Hell’s Kitchen, 2-hour season premiere at 8pm on FOX
– Superstar chef Gordon Ramsay returns this fall with the eighth season of the scalding-hot reality cooking competition series, which puts aspiring restaurateurs through an intense culinary academy as Ramsay seeks out the one chef who possesses the right combination of ingredients to win the life-changing grand prize. The competing chefs have varying degrees of experience, but all have the dream and passion to excel in the culinary industry. Throughout a series of grueling challenges, including baking pizzas and flatbreads in the all-new pizza ovens, catering a high school prom, introducing sushi to the menu, serving breakfast to hard-working EMTs and celebrating the series’ milestone 100th episode with a black-tie dinner service, Chef Ramsay aims to instill perfection and passion in each of the chefs.
Undercovers, series premiere at 8pm on NBC
– From acclaimed writer/producer/director J.J. Abrams comes a sexy, fun, action-packed spy drama that proves once and for all that marriage is still the world’s most dangerous partnership. Outwardly, Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe) and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), are a typical married couple who own and operate a small catering company in Los Angeles – with help from Samantha’s easily frazzled handful of a sister, Lizzy (Mekia Cox). Secretly, the duo were two of the best spies the CIA had ever known, until they fell in love on the job five years ago and retired. When fellow spy and good friend Leo Nash (Carter MacIntyre) goes missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer, the Blooms are reinstated by boss and agency liaison, Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney), to locate and rescue Nash. Following leads that take them to cities spanning the globe, Steven and Samantha quickly realize that perhaps this supercharged, undercover lifestyle provides exactly the kind of excitement and romance that their marriage has been missing.
The Middle, season premiere at 8pm on ABC
– This realistic comedy series grows on you with its colorful and relatable characters that represent your typical far-from-perfect American family where junk food is dinner and TV is family time. Patricia Heaton stars as Frankie Heck, a loving wife and mother of three, she’s middle class in the middle of the country and is rapidly approaching middle age. Frankie and her husband, Mike (Neil Flynn), have lived in Orson, Indiana, their whole lives. A man of few words (every one a zinger), Mike is a manager at the town quarry and Frankie is the third-best used car salesman (out of the three) at the local dealership. She may not be a high-powered career woman, but when it comes to her family, she’ll go to just about any length. And with kids like these, she had better. There’s Axl (Charlie McDermott), her semi-nudist teenage son conceived while under the influence of Guns N’ Roses; Sue (Eden Sher), the awkward teenage daughter who fails at everything… but with the utmost of gusto; and their seven-year-old son Brick (Atticus Shaffer), whose best friend is his backpack. Spend a couple of evenings watching this charming family try to bond over burgers in front of the tube and you’ll fall in love with them for not trying to be something they are not, and that makes you feel better about yourself.
Better With You, series premiere at 8:30pm on ABC
– The premise seems awfully similar to CBS’s Rules of Engagement but way more cheesy and about a family instead of a group of friends. Maddie and Ben have been dating for nine years. They know each other inside and out, a relationship marked by contentment and affection, seeing their commitment to one another as a “valid life choice,” something they proclaim often—and often loudly. Maddie’s younger sister, Mia (JoAnna Garcia), has been dating Casey for seven weeks. With a shared c’est la vie attitude, Mia and Casey are smitten with each other, and thrilled to explore the oh-so-many things they don’t know about each other yet. But when they announce they’re getting married and having a baby, it’s news that throws Maddie for a loop. Surprisingly, the girls’ parents, Vicky (That 70’s Show’s Debra Jo Rupp) and Joel, couldn’t be more pleased. Married 35 years, they have recently adopted a carpe diem sort of philosophy, rather like Mia’s, maybe because they’re getting older and lost a good portion of their savings when the economy tanked. With three very different relationships tightly intertwined in one family, will it be free thinkers vs. over-thinkers, or will each couple begin to see things a little bit differently?
