Here are Sunday's most anticipated shows this season

By EW Staff
September 07, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Cleveland Show
Retuning Comedy

Premieres Oct. 21, 7:30-8 p.m., FOX

The guest-studded season 4 premiere — which confirms the existence of a hip-hop illuminati — brings back Kanye West as Kenny West, and Bruno Mars, will.i.am, Nicki Minaj, and ?uestlove will play themselves. ”To say that they were willing to poke a little fun at their public images and rumors is an understatement,” says showrunner Rich Appel. And since they’re all there, why not make some music? ”We did two original songs,” including one featuring West rapping over the polka standard ”Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,” Appel says. That’s just the tip of the guest-star iceberg: Bryan Cranston will recur as a doctor, Sofia Vergara pops in to encourage Junior to have a quinceañera, and Krysten Ritter plays ”a struggling actress in a crappy Melrose Place-style apartment building.”

The Amazing Race
Returning Reality

Premieres Sept. 30, 8-9 p.m., CBS

How do you keep the 21st race around the world so Amazing? ”I like to think of it in the spirit of Dr. Seuss,” says host Phil Keoghan. ”New faces and new places make amazing races.” This season’s group — featuring Chippendales dancers, a double amputee who’s also a snowboarding champ, and monster-truck drivers — will travel to nine countries, including Indonesia, China, and France. As Dr. Seuss would say, oh, the places they’ll go…that is, if they can figure out a manual transmission. ”Every time we begin the race we say, ‘Do you know how to drive stick?”’ laments exec producer Bertram van Munster. ”And every time, one team goes 300 miles in first gear because they’re afraid to put the car into second.”

Call the Midwife
New Drama

Premieres Sept. 30, check local listings, PBS

On this BBC import that was wildly popular across the pond, newcomer Jessica Raine plays Jenny Lee, a young and naive nurse thrown into the harrowing yet rewarding world of midwifery in 1950s East London. ”The show is about birth, and though it’s set in the 1950s the stories are universal,” says exec producer Pippa Harris. ”We wanted to make sure we captured the mix of humor and pathos in those stories.” Of course, with birth stories come babies, and some of Harris’ newborn actors turned out to be particularly flexible. ”Prosthetic babies are quite expensive, so we had to double up,” says Harris. ”They had a detachable willy so we could turn babies into little boy or girl babies. I found them kind of creepy.”

The Simpsons
Retuning Comedy

Premieres Sept. 30, 8-8:30 p.m., FOX

What are Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, Zooey Deschanel, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Sarah Silverman doing in the season 24 premiere? Bart tracks down his old girlfriends (voiced by those five), which involves traveling to New York City to see Cletus’ daughter Mary (Deschanel), who’s ”living like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” says exec producer Al Jean, adding, ”Let’s just say it’s a bittersweet ending.” In subsequent weeks, Marge wants another child, Steve Carell guests as Fat Tony’s dangerous accountant, Justin Bieber shows up at Bart’s talent show, and Edward Norton plays a lovable minister who causes Reverend Lovejoy grief. And in one ”Treehouse of Horror” segment, the Simpsons ”adopt” a black hole, which starts swallowing everything in town. ”Disney’s The Black Hole does not meet a good fate,” hints Jean, ”much like it did when it came out in 1979.”

Bob’s Burgers
Retuning Comedy

Premieres Sept. 30, 8:30-9 p.m., FOX

Things get heady in the season 3 opener as Bob’s (H. Jon Benjamin) daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal) suffers an identity crisis after a bully (Schaal’s real-life comedy partner Kurt Braunohler) steals her beloved bunny ears. Elsewhere in the season, Gene (Eugene Mirman) forms a bond with a talking toilet, voiced by Jon Hamm. ”It’s an E.T.-style love story between a boy and a toilet,” says creator Loren Bouchard, who notes the commode role was written specifically for Hamm. Zach Galifianakis plays a man who thinks he used to be a mannequin, Fred Armisen guests as an unhinged health inspector, and Aziz Ansari returns as nerdy neighborhood boy Darryl. And yes, there will be new burger specials, like the Say It Ain’t Cilantro Burger (Comes With No Cilantro Because Cilantro Is Terrible). Says Benjamin, ”The specials seem to be the show’s breakout [”star”].”

