|My Generation||Grey's Anatomy||Private Practice|
|The Big Bang Theory||$#*! My Dad Says||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||The Mentalist|
|The Vampire Diaries||Nikita||[Local programming]|
|Community||30 Rock||The Office||Outsourced||The Apprentice|
Key new show: Nikita (The CW, 9p starting 9/9)
Thursday looks to be fall's worst night for new shows, but out of the four freshman series, Nikita may hold the most promise. Based on the movie La Femme Nikita (which previously spawned a series on the USA network in the late 1990s), this Alias-influenced action show stars Maggie Q as an assassin for a secretive government organization who goes rogue and threatens to expose the group, while Lyndsy Fonseca co-stars as another assassin who is trained to replace her. Critics have already started comparing the series to Dollhouse (but without that show's superior writing) -- which doesn't exactly bode well for the heavily serialized Nikita's future -- but the show has good buzz and the advantage of being on The CW (with its lower expectations).
May not last long: Outsourced (NBC, 9:30p starting 9/23)
While most of Thursday's new shows seem headed to premature exits, our money's on NBC's new sitcom to be shown the door first. On one hand, a comedy about a Midwestern novelty manufacturer that outsources its call center to India seems a good fit for its lead-in, The Office, and the premise certainly has potential. But will audiences be able to laugh about jobs going overseas, or at jokes that walk a fine line between cultural commentary and racism? Critics have already complained about the pilot's lack of sophistication and poor execution, so the sitcom will need to improve in a hurry, especially with Parks and Recreation waiting in the wings to take its place.
Also: The early word on the Twitter-based Shatcom (i.e., sitcom starring William Shatner) $#*! My Dad Says (CBS, 8:30p starting 9/23) is that at least one of the words in the title is accurate; perhaps some recent casting changes can help the show find some humor in its old-fashioned format and flimsy premise of a 20-something man living with his politically incorrect, 74-year-old father ... If you are in your late 20s, you may be into the so-very-now drama My Generation (ABC, 8p starting 9/23), but others may be turned off by its formulaic, soapy stories and gimmick of having each of its characters personally affected by at least one of the past decade's major events.
Key returning show: The Office (NBC, 9p starting 9/23)
There's no denying that the previous season of The Office was the long-running sitcom's weakest yet, but that just means that an event that could have been a crisis -- the departure of star Steve Carell at the end of the upcoming season -- now becomes a huge opportunity for reinvention. Though it is not yet known who will eventually replace Carell's Michael Scott as head of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin -- it could be a current cast member, or an outsider such as Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) or Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down) -- expect his departure to figure prominently in the season's storyline. Kathy Bates will return in a limited capacity, while Amy Ryan will appear in eight episodes.
Also: An October episode of 30 Rock (NBC, 8:30p starting 9/23) will be performed live, once for East Coast viewers and again for the West Coast; the comedy will also air an hour earlier this season ... Hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8p starting 9/23) moves to Thursday nights for its fourth season, which will feature a return appearance by Mayim Bialik and possibly Wil Wheaton ... Amy Madigan will guest on several episodes of Fringe (Fox, 9p starting 9/23) as the mother to Anna Torv's Olivia, while Andre Royo (The Wire) will also appear; the upcoming season will also switch between the two universes on an episode-by-episode basis ... Drew Carey and Betty White will guest during the second season of Community (NBC, 8p starting 9/23), which will also see a more prominent role for The Daily Show's John Oliver and an Apollo 13 parody ... Both Private Practice (ABC, 10p starting 9/23) and Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 9p starting 9/23) will start their seasons with weddings; the former will also see Brian Benben elevated to series regular ... Teen Choice Award winner The Vampire Diaries (CW, 8p starting 9/9) will include a few new faces in its second season, including Taylor Kinney (Trauma) and Courtney Ford (Dexter) ... Eric Winter (Brothers & Sisters) and Kevin Rankin (Friday Night Lights) will appear on the upcoming season of The Mentalist (CBS, 10p starting 9/23) ... The Season 6 premiere of Bones (Fox, 8p starting 9/23) finds the key characters reuniting seven months after the events of last season's finale, while another upcoming episode will spoof the MTV show Jersey Shore ... Co-star Liz Vassey has left the cast of CSI (CBS, 9p starting 9/23), but the show's 11th season premiere will feature pop star Justin Bieber, and a later episode will take place at a werewolf/vampire convention.
Key show: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX, 10p starting 9/16)
Last season saw FX's politically incorrect cult comedy reach its broadest audience yet, and the gang at Paddy's Pub will have plenty of opportunities for laughs during the 13-episode sixth season as they explore topics ranging from gay marriage to animal rights to Dee's surprise pregnancy (a storyline necessitated by Kaitlin Olson's real-life pregnancy during filming). It doesn't always succeed, but when it hits, few current TV comedies are funnier.
Also: Fellow FX comedy The League (10:30p starting 9/16) returns for a second season of fantasy football fun, with real-life NFL star Chad Ochocino guesting in the premiere.