Entertainment
The Gauntlet

An autumn TV line-up you'll fall for

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If there's one thing I know, it's TV. I'm the kind of person that can devour a 13-episode season in two days (for the record, I'm talking HBO hour-long episodes, not that wimpy 43-minute garbage that airs on cable providers). I pick up shows at an alarming rate and once I'm a season deep, I become too invested to quit, no matter how zany or ridiculous they become -- I'm looking at you True Blood. You had so much potential.

So, in the next few hundred words or so, I'll outline some of the best returning TV shows this fall and some of the new ones that look promising. Studying can wait, it's TV time.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia [Returns Sept. 16 on FX; Thursday 10 p.m.]

There are a lot of words people throw around when defining the word "sociopath." Remorseless, lack of empathy, pleasure-seeking, antisocial and amoral come to mind. You can mix and match from this grab-bag to define the main characters of It's Always Sunny. Charlie, Sweet Dee, Dennis, Mac and Frank are a messed up bunch, but they have this ridiculous chemistry that makes their antics absolutely hilarious. It helps that they are often the victims of their actions and innocent bystanders remain unscathed. Plus, a TV show featuring Danny DeVito? What more could you ask for?

Eastbound and Down [Returns Sept. 26 on HBO; Sunday 10:30 p.m.]

Speaking of sociopaths, this fall marks the return of Eastbound and Down, featuring Danny McBride as the washed-up former baseball superstar Kenny Powers. Let's clear something up: the show is dumb and polarizing. People can either put the idiocy aside and appreciate the humour in McBride's scrupulous portrayal of an absolute ignoramus, or they can't. I fall in the former camp. Hopefully they've strengthened the supporting cast for this much-delayed return -- it was weak the first time around and Will Ferrell's cameo was definitely a little forced.

Dexter [Returns Sept. 26 on Showtime; Sunday 9 p.m.]

I fell in love with Dexter after its first season. It's dark and moody, yet not overly sombre and the premise is awesome. Without giving anything away, Dexter is a blood-spatter pattern analyst for the Miami Police Department who moonlights as a unrepentant serial killer. Despite worry that the premise of the show may limit its potential, every subsequent season is as good or better than the last. John Lithgow's role in season four was outstanding and season five is slated to see the introduction of several new characters. Hopefully Dexter doesn't kill them off, but who knows?

Bored to Death [Returns Sept. 26 on HBO; Sunday 10 p.m.]

Who would have thought that Jason Schwartzman and the venerable Ted Danson would come together to create an offbeat comedy/drama? Not many, but it works. The show takes a little while to warm up to because of its unusual nature and format, but once you're drawn into the world it creates you are hooked. Schwartzman's ridiculous escapades as an amateur private detective are mirrored by Danson's similarly ridiculous escapades as a self-centered, old rich man. Throw some Zack Galifanakis into the mix and you've got a hit.

30 Rock [Returns Sept. 23 on NBC; Thursdays 8:30 p.m.]

It makes sense that Alec Baldwin would find success with a return to his roots. He had several roles on several mediocre TV shows in the '80s before diving into largely mediocre movies in the '90s, but he's really struck gold -- Emmy gold -- with his portrayal of Jack Donaghue, the super-rich NBC tv executive on 30 Rock. Tina Fey is hilarious as the strange and lonely Liz Lemon and Tracy Morgan brings crazy to a whole new level with his character, Tracy Jordan. I hesitate to call him a character though since Tracy Morgan's real-life antics on breakfast television sometimes surpass the crazy that Tracy Jordan brings to the show.

The Office [Returns Sept. 23 on NBC; Thursdays 9:30 p.m.]

It was a hit and everyone loved it, but then, as time passed, it slowly lost some of its, "That's so true, that would actually happen in my office" magic. Michael Scott being Michael Scott became a little too predictable and the story lines overly fantastical. Seasons four and five felt like the writers were really reaching and the show lost the momentum built up in the first few seasons. But despite a few bumps -- "Scott's Tots" anyone? -- season six was a surprising return to form. Upcoming season seven is Steve Carell's last at the helm of The Office cast and the future of the show is uncertain after that. So it'll be worth tuning in for what could be the last hurrah.

Community [Returns Sept. 23 on NBC; Thursdays 8 p.m.]

Community dabbles in the ridiculous. Pseudo lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) has to return to college after his fake university degree is deemed invalid by the State Bar Association. The show is focused around Winger and his band of misfits who double as a Spanish study group. Chevy Chase is a regular on the show, playing mature student Pierce Hawthorne -- a.k.a. a doddering, out-of-touch rich man. Mad Men's Alison Brie shows us that she's more than just a great actress on a great drama as she deftly handles humour as well. The rest of the cast is fantastic too.

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