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Fall TV Preview: Sunday

”Pan Am,” ”The Amazing Race,” ”Boardwalk Empire,” ”Homeland,” and more

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Pan Am

New Drama

10-11 p.m., ABC

Remember when air travel was glamorous? No? Then take a visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, home to ABC’s Pan Am, a drama about the sexy stewardesses and pilots crisscrossing the globe on the once-luxurious airline. The biggest star of the series — in all senses — is the life-size re-creation of a Pan Am 707 jet, housed in a hangar near the Brooklyn waterfront. On this muggy August day, a string of extras in skinny ties and horn-rimmed glasses are lining up, ready to portray journalists en route to President Kennedy’s 1963 ”Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in Germany. Serving them on today’s flight: star Christina Ricci, who plays Maggie, a Greenwich Village bohemian trying her damnedest to worm her way into JFK’s appearance by flirting with the passengers. ”Can I get you anything else to drink, Mr. Manchester?” she asks one, fluttering the lashes around her saucer-size eyes.

Welcome aboard Pan Am, a period drama set in 1963 that aims to take viewers around the world in retro style every week — all while filming in and around New York City. ”We love the ambition of this project,” says ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee. ”We’re in a world where people have huge TV screens. Pan Am transports you to a world that is delicious.” Given the ’60s setting, critics have suggested that this show, and NBC’s period offering The Playboy Club, are broadcast networks’ answer to Mad Men. The Pan Am team says such comparisons are weak. ”Is The Good Wife comparable to House because they take place in this decade?” asks creator Jack Orman. ”I don’t think so.” Adds Ricci, ”The only thing similar is the time period, and the fact that both shows are shot in very cinematic ways.”

For one thing, unlike Mad Men, Pan Am is based on one woman’s actual experiences. From 1968 to ’75, exec producer Nancy Hult Ganis worked as a stewardess for the airline, and some of the show’s key story lines — including the Pan Am flight team’s rescue of Cubans in a stealth mission — are taken from real life. While Ganis first toyed with making a film about her adventures, she eventually decided that TV would be the best place for her stories. ”I called about eight of my former Pan Am stewardesses,” says Ganis, ”and I said, ‘Let’s all get together and have a little retreat and I’ll bring a camera crew.’ We took it to Sony and they said, ‘Let’s do this.”’ Eventually, Orman (ER) was brought on to craft the script, and Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing) signed on to exec-produce and to direct the pilot. ”Shortly after we sold the pilot, Nancy arranged for me to meet 20 Pan Am stewardesses of that era,” says Orman. ”After about 20 minutes, they loosened up and started telling stories.”

From that research, Pan Am‘s central premise was born: Laura Cameron (Margot Robbie) runs out on her fiancé the day of her wedding and enrolls as a Pan Am stewardess like her sister, Kate (Kelli Garner). Meanwhile, Kate’s been tasked by the government to assist with espionage — primarily because Pan Am was responsible for flying many of the world’s power players. Also on board with the Cameron girls are Maggie (Ricci) and French-born Colette (Karine Vanasse). Flying these ladies all over the world are the arrogant Dean (Mike Vogel, who replaced Jonah Lotan from the pilot) and Ted (Michael Mosley). While the idea of spying stewardesses seems a bit far-fetched, Ganis stresses that the idea is historically accurate. So did she do any espionage in between doling out pillows and cocktails? ”I will never tell! But if you think about it, it was the Cold War, and Pan Am was the only global airline,” she says. ”In fact, we were given the status of second lieutenant of the United States Air Force in case we were captured anywhere, so we’d be protected by the Geneva Convention.”

It was the richness of the material that drew Ricci, best known for edgy films like 1997’s The Ice Storm, to this ensemble drama. ”I wanted to do television for a really long time,” says Ricci, who enjoyed doing guest arcs on series like Grey’s Anatomy. ”I liked the pace. I also really like watching TV. I’m obsessed with House. I like CSI. I love Criminal Minds. We’d been looking for years for something right, and then this came along, and the concept was just something so different.”

