September 02, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Person of Interest
CBS, Thursdays, 9 p.m.
What if New York City was so wired with security cameras in the post-9/11 era that someone could deploy a system to see when crimes were about to be committed? That’s the premise behind J.J. Abrams’ latest suspenser, starring Lost‘s Michael Emerson as the brainiac who spots potential bad guys, and Jim Caviezel as the former CIA agent who goes out and tracks down the villains. The contrast between Emerson’s fuss-budget precision and Caviezel’s laconic kick-assiness gives the series its tension. This is a thinking viewer’s action show.

Showtime, Sundays, 10 p.m.
A twisty drama about a U.S. prisoner of war (Life‘s Damian Lewis) who returns home from Iraq and is lauded by everyone except Carrie (Claire Danes), a military analyst who thinks he might be a traitor. The complication: Carrie may be mentally unstable, paranoid, and wrong, and she’s breaking the law by having Lewis surveilled. Homeland‘s fine idea is to leave us — and Mandy Patinkin, excellently low-key as Carrie’s shrewd mentor — unsure as to who’s the hero and who’s the villain here. It’s great to see Lewis get such a meaty, ambiguous role as the brooding Sgt. Nicholas Brody, and Danes’ Carrie is marvelously neurotic-obsessive.

Up All Night
NBC, Wednesdays, 8 p.m.
The season’s most charming yet frenetic new sitcom has Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as first-time parents coping with an adorable baby who is, naturally, exhausting them. Add to this Applegate’s return to work as a producer for a high-strung, demanding boss who hosts a talk show (Maya Rudolph in full Oprah-esque diva mode), and the show becomes a speedy half hour crammed with fizzy topical jokes and realistic reactions to new parenthood.

2 Broke Girls
CBS, Mondays, 8:30 p.m.
Easily the stronger of co-creator Whitney Cummings’ two network shows (the other being the NBC sitcom Whitney), Broke stars a tough working-class girl (Kat Dennings) teamed with a born-rich but brought-low girl (Beth Behrs) as waitresses in Brooklyn. Dennings and Behrs play off each other with odd-couple sarcasm, yet by the premiere’s end, you can see how this abrasive union (they end up as roommates) is going to develop and deepen. And in a fall season filled with new shows whose high concepts leave me wondering what the hell they’re going to do for more than two episodes, that’s high praise in itself.

American Horror Story
FX, Wednesdays, 10 p.m.
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have created the season’s most intense and probably most audience-divisive genre show: You’re either gonna love it or hate it. (I’d expect nothing less of these provocative Glee guys.) Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott play a troubled married couple — they’re dealing with his recent adultery and her loss of a pregnancy — who move into a Los Angeles haunted house with their understandably cranky teen daughter (Taissa Farmiga). Jessica Lange is delightful as an extravagantly passive-aggressive nutso Southern-belle next-door neighbor. The jolts and musty-room surprises in the pilot never stop, and the rapid-fire editing is a dizzying wonder to behold. The question is, can the series muster up fresh scares each week? One horror avoided in the premiere: No one bursts into song.

Plus: 3 More Shows To Keep an Eye on
Terra Nova
Fox, Mondays, 8 p.m.
The season’s biggest ”event,” this time-traveling chunk of dino sci-fi is grounded by an appealing cast, including Stephen Lang. But will the storytelling and the pilot’s fancy F/X be sustained every week?

Pan Am
ABC, Sundays, 10 p.m.
What may be the better of the season’s two 1960s, Mad Men-inspired shows (the other is NBC’s The Playboy Club), Pan Am has Christina Ricci among its jaunty stewardesses in an engaging sky soap.

The Secret Circle
The CW, Thursdays, 9 p.m.
Kevin Williamson’s new young-beauties-in-peril fantasy is about an orphan (Life Unexpected‘s Britt Robertson) arriving in a small town full of cleverly snarky witches. Fast-moving, fast-talking fun.

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