Cable has a big fall season now, too. Witness FX's recent premiere of its scruffy mystery "Terriers," plus the returns of its gritty drama "Sons of Anarchy" and wacko comedy "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

Now comes Sunday's ambitious HBO epic - "Boardwalk Empire," a multimillion-dollar miniseries about the Atlantic City underworld during Prohibition times. It's produced by big-screener Martin Scorsese.

"Dexter" rears its bloody head next weekend, as Showtime's gripping serial killer saga with Michael C. Hall starts its fifth season.

And there's more to come.

No longer scurrying for the rerun zones of summer or winter, cable launches shows into the teeth of the new network season. And late-summer returnees like "Weeds" and "Mad Men" keep originals running well into fall.

But cable tends to spread the wealth around, scattering major premieres through Thanksgiving week. It's also got more "reality" and documentary offerings than the broadcast networks, many of which, nonetheless, showcase celebrity names to cut through the clutter of today's hundreds of channels.

Top attractions

 

BOARDWALK EMPIRE (Sunday at 9 p.m., HBO)

Steve Buscemi stars in "the dark side of the American dream," as producer Martin Scorsese describes it. His colorfully sketched 1920s gangster saga, developed for TV by Terence Winter ("The Sopranos"), was shot on a full-size boardwalk set erected in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Scorsese directed Sunday's pilot.

DEXTER (Sept. 26 at 9 p.m., Showtime)

If you thought last season put the screws to the head of Michael C. Hall's serial-killer-next-door, wait until you see him as a single dad, trying to raise kids alone, blaming himself for his wife's death and dodging suspicions among those close to him about the nature of his extracurricular activities. Guest cast includes Julia Stiles, Jonny Lee Miller and Peter Weller.

SISTER WIVES (Sept. 26 at 10 p.m., TLC)

This real-life "Big Love" spends seven episodes with Utah's Kody Brown, his three wives, their 13 children and a prospective fourth wife with her own three kids.

TEACH TONY DANZA (Oct. 1 at 10 p.m., A&E)

The sitcom star teaches 10th-grade English in a tough Philadelphia school - for real and for this docusoap.

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS (Oct. 14 at 10 p.m., Bravo)

This group includes Kelsey Grammer's separated wife, Camille, and sisters Kim and Kyle Richards, former kid stars and aunts to Paris Hilton.

THE WALKING DEAD (Oct. 31 at 10 p.m., AMC)

Zombie apocalypse! The Image Comics books by Robert Kirkman come to dramatic life / death with Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal.

TOP GEAR (TBA, History)

Britain's biggest hit on wheels (seen here on BBC America) gets translated into a rowdy U.S. version, where hosts Adam Ferrara, Tanner Foust and Rutledge Wood test the latest, fastest, priciest vehicles around.

MOGULS & MOVIE STARS: A HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD (Nov. 1 at 8 p.m., TCM)

Christopher Plummer narrates this seven-part docuseries tracing the growth of America's movie capital from silent films through the '60s adult-content upheavals. Weekly episodes are followed by Hollywood classics.

CONAN (Nov. 8, 11 p.m., TBS)

Former "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien strikes back in his cable debut from L.A.

SARAH PALIN'S ALASKA (Nov. 14 at 9 p.m., TLC)

The Republican lightning rod eschews politics to lead viewers on a personal tour of her vast state.

 

Returning shows

 

SEPT. 26 "Bored to Death" (10 p.m., HBO); "Eastbound & Down" (10:30 p.m., HBO)

OCT. 1 "WWE Friday Night Smackdown" (8 p.m., Syfy)

OCT. 5 "Caprica" (10 p.m., Syfy)

OCT. 6 "South Park" (10 p.m., Comedy Central)

OCT. 25-26 "In Treatment" (9 p.m., HBO)

OCT. 27 "Friday Night Lights" (9 p.m., The 101)

NOV. 10 "Psych" (10 p.m., USA)

NOV. 11 "Burn Notice" (10 p.m., USA)

DECEMBER "Men of a Certain Age" (TNT

More new shows 

FISH HOOKS (Friday at 9 p.m., Disney)

Animated high school comedy.

THE INCREASINGLY POOR DECISIONS OF TODD MARGARET (Oct. 1 at 10 p.m., IFC)

Comedy written by and starring David Cross as American liar running London company.

HARRY LOVES LISA (Oct. 6 at 10 p.m., TV Land)

Reality series with Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna.

BRET MICHAELS: LIFE AS I KNOW IT (Oct. 18 at 9 p.m., VH1)

Family docusoap.

NICK SWARDSON'S PRETEND TIME (Oct. 12 at 10 p.m., Comedy Central)

Sketchfest led by "Reno 911!" co-star.

LUTHER (Oct. 17 at 10 p.m., BBC America)

Detective thriller with Idris Elba

Movies and events

SHARKTOPUS (Saturday at 9 p.m., Syfy) - Movie with Eric Roberts.

THE HUB (Oct. 10) - New kids channel (replaces Discovery Kids)

BET HIP HOP AWARDS (Oct. 16)

GROWING THE BIG ONE (Oct. 23, Hallmark) - Pumpkin movie with Shannen Doherty.

DEAD SET (Oct. 25-29 at midnight, IFC) - Horror-reality-comedy series.

AMITYVILLE: THE FINAL TESTAMENT (Oct. 31, A&E)

MRS. MIRACLE 2 (Nov. 27, Hallmark) - Doris Roberts holiday movie

LARRY KING LIVE (Dec. 16, CNN) - The show ends its run.

OWN, OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK debuts (Jan. 1, replaces Discovery Health)

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