Boardwalk Empire

HBO, Sept. 16, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

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DRAMA

Last season the crime drama set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City was a big, gaudy Ferris wheel that barely moved-leaving the great Steve Buscemi, as crime lord Nucky Thompson, stuck as the story got bogged down by the evil shenanigans of his former underling (Michael Pitt). Season 3 revolves so fast it's dizzying. Why? Bobby Cannavale. As mobster Gyp Rosetti, a psycho enraged when Nucky cuts him from his black-market-booze run, Cannavale oozes dark, oily malevolence. Put his floridness up against Buscemi's poker-faced acidity-he's like a pickled Richard Nixon-and you get fireworks.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO TOM: tomsreviews@peoplemag.com

This season the networks have stocked up on old-fashioned pleasures: haunted houses, adrenaline-driven superheroes and, yep, country music

NASHVILLE

ABC

Probably fall's most satisfying new drama, Nashville sets up a classic fight between two country stars. Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), a popular singer stalled mid-career, is pushed to go on tour with a hot young thing named Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). Britton faces this trial with her usual level-headed integrity, occasionally letting rip with high diva dudgeon. Panettiere is a twangy Tasmanian devil, done up in what appear to be outfits Taylor Swift threw from her tour bus.

666 PARK AVENUE

ABC

Broadcast prime time doesn't allow for the gore of American Horror Story or The Walking Dead, which means this is closer to Edgar Allan Poe's Melrose Place. Terry O'Quinn (Lost) is the sinister owner of a classic Manhattan apartment building whose tenants apparently sign away their souls. And careful with those elevator doors! Great fun, in a thunderingly obvious way.

BEN AND KATE

FOX

The big buzz from FOX has been over Mindy Kaling's The Mindy Project, but this is the better sitcom. Dakota Johnson and Nat Faxon play a sister and brother whose dysfunctional childhood has left them as two very different but still very close grown-ups. Johnson, the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, is a revelation: a totally natural comic actress.

VEGAS

CBS

In his first TV vehicle, Dennis Quaid plays a prickly, leathery rancher recruited to fight crime in 1960s Vegas. His main adversary: new-kid-in-town mobster Michael Chiklis, a tough guy with a turtle-egg head and no patience for fools. A solid drama over which (for once) period detail hasn't been poured like Hollandaise.

ARROW

CW

A playboy, believed lost at sea, comes home a secret superhero: As green-hooded archer extraordinaire Arrow, he takes aim (literally) at crime. It's all done with breathless bravura, and star Stephen Amell has a six-pack to make viewers quiver.

Aliens, buds, doctors and a Joisey lawyer-all dud on arrival

THE NEIGHBORS

ABC

This sitcom about a suburban family surrounded by extraterrestrials has a sense of the absurd-the aliens take the names of sports stars-but little humor. I like Toks Olagundoye's delicate touch as Mrs. Alien, but it's a dead planet.

MADE IN JERSEY

CBS

Janet Montgomery plays Martina Garretti, a lawyer from an Italian family in the Snooki State. Note the small, adorably tacky poof of hair rising above her forehead! It may be time for Rhode Island to have a cultural moment.

PARTNERS

CBS

The network's only new comedy is a mild gay-straight bromance starring Michael Urie and David Krumholtz. Urie, as the gay half, is charming, but the show is How I Met Your Other-too formulaic even for a network that scores with formulaic hits.

THE MOB DOCTOR

FOX

Jordana Spiro plays the most ethically challenged surgeon in history: She owes the Chicago mob a favor, and the pilot makes clear they aren't going to ask her just to explain Obamacare. Even less believable than The Neighbors.

The family drama Parenthood (NBC, Tuesdays) could be called The Overshare Show. Parents, kids, lovers-they're all trying, with stammering earnestness, to stake their ground on thorny emotional issues. This drove me batty when the show premiered in 2010, but as Lauren Graham and a large, excellent cast perfected the show's ensemble rhythm, it became endearing. The show is a birdhouse full of woodpeckers.

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BACHELOR PARTY

ON SEPT. 23 YOU'LL BE COMPETING AGAINST ALL THREE OF YOUR MALE COSTARS FOR AN EMMY. WHAT'S THAT LIKE?

We all joke about it and just enjoy it. Jesse [Tyler Ferguson] and I were just saying today that we should write each other's acceptance speech and not look at it unless we won.

ANY SPLURGES AFTER SIGNING YOUR NEW MODERN FAMILY CONTRACT THIS SUMMER?

I've been looking for a house, and I just found one, so I'm going to splurge and get a nugget ice-machine and a fun outdoor kitchen because I love to cook outside. I'm trying to enjoy being a bachelor again.

HAVE YOU BEEN DATING?

Yeah. I was with my ex-girlfriend for most of the years I was becoming this guy on TV that people know. I've never been recognizable like this and single at the same time, but it's definitely fun.

YOU LOOK GREAT, HAVE YOU LOST WEIGHT?

I've lost 30 lbs. I turned 40 this past year, and I'm back to the weight I was when I was a junior in high school.

HOW DID YOU DO IT?

I work out with a trainer three or four days a week, and I'm on the eat-less-food diet. I'm not trying to change who I am, just trying to be a little more healthy. I don't want a six-pack; I have a one-pack. And a four-pack of wine coolers.

YOU'VE GOTTA SEE THIS...

BEST IN TV: THE GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL TIME

Is ER among them? Barbara Walters hosts a two-hour special from ABC News and People. ABC, Sept. 18.

SURVIVOR: PHILIPPINES

Host Jeff Probst will be clean, fit and amused for a new season that includes-Blair?! Yes, Lisa Whelchel from The Facts of Life. CBS, Sept. 19.

PARKS AND RECREATION

Sen. John McCain pops up in the season premiere, as Pawnee politico Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) visits the nation's capital. NBC, Sept. 20.