Josh Holloway (Lost), Summer Glau (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Ryan Seacrest (American Idol)

ABC /BOB D'AMICO, Jill Greenberg / FOX, Lisa O'Connor/ZUMA Press

Happy (almost) 2008, y’all!

As you prepare to whoop it up, party like a pop star and/or try your darnedest to keep your eyes open long enough to watch the ball drop, I figure it's a good time to tackle the question many of you have been in a dither about and asking for weeks now:

Will there be anything to watch in the cold and dreary winter of 2008?!

See, in case you hadn’t heard, there is a writers’ strike. And yes, many of the programs we know and love will probably be off the air for quite a while longer. But before you do something crazy like shut off your TV and pick up a book (cringe), you should know there are plenty of shows coming out in the next few months to keep your keister firmly planted on that couch!

Here, in ascending order, are our picks for the 21 most watchable new and returning series slated to come out this winter and early spring. (You can also get the full rundown listed by premiere date.) Drink 'em in!

New Amsterdam

Jeff Neira/FOX

21. New Amsterdam (Fox, Feb. 22):  Stop me if you've heard this before: The hero is a tall, dark and handsome immortal with a unique skill set that he uses to protect and defend the helpless and the innocent. While living in the shadows, he yearns for a genuine emotional connection, but true love and happiness remain a glimmering dream in the distance...It's not the most original concept in TV history, but you know what, maybe that's okay. Star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is superhot, and the stories seem fun. The bad news? This show offers up a few wackadoodle scenarios that might make you giggle and/or remind you of stuff you just saw on Moonlight. Anyway, give it a shot and report back with your findings. This one could really go either way...

20. Make Me a Supermodel (Bravo, Jan. 10):  A British import that resembles the America's Next Top Model concept, this show has one major difference: the viewers vote on who stays and who goes each week. They also get to look at the likes of veteran cat walkers Niki Taylor and Tyson Beckford, who'll shepherd contestants through all the episode challenges. Sorta sounds like Top Model meets Project Runway meets American Idol, right? You could do worse this winter.

19. Canterbury's Law (Fox, Apr. 11):  Julianna Margulies is back on my TV. Yay! In Canterbury's Law, she plays a fierce but chilly defense attorney. But here's the thing: Her criminal defense work is complicated by the fact that her own son was abducted and remains missing. Margulies brings an authority and confidence to the courtroom scenes, but without, thankfully, an erosion of her considerable emotive skills. The high level of actor mojo, in concert with the show's realism and elegant production design, could very well revitalize the courtroom drama genre.

18. Big Brother (CBS, Feb. 12):  Because the writers' strike rages on, the Eye net has prepared a winter edition of this summer reality staple. Rumor has it that this ninth edition may run just six weeks, instead of the usual three months. Casting is currently under way!

One Tree Hill: Sophia Bush

Fred Norris/The CW

17. One Tree Hill (CW, Jan. 8):  Last we saw Lucas and company, high school had just ended and the future looked bright. Now, fast-forward four years: The crew's college years have come and gone, and some are finding success faster than others. Brooke's clothing design career is up and running. Luke's a published author. Nathan and Haley are the proud parents of an almost five-year-old. All the series' major players will return, along with a few new regulars who'll be driving much of the drama going down in Tree Hill.

16. The Return of Jezebel James (Fox, no premiere date):  Here are the only things you really need to know about Jezebel James: Amy Sherman-Palladino writes and produces it, and Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose star in it. As with Gilmore Girls, it's idiosyncratic, fast-paced and concerned with the adventures of two women who need each other. Unlike Gilmore Girls, however, it's filmed before a live studio audience. Can the massive talent behind the show overcome the hammy sitcom factor? Absolutely. I predict a 30 Rock scenario for this one: It'll start out a little slow but quickly gain in critical acclaim and audience loyalty.

15. Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann (ABC, Jan. 7):  Taking advantage of the popularity of Dancing with the Stars, ABC has planted a couple of the show's judges in a second reality competition. Drew Lachey hosts this battle between two dance teams, each coached and choreographed by either Bruno or Carrie Ann. As with DWTS, viewers will participate by voting for their favorite team. The losing team's leader will be forced to vote one dancer off the island every week (hopefully by saying 'You got served!'...but probably not).

