Your complete guide to 20 new and returning fall sci-fi TV shows

You've started hearing the hype (or at least seeing the commercials), but are you ready for the