The Great Fall TV Cram: Five Shows (and One Runner-Up) to Catch Up On Before the New Season Starts


Not sure what's going on here, but pretty confident it'll be hilarious.

The road to TV heaven is paved with good intentions. Sure, you said you'd catch up on all 36 previously aired episodes of True Blood before it returned for Season 4, but then June rolled around and you still believed “Fangtasia” was a cartoon with Mickey Mouse and dancing brooms.

Not to worry—there are plenty of tasty shows that have yet to return for the 2011 TV season, and it’s not too late for you to get in on the action. All you need is a little guidance... and perhaps some insomnia over the next three weeks.

Boardwalk Empire
Season 2 premieres Sunday, September 25 at 9pm on HBO
The Premise: Set against the backdrop of Prohibition in 1920s Atlantic City, HBO’s historical drama—which stars Steve Buscemi as corrupt politician Nucky Thompson and is exec-produced by Martin Scorsese—has the richness of a well-researched period piece with all the gratuitous fun of premium cable-worthy sex and violence. (You'll also love it for its sweeping HD cinematography, the inclusion of real-life historical figures like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, and drool-inducing Jazz Age fashions.) Bonus: The pilot was directed by Scorsese himself, and it shows.
Viewing Regimen: Boardwalk Empire’s plot is vast and complex, with characters that are developed in deep detail, so all twelve of Season 1's hour-long episodes are required viewing. Preferably with a Pimm’s Cup in hand.
Perfect for fans of: Deadwood, Mad Men, The Sopranos, The Wire

Fringe
Season 4 returns Friday, September 23 at 9pm on FOX
The Premise: It may not be the cultural phenomenon Lost was, but devotees of J.J. Abrams’s Fringe are just as passionate as fans of the former. (And, yes, there’s a Fringepedia for the truly obsessed). This Boston-set sci-fi drama focuses on FBI agents who serve in the “Fringe Division,” which solves cases that fall way outside the realm of your typical crime procedural. Paranormal sciences, doomsday scenarios, unexplained phenomena, and a bonafide mad scientist comprise a truly unique premise that straddles engaging crime mysteries with an overarching parallel universe. Best of all, Fringe’s quirky sense of humor keeps the series from getting too bogged down by plot minutia and conspiracy theories, reserved for the most dedicated of super-fans.
Viewing regimen: There's no getting around this one—you're definitely going to need to be caught up in time for the season premiere. While many episodes consist of self-contained mysteries, they also offer clues to a larger plot that you and your friends can over-analyze for hours. And some of the developments of Season 3 will flat-out make your head explode.
Perfect for fans of: Lost, The X-Files, Criminal Minds, The Twilight Zone

Community
Season 3 premieres Thursday, September 22 at 8pm on NBC
The Premise: For most community college students, school lasts two years. But NBC, the hilarious comedy is going for its Bachelors. With Season 3 starting this month, you’ll want to acquaint yourself with the cast of oddballs at Greendale Community College, where Joel McHale (The Soup) is a former smarmy lawyer with a revoked college degree who's now the leader of a rag-tag study group. Combining the old-school ensemble sitcom model (think Taxi, Cheers) with absurdist, Arrested Development-esque humor, Community is replete with cutting-edge pop-culture references, fourth-wall-smashing meta-ness, and an engaging cast—including Chevy Chase. Keep an eye out for John Goodman this season; he'll be guest-starring as Robert Laybourne, the Vice Dean of Greendale's nationally recognized Air Conditioning Repair School.
Viewing regimen: Watch as much as you can, but don’t flunk yourself if you miss an episode or two. That said, Season 1's "Comparative Religion," "Contemporary American Poultry" and "Modern Warfare" and Season 2's "Cooperative Calligraphy," "Mixology Certification," "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons," "Paradigms of Human Memory," "A Fistful of Paintballs," and "A Few Paintballs More" should all be considered part of your core curriculum (up-to-date viewers, feel free to make a case for additional episodes in the comments). The show's plot does evolve over the course of two seasons, but the jokes are the main draw—and they are grade-A funny.
Perfect for fans of: The Office, Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, The IT Crowd, Party Down

The Good Wife
Season 3 returns Sunday, September 25 at 9pm on CBS
The Premise: The idea of scandalized politicians may seem cliché, but guess what? It keeps happening! For Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles), the humiliation caused by her Chicago politician husband (Chris Noth) was the impetus for her return as a courtroom litigator after thirteen years of housewifery and fake smiling. Each episode of The Good Wife features a meaty Case of the Week, but the real fun is in the high melodrama of Florrick’s personal life as she navigates through the wake of a public sex scandal. The ensemble cast is stellar, and there are plenty of juicy storylines to keep you busy. Meanwhile, it appears that the premise of The Good Wife will always be relevant, for better or for worse—although seldom are the loyal wives waiting in the real-life wings half as hot as Julianna Marguiles.
Viewing Regimen: Even though the legal drama stands alone within each episode, watching both seasons of The Good Wife (forty-six hour-long episodes) will give you a much deeper appreciation for the character drama that makes it so very good.
Perfect for fans of: Boston Legal, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Weeds