14. Kyle XY (ABC Family, Jan. 14):  The show's writers were able to complete all 10 of season two's remaining episodes, so fans won't be left hanging. Did Jessi survive her cliff dive? You'll find out soon enough. You'll also learn a whole lot more about Adam Baylin's past and Kyle's future. Word is, he'll finally tell the Tragers the truth about who he really is, and the family will do everything in their power to protect him from the evil Madacorp.

13. Lipstick Jungle (NBC, Feb. 7):  Sex and the City was based on a book by Candace Bushnell; Lipstick Jungle is, too. Based on Bushnell's novel about three successful New York women who struggle to balance career and personal life, Lipstick Jungle stars Brooke Shields, 24's Kim Raver and 90210's Lindsay Price as they navigate the workplace and deal with relationships. Based on its pedigree, you'd think the show would resemble SATC, but it seems producers have taken care to avoid that. And despite being a bit unbelievable, you find yourself caring about these characters' different plights by the hour's end.

Medium: Patricia Arquette

NBC Photo: Danny Feld

12. Medium (NBC, Jan. 7):  Allison and the rest of the Dubois family are back for season four, but nothing is as it was. The family is struggling to make ends meet, since both Allison and Joe are out of work. Enter Anjelica Huston, as a gritty, no-nonsense private investigator who offers Allison a gig helping her solve crimes. Watching Allison work her unique magic on her flinty boss is a blast, and Jake Weber's sardonic, funny Joe stands out even more than usual as he tries to keep the family from washing out financially. Debt management and detective work have rarely been so charming. If you haven't ever seen Medium, give it a shot this season, will ya? I foresee a pleasant surprise in your future...

11. Jericho (CBS, Feb. 12):  Did you know broadcast television networks will let you have a whole show for the low, low price of 20 tons of legumes and tree nuts? It's true, and as such, the postapocalyptic drama Jericho has been magically resurrected after its ignominous cancellation in the spring of 2007. Back for seven all-new episodes, the show has shed Gerald McRaney and Pamela Reed as the parental units and reportedly features a stronger military angle and more engagement with the outside world. It should be the, uh,  bomb.


Michael Becker / FX

10. Dirt (FX, no premiere date):  It's baaack. Courteney Cox's tabloid Hollywood parody returns on the first of the year, all set to dramatize and satirize the lives of L.A.'s biggest players, including Brit-Brit and K-Fed. Could there be a more warped version of these two real-life train wrecks? We're betting yes.

Prison Break

Bill Matlock/FOX

9. Prison Break (Fox, Jan. 14):  Now that the strike caused 24 to get bumped from the schedule, the pretty boys of Prison Break are back...and still stuck in Panama. Things get worse before they get better (duh). Look for more of the nasty and brutish world of Sona, trouble for Sucre, more power for T-Bag, more hotness from Whistler and, as usual, a world of pain and mayhem for Michael and Linc.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Jill Greenberg/FOX

8. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox, Jan. 14):  Steeped in Terminator  movie mythos while deftly updating the stories and introducing new characters, The Sarah Connor Chronicles might just be midseason's breakout new series. Half action-adventure, half family drama, Chronicles tells the tale of Sarah (Lena Headey), John (Thomas Dekker) and a pretty cyborg from 2027 sent back to help fight the future. Determined to bring down SkyNet—before, you know, it kills 3 billion people—the Connors (and their kooky, kickass robot friend—played by Summer Glau of kooky, kickass River Tam fame) struggle to maintain a facade of normalcy while periodically engaging in running gun battles with red-eyed fiends from the future. Very much a genre show, Terminator also manages a fair amount of sly humor and wry cultural commentary. Me likey.


Alan Zenuk/USA Network

7. Psych (USA, Jan. 11):  Oh, Psych, I love you so much. Even if your writing weren't whip-smart, I'd still be all up in your grill thanks to the brilliant comedy tag team of James Roday and Dulé Hill. Luckily for me and my Psych obsession, this winter season includes six all-new eps. (Woo!) Look for the boys to get entangled in a telenovela, the modeling business and an old-folks home, and I'm especially excited for the mummyriffic finale—Egyptology is totally hilarious—because it's going to be directed by Psych creator Steve Franks, and he totally loves WWK. (As previously mentioned, the feeling is so reciprocated.)

