So far, we’ve looked at the TV shows that have already been cancelled this season and the ones with their future hanging in the balance.
So to round off our mid-season round-up, here’s some better news for the new year, as we take a look at the TV shows that have a brighter future (at least for now).
Mad Men (AMC): Possibly the finest TV show currently in production, this character-led drama about advertising executives in early-60s new York simply oozes quality. Series creator and main writer Matthew Weiner has said that the show will run for five seasons (network permitting) and cover 10 years in the lives of the characters.
Season two ended its run earlier this year, with ratings that grew from season one (almost doubled, in fact). AMC have ordered a third season – however Weiner reportedly has been playing hardball, looking for a pay rise to reflect the critical and ratings success of the show, and whether he will still be in charge when it returns is somewhat unclear.
Dexter (Showtime): Superior drama, with a vein of dark humour running through it, starring Six Feet Under’s Michael C Hall as a serial killer who works a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police department. Season three recently ended its run and the network has committed to at least two further seasons, of 12 episodes each.
Caprica (SciFi): This prequel to the highly acclaimed Battlestar Galactica re-imagining was in development hell for a long time and looked doomed but the SciFi network in the US has finally given the green light to the show after a pilot episode was made. It’s unlikely to hit our screens until 2010, however.
Billed as more of a family drama than a space opera, Caprica is set 51 years before the Cylon attack that kicked off the Battlestar Galactica story and tells the story of two families (one of them led by the father of future BSG commander William Adama and grandfather 0f Apollo) and their role in the creation of the Cylons.
Survivors (BBC): The remake/re-imagining of the classic 1970s British show – created by Terry Nation (the man who created Blake’s 7– The Cathode Ray Choob’s all-time favourite TV show – and Doctor Who‘s deadliest foes, the Daleks) – about the survivors of a plague that wipes out 99.9% of the human race has been renewed for a second 6-part season.
Burn Notice (USA): This Miami-set tongue-in-cheek drama, about a spy inexplicably cast adrift by his bosses and left to fend for himself, has earned a 16-episode third-season order from the USA network.
Fringe (Fox): The new show from Lost/Alias’s JJ Abrams, about an FBI agent who teams up with a brilliant but mentally unstable and amoral scientist and his estranged son to investigate crimes involving cutting-edge fringe science (concepts that blur the boundary between science fact and science fiction,such as telepathy, levitation, reanimation, genetic mutation), which seem to be part of a wider global conspiracy.
Solid, if unremarkable, viewing figures ensured that the show was picked up for a full 22-episode season order early on in its run.
Sanctuary (SciFi): Endearingly old-fashioned storytelling and cost-cutting use of green-screen technologyto digitally create the locations are the trademarks of this show, which began life as a series of webisodes broadcast over the internet before being picked up by the American SciFi TV network.
Stargate SG1’s Amanda Tapping stars as the enigmatic, long-lived English doctor Helen Magnus, who is in charge of the titular sanctuary that seeks out monsters, freaks and other “abnormals” (some human, some not) to either aid or imprison them depending on how hostile or dangerous they are.
It’s not a flashy or very sophisticated (in terms of writing) show – in many ways it harks back to simpler times when story-telling on TV did not have to be so cynical – but it’s hard to dislike and Tapping’s character makes for a enthralling lead.
SciFi were happy enough with it to order a second 13-episode season.
Life On Mars (ABC): US remake of the acclaimed BBC original about a present day police officer who has an accident and wakes up in the 1970s. After a dismal pilot version (filmed in Los Angeles and set in Chicago), a radical overhaul saw most of the cast replaced (with Harvey Keitel replacing Colm Meaney as Gene Hunt and The Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli brought in) and the action (and filming) switched to New York.
The new pilot was a huge improvement. The ongoing series has closely closely followed the plots and story arc of the UK version but with hints that the underlying mythology (and the explanation for Sam Tyler’s time-shift) may be very different to what was ultimately revealed in the BBC show.
The initial 13-episode order has been increased by four and when the show returns from the festive break, it will move from Thursday nights to Wednesdays, paired up with the reinvigorated Lost, which network chiefs at ABC hopes will help boost Life On Mars’ mediocre ratings. If the strategy works, a second season could be on the cards.
True Blood (HBO): Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball reunited with HBO for this series, based on a series of books, about a telepathic waitress (Anna Paquin) who falls in love with a vampire (the show is set in Louisiana in contemporary America, where vampires have come out of closet and co-exist, somewhat uneasily, with humans).
Ratings were very poor to begin with but grew steadily during the 12-episode first season, and the show is now one of HBO’s biggest ratings-grabbers. A second season has been ordered.
Kath & Kim (NBC): Another US remake, this time of the superior Aussie original. It hasn’t been the total disaster you might expect if you are a fan of the Australian show. However, the harder edges of the original have been softened somewhat for the American audience and casting the relatively slim, beautiful Selma Blair as Kim does seem to miss the point of the character somewhat. In any case, ratings, though slightly mediocre, were good enough for NBC to up the order fr the season from the initial 13 episodes to a full 22. Whether the show will return for a second season remains to be seen.
Worst Week (CBS): Yet more US remake-ry, this time of the BBC comedy The Worst Week Of My Life, about an accident-prone groom-to-be. Middling ratings but CBS ordered an extra three episodes (for a total of 16) and this remains a possibility for a second season.
Samantha Who? (ABC): Somewhat mediocre sitcom starring former Married With Children babe Christina Applegate as a woman who gets hit by a car, loses her memory and discovers that she wasn’t a very nice person before the accident. ABC has ordered an additional seven episodes for season 2, bringing the total to 20.
Californication (Showtime): David Duchovny vehicle about a charming but troubled writer, has been renewed for a third season.
Entourage (HBO): A sixth season has been ordered.
The Mentalist (CBS): Exceptionally high viewing figures for this crime drama – about a former phony psychic who now uses his brilliant powers of observation to help the cops solve crimes – won it an early full-season pick-up and a second season looks certain.
Psych (USA): A fourth season has been ordered of this comedy drama, which is also about a fake psychic who helps the police.
Gary Unmarried (CBS): The new Jay Mohr comedy received an order for an additional seven episodes (plus two further scripts) taking it to at least 20 episodes in total.
My Boys (TBS): Comedy about a female sports writer in Chicago, and the men in her life. Nine-episode third season has been ordered.
Medium (NBC): Season five of the supernatural crime drama, starring Patricia Arquette, gets an extra six episodes, for a total of 19.
Monk (USA): The “dramedy” about an obsessive-compulsive private detective is to get an eighth and final season.
Privileged (CW): Drama about a wannabe journalist who ends up as a tutor for spoilt rich kids. The CW network ordered an extra 5 episodes, bringing season one up to 18 in all.
90210 (CW): The updated follow-up to 90s teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210 has been a big ratings hit for the CW network, who ordered a full 22-episode season after only three episodes had aired.