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The Fall’s Top TV Shows: What you should be watching (when you should be studying)!

Arguably the best thing about the fall is the return of primetime television. Finally, after a summer of reality shows that lower your brain cell count during each viewing (with a few gems such as True Blood and Mad Men thrown in the mix), we get to watch fresh seasons of our favorite shows! There are dozens of programs both old and new to feast your eyes on, so here’s a handy guide to what to look out for as the fall premieres head our way:

Returning:

30 Rock (premieres Oct. 15 on NBC at 9:30/8:30c) When I first saw an episode of 30 Rock, I was completely floored by the writing. The comedy of this show is brilliant; Alec Baldwin is perfect as the network’s arrogant head honcho and Tina Fey delivers a great performance as the always-awkward Liz Lemon (although I think that Jack McBrayer’s Kenneth steals the show!). With so many Emmy wins and nominations under its belt, it’s truly a wonder that 30 Rock doesn’t have a larger following. If you like 30 Rock, you’ll love...Curb Your Enthusiasm (premieres Sept. 20 on HBO at 9/8c) If you’re a fan of bizarre and humorous misunderstandings, you’re probably a fan of Seinfeld. And if you’re a fan of Seinfeld, you shouldn’t miss creator Larry David’s latest project on HBO. Curb is a comedy based on Larry David’s life in Hollywood, although it’s almost totally improvised, and, since it’s HBO, extraordinarily crude at times. I’ve been waiting for the seventh season for two years, so I surely won’t be missing this premiere!

Dollhouse (premieres Sept. 18 on Fox at 9/8c) I’m a huge sci-fi geek, so when I found out that Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) was coming out with a new show, I began chomping at the bit with anticipation. Dollhouse finally premiered last year, and although it took some time to build up steam, it’s now a must-see for sci-fi fans. The premise is Whedonesque in the best way: elite secret agents who live in the “Dollhouse” are programmed with specific skills and contracted out for missions. When the missions are completed, the agents’ minds are wiped clean…but things start to go wrong when Echo, one of the “dolls,” becomes self-aware. Awesome, right? If you like Dollhouse, you’ll love…Firefly (season 1 available on DVD) Firefly was Whedon’s “failed” Fox project in 2002. Failed, I say, not because it was a bad show—in fact, it’s one of my all-time favorites—but because people just didn’t seem to get it. The plot is difficult to explain, but in essence, Firefly is a “space Western” that follows a group of space-cowboy smugglers in the year 2517. The elaborate back-story and brilliant dialogue make for an extremely entertaining series. Although it only lasted for one season, it attained cult status when the 2005 feature film based off the series, Serenity, was released to bring closure to the story.

Family Guy (premieres Sept. 27 on Fox at 9/8c) It’s irreverent, random, and often excessively offensive. But, hey, what else do you expect from the warped mind of Seth McFarlane? Whether you’re a hardcore Family Guy fan or a first-time viewer, just one episode will leave you in stitches. The only negative side effect of watching this show is that you’ll argue with your friends over which bits are the funniest. I’m usually partial to baby Stewie’s antics, but whenever the whole Griffin clan is involved, the show is an absolute riot! If you like Family Guy, you’ll love…Robot Chicken (now airing on Cartoon Network at 12:00/12:15 a.m.) Love the humor of Family Guy? Enjoy obscure pop culture references? Obsessed with Star Wars? If you answered “yes” to at least two of these questions, then chances are you’ll love Robot Chicken. Each episode is approximately 10 minutes long, comprised of random stop-motion animation skits about everything from celebrity train wrecks to comic book superheroes. The show parodies pop culture with the crudest humor imaginable, but if Family Guy does not offend you, then you should be able to stomach what Robot Chicken has to offer.

