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2012 winter TV preview: 9 new shows to watch

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GCB
Comedy, March 4, 10 p.m., ABC
What It’s About Good Christian Bitches, of course! Like the novel that inspired it, the sudsy comedy follows L.A. refugee Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), who retreats with her children to her mother’s house in Dallas after her marriage ends in scandal. There to help her pick up the pieces: Amanda’s old ”friends,” the church’s faithful ladies — led by the conniving Carlene (Kristin Chenoweth) — who want nothing more than to sink their godly fangs into Amanda for her past social sins. ”They say your show is only as good as your villain, and I think we’ve got a fantastic one,” says creator Robert Harling (Steel Magnolias), who exec-produces alongside Sex and the City creator Darren Star, of Chenoweth.
What To Expect Lots of scheming, Annie Potts (she plays Amanda’s mother), and some hilariously outrageous outfits. Plus: a big event every episode — like a musical, a singles seminar, or a barbecue — that revolves around church. The real action, though, will happen when Carlene and her posse dress down Amanda in public. ”This show shines a light on people who say, ‘I go to church every Sunday, I’m a God-fearing person,”’ Bibb explains. ”[The show] is like, ‘Hey, y’all, let’s just look at what’s really going on.”’ —Tanner Stransky

&#166Q’Viva! The Chosen
Reality, Jan. 28, 7 p.m., Univision
What It’s About Two months before separating last July, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced they’d be appearing in this genre-defying reality show in which the pair (along with choreographer Jamie King) travel to more than a dozen Latin countries to discover the best singers, dancers, and musicians. Fifty-two acts are then brought to Los Angeles to audition for a chance to perform in an upcoming Vegas show.
What To Expect ”I don’t know that there is another show like this,” Lopez tells EW about the series, which will also air in March. ”There’s no winner. This is about creating a live visual experience about Latin culture, rhythm, dance — the likes of which have never been seen.” As for working with his ex, Anthony jokes: ”I’m just getting to know her. She’s a little difficult, but she’s actually not as bad as I thought she’d be.” —Dave Karger

I Just Want My Pants Back
Comedy, Feb. 2, 11 p.m., MTV
What It’s About MTV’s latest foray into scripted storytelling stars Peter Vack as Jason, a struggling college grad in Brooklyn who lacks purpose until he hooks up with a mystery girl who takes off with his jeans. ”He’s trying to find his pants over the course of the show,” explains David J. Rosen, who adapted his 2007 novel for the series. ”But really he’s trying to find his legs in life.” Along the way, he gets support from his friends, including platonic bestie Tina (Kim Shaw), a witty photographer always armed with a snarky pep talk. ”The characters really care for each other,” explains Vack. ”The humor is all rooted in real pathos.”
What To Expect A raunchy comedy that isn’t afraid of a Dawson’s Creek reference, Pants endeavors to stay true to the experience of twentysomethings in the city both financially (think small apartments and smaller paychecks) and emotionally. ”It’s not just a bunch of one-liners,” says Rosen. ”Our goal is to make you invested in the ups and downs of our characters.” —Nuzhat Naoreen

Life’s Too Short
Comedy, Feb. 19, 10 p.m., HBO
What It’s About British actor Warwick Davis (best known for his roles in the Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises) plays a caricature of himself on this half-hour mockumentary from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Though Davis’ only leading role was the heroic title character in 1988’s Willow, Life’s Too Short portrays him as a guy who still considers himself a big and recognizable star…even though he’s neither.
What To Expect Davis’ slight height is often the butt of the joke, like how he routinely falls out of his SUV and how he can’t reach a doorbell to visit his friends Ricky and Stephen, who also play themselves and appear regularly. But it’s okay to laugh at the 3-foot-6-inch Davis, says Gervais — who has recruited the likes of Liam Neeson, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter to make cameos on the U.K.-based comedy series. ”He’s hoisted on his own petard,” explains Gervais of Davis’ pretentious alter ego. ”It’s funny when he falls out of his car because he’s buying a car that’s way too big for him. He gets his comeuppance.” For his part, Davis thinks the yuks, both physical and cerebral, are pretty dead-on. ”It does push the boundaries,” he admits. ”A few things, I wondered why they hadn’t happened to me. They get inside the head of a little person so well.” —Lynette Rice

Touch
Drama, Previews Jan. 25, 9 p.m., Fox
Kiefer Sutherland returns to Fox with a drama from Tim Kring (Heroes) about a widower who learns that his autistic son’s obsession with numbers has the power to change the lives of people all over the world.

24 ended less than two years ago. Were you looking to come back to TV so soon?
I said at the end of 24 I wanted to come back, I just didn’t know when. No one really sent me very much because I think people assumed I wasn’t going to go right back into TV. It’s a grind. Two hundred episodes of 24 is the equivalent of 100 movies. But then I read Touch. My reaction was very much like the show — opportunities don’t come on your time schedule.

Will your character, Martin Bohm, always seem so sad?
It’s the one comparison I can make to Jack Bauer — he’s never going to fully win, he’s never going to have a normal relationship with his son. There is a lot of sadness in that. What hadn’t occurred to me at first is that parents with special-needs children blame themselves. I think there is massive amount of guilt with that. By episode 5, I can see some of that starting to break, because he is making strides with his son. His son knows it and he knows it, and they are communicating finally through the numbers and through patterns.

Will your son, played by David Mazouz, ever talk in the series?
I do not believe so. Tim and I talked about it. I do not see that happening.

