Since the dawn of modern broadcasting in the 1950s, television has provided the earnest viewer with countless reasons to put off studying, parenting and feeding pets. However, merely turning on the idiot box doesn't guarantee entertainment as each fall the networks always unleash as much maggot-ridden crap upon the world as they do anything worthwhile. In the interest of maximizing your fall TV experience, the Gauntlet's team of inadequately trained chimps have poured over countless hours of videotape and compiled their findings for your perusal.
The week kicks off with two hours of mostly-animated comedic programming that should have been canceled years ago. The Simpsons, American Dad, Family Guy and War at Home all air on Sunday evening whether you like it or not. There's also the tenth Amazing Race, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Desperate Housewives. Of course, if you're a guy who isn't comfortable enough with his sexuality to enjoy a great show like Housewives, NBC is home of the always homoerotic football game.
Recommended: The Amazing Race [premieres Sept. 17 at 9:30 p.m.; weekly beginning Sept. 24 at 9 p.m., CBS/CTV], Desperate Housewives [Sept. 24 at 10 p.m., ABC]
Alternates: Writing a letter to FOX, begging them to cancel the no-longer-funny Simpsons and Family Guy, as well as the never-funny American Dad.
Reality TV and polygamy junkies can get their fix with brand-new editions of Wife Swap [ABC], The Bachelor [ABC] and Deal or No Deal [NBC] beginning Sept. 18. Refreshingly good comedy takes the form of How I Met Your Mother on CBS and Charlie Sheen lapses into self-parody on Two and a Half Men. CSI: Miami, Prison Break and Monday Night Football are all back. Shows debuting on Mondays include FOX's Vanished, which has the wife of a senator vanishing, NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, where the creator of the West Wing goes behind the scenes at an SNL-style variety show and Heroes, which we're going to describe as "Unbreakable meets Lost."
Recommended: How I Met Your Mother [Sept. 18 at 9:30 p.m., CBS], Heroes [Sept. 25 at 10 p.m., NBC], Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip [Sept. 18 at 11 p.m., NBC; also Sundays at 11 p.m., CTV]
Alternates: Prison Break [Aug. 21 at 9 p.m., FOX/Global], CSI: Miami [Sept. 18 at 11 p.m., CBS]
Acronym lovers rejoice! Then, take a moment to reflect on what horrible nerds you all are while you watch NCIS, L&O: CI (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) and L&O: SVU (Law and Order: Special victims unit) back-to-back-to-back. Even better news involves the returns of Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, House and Boston Legal to your TV. Newcomers include Friday Night Lightsï¿½--if you dug the movie, the show's pretty much the same, but longer--and Standoff, which was probably pitched as "hostage negotiators who are dating." If comedy is your thing, check out ABC's debut of Knights of Prosperity, featuring rag-tag crooks plotting to rob Mick Jagger. No, really.
Recommended: Gilmore Girls [Sept. 26 at 6 p.m., CW; also 11 p.m., Global], Veronica Mars [Oct. 3 at 7 p.m., CW], Friday Night Lights [Oct. 3 at 9 p.m., NBC/Global], House [Sept. 5 at 10 p.m., FOX/Global], Boston Legal [Sept. 26 at 11 p.m., ABC];
Alternate: Knights of Prosperity [Oct. 17 at 10 p.m., ABC; also Saturdays at 10 p.m., CTV]; Robbing nigh-crippled celebrities.
Remember the NBC drama about SNL on Monday night? SNL alumnus Tina Fey also has a comedy with the same premise called 30 Rock. With Alias having ended it's run, ABC now has creator JJ Abrams' backing, sporting his phenomenal Lost. Also, new drama The Nine shows promise featuring the evolving relationships between nine people following a 52-hour hostage standoff, with 10 minutes of it being revealed each episode. If the bad-ass premise and renowned writer/director behind it isn't enough to hook you, you're probably soulless, and should be destroyed. Another promising newcomer is Jericho, chronicling the goings-on in a small town when it's cut off from the rest of the country following a huge explosion.
Recommended: Jericho [Sept. 20 at 9:00 p.m., CBS/CityTV], Lost [Oct. 4 at 10:00 p.m., ABC/CTV], The Nine [Oct. 4 at 11 p.m., ABC; also Saturdays at 11 p.m., CTV]
Alternate: CSI: New York [Sept. 20 at 11 p.m., CBS/CTV]
Like a well-staffed brothel, there's something for everyone on Thursday nights. Like to laugh? NBC's My Name is Earl and The Office have won hearts, minds, and Emmys. Shameless bigotry more your thing? Season 13 of Survivor, set in the Cook Islands, seperates each team by race, though it's backing by Neo Nazi groups remains unconfirmed. Like ugly chicks? ABC's Ugly Betty is here to frighten, amuse and remind you of your friday nights.Want some teen angst? Two letters: OC. Fans of hour-long dramas have a lot of choices: Grey's Anatomy is up against CSI, and ER goes mano-e-mano with newcomers Shark (starring James Woods as a hotshot lawyer) and Six Degrees, which has nothing to do with Kevin Bacon. And finally hitting Canadian screens is HBO's award-winning Entourage, debuting Oct. 12 on CityTV.
Recommended: My Name is Earl [Sept. 21 at 9 p.m., NBC], The Office [Sept. 21 at 9 p.m., NBC], Grey's Anatomy [Sept. 21 at 10 p.m., ABC; also 9 p.m., CTV], Six Degrees [Sept. 21 at 11 p.m., ABC]
Alternate: CSI [Sept. 21 at 10 p.m., CBS/CTV]
Television executives assume everyone's out on Friday and Saturday nights, so it's slim pickings for those of you without friends, love-lives, or pets. There's oily men punching each other (WWE Friday Night Smackdown), former-lesbian Anne Heche trying to find a man... in trees (Men in Trees), Jennifer Love Hewitt talking to ghosts (Ghost Whisperer), and even more polygamy on Fox with Trading Spouses. Saturdays have Dateline NBC and Fox's hillbilly dream team of Cops and America's Most Wanted. The lone bright spot is CBC's Hockey Night in Canada wth games at 5 pm and 8pm begining Oct. 8.
Recommended: Russian Roulette.
If one of your favourite shows hasn't been mentioned yet, resist cutting its title into your arm and posting photos of the wound on MySpace. Shows returning early next year include Scrubs, 24, American Idol, The Apprentice, King of the Hill, Reba, King of Queens and the latest soon-to-be-cancelled Andy Richter series, Andy Barker, PI on NBC.