Credit: Cox: Eric McCandless/ABC; Fiennes: Adam Larkey/ABC; Somerhalder: Alan Markfield/The CW

‘Tis the season to be jolly despondent that the forecast for brand-new network fare looks relatively bleak from now until the New Year. But then again, my DVR could use a little vacation, considering it’s been worked harder than an Anna Wintour assistant for most of 2009. Back in September, I publicly announced my intention to break up with Grey’s Anatomy and Masterpiece Mystery, but while I indeed made good on my promise to axe those series from my DVR’s “series recording” list (as well as The Mentalist), I ended up adding a whopping seven new series to my regular rotation — which either says something about the high quality of the networks’ fall development slate, or the increasingly low threshold of what keeps me entertained. (I choose the former theory, obvs.) Anyhow, without further ado, here’s the rundown of freshman series that have made the cut at Casa Slezak:

* Cougar Town: One of the very best ensemble casts on television today on a show where the writing grows more confident, funny, and randomly raucous with each passing episode.

* Modern Family: Hilarious/Beautiful. Does anyone not love this show?

* Glee: Yeah, I have the occasional night terror that this frothy rollercoaster is headed straight off the rails, but when Glee is good, it’s fantastic. And any weekly forum for the genius of Jane Lynch gets my “must-watch” stamp of approval.

* V: Quite possibly the worst set design on television — that church front is seriously supposed to look like New York City? — and the teen romance is 1-800-killing-me, but the first four episodes have hooked me nonetheless. Of course, Elizabeth Mitchell could get me hooked on anything — except maybe CSI: Miami. And Heroes. Oh, and Raising the Bar. — and that Mark Hildreth ain’t too hard to look at either.

* FlashForward: I dallied with the idea of deleting ABC’s Lost-in-training after ending up with a backlog of six episodes by mid-November, but even though Joseph Fiennes and Courtney B. Vance occasionally deliver their lines like they’re reading off a grocery list, the rest of the cast is strong enough to help the show get past its occasionally clunky dialogue.

* The Vampire Diaries: I am a rare Twilight virgin (shhh…don’t tell my bosses!), and I’m also one of those weirdos who actively dislikes True Blood, but thanks to The CW’s angsty little gem, I am not completely bloodsucker-deficient.

* Melrose Place: What? There’s not a single shred of junk food in your pantry? Worth it just for Katie Cassidy’s Grade A bitchery, and drinking games involving Ashlee Simpson’s unintentionally comedic line-readings.

Okay, I’ve totally fessed up about my viewing habits, and now it’s your turn. Which freshman series have gotten a season pass on your DVR/Tivo/Life Partner since September? List ’em all in the comments section below, and don’t even think about omitting anything to make yourself look cooler! PopWatch is a judgment-free zone, after all.

Image Credit: Cox: Eric McCandless/ABC; Fiennes: Adam Larkey/ABC; Somerhalder: Alan Markfield/The CW

Episode Recaps

Cougar Town
Courteney Cox stars in Bill Lawrence’s ensemble comedy
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