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Cable: 'American Horror' to 'Boardwalk Empire'

Connie Britton as Vivien Harmon, Dylan McDermott as

Connie Britton as Vivien Harmon, Dylan McDermott as Ben Harmon, Taissa Farmiga as Violet Harmon in " American Horror Story" airing on FX. Credit: FX

While cable doesn't necessarily follow the network calendar, channels are continuing to charge hard into their rivals' traditional fall territory.

The coming weeks hold much-touted premieres from Showtime, FX, HBO and big-push newcomer Starz.

Names like Claire Danes, Laura Dern and Kelsey Grammer are headlining the kinds of ambitious concepts increasingly hard to find in movies that now act more like theme-park attractions than a medium for adult ideas and attitudes.

In other words, there's no shortage of sharp choices on the tube -- even in the unscripted arena.

(There's more in early 2012: the return of AMC's "Mad Men," FX's "Justified," HBO's "Game of Thrones" and Starz's "Spartacus," plus the arrival of Showtime's Don Cheadle corporate comedy "House of Lies" and HBO's Dustin Hoffman horse-racing series "Luck.")

Among the best fall bets:

LONG ISLAND MEDIUM

Premiere Sept. 25 at 10 and 10:30 p.m., TLC

Theresa Caputo is a local mom and a local medium, juggling her Hicksville husband and two kids with her booming career taking clients on journeys into the afterlife. When the two roles come into conflict, TV cameras capture all.

ESPN FILMS

Premiere Sept. 27 at 8 p.m., ESPN

The acclaimed sports/society docuseries "30 for 30" lives on in this weekly successor. Early offerings: "Catching Hell" (Sept. 27), about fan Steve Bartman's ill-fated Wrigley Field ball grab; "Renee" (Oct. 4), about transgendered tennis player Renee Richards; "The Dotted Line" (Oct. 11), about sports agents.

HOMELAND

Premiere Oct. 2 at 10 p.m., Showtime

Stars Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin

Driven CIA agent Danes suspects a newly rescued long-MIA-in-Iraq officer might actually have become an inside agent for his terrorist captors. So she goes rogue, further prodded by her own mental instability. Smartly executed suspenser holds plenty of promise.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

Premiere Oct. 5 at 10 p.m., FX

Stars Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton

Get creeped out by "Nip/Tuck"/"Glee" creator Ryan Murphy's latest -- a complex cornucopia of psychosexual distrust and murder-house hauntings among one of those (not so) perfect families. You know, like the ones in "Twin Peaks," whose wild imagery is echoed in this eerie new stew.

THE ROSIE SHOW

Premiere Oct. 10 at 7 p.m., OWN

Stars Rosie O'Donnell, host

Commack's favorite comic is back, welcoming celebs, authors and other newsmakers weeknights before live audiences at Oprah HQ in Chicago. She'll also share her own new life, separated and living in a new city.

ENLIGHTENED

Premiere Oct. 10 at 9:30 p.m., HBO

Stars Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Luke Wilson

"Office Space" mastermind Mike White created this comedy about an executive whose public breakdown leads her to shed her obnoxious behavior and seek to lead a meaningful life. Good luck to that with her interfering mom and druggie ex-husband around.

BOSS

Premiere Oct. 21 at 10 p.m., Starz

Stars Kelsey Grammer, Connie Nielsen, Kathleen Robertson

Formerly funny Grammer gets gritty as a scheming Chicago mayor trying to hold his sprawling city together, while also secretly battling a degenerative brain disorder. The personal and the political vie for his diminishing attention in a series gamble Grammer clearly hopes will put him on the dramatic map.

HELL ON WHEELS

Premiere Nov. 6 at 10 p.m., AMC

Stars Anson Mount, Common, Colm Meaney

It's an "Eastern" Western, charting the post-Civil War building of the transcontinental railroad. Conflict percolates among a multicultural mix of workers and tycoons, settling old frontier scores as a new industrial nation takes shape.