Dexter
Season 6 premieres Sunday, Sunday, October 2 at 9pm on Showtime
The Premise: It’s time. You’ve managed to fend off America’s favorite serial killer for five seasons, but now your upstairs neighbor has Showtime and no kids. Seriously, once you meet Dexter Morgan—the Miami Police Department’s blood-spatter expert, whose ongoing battle between his conscience and a blood-thirst so strong, it makes Patrick Bateman look like Justine Bateman—you’ll be hooked. You’ll also be questioning your own moral compass as you root for a self-proclaimed psychopath, citing his noble vigilantism and the fact that he’s just so nice in your defense.
Viewing regimen: The first (twelve-episode) season of Dexter is one of the most perfect complete seasons of television, ever; don't skip a single episode. Beyond that you're looking at forty-eight additional hour-long installments; if you can’t finish them all, be sure to prioritize Season 4, which guest-stars John Lithgow as the creepy Trinity Killer—a role for which Lithgow took home a well-deserved Emmy.
Perfect for fans of: Breaking Bad, Burn Notice, Six Feet Under, The Shield

The Runner-Up: Parks & Recreation Season 4 premieres Thursday, September 22 at 8:30pm on NBC
Parks & Recreation flailed early on as it tried to live up to the The Office, billing Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope as the female answer to Michael Scott. (Remember the first time you watched King of the Hill, before you gave it a chance to be something other than The Simpsons? Yeah, like that. ) But now, with three seasons under their belts, the characters on Parts & Rec are so rich that they've started to develop a certain “Kramer Quality,” where they can produce a genuine laugh with a singular look. The cast is top-notch: Aziz Ansari steals every scene he’s in, Chris Pratt is hilarious as the eternally goofy Andy Dwyer, Aubrey Plaza's deadpan is unparalleled... the list goes on and on. Plus, should you take the bait, the show offers a healthy dose of political satire too. You don’t need to see every episode before the Season 4 premiere to “get” Parks & Rec—as soon as you start to appreciate the genius that is Nick Offerman's Ron Swanson, you're on the right track.


Which returning shows would you recommend your fellow TV fans focus on in the last few weeks before fall?

Comments (74)
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Parenthood.



I'd say House, too, but I'm not sure where they'll go with out Lisa Edelstein.
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Where's Grey's Anatomy on this list?
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Boardwalk Empire is required viewing - too bad Mad Men is so far off..
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Well Supernatural, allso returning soon!!!! The mentalist which had quite a cliffhanger I am anxious to see how that will unfold. And Bones...allso one of my favourite..
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Well, that might be your opinion, but no show mentioned in this article will get me. I tried Fringe when it first aired. That lasted about 3 episodes. I'd rather be watching reruns of Due South.
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3 episodes only? Pfft.
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I think that true blood and the walking dead should be on this list there are the top of the show i think.
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i cant wait for community! :)
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You should have added for Fringe, after it will flat out make your head explode. Which did happen in one of the episodes...
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Why isn't sons of anarchy on this list? It is THE best show on tv right now.
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SoA is an excellent choice, but we published the article the day it aired and didn't think people could cram THAT much. ;)
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Dexter Is my favorite but since it not playing right now true blood and breaking bad. 3 best shows 2 me whats anarchy......



J/k
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I'm on the fence on Boardwalk Empire. I gave up after the first two episodes. It just seemed like a dog and pony show of sorts-- lots of things going on but none of the characters were very likable. It all just seemed bland to me. Does the show change in that respects as the season unfolds?



Dexter and Fringe I would suggest as dramas to anyone to catch up on. For comedy, I would suggest Modern Family over Community. They are different kinds of comedy, so its hard to compare the two, but I would definitely put it before Parks.
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HIMYM - House - Castle - NCIS - Harry's Law - The Vampire Diaries - Community - The Big bang theory - Grey's Anatomy - Bones - Chuck



Yes I know I have to watch multiple channel at the same time, but hey... REC!
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Dexter & Boardwalk Empire. Can't wait for the season premieres.
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Love The Good Wife and Dexter, I plan on watching Fringe after hearing great things. Also, I have to stick to other faves Supernatural and Raising Hope.
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Fringe is the best sci-fi on television. You are in for a treat, just stick with it until mid-season 2. That's when it picks up, If i remember correctly.
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Will do. Thanks!
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You remember correctly, sir.
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I'm going to have to make a case for Castle here. Anyone who is a fan of Nathan Fillion (and cmon, who isn't?) should be watching this show. He's adorable, charming, and hilarious, and his castmates are great (loving the bromantic duo Ryan and Esposito), and the show is just a much better, tongue-in-cheek, procedural that's just plain fun and enjoyable.
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Yes, I love Castle too!
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Great picks, Fringe and The Good Wife being two of my to favorites. but on a side note I dont agree with any of the shows you suggested the Good Wife is like, I dont know exactly who I'd compare t to but non of those.
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A good choice of shows, seen them all except The Good Wife. Incidentally I've also seen most of the other shows you mention (the perfect for fans of..). I guess i watch a somewhat large amount of TV. #Loving it.
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Dexter for me and that's it.