Future plotlines will lean heavily on the political turmoil happening in 1963. ”It’s still Camelot,” explains Orman. ”But the pot was about to boil over, and the country and the world are about to shift and change dramatically.” One flash point, of course, was the assassination of JFK, which Orman says the show will address this season. Viewers can expect the ladies to take a trip to Jakarta in the second episode, as well as the possibility of romance between Laura and Ted. (One thing they won’t see the main cast doing: smoking cigarettes. The Disney-owned network nixed the nicotine.) But more than anything, producers hope that each week viewers feel like they’ve taken a first-class international trip — all without leaving their couch. ”If we’re successful,” says Orman, ”there will be a lot of people starting to demand better air travel.” (Sept. 25)Tim Stack

The Cleveland Show

Returning Comedy

7:30-8 p.m., Fox

Here’s how Mike Henry — exec producer and the voice of Cleveland — sums up season 3: ”More music and more guest stars!” Returning guests Kanye West and will.i.am join ?uestlove and Bruno Mars in an episode featuring original rap songs. In October, all three Seth MacFarlane cartoons will participate in a hurricane-themed crossover (delayed from last spring due to the April tornado outbreak). So, Mike: Who would win in a fight between Cleveland, Family Guy‘s Peter Griffin, and American Dad‘s Stan Smith? ”I’m sure Cleveland would win that fight, just with his prowess.” And maybe some celebrity friends. (Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m.)

The Amazing Race

Returning Reality

8-9 p.m., CBS

Even after 18 seasons, TAR is still covering uncharted territory, sending globe-trotters to Indonesia, Malawi, Belgium, and Denmark. But thankfully, the roads of reality-competition dysfunction will be well-traveled again. Says co-creator Bertram van Munster, ”I tell the racers before they leave, ‘There are two things you can do to win the race: First, read the clue, and second, have respect for people you talk to.’ They ignore both.” So what was van Munster’s favorite display of idiocy among the teams, which include flight attendants, snowboarders, and an ex-NFL star and his wife? ”Usually people speak very loud English to communicate with locals. But for some reason, in Asia most people started to speak a crazy mixture of Spanish.” (Sept. 25)

Once Upon a Time

New Drama

8-9 p.m., ABC

When describing the fairy-tale drama to friends, star Ginnifer Goodwin often asks, ”Were you a fan of Lost?” ”The storytelling is very similar,” explains Goodwin. ”You’re presented with the puzzle pieces of these people’s lives, and you’re empowered as an audience to put them all together.” In Once, a group of fairy-tale characters have been trapped in a Maine town and cursed into forgetting their true identities, including Goodwin as Snow White and Jennifer Morrison as Emma, who may be Snow’s long-lost daughter and who holds the key to unlocking the curse. Once will also flash back to their lives in fairy-tale land to answer questions like ”Why did the Evil Queen become evil?” and present surreal mash-ups of classic characters that could only be made by a Disney-owned studio. Teases exec producer Edward Kitsis, ”There’s a ‘war council’ scene that includes Grumpy, Pinocchio, the Blue Fairy, Snow White, and Prince Charming.” (Oct. 23)

The Simpsons

Returning Comedy

8-8:30 p.m., Fox

Will Ned Flanders and Edna Krabappel decide to diddily date? The premiere answers that question, as determined by a fan vote. ”We’re going to do whatever they vote — it’s not a trick,” assures exec producer Al Jean. In a parody of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a paralyzed Homer can communicate only through farting. Season 23 guests include Michael Cera (as a love interest for Lisa), Kiefer Sutherland (as a retired Jack Bauer-type character), Lady Gaga (as herself), and Jeremy Irons as… Moe’s bar rag. (”You really feel for the rag in this episode,” says Jean. ”I’m not kidding.”) And in February’s 500th episode, there’s a secret town meeting to boot the Simpsons from Springfield ”for all the stuff they pulled in the last 499 episodes.” (Sept. 25)

Boardwalk Empire

Returning Drama

9-10 p.m., HBO

Can you imagine a world where the men of Boardwalk Empire didn’t exist? The show’s women would push back their embroidered sleeves, hike those skirts way up past their ankles, and take over. Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) would run Atlantic City. Gillian (Gretchen Mol) would be a distaff Al Capone, while Angela (Aleksa Palladino) could play Picasso. And Lucy (Paz de la Huerta) would walk around naked — though, to be fair, she’d probably do that anyway. But then, the real drama behind HBO’s Emmy-nominated Prohibition epic — the struggle between mothers and sons, between men and ”kept women,” between political cronies and blood relations — would disappear like so much bathtub gin. Fact is, Boardwalk‘s women make the men more compelling.

”There’s that old saying that behind every powerful man is a woman,” says Palladino. ”Well, these men are powerful out in the world, but the really interesting thing is, who are they with their families at home?”

