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Your Fall TV Cheat Sheet on Returning Shows

Photograph by Greg Gayne/FOX

As usual, there has been a lot of talk about the new shows hitting the small screen this fall. But, real talk? How many of them do you think are still going to be on the air come Christmas? Exactly. A slim few. It’s a regular deathwatch out here. And may the odds be ever in your favor. So instead, let’s talk about some of our battle-tested, network TV faves that are coming back and bringing excitement, fun and a little shelf life with them.

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Here’s a quick who-what-when cheat sheet for the 10 returning shows we’ve been waiting for all summer. If you’re not caught up on the current seasons, be warned: We’re spillin’ and spoilin’. Bookmark this post and get your binge going.

1. "The Good Wife" (CBS, September 21, 9 p.m.)

Photograph by DAVID GIESBRECHT/CBS

That this show is entering its sixth season and still so strong, so sharp and so, well, good makes it somewhat of rarity. And last year’s action-packed season was a powerhouse. We were left shocked and shaken by Will Gardner’s death; reeling at Diane Lockhart ditching her firm and joining the Team Florrick/Agos; and intrigued at Eli Gold asking “Saint Alicia” to run for State’s Attorney — her husband and now Governor Peter Florrick’s old job. And we haven’t even begun to unpack the hot, complicated, double-crossing muddle that is the relationship between in-house investigator Kalinda Sharma and smirking law partner Cary Agos. We are ready for the ride, Good Wife!

2. "Homeland" (SHOWTIME, October 5, 9 p.m.)

Photograph by CBS via Getty Images

Full disclosure: I gave up on "Homeland" midway through season 2. But there are plenty of folks who have been edge-of-seat for almost a year waiting to see what happens next, and Season 4 promises to really shake things up. First off: Nick Brody is dead. Like, legit dead. No tricks. Meanwhile, Carrie Mathison, who was preggo with Brody’s baby, is struggling with single parenthood. The action shifts to Pakistan, as Carrie takes on the assignment of field operative there to overseeing a drone strike program. She leaves baby back in the U.S. (possibly for good?). Saul is back, as is Quinn, plus a bunch of new characters. However, knowing "Homeland," the newbies might not last all 12 episodes.

3. "New Girl" (FOX, Sept. 16, 9.p.m. ET)

Photograph by FOX

After the will-they-won’t-they question around Nick and Jess was resolved (they did), and Schmidt started dating both Cece and Elizabeth, the show began drifting south. Then Schmidt moved into the empty flat across the hall and Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.) returned — pushing poor Winston’s already back-burner storyline into Weirdo With Cat territory. It felt like the show lost its focus and fizz. The writers wisely decided to turn the boat around with a bombshell breakup of Nick and Jess and moved back to the hilarious hijinks we’ve come to expect from the group. Season 4’s premiere episode was funny ha-ha and felt like a reboot of sorts. A new "New Girl," even. (Had to do it!)

4. "The Mindy Project" (FOX, Sept. 16, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Photograph by FOX

Sound the horns, release the doves: Mindy and Danny are together! The show’s second season was pretty great. They homed in on the right mix of hilarious and heartwarming: a steamy kiss on an airplane, Dr. L and Dr. C getting together only to later have the tear-soaked “I don’t want to mess up our friendship” break-up, and everyone running around NYC until the two finally made up and made out on the floor (literally) of the Empire State Building’s observation deck. It was like a mash-up of "When Harry Met Sally" and basically every Nora Ephron rom-com. Season 3’s first show was aces. Lots of laughs, raunchy jokes, plus a Dancing Danny — you can’t ask for much more.

5. "Modern Family" (ABC, Sept. 24, 9 p.m. ET)

Photograph by ABC

Phil Dunphy will always be my guy, but the fresh funny just wasn’t there for me these last two or three seasons. But that said, things definitely happened on the Emmy-winning show last year, the biggest being Mitchell and Cam’s wedding in the two-part finale. The planning of the nuptials took over most of the season, and this being a sitcom, naturally there were plenty of shenanigans leading up to the big event. In the end, Lilly’s dads were hitched surrounded by their large and ever-loving families. Season 6 promises the intro of a bunch of new guest-stars, and maybe — if we’re lucky — maybe that absent freshness will make an appearance too.

