Here's a look at some of what's coming in midseason.
Alcatraz, Fox: Prisoners who disappeared from Alcatraz 30 years ago begin reappearing, unaged and seeking vengeance, in a thriller from J.J. Abrams' shop, written by Lost executive producer Liz Sarnoff. Everything about this show works, from the puzzle (where have these guys been, and who is manipulating them?) to the pacing to the perfect cast. Sarah Jones is a young cop with personal ties to Alcatraz, Jorge Garcia (Hurley on Lost) is an Alcatraz scholar, and Sam Neill is the mysterious head of a task force who knows more than he's telling.
Apartment 23, ABC: After a very bad first day in New York, a young woman from Indiana (Dreama Walker) winds up rooming with a con artist (Krysten Ritter) in an off-center and sometimes amusing comedy featuring James Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek) as himself.
Awake, NBC: A police detective (Jason Isaacs) wakes from a car crash living two lives, one in which his wife died but his son survived, the other in which his son is alive but his wife is dead. The puzzler also has him working cases in both lives and — thankfully — seeing a therapist. Awake will make your head spin but is likely to keep you watching.
GCB, ABC: Previously Good Christian Belles, and before that another "B" word, this soapy dramedy finds a former mean girl (Leslie Bibb) returning to Dallas after a disastrous marriage, and her mother (Franklin native Annie Potts) and former frenemies (including Kristin Chenoweth) don't realize she's changed. Funny and touching, GCB seems poised to fill the Desperate Housewives gap.
The River, ABC: An explorer and beloved TV host (Bruce Greenwood) disappears in the Amazon, leaving his documentary crew, wife (Leslie Hope) and reluctant son to search for him, in a horror thriller with jumpy camera shots, confessionals and overtones of Paranormal Activity. (Orin Pele, the movie's writer-director, created the series.) If you like this sort of thing, The River seems worth diving into.
Smash, NBC: In the most original concept of the season, Debra Messing and Christian Borle are Broadway songwriters who embark on a project that could be their "smash": a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. The talented ensemble includes Anjelica Huston, Katharine McPhee and Brian D'Arcy James, with songs both classic and new (from Hairspray songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman). Smash will debut the day after the Super Bowl, after The Voice, and it's well worth the wait.
Gail Pennington St. Louis Post-Dispatch