What you can expect from winter's crop of returning shows. Some old favorites -- like ''Scrubs'' and ''24'' -- are worth the wait


With midseason no longer a wasteland of fall rejects, plenty of established shows are now planning for season-premiere dates well past September. Here’s what to expect from winter’s crop of returning shows.

AMERICAN IDOL (Fox, January) TV’s top show returns with its panel of judges intact (and exonerated of all unseemly scandals). Expect the single-sex eliminations again, but other changes could be in the offing: ”Part of the show’s success is that we make it up as we go along,” says executive producer Ken Warwick. And though he likes to tout the ever-increasing quality of the contestants (”We used to book hotels for auditions, and now we book stadiums”), we’ll still see the clunkers. ”The good is all the better because of the bad.”

THE BACHELOR (ABC, Mondays, January) The granddaddy of dating franchises returns after a much-needed fall break with a new setting: Paris. ”There’ll be a little more of an Amazing Race feel to it because we’ll be all over Europe,” exec producer Mike Fleiss says. This bachelor is neither an heir, a pro football player, an actor’s brother, nor a former contestant. ”He’s legitimately employed,” Fleiss says. Not only that, but Mr. Employed (whose identity Fleiss won’t reveal) will even plan some of his own dates. ”People want more reality from their reality,” he says. One fixture that will remain: the hot tub.

JAKE IN PROGRESS (ABC, Mondays, January) Last season’s barely seen John Stamos sitcom tries again as part of a single-folks-are-funny block with Heather Graham’s Emily’s Reasons Why Not. This year’s stories will move beyond date-of-the-week scenarios when Jake’s yet-to-be-cast ex-fiancée shows up: He dedicates himself to winning her back — even though she’s engaged to someone else. ”No matter how much we made it about him wanting more than sex,” says exec producer Austin Winsberg, ”there felt like there was something superficial about it.” In other words, Jake is still in progress.

SCRUBS (NBC) The Emmy-nominated (finally!) hospital dramedy will keep maturing in its fifth season. ”We don’t want to be one of those shows where 30-year-olds are still in high school,” says exec producer Bill Lawrence. J.D. (Zach Braff) will live without Turk (Donald Faison), and Elliot (Sarah Chalke) will stick with the fellowship that sent her to a hospital across town in last season’s finale. And Lawrence is making his guest-star wish list: Braff paramour Mandy Moore and John Cusack, you’re up. ”If [Cusack] doesn’t show up this season,” Lawrence says, ”he’s dead to all of us.”

24 (Fox, two-night premiere Jan. 15-16) Jean Smart joins as President Logan’s wife; Sean Astin takes his hobbit-reinvention turn as a government official at CTU; and, well, we can’t tell you much more. Except that there will be ”more torture and mayhem,” says exec producer Joel Surnow, for Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack. But you already knew that.

Episode Recaps

Kiefer Sutherland


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