It’s amazing how some of the best parts of the back-to-school season have so little to do with, well, actual school. Everything from picking out the right kind of toilet paper with my roommate, to charging a rainbow pack of 0.4 Stabilo pens to my campus card seems slightly romantic when I haven’t started worrying about who’ll buy the next pack of Charmin’ Ultra-Soft, or how much of my beautifully transcribed notes I’ll actually need to remember for an upcoming test. Even homework comes with a silver lining in the form of study breaks: moments when I can take a break from essay-writing to browse through someone’s album on Facebook, or have a snack, or catch up with my favorite TV show that’s on that night. Now that I’ve finished shopping for classes and have my schedule outlined in neat Sharpie-highlighted boxes, I can start concentrating on what really matters: outlining my fall television schedule.
Her Campus breaks down this season’s must-see TV lineup so that you can keep up with old favorites or check out a few new ones. For anyone out there without cable or a paid iTunes or Netflix account, check out Hulu.com or visit your local network’s websites for free access to past episodes. SPOILER WARNING!
- 30 Rock: 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) returns this fall to the joy of many. Liz is one of the funniest characters on television and despite all of the wedding bells that sounded at the end of last season, one of the best aspects of the show is that Liz is hilarious and single (at least for now). Although Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) may be tying the knot soon, viewers can always count on him and Liz to maintain their ridiculous—and platonic—relationship.
- Desperate Housewives: Anyone who thinks that Desperate Housewivesis losing steam should hang on for a little longer. Last season ended eventfully enough with a bomb, a baby and a few goodbyes, but Season 7 will be just as trying as the ladies of Wisteria Lane welcome a new housewife, Renée Perry (Vanessa Williams), into the ’burbs.
- Glee: I was a latecomer to the Gleeclub. I ignored my friends’ recommendations, overlooked trending topics on Twitter, and even tuned out the fantastic cover of “Don’t Stop Believing” that blared from every television and/or computer during Glee’s first season. I finally consented to checking out a few episodes after a friend “happened” to have one waiting in her Hulu queue when I came over for a visit. I’ve been hooked ever since. There are occasional episodes where the plot feels a little stagnant or the jokes are less-than-fresh, but I can always count on the cast’s ensemble musical sequences to pull through.
Glee premieres on Fox at 8/7c on Tuesday, September 21, but will move to Wednesdays at 9/8c when American Idol begins in January. Visit www.fox.com/watch/glee or www.hulu.com/glee to stream full episodes online.
- Gossip Girl: When we last left our well-dressed band of misfits, Dan was looking at sonogram pictures with Georgina; Jenny was hightailing it back to Hudson; Nate was steadily making his way through Chuck’s Little Black book; S and B were en route to Paris; and Chuck lay dying in the streets of Prague. I wondered if I should even tune in this season, but I realized that making the same six people end up with one another is not only a great exercise in mathematical permutations, but also that tossing everyone in Paris for an episode or two, as the trailers revealed, is their version of making baby steps.
Gossip Girl premieres on The CW at 9/8c on Monday, September 13. Visit www.cwtv.com/shows/gossip-girl to stream full episodes online.
- Grey’s Anatomy: Last season, Grey’s Anatomywent out with several bangs and more than a few whispers. To recap, the residents of Seattle Grace Hospital were besieged with a shootout in which several characters were critically injured or worse. But as I hear it, the elimination of some of the characters isn’t such a bad thing. With more than a few storylines to pick up on (Meredith’s miscarriage, the Lexie/Alex/Mark/Izzie love square, and Arizona and Callie’s semi-resolved debate over having children, just to name a few), Grey’s Anatomywon’t be slowing down any time soon.
- House: Everyone’s favorite misanthropic MD is back this season, but with a new love interest in the form of an old friend. At the end of last season, House and Cuddy got together just in time to avoid a relapse on House’s part. But will Cuddy’s admission of love be enough to keep House clean—and tolerable? (Cue Ke$sha’s “Your Love is My Drug”).
- Law & Order: SVU: Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni reprise their roles as Detectives Olivia Benson and Eliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVUthis fall. As the L&Ofranchise continues to shrink (and be displaced to Los Angeles), it’s comforting to know that our fictional friends on the best Law & Orderspinoff will continue catching “perps” and taking names.
Law & Order premieres on NBC at 9/8c on Wednesday, September 22.
- Modern Family: ABC’s hilarious mockumentary series, which pokes fun at what it means to be a “typical” American family, returns for its second season this fall. With past episodes that include mistaking the word “golddigger” for the words “coal digger,” and a huge birthday party gone wrong, Modern Familyis one of those rare shows that both critics and viewers love.