Boardwalk Empire
Retuning Drama

Premieres Sept. 16, 9-10 p.m., HBO

The Roaring ’20s are just getting started when season 3 begins. It’s New Year’s Eve at the dawn of the flapper era, and Nucky (Steve Buscemi) and Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) are counting down to 1923, sipping drinks and trying to forget the bad things that happened last year. (R.I.P. Jimmy Darmody.) ”People are engaging in denial,” says showrunner Terence Winter. ”It feels like a wild party until people are forced to confront their actions.” There are a few new faces in Nucky’s world, including con man-turned-Department of Justice agent Gaston Means (Stephen Root) and bootlegger Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), a Sicilian-born New Yorker with a violent temper. ”He’s sort of a psychopath,” admits Cannavale. ”When this [”season”] is all over, I’ll be able to beat anybody within an inch of their life with any rubber instrument you give me.”

Dexter
Retuning Drama

Premieres Sept. 30, 9-10 p.m., Showtime

Debra catching Dex mid-murder was only the beginning. If you were frustrated by the Showtime drama’s wonky sixth season, the intense fall premiere just might win you back as Lt. Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) starts to piece together her brother Dexter’s (Michael C. Hall) secrets. ”We couldn’t be presented with a more fundamental change to the show,” Hall says. ”It’s been thrilling to feel such an infusion of new energy.” Season 7 also introduces a mysterious woman (Chuck‘s Yvonne Strahovski) who helps Miami Metro with a case, and a Ukrainian crime lord (Rome‘s Ray Stevenson) who’s heading toward a ”big showdown” with Dexter, says exec producer Scott Buck. But the real fireworks will come from Deb and Dex’s seemingly impossible new relationship. Hints Buck, ”There is no easy solution for either of them.”

Family Guy
Retuning Comedy

Premieres Sept. 30, 9-9:30 p.m., FOX

The Griffins will climb to new heights in the season 10 premiere when they race the family of Lois’ ex and his snobbish wife (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) to the top of Mount Everest. ”It’s rough going,” notes exec producer Mark Hentemann. ”They eat a dead kid. And Meg eats a lot.” Later this season, Peter steals some Nielsen boxes and becomes America’s most powerful viewer; Brian’s exes (voiced by Drew Barrymore and Jessica Biel, among others) return on Valentine’s Day; space camper Chris accidentally launches the family into orbit; and in the 200th episode, Brian borrows Stewie’s time machine and inadvertently reverses the direction of time, allowing us to revisit many classic Family Guy moments. ”If you thought the forward version of the ipecac [”scene”] was gross,” warns Hentemann, ”it’s even more gross when the vomit is going in reverse.”

The Good Wife
Retuning Drama

Premieres Sept. 30, 9-10 p.m., CBS

Season 4 will find the firm in serious financial trouble (cue recurring guest star Nathan Lane as its appointed trustee in the premiere), Alicia (Julianna Margulies) struggling to decide how much she and the kids can be used in Peter’s (Chris Noth) gubernatorial campaign, and Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) pushing the envelope of sex on network TV when her dangerous estranged husband, Nick (Marc Warren), reenters the picture. ”There’s this kind of spectacularly demented sense of not knowing what will happen next,” co-creator Robert King says of the much-anticipated reveal of Kalinda’s backstory. ”There’s the sexual dominance that you would have read in Fifty Shades of Grey combined with Kalinda being thrown off her game.” Panjabi says Nick will rattle quite a few others as well. ”Nothing intimidates him, so he does come to the firm,” she says. ”He’s trying to find Kalinda’s Achilles’ heel, and when he discovers it’s Alicia, I’m sure he’s going to get dirty.”

Revenge
Retuning Drama

Premieres Sept. 30, 9-10 p.m., ABC

After its (literally) explosive finale, Revenge picks up eight weeks later, at the start of the Hamptons’ summer season. ”I will put the memorial in Memorial Day,” says creator Mike Kelley cryptically, promising answers about the fates of in-peril characters Lydia (Amber Valletta), Victoria (Madeleine Stowe), and Charlotte (Christa B. Allen). Like last fall’s, the premiere will flash-forward to a ”dramatic and terrifying event” that the first half of season 2 will work toward. Expect to find Amanda (Margarita Levieva) just weeks from giving birth to the baby she claims is Jack’s (Nick Wechsler); the sexually flexible Nolan (Gabriel Mann) getting romantic with new NolCorp employee Padma (Greek‘s Dilshad Vadsaria); and Emily (Emily VanCamp) focusing on her training, a potential love interest (Barry Sloane), and locating her no-longer-presumed-dead mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh). ”I’m excited and terrified about the role,” Leigh says. ”I’m going to be surprised by every script.”

