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Midseason TV Preview: Where we left off and what's new

January 8, 2011 | 11:40 am

Holt
A slew of new shows kick off this winter, and a bunch of series pick up where they left off.

In our Midseason TV Preview, we have a gallery to help you catch you up on forgotten plotlines for returning shows like "Big Love" and "Parks and Recreation," and photos from the set of FX's "Justified." There's also a guide to what to watch from critic Robert Lloyd.

Idol One show returning to the air this month with question marks hanging over it is "American Idol." Scott Collins mulls the high stakes and prospects for "American Idol" after Simon Cowell. There's also a guide to new reality series, with a few familiar faces (think Kardashians).

"Hot in Cleveland," the comedy starring Betty White and fellow sitcom vets Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick, was a surprise hit for TV Land, becoming the top-rated cable sitcom of the year. (Just for reference, its June premiere pulled in roughly double the audience of the "Mad Men"  season opener last year.) T.L. Stanley looks at TV Land's strategy of catering to an under-served older demographic with a slate of upcoming scripted series. Along with it, there's a gallery that goes behind the scenes with Betty White and crew on "Hot in Cleveland."

Much of the preview section in this Sunday's paper is dedicated to new shows. Joe Flint profiles Holt McCallany, who stars as a washed-up boxer stuck between two New Jersey worlds -- the gritty Bayonne neighborhood of his youth and professional life and the cushy Far Hills mansion he lives in with his wife and three daughters -- in FX's new drama "Lights Out."

Several new shows come with familiar faces attached. Greg Braxton profiles Matt LeBlanc, who stars as himself (kind of?) in the new Hollywood-skewering Showtime comedy "Episodes."(Among the differences between the show's "Matt LeBlanc" and the real one: The fictional Matt brags about his gargantuan male member, whereas the real actor claims, "My anatomy is very proportional.") And Queen Latifah talks about her producing role in the new series "Let's Stay Together," part of a block of all-black comedy premiering on BET.

Kathy Bates discusses her role on the new David E. Kelley legal drama "Harry's Law" on NBC, playing Harry (short for Harriet). Bates describes her character as "a bit of a curmudgeon like me ... . She carries a .44 in her purse, and if things aren't to her liking she's quick to pull it out and rectify the situation."

Another award-winning movie actor popping up on the small screen this season is Tommy Lee Jones, who stars with Samuel L. Jackson in an HBO production of Cormac McCarthy's 2006 play "The Sunset Limited." Jones also directed this one-off drama, which is essentially a very intense dialogue that takes place on a train. "One guy says, 'What is the right thing to do?' And the other says, 'Take action? There's only one action that would have any meaning, and that's to jump in front of a train.' "

Where We Left Off gallery

Hollywood Backlot: "Justified"

"American Idol" at the crossroads

Midseason reality TV guide

TV Land courts stars of a certain age

Hot in Cleveland photo gallery

Midseason TV Preview: "Lights Out"

Midseason TV Preview: Matt LeBlanc in "Episodes"

Midseason TV Preview: "Let's Stay Together"

Midseason TV Preview: Kathy Bates in "Harry's Law"

Midseason TV Preview: Tommy Lee Jones in "Sunset Limited"

-- Joy Press

Photos: Top: Holt McCallany in "Lights Out." Credit: Eric Leibowitz / FX. Bottom: "American Idol" judges Randy Jackson, left, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, host Ryan Seacrest and mentor Jimmy Iovine. Credit: Mark Davis / Fox.

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