Bob’s Burgers
Season 5 / 7:30 P.M. / Fox
By now, we know he’s got burgers — but who was Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) before the restaurant? Showrunner Loren Bouchard promises we’ll find out. ”In our special Christmas episode, Bill Hader will play Bob’s dad,” he says. ”It’ll be an origin story, with flashbacks where we see how Bob’s Burgers happened.” Benjamin thinks it’ll be eye-opening: ”We don’t know where Bob’s from, even. I guess ‘Belcher’ is of English origin? The guy from the old country who burps a lot? Or the king’s burper — the guy who helps the king belch.” But before all that, the premiere will find Gene (Eugene Mirman) directing a middle-school musical based on Die Hard. ”It’s a secret guerrilla production of Die Hard the Musical that takes place down in the boiler room,” Bouchard says. ”Gene directs it, stars in it, and even learns lessons from it.” Oct. 5

Once Upon a Time
Season 4 / 8 P.M. / ABC
There’s a chill brewing in Storybrooke as Frozen‘s Elsa (Georgina Haig) arrives after being locked up in Rumple’s vault. ”She has very strong goals in mind,” says Haig. However, Elsa isn’t actually Once‘s new villain. That honor belongs to the new, as-yet-unnamed mystery character played by Lost‘s Elizabeth Mitchell. ”There’s a dark side that Elizabeth is accessing, and she’s doing so in chilling fashion,” exec producer Adam Horowitz says. Meanwhile, Regina (Lana Parrilla) may return to her evil ways now that Robin Hood’s wife (Christie Laing) is alive, but a mission with Henry (Jared Gilmore) could keep her in check. And speaking of Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), he’s not the only one in town who has a contentious relationship with Wonderland transfer Will Scarlet (Michael Socha). ”I don’t think Will would return to Storybrooke if things were all great in Wonderland,” exec producer Edward Kitsis says. Sept. 28

The Simpsons
Season 26 / 8 P.M. / Fox
The new season comes to life with a death: One familiar character will expire in the premiere. ”If you think you’ve figured it out, then you figured it out,” says exec producer Al Jean cryptically. ”Unless I’m misleading you now.” A few weeks later, in a ”Treehouse of Horror” segment, Homer & Co. find a ghostly family in their house, and it’s…the Tracey Ullman Show-era Simpsons. The Futurama characters mix it up with the Simpsons on Nov. 9 as Bender travels back in time to kill Bart for screwing up the 31st century. Also, Elon Musk and Richard Branson lend their voices to upcoming episodes. Notes Jean, ”I would say we have guest stars this year that are worth an average of a billion dollars.” Sept. 28

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Season 2 / 8:30 P.M. / Fox
The cop comedy left us with three cliff-hangers: Jake (Andy Samberg) is working undercover for the FBI! He confessed his crush to Amy (Melissa Fumero)! Charles (Joe Lo Truglio) slept with Gina (Chelsea Peretti)?! When season 2 picks up six months later, ”the payoff of one of the three involves a velour sweat suit — I won’t say which,” says exec producer Dan Goor. Jenny Slate guests in the premiere as a Mob mistress who could help Jake close out his FBI case, and Kyra Sedgwick pops up the following week as the high-ranking nemesis of Holt (Andre Braugher). And the Captain’s not the only one being challenged this season. ”I will say that Jake’s taking a little bit of a beating this year, which I like,” says Samberg. ”There’s a lot testing his resolve, physically and emotionally. We’ve been sore the last couple of weeks.” Sept. 28

Boardwalk Empire
Season 5 / 9 P.M. / HBO
All good things must pass — even Nucky Thompson’s decadelong bacchanalia in Atlantic City. In its final season, the Prohibition drama jumps ahead to 1931, and ”the tone is that the party’s over,” says showrunner Terence Winter. ”The flapper era is gone. The stock market has crashed, and it’s clear the repeal of Prohibition is on the horizon.” As a result, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) has hoofed it down to Cuba, where he’s working on a deal with Bacardi; Al Capone (Stephen Graham) is now a bona fide celebrity rather than a hot-tempered minion; and the maturing Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) is about to create the infamous Mafia government known as the Commission. ”It was a very transformative time for Lucky,” Piazza says. ”He’s more focused.” That could be bad news for anyone getting in his way. Says Winter, ”We will have a certain number of people making exits throughout the season.” Premiered Sept. 7

