Midseason TV Shows Offer a Variety of Choices, and the Return of Matthew Perry

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Star of “Mr. Sunshine” Matthew Perry and ABC’s Paul Lee.

It seems like we just settled down to watch the fall schedule of TV shows and marked down our must-see favorites. And now the midseason lineup is upon us, with an over abundance of new series to discover on the networks.

First to waltz into our lives is Live to Dance, Paula Abdul’s toe-tapping dance competition which just debuted on CBS. The Cape debuts on NBC on Jan. 9, starring David Lyons, who made hearts flutter on ER. Now he’ll play a troubled cop forced into hiding who tries to become a superhero. Along for his crusade against crime ride are Summer Glau and Keith David.

Bob’s Burgers is another wacky family cartoon sitcom on Fox. Try to imagine the Simpsons running a burger joint — hilarity ensues. It adds to the network’s undisputed animation domination on the airwaves, starting Jan. 9.

Off the Map, premiering Jan. 12 on ABC, is a drama about six talented doctors at a South American jungle clinic. They face a variety of challenges trying to heal others, as well as dealing with their own demons. Martin Henderson, Caroline Dhavernas, Enrique Murciano, Mamie Gummer, Valerie Cruz, Jose Julian, and Jason George, make up the “eye-candy” ensemble cast, who actually film in Hawaii. So there’s gorgeous scenery for everyone. It’s from Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, who obviously knows something about mixing medicine and hot relationships.

Harry’s Law, starting on NBC Jan. 17, stars the always wonderful Kathy Bates as a lawyer dispensing her own kind of justice. The show from producer David E. Kelley (Boston Legal) also stars Ben Chaplin, Aml Ameen, Beatrice Rosen, and Brittany Snow. Perfect Couples, on NBC Jan. 20, follows three couples with relationship problems. Olivia Munn and Kyle Bornheimer are in the ensemble.

The Chicago Code, on Fox Feb. 7, stars Jason Clarke as a dedicated Chicago cop who wants to clean up the corruption on the force, with the help of his boss Jennifer Beals. Expect the crime drama to get gritty because producer Shawn Ryan also did The Shield. Traffic Light, on Fox Feb. 8, is a comedy that follows a married couple, a dating duo, and single friends who are trying to figure out their relationships.

Mr. Sunshine is a comedy coming to ABC on Feb. 9. It has the likable Matthew Perry (of Friends fame) in the spotlight as a self-absorbed guy who runs the Sunshine Center sports arena (like The Staples Center). He has to deal with the assorted crazy staff, plus the arena’s owner (played by Allison Janney), while he navigates his midlife crisis. Costarring are Nate Torrence, Andrea Anders, and James Lesure.

Perry is the force behind the show, producing and writing as well as starring. He says, “It’s exciting. I was interested in doing comedy again. This setting is a place that is interesting, and insane things can come in.” He describes his character as a guy who is “just learning how not to be a selfish jerk, so Mr. Sunshine is a slightly ironic title.”

How much is he like his character? “I love the way he looks,” Perry jokes, adding, “I like to say that this character is me, five years ago before any possible enlightenment could have come into my life. I’m very in touch with that kind of drive — you know, a selfish guy trying to have a better life. And how confused a selfish person would get if he were told that the way to have a better life was to just be nicer to people, and care about people. That’s the character I thought would be fun to explore in a seas of sort of dysfunctional people. And we have a fun arena in which it takes place.”

Allison Janney, who plays the grand dame of the sports arena organization, gets to show off her comedy skills in sort of a female version of Jerry Buss. But she’s someone who says the most inappropriate things. Janney says she is enjoying the tour de force role because, “I sort of looked at it like I spent seven years being politically correct on The West Wing, and now I get to be completely wrong on so many levels. I’m excited to be so politically incorrect and sexually inappropriate. I just find it all fascinating, and I’m so happy to get to go this far with a character.”

Perry points out that ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee is “a true fan of the show, and I like his taste.” Mr. Sunshine is a great new choice in the midseason lineup. Tune in.

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