30 Rock, Arrow, Nashville 

Plus: Homeland, Dr. Horrible, Chicago Fire

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30 Rock
Thursday, Oct. 4 (NBC)

Season Premiere: When Liz (Tina Fey) and the TGS crew return from summer hiatus, they’re shocked by all of the terrible new fall TV programming Jack (Alec Baldwin) has dumped onto NBC. Question 1: How did the 30 Rock writers know in advance that Animal Practice, Go On, Guys With Kids and The New Normal would turn out to be such dogs? (Rhetorical—anybody could have predicted that.) Question 2: Since this is the show’s last season, just how much NBC/Universal/Kabletown/Sheinhardt Wig Company bashing can we expect from 30 Rock in the final 13 episodes? And was there time to work in a reference to a certain Salt Lake City affiliate’s refusal to air a certain swishy sitcom? Let’s all pray on that.

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Sundays (Showtime)

New Season: Great series, but Emmys for Best Drama and Best Writing? Over Breaking Bad and Mad Men? No, no, no. Sure, Claire Danes more than deserved her win for Lead Actress—no one’s ever going to top her crazed determination/desperation from Season 1—but Damien Lewis’ dead-eyed Al-Qaeda-bot performance didn’t even challenge Mandy Patinkin’s beard for Lead Actor. Despite the victories, Homeland is still thinky political porn for espionage junkies who miss 24, or can’t get onboard with Strike Back’s dumber Team America approach, or believe that it’s all a tinfoil-hat allegory for the current presidency of one Barack Hussein Obama. What-ever: Episode 2 of Season 2 tonight is where faux-war-hero-turned-real-Congressman Nicholas Brody’s (Lewis) plan for “peaceful” terrorism on American soil starts unraveling, as does Mathison’s (Danes) tenuous new grip on sanity. The beard, however, is still rock-solid.

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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
Tuesday, Oct. 9 (The CW)

Special: An Internet sensation in 2008, a DVD hit in 2009 and now a CW special/timeslot-filler in … 2012. For the dozen of you who haven’t already seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, it’s about a wacky love triangle between supervillian Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), superhero Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion) and civilian Penny (Felicia Day), with musical numbers. In short, all the prep writer/director Joss Whedon needed for The Avengers.

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Wednesday, Oct. 10 (The CW)

Series Debut: Not just the best new show on The CW, but one of the best of the entire new fall season—and it’s about the Green Arrow, fergawdsakes. If this hits—and it will; the action sizzles and Stephen Amell is drea-my—and inspires more series based on DC Comics second stringers, I demand a dark reboot of Ambush Bug.

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Wednesday, Oct. 10 (ABC)

Series Debut: Liked Country Strong, but not so much the depressing Cost of Fame undertones and overdosed Gwyneth Paltrow corpse at the end? Has ABC got a show for you! Almost the same show: Country-music vet Rayna James (Connie Britton, American Horror Story) can’t quite pack the arenas and state fairs anymore, so her record label books a tour with a sexy rising star (Hayden Panettiere, Heroes) who, as Shooter Jennings might put it, takes the “O” right out of country, thus setting up a musical power struggle. The diva/rookie catfight is nothing new, but Nashville looks and feels almost as down-home authentic as Britton’s old series, Friday Night Lights. Also, the music’s not bad—but it’s not great because, well, it’s country.

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Chicago Fire
Wednesday, Oct. 10 (NBC)

Series Debut: Producer Dick Wolf brings that Dick Wolf courtroom magic to Dick Wolf’s vision of a firehouse in the new Dick Wolf drama that, since it’s on opposite CSI and Nashville, probably only Dick Wolf will be watching. Unless there’s a Law & Order rerun on TNT, so never mind.

Twitter: @Bill_Frost

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