From the return of Michael J. Fox to the end of Barbara Walters' career, the 2013-14 season won't just be about new shows, but new beginnings and endings, and landmark moments that will define the whole year on television. Some of these moments may come soon -- in fact, as early as this week -- while others don't even have arrival dates yet. What they all have in common is drama and impact. Will 2013-14 be a memorable year on TV? As the following list indicates, how could it be otherwise?
Here are my 14 moments to look forward to over the next year:
THE FINAL SEASON OF "HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER"
How did Ted (Josh Radnor) meet their mother (now revealed as being played by Broadway actress Cristin Milioti)? While this may seem like trivial pursuit for everyone else, "HIMYM" created its own slanguage, culture and TV universe. Prime time's shaggiest dog story ends this May after nine seasons and will end it all largely on Long Island, where the wedding of Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulers) may or may not take place. Begins tomorrow (CBS/2 at 8 p.m.).
THE LAUNCH OF ABC'S EPIC "AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D."
You may have heard this fall season is lackluster, but "Agents" -- alone among all the fall newcomers -- would belie that. The pilot (Tuesday, ABC/7 at 8 p.m.) is a big, brawling, bruising sprawl filled with comic book heroes, would-be heroes, antiheroes and someone in a class all by himself, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). Joss Whedon produces -- another reason to get excited.
THE RETURN OF MICHAEL J. FOX
Fox has hardly been missing in our TV lives in recent years: From "Boston Legal" to "The Good Wife," he's been a reliable presence as well as a reminder of a time long ago (1982-89) when he symbolized both an era and a golden age of comedy on NBC. His new comedy -- about a newsman with Parkinson's and a show that uses his affliction as a source of comedy -- begins Thursday (NBC/4 at 9 p.m.).
AND THE RETURN OF ROBIN WILLIAMS
His new CBS series ("The Crazy Ones," Thursday, 9 p.m.) offers the promise of an authentic comic genius in prime time. But Williams hasn't had a big-screen comedy hit in years, so we'll all find out together whether this is a winner ... or another "Old Dogs."
When four major repertory players leave -- Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis (Seth Meyers will go in early '14) -- the questions pretty much ask themselves. Let's begin with this one: Who's Kyle Mooney? He's the Andy Kaufmanesque inquisitor and man-in-the-street interviewer on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" who will join this season. A total of six players, Mooney included, will be added -- Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Mike O'Brien, Noel Wells and Brooks Wheelan -- while Cecily Strong, who joined last season, goes to "Weekend Update." The show returns Saturday (NBC/4 at 11:29 p.m.).
"Glee" says goodbye to Cory Monteith (Finn Hudson) on Oct. 10's episode. Cast members past and present will appear, and it will wrap with a song, by Lea Michelle (who plays Rachel Berry), Monteith's real-life girlfriend.
THE REINVENTION OF "AMERICAN IDOL"
The 2014 season -- perhaps ominously, the 13th season -- will be back in the reinvention game. With new (or mostly new) judges and a new executive producer (Per Blankens, from the Swedish "Idol"), TV's biggest series wants us to forget the past -- but also embrace it. With Randy Jackson still in the fold, as mentor, and the return of Jennifer Lopez as judge, a back-to-the- future vibe is unmistakable. Fox and "Idol" also want to remind us what made this so exciting in the first place -- finding a superstar. In January, we'll find out whether this is possible, or futile.
"DOWNTON ABBEY" RETURNS
The eight weeks, from Jan. 5 to Feb. 24, will be one long "Downton" moment in which most of us will obsess -- endlessly, happily -- over the latest twist or twists of the Crawley clan.
JAY LENO LEAVES (BUT WHERE DOES HE GO?)
On Feb. 6, Leno will leave "The Tonight Show" for the second time. How will Jay celebrate this final exit, and is it really, truly the final exit? Nah, Jay's remarkable career has plenty of drama left -- maybe just not at NBC.
JIMMY FALLON TAKES OVER "THE TONIGHT SHOW"
Next up, a Feb. 24 welcome for "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Fallon brings the show back to New York, originating from Studio 6B, whence Jack Paar and Johnny Carson held forth.
Quipping that the "third time's the charm," DeGeneres hosted only once before (2007), but her second stint seems designed to reverse the Academy's move to add younger viewers in 2012. Seth MacFarlane -- remember?
LINDSAY LOHAN'S OWN SERIES
Either a disaster (yet another) or a step (yup, another) toward career rehab, Lohan's reality series has "must-watch" scrawled on it, even if we don't really want to watch.
"24" IS BACK
Call this one a curtain call, but starting next May, Jack Bauer will return in "24: Live Another Day." This will air over 12 weeks, not 24, but remains, even at this early date, the TV event of summer '14.
Barbara Walters insists she is not retiring, but she is, from "The View," by the end of May. Don't worry: This moment won't sneak up on any of us. "The View" and ABC will relentlessly celebrate this career over the next eight months. Nevertheless, Barbara's exit may be the biggest moment of them all in 2014.