This is a continuation of the 2013-4 Fall television season preview I began, I’ve posted the first part already – that one focused on new shows. This post focuses on the returning shows to the slate, and what I consider to be the best bets for this season. Some of the returning shows this season lost their fizzle for me near the end of the 2012-3 season, but I’ll give them a chance anyway (Revenge). They just weren’t good enough to make my top 10 list of returning shows:

10. Survivor (CBS) – September 18

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While Survivor is the venerable elder statesman of the reality show genre (as far as basic television goes – the granddaddy is of course, MTV’s The Real World). The upcoming season presents a brand-new twist for Survivor – Blood vs. Water. The general premise is that some previous contestants will return in order to play their family members in Survivor, with filming to occur in the Philippines. This twist is better than some of the previous seasons presented to us – it adds an extra element to the mental and emotional interplay about to occur with the castaways.

At times, Survivor shows its age – but, that’s okay. Sometimes we just want the familiar and the rote. This is one of these times, and it has the potential to stack up to be one of the best Survivor seasons of all time. There’s been a couple of truly spectacular seasons, some great, with a glut of ‘common’ seasons, and then a few seasons that were absolute dreck (Survivor: Gabon, I’m looking at you). Hopefully Blood vs. Water enters the pantheon of greatness, and not that of dreck.

9. Person of Interest (CBS) – September 24

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Person of Interest has actually begun trending upwards from its first season – getting better as the years roll on, which is a rare occurrence, with Fringe being the most recent example of such a pattern. Most series lock on with the first season, and then begin slowly spiraling downwards in a death spiral, or start jumping the shark en route to being cancelled. The writing on Person of Interest is superb, with small nuances revealing themselves over time as the viewer learns more about the back-stories of the established characters, and new characters are introduced to the series wisely. Continuity matters, and the new characters impart a measure of gravitas to the series as a whole – things you’ve usually ignored in other series are instead examined closely with this series. Minor characters matter.

8. How I Met Your Mother (CBS) – September 23

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Hope you’ve taken your bathroom breaks already,  Mosby kids! The final season of How I Met Your Mother (Season 9) begins wrapping up the entire series on September 23. While we finally glimpsed the titular ‘Mother’ in the final episode of Season 8, we don’t know how Ted eventually kicks off the romance with her. That’s what’s going to make this final season so intriguing – it’s essentially going to be one super-long ‘how I finally met your mother’ story that lasts the entire season. Those poor Mosby kids will finally have their payoff after listening to Ted prattle on and on about the hijinks that he and his friends went on prior to meeting their mother. Definitely can’t wait for this series finale (it’s also leaving at the perfect time, after eight great seasons – not many series can last this long and stay this good).

7. The League (FXX) – September 4

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The League is entering its fifth season with a move to headline a brand new cable network, a FX spinoff called FXX. FXX doesn’t even launch until September 2, but there are already two moves primed to make this a blockbuster season. First – it’s already been renewed for a sixth season, and second – there will be a Raffi and Dirty Harry adventure!! That adventure alone will be worth the price of trying to find the FXX channel once it becomes active, and of course the series itself is well worth your time.

6. The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – September 26

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Back for its seventh season, The Big Bang Theory has seen its audience grow year over year for all except one of its seasons. The quality of the episodes have been on an upward trend as well – especially with the cliffhanger we were left with at the end of the sixth season. Raj being able to talk to Penny without the assistance of alcohol portends especially well for storylines involving Raj and women for the upcoming season. Leonard and Penny will have some forced time apart, when Leonard gets sent out onto a seafaring expedition. Hijinks will ensue.

5. The Mentalist (CBS) – September 29

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Returning for its sixth season, it’s amazing that The Mentalist has endured this long while dropping red herrings everywhere. Eventually it has to conclude at some point with an explosive finale between Red John and Patrick Jane. Jane already thought he killed Red John once, but that wasn’t the case. As we found out in the fifth season, Red John is alive and well. He’s also been revealed to be one of seven men that have already been introduced in the series (as can be seen in the image above). I’m not quite sure if this is to be the final season for the series, but it’d be a fitting end to one of the most reliably dependable series to entertain.

4. The Good Wife (CBS) – September 29

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Season five of the longest-running best legal drama currently airing will make its welcome debut on September 29. The Good Wife has secured its lifetime pass on my DVR, along with multiple shows scheduled afterwards – since it literally almost never starts on time due to the proliferation of NFL football being aired every Sunday during the fall and some of the winter. It’s well worth the doubling or tripling of space on my DVR just to get my hour of The Good Wife recorded so that I can view it. Definitely a must-watch for anybody that enjoys well-scripted & well-acted dramas.

3. Revolution (NBC) – September 25

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After a brilliant up & down season 1, Revolution returns for its second season. Full of promise and heady plot potential, the sky is the limit for the second season – especially after we were left with the cliffhanger end of season 1. Essentially, there’s several different directions that Revolution could go in for its encore, and any of them would be sufficient for a fantastic season. I can’t wait to see what happens with this (and on the flip side, if the show’s writers let the show itself become too unfocused, it could end up being a massive letdown. But that’s essentially the Heroes playbook, which is better than what happened to poor Alphas).

2. The Americans (FX) – January 2014

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It’s simple – there’s only one show preventing The Americans from being the best non-premium television series currently airing now. From the realistic settings, feel, and theme of the series to the stars themselves, the first season was absolutely fantastic. It’s still a crime that Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys weren’t even nominated for Emmys for their acting roles. After a massive letdown with Running Wilde, it’s a fantastic thing that Keri Russell has finally found another television series to showcase her talents on (Felicity is still very much so missed).

1. American Horror Story: Coven (FX) – October 9

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The reigning champion of my television season preview series has defended its title in 2013. American Horror Story: Coven is set to inherit a third creepy storyline that the first two seasons performed so well (Murder House (S1) and Asylum (S2)). The general premise this time around will involve a family of witches relocating to New Orleans from Salem (and be set in the modern day & the 1830s, involving witchcraft, voodoo, and the Salem Witch Trials). Given that Salem is one of my favorite historical places (and the stories) ever, it’s going to be a delicious season full of episodes that I’ll eagerly await week after week to view.

And I didn’t even mention that… Jessica Lange is returning once again! AND AND AND KATHY BATES JOINS AS LANGE’S NEMESIS! *faints*

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