1. Gossip Girl
With all due respect to Dan, Vanessa, Nate, Serena, Jenny, and their illegitimate babies, evil new girlfriends, and gravity-defying décolletage, the most compelling story line, as ever, will be that of newly uncoupled Blair and Chuck.
Returns Sept. 13 on the CW.
2. The Event
The series gunning most aggressively to be the new Lost. No polar bears, but unexplained phenomena, high-level government conspiracies, and a crackerjack ensemble, including Jason Ritter, Blair Underwood, Zeljko Ivanek, and Laura Innes.
Debuts Sept. 20 on NBC.
Hugh Laurie is still serving up master-class acting six seasons in. Whether the consummation of Dr. Gregory House’s longtime crush on Cuddy will be the show’s death knell is the question.
Returns Sept. 20 on Fox.
4. Lone Star
James Wolk is already the fall’s breakout star before an episode of this quirky drama has even aired. Fingers crossed that the beautifully shot, morally complex Texas-based series about father-and-son con men (co-starring David Keith and Jon Voight) doesn’t become the show so good nobody watches.
Debuts Sept. 20 on Fox.
The second episode of TV’s most thrilling union of earnestness and camp will be a Britney-themed episode that creator Ryan Murphy has described as reverential. Plus: Carol Burnett as Sue Sylvester’s Nazi-hunting mother! Just, please, no Justin Bieber cameo.
Returns Sept. 21 on Fox.
6. Raising Hope
My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia reapplies his working-class, sweet-in-surprising-places sensibility to this dramedy about a naïve young man raising his baby with the help of a not-so-helpful family. It stars the always wonderful Martha Plimpton and Cloris Leachman (clearly due her Betty White moment).
Debuts Sept. 21 on Fox.
7. Running Wilde
Arrested Development’s cancellation still burns four years later. At least now Will Arnett (Gob), David Cross (Tobias), and creator Mitch Hurwitz are reunited, in this sitcom about a rich jerk (Arnett) and the do-gooder he loves (Felicity’s Keri Russell). A pilot reshot multiple times could spell trouble—or could mean the lowering of ridiculously high expectations.
Debuts Sept. 21 on Fox.
J.J. Abrams raided his own playbook for his new spy show: Alias, with a married couple. We’ll forgive the familiar territory since no one does banter-under-fire better than he.
Debuts Sept. 22 on NBC.
9. Modern Family
Last fall’s irresistible hit already has something going for it that season one did not: the much-promised, much-delayed Cam-and-Mitchell kiss.
Returns Sept. 22 on ABC.
10. Cougar Town
Cougar Town flirted with taking a new name, one that better reflects the show’s subject—goofy, heartfelt friendships—rather than a predatory Courteney Cox. The title is sticking, but don’t let that stop you from trying the very game cast and the series, which hit its stride in last season’s second half.Returns Sept. 22 on ABC.
11. My Generation
Imagine the members of TheBreakfast Club participating in the reality show High School Reunion. That’s essentially this gimmicky drama’s premise, about a jock, a brain, a rich kid, et al., ten years after high school. It’s a love-it or loathe-it idea, but nerdy Kenny (Keir O’Donnell) is instantly TV’s most compelling 28-year-old virgin.
Debuts Sept. 23 on ABC.
12. 30 Rock
Six words: October’s live episode starring Tracy Morgan. Returns Sept. 23 on NBC.
Eagerly awaited: Jeff and Annie’s developing romance—and the May–December cracks from Abed and Troy that will result.
Returns Sept. 23 on NBC.
14. Bored to Death
The lackadaisically hilarious comedy starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and the sublime Ted Danson perfected a genre we never even knew we were missing: the detective-novelist sitcom.
Returns Sept. 26 on HBO.
15. Eastbound & Down
In season two, former major-league pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride)—Eastbound’s insufferable, so-funny-it-hurts star—finds himself in Mexico, playing for a mediocre club, hoping to find the fans he (and this show) deserves.
Returns Sept. 26 on HBO.
16. No Ordinary Family
A family develops superpowers in what amounts to a live-action version of The Incredibles. If nothing else, it brings Michael Chiklis (Detective Vic Mackey!) back to TV.
Debuts Sept. 28 on ABC.
17. The Good Wife
Will Alicia (Julianna Marguiles) stand by her husband (Chris Noth) or take up with her boss (Josh Charles)? That question, as well as meeting Alicia’s gay brother and a Kalinda love interest (of to-be-determined sexuality), will get answered, no doubt with the show’s usual smarts, wit, and elegance.
Returns Sept. 28 on CBS.
18. The Walking Dead
A drama about zombies from Frank Darabont. No one has seen it, but come on: zombies, the director of The Shawshank Redemption, from the network that brings you Mad Men and Breaking Bad—how awful could it be?
Debuts Oct. on AMC.
A riveting new drama starring The Wire’s Idris Elba answers the burning question: What if Stringer Bell were a British cop?
Debuts Oct. 17 on BBC America.
20. Untitled Conan O’Brien Project
Nearly ten months after his ignominious ouster from The Tonight Show, O’Brien sets out to prove Team Coco right.
Debuts Nov. 8 on TBS.
Sept. 8: Terriers, a dramedy about unlicensed PIs, starring Donal Logue (FX).
Sept. 21: Detroit 1-8-7, a gritty cop drama headed up by Michael Imperioli(ABC).
Sept. 22: The Whole Truth, with Maura Tierney as a New York D.A. (ABC).
Sept. 23: Outsourced, a comedy about a call center in India(NBC); $#*! My Dad Says, a sitcom based on a website and starring William Shatner (CBS).
Sept. 7: Sons of Anarchy (FX).
Sept. 9: The Vampire Diaries (CW).
Sept. 14:Parenthood (NBC).
Sept. 15: Survivor: Nicaragua (CBS).
Sept. 16: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX).
Sept. 20:Dancing With the Stars (ABC).
Sept. 23: Big Bang Theory (CBS).
Sept. 24:Supernatural (CW).
Sept. 26: The Amazing Race (CBS); Dexter (Showtime).