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An Inside Peek At Fall TV

The Television Critics Association press tour rolled to a close, and we’ve got the hottest headlines on the series you’re going to love — or maybe love to hate

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As we said goodbye to this summer’s news-packed semiannual Television Critics Association press tour, there was much to cheer (yay for Billy Bob Thornton on FX!), much to question (will Joss Whedon have a strong hand in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?), and even a sitcom to disparage (too soon to declare Fox’s Dads the fall’s first cancellation?). Here’s the news that got pulses racing and skin crawling.

? Joss Whedon fans, can we get a hallelujah? The creator of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. clarified that he’ll remain quite involved in the ABC series (which bows Sept. 24), even though he’s handed over the showrunner duties to brother Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. (Joss wrote and directed the pilot about a government agency that protects ordinary people from extraordinary threats.) ”I’m reading every script, every story, and giving notes and rewrites,” he said. ”I just can’t be in the room every day.” Now the bad news: Marvel fans may want to temper expectations when it comes to crossover possibilities. It’s fair to assume we’ll see some familiar villains, but don’t expect Samuel L. Jackson to show up as Nick Fury anytime soon. ”I’m not going to go begging or use up favors I need for Avengers 2,” Whedon conceded.

? If you love a good catfight, Nashville could be worth your while: ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee promised that season 2 (premiering Sept. 25) will offer more twists, with Rayna (Connie Britton) driving more of the plot, and the rivalry between her and Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) coming to a delicious head. In other soapy drama news, he also said that Revenge‘s season 3 story lines will be ”slightly less complicated” under new showrunner Sunil Nayar. Thank God.

? No, Fox hasn’t given up on American Idol. Yes, the quest to find the ideal judging panel continues. And apparently the solution lies in the show’s past: At press time Fox was inches away from persuading Jennifer Lopez to head back to the hot seat, where she’d split the responsibilities with returning judge Keith Urban and a to-be-named third panelist. (Will.i.am is in serious talks, but so far that’s it.) Speaking of panel overhauls, The X Factor is going through its third iteration this fall, with Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio replacing last year’s Britney Spears and L.A. Reid and joining the returning Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato. Explained Cowell, ”I felt what we were doing was similar to what everybody else was doing. And I felt this impatience to get into season 3 and do what I wanted to do.”

? Billy Bob Thornton will transition to the small screen on FX’s Fargo, an adaptation of the 1996 film that starred Frances McDormand. Though the Oscar-winning Coen brothers movie followed a pregnant sheriff who unraveled a botched kidnapping plot, the 10-episode limited series from Bones writer Noah Hawley will spin a new yarn, featuring Lorne Malvo (Thornton), a manipulative man who wreaks havoc on a small-town insurance salesman. FX Networks CEO John Landgraf said the TV project captures the spirit of the film. ”I think people are going to be entranced with that show. [Hawley’s] managed to [create] a new version of Fargo that’s its own thing.”

? Every season has a fresh punching bag, and this year the target is Dads, the new Fox comedy from Seth MacFarlane and his fellow Family Guy scribes Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. Martin Mull and Peter Riegert star as two pain-in-the-tushie pops who move in with sons Giovanni Ribisi and Seth Green. Early reviews deplored the pilot’s cheap jokes at the expense of women and minorities — like the scene involving Brenda Song (The Suite Life of Zack & Cody), who’s asked to dress up as a schoolgirl to impress some Asian clients. Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly argued that the show scored highly among a cross section of viewers during focus testing, while Green offered this (thin) defense: ”Just to be fair, these are some pretty disparaging portrayals of white men.” Sounds…awesome?