Because of the nature of these inexplicable patterns that draw strangers together, will we often hear Martin saying, ”I know this is weird, but I think we should meet”?

You will hear a lot of it. There is a fantastical quality about this that I just love. Wouldn’t it be cool if this was how the world worked? I think it is shot and hopefully performed in a way that’s realistic enough to allow for that fantastical quality to be more tangible.

You said you’ll likely begin shooting the 24 movie in April. Why do you want to go back to Jack Bauer?
I have a blast with that, just like I did going from 24 to a Broadway play. Jack Bauer has been defined as a character for me. I know his boundaries. —LR

The River
Drama, Feb. 7, 9 p.m., ABC
What It’s About Something’s lurking in the Amazon — and will likely scare the living jungle-demons out of you. From Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), this documentary-style drama investigates the case of Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood), a nature expert and TV-show host who goes missing in South America. Six months later, his wife Tess (Leslie Hope) and estranged son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) lead the search for him, with a film crew in tow. They discover some of Emmet’s secrets along the way, as well as some terrifying creatures. ”We’re trying to balance the horror with the humanity of these characters,” explains Anderson.
What To Expect Supernatural dragonflies. Baby dolls possessed by the devil. And all the running-fast-and-breathing-hard-while-filming-everything shots that freaked you out in Paranormal Activity. ”In one scene, the cameraman sees something so vile he barfs,” says Michael Green, who exec-produced with Peli. ”And I love it, because that’s exactly what I would do in that moment.” —Melissa Maerz

Fashion Star
Reality, March 13, 9 p.m., NBC
What It’s About Hosted by Elle Macpherson, NBC’s new fashion competition is all about designing for the real woman — with a little help from famous fashionistas Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie. The two reality alums and style moguls join menswear pro John Varvatos to mentor contestants as they compete in challenges judged and bid on by department-store buyers. ”You’re going to see a lot of talent,” promises Simpson. The winning looks will be available online and in stores after each episode, something creator Ben Silverman describes as ”a real-world application of fashion that is literally ‘wear the winner.’ ” (The overall winner gets capsule collections at H&M, Saks, and Macy’s.) In other words, get those credit cards ready.
What To Expect Besides the flashy runway shows, which Simpson says are her favorite, there’s plenty of drama to look forward to — and not just among the contestants. ”Our mentors, buyers, and host all have points of view about fashion,” says Silverman, ”and they’re not always consistent.” —NN

Missing
Drama, March 15, 8 p.m., ABC
What It’s About Remember the 2008 movie Taken, starring Liam Neeson? Well, picture Ashley Judd in the role of the kick-ass ex-CIA agent. Judd stars as Becca Winstone, a resolute widow who’s on a European scavenger hunt to find her missing son, Michael. (His dad, who was also in the CIA, is played by Game of Thrones‘ Sean Bean in flashbacks.) ”For 10 years she’s been a mother, soccer mom, a member of the PTA,” explains exec producer Gina Matthews. ”Now she has to go back to the very place where she was stationed, the life she left behind. She looks up old enemies, friends, to try to put together who has her son.”
What To Expect A high-stakes, 10-episode thriller that required Judd to spend five months in spectacular locales like Croatia, Istanbul, and Prague. But it’s not so romantic for Becca, who can still hold her own against the bad guys after all those years in suburbia. ”It’s an unfortunate collision of my past with my present,” Judd explains of her character. ”I don’t have any choice but to reluctantly access my former life.” So will junior stay missing if the show goes for a second season? Keep up on your Krav Maga, Becca: It looks entirely possible. ”Look at the season as a chapter of a very, very good book,” Matthews hints. ”Something big and major will happen to move you into anticipation of season 2.” —LR

Luck
Drama, Jan. 29, 9 p.m., HBO

Dustin Hoffman, when asked who he got along with better in making HBO’s nine-episode racetrack drama — strong-willed director Michael Mann or the horses — laughs. ”Mann!” he says with his nasal giggle. ”He doesn’t bite nearly as much as the horses!”

In his first role as a series regular, Hoffman plays Ace Bernstein, a wealthy ex-con and horse owner, on this show created by writer David Milch (Deadwood), with a pilot directed by Mann (Ali). Luck‘s swirling storytelling follows everyone at the Santa Anita track, from Hoffman’s Ace, who has designs to take over the place, to the other horse owners (including a shaggy, soulful Nick Nolte), the jockeys, and a quartet of self-described ”degenerate gamblers,” led by a dashingly ruffled Jason Gedrick.

Milch chooses to describe Luck rather poetically. ”It’s a heart-opening experience,” he says. In a separate conversation, Mann is similarly evocative, asserting that the series presents ”luck as a form of transformation.” Mann says the series dramatizes ”the feeling each of us has that, with luck, my life will be different — that I’ll become the person I always was inside, better.” Also, bettors: With Luck, Milch and Mann are gambling that its gorgeously shot, tension-packed horse races, contrasted with what Milch calls his narrative’s ”slow unfolding revelations…the purest form of storytelling,” will entice viewers to pony up for the Hoffman-Milch-Mann trifecta.

There were early reports that Milch and Mann — both known for having strong points of view — rammed heads during the making of the pilot. Milch admits, ”I didn’t have easy access to the set,” while Mann says after ”some initial dancing, we said, ‘Look, two guys oughta be able to figure out a way to work together.’ ” But will audiences respond? When asked whether he thinks Luck will be enough of a hit to warrant a renewal, Milch says serenely, ”I’m already writing the second season.” —Ken Tucker

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