The Walking Dead
Retuning Drama

Premieres Oct. 14, 9-10 p.m., AMC

Last season ended with an ominous-looking prison in the distance, and in the season 3 premiere we’ll see Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) & Co. in the prison, many months later. ”They jumped forward in time,” says Lincoln. ”You see we’ve hardened. We’ve become this much tighter, more brutal and self-sufficient outfit.” They’ll need to be. Not only must they clear the jail of zombies to make it a home for still-pregnant Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and the group, there is a new (human) enemy to deal with, too: the Governor (David Morrissey), who rules the town of Woodbury with something of a messiah complex. ”He thinks of himself as a man whose time has come to save humanity,” says exec producer Gale Anne Hurd. ”I don’t think he would say the zombie apocalypse was a good thing, but he’s certainly the man to help re-create civilization as he sees fit.”

American Dad
Retuning Comedy

Premieres Sept. 30, 9:30-10 p.m., FOX

After seven seasons, this Sunday-night staple is still showing us new sides to its characters. In the premiere, we discover Hayley’s (Rachael MacFarlane) musical talents when she becomes the house singer in the bar Roger opens in the attic. ”She does a Fabulous Baker Boys tribute where she sings ‘Makin’ Whoopee,”’ says MacFarlane. Other highlights this season will include cameos by Rupert Grint, Alison Brie, Nathan Fillion, and Jon Hamm, who’ll deliver a ”The More You Know”-style PSA as himself. Fans can also look forward to the show’s most warped Christmas episode yet: Danny Glover will guest as Krampus, the mythical creature who, according to Germanic legend, kidnaps naughty children. But this one sings! (Charles Bradley provides the singing voice.) Swears exec producer Mike Barker: ”It’s probably the best show we’ve ever done.”

666 Park Avenue
New Drama

Premieres Sept. 30, 10-11 p.m., ABC

As the title might suggest, Vanessa Williams shares her new TV residence with evil. ”It’s a cross between The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, and Devil’s Advocate,” says Williams, who costars with Lost‘s Terry O’Quinn as the owners of the Drake, a tony but creepy Manhattan apartment building where residents move in but can’t move out. Dave Annable and Rachael Taylor play the Drake’s new managers, who might be onto the reason some tenants don’t last too long. ”We’re going to focus on what it means to live in that building and have dreams granted,” says exec producer Matthew Miller. Since guest stars (including Damages‘ Mili Avital, as an unlucky-in-love beauty) are a big part of the action, should we expect Mr. Roarke to get a job as the Drake’s doorman? ”It’s the network’s biggest fear,” says Miller, laughing. ”They’re like, ‘We don’t want it to be Love Boat or Fantasy Island.”’

The Mentalist
Retuning Drama

Premieres Sept. 30, 10-11 p.m., CBS

With The Mentalist switching to a new night, ”it’s a new start for us,” says exec producer Bruno Heller of the crime drama’s fifth season. ”Things are going to move forward in a way they haven’t in the past.” Translation: major developments in Patrick Jane’s (Simon Baker) quest to nab Red John, the serial killer who murdered his family (although in the season’s second episode, Jane will meet a girl who claims to be his dead daughter). Jane and his CBI cohorts are forced to collaborate with a team of FBI agents, led by Rome’s Polly Walker. Red John’s lackey Lorelei Martins (Emmanuelle Chriqui) — introduced in last season’s finale — will stick around for several episodes as a foil, possible informant, and risky love interest for Jane, much to the chagrin of Agent Lisbon (Robin Tunney).

Treme
Retuning Drama

Premieres Sept. 23, 10-11 p.m., HBO

Season 3 of the post-Katrina drama picks up in 2007, a bygone era when predatory capitalism was a provincial (rather than national) concern. ”The first season was about the people coming back,” says exec producer David Simon. ”In the second season, the crime came back. In the third season, the money comes back. It doesn’t get where it’s supposed to go, of course.” The show’s sprawling cast of musicians, capitalists, and real-life celebrity chefs will swell to include Chris Coy as a journalist investigating the corrupt police department. While Treme averaged under a million viewers last season, cast member and New Orleans native Wendell Pierce thinks the audience is catching on to the show’s unique rhythms. ”There’s always that desire to see The Wire in New Orleans,” says the man who was Bunk Moreland. ”But Treme is a totally different journey. It’s about culture: how we live, how we cook, how we love, how we play our music, how we express ourselves.”

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