The Wire

Paul Schiraldi/HBO

6. The Wire (HBO, Jan. 6):  Picking up a year after the end of last season, the city of Baltimore has got major problems: The cops want that raise the new mayor promised, the schools are still a mess and the newsies at the paper struggle to compete as resources dwindle. The only people with a working business model are the drug dealers, although there might be trouble  with the hard-won truce. If you've already been watching, you know the final 10 episodes of the series can't be missed. And the rest of you? Now's your chance to watch a show that is as deep, exciting and funny as anything ever aired on TV. Plus, after a season of behaving himself, Dominic West's sexy and self-destructive Det. McNulty is drinking again, and you just know that means trouble. Uh-oh.

Eli Stone


5. Eli Stone (ABC, Jan. 31):  This is from writer-producer Greg Berlanti (Everwood, Brothers & Sisters, Dirty Sexy Money). Need I say more? Okay, just in case you're curious: This legal drama is about a young, hotshot attorney who's plagued with a series of hysterical hallucinations. The visions lead him to believe he's a prophet of God, causing him to change his life. A mix of Jerry Maguire, Ally McBeal and, of course, a healthy dose of Wonderfalls, Stone could be the winter season's biggest new standout.

American Idol

Michael Becker / FOX

4. American Idol (Fox, Jan. 15):  With the dearth of scripted TV available this season, this ratings powerhouse is poised to have its biggest year yet. Even more than usual, everyone will be watching. So, if you don't plan on watching Ryan, Randy, Simon and Paula and the gaggle of new wannabe stars in the new season, well, you may as well avoid the watercooler all winter long!


Peter Iovino/Showtime

3. Dexter (CBS, TBD):  Every dark cloud is supposed to have a silver lining, or so the saying goes. And in this dark time of the WGA strike, CBS president Les Moonves has a treat for all you basic-cable tubers who haven't yet discovered Showtime's Dexter. A drama about a Miami forensics expert who moonlights as a serial killer, this TV fare would ordinarily be considered a bit too cutting edge for network television. But with the looming holes in CBS' winter schedule, Dexter Morgan will likely slide into a plum prime-time slot. Please fight your urge to be scared off by the morbid premise. Once you get to know him, Dexter is, in fact, one of the most likable characters on the tube today.

Battlestar Galactica

Frank Ockenfels/SCI FI Channel

2. Battlestar Galactica (Sci Fi, March):  The fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica premieres in March, with 13 episodes ready for air. This season centers on the final push toward Earth, and we'll learn some shocking truths about humanity and Cylonity. Roslin battles her resurgent cancer, Starbuck battles the crew's fears about disappearance, the newly identified Cylons try to figure out what the frak is going on, Six still has baby fever, Adm. Adama does his damnedest, as usual, to keep the ragtag fleet from falling apart—and it's all going to be frakking great.

Matthew Fox, Terry O'Quinn, Michael Emerson, Lost


1. Lost (ABC, Jan. 31):  Boy, they weren't kidding when they called the season-three finale "Through the Looking Glass." In the eight produced episodes of season four, the show begins to look back at the Island, and the survivors of Oceanic 815, from distant vantage points far removed in both time and space from the crash-era story. Meanwhile, rescue arrives, in the form of Not Penny's Boat, but seeing as how it's Lost, that's not all it's cracked up to be. This year's new crop of characters (following on the heels of the tailies and the Others) are the boaties, played by a crackerjack team of actors including Jeremy Davies, Rebecca Mader, Jeff Fahey and Ken Leung. Meanwhile, the newly possible flash-forwards will reveal shocking fates (not to mention some shocking allegiances) for the survivors. In the first few eps, look for lots of hostage situations, a division of the Losties between Team Jack and Team Locke, interrogations, lies (Ben) and a couple of shootings. Just another day on the beach!

—Additional Wire worship by Erik Pedersen

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