From left: the cast of Kitchen Confidential; the Donald and Martha; Adam Goldberg.Photo: From left: Patrick Fraser; Virginia Sherwood/Courtesy of NBC Universal; Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Kitchen Confidential
One of the potentially worst ideas of the new TV season—turning Anthony Bourdain’s raunchy, spit-in-your-soup best seller Kitchen Confidential into a Fox sitcom—has proved to be one of the fall’s best surprises. Zippy, irreverent, and black-humored (someone’s finger gets chopped off in the pilot), the series is also chock-full of cult-show stars, including Alias’s Bradley Cooper (as “Jack” Bourdain), Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendan as his pastry chef, and Freaks and Geeks’ John Francis Daley as a newbie cook. It’s Darren Star’s best effort since Sex and the City….
• Fox; premieres September 19 (8:30 P.M.).

Head Cases
In Head Cases, Adam Goldberg proves once again that neurotic wack jobs can be sexy too.
• Fox; premieres September 14 (9 P.M.).

A show that finds the heartbreak in infertility—and the comedy.
• NBC; premieres September 23 (10 P.M.).

Will this fall’s premiere bring sweet relief? “All of the current questions will be answered this season,” says co-creator Damon Lindelof.
• ABC; premieres September 21 (9 P.M.).

The Apprentice: Martha Stewart
She’s back—both of her. On Martha, she’s an Oprah manqué, dishing tips and chatting up stars. On The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, she’s a stern boss, scrutinizing eager lackeys. She’s always been part den mother, part taskmaster, but now Martha’s finally doing what she’s implored us to do: Have it all.
• NBC; premieres September 21 (8 P.M.).

Illustration by Christopher Sleboda.Photo: Tony Barson/Wireimage

Everybody Hates Chris
Everybody Hates Chris draws on Chris Rock’s Brooklyn childhood, which apparently consisted largely of (a) mouthing off to bullies and (b) running from bullies. It’s the season’s most buzzed-about sitcom, marking the welcome return of Rock’s singular comic voice to TV—literally, as he serves as the show’s narrator
• UPN; September 22.

Best of the Rest

Gilmore Girls
Rory’s in college. Lorelai’s pushing 40. At some point, won’t they have to rename this Gilmore Women?
• WB, September 13.

Who’s house? House’s house! The expert Hugh Laurie anchors this cult-hit med thriller.
• Fox, September 13.

Rikers High
An unsettling but clear-eyed documentary about the high school for teen inmates at Rikers Island Prison.
• Showtime, September 13.

Run’s House
Whose house? Run’s house!* (*Translation: Run-DMCer and now Reverend Run stars in a reality show about life as a rap legend turned reverend.)
• MTV, September 16.

Arrested Development
Go ahead, watch it. You’ll make a TV critic very happy.
• Fox, September 19.

How I Met Your Mother
One man’s (Josh Radnor) quest for love, as told through flashbacks from the future. If the scenario sounds sketchy, the cast does not, especially Jason Segel (Freaks and Geeks) and Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
• CBS, September 19.

My Name Is Earl
The perpetually watchable Jason Lee (Chasing Amy) stars as a lottery winner who sets out to make amends for past wrongs, starting with the fact that, until now, Jason Lee had never starred in a sitcom.
• NBC, September 20.

Sure, the title sounds like a sex-advice show, but producer Jerry Bruckheimer has a great track record (CSI, Without a Trace) and the West Wing-at-the-Pentagon premise has promise.
• NBC, September 21.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Cranky. But lovable.
• HBO, September 25.

Desperate Housewives
Yeah, like you won’t be watching. Stop fronting.
• ABC, September 25.

Web buzz says Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s new show about fledgling actors is just as funny as their BBC hit, The Office. Which makes us (a) wary of Web buzz and (b) unspeakably giddy.
• HBO, September 25.

The West Wing
A presidential election brings new juice to the fraying drama—and, assumedly, a whole new cast of support staff.
• NBC, September 25.

The Colbert Report
The arch-browed (and arch-everything else) correspondent for The Daily Show gets a well-deserved spinoff, cast in the style of a Hannity & Colmes.
• Comedy Central, October 17.

What Are You Looking Forward To this Fall? Ask A cable guy
Vinny Adragna, Head End Engineer, Time Warner Cable

Taste: All the CSIs and Law & Orders captivate me. I love Desperate Housewives, and of course The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Looking forward to: The Showtime series Masters of Horrors and CBS’s The Ghost Whisperer. I notice there’s a lot of sci-fi, X-Files-type stuff coming out, so I’m excited. Also HBO’s got Extras—I’m kind of biased because my girlfriend’s an actress and does a lot of extra work.

Wish list: An American version of Prime Suspect. Helen Mirren played a female detective on a murder case. It was phenomenal.