THE EXES

Premiere Nov. 30 at 10:30 p.m., TV Land

Stars Kristen Johnston, Donald Faison

More old-time sitcomedy: "3rd Rock" Amazon Johnston plays a divorce attorney riding herd on odd-trio client/roommates Faison, Wayne Knight and David Alan Basche.

 

NEW SHOW PREMIERES

 

MORE SCRIPTED DRAMA/COMEDY/ANIMATION

SEPT. 30 JESSIE (Disney) -- Rural Texas girl (Debby Ryan) becomes New York nanny to a famous family.

OCT. 1 BEDLAM (BBC America) -- Former insane asylum turned apartment house is haunted.

OCT. 5 PENN & TELLER TELL A LIE (Discovery) -- The comic-magician debunkers offer outrageous claims, with viewers asked to find the whopper.

OCT. 8 FREE AGENTS (BBC America) -- U.K. original of NBC-adapted office comedy obsessed with sex and relationships.

OCT. 11 REED BETWEEN THE LINES (BET) -- Blended family sitcom with Tracee Ellis Ross, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Anna Maria Horsford.

OCT. 27 GOOD VIBES (MTV) -- Animated comedy of craziness among California surfers.

 

MORE UNSCRIPTED DEBUTS

 

"Hulk Hogan's MCW" (truTV, premiered Wednesday)

"Angels Among Us" (CMT, premiered Thursday)

"Killer Instinct" (Cloo, premiered Saturday)

"24 Hours in the ER" (BBC America, Saturday)

"Rocket City Rednecks" (NatGeo, Sept. 28)

"Mysteries at the Museum" (Travel, Oct. 4)

"Mad Scientists" (NatGeo, Oct. 5)

"The Adam Carolla Project" (DIY, Oct. 6)

"Oprah's LifeClass" (OWN, Oct. 10)

"Puppies vs. Babies" (Animal Planet, Oct. 15)

"Coast Guard Alaska" (Weather, Nov. 9)

"I Do Over" (WE, Nov. 20)

 

SCRIPTED RETURNS

 

ALREADY BACK "Sons of Anarchy," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Archer" (all on FX), "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (Cartoon)

TUESDAY "Tosh.0" and "Workaholics" (both Comedy Central)

WEDNESDAY "Blue Mountain State" (Spike)

SEPT. 25 "Boardwalk Empire" (HBO)

SEPT. 28 -- "Luther" (BBC America)

OCT. 2 -- "How to Make It in America" and "Hung" (both HBO), and "Dexter" (Showtime)

OCT. 4 -- "Onion News Network" (IFC)

OCT. 5 -- "South Park" (Comedy Central)

OCT. 6 -- "The League" (FX)

OCT. 7 -- "Sanctuary" (Syfy)

OCT. 10 -- "Bored to Death" (HBO)

OCT. 12 -- "Psych" (USA)

OCT. 16 -- "The Walking Dead" (AMC)

OCT. 27 -- "Beavis and Butt-head" (MTV)

NOV. 1 -- "Covert Affairs" (USA)

NOV. 3 -- "Burn Notice" (USA)

NOV. 27 -- "Leverage" (TNT)

NOV. 28 -- "The Closer" and "Rizzoli & Isles" (both TNT)

NOV. 30 -- "Hot in Cleveland" (TV Land)

 

UNSCRIPTED RETURNS

 

ALREADY BACK -- "Storage Wars: Dallas" (A&E)

SEPT. 23 -- "Ghost Adventures" (Travel)

SEPT. 25 -- "Storm Chasers" (Discovery), "Kendra" (E!), "IRT Deadliest Roads" (History), "Sister Wives" (TLC)

SEPT. 28 -- "Mythbusters" (Discovery)

OCT. 3 -- "The A-List: Dallas" (LOGO)

OCT. 12 -- "Work of Art" (Bravo)

NOV. 10 -- "Braxton Family Values" (WE)

TBA -- "America's Most Wanted" (Lifetime)

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