The Ten Must-See Shows of the Fall TV Season

Blood, sweat and tears were poured into this week’s Fall TV Preview by the FSR staff, and what better way could there be to bring it all to an end than to compile our favorite upcoming shows into one of our world famous top ten lists? Of course, we still have a few shows to talk about in Friday’s line-up, but it doesn’t look like any of them will be making it onto this list. The likes of NBC’s “Life” and Sci-Fi’s “Stargate: Atlantis” probably deserve an honorable mention, but they certainly aren’t going to top the ten shows below. That said, we’ve mixed the new with the old and dug through this fall’s entire prime time line-up to bring you the Ten Must-See Shows of the Fall TV Season:

10. Fringe (Fox) Airs Tuesdays 9/8c, Premieres September 9th 8/7c
One of several new shows for Fox this year, Fringe is the latest from the evil genius JJ Abrams, examining the relationship between science and the paranormal. When a flight from Germany to Boston lands with a crew and passenger manifest of grizzly bodies, Special FBI agent Olivia Dunham is brought in to investigate the cause. Dunham’s trails lead her to a mad scientist named Dr. Walter Bishop, (John Noble, aka the Steward of Gondor himself!) whose experiments in the area seem tailor made for the situation but the only way to him is through is his estranged son, good ol’ Pacey Witter. Sorry, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson). Cue much experimentation on Dunham in a desperate effort to solve the case, experimentation which may have lasting effects. Despite the pilot’s storyline revolving around an airline disaster, the show seems to share more elements with “The X-Files” than “Lost.” Though it has buckets of potential, it remains to be seen whether Fringe will have the popularity of JJ’s other smash. – Michelle Graham

9. Entourage (HBO) Airs Sundays 10/9c, Premieres September 7th
The finale of season 4 was less than stellar for our favorite posse, unless you count Johnny Chase’s three hour sex encounter with his new French love interest. Season 5 will offer a chance at redemption for Vincent Chase and friends, including Ari, who overplayed his hand on the Cannes bomb Medellin. Can Harvey Weingard, who bought the flick for a dollar, turn it into the next Shakespeare in Love? We don’t know. We do know this, the 5th season of “Entourage” will bring more laughs, more Johnny Drama, more women, and the return of Vinny’s publicist, Shauna. Vince’s friend, Dom (who fans were mixed about) also will show up, possibly in a more serious storyline where he deals with terminal cancer. Now’s a good time to join the entourage, if you aren’t in already. – Rob Hunter

8. True Blood (HBO) Airs Sundays 9/8c, Premieres September 7th
HBO is a reliable home for cutting edge series, and this fall’s “True Blood” seems to be no exception. Japanese scientists have perfected a synthetic blood which aside from more common medical uses also is found to satiate the thirst of vampires. Now that the bloodsuckers are no longer a threat to humanity, they find themselves “coming out of the coffin” and attempting to join society. While events around the world are discussed, most of the action centers on a small town in Louisiana where one psychic waitress (Anna Paquin) will confront intolerance, mystery, and bad tips. “True Blood” is created by Alan Ball (”Six Feet Under”) and based on the novels of Charlaine Harris. I personally find vampires to be incredibly boring, but I’ll be giving True Blood a chance based on its pedigree and possibility. – Rob Hunter

7. The Shield (FX) Airs Tuesdays 10/9c, Premieres September 2nd
This was a very tough preview to get done, because it turns out that very few of our staff members are all caught up on “The Shield,” but many of you probably are. So here’s what you need to know: “The Shield” is a television powerhouse, a multiple Emmy award winner and one of the most heralded cable shows of all-time. This year, it enters its seventh and final season, a season that will finally answer the burning question that is on the minds of all of its fans: How will it end for Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis)? All will be revealed by the end of this final season to this extraordinary show. If you are a “Shield” fan, then you don’t need me to tell you to watch it — your DVR is already set. If you aren’t on this bandwagon yet, then you’ve got 6 seasons to catch up on, so get moving. – Neil Miller

6. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX) Airs Thursdays 10/9c, Premieres September 18th
Prostitution. Dumpster babies. Mental and physical disabilities. Abortion. These are just a few of the less-controversial topics dealt with in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” The breakout show that may have cost as little as $85 to get off the ground has become an institution for those bored with conventional television. Mac, Dennis, Charlie, Sweet Dee, and Frank are hands down the worst people in sitcom history, doing and saying things that would leave Archie Bunker slackjawed and making the sign of the cross. They’ve exploited a faux-religious miracle, pretended to be pro-life in order to score chicks and developed a hilarious crack addiction. Hilarious. Crack. Addiction. Basically, it’s not so much pushing the envelope as it is shoving it to the ground, pissing on it, and then making love to its mother in front of it. And we’ll be laughing the entire time. – Cole Abaius

