Emily Nussbaum’s Want-to-Sees

Photo: Doug Hyun/Courtesy of HBO

Even with Lost on hiatus until 2010 (sob!) and a network schedule clogged with cloned procedurals and/or medical melodramas, there are gems within the rubble. In addition to the obvious (Mad Men!), the aforementioned FlashForward (Lost meets Final Destination), the Ferris Bueller–esque Community, and The Good Wife, here’s what I’m excited about.

30 Rock
Returns to NBC, Oct. 15
NBC may be a shambles, but it’s still hosting the best two shows on network TV—one a brilliant vaudeville meta-analysis of television itself …

The Office
Returns Sept. 17
… the other a sharply humanistic vision of love among the cubicles. Last season featured poignant Michael-centric plot twists; this season the show faces that dangerous potential comedy-killer: a new baby. Fingers crossed.

Modern Family
Debuts on ABC, Sept. 23
Family comedies are the toughest genre, but this show’s premiere pulls it off brilliantly, with original characters and a structural conceit that pays off big time.

Debuts Fox, Sept. 9
A stab right into the pleasure-cortex for drama-club geeks like me, Fox’s stylized, joyous quasi-musical gleams with the creators’ candy-satirical sensibilities. (They also wrote the late lamented Popular and Nip/Tuck.)

Returns to Showtime, Sept. 27
In season four, the serial killer (played by Emmy-worthy Michael C. Hall) has a kid—a narrative game-changer that (as with The Office) could destroy the show or vault it to a new level.

The Middle
Debuts ABC, Sept. 30
With its quirky-younger-son character, this warm family sitcom (starring Patricia Heaton) echoes the excellent Malcolm in the Middle.

The Galaxy Of Solid Sitcoms:
HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, whose five-episode Seinfeld reunion plot promises mind-bending levels of self-referentiality, plus CBS’s How I Met Your Mother (Barnobin 2gether4ever), the underrated Big Bang Theory, and Parks and Recreation. (So sue me, I still think it has potential.)

Brick City
Debuts Sundance, Sept. 21
A documentary series about Newark, following Mayor Booker, a Crip, and a Blood, invoking all the requisite comparisons to The Wire.

Runners Up:
Returns to Fox, Sept. 25
As much fear as anticipation, but I can’t say I’m not looking forward to season two—if only because the show is so genuinely (if sometimes incoherently) philosophically ambitious.

Ugly Betty
Returns to ABC, Oct. 9
The last two seasons zigzagged in quality, but with the reported demise of magazines, they’ve got great stories at their telenovela fingertips.

Guilty Pleasure:
The Jay Leno Show
Debuts NBC, Sept. 14
I’m not interested in Jay Leno, but I am interested in whether anyone else is interested in Jay Leno.

Emily Nussbaum’s Want-to-Sees