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Article

2012 winter TV preview: 11 returning favorites

Scoops on ”Glee,” ”Mad Men,” ”30 Rock,” ”The Walking Dead,” and more

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Glee

Tuesdays, 8 p.m., Fox

On the heels of Finn’s surprising proposal to Rachel (Lea Michele), star Cory Monteith says we’ll follow the New Directions couple as ”the scope of their relationship” evolves through the spring. Gleeks can expect a Michael Jackson tribute episode on Jan. 31 as well as guest stars Ricky Martin playing McKinley’s new Spanish teacher and Gloria Estefan as Santana’s (Naya Rivera) mother. ”These next six [episodes] are designed to be fun, fun, fun,” says co-creator Ryan Murphy. ”They’re big, glossy, star-studded. Then the last six will be very heartbreaking.” There is, after all, that little thing called graduation on the horizon — and while Michele is set to return for season 4, the future isn’t as clear for Monteith and Chris Colfer’s Kurt. —Tim Stack

30 Rock

Thursdays, 8 p.m., NBC

Love turns loony in an hour-long Valentine’s Day episode, as Jack (Alec Baldwin) gets all chummy with his mother-in-law (Mary Steenburgen) when she checks on his efforts to rescue Avery (Elizabeth Banks) from North Korea. ”His mother-in-law is actually a much more age-appropriate woman for him,” hints creator Tina Fey. Meanwhile, Liz (Fey) and beau Criss (James Marsden) make a tactical relationship error when they visit IKEA: ”There’s a lot of people saying, ‘Are you crazy? A cabal of divorce lawyers run IKEA!”’ Also ahead: Denise Richards makes another cameo; Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) trains his replacement (Kristen Schaal), who becomes obsessed with Liz; and Jenna (Jane Krakowski) seeks out famous friends because they ”understand her better.” Adds Fey: ”Her celebrity friends are Charlie from ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ — but not really him; Mick Foley; and a made-up Kardashian named Knob Kardashian.” —Dan Snierson

The Game

Tuesdays, 10 p.m., BET

The revelation that Melanie (Tia Mowry) had an abortion long ago while dating another man but never told current hubby Derwin (Pooch Hall) will color this year. ”We have this thing where we say ‘truth moment,”’ explains Mowry. ”It gives each party the chance to be totally truthful. We’ve gone through all of that.” Outside of rebuilding the show’s core relationship, Tasha (Wendy Raquel Robinson) and Melanie’s feud will get worse before it gets better; Malik (Hosea Chanchez) will learn a few lessons from new business manager Doug (SATC‘s David Eigenberg); and Brandy joins the cast as Chardonnay, the new wife to Jason (Coby Bell). Plus: The pigskin is back! ”A lot of the fans were like, ‘Where’s our football?”’ says creator Mara Brock Akil. ”We’re shooting in the Georgia Dome. You’re gonna see the guys back in play.” —Tanner Stransky

Cougar Town

Premieres Feb. 14, 8:30 p.m., ABC

When the cul-de-sac crew (finally) returns, they’ll be busy: Travis (Dan Byrd) fractures his skull; Bobby (Brian Van Holt) gets a girlfriend (Scrubs alum Sarah Chalke); Laurie (Busy Philipps) opens a cake business; and there’s an ode to Braveheart (”Except it’s not warriors, it’s little kids on bikes,” explains star and the episode’s director Courteney Cox). All this, plus Jules (Cox) gets engaged — ”which makes Cougar Town pretty much the worst title in the history of television,” jokes exec producer Bill Lawrence. Now that the zany yet heartfelt comedy finally has a premiere date after spending months in TV-schedule limbo, Lawrence promises a payoff not just for loyal fans but for newcomers, too: ”The first episode really serves like a new pilot for people who haven’t seen the show before.” —Sandra Gonzalez

