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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
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All Caught Up? The 10 Must-See Series Returning This Fall

By Rachel Bennett
Television Editor & Columnist

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Fall TV is upon us, and although the focus is primarily on the new series of the season, many of your favorites are also returning. There are also numerous shows you’ve probably been meaning to check out over the summer, whether you keep seeing them on your Twitter feed or hearing about them in the office, but you just haven’t had the chance to tune in. Luckily, there’s still time to catch up, so here are the top 10 shows you need to see before fall — with spoiler alerts included for those major developments you might have missed.

1. Homeland (Showtime)

Homeland was undoubtedly the best new show of the 2011-2012 season, with phenomenal performances from Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin (Danes and Lewis are nominated for a Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy, respectively). The suspenseful and smart series is also the only new drama to be up for an Outstanding Drama Series Emmy, beating out critically acclaimed series CBS’s The Good Wife, FX’s Justified and HBO’s Luck for a nomination. And for good reason: There’s nothing else on TV quite like it. There are only 12 episodes in the first season, so it shouldn’t take long to catch up before the season two premiere Sept. 30.

2. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

[SPOILER ALERT] Boardwalk Empire took a big gamble last season when it killed off Jimmy (Michael Pitt), one of the show’s leads, in the finale. Fans were largely not pleased with the decision, and it remains to be seen if season three can convince them to stay if they haven’t already left. Whether or not the show can maintain its momentum, the performances of Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald are fantastic, and the addition of Bobby Cannavale as Nucky’s foe should be a great one. Though Boardwalk Empire has received critical acclaim, it’s never quite had the hype of AMC’s Mad Men and Breaking Bad — but third time may be a charm when it returns Sept. 16.

3. Community (NBC)

For such a little-watched comedy, Community generated a lot of buzz this summer when it was announced that creator Dan Harmon was fired by NBC. Viewers were just calming down from the excitement of the show being renewed for a fourth, albeit shortened, season when the news hit. Harmon was the voice behind the eccentric and brilliant Community, so what was the point of bringing it back without him? This blow and a move to Friday nights, following the incompatible Whitney, will be hard for the series to overcome. New showrunners Moses Port and David Guarascio have a lot to live up to, including devoted fans’ high expectations, so the season premiere Oct. 19 should not be missed.

4. Revenge (ABC)

The second best new show of the 2011-2012 season seemed to come out of nowhere. Vague promos did little to highlight the suspense and soapiness that the series would ultimately deliver, but one just has to watch the premiere to see it’s the best guilty pleasure on broadcast networks. The series was also a coming out party for lead Emily VanCamp, who’s done good work on The WB’s Everwood and ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, and a homecoming for the wonderfully evil Madeleine Stowe. With multiple cliffhangers that put three characters’ lives at risk, the Sept. 30 premiere cannot come soon enough.

5. The Walking Dead (AMC)

In August 2011, it came as a surprise to many — including the series’ cast — when The Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont was let go in the middle of production on the second season. This initially seemed like a death sentence for The Walking Dead, but once the season began, it was evident the first half of the season was the disappointment. It wasn’t until the latter half debuted, which was more under the control of new showrunner Glen Mazzara, that the series again picked up steam. The finale only helped to boost interest in the series, when more integral characters and places from the comics were introduced. The third season bows Oct. 14, just in time for Halloween.

6. The Vampire Diaries (The CW)

For those who don’t watch The Vampire Diaries, it may seem like nothing more than a Twilight rip-off. Aside from the presence of, yes, vampires, werewolves and teens with six-packs, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The drama, entering its fourth season, is surprisingly thrilling, clever and entertaining, taking big risks when it could probably just get by on sex. Characters are never safe, and just when you think you have it figured out, the rug’s pulled out from under you. [SPOILER ALERT] With the finale reveal that protagonist Elena (Nina Dobrev) was turned into a vampire, the series once again took a leap of faith — and the Oct. 11 premiere will show if it can land on its feet.

7. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 (ABC)

ABC has had hits with many of its comedies the past few years, including Suburgatory, Happy Endings and Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy nominee Modern Family. Though Don’t Trust the B had only seven episodes in its first season, it’s proven itself to be a worthy addition. The series still has some kinks to work out, but its hilarious cast makes it a must-see. Krysten Ritter finally gets to lead after being a supporting character for years, Dreama Walker is a good foil and a rising star in her own right (check out the reviews for her drama Compliance), and James Van Der Beek seems to be having a blast poking fun at himself. Just tune into the second season premiere on Oct. 23 — trust me.

8. Fringe (Fox)

Since the end of ABC’s Lost in 2010, many have wondered what would take its place as the next great science-fiction series. Well, it may have already arrived. Fringe has recently experienced an uphill battle in the ratings, but positive reviews and a passionate fanbase have allowed it to remain on the air for five seasons. Fringe, along with its cast (especially John Noble), is consistently snubbed by the Emmys and Golden Globes, but that doesn’t keep it from being one of the most original and intelligent programs on TV. The fifth and final season of 13 episodes debuts Sept. 28, and it promises to be just as riveting as ever.

9. Castle (ABC)

When Castle premiered in 2009, it may have seemed like just another detective show. However, that quickly changed due to the at-times lighthearted nature of the series and charisma of star Nathan Fillion, who finally found a hit after starring in numerous canceled programs (Fox’s Drive and Firefly, to name two). [SPOILER ALERT] The fourth season finale finally, after years of going back and forth, found Castle and Beckett (Stana Katic) revealing their feelings for each other. The fifth season, which begins Sept. 24, will pick up with the relationship intact, presenting fun yet challenging obstacles for the pair in and outside the workplace.

10. How I Met Your Mother (CBS)

Going into its eighth season premiere, How I Met Your Mother may have overstayed its welcome – How long are we supposed to wait for Ted (Josh Radnor) to find his soulmate? But there’s reason to believe the upcoming season will be a breath of fresh air. [SPOILER ALERT] Not only is there a new crew member (Welcome, Marvin Waitforit Eriksen!), but it was finally revealed that Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) will get married. How the show will adjust to these changes, especially with Barney having just become engaged to someone else, will be a new and welcome challenge for the series. This may also be the show’s final year (the cast is only contracted through season eight), so it could be last call for the gang beginning Sept. 24.

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