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New fall TV series mine familiar territory

"Gotham" on Fox stars Ben McKenzie (left) as

"Gotham" on Fox stars Ben McKenzie (left) as Jim Gordon and Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock. Credit: FOX / Jessica Miglio

Even before the new fall series lineup is announced, one thing is known: to expect the expected.

TV productions are expensive, so the safest investments are usually the ones that have proven themselves in the past. As "Seinfeld" gave way to "Friends" and countless other sitcoms based around a group of singles, the tried-and-true of more recent programming returns, dressed slightly differently but ready for ratings success.

The fall 2014 lineup follows the same trodden path. In it, you'll find:

1. Plenty of political serials on the ballot.

Thanks to the beloved "Homeland" (Showtime) and "Scandal" (ABC) the networks are betting viewers have additional room in their hearts for even more political soap operas. "Madame Secretary" (CBS) stars Téa Leoni as a CIA agent-turned-Secretary of State, while "State of Affairs" (NBC) finds Katherine Heigl and Alfre Woodard, as a CIA analyst and the President, joining forces to fight terrorism. Also be on red alert for "Scorpion" (CBS), about a computer genius recruited to work for Homeland Security.

2. The continued flood of movie stars to TV.

The trend of marquee names choosing the relatively regular shooting schedules of series over films isn't slowing anytime soon. Viola Davis is a big get for the latest Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal") creation, "How to Get Away with Murder" (ABC); Dylan McDermott continues to cozy up to the small screen in criminal procedural "Stalker" (CBS); and Octavia Spencer rules the ward in the childrens' hospital drama "The Red Band Society" (Fox).

3. The Brits have arrived. And they're staying.

Product from the BBC -- "The Office," "Downton Abbey" -- has been gold for many American channels. The newest entry is the anticipated remake of "Broadchurch," with David Tennant ("Dr. Who") reprising his role as a detective in "Gracepoint" (Fox) alongside Anna Gunn.

4. Comic books are a continued source of inspiration.

With "The Walking Dead" (AMC) surprisingly lively in its ratings and "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC) filming season two, comic books find ever more shelf space on TV. Good continues to fight evil in "The Flash" (The CW), a spinoff of "The Arrow," which premiered in 2012. And for anyone who loves a good origin story, meet Jim Gordon before he was Batman's commissioner in "Gotham" (Fox).

5. Sitcoms are still struggling for relevance.

The noted exception appears to be "Black-ish," which sees Anthony Anderson ("Law & Order") as a dad struggling with his racial identity. Plenty of others appear, based on the trailers, to be nth-generation attempts to rekindle the magic occasionally found in group of friends hanging out, talking about nothing. In the best cases, such shows manage to strike a cultural chord. "Selfie" (ABC) may do that, but it seems more likely to go the way of "Friends with Better Lives." And Myspace.

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