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Actor Kiefer Sutherland in Munich, Germany, last year: He stars in a new show called "Touch" on Fox. (Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images)
Actor Kiefer Sutherland in Munich, Germany, last year: He stars in a new show called "Touch" on Fox. (Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images)

John Doyle: Television

Mid-season shows look middling good Add to ...

Here we are in late November, and certain key questions need to be answered.

Like, does Sun News know how hilarious it is? The other day Ezra Levant abandoned his usual posture of pundit with honour and integrity and gate-crashed the Occupy Toronto site at 4 a.m. His mission was to discover how many people were in the tents at that time. He took along an infrared camera and some cronies.

Previous columns by John Doyle

Then, while barging around and trying to stir up some action, he accosted a bleary-eyed young man. After some mild banter, the young man gazed dolefully at Levant and said, “I think you’re a jackass.” It was comedy gold. Later, apparently, somebody stole Levant’s glasses and ran away. Didn’t get to that bit, but Levant’s recounting of it was hilarious. I see a Gemini win in the comedy category. Sun News should not submit to the news category.

Also, did Kate Gosselin get a facelift? This question is going around. US Weekly magazine is all over it, with hard-hitting photo evidence. Apparently the former reality star of Jon & Kate Plus 8, now working as a CouponCabin.com blogger, whatever that is, showed up somewhere looking slightly different. Throughout the U.S.A, across tables weighed down with Thanksgiving dinner, people are asking each other, “Did Kate Gosselin get a facelift?”

The big question, mind, you is what’s happening in mid-season on TV. What’s new? What looks good? Those are the really big questions.

Definitive answers are scarce. That is, only a handful of mid-season shows have been seen by critics. So we must rely on clues. Summaries. Track record of participants. That kind of thing. In general, midseason looks middling good. And here are some highlights.

The River (coming to ABC in February) looks interesting and stars two Canadians. It’s about a famous explorer, well-known for his TV work (Bruce Greenwood), who went missing on the Amazon and, months later, a radio signal indicates he’s alive. His wife (Leslie Hope), accompanied by their young son, undertakes a search for him and the search is to be filmed for TV. Mysterious shenanigans in exotic locations, plus a slow peeling away of the truth about mister famous explorer, is the gist.

Touch (coming on Fox, date TBA) marks Kiefer Sutherland’s return to TV, post- 24. The show was created by Tom Kring, who dreamed up Heroes and it looks like it has a similar feel. Sutherland plays Martin Bohm, widower and the father to a mute son, Jake. Turns out that Jake has unnerving abilities. He sees the pattern of all manner of events and by doing so, can predict the future. Dad’s job is to understand Jake’s signals and act on them. There’s a touch of Jack Bauer about Martin and, yep, terrorists turn up. But this is Sutherland as a totally sensitive guy.

Work It (ABC, coming in January) was much-disliked by some critics when shown to us a few months back. It’s an old-fashioned romp about a couple of long-term unemployed men donning women's clothes in order to get jobs. Some hate its simplicity, but it’s actually very funny, in an old-fashioned way. And it could be one of those surprise hits because it actually deals with the reality of unemployment in the U.S. today.

Luck (HBO, starts January, with a special preview in December) has all the hallmarks of a classy HBO production – movie stars, and all. It comes from Michael Mann ( Public Enemies, The Insider) and David Milch ( Deadwood, NYPD Blue) and stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. Essentially, it’s a horse racetrack drama, gorgeously made.

Oh yes, there are other mid-season shows – Celebrity Wife Swap, Winter Wipeout and the return of Shark Tank, all on ABC. Also coming in March on ABC is GCB (formerly called Good Christian Belles and Good Christian B-word that can’t be printed in a family newspaper). It stars Leslie Bibb and Kristen Chenoweth, with Bibb playing a recently divorced mom who returns to the suburban Dallas of her childhood and gets sucked into local gossip and malice. A toxic Desperate Housewives is what it looks like.

AIRING TONIGHT

NOVA: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Universe or Multiverse? (PBS, 8 p.m.) is a terrific new series that could be described as a reality version of Big Bang Theory for grown-ups. Host Brian Greene, a physicist (the series is derived from his bestselling book The Fabric of The Cosmos) explains such things as teleportation, time travel and the theory of a “multiverse,” using special effects that aren’t cheesy at all.

Check local listings.

Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

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