That question anchors much of the series’ second season, which picks up on Valentine’s Day in 1921. As Nucky’s (Steve Buscemi) closest allies conspire against him, the ladies are taking a more active role in gentlemanly affairs. A new female prosecutor, Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) — who’s based on Mabel Walker Willebrandt, the real-life assistant attorney general in 1921 — gets busy hunting down bootleggers. Margaret and her children have moved in with Nucky, whose bad behavior might be rubbing off on her son, Teddy. Yet she’s still warming to her role as Nucky’s partner in crime. Lucy, who announced last season that she’s pregnant, now has blackmail power over Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon), though in her condition, she may feel too vulnerable to use it. Angela is getting to know Jimmy’s (Michael Pitt) inner circle better, and Jimmy’s mom, Gillian, is pushing her son even harder to overthrow Nucky. ”Gillian would love to see Jimmy take Atlantic City,” says Mol, laughing. ”She could be queen and he could be the prince!”

That blood loyalty could put these ladies in danger. ”How far would you go to protect your family?” asks the show’s creator and exec producer Terence Winter. ”That’s the big theme.”

As the New Woman era gives way to the age of the party-girl flapper, no one’s quite so innocent anymore. Delving into these characters’ hardscrabble pasts — Margaret’s reasons for leaving Ireland will be revealed, as will the origin of Gillian’s strange relationship with Jimmy and Angela — Boardwalk will show how the women became such ruthless defenders of the gangsters they hold dear. ”Margaret will fight for the people she loves,” says Macdonald. ”She’ll be dishonest for the people she loves. She’ll do what she has to do to survive.” (Sept. 25)Melissa Maerz

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Allen Gregory

New Comedy

8:30-9 p.m., Fox

The first job Jonah Hill ever wanted was to write for The Simpsons. ”Usually a kid wants to be a fireman, not a staff writer on a prime-time animated series,” he laughs. Perhaps that precociousness explains how Hill wound up co-creating Allen Gregory, a show about a prepubescent intellectual Hill describes as ”a 7-year-old Truman Capote.” Raised in the lap of luxury, Allen Gregory De Longpre is forced to attend public school after one of his two dads makes bad investments. Hill, who also voices Allen, sums up the show’s fish-out-of-water premise: ”The first day of school he sits down at lunch with his Louis Vuitton picnic basket, pulls out some sushi and a bottle of pinot grigio, and asks the kids if they caught Charlie Rose.” (Oct. 30)

Desperate Housewives

Returning Drama

9-10 p.m., ABC

The minds behind ABC’s long-running hit got lucky that their final mystery winks at the series’ roots. ”Because our story line harks back to the Mary Alice mystery of season 1, it seems like we were geniuses in planning a perfect bookend,” admits exec producer Bob Daily. In fact, the writers were unaware that season 8 would be the last when the mystery — which finds the ladies covering up Carlos’ (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) murder of Gaby’s (Eva Longoria) abusive stepfather — was planned. Says Longoria, ”It’s nice when the story lines can make us all get back together.” Of what will transpire during Desperate‘s final days, Daily hints: ”There have been finales that have taken radical approaches and have alienated fans, and we don’t want to do that. We are not messing with the DNA of the show at all.” (Sept. 25)

Dexter

Returning Drama

9-10 p.m., Showtime

A year has passed since Lumen (Julia Stiles) left Dexter (Michael C. Hall) holding the metaphorical bag of body parts. How’s he doing now? ”Last season Dexter went down a very dark path, and we’re trying to find our way back to the Dexter we knew in season 1 but also absorb what we learned along the way,” notes exec producer Scott Buck. In season 6 the revitalized serial killer, who’s on a ”spiritual search,” will cross paths with a religion professor (Edward James Olmos) and an artifacts expert (Colin Hanks) who are linked to a series of horrific murders. ”From the moment Olmos enters the screen, we know that this person is going to have a very significant presence on Dexter,” says Buck, ”particularly with where his head is at this year.” (Oct. 2)

Family Guy

Returning Comedy

9-9:30 p.m., Fox

Meta-twist alert: In Family Guy‘s 10th season, Stewie and Brian will time-travel to the show’s 1999 pilot episode. ”We couldn’t believe how bad the show looked,” says exec producer Steve Callaghan. ”We have a lot of fun at our own expense.” This season also includes guest appearances by Ricky Gervais (as a dolphin), Cate Blanchett (as an evil-kid love interest for Stewie), and Ryan Reynolds (as Ryan Reynolds). The Family Guy segment of the ”hurricane” trilogy will feature a sequence in which Brian has a bad psychedelic trip. Steve, we’ll ask you the same question we asked the Cleveland Show guy: Which MacFarlane protagonist would win in a fight? ”Peter could just sit on anybody,” claims Callaghan. ”He’s the fattest.” (Sept. 25)