Modern Family premieres on ABC at 9/8c on Wednesday, September 22. Visit http://abc.go.com/shows/modern-family to stream full episodes online.
- Vampire Diaries: Since True Bloodhas ended and the next installment of the Twilightsaga has yet to be released, Vampire Diariesis the perfect show to slake your thirst for bloodsucking drama. With a nice-looking cast that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable whenever someone’s shirt is removed (coughunderageTaylorLautnercough), and plots that quicken your heartbeat using less blood, guts, and gore than HBO does, Vampire Diariesis actually a fun series that will definitely keep you entertained.
Vampire Diaries premieres on The CW at 8/7c on Thursday, September 9. Visit www.cwtv.com/shows/the-vampire-diaries to stream full episodes online.
- Hellcats: I think the jury’s still out on Hellcats, a new teen drama that recently debuted on The CW. The series plays with a few-too-many character tropes: the self-described “white trash” rocker-chick turned cheerleader (Aly Michalka); the doe-eyed, Type A captain of the squad (Ashley Tisdale); the jilted mean girl with an axe to grind (Heather Hemmens); and, of course, the boys-that-love-them-but-are-too-scared-to-say-so)—but strangely enough, I’m not completely turned off. Hellcatshasn’t yet found the perfect mix of irreverence and earnestness that a show like Gleehas, but it still manages to laugh at its genre while reminding us that cheerleading really does have an interesting history. Besides, a hip-hop/gymnastics/cheerleading routine is always a crowd pleaser, and Aly Michalka is a great performer.
Hellcats premieres on The CW at 9/8c on Wednesday, Sept.8. Visit www.cwtw.com/shows/hellcats to stream full episodes online.
- My Generation: ABC gets creative with its new faux-docudramedy, My Generation. According to the show’s premise, nine high school students had their lives documented in the oh-so-distant year of 2000, but reunite one decade later when the film crews return. With a cast that includes familiar faces like Sin City’s Jaime King or True Blood’s Mehcad Brooks (remember “Eggs”?), My Generationis likely to become one of this fall’s most popular shows on television.
- No Ordinary Family: I’ve been a Michael Chiklis fan since he starred in The Shieldon F/X (when I was way too young to be watching that show at all). Chiklis’s last big role since the conclusion of The Shieldwas the part of “Ben Grimm” in The Fantastic 4movies—a fact that is pretty ironic considering that his new show, No Ordinary Family, sounds like a mash-up of The Fantastic 4and The Incredibles. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. Now that Heroeshas gone off the air, it’ll be interesting to see how ABC sustains its own ordinary-to-extraordinary family plotline.
- $#*! My Dad Says: I don’t know how long I’ll stick with CBS’s Twitter-inspired sitcom, $#*! My Dad Says, but I definitely plan to see the pilot. Transforming dozens of snarky, 140-character Tweets into 30 minutes of quality primetime television won’t be easy, but Will Shatner was cast perfectly as the curmudgeonly old man with sharp one-liners.
$#*! My Dad Says premieres on CBS at 8:30/7:30c on Thursday, September 23. Visit this site to stream full episodes online.
- Undercovers: In Lostcreator J.J. Abrams’s new series for ABC, Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw play a happily married couple with a successful catering business and little time to themselves. The pair reverts back to its former life of espionage and intrigue when the temptation for adventure proves too great to resist. While I was abroad last semester I had the wonderful experience of listening to my roommate squeal every week about the finale of Lost, so even though it’s too late to join the old J.J. Abrams bandwagon, I now have the opportunity to jump onto this one. Undercoversis not as much of a high-concept show as Lostwas, but it still seems to strike a nice balance among all that’s fun, funny, and sexy about spies.
- America’s Next Top Model: ANTM started getting old a few cycles ago but Tyra Banks’s antics never fail to amuse. Plus, since the show’s new season just started, there’s still time to see which girls flip out after their makeovers.
America’s Next Top Model premieres on The CW at 8/7c on Wednesday, September 8. Go to their site to stream full episodes online.
- Dancing with the Stars: Although I’ve never watched Dancing with the Starsbefore, I actually might tune in this season just to see Audrina Patridge, Bristol Palin, and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino face off in a competition where—as disappointing as it may be to all of us—catfights, media prep, and *GTL are absolutely useless.
Dancing with the Stars premieres on ABC at 8/7c on Wednesday, September 20. Go to ABC or Hulu to stream full episodes online.
*To those of you who have not been sucked into the world of The Jersey Shore, GTL (or “Gym, Tan, Laundry”) refers to the Jersey Shoreguys’ routine of exercising, tanning, and doing laundry before going out on the town. Charming, right?