February 13, 2012 12:00 PM

Smash

Katharine McPhee, Megan Hilty, Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing

NBC, premieres Feb. 6

“I took tap dancing lessons when I was 3. This is heaven on earth for me!” Messing says of the drama about making a Marilyn Monroe-themed Broadway musical. (Messing plays a lyricist; McPhee and Hilty vie for the lead role; Huston is the show’s producer.)

Touch

Kiefer Sutherland

FOX, premieres March 19

After ending his eight-season run as 24 superhero Jack Bauer, the last thing Sutherland wanted to do was another TV series. “But things don’t always come on your timeline,” says the actor, who plays a widower struggling to communicate with his emotionally challenged son (David Mazouz). “I spent years scaring people and grossing them out. This is a nice change of pace.”

GCB

Kristin Chenoweth, Leslie Bibb

ABC, premieres March 4

“My higher self wants girls to get along,” says Bibb, “but it’s fun to get down and get scrappy with each other.” Which is what happens in this drama about an ex-mean girl (Bibb) who loses everything and moves back to her mother’s suburban Dallas home, to the delight of a former classmate (Chenoweth), who was scorned by her as a teen and is out for revenge. “I think people like to see someone with a little cattiness to her,” adds Chenoweth, “because it makes them feel better about themselves.”

Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23

James Van Der Beek

ABC, premieres April 4

So, James Van Der Beek, what’s the secret to playing a character named James Van Der Beek? “We took a few things from my resume and made the rest up,” says the actor, who skewers his teen-idol past in this sitcom as the egotistical pal to roommate-from-hell Krysten Ritter (inset). Van Der Beek had no qualms about making fun of himself onscreen. “Why not? As long as people are laughing, I’m happy.”

Scandal

Kerry Washington

ABC, premieres April 5

Washington leads a D.C. crisis-management team that can tackle any problem. “Before this, I didn’t know about crisis management, which is a good thing, because it means I’ve never been in a lot of trouble,” she says. “I’d like to keep it that way!”

Awake

Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen

NBC, premiere date TBD

After losing a family member in a horrific car accident, a grief-stricken police detective (Isaacs) begins to live in two parallel realities: In one, his wife (Allen) survived; in the other, his son did. To help keep his focus, the British-born Isaacs stays in character off-set. “I find it much easier to talk in my American accent, even when I’m not working,” he says. “I’m probably American more than I am English in my life. But I do feel slightly schizophrenic!”

Bent

Amanda Peet, David Walton

NBC, premiere date TBD

Peet wasn’t quite sure what to make of her costar Walton, who plays a roguish contractor: “He’s way too good-looking to be this funny!” For his part, the dad-to-be clicked with his leading lady and her real-life kids: Frankie, 4, and Molly, 21 months. “Her babies would [visit the set],” he says, “and everybody’s heart would melt.”

Missing

Ashley Judd

ABC, premieres March 15

Ashley Judd hasn’t missed the spotlight: “I went to graduate school, I wrote a book. I had a very sedentary lifestyle,” she says of her time away from show business. Now she’s back as a retired CIA operative who swings into action after her son vanishes in Rome. “She’s a fighter, and I love to fight,” says Judd, who underwent intensive training to shape up for the part. Before her first action scene, “I was rusty-like, ‘Wow, I can really break a broomstick over a guy’s head?’ By my second fight, I was pushing my stunt double out of the way.”

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