Best TV shows for fall 2013, 'Breaking Bad' wraps, 'Masters of Sex' launches
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It's a weird fall season here. Two of cable's drama tentpoles take down the canvas for good -- and those imminent finales are more hotly anticipated than any new show launch.
That doesn't mean there aren't interesting things on the way. TV's top-rated zombiefest rises once again, along with Emmy's reigning drama champ.
And new concepts will pair sex and history, plus witches and Long Island.
DEXTER (Showtime, Sunday night at 9) In his eight seasons, Michael C. Hall's serial killer of serial killers has faced down evildoers embodied by John Lithgow and Jimmy Smits, among other adversaries. Now double-life-leader Dexter Morgan faces his own demise. Or -- does he?
BREAKING BAD (AMC, Sept. 29 at 9 p.m.) Whatever happens to Bryan Cranston's meek chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-terror -- or the friends and relatives whose souls he corroded -- it won't mean the end of creator Vince Gilligan's five-season desert saga: AMC has greenlit a "Better Call Saul" spinoff for Bob Odenkirk's amoral attorney.
EASTBOUND & DOWN (HBO, final season starts Sept. 29 at 10 p.m.) Lindsay Lohan crashes the suburban dreamscape of raucous ex-pitcher Kenny Powers (series co-creator Danny McBride). Her guest stint highlights this fourth season of eight episodes.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR (TLC, Oct. 18) Making their final fashion fixes after 10 seasons: Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.
TREME (HBO, final season starts Dec. 1) Five episodes (Season 3.5?) conclude producer David Simon's saga of New Orleans denizens, post-Katrina.
HOMELAND (Showtime, Sept. 29, at 9 p.m.) Last year's drama Emmy winner picks up the pieces after a terror attack further shifted the stakes for government agents Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin, as well as Damian Lewis' war- hero-turned-wanted-man. Can the once-bracing thriller get its groove back after Season 2's sometimes absurd extremes?
AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN (FX, Oct. 9, at 10 p.m.) Jessica Lange for a third time headlines producer Ryan Murphy's annually changing chiller, with fellow returnees Frances Conroy and Sarah Paulson. Its echoes of the Salem witch trials also haunt Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe, Emma Roberts and Patti LuPone.
THE WALKING DEAD (AMC, Oct. 13, at 9 p.m.) And so it seems The Governor (David Morrissey) isn't gone. But previous-season showrunner Glen Mazzara is; Scott Gimple ("Ghost Rider") steps up for Season 4. It's just the latest behind-the-camera upheaval for what has, nonetheless, become TV's highest-rated drama, last season outpolling even the broadcast networks. Too many character deaths? Too much gore? The debate will rage through eight fall-season episodes. (Eight more start in February.)
MASTERS OF SEX (Showtime, Sept. 29, at 10 p.m.) Michael Sheen ("Frost / Nixon") and Lizzy Caplan ("Party Down") portray legendary Midwestern researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, whose 1960s medical studies of human sexual response changed the way America talked about s-e-x. Directing the pilot: John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love"). Based on a book by Newsday's Thomas Maier.
HELLO LADIES (HBO, Sept. 29, at 10:30 p.m.) Leaving behind "The Office" / "Extras" mate Ricky Gervais, comedy beanpole Stephen Merchant moves to Hollywood. He plays a Web designer "obsessed with infiltrating the glamorous world of beautiful people, who won't let him in."
WITCHES OF EAST END (Lifetime, Oct. 6, at 10 p.m.) The Hamptons become the Havens -- specifically, "the secluded seaside town of East Haven" -- in novelist Melissa de la Cruz's supernatural-tinged story of a mother and her adult daughters, rich playboys and troubled dudes, estrangements and immortality. Starring are Julia Ormond, Madchen Amick, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Eric Winter, Daniel DiTomasso, Jason George and Virginia Madsen.
DANCING ON THE EDGE (Starz, Oct. 19 at 10 p.m., then Saturday at 9 p.m.) Critically acclaimed Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave") dominates this portrait of a black jazz band in 1930s London. Playwright Stephen Poliakoff also directs Janet Montgomery and John Goodman. With original songs.
MOB CITY (TNT, Dec. 4 at 10 p.m.) Ousted "Walking Dead" producer Frank Darabont takes on the 1940s Los Angeles underworld, bringing along "Dead" co-star Jon Bernthal as a conflicted cop. Also on hand: Milo Ventimiglia, Neal McDonough, Alexa Davalos.
KIRSTIE (TV Land, Dec. 4 at 10 p.m.) Self-titled star Alley is as an actress and birth mother whose adopted-out son re-enters her life as an adult. Former "Cheers" mate Rhea Perlman and "Seinfeld" lightning rod Michael Richards provide support -- as does guest star John Travolta in a "Look Who's Talking" reunion.
MOVIES AND SPECIALS
MUHAMMAD ALI'S GREATEST FIGHT (HBO, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m.) The Supreme Court decides his 1960s Vietnam War conscientious objector status. As justices: Frank Langella, Christopher Plummer, Danny Glover, directed by Stephen Frears.
HOUSE OF VERSACE (Lifetime, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m.) Gina Gershon is Donatella, with Enrico Colantoni as Gianni. It's followed by a documentary on the Versace fashion empire.
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED
(Hallmark, Oct. 12 at 9 p.m.) "Touched by an Angel" showrunner Martha Williamson returns with this movie pilot of mysteries from the U.S. Postal Service's dead letter office. With Eric Mabius and Daphne Zuniga.
BURTON AND TAYLOR (BBC America, Oct. 16 at 9 p.m.) Dominic West ("The Wire") and Helena Bonham Carter play moviedom's infamous ex-couple during their '80s acting reunion.
CRAZYSEXYCOOL: THE TLC STORY (VH1, Oct. 21 at 9 p.m.) As the '90s girl group: KeKe Palmer ("True Jackson"), Drew Sidora, Lil Mama.
KILLING KENNEDY (NatGeo, Nov. 10) Bill O'Reilly's book becomes a TV movie with Rob Lowe, Will Rothhaar and Ginnifer Goodwin.
THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR (BBC America, Nov. 23) Matt Smith and David Tennant unite in a 75-minute adventure marking the 50th anniversary of "Doctor Who."
BILL COSBY: FAR FROM FINISHED (Comedy Central, Nov. 24) Robert Townsend directs the veteran comic's first stand-up TV special in 30 years.