Family Guy
Season 13 / 9 P.M. / Fox
It’s finally time for Homer and Peter to pound beers — and each other. The premiere sends the Griffins to Springfield, where they’re taken in by the Simpsons. ”The Simpsons were such a blast to work with and so generous in saying, ‘Here are our characters. Do what you want with them,”’ says exec producer Steve Callaghan. Later, Stewie becomes pregnant with Brian’s baby, though ”when Stewie ends up giving birth, it’s not what anyone expects.” Plus, when Peter brags that he could kick Liam Neeson’s butt, his friends arrange for the actor to teach him a lesson. How badass is Neeson’s guest-starring performance? ”This ranks up there with Taken,” says Callaghan. ”Maybe not Taken 2, but definitely Taken.” Sept. 28

The Good Wife
Season 6 / 9 P.M. / CBS
Nothing tops Will Gardner’s shocking death in the midst of The Good Wife‘s fifth season. But the finale ended with a surprise of its own when Eli (Alan Cumming) asked Alicia (Julianna Margulies) to consider running for Peter’s (Chris Noth) old job. Creators Robert and Michelle King won’t say whether she’ll ultimately enter the race — she’ll weigh her options for several episodes — but regardless, ”this year’s gonna have much more Alan and Jules together,” Robert promises. ”It’s a core relationship.” Sept. 21

The Newsroom
Season 3 / 9 P.M. / HBO
The final season of Aaron Sorkin’s cable-news drama finds the ACN staff once again in hot water — this time with a whistle-blower story. ”The Justice Department wants the name of their source, and they won’t give it up,” explains Sorkin. ”So we see how far they’re willing to go for that.” Kat Dennings turns up as the half sister of AWM’s president, Reese Lansing (Chris Messina), and aids a hostile takeover. Despite all this drama, Jeff Daniels says his character — cantankerous anchor Will McAvoy, who got engaged to Emily Mortimer’s Mac in last year’s finale — will be mellow. Says Daniels, ”He’s got the love of his life, and he’s gotten over his demons and his issues.” Adds Sorkin: ”I knew going into this season that they’re going to have to get married. How do you do a wedding that we haven’t seen before on TV? I think we came up with a way.” That’ll be one long walk-and-talk down the aisle. Nov. 9

Season 2 / 9 P.M. / ABC
Last season ended on a major cliff-hanger, as the outsider Bellamy (Omar Epps) and 8-year-old Jacob (Landon Gimenez) attempted to flee the government’s crackdown on the returned, only to be stopped at the town line. ”Things take a darker turn in season 2,” says exec producer Aaron Zelman. We’ll also see the addition of Game of Thrones‘ Michelle Fairley as the Langston family matriarch, bringing tumult to an already divided clan. As for Bellamy, Epps teases, ”He’s not just going to stand by and watch anymore.” Sept. 28

Madam Secretary
New Drama / 8 P.M. / CBS
Téa Leoni is back on TV as the most powerful woman in the country: Elizabeth McCord, an ex-CIA analyst unexpectedly tapped for secretary of state. ”The idea of trying to imitate one of these really amazing women who have held the position… I said, ‘I don’t know if that’s for me,”’ Leoni says. But then she read Barbara Hall’s script. ”I responded to [Elizabeth] right away.” Below, Leoni maps out her road to the State Department.

Making Friends in High Places
Costar Tim Daly calls former secretary of state Madeleine Albright his White House Correspondents’ Dinner ”girlfriend,” which helped Leoni snag an audience. Albright’s advice? ”She has very little tolerance for women who doubt, and she really seemed to encourage me to not have this woman be limited.”

Finding the Funny
Leoni, 48, was schooled by several Capitol Hill insiders on the intricacies of the office. ”The takeaway that I had was the incredible sense of humor in Washington — it’s a little bit of that maudlin prison-guard humor,” she explains. ”It’s an urgent characteristic if you’re going to be in politics.”

Leaning In
Madam Secretary also zeroes in on the drama at home. Leoni can’t help but draw real-life parallels, especially since the day she spoke with EW she was trying to take her daughter to a doctor’s appointment between scenes. ”The idea of the adjustment for my kids is certainly ringing very familiar,” she admits with a laugh.

Dressing to Impress
”I’m purposely trying to avoid [fashion] that would look familiar,” Leoni says. ”When you put those three women [Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton] into a blender, all of my options are gone.” She relies on costumer Amy Roth to tame her self-described ”independent” style. Sept. 21

Season 4 / 9 P.M. / Showtime
Homeland is leaving home as Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) heads to Pakistan (though her baby will stay Stateside). The shake-up means the spy drama is introducing a slew of new faces…for now. Teases showrunner Alex Gansa, ”Not all these people will survive the season.” So meet the newcomers — just don’t get too attached.

