Sunday, Nov. 6 (AMC)
Series Debut: No, AMC’s new western Hell on Wheels is not the second coming of HBO’s Deadwood; basic cable doesn’t allow that much profanity (admit it: The gratuitous cussin’ is what you remember most fondly). But it does have higher aspirations than building up saloons and shaking down whores: The first transcontinental railroad joining the East and West of the United States in the 1860s—sounds like a pure, noble undertaking in hopeful times, right? Not entirely. Lincoln’s been assassinated, the wounds of the Civil War are still raw, and railway entrepreneurs/crooks like Thomas “Doc” Durant (Colm Meaney, in full bastard mode) are only looking to get rich off “the massive teat of the federal government” for building it. Meanwhile, a former Confederate (Anson Mount, in full brooding mode) is out for revenge against the Union soldiers who—wait for it—murdered his wife, and an emancipated slave (Common, in full Common mode) is fighting for a piece of the white man’s dream. All of this gritty nastiness plays out against the gorgeous blue-sky backdrop of pristine middle America, and not even the occasional stab of contemporary music (is there a TV show The Dead Weather haven’t licensed tunes to?) will take you out of it. Hell on Wheels could be huge, and maybe even outlast Deadwood—it’s only blasphemy if I’m wrong.
Thursday, Nov. 3 (Fox)
Season Premiere: Since there hasn’t been a new episode for six months, you may have forgotten that Bones (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) are having a baby—just what you want in a forensic-crime series. Which means, after several weeks of waddling Bones and overprotective Booth hilarity, the show will successfully clear the shark tank and deliver another pandering childbirth scene sometime around May Sweeps, just like Angela and Hodgins did at the end of last season. Conclusions: Babies ruin everything, and this will be the highest-rated season of Bones ever.
Thursday, Nov. 3 (USA)
Fall Premiere: Fortunately, partners-in-spy-crime Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) will never find themselves in the parental trap because, while 98-pound Fiona can easily haul around artillery twice her weight and beat up large goons, childbirth would likely kill her. Just sayin.’ At the midpoint of Season 5, Michael is once again being blackmailed into doing dirty work for the organization that burned him out of the CIA—which also means he’s thismuch closer to nailing the man who ruined his life. Or is he? Who the hell knows? It would be easy to criticize Burn Notice for constantly moving the target in Michael’s revenge subplot over five years, but Closure doesn’t yet fit into the dramatic hierarchy of Explosions, Bikinis, Gunplay, Sunglasses, Car Chases and Yelling. Why screw with a good thing?
Sunday, Nov. 6 (Adult Swim)
Miniseries Debut: It didn’t seem possible that Adult Swim’s non-animated fare could get any weirder than shows like Eagleheart, Childrens Hospital, Delocated and whatever Tim & Eric are cranking out this week, but The Heart, She Holler is a whole new level of effdup that paints an even worse redneck picture of the South than Hart of Dixie. Upon his death, local land baron Hoss Heartshe reveals secret heir Hurlan (Patton Oswalt), a feral man-child who’s been hidden in the house for years, which doesn’t sit well with his sisters, the slutty Hurshe (Kristen Schaal) and the supernaturally powered Hambrosia (Heather Lawless). What ensues is an epically bizarre power struggle airing over six consecutive nights and concluding on Friday, Nov. 11. Stock up on the late-night “refreshments” of your choice now.