Networks bring in midseason rookies to help ratings


Everyone, it seems, delves into the new year craving a fresh start – even television programmers.

Resolving to boost their ratings, the networks and cable outlets use the month of January to usher in a number of new shows and welcome back some old favorites, including “American Idol” and “24.”

The midseason rollout continues through February with additional shows that have yet to be assigned debut dates. But for now, here’s a look at some of January’s coming attractions:

• “Dirt” (Premiered 10 p.m. Tuesday, FX): Courteney Cox returns to television to play a hard-driven tabloid magazine editor who will stop at nothing to dig up filth on Hollywood celebrities. She’s aided by a schizophrenic paparazzo whose bizarre hallucinations are played out on screen. It’s a dark and disjointed drama hampered by starchy dialogue.

• “The Knights of Prosperity” (Premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, ABC): A disgruntled janitor (Donal Logue) who aspires to a better life hatches a nutty plan to recruit a band of merry misfits and rob Mick Jagger’s posh New York apartment. A mildly amusing sitcom, “Knights” is bolstered by Jagger’s willingness to spoof himself in the pilot.

• “In Case of Emergency” (Premieres 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, ABC): A decent cast (Jonathan Silverman, David Arquette, Greg Germann, and Lori Loughlin) fails to rescue this laugh-starved sitcom about former high school classmates who didn’t turn into the people they hoped to be. Judging from early episodes, the writers might want to declare a state of emergency.

• “Grease: You’re the One that I Want” (Premieres 8 p.m. Jan. 7, NBC): Is America still hopelessly devoted to “Grease”? The producers of this reality series certainly hope so. The show follows a group of Broadway wannabes as they audition for the lead roles in a new production of the musical.

• “The Apprentice: Los Angeles” (Premieres 9:30 p.m. Jan. 7, NBC): How does Donald Trump pump new life into his sagging reality series? He moves it to Southern California and implements some changes (Among them: Project losers sleep outdoors in tents). One thing, however, remains a constant – The Donald’s hairdo.

• “The L Word” (Premieres 10 p.m. Jan. 7, Showtime): Here’s another show that could use a shakeup. So, for its fourth season, bring on Cybill Shepherd, who debuts in the second episode. She plays a married woman in her 50s who comes out of the closet and ignites an intense family struggle. Marlee Matlin also joins the cast.

• “I’m from Rolling Stone” (Premieres 10 p.m. Jan. 7, MTV): More than 2,000 aspiring journalists applied for summer associate positions at the iconic magazine. Only six were accepted. This intriguing reality series follows them as they rub shoulders with celebrities and grapple with deadlines.

• “I Love New York” (Premieres 9 p.m. Jan. 8, VH1): Fans of “Flavor of Love” will certainly remember New York, aka Tiffany Pollard, the mouthy diva who was jilted twice on the show. Now she has the chance to find her “true love” in this spin-off reality series that will have 20 young (and very brave) men vying for her heart.

• “24” (Premieres 8 p.m. Jan. 14, Fox): The last time we saw super-agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), he was being pummeled to a pulp on a boat bound for China. Oh, but America needs Jack to save the day once again, and so he’s brought back to deal with a wave of terrorist attacks happening all over the country. Can the show possibly top its turbo-charged fifth season?

• “Rome” (Premieres 9 p.m. Jan. 14, HBO): Season 2 of this bloody, lusty and endlessly riveting period drama picks up right where we left off: Caesar lies dead in a pool of blood and now various family members and political factions are thrust into a ruthless power struggle. Max Pirkis shines as the increasingly assertive Octavian.

• “Extras” (Premieres 10 p.m. Jan. 14, HBO): Ricky Gervais (“The Office”) returns for a second season of this hysterical comedy about a delusional 40-something actor who just can’t catch a break in Hollywood. Featured cameos include David Bowie, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen and Daniel Radcliffe.

• “American Idol” (Premieres 8 p.m. Jan. 16, Fox): Television’s ratings Godzilla is back to trample everything in its path. The musical journey again begins with two straight nights (and four hours) of the always-popular audition sessions. Is there another Kelly Clarkson – or William Hung – in the bunch?

• “The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show” (Premieres 10:30 p.m. Jan. 17, Comedy Central) Comedians Dave “Gruber” Allen and David Koechner headline this offbeat show, which features in-studio segments, remote reports from the road and plenty of “high low-brow” humor.

• “Rules of Engagement” (Premieres 9:30 p.m. Feb. 5, CBS): This new sitcom sounds a lot like Fox’s wretched “‘Til Death,” as it observes relationships through the eyes of a newly engaged couple and a long-married pair. Meanwhile, David Spade plays a single guy on the prowl.

Return engagements:

Here’s a rundown of other established shows that will be launching new seasons or resuming their current ones over the next few weeks:

Jan. 3: “Beauty and the Geek” (8 p.m., The CW); “According to Jim” (8 p.m., ABC)

Jan. 5: “Degrassi: The Next Generation” (8 p.m., The N)

Jan. 16: “The Real Housewives of Orange County” (10 p.m., Bravo)

Jan. 19: “Monk” (9 p.m., USA); “Psych” (10 p.m., USA)

Jan. 21: “Crossing Jordan” (10 p.m., NBC); “Battlestar Galactica” (10 p.m., Sci Fi)

Jan. 22: “Prison Break” (8 p.m., Fox); “Heroes” (9 p.m., NBC)

Jan. 23: “Veronica Mars” (9 p.m., The CW)

Jan. 24: “George Lopez” (8 p.m., ABC)

Jan. 28: “King of the Hill” (8:30 p.m., Fox)

Feb. 7: “Lost” (10 p.m., ABC)

Feb. 14: “Jericho” (8 p.m., CBS)