Sandy Bachman, Corey Stoll
Carrie may have met her match in this CIA station chief. ”He understands the spy game and isn’t afraid to go rogue at times,” says Gansa. ”So far [during production] they have been an awesome team together.”

Martha Boyd, Laila Robins
The supersmart U.S. ambassador to Pakistan will go head-to-head with Carrie. ”There is a natural antagonism — the station chief is breaking laws to find out secrets, and the ambassador is trying to make nice with the host country.”

John Redmond, Michael O’Keefe
Bachman’s second in command is a CIA vet who (surprise) clashes with Carrie. ”He has a big chip on his shoulder because he’s never been station chief, so you can imagine how he feels when whippersnapper Carrie comes in.”

Aayan Ibrahim, Suraj Sharma
This Pakistani med student, whose life will be heavily explored, is the new civilian Carrie will try to recruit. ”We get to know his roommates, his girlfriend, his life,” Gansa says. (Just no angsty daughters, please!)Oct. 5

The Walking Dead
Season 5 / 9 P.M. / AMC
When last we saw Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), he and the gang were trapped at Terminus in a train car. But even if they get out, it will be at a cost. ”Last year the characters were faced with the question: Are they too far gone to be people anymore?” says showrunner Scott M. Gimple. ”Now this season is, okay, they can’t go back. Who do they become?” And who have their adversaries become? While the zombies will always be a threat, Lincoln notes, ”The conflict and the terror come directly from the humans.” Oct. 12

New Comedy / 9:30 P.M. / Fox
Standout stand-up/former SNL writer John Mulaney headlines this semi-autobiographical comedy on which he plays John, a comedian who starts working for a game-show host (Martin Short). ”I’m this guy with a naive idea about what it’s like to work in show business, and that idea changes when I’m hired to write for a game show,” says Mulaney, who recruited Nasim Pedrad (SNL) and Elliott Gould to play his friend and his neighbor, respectively. Shot in front of an audience, the show — which opens with a stand-up segment à la Seinfeld — is more I Love Lucy than Louie. As Mulaney says, ”It just seemed like, ‘What if we did one of those old-school ones where we’re in our apartment, three characters talking — but it was a lot weirder?”’ Oct. 5

The Affair
New Drama / 10 P.M. / Showtime
TV Reentry Form: Joshua Jackson
1. Name Joshua Jackson
2. Current destination Showtime’s sexy new drama The Affair, which chronicles an illicit liaison from alternating perspectives. Jackson plays grieving cowboy Cole Lockhart, whose wife (Ruth Wilson) is cheating on him.
3. Last permanent TV address Fox’s Fringe
4. Character description in five words ”A very confused, dedicated husband.”
5. Reason for reentry ”The quality of the cast and script. It was co-creator Sarah Treem’s vision for where these characters were going to go. Ruth Wilson and Dominic West are so great, and then Maura Tierney was there. It just got more enticing.”
6. Season itinerary ”My character and his wife have lost a child in the year previous, and they’re still grappling with the emotional fallout of that. And, well, the show’s called The Affair…”
7. About my character… ”I don’t think Cole has a big secret. He just can’t let go of his past.”
”He has a pretty killer pair of boots.”
”It’s much easier to play the rancher than to be the rancher.” Oct. 12

What’s Next For…
American Dad
Season 11 / 9 P.M. / Fox
In the premiere, Greg and Terry adopt a Russian boy named Michael, but Roger gets rid of Michael and assumes his identity. ”Does it work out?” exec producer Matt Weitzman ponders. ”Nyet.” The show moves to TBS on Oct. 20, and in one of the first installments in its new home, Steve says the F-word to Francine. ”That actually does work out for him,” says Weitzman. ”Our fans are going to be really inspired by the lewd new lines that have been drawn.” Sept. 14

Season 15 /10 P.M. /CBS
Mark-Paul Gosselaar steps into the dual role of a serial killer behind bars and his real-estate-magnate twin. ”We thought it was a great window into the relationship between Russell [Ted Danson] and Finlay [Elisabeth Shue]. The case will draw them together,” says exec producer Don McGill. ”The audience will wonder: How close were they? Was there ever a romantic relationship there?” Sept. 28

Season 4 / 10 P.M. /ABC
The sudsy drama returns with a small time jump and a quick answer to last season’s biggest cliff-hanger: David Clarke (James Tupper) is very much alive. ”His existence reboots the show. The memory of David was the fulcrum on which this whole show turned,” says exec producer Sunil Nayar. ”It is a revitalizing presence to have him driving the season forward.” Sept. 28