A new year in TV — 3 ambitious January premieres

“Alcatraz” shows some promise.

2012 is finally upon us! For TV fans everywhere, this is actually a reason to get excited. Sometimes in the past, “mid-season” has been a dirty word for “shows not good enough to get on in the fall,” but this year there are some gems scattered here and there that could be the saving grace for some networks (see Fox and NBC) that have had trouble developing new scripted programming as of late.

The three new shows that we have highlighted this month that showcase a little bit of everything — from sci-fi to the business world to even animated comedy.

“The Firm” (NBC, premieres January 8 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time)

Anyone bold enough to actually adapt John Grisham for the small screen is certainly bold, indeed — and you only have to amp this up to another level when you have this said adaptation be one that was already a successful feature film.

In some ways, “The Firm” reminds us of “Kings” in that it is a mid-season drama on NBC that has the makings of a hit — but may not be able to find an audience. We have a hard time seeing young audiences tuning in to a show that is following a film nearly 20 years old, and even older audiences may opt to watch “The Good Wife” — a known (and stellar) commodity that appeals to a similar audience.

NBC put so much faith into this show succeeding that it already has a full-season order, and the cast alone (which includes Tricia Helfer, Juliette Lewis, and Molly Parker) makes this something to watch regardless of its competition. The good news? After the premiere, “The Firm” will settle into a time slot Thursdays at 10:00 — where the competition is a little less similar (even if “The Mentalist” is a hit among older audiences already).

“Alcatraz” (Fox, premieres January 16 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern)

Some of the team behind “Lost” has already found some success with “Once Upon a Time,” so it would only seem fitting that some other folks who made the ABC drama a hit would get a chance to shine. “Alcatraz” has a premise that is equally mysterious to the island — criminals from the famed prison appearing and reappearing — and it also has one of the same cast members in Jorge Garcia.

If there’s a network that needs a new sci-fi hit, it is Fox. “Terra Nova” underwhelmed in the ratings, and its future beyond one season is unknown — meanwhile, “Fringe” is pretty much assured to be gone once it has the 88 episodes in May required for syndication purposes. With “The Finder” being their only other high-profile new show, the network could benefit from having something outside of “American Idol” serving as a talking point.

The only thing that worries us at the moment is some of the drama behind the scenes here — there have been some creative changes since the pilot, and the critical reaction was mixed. Sometimes, though, new shows take time to find themselves — just look at “Once Upon a Time,” which found its footing after a few episodes early on that sagged in storytelling and an overuse of cliches.

“Unsupervised” (FX, premieres January 19 at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time)

FX could use more comedy hits. “The League” fumbled in its final episodes without “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” as a lead-in — and thankfully, this animated show about free-wheeling teens is from some of the same folks that made “Sunny” a success.

Unlike “Alcatraz” and “The Firm,” there’s really not much of a reason to avoid this show (unless you don’t like adult humor in cartoon form) — it’s only half an hour of your time, and there’s not much in the way of similar competition out there. It also has a lead-in “Archer” that is from the same group of artists.

Photo: Fox

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