As I noted one year ago today, I get more excited than most people by the start of a new television season. While Louie, Mad Men, and Pretty Little Liars have done a decent job of satisfying my TV-fix over the summer, I’m ready for a full slate of new shows. Of course, some of these will disappoint: My list from 2009 included such letdowns as FlashForward, Bored to Death, and the most recent seasons of How I Met Your Mother and The Hills. At the same time, though, shows I hadn’t expected to like, like Modern Family and Parks and Recreation, made up for it with great seasons. So even though this list will probably look equally stupid a year from now, here are the 10 things I’m most excited about this fall on TV:
10. The Event Premieres Monday September 20 on NBC
Now, I know this show is probably not going to be good. It seems like a show constructed around a marketing premise (“What is the event?”) and cribbing from the likes of 24 and Lost. Basically, it’s this year’s FlashForward. As with all of these shows, there is a very low probability of success—but if it does turn out to be good, it could possibly fill the void left by the end of Lost last May.*
*Another reason I’m intrigued by the show: Since the idea of a black president is as innovative as it used to be, having already been done in Deep Impact, 24, and real life, the producers of The Event decided to make the President Latino, naming him Eli Martinez. But then Blair Underwood, a quite obviously African-American actor, won the part, and yet the character kept the same name. So what gives? Is Underwood playing a Hispanic? Will this be addressed? Am I the only who cares about these things?
9. Survivor: Nicaragua Premieres Wednesday September 15 on CBS
Well, Tim finally convinced me. Based on his investment in the last season of Survivor, he inspired me to watch some of last season’s finale, which was enough for me to commit to watching the next season of the show in full—my first season of the show, after more than ten years on the air. And then I found out Jimmy Johnson was going to be on this season! Man, it’s like fate wants me to watch this show…
8. Lone Star Premieres Monday September 20 on FOX
The previews for this show don’t make it seem like the conceit—a con man wants to turn his con life into his real life—is enough to propel an entire series. At the same time, shows that don’t seem to have a clear long-term arc can often be forced to be more creatively innovative (see: Breaking Bad), and the reviews for this pilot have been great. Plus, it’s got Adrianne Palicki from Friday Night Lights, so that’s another reason be optimistic.
7. Running Wilde Premieres Tuesday September 21 on FOX
Um, it’s Will Arnett teamed with Mitch Hurwitz again. Do I need another reason to be excited for this show?
6. Dexter Returns Sunday September 26 on Showtime
With Season Four’s game-changing ending, I’ve never been more excited for a new season of this show. And the fact the previews for Season Five clearly show that the story picks up right where it left it off shows that the issues resulting from last year’s twist won’t be skirted around or avoided.
5. Community Premieres Thursday September 23 on NBC
Modern Family Premieres Wednesday September 22 on ABC
Last year’s two best new sitcoms return, with Modern Family riding its Emmy win and Community hoping to recapture the momentum it had towards the end of last season. If these two shows can sustain the quality of their respective first seasons, then it will almost make up for Parks and Recreation getting bumped to midseason…almost.
4. Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Cutthroat Premieres Wednesday October 6 on MTV
Coming off of Fresh Meat II, arguably the best season of The Challenge yet, MTV is hoping to sustain its momentum by shaking up the format. The new season will have three teams, which should make a lot of the standard strategies irrelevant and open up the game for some new competitors. The only downside, though, is that this season will not have Landon.
3. Boardwalk Empire Premieres Sunday September 19 on HBO
The creative team includes Terence Winter, who wrote 25 episodes of The Sopranos including the famous “Pine Barrens” episode, and Martin Scorcese, possibly the greatest living film director. The cast includes Steve Buscemi, one of the most underrated actors in the world, and Michael K. Williams, who played arguably the greatest character in television history. And it’s a show about crime and gangsters on HBO. So it has a few things going for it.
2. Friday Night Lights Premieres Wednesday October 27 on DirecTV
Following the best season of the show yet, Friday Night Lights enters its fifth and final season. And while most of the characters who started on the show—Jason Street, Smash Williams, Matt Saracen, Tim Riggins, Lyla Garrity, Tyra Collette—are gone now, the new kids introduced last season are still around. And, of course, the heart of the show—the Taylor family—is still there. Hopefully the show’s final season can provide the type of closure that the series deserves.
1. Conan Premieres Monday November 8 on TBS
Of course the most anticipated new show of the fall—Conaw—will require the longest wait. Not until November will we finally get to see the return of Conan O’Brien to late-night. And while the excitement won’t match the excitement that surrounded The Tonight Show back in January, it will certainly be fun to see what Conan does without the constraints of NBC and burden to appeal to a new fan-base. In all likelihood, the new show will be more purely O’Brien’s vision than anything since the heyday of Late Night.