6. "Nashville" (ABC, Sept. 24, 10 p.m. ET)

Photograph by ABC

The big question from last season is: Whom will Rayna choose? Cowboy Luke, who popped the question on stage after their duet of “Ball and Chain”? (Of course.) Or will it be her original love, the wounded and recovered Deacon, who told her that he finally knows how to love her and gave her back their old engagement ring? Juliette is ready to come clean to Avery about sleeping with slimy Edgehill records chief Jeff Fordham, but it’s too late! That damn Gunnar and Zoey already filled Avery in. And another big secret is unwittingly spilled when Will tearfully confesses to Layla that he’s gay. Problem is, the reality show cameras are hidden and rolling. Oh, and Scarlett decided to pack it in after unraveling on stage, but Gunnar serenades her with one of sweet ditties and she just might change her mind about leaving.

7. "The Vampire Diaries" (The CW, Oct. 2, 8 p.m. ET)

Photograph by CW

The biggest news for Season 6 is bad boy vamp Damon Salvatore and good witch Bonnie Bennett are dead* after getting trapped on the Other Side when it imploded. The asterisk is because on this show, people rarely die and stay that way. Plus, Damon finally got the girl — Elena Gilbert — and they were happy. Elena’s vixen doppelgänger Katherine is no longer (boo.), while history teacher/vampire hunter-turned vampire Alaric Saltzman returns (yay.). Meanwhile, the Travelers’ spell left Mystic Falls drastically changed: No vampires can enter the town. It looks like Matt Donovan, basically the only human left on the show, is going to have to step up.

8. "Grey’s Anatomy" (ABC, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET)

Photograph by ABC

Moving into Season 11 without the excellent Cristina Yang roaming the halls of Grey Sloan Memorial eating people’s souls for breakfast, I’m not sure how Mer, Der and the team will fare. Last year, we found out that Meredith Grey has another half sister (RIP Lexie) working at the hospital: cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Margaret Pierce, the love child of Dr. Richard Webber and Mer’s deceased mother Dr. Ellis Grey. And Meredith revealed to her longtime love Derek that she really doesn’t want to move to D.C. with him. Tension! Speaking of tense, Callie and Arizona broke up, made up and finally decided to use a surrogate to expand their cute family, while Jackson and April got hitched and — oops — got pregnant. Definitely makes room for some interesting developments this season.

9. "Scandal" (ABC, Sept. 25, 9 p.m. ET)

Photograph by ABC

Season 3 left us with Olivia Pope no longer able to handle President Fitz and their “difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love.” Liv shuts it all down and hops on a plane with backup boyfriend Jake Ballard to destinations unknown. A broken Fitz and first lady Mellie struggle to deal with the death of their son Jerry, Jr., who was actually poisoned by puppet master Papa Pope. On the subject of bad dads, Mellie reveals to Fitz that his father, Big Jerry, raped her 15 years ago, Awful! And self-proclaimed monster Cyrus Beene is a single dad after his husband James was shot in the face — by Jake! As for the rest of OPA: Harrison is likely a goner, and that Huckleberry Quinn romance (ew) still haunts my dreams. (P.S. I’ll be taking over Mom.me’s Twitter handle for Scandal’s Season 4 premiere. Join me!)

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10. "Parenthood" (NBC, Sept. 25, 10 p.m. ET)

Photograph by NBC

Every episode brings waterworks, and with this being the final season, we need to just give into quivering lips and bring out the jumbo box of tissue. Last year Julia and her hubby Joel separated and considered divorce, while Sarah reconciled with mumbling Hank. Amber and her PTSD-suffering soldier, ex-fiancé Ryan had a quickie in the hospital bed after he was hurt, and we saw Amber buying a pregnancy test in the finale. Sweet-pie Drew’s college FWB Natalie became his full-fledged girlfriend, and he drove off to meet her in The Pontiac that Grandpa gifted him. Speaking of the elder Bravermans, Zeek and Camille finally moved out of the old family home. The show’s executive producer Jason Katims has hinted about “losing a member of the family” in this final season, so … gird yourselves! (Btw, I will be recapping Parenthood’s farewell season every Friday here on mom.me!)

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