by Meredith O'Brien
The kick-off of the fall TV season gets all the glory, what with it coinciding with the start of a new school year, new football season, radiant autumn leaves and all of that. But over the past few years, network execs have challenged the traditional TV season formula, opting instead to launch some high-profile programs in January, February and March – considered “mid-season” -- so that the new episodes can be aired consecutively from the season premiere all the way through the season finale in May without interruption.
Here’s a rundown of some of Mommy Tracked’s favorite/eagerly anticipated shows which are slated to start in the “mid-season:”
Big Love  (Season 4) HBO, 9 p.m. Premieres January 10.
While the show’s premise is insanely patriarchal – a man has multiple wives in order to have lots of kids – Big Love provides a complex look at the three wives and mothers who’re in a polygamist relationship and how they relate to one another and to their shared husband Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton). The first wife Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), mother of two teenagers and one tween, last season was going back to school to get a degree in social work and has been struggling with her love/hate relationship with polygamy. The second wife Nicki (Chloe Sevigny), who grew up on a primitive polygamist compound and dresses like the women you’ve seen in the news, caused a rift within the family last season when they learned that she’d been secretly taking birth control pills  for years because she didn’t want to have any more children. The third wife, Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) was once the family’s babysitter before marrying Bill; after having three babies in quick succession, she’s launched a career of her own.
The fourth season will find the family coping with their husband’s opening of a new casino, Margene’s burgeoning career and worrying about being prosecuted for its polygamist practices. (See our previous Mommy Tracked column on Big Love .)
24  (Season 8) Fox, 9 p.m. Premieres Sunday January 17, then runs on Mondays at 9 p.m. starting January 18.
Okay, so this Jack-Bauer-gets-the-bad-guys, comic book-like action series doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of moms and TV, even though in season one, Jack’s wife put her life in jeopardy to protect her daughter and wound up getting killed anyway. But in the eighth season of this Kiefer Sutherland vehicle, Jack’s daughter Kim – a former Counterterrorism Unit employee -- has become a mother, making Jack (Sutherland) a grandfather. Plus, this will be the second consecutive season featuring a female president whose grown daughter proves to be a non-stop source of angst for her administration AND there’s a working mom -- in the form of the quirky-brilliant Chloe O’Brian, Jack’s right-hand gal -- who has a young son and has to pull these really long days.
Parenthood  (New series) NBC, 9 p.m. March 1.
“Balancing ambition and guilt. Realizing your kid isn’t the best at everything.” Waaay back in 1989 there was this movie starring Steve Martin called Parenthood , which featured an ensemble cast and dramatized the difficult, messy and heartfelt stages of childrearing. I loved the film and, during my viewings of it since becoming a parent, I’ve found that its messages are timeless.
NBC is dusting off Parenthood and turning it into a TV comedy starring the Gilmore Girls ’ Lauren Graham, Six Feet Under ’s Peter Krause and Coach ’s Craig T. Nelson as the family patriarch. Graham’s character is a divorced mother with two teens who’s had to move back in with her parents. Krause’s character – Graham’s brother -- is married and has two kids, including an 8-year-old who’s been freshly diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, while his at-home wife yearns to return to her career. I’m a big fan of both Graham and Krause, as well as of the original Parenthood movie, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Nurse Jackie  (Season 2) Showtime, 10 p.m., March 22.
Edie Falco took the once-in-a-lifetime character of Carmela Soprano and made me completely forget about the Jersey mob wife when I watched the first season of her new show. She plays the Vicodin-addicted, unfaithful, tart-tongued, compassionate hospital nurse Jackie Peyton who’s married to a gem of a guy with whom she’s raising two young daughters, including one who’s experiencing emotional issues. Jackie is clinging to the precipice of a life that’s threatening to crumble around her. And it makes for riveting television. (See our previous Mommy Tracked column on Nurse Jackie . )
United States of Tara  (Season 2) Showtime, 10:30 p.m., March 22.
Two teenagers. One doting and very patient husband. A career as a mural painter. Four diametrically opposed personalities trapped in one person. That’s a lot of stuff to keep track of for Toni Collette’s Tara. During the first season of this risk-taking show, Tara went off her meds in order to figure out why she had four different personalities which would unpredictably crop up and wreak havoc. By the end of its freshman season, Tara had checked herself into a mental health facility. I have no idea what to expect in season two. (See our previous Mommy Tracked column on Tara . )
Lost  (Season 6) ABC, 8 p.m., February 2.
Lost may not seem like a natural fit with Mommy Tracked, but trust me, it’s got LOADS of mommy and daddy issues. As I wrote in a previous column , almost every character on this show is haunted by parental problems. Always a head-scratcher and provider of ample grist for online dissection, Lost rarely fails to leave me saying, “What the?”
What mid-season shows are you looking forward to watching? Any on-going shows (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, House, etc.) for which you’re eagerly anticipating new episodes?