The Good Wife

Sundays, 9 p.m., CBS

The tension is escalating in the state’s attorney’s investigation of Will Gardner (Josh Charles), so the newly single lawyer will likely avoid the dating scene for now. ”I think Will has his hands full,” says Charles. Alicia (Julianna Margulies), though, will be spending some more time with a familiar man: manipulative attorney and sparring partner extraordinaire Louis Canning (guest star Michael J. Fox), who will pop up in a couple more episodes. Says co-creator Robert King: ”We just love that developing relationship. What he represents to Alicia is someone who creates a complete separation between what he does at work and what he does at home.” —Tim Stack

How I Met Your Mother

Mondays, 8 p.m., CBS

While the first half of the season focused on the romantic happenings (or nonhappenings) between Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), the addictive comedy’s second half has turned its attention to Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan), whose baby drama will amp up as the birth draws near. Look for the addition of scene-stealer Becki Newton in a recurring role as a possible love interest for Barney, and the return of a familiar relic in an episode that takes the gang to Atlantic City. ”The ducky tie will come back — much to my chagrin,” Harris jokes. ”But all will be revealed in Atlantic City, as it always seems to be.” —SG

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Mad Men

Premieres March 25, 9 p.m., AMC

After a 17-month(!) hiatus, the Emmy-winning, ’60s-set Madison Avenue drama is back — and as always, the lips of series creator Matthew Weiner are mostly sealed about the happenings at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. What he will say: ”There’s a time jump. There are some new people. Changes have happened off screen, and the audience will have to catch up with that.” What can we expect from Don Draper (Jon Hamm), last seen surprise-proposing to his secretary, Megan (Jessica Paré)? ”Even though Don ended up making this overture to Megan, and the audience felt sort of peculiar about it, so did the people in the office. That’s something that we play on.” —DS

One Tree Hill

Wednesdays, 8 p.m., The CW

Exec producer Mark Schwahn felt no pressure to do anything other than tell the story ”we wanted to tell” going into OTH‘s ninth and final season. So expect the always dramatic show to pull out every stop: Shotguns will go off, romances will be in peril, and a number of familiar faces — including fan fave Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Brooke’s (Sophia Bush) former attacker, Xavier (Devin McGee) — will return. ”I don’t think we could do a One Tree Hill season without psychos,” Schwahn jokes. As for the death and other jaw-droppers teased in the season premiere? Star James Lafferty will say only this: ”Fans will be shocked.” —SG

The Secret Life of the American Teenager

Premieres March 26, 8 p.m., ABC Family

For the first time ever, Secret Life picks up after school lets out. But don’t expect any less drama, particularly from the newly engaged couple, Amy (Shailene Woodley) and Ricky (Daren Kagasoff). ”She isn’t sure when she wants to get married,” says Woodley, who, by the way, could earn an Oscar nod this month for her turn in The Descendants. But wedding bells aren’t Amy’s biggest concern. Says Woodley, ”She thinks she’s pregnant [again].” Someone may have bought herself another season! —Nuzhat Naoreen

The Vampire Diaries

Thursdays, 8 p.m., The CW

With the mystery coffin still sealed, Damon (Ian Somerhalder) will force Stefan (Paul Wesley) into a Mafia-style sit-down with Klaus (Joseph Morgan) to negotiate a truce — or, rather, buy them enough time so that Bonnie (Kat Graham) and her mother (Persia White) can figure out how to open the coffin and kill Klaus once and for all. ”There’s a pretty dramatic conclusion,” Wesley teases about the Feb. 2 episode titled ”Bringing Out the Dead.” Adds exec producer Julie Plec, ”We have a fun run in store where we are finally going to see the Original family in all its glory.” —Mandi Bierly

The Walking Dead

Premieres Feb. 12, 9 p.m., AMC

Expect emotions to run high in the wake of the zombie slaughter at Hershel’s barn. But that could be the least of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) & Co.’s problems. ”There’s a new threat on the horizon,” says exec producer Robert Kirkman, ”that is going to cause problems for our group in the second half of the season.” Sounds like bad news for the survivors, but good news for fans who grumbled about the slow first half of Dead‘s sophomore season. ”Things are going to move at a pretty quick pace,” promises Kirkman. ”There’s a lot of stuff that happens in the first episode back that sets up the conflict moving forward.” —Dalton Ross