Here's what's on the TV horizon:
Movies and specials
Ken Burns' latest documentary epic, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, is also one of his best. It airs over six nights, Sept. 27 through Oct. 2, on PBS.
By the People: The Election of Barack Obama, featuring rare behind-the-scenes footage of the president's run for office in 2007 and 2008, airs Nov. 3 on HBO.
The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show will return this fall (date TBA) to CBS. I just realized that some of the models who appeared on the very first Victoria's Secret broadcast several years ago are now old enough to be actually watching CBS.
Later this year
Friday Night Lights begins its fourth season as it did its third: with an exclusive run on satellite service DirecTV, which agreed to fund the show until the finale in 2010. If you're not interested in a dish in your yard, NBC starts airing it in January.
Sanctuary returns to SyFy (same channel, new spelling) Oct. 9.
If you're a Ryan Murphy fan, Wednesday's your night starting Oct. 14, when FX begins airing the final season of Nip/Tuck at 10, following his musical comedy Glee at 9 on Fox (assuming the network hasn't canceled it by then). Also on FX, the very funny spy cartoon Archer debuts sometime in October.
Two series generating a lot of buzz will air closer to Thanksgiving. Lots of people are looking forward to V, ABC's good-looking update of the 1980s series involving friendly aliens. It debuts at 7 on Nov. 3. And White Collar, in which an FBI agent is paired with a suave con man, debuts Oct. 23 on USA.
Fox's late-night replacement for Spike Feresten, The Wanda Sykes Show, comes out Nov. 7. At least it will be funnier than The Life and Times of Tim, which HBO is threatening to bring back later this fall.
Coming in 2010
Lost's final, perplexing season — the one that will sort everything out, promise! No fooling! — begins in January on ABC. The hype, if not audience, for Lost probably will exceed even that for NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 12 .
Among the midseason shows announced by the networks, subject to second thoughts, the highlight is Fox's excellent Human Target, a live-action thriller based on the DC comic and starring Mark Valley. Other shows are Deep End, a sort of sexed-up Paper Chase (first-year law students), from ABC; Happy Town, about a sad little town in Minnesota where people just keep vanishing, you know? (ABC); Fox's Past Life, about detectives who investigate people's, well, it's there in the title; yet another crazy family comedy from Fox, Sons of Tucson; doctor show Miami Trauma, not to be confused with the NBC doctor show Trauma, this one being YABS (Yet Another Bruckheimer Show) for CBS.
Jack Bauer is rested, rehabbed and ready to go with another season of 24 starting Jan. 17. Other shows renewed for 2010 but without firm start dates are NBC's Chuck, Showtime's United States of Tara and The Tudors, FX's Damages, AMC's Breaking Bad, HBO's Big Love and Eastbound & Down, summer favorites America's Got Talent (NBC) and Flashpoint (CBS), and warhorse comedies Rules of Engagement (CBS) and Scrubs (ABC).
Aaron Barnhart, McClatchy Newspapers