Gossip Girl (premieres Sept. 14 on the CW at 9/8c) It’s the show we all love to indulge in but deny watching. Whether you root for Dan and Serena, or Serena and Nate, or Nate and Blair, or Blair and Chuck (is your head spinning yet?), you know you love this show. It’s pure escapism, a glamorous way to end a not-so-glamorous Monday of classes and studying. Even if the dialogue is cheesy and the drama overwrought, Gossip Girl is still a fun show to watch. But if you find yourself narrating the lives of your school’s elite in Kristen Bell’s voice, it might be time to lay off GG for a while. If you like Gossip Girl, you’ll love…Friday Night Lights (premieres midseason) I just recently got into Friday Night Lights, but I’m positive that this is one of the most underrated teen soaps on TV. The show is about a football team in small-town Texas, but the series focuses on the team’s coach and his family, delving into the personal issues many teen soaps address but exploring them in a realistic and heartfelt manner. Critics lauded FNL when it first debuted, and the series even won an Emmy award. If you like shows such as Gossip Girl but crave something more intelligent, FNL might be the series for you.

House (premieres Sept. 21 on Fox at 8/7c) If you don’t know what House is about, check to see if you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years. If you aren’t watching House yet, have your doctor write out a prescription for season 1. To put it simply, House is one of the best shows on television right now. The writing is smart, the plotlines are superb, and, well, Gregory House is quite possibly the most bada** doc to have ever graduated from medical school. A word of caution before the season premiere: House may be habit-forming. Heed all warning labels before turning on your TV, and remember not to fall in love with Dr. Chase. Unfortunately, he’s not real. I know, I know. Here’s a tissue. If you like House, you’ll love…Law and Order: SVU (premieres Sept. 23 on NBC at 9/8c) It’s hard to find a medical drama quite like House, but as a crime show, SVU shares many similarities. Excellent writing and riveting plot twists keep SVU fresh, even after ten years of being on the air. It’s very easy to get into SVU if you’ve never seen it before; you can enjoy each episode individually without feeling out of the loop. Every episode has an original, engaging story, so it’s hard to get bored watching this crime drama.

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New:



Community
(premieres Sept. 17 on NBC at 9:30/8:30c) Maybe I’m too much of a television snob (although my love for Gossip Girl kinda contradicts that), but there are only two new shows this fall that look any good. Judging from the previews I’ve seen, Community has some promise. Starring Joel McHale of The Soup, this show is all about Jeff, a lawyer who must go back to school after the State Bar deems his degree invalid. Usually I’m wary of new comedies that try way too hard to be funny, but the humor in Community is advertised as sharp and witty. After all, it’s Joel McHale. I could watch him in anything!

FlashForward (premieres Sept. 24 on ABC at 8/7c) The competition among new shows this season is almost unfair, because it seems that FlashForward has already emerged as the winner this fall. This is odd, as not much is known about the sci-fi premise; all we can glean from the advertising campaign is that a mysterious global event causes everyone to black out and experience a short flash-forward to his or her life six months in the future. But if the series’s plot is mostly under wraps, then why is the show being billed as the best this fall? According to recent Nielson polling, FlashForward has an unusually strong intent-to-view sentiment among viewers aware of the show. It seems that ABC is trying to make FlashForward into the network’s next Lost; if the pilot lives up to the hype, ABC might just have another hit on its hands.

But enough about the shows I’m looking forward to this fall. On college campuses across the country, students are gearing up for their favorites to return to the small screen. What is everyone else tuning into?

Victoria Guerrera, Emerson College ’11: “When Lost is on, no one talks for that hour. When Project Runway is on, everyone talks like Tim Gunn for the rest of the night.” Elana Altman, Wellesley College ’11: “Grey's Anatomy is doubtlessly the most popular show on my campus. The TV room always fills up, and loud passersby are immediately shushed if they interrupt a life-saving surgery or a flirtation between McDreamy and Meredith.”

Cara Sprunk, Cornell University ’10: “I personally am really looking forward to The Beautiful Life!” Joanna Buffum, Bowdoin College ’11: “I have a ton of pre-med friends and even though I'm not [pre-med], we are all absolutely OBSESSED with House. Hugh Laurie is amazing and this season should be interesting because the season finale was a huge twist.”

Now that we’ve jam-packed your TV schedule, just don’t forget to leave a little time for studying!

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