Gossip Girl (The CW) Airs Mondays 8/7c, Premieres September 1st
That’s right. I watch “Gossip Girl.” And not just for Kristen Bell. Although it would be easy to do the macho thing and claim that the two main reasons I watch are Blake Lively, I’ve never been known to pull off the macho act. Besides, it’s probably the trashiest, most unrealistic, bourgeoisie-infested show on TV, and that’s a great thing. It’s eye candy in more ways than one. Pretty, young things living the high life and sleeping around are good to look at, but the plotlines are incredibly easy to digest despite being hard to swallow. Still, marketing the show by using the negative quotes from major outlets was ingenious, and the continuing current of attractive people doing things we wish we could do with money we wish we had make it difficult to deny. After the first season of following around Dan and Serena fall in and out of love, Blair and Nate falling in and out of love, and Chuck falling deeper in love with himself, the second season promises more of the same dramatics. This time, from scenic The Hamptons! – Cole Abaius

4. 30 Rock (NBC) Airs Thursday 9:30/8:30c, Premieres October 30th
There’s only one question to ask when it comes to the Emmy Award winning comedy. Why the hell aren’t you watching it? The show is the funniest and most random show on television, thanks in large part to show creator and star, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and the highly underrated Tracey Morgan. Season 2 ended with Liz (Fey) ready to adopt a child after a false pregnancy. Jack (Baldwin) returns from his horrendous government job after coming up with plans for a “gay bomb”, and the rest of the ensemble continued to live out their lifelong dreams, whether is was Tracey Jordan making Benjamins off a porn video game, or pageboy Kenneth ending up with Asian beauties at the Beijing Olympics. The third season will bring stars galore with “Friends” and John Mayer alum Jennifer Aniston stopping by. Aniston will play a stalker who grows lose to Jack. The biggest ratings boost for “30 Rock” might be coming, however, with a guest spot by media mogul and creator of the largest female cult following since Tampax, Oprah Winfrey. Seriously, this woman could tell ladies everywhere to shave their heads because it helps cool them down, and the next day America would be filled with Natalie Portman in V For Vendetta clones. Hell, whatever it takes to keep this brilliant show on the air, I am up for. I’ll just have to buy wigs for all the female viewers. – Adam Sweeney

3. The Office (NBC) Airs Thursdays 9/8c, Premieres September 25th
After each season finale of “The Office” I expect to hear that the show has been canceled. Not due to anything negative mind you, but because lead Steve Carell is now a movie star, and when TV stars get big enough to open a film they usually kiss the boob tube goodbye and never look back… Ted Danson and David Caruso for example. We’re heading into the fifth season this month, and the show’s still going incredibly strong thanks to sharp writing and the best ensemble cast on TV. ‘The Office’ also managed to survive Jim and Pam’s “will they won’t they” friendship changing into a romantic relationship, which has been a death knell for other great shows. Last season did end on a downer with the departure of Toby (Paul Lieberstein) whose understated and subtle comedic genius will be sorely missed, but after four solid seasons I’m no longer doubting that the quality and character of ‘The Office’ will continue. – Rob Hunter

2. Heroes, NBC, Airs Mondays 9/8c (Premieres September 22)
If there’s one thing “Heroes” do well, it’s saving the world, right? So they did again in the Season 2 finale, destroying a deadly strain of the Shanti Virus. The stakes have been raised in Season 3, titled Villains, as each hero’s loyalty will be tested, new foes will emerge, some from Level 5, the prison to the deadliest threats to the world, and some within the heroes themselves. Mohinder and Maya look to turn up the heat with a possible relationship, we will get the much anticipated return of Sylar, Season 1’s supreme badass, as he sets out to turn everyone’s favorite cheerleader, Claire’s world upside down, and Hiro will meet his match, a lightning fast vixen who’d give Usain Bolt a run for his money. For the heroes, this is only the beginning of their sensational saga. “Heroes” has changed the way we watch television, made it cool to like superheroes, and the 3rd season “Villains” will be groundbreaking, Earth shattering, and as compelling as any show on television. – Adam Sweeney

1. Dexter (Showtime) Airs Sundays 9/8c, Premieres September 28th
“Dexter” is all about upping the ante. When you’re telling the story of a serial killer who works as a blood splatter technician for the Miami metro police who still hasn’t told his sister or girlfriend about his hellish hobby, it’s easy to keep the tension at the breaking point. Dexter Morgan has braved his psychopathic brother, the looming threat of a suspiciously obsessed coworker, and the wiles of a gorgeous woman with a penchant for arson. It stepped out at the end of Season 2 uncaptured, unscathed, and back in the arms of the woman he loves. But all is not well. Dexter is on the brink of existential crisis – questioning the very foundations of why he does what he does, hoping to create lasting relationships for the first time in his life, and destroying the mental idol he’s created of his father Harry’s memory. Season 3 promises to find Dexter getting sloppy, violating his moral code and discovering spontaneity. From a show that’s already kept audiences breathless and cheering for the serial killer, the next frontier is to give that charismatic anti-hero the freedom to do anything he wants. And with freedom, comes an even greater chance of getting caught. If you aren’t already obsessed with this show, now’s a good time to breeze through the first two seasons and start settling in for an unsettling Sunday night. – Cole Abaius

For more, check out our 2008 Fall TV Preview page.

What shows are you looking forward to most in the upcoming Fall TV season?

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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