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'Tis the Midseason

Enticing TV specials! New series! Returning favorites like ''Idol,'' '24,'' and ''Alias''! Could this happen in January -- once known as a dreary TV month? Yup. Get the scoop on the shows

Patricia Arquette | STIFF COMPETITION Arquette's crime-solving psychic in Medium will try to reanimate NBC ratings opposite CSI: Miami
Image credit: Patricia Arquette: NBC Universal Photo
STIFF COMPETITION Arquette's crime-solving psychic in Medium will try to reanimate NBC ratings opposite CSI: Miami

After the sluggish Christmas season, the TV networks are kicking off what may be their busiest January ever, combining new stuff like a wacky Martha Stewart-inspired reality show and a search for America's next top swimsuit model with season premieres in which we can reacquaint ourselves with Jack Bauer, bachelorette Jen Schefft and that old curmudgeon Simon Cowell. Following is our countdown of the most notable shows.

Mon., Jan. 3
Who's Your Daddy? A grown adopted woman attempts to guess which of eight men is her birth father. If she guesses right, she wins $100,000; if wrong, the chosen impostor gets the money. This one-time special may become a series if the producers aren't struck by lightning. (Fox — where else? — 8-9:30 p.m.)

Medium Patricia Arquette plays a psychic who helps the police solve disturbing cases. Do you think she already knows whether Medium is well done? (NBC, 10-11 p.m.)

The Late Late Show Actor-comedian Craig Ferguson (The Drew Carey Show), the last Scotsman standing in this fall's host-off, makes his regular debut behind the desk. (CBS, 12:37-1:37 a.m.)

Tues., Jan. 4
Committed In this strenuously atypical New York dating sitcom, obsessive-compulsive boy (Josh Cooke) meets generically wacky girl (Jennifer Finnigan), who has a dying clown (Tom Poston) living in her walk-in closet. (NBC, 9:30-10 p.m.)

Wed., Jan. 5
The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott Thirteen young would-be vocal artists with cool names like Akil, Deltrice, and Yelawolf face weekly tests on the road to winning a recording contract and $100,000. Are bad singing and badder attitude misdemeanors? (UPN, 8-9 p.m.)

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search 'Nuff said. (NBC, 8-9 p.m.)

Alias In a special two-hour season premiere, superagent Sydney (Jennifer Garner) learns a terrible secret about her father (Victor Garber) but fails to draw the conclusion that it's not a good idea to combine business and family. (ABC, 9-11:01 p.m.; regular time period, 9-10 p.m.)

Thurs., Jan. 6
Wickedly Perfect In this new reality series, 12 perfectionists compete to become the next Martha Stewart (although CBS is refraining from mentioning her by name), participating in various tests meant to reveal their decorating and entertaining skills. The winner gets six appearances on The Early Show, a TV development deal, a book deal, and one get-out-of-jail-free card. (CBS, 8-9 p.m.)

Sat., Jan. 8
The Will Ten friends and relatives of an actual rich old man compete in ''physical and mental challenges'' to see who will inherit his Kansas ranch when he buys the farm. (CBS, 8-9:30 p.m.; regular time period, 8-9 p.m.)

Sun., Jan. 9
24 An explosion on a commuter train sets off another tough day at the office for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), who has been fired from CTU and is now working for the secretary of defense (William Devane) and secretly dating the secretary's daughter (Kim Raver). Didn't his experience with Nina teach him about combining business and romance? For more on that lesson, see Alias, above. (Fox, 8-10 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10; regular time period, Mondays, 9-10 p.m.)

The Surreal Life Seven B-listers, including Christopher ''Peter Brady'' Knight, Verne ''Mini Me'' Troyer, and Adrianne ''America's Formerly Next Top Model'' Curry, are picked to live in a house and find out what happens. (VH1, 9-10 p.m.) This kicks off the channel's Sunday ''celebreality'' block, which also includes Strange Love (10-11 p.m.), on which Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen continue their showmance from last season's Surreal Life, and Celebrity Fit Club (11 p.m.-midnight), a.k.a., The Biggest Loser for small-timers, including Daniel Baldwin, Biz Markie, and the Snapple Lady.

Unscripted This semi-scripted new series, from executive producers Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney, centers on the struggles of three unknown actors (played by three unknown actors) who are trying to make it while studying under veteran Goddard Fulton (Frank Langella). (HBO, 10-11 p.m.)

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