devoted fans, who've really been asked to endure a lot: The shudder of panic late last year, when NBC pulled the show from its midseason schedule. The firing of series creator and showrunner Dan Harmon. The shifting of the show's season 4 premiere date from Oct. 19 to its current start of Feb. 7, followed quickly thereafter by series star Chevy Chase's decision to leave the show. Hopefully, the new season will provide enough laughs for the show's devotees to forget it all.
"Touch" Network: Fox Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, David Mazouz Returns: Feb. 8 Why it's worth checking out: Hopes were high for this Kiefer Sutherland drama, with Fox putting heavy promotion and an ambitious global launch behind the series. The drama failed to capture the public the same way that Sutherland's previous Fox series, "24" did -- and ended its second season on a ratings low. The second season -- which kicks off with a two-hour premiere on Feb. 8, after being bumped back from its original Oct. 26 premiere date -- shifts the setting from New York to Los Angeles, where Sutherland's Martin Bohm and his unusually gifted son, Jake, endeavor to help a distraught mother help find her equally gifted daughter. Time will tell if the dramatic upheaval will lead to a similar reversal of fortunes.
"The Walking Dead" Network: AMC Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Laurie Holden Returns: Feb. 10 Why it's worth checking out: Showrunner Glen Mazzara -- who's departing the show after its current third season -- closed out the first half of the season with a brain-chewer of an episode filled with showdowns: Michonne vs. The Governor's zombified daughter, Penny! Michonne vs. The Governor! And a cliffhanger: An angry mob vs. the just-reunited Daryl and Merle. The show is TV's top scripted drama for a reason.