Just in time for the midseason stuff to get rolling.
Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
I've been slowly losing interest in this show, which had a real jump-the-shark moment last season when it was revealed that Rebecca wasn't actually the long-lost Walker half-sibling, merely so that she could then get it on with her heretofore assumed half-brother Justin (as absurd as this sounds if you've never watched the show, it was nearly as absurd to longtime viewers). This show has always straddled a line between earnest family drama and lifestyle-porn soap opera, and it seems to be trending further and further in the soap direction. This season has brought a search for a new long-lost half-sibling, a paternity crisis and a little baby in peril. Now rumor has it that Balthazar Getty has been dumped from the show, and while his character is indeed useless, I don't know that I can sit through some drawn-out grieving process if they kill him off. A bunch of returning shows (Lost, Friday Night Lights, Damages, The Closer) that I want to watch are about to come back, and there are a few new ones I want to check out as well, so this may just end up being sacrificed to clear up the schedule a bit.
Although a lot of people seem to find the current second season of this show a great improvement, I think it's about as amusing and insubstantial as the first, which is to say that I thoroughly enjoy it but rarely get excited about it. That's about right for a show like this - it's pure fun entertainment, with a handful of nice emotional moments. The plots often don't make sense, the character development is minimal, and the dialogue can be hokey, but there is enough in the way of rousing action, funny one-liners, appealing eye-candy and romantic entanglements to hold my attention.
This is another show that is never quite at the top of my to-watch list, but still has enough going for it that I come back every week. It has yet to transcend its X-Files-meets-Alias origins; virtually every cold open could double as an X-Files teaser, and the vast conspiracy is so vague and all-consuming that I worry it will turn out to be as convoluted and nonsensical as the ones on those other two shows became. Still, a lot of the mysteries are pretty creepy, there are some interesting background nuggets being doled out about the various characters, and John Noble is always entertaining as the addled-yet-mysterious Walter Bishop. I remain hopeful that, with patience, this will turn into a great show rather than just a decent pastiche.
Gossip Girl (The CW)
I think I've been beating the drum for this show pretty incessantly, but every week reminds me of just how good it is. Along with 30 Rock and Pushing Daisies, it's been the thing I most look forward to watching each week, and it's easily surpassed Josh Schwartz's last rich-teens drama, The O.C. There's been no similar second-season decline in quality; if anything, the show's only gotten better, with richer character development, juicier plot twists and stronger dialogue. The interplay between Chuck and Blair is masterful, and Leighton Meester constantly impresses me with her portrayal of Blair. I know for some people the notion of a teen soap is too much to get past, but if you're open to it, this really is one of the best shows on TV.
Pushing Daisies (ABC)
This show is about to depart the airwaves (the final three episodes are currently TBA on ABC's schedule, although they've been produced, so even if the network axes them altogether they'll at least end up on DVD), and I'm really sad to see it go. It took me a while to warm up to Bryan Fuller's quirky, cutesy vision, but this season has been consistently excellent, with nearly as much clever quippery as 30 Rock, plus an intriguing ongoing mystery and engaging standalone stories. In short, it's unique, great TV, which means I probably shouldn't be surprised it got canceled. There's really no point in trying to jump on board now, but this is absolutely something to look for on DVD (and it will end up with only 22 episodes total, making it easy to plow through the whole series quickly).