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Rick Kushman: Hey, some good news for once

These may be grim economic times, and particularly for media companies and your friendly neighborhood TV networks, but they are not bad times for TV viewers.

Because of some quirks in the industry, there are a pile of new shows headed our way that aren't the usual March just-in-case-someone-watches kinds of efforts.

In most years, the promising new midseason shows get launched in January, when there's a post-holiday, it's-cold-outside interest in TV, or sometimes in February during sweeps.

But this season is still recalibrating from the writers strike, so there's good stuff just coming around.

Plus, sweeps got moved to March to accommodate the digital switch, which then got delayed till June.

Still, for viewers, the result is that most of these new shows coming in the next few weeks are serious efforts, not just burnoffs.

They include:

"Castle" (10 p.m. Monday on ABC): A mystery novelist named Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) learns that a killer has started staging murders like ones in his books, and he teams with a detective (Stana Katic) to solve those and other crimes. Oh, and of course they bicker and flirt, but they're cute at it.

"The Chopping Block" (8 p.m. Wednesday on NBC): It's another TV cooking competition. I'm such an addict. This one has couples working in teams to open a Manhattan restaurant.

"Kings" (8 p.m. March 15 on NBC): It's billed as a contemporary retelling of the David and Goliath tale, but it's more a mix of adventure, myth and soap. The best news is that it stars "Deadwood's" Ian McShane.

"Cupid" (10 p.m. March 31 on ABC): Producer Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars") gets a do-over with his charming-but-scuttled 1998 series about a guy who's either really Cupid or he's crazy.

"Surviving Suburbia" (8:30 p.m. April 6 on ABC): It's an old-school family sitcom starring Bob Saget and Cynthia Stevenson as, uh, a married couple. This better have good writing.

"The Unusuals" (10 p.m. April 9 on ABC): Sounds like a cross between "Barney Miller" and "NYPD Blue," with Amber Tamblyn starring in this hour as a detective who gets transferred to homicide and finds the crew there is unusual.

"Harper's Island" (10 p.m. April 9 on CBS): A murder-mystery, 13-week series with an intriguing premise. There's a destination wedding on a remote island and someone is killing the guests at the rate of one every episode. In the last week, the killer is revealed.

"Parks and Recreation" (8:30 p.m. April 9 on NBC): This was going to be "The Office" spinoff, but it's really just a similar style comedy from office producer Greg Daniels. It's another fake documentary -- if you can even remember that's going on in "The Office" -- and features "Saturday Night Live" star Amy Poehler.

"Southland" (10 p.m. April 9 on NBC): A week after "ER" ends its 99-year run, its producer, John Wells, keeps the timeslot but does it with a cop show set in L.A.

Rick Kushman is television columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Reach him at rkushman@sacbee.com.

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