I'd recommend SVU and Desperate Housewives and Supernatural.
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I need to catch up on Dexter - it's such a brilliant show although I missed last season.



I'm most excited for: Supernatural; The Vampire Diaries, Psych, Parks and Rec, and Castle.



http://vigo-tv.com/blog/
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Fringe

Dexter

The Vampire Diaries

CSI Miami

Criminal Minds
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Fringe, Criminal Minds, NCIS, True Blood.
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Community and Hawaii five-0!
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Staff
1. SOA

2. Dexter

3. Boardwalk Empire

4. The Walking Dead

5. House
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01. Dexter

02. Fringe
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Vampire Diaries!!
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Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, Walking Dead. I want to watch Fringe but I still haven't watched season 1-3. I wish Fox would put all the episodes on demand like showtime did with Dexter. And like AMC did with Breaking Bad.



Just don't want to fly into season 4 with not of season the rest of the show....
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I agree how lame are you, Damon and others have murdered for no reason just to have something to do when they are board. Dexter on the other hand doesn't lie about what he is and at least hes focused on killing other murderers instead of innocent people.



Lame.......
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Fringe and Dexter, hands down!!!!
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If I had time I would do Fringe and Community and maybe even the Good Wife because you had two of my fav. shows listed as perfect for fans of so if I have time maybe in December break where last year I caught up with Desperate Housewives
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Been waiting for the new seasons of Dexter and Fringe since the moment the last seasons ended! :D



House in Prison, looks interesting as well.
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i agree with Community and Fringe. don't like the other three though (never really gave Dexter a shot though if i'm being honest, didn't really interest me much)



Parks & Recreation definitely should be one of the 5, this past season made it one of the best shows on TV.. it was ok in season 1, but season 2 really bored me and I almost stopped watching it but i'm glad i didn't



Mike & Molly is also one of my five. i could maybe say The Vampire Diaries, Glee, and Supernatural just based on the fact that it's serialized television and they all interconnect to each season in some way
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To the must-see list for Community I would add season one's 'Introduction to Film' for the background on Abed, 'Debate 101' for the Jeff/Annie story line and 'Physical Education' for Joel McHale in his underwear.
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You can watch a show about vampires, but you can't watch Dexter for moral reasons? Honestly, I think that's one of the stupidest things I've ever read. That's like saying you don't like ice cream because of where it comes from but you'll still put cream in your coffee every morning. In television, murder is murder, at least Dexter has boundaries.
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Original comment deleted. Oh the shame!
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Dexter is outstanding! When it comes on, I sign up for Showtime. I used to drop it immediately after Dexter ends, but honestly Shameless got me to keep Showtime for a few more months.
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What is Parts and Rec? hehehe....
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Supernatural - The Vampire Diaries - Fringe - House
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So watching season 5 is worth it for Dexter? I kinda got lost after the 4th season
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Season was great up until the end, when everything goes back to normal AS ALWAYS. The show needs to evolve.
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Staff
Skip Season 5. Re-watch Season 4. Get ready for Season 6.
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Season 5 had it's ups and downs, but supposedly 6 is supposed to make up for it. I don't think you'll actually be missing much from the story line of season 5 if you skip it, but I would at least watch the first episode or two to see how Dexter has been coping with his loss.
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Yes. Season five suffered from the same problem that weeds did last year. Both shows had so much cleanup to do from the previous season that it created a polarizing effect. I loved season 5 but it took about 4 or 5 episodes to really get into the story arc, and when your dealing with a 12 episode a year show it really breaks up the flow of what you are trying to accomplish. That being said Dexter is still better than everything on TV (except Game of Thrones). So even when there is a need for some cleanup Dexter does it best. Also when we do meet Lumen the rest of the season is just as good as any before it.
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Why did you get after season 4? There are very few shows out there that are as compelling as Dexter. While not its strongest season (IMO), you should watch season 5 if you have the chance.
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FRINGE, Community, and Dexter! Can't wait for September 23rd.
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FRINGE FTW!
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I like the mention of Party Down and The IT Crowd; Sons of Anarchy needs to be on this list.
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Dexter and Fringe :)))))))))))))))))))))))))

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"Paradigms of Human Memory" is my favorite episode of Community and it's already on the list. I don't think there is anything fundamental you forgot. :)
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Love Community
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Community is hilarious, but I cant convince myself to sit down and watch it regularly. I've seen maybe 10 episodes total. It has to be the time slot. As for Dexter, I watched the first episode two years ago and have been hooked ever since. No need to tell me.
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I will be re-watching Community and Parks, both hilarious for very different reasons!
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I don't see how Dexter is perfect for fans of Burn Notice. The former is art while the latter is crap.
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Fringe and Dexter for me too.
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Community, Parks and Rec and Fringe I can't wait for. I agree that nothing can top Dexter's 1st season, but the 4th is pretty close thanks to the greatness the was Jon Lithgow. I'll still be watching every week until it ends.
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Fringe definitely,this show is truly underrated,The community can't wait!!!!!!!
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Can't wait for Fringe and Dexter!
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I find I'm too busy finishing off summer shows to find the time to catch up on anything. And I expect to have enough in the fall to watch anyways.
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