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What I'm Watching This Fall

Ah, autumn. With it comes the end of horrific LA heatwaves, comfy sweaters, and the advent of the fall season, with its new series and returning favorites? Is there really any better time of year?

It's with that thought that I take a look at what I'll be watching this fall season, which begins in earnest today. While I can't guarantee that I'll stick around for more than a few (or even one additional) episode of many of these series, below are the new and returning shows that have at least piqued my interest, based on their pilots.

And for more on my thoughts about returning series, check out the September 20th issue of USA Weekend, where I'm interviewed by TJ Walter about my top picks for returning series this fall.


8 pm: The Amazing Race (CBS)

It's hard to believe that the granddaddy of all reality series, The Amazing Race, is entering its fifteenth season this fall. While the success or failure of each individual season comes down to the strength of its casting, the series' innate strength lies in its clever challenges, the interpersonal dynamics of the couples competing for the million dollar cash prize, and the charm of its cool-as-a-cucumber host Phil Keoghan. Eye-opening travel experiences, constant bickering, and stressful roadblocks all play into its intelligent design. (Launches September 27th with a two-hour season opener)

9 pm: Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

It's been nearly two years since we caught up with the misanthropic Larry David and Season Seven finds the neurotic Angeleno dating Loretta Black (Vivica A. Fox), attempting to reconnect with his ex-wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), writing a Seinfeld reunion for NBC, and generally making a nuisance of himself to everyone around him. (You can read my advance review of the first three episodes here.) (Launches September 20th)

9 pm: Masterpiece Mystery and Masterpiece Contemporary (PBS)

PBS' newly reinvigorated Masterpiece offers two cycles this fall, with its Mystery season currently on the air and bringing us Seasons Two and Three of the delightful and intelligent Inspector Morse spin-off Inspector Lewis. Then it's on to contemporary drama such as apartheid drama Endgame, starring Johnny Lee Miller and Chiwetel Ejifor, Place of Execution, starring Juliet Stevenson and Greg Wise, and Collision, starring Phil David and Paul McGann. Masterpiece Contemporary also welcomes new host David Tennant this autumn. (On Air; check local listings for details)

9:30 pm: Bored to Death (HBO)

Created by novelist Jonathan Ames, the whimsical and fun Bored to Death stars Jason Schwartzman... as a novelist named Jonathan Ames. Listless after a painful breakup with his girlfriend (Olivia Thirlby), Ames stumbles onto a copy of an old Raymond Chandler novel and resolves to become a private detective. Taking on a series of hapless cases, Ames is a mostly inept gumshoe as he attempts to navigate the bars and seedy motels of Manhattan while indulging in his duo of vices: white wine and pot. Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis also star as Ames' magazine editor boss and his neurotic comic-book creator best friend, who frequently end up entangled in Jonathan's schemes, whether it involves a missing girl, one-hitters, colonics, or burglary. (Launches September 20th)

10 pm: Mad Men (AMC)

AMC's savagely intelligent period drama Mad Men has me staying up late on Sunday evenings to ponder the delicious subtext of each and every encounter. In the deft hands of Matthew Weiner and crack team of writers, Mad Men's delightfully complex characters--played by one of the very best ensemble casts on television--have been wanting to stay in the 1960s long after the closing credits have rolled. (On Air)


Chuck (NBC)

What's that you say? Chuck isn't on the fall schedule? You'd be right as I'm still scratching my head over NBC's decision to delay Chuck until next year. But every season there's one night of the week where there's absolutely nothing on that I want to watch and this year that night just happens to be Monday. But rather than stare sullenly at the television until Chuck returns in March, I'm taking matters into my own hands and catching up with the Buy More gang by rewatching the first two seasons of Chuck from the very beginning every Monday night. Think of it as me biding time until one of my favorite series returns from its way-too-long-hiatus. (Chuck returns in March 2010.)


8 pm: V (ABC)

ABC has wisely opted to launch the new incarnation of cult classic 1980s mini-series V this fall instead of holding it for next year. Starring Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell, The 4400's Joel Grestch, Firefly's Morena Baccarin, The Nine's Scott Wolf, and a slew of other familiar faces, this V is invigorated by a post-9/11 consciousness and asks questions about terrorism, faith, justice, law, and blind trust. Just what do the Visitors want? Can FBI Counter-Terrorism Agent Erica Evans (Mitchell), Father Jack (Gretsch), and a ragtag resistance force prevent a full-on invasion... especially when the human race seems to be inviting the Visitors with open arms? Find out this fall. (You can read my advance review of the pilot for V here.) (Launches November 3rd)

