Must see Fall TV

Fall is my favorite season. I have happy childhood memories of the dry golden leaves dancing in the crisp air, giving off a rustling noise like cymbals to compliment the whistling of the wind. Memories of playing touch football with friends until the sun went down. Friday night high school football games and all the crazy emotions they stirred up. When I think Fall, I think of a cool, grey day outside, golden light inside the house with relatives visiting, pro football on TV, the smell of some meal always being prepared in the kitchen.
It's also the time when all my favorite TV shows return. This Fall promises a strong lineup. Here's what I'm going to be watching:
  • The Sopranos: finally, we get season four. The Simpsons parodied the opening title sequence of The Sopranos in an episode recently (a repeat, I believe. Is there anything the Simpsons can't do? More on them later). This is the best drama on television (yes, I know, it's not TV, it's HBO), one hour commercial-free every Sunday. The Sopranos doesn't depend on one element, like, say, the way Buffy depends on the humor of Whedon's writing. It's all around great. Strong acting by just about everyone in the case (and great acting by several), a great soundtrack from the title track by A3 to the different songs hand-picked for each episode, and writing by David Chase that snaps and crackles. By the way, if you don't subscribe to HBO, you're missing out. From The Sopranos to Six Feet Under to Sex in the City to Curb Your Enthusiasm to reruns of The Karate Kid, you'll get your money's worth. People will pay $10 for an hour and a half piece of crap movie but won't pay that for four hours of The Sopranos each month? You're giving me agita.

  • The West Wing: America's favorite president returns (who doesn't think Jed Bartlet wouldn't wipe the White House with Dubya if they ran against each other head to head). All attention on Sam Seaborn to see if we can detect any hints of money-grubbing jealousy in his eyes. Sam's a great character, but Rob Lowe is crazy if he thinks he's doing his career any favors by walking away. Mary Louise Parker becomes more of a regular this season. Grrrrr. Will Josh finally choose between Parker and his admin? Actually, why choose? Grrrrr! More of Sorkin mocking Dubya and his idiocy. Yee-ha! Ever notice the only cast member on this show that's married is the president? That's what comes of working all the time. I envision myself as Josh Lyman, about 40 years old, still working around the clock, trying to carve out time for a few dates on the side. With Mary Louise Parker. Grrrr.

  • Firefly: just to see if Whedon has the magic to avoid a sophomore slump--remember Chris Carter and Millenium? A space cowboy adventure. Maybe it can capture some of the charm, fun, and pathos of Cowboy Bebop, the fantastic animated series from Japan.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer--likely the last season for this TV hall-of-famer. Like The X-files in its last days, except most of the major characters are still around which will help the series to finish strong. With Firefly and Buffy, how does Joss Whedon get any sleep?

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: I've only seen one episode, and I realized it's like a low-budget Seinfeld. The same obsession with minutiae. Larry David is like George in about 30 years, still as cantankerous and petty as ever. But since this is HBO, they can cuss up a storm.

  • The Simpsons: it's not must-see TV for me anymore, but that's because it's been so good for so long I just take it for granted. There's little continuity: it's meant to be something you can start watching at any point and then discard. That's the problem with satires--you can live without them. It's hard to truly care about the Simpsons since they're intended to be caricatures. If they ever end the show, you won't get a final episode like that on Family Ties, when Michael J. Fox as Alex Keaton walks out for the last time and hugs Michael Gross and Justine Bateman and audiences everywhere shed a tear. But if you think about how many seasons of sustained quality the Simpsons have produced (I was watching this show in high school!) it's staggering. It's the beauty of using a cast of writers--you can constantly rotate in a crew of new funny people, like Saturday Night Live.

  • Smallville: I can't wait to see when Clark finally learns how to fly, and how they fit that into their budget. Or when he develops his heat vision (okay, does anyone believe that Clark doesn't use his x-ray vision to give Kristin Kreuk the evil eye in class all the time? C'mon, he's a teenage boy). Also, looking for reasons why Clark ends up wearing that ridiculous red and blue outfit when he decides to head to Metropolis after high school. I mean, c'mon, his dad is Bo from The Dukes of Hazzard (John Schneider)!!! Would Bo raise a son who'd wear red underwear outside a blue bodysuit? I think not. The show does a good job of capturing teen angst. There's always one scene each episode where Clark mopes over Lana and some mopey ballad plays in the background, and at the end of the show WB pushes the CD for sale. It works, too. Product placements are the best form of advertising in this new age.

  • Monday Night Football: Al Michaels and John Madden...solid. Pat Summerall was comatose last year. It was time for Madden to move on. Plus, with two rotisserie football leagues going for me, there's money going on just about every game. That's the beauty of roto. If there was rotisserie politics I'd watch C-Span every day.

On a side note, it's clear that Aaron Sorkin and David Chase dislike each other. Chase mocks Sorkin for his drug abuse, Sorkin replies that at least he cranks his shows out on time. We have the makings of a really exciting rivalry here. Forget the celebrity deathmatch, we need an epic battle between the cast of the two shows. This would be the equivalent of Marvel vs. DC, Godzilla vs. King Kong, Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock. Bartlet and team vs. T and the Soprano clan. NBC and HBO team-up for the television confrontation of the century. Bartlet becomes aware of the vast network of illicit activities in New Jersey when Tony tries to buy off a senator. Bartlet orders Leo to mobilize the troops to put it to an end. Tony retaliates, ordering Silvio to put a horse head in Toby's office. Complicating matters is the fact that Christopher is now dating Zoe, living a 21st century Romeo and Juliet. In the midst of all this is the rogue Russian who escaped in that episode in the woods. He's nobody's friend, killing people on both sides for reasons unknown.
That would be must see TV.