OK, so maybe giving a starring role to a monkey in a lame sitcom (“Animal Practice”) wasn't such a good idea, after all. And, in hindsight, “The Mob Doctor” and “Partners” were disasters just waiting to happen.
Yes, the fall featured its fair share of TV blunders. But we've now reached the midseason point and it's time to hit the restart button. We've made a list of six midseason developments to keep an eye on in the coming weeks:
1. A “Downton Abbey” wedding. The much-anticipated arrival of Shirley MacLaine isn't the only big news going into Season 3 of the deliciously addictive period drama. After plenty of on-again, off-again anxiety, the show's primary lovebirds, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew (Dan Stevens), are preparing to walk down the aisle. But will the big celebration come off without a hitch? We'll believe it when we see it. (“Downton Abbey” returns at 8 p.m. Sunday on OETA-13.
2. Judging the judges. Can Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj avoid turning “American Idol” into a vicious cage match? Will Usher and Shakira enjoy the ride as they take their chairs for a spin on “The Voice”? It will be interesting to see how famous new judges fit into TV's biggest talent shows. “Idol” could be in a precarious position as it deals with reports of bitter feuds between Carey and Minaj (who will be joined by Keith Urban). (“Idol” returns at 7 p.m. Jan. 16, Fox; “The Voice” returns at 7 p.m. March 25, NBC).
3. Sizzling Bacon. One of winter's biggest gambles is Fox's “The Following,” a taut psychological thriller starring Kevin Bacon that looks more like a cable drama than a broadcast network show. Bacon shines as a former FBI agent on the trail of an escaped serial killer/cult leader, and the pilot episode has critics raving. But there's a catch: “The Following” is excessively dark and gory for a network series, prompting concern that it may not attract the kind of mass audience Fox craves. (Premieres at 8 p.m. Jan. 21, Fox).
4. A fond farewell to J.R. Ewing. When Season 2 of the “Dallas” reboot launches, fans will have the chance to see Larry Hagman's final performances as conniving oil tycoon J.R. Ewing. Hagman shot several episodes before he died in November. The show plans to pay tribute to him — and to one of TV's most iconic characters — when it lays J.R. to rest during an onscreen funeral in March. (“Dallas” returns at 8 p.m. Jan. 28, TNT).
5. Carrie that weight. The producers of “The Carrie Diaries” face a daunting challenge: How do you make a compelling contemporary teen drama without messing with our memories of a beloved character from TV's past? The show is a “Sex and the City” prequel that focuses on a 16-year-old Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb), who after her mother dies, ditches suburban life in Connecticut for the glamor of Manhattan. (Premieres at 7 p.m. Jan. 14, The CW).
6. The last laugh for “30 Rock.” Three shows are bowing out this month, including “Fringe,” “Private Practice,” and, most notably, “30 Rock.” Even though it won three straight Emmys (2007-09) as TV's best comedy, it's been easy to take Tina Fey's madcap sitcom for granted. But in its highly enjoyable seventh and final season, the show has been at the top of its game. (“30 Rock” series finale is at 7 p.m. Jan. 31, NBC).