Though it can feel like a consolation prize, a midseason premiere date can actually work to a series' advantage. Unlike the beginning of the season, there is no single week in which everything debuts, giving curious viewers more time to seek out good new shows.
Unfortunately, none of these are good shows.
Yes, after highlighting my picks last week for the five upcoming network series with the best chance to succeed, here is my list of midseason stinkers. Watch or avoid at your own risk, but don't say I didn't warn you.
"Imaginary Mary" (ABC)
Poor Jenna Elfman. After four consecutive sitcom flops following the 2002 demise of "Dharma & Greg" ("Courting Alex," "Accidentally on Purpose," "1600 Penn" and "Growing Up Fisher"), she is now playing an overwhelmed single woman named Alice who reverts to talking to her old imaginary friend from childhood—a furry CGI creature voiced by "Saturday Night Live" alum Rachel Dratch. Since ABC has already slashed the episode order from 13 to nine before even announcing a premiere date, it looks like Elfman is bucking for her fifth consecutive loser. Only this time it may not even get on the air.
CBS hasn't scheduled a scripted drama for Saturday nights since "The District," starring Craig T. Nelson, disappeared in May 2004. So this tale of a world-renowned hostage negotiator (Luke Roberts) whose team is bought back to solve the most difficult kidnap and ransom cases—which will air on Sat. nights (following a Sunday, Jan. 1 preview)—may seem like an attempt to revive the night. But I don't buy it. If "Ransom" were any good, CBS would have found a higher-profile time period.
As the first broadcast series to feature a transgender actor in a permanent role (Laverne Cox), "Doubt" certainly warrants note for its casting. Except it also stars the perennially unlikeable Katherine Heigl as a defense attorney who becomes romantically involved with one of her clients (Steven Pasquale), who just might be guilty of a brutal crime. So CBS giveth, and it taketh away.
The show will debut after "Criminal Minds" on Wednesday, Feb. 15, suggesting CBS thinks a legal thriller is a better fit out of the veteran crime solver than "Code Black," the ER drama that fills the role now. But Heigl as a tough and rebellious lawyer sounds about as appealing—and believable—as Heigl as a CIA analyst, which she was on NBC's short-lived "State of Affairs." If you choose to watch this one, maybe keep the remote close.
"Downward Dog" (ABC)
I admit it. The talking dog is cute. But this tale of a woman (Allison Tolman) who leaves her dog, Martin, alone at home too much after throwing herself into work to get over a bad breakup, feels like a gimmick that will wear thin very quickly. While fading ABC does have several time periods in need of repair (the network hasn't announced an official time for "Downward Dog" yet), I just don't see this as a good fit out of any current ABC comedy. Sorry, Martin!
"Making History" (Fox)
Described as a "rollicking historical adventure," Fox's "Making History" follows three friends from two different centuries as they try to balance the thrill of time travel with the mundane concerns of their present-day lives. Two red flags here: There is a barfing scene in the pilot, which already suggests a desperation for laughs. Then there is the "stellar" dialogue, such as "I probably should have told you, the past smells like doodie. 'Cause there is poop everywhere."
Fox, not surprisingly, has reduced the episode order of "Making History" from 13 to nine half-hours before it has even premiered, just as ABC has done for "Imaginary Mary." Then the network changed its mind about debuting it out of "The Simpsons" in the first quarter of 2017, and announced no other debut date. In other words, you can scratch "Making History" off your list.