9:30 pm: Better Off Ted (ABC)

The delightfully off-kilter workplace comedy series returns for a second season this fall. If you're at all like me, you've fallen for Better Off Ted's loopy charms, its insightful wit, and its scathing satire. Think of it as The Office on crystal meth. (Launches November TBA)

10 pm: Flipping Out (Bravo)

I can't get enough of the antics (and some would say madness) of OCD-afflicted real estate investor Jeff Lewis and his madcap band of employees. Despite it being a docusoap about house flipping (initially anyway), Flipping Out has blossomed into one of the most hysterical and enjoyable comedies on television. (On Air)

10 pm: The Good Wife (CBS)

I'm intrigued by CBS's legal drama The Good Wife, a winning cross between Ally McBeal and The Politician's Wife. Julianna Margulies plays Alicia, the dutiful wife of a politician (Chris Noth), who after weathering a sex scandal involving her husband, opts to return to the law and takes a job at a high-powered law firm where she has to content with a young whippersnapper (Matt Czuchry) out to gut her and the firm's ice queen partner (Christine Baranski). It's Margulies' most sympathetic and compelling role in quite some time and the pilot episode offers some nice banter, an engaging case, and colorful characters. (Launches September 22nd)


9 pm: Modern Family (ABC)

If there's one series that I'm anxiously awaiting above all others, it would be ABC's single-camera comedy Modern Family, a witty and biting examination at what makes our families tick: the humor, the pathos, and the, well, insanity. Boasting a cast that includes Ed O'Neill, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson (and appearances from Shelley Long and Elizabeth Banks in the cards), this is one family comedy that I'm going to race home to watch every Wednesday. You'd be well advised to do the same. (You can read my advance review of the pilot episode here.) (Launches September 23rd)

9 pm: Glee (FOX)

While I wasn't the biggest fan of the pilot episode of Glee, I fell head over heels in love with the subsequent installments which kick off later this week. Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, Glee is a look at the soaring highs and depressing lows of teengerhood (and how we never escape these high school years even as an adults) and is chock full of stunning musical numbers, dark comedy, and more vendettas and plots than you can throw a Cheerio at. (You can read my advance review of the first few episodes of Glee's first season here.) (Launches September 9th)

9:30 pm: Cougar Town (ABC)

I wasn't quite sure what to make of Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel's new single-camera comedy Cougar Town, starring Courteney Cox, Christa Miller, Busy Phillips, Dan Byrd, Brian Van Holt, Ian Gomez, and Josh Hopkins. It's a raunchy look at a woman reentering the dating scene after her divorce and discovering that men her own age are dating women half of hers. I was pleasantly surprised by the pilot and I usually like Lawrence's witty spin on comedy, but I will have to check out the second episode before committing to this relationship. (Launches September 23rd)

10 pm: Top Chef: Las Vegas (Bravo)

I'm completely addicted to Bravo's culinary competition series Top Chef, which is hands-down the best food-oriented series on television today. Between the skill and vision of its competitors, the cutthroat competition, and the stunning results, Top Chef is compelling, gripping, and hunger-inducing television at its very best. (On Air)


8 pm: FlashForward (ABC)

What did you see? It might be the Alphabet's best shot at landing the next Lost... Or it could be The Nine redux. But whatever eventually happens to ABC's big budget ensemble drama about the mystery behind a worldwide phenomenon that had everyone on the planet glimpsing a vision of their fate six months in the future (those that didn't die during the two-minute mass unconsciousness, that is). There's a lot of potential at work in the series, which will be overseen by David S. Goyer and Marc Guggenheim and boasts a cast that includes Joseph Fiennes, Sonya Walger, John Cho, Jack Davenport, Zachary Knighton, Peyton List, Dominic Monaghan, BrĂ­an F. O'Byrne, Courtney B. Vance, and Christine Woods. Can we escape our fate? Are our lives predetermined? Can free will play a role in diverting our paths through life? And just who or what caused this strange catastrophic event? (Launches September 24th)

8 pm: Bones (FOX)

After a season finale that divided its fans with its cliffhanger ending, Bones returns with a fifth season that will deal with the not-quite-a-romantic-relationship going on between its two leads, Seely Booth (David Boreanaz) and Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), head on while also forcing the duo to solve some of the twistiest murder mysteries on television. Smart, sly, and sexy, Bones remains a slick and fun diversion. (You can read what series creator Hart Hanson told me exclusively about Season Five of Bones here.) (Launches September 17th)

8 pm: Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday (NBC)

Looking for some news commentary in your Thursday night television lineup? You're in luck as NBC brings back Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday for a limited run this fall. And, even better, Amy Poehler is set to co-anchor the satirical news magazine in its first outing. (Launches September 17th)

