Expect this list to change as the season goes on. TV shows, and new TV shows in particular, tend to have insecure lives. The TV business is fickle and flighty, and if network executives aren't happy with ad revenue or ratings, a new show can get the axe pretty quick. The last decade of television has seen dozens, if not hundreds, of network TV series' cancelled before their initial story arcs were even begun, much less allowed to play out (Heather Graham had a series last precisely one episode a few years ago). That doesn't count the piles of shows that have pilot episodes written, cast, and shot, only to be tossed to the death pile at NBC, ABC, or CBS (not Fox--they'll put any drivel on the air). I guess what I'm saying is, this might not be what I'm watching in a month.
With the exception of Top Chef Just Desserts, none of these shows have had their premieres at the time of this posting, so there's still time to set up DVR's (or VCR's, for all you Luddites out there). As we go through the season, I'll be writing up episode recaps for a few shows, but I haven't quite decided which shows or episodes. It'll probably be sort of hit and miss for a while, but suggest shows you want to hear a short essay about, and you just might get one.
Community (NBC, Thursdays at 8:00)
It should be no surprise that this is on this list, but what was surprising is the lack of Emmy attention it garnered this summer. Now, I think The Office and 30 Rock are fine shows, but not a single nomination for this cast? Not even Starburns? Come on... Continuing last season's strong lineup of guest stars (Jack Black, Lee Majors, Tony Hale, et al) will be Betty White in the premiere (and I think that's probably just about enough of her remaining time we should be wresting away from her, don't you think?). Here's hoping they don't hit a sophomore slump with that rather awkwardly set up love triangle from the season finale last spring.
Big Bang Theory (CBS, Thursdays at 8:00)
This is one of those shows that seems to fly under everyone's radar, and yet pulls in bigger and bigger ratings every season. Entering its fourth this fall, the show should benefit from exposure due to Jim Parson's Emmy win (which is really the reason that I'm not TOO upset about the Community snub), and CBS obviously thinks it can compete on Thursday night. It's nerd humor, people...embrace it.
Chuck (NBC, Mondays at 8:00)
I keep thinking this show is finished, but it's just the little engine that could. It's taken Subway grass roots campaigns and fan revolts to keep it on the air since it began, but the show finally seemed to sink into its groove last season. And one sweet reason to watch: Linda Hamilton as Chuck's mom.
Castle (Mondays at 10:00)
On its face, this is really just another crime-of-the-week police procedural (a la Law and Order, CSI, NCIS, etc), but I love this show for one reason--Nathan Fillion. His crime novelist character's wit, and chemistry with co-star Stana Katic, really makes the show eminently watchable. Also, I've read his character's first book, and a new one's on the way to correspond with the premiere. Maybe I'll review them someday...
Modern Family (Wednesdays at 9:00)
Last year's overwhelmingly successful rookie series delivered at least 3 guaranteed laughs every week. Can they keep it up? Believe in Fizzbo...
Boardwalk Empire (HBO, Sundays at 9:00)
HBO drama has established itself as the vanguard of television. The Sopranos, True Blood, Big Love, Six Feet Under, The Wire...if it's groundbreaking and critically acclaimed, odds are it's on HBO. Boardwalk Empire is the newest entry, and revisits Prohibition-era Atlantic City. Steve Buscemi heads up a great cast as a gangster kingpin, most likely with nasally-delivered snappy comebacks.
Undercovers (NBC, Wednesdays at 8:00)
This is another new series, so let's not get too attached to it yet. However, I've enjoyed just about every damn thing J.J. Abrams has done (Lost, Alias, Star Trek, Cloverfield...not Felicity, though). This show looks to me like a cross between Alias and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, so it's worth a look.
The Walking Dead (AMC, premieres Halloween)
I'm actually very excited about this one, as regular readers are probably aware. AMC does good TV, and that should extend to tense post-apocalyptic drama. Though a light-hearted Simon Pegg cameo would not go unappreciated.
Top Chef Just Desserts (Bravo, Wednesdays at 10:00)
It just may be that Bravo squeezes this franchise a little too hard, but I suppose desserts need drama too. The perennial problem on Top Chef of no one wanting to do a dessert (or worse, doing one and going home for it) is solved by a whole new series, with skilled young pastry chefs competing for the title of Top Chef...