Modern Family, season premiere at 9pm on ABC
– The 2010 Emmy award winner for Best Comedy Series is back for more laughs and adventures with everyone’s favorite Modern Family. The series follows the families of Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), his daughter Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen) and his son Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who live in Los Angeles, and compose a closely-knit and unique extended family. Jay recently married Gloria (the beautiful Sofia Vergara), now he is trying hard to keep up with his much younger and hotter Colombian wife, along with her passionate pre-teen son, Manny. Claire, a homemaker mom, is having a hard time raising her own family. Her husband Phil (Ty Burrell) is great, except that he thinks he’s “down” with their three kids, much to all their embarrassment. And Mitchell and his enthusiastic stay-at-home partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) have just made a major life change by adopting a Vietnamese baby named Lily. The show won three awards in important categories at this year’s Emmy awards and it’s fairly obvious why—it’s impossible not to laugh hysterically at every episode of this quick-witted mockumentary comedy series.
Criminal Minds, season premiere at 9pm on CBS
– The crime procedural drama revolves around an elite team of FBI profilers who analyze the country’s most twisted criminal minds, anticipating their next moves before they strike again. The Behavioral Analysis Unit’s most prominent agent is David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), a founding member of the BAU, who returns to help the team solve new cases, while pursuing some unfinished business of his own. The team is led by Special Agent Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson), a family man who is able to gain people’s trust and unlock their secrets. Five other special agents round out the team, one each bringing his or her own area of expertise to the table as they pinpoint predators’ motivations and identify their emotional triggers in the attempt to stop them.
Law & Order: SVU, season premiere at 9pm on NBC
– The longest-running show of the Law & Order franchise still on the air, after the original closed shop this past spring (only to be replaced by it’s Los Angeles-themed spin-off, but more on that ridiculousness at another time), enters its 12th season with a new set and not one but 2 new ADA’s this fall. While the series struggles to find a permanent ADA as talented and adored as Stephanie March, Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni’s powerful performances every week keep us coming back for more.
Cougar Town, season premiere at 9:30pm on ABC
– The surprisingly charming comedy series with the worst and most inaccurate name ever has found it’s niche on Wednesday Comedy Night on ABC. The show, which was completely reconceptualized early last season, is about so much more than a recently divorced mom in her 40’s trying to find love and herself sans hubby. Courteney Cox as Jules leads a stellar cast of lovable friends that surround Jules, her ex-husband, and their teenage son. Together they compose a unique family unit that spends every day drinking wine before noon and rarely working, but that’s cool because they live in Florida. What started out as a guilty pleasure has evolved into smart writing and colorful characters you can’t help but love and want to hang out with. Jennifer Aniston joins her Friends co-star in the premiere episode in a (hopefully recurring) guest role as Jules’ therapist.
The Defenders, series premiere at 10pm on CBS
– What three things are an absolute must-have in Las Vegas? A big wallet, a high tolerance to alcohol, and an attorney for that WTF?!? moment the morning after when you’re facing criminal charges. This new drama series follows two colorful Las Vegas defense attorneys who go all-in when it comes to representing their clients. Leading the law firm of Morelli & Kaczmarek are Nick Morelli, an earnest, hard-charging attorney who represents his clients to the best of his ability, no matter how big or small the case; and his partner, Pete Kaczmarek, whose passion for the law is matched only by his love of fast cars, beautiful women and expensive clothes. Joining them in their growing law practice is new associate Lisa Tyler, an enthusiastic young attorney looking to put her exotic dancing days behind her; and their young assistant, Zoe Waters, a spunky and sweet ingénue who is eager to please her bosses. While Lady Luck shines on their legal careers with the abundant WTF?!? moments of Vegas enthusiasts, the partners have their hands full when it comes to their personal lives. With Pete busy cruising the Vegas Strip for his latest romantic conquest, Nick is focused on repairing a fractured marriage to his estranged wife and remaining present in the life of their young son. No matter the offense, Nick and Pete aim to prove that when the stakes are high, they’re willing to bet the house on the clients they defend in Sin City. Though an interesting concept, the characters lack the substance to merit a weekly date with my DVR.
The Whole Truth, series premiere at 10pm on ABC
– From mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer comes a new legal drama with a new perspective that I find compelling and, now that I think about it, long overdue. The series follows two attorneys who have a competitive, flirtatious friendship: type A prosecutor Kathryn (Maura Tierney) and scattered defense attorney Jimmy Brogan (Rob Morrow) from Manhattan’s most up-and-coming defense firm. Morrow says: “They’re like two great athletes that respect each other and can flirt and joke around. But get them on the court and they’re out for the jugular.” Twists and turns are the heart and soul of high-profile criminal law and even the jury doesn’t get it right all the time. No one ever knows what really happened until the the very last scene, when we learn… The Whole Truth.
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