The Good Wife

Returning Drama

9-10 p.m., CBS

After the steamy and long-awaited hookup between Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and her boss Will (Josh Charles) in last season’s finale, the Good Wife universe is in the midst of change at the beginning of season 3. ”So much has transpired in very subtle ways,” explains Margulies. ”It’s pretty much fresh and new.” And that doesn’t just apply to Alicia — it’s a fresh start for new state’s attorney Peter (Chris Noth) and new Lockhart & Gardner business partner Eli (Alan Cumming). But Will will have to deal with something old: a former flame (House‘s Lisa Edelstein), who’ll stir up trouble. ”There was a sense from the last scene of the last season that there was going to be a new chapter in Alicia’s life,” says co-creator Robert King. ”This season is finding out what that new chapter is.” (Sept. 25)

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The Walking Dead

Returning Drama

9-10 p.m., AMC

”We’ve got some crazy stuff happening,” says star Andrew Lincoln — and no, he’s not talking about all of the behind-the-scenes drama that went on this summer. ”It took us six episodes [last year] to get to know this crew of people. Now we can really pick up speed with the second season.” With original exec producer Frank Darabont gone — he left in July and was replaced by his No. 2, Glen Mazzara — the zombie apocalypse drama starts up where the finale left off, with Lincoln’s Rick Grimes & Co. speeding away from the explosion at the CDC. Whoever survives will end up on the farm of Hershel Greene (played by Scott Wilson), a familiar name to fans of the Walking Dead comic-book series. Lincoln also has some reassuring words for viewers who are worried Dead might suffer creatively in the post-Darabont era. ”The scripts are sooo good,” he insists. ”They’re amazing.” They’d bloody better be! (Oct. 16)

American Dad

Returning Comedy

9:30-10 p.m., Fox

Exec producer Mike Barker brazenly describes the season 7 premiere as ”the world’s first-ever hip-hopera,” which sees Cee Lo Green playing a diabolical hot tub intent on persuading Stan to live a bachelor’s life. (Asa Taccone — co-writer of ”D— in a Box” — wrote five original tunes for Cee Lo.) More celebrity shenanigans occur in a November episode. ”Stan uses CIA technology to control a sexy young female avatar named Phyllis, voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar,” explains Barker. Now, Mike, you get the last word: Which MacFarlane protagonist would win in a fistfight? ”Peter would probably start laughing. Cleveland would probably start crying. I’m gonna have to go with Stan.” (Sept. 25)

CSI: Miami

Returning Drama

10-11 p.m., CBS

Season 9 ended with Lieut. Horatio Caine (David Caruso) bleeding on the pier while Agent Natalia Boa Vista (Eva La Rue) sank into the ocean, locked inside a car. What now? ”[It’s] a race against the clock to bring down escaped serial killer Jack Toller,” says exec producer Barry O’Brien, who promises ”a shocking conclusion” to the premiere. Horatio will get support from Agent Renee Locklear (Natasha Henstridge) while the team faces off against a wealthy Miami patriarch (Carlos Bernard) and his family. ”With power often comes corruption,” says O’Brien, ”and this family just may be as corrupt as they come.” (Sept. 25)

Hell on Wheels

New Drama

10-11 p.m., AMC

It’s not a Western; it’s more of a Midwestern. The post-Civil War drama may star an iconic gunslinger (Anson Mount) out for revenge, but the show is set in a grimy industrial railroad work camp in Nebraska and features an international melting pot of supporting characters. ”We wanted the hallmarks of a Western, then we wanted to get underneath that and make the characters not so simple,” says exec producer Joe Gayton, who points to films like Unforgiven as inspiration. Mount, who studied 19th-century etiquette to prep for the role (such as when to tip your hat), says Wheels is his chance to fulfill a boyhood dream. ”I kept having a flashback to wearing my cowboy hat and plastic sheriff’s badge,” he says. ”I can’t believe I’m being paid to sit on a horse.” (Nov. 6)

Homeland

New Drama

10-11 p.m., Showtime

A long-held prisoner of war (Life‘s Damian Lewis) returns home from Iraq hailed as a hero — but one CIA analyst (Claire Danes) thinks he may in fact be a secret terrorist. Of course, she’s also a pill-popping, bed-hopping renegade with credibility issues of her own. ”It’s one of the incredible, well-drawn ironies of the show,” says Danes. ”They were both traumatized in different ways in Iraq and are intensely lonely.” Might things get romantic? ”Great question,” teases exec producer Howard Gordon (24), who recognizes the show’s potential for controversy. ”We don’t want to be offensive” toward soldiers returning from the real war, explains Gordon, ”but we do want to dramatize the complexities of our world.” (Oct. 2)

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