Midseason replacements are like that old Avis slogan: "We're number two, we try harder." Some of the best TV comes out at this time, probably because more risks are taken when a network adopts the "Ah, fuck it, let's just go with the show about a talking horse" approach. Some notable shows that debuted after others tanked include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All in the Family, The Simpsons, The Office, and, of course, Mr. Ed. Here are my picks for January's new releases.
Kim of Queens (Lifetime, Jan. 1)
This reality show is centered around Kim Gravel, a soulful, zaftig beauty pageant coach and former Miss Georgia, as she steers young hopefuls toward the crown and sash. Pretty run of the mill, right? But Gravel gets these girls before they are polished automatons, and the wannabe contestants are either petulant, shy, shallow, or awkward, and not even that pretty (I know?! Eww!). She's a nicer version of Dance Moms' Abby Lee — which, yeah, isn't hard to do — and when she says that beauty is only skin deep, we get the feeling she really means it.
The Spoils of Babylon (IFC, Jan. 9)
Someone got really high and decided to create a sweeping satire of the "family saga" genre (think The Thorn Birds) and this show was the result. Produced by Will Ferrell and starring Tobey Maguire, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Alba, and Tim Robbins, Babylon spoofs a dynastic clan of American oil barons. The trailer looks like one long SNL skit, but anything that features forbidden love between a brother and sister can't be all bad. (See Flowers in the Attic, below.)
True Detective (HBO, Jan. 12)
This is probably the most anticipated midseason show, not only because it's an HBO drama, but also because it's hard to resist an atmospheric mystery involving a serial killer that takes place on the soggy and bleak Louisiana coastline. Matthew McConaughey plays a retired, xenophobic detective who tried and failed for years to catch the killer; Woody Harrelson steps in but finds that he has to depend on his weirdo predecessor's work to try and unravel the case.
Chozen (FX, Jan. 13)
Who wouldn't want to watch a cartoon about a gay white rapper released from prison named Chozen who spits totally wack rhymes and tries to be "hard"? ("Sex with Murder" is one of his joints, por ejemplo.) This 'toon ain't for the kiddies, what with the cursing and gay sex: "I played his butthole like a saxophone!" The show is by the creators of Archer and Eastbound & Down, so there are plenty of laughs — "Who you know gives a shit about the Grammys 'cept white people and Kanye West?"
Real World Ex-Plosion (MTV, Jan. 8)
The only reason to watch this show is that it was filmed on Sutter near the Tenderloin, and we can all sit back and sneer at the out-of-towners as they bang one another and skip down the street with the Golden Gate in the background. You know you want to check it out.
Flowers in the Attic (Lifetime, Jan. 18)
Ooh, child, it finally happened: Lifetime acquired the rights to V.C. Andrews' forbidden incestuous classic about kids locked in the attic by their evil mom and grandmother. It's a remake, technically, since the first movie based on the book came out in '87. However, the first film treatment left out all the sex between the brother and sister, and you know damn well that Lifetime is not going to make that same mistake. Mad Men actress Kiernan Shipka stars, along with Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn.
#Rich Kids of Beverly Hills (E!, Jan. 19)
Well, the "Rich Kids of Instagram" have gotten their own show, and from the looks of things it is indeed Glorious Assholes on Parade. Five twentysomething one-percenters spew idiocy for the cameras, like when the daughter of a billionaire goes house hunting (actual quote: "Let's check the selfie lighting in here; you can't get an apartment if the lighting is bad"). The show also features Magic Johnson's adorable, flamboyant son E. J., who will hopefully get his own show if/when this one tanks.
Looking (HBO, Jan. 19)
This half-hour dramedy features the lives of young San Franciscans and has been called the gay Girls, a designation that's not too far off the mark. Instead of the Castro, the characters live in the Haight and the Mission, and the creators tried hard to create a "post-gay" show about guys whose lives are about more than just their sexuality. Novel concept.