8:30 pm: Parks and Recreation (NBC)

NBC's Amy Poehler vehicle Parks and Recreation started out wobbly (to say it kindly) but gradually found its footing and its humanity as the first season's six episodes wore on. I'm curious to see just what Greg Daniels and Mike Schur do with the Pawnee, Indiana-set workplace comedy this fall. Would I be wise to stop holding my breath that they'll ditch the clunky hidden camera format and just let the characters breathe? (Launches September 17th)

9 pm: Fringe (FOX)

The Abrams/Kurtzman/Orci sci-fi procedural returns this fall after getting kick-started in the second half of the freshman season with revelations about past sins and parallel dimensions. I'm still not crazy about the largely episodic nature of the series but there are enough intriguing threads of its overarching mythology to keep me watching and entertained, not to mention a little terrified at times. (You can read my advance review of Fringe's second season opener here.) (Launches September 17th)

9 pm: Skins (BBC America)

The imported British teen series is finding its way in its third season, which introduced a whole new group of Bristol teens to its devoted audience and shipped off its graduating class after two sex and drug-filled seasons. Skins is alternately controversial, shocking, hilarious, and emotionally gutting, offering a look at teens without a modicum of nostalgia or preciousness. (On Air)

9 pm: The Office (NBC)

I'm teetering on the edge of giving up on The Office altogether after failing to fall for the last few seasons. That is, whenever Amy Ryan's hysterical Holly Flax wasn't on screen. Sadly, Ryan won't be back but the employees of Scranton's Dunder Mifflin Paper Company continue to soldier on, despite a lack of focus and an over-reliance on familiar sitcom tropes. Here's hoping the new season will bring the (painfully) funny and (endearing) pathos back into balance. (Launches September 17th)

9:30 pm: Community (NBC)

Hands down one of the fall's most promising new series, Community is a witty and wicked single-camera comedy that revolves around the disparate students of Greendale Community College and the small community they form together. With a winning cast that includes Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs, Donald Glover, and Ken Jeong, Community is mordantly funny, deeply layered, and has an unexpectedly sweet emotional core. In other words: watch it. (You can read my advance review of the pilot episode here.) (Launches September 17th, then moves to 8 pm on October 8th)

9:30 pm: 30 Rock (NBC)

I want to go to there. NBC's gleefully subversive and TiVo-friendly comedy 30 Rock returns for a fourth season this fall and I'm already lining up at its famous address to enter its topsy-turvy world. Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) remain one of the best comedic duos and their odd couple--dare I say it?--friendship provides a strong throughline while the series' hilarious supporting cast keeps the madcap plots moving at a brisk pace. New adventures at TGS can't come quickly enough. (Launches October 15th)

10 pm: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

The laughs keep on coming on Thursdays. Bizarre, surreal, and absurd, FX's off-kilter comedy It's Always Sunny returns with a new batch of out-there plots, selfish characters, and side-splitting misadventures. Who knew that a low-budget comedy about a group of bar owners in Philadelphia would become one of my favorite television comedies? (Launches September 17th)

10 pm: Project Runway (Lifetime)

Sew what? Rounding out the night on Thursdays is sartorial competition series Project Runway, which is proving that its winning formula is at home anywhere, even on a totally different network altogether. As long as Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia stick around, I'll keep watching these designers make it work. (On Air)


9 pm: Dollhouse (FOX)

I thought that Joss Whedon's divisive metaphysical action/adventure series Dollhouse was rather hit or miss last season: a few strokes of genius, some head-scratching plotholes, and irritatingly episodic storytelling. But the unaired thirteenth episode, "Epitaph One," brought the series closer to its potential. I still think that had the exquisite Dichen Lachman been the series lead, Dollhouse would be a hell of a lot more compelling but that's a rather moot point. Still, I'll stick around to see if things improve at all in the sophomore season. (Launches September 25th)

9 pm: Southland (NBC)

What could be a run-of-the-mill cop drama is elevated by some fantastic performances, most notably from Benjamin McKenzie, Regina King, and Michael Cudlitz. Audiences seemed to be fleeing in droves as the series' first season wore on but there were some fantastic character studies going on amid the shootings, murders, and gangland violence. Plus, the series boasts one of the most cinematic and memorable opening credit sequences ever. It might be exiled to Friday nights (and now delayed until the end of October), but I'm curious to see just what new plots develop for these LAPD officers. (Launches October 23rd)

9 pm: Stargate Universe (Syfy)

Admittedly, I didn't get around this weekend to watching the three-hour series opener for Stargate Universe (this week, I promise!) but I am keeping an open mind about the series, the latest in the long line of Stargate franchise series, despite never having watched any of its predecessors. There's something darkly compelling about what I've seen so far and the struggle to survive is a timeline and universal one, adding an immediacy and vibrancy to the overarching plot. (Launches October 2nd)

9 pm: Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (BBC America)

I'll be winding down my week with Wossy as British talk show host welcomes such disparate guests as Dame Vivienne Westwood, Bono, Ricky Gervais, and James May every Friday night. (On Air)

10 pm: White Collar (USA)

Sometimes being bad is good. Neal Caffrey (Chuck's Matthew Bomer) is a slick and stylish career criminal with a penchant for forgeries and fine vintage suits. He's given an ankle monitor and teamed up with Peter Stokes (Carnivale's Tim DeKay), the gruffly intelligent FBI agent assigned to the white collar crime division who caught him twice before as they tackle some of the most crafty criminals in the business. Thanks to the winning chemistry between the two leads, White Collar is fun, fashionable, and clever. (You can read my advance review of the pilot episode here.) (Launches October 23rd)


Doctor Who Specials (BBC America)

David Tennant's swan song on Doctor Who begins this fall with the final three Doctor Who specials, which BBC America will air as close as possible to the original UK airdates. First up is "Waters of Mars," which finds the Doctor teaming up with Lindsay Duncan's Adelaide on Mars as they battle a water-based creature that infects its victims with a liquid compound. Then it's the final two-parter that brings the Doctor face to face with his ancient enemy The Master (John Simm) and his former companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). Something tells me that things won't end too well for the Tenth Doctor, sadly... (November and December TBA)

The Inbetweeners (BBC America)

I've been waxing enthusiastically about this British comedy series, which airs on E4 in the UK, for the last few months and I cannot wait for American audiences to fall in love with this hilarious and raucous series about four suburban teenage boys. You'll laugh, you'll squirm, you'll groan with painful recognition. Yet despite the gross-out humor, the casual nudity, and the humiliation of it all, there's an innate sweetness to the series that keeps you coming back for more. (You can read my review of the first three episodes here and my review of the entire first two seasons here.) (Launches TBA)

The Prisoner (AMC)

Hello, Number Six. The cult classic series The Prisoner is reimagined for a contemporary audience in this international co-production starring Jim Caviezel, Ian McKellan, Lennie James, Will Kemp, Hayley Atwell, and Jamie Campbell Bower. From the nine-minute clip package I saw, it looks to be a stylish mindgame of a puzzle that will keep us guessing over the course of its six hours. (Launches November TBA)

And there you have it: what I'll be watching this fall. What did I leave off and what will you be watching this fall? Discuss.


rockauteur said…
Jace - you incorrectly label Amazing Race as the "granddaddy of all reality series," when in fact, Survivor holds that crown. Survivor premiered in the summer of 2000 to massive ratings, whereas Amazing Race hit the scene after 9/11 in 2001 to poor ratings. Race narrowly escaped cancellation more than once, and only took off after it got a few seasons under its belt.

I'd classify more as a great uncle than granddaddy.
Jace Lacob said…

Would you prefer "elder respected statesman" then? Meant "granddaddy" not in the literal sense (which, agreed, Survivor would fit the bill) but in the quality arena.
Unknown said…
You mention all the things that I'm planning to watch except for one: Castle. Okay, yes, it's not really that awesome. The cases are utterly forgettable and the female lead is kind of blah. But Nathan Fillion steals the show and when's the last time he ever got a second season of anything? I know I'll be watching, even if just for him.
Anonymous said…
Awesome list but no Melrose Place or Supernatural?!?!?
Wes said…
Glad to see that some genre shows are represented here. I'll be watching all of these as well and thanks for mentioning Chuck too! :)
jeff said…
i thought you had enjoyed what you had seen of THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE enough to watch it this fall.
Bill Wilder said…
I am surprised you left out 2 great comedies on Monday nights... How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory... I LOVE Chuck and it is what I watch first ... but my week would not be complete without these hilarious, intelligent sitcoms....
ticknart said…
I'm with Bill, until Chuck comes back I'll still be laughing every Monday night with Mother and Big Bang.
kip said…
Ok, you are my TV Doppelganger for many nights.

The new inspector lewis mysteries are so well put together it's funny. They are complex and great to watch and there are no commercials so DVR them.
Hadley said…
Really, really looking forward to V and Modern Family. And, after your positive review, I think I'll check out White Collar too. Not something I'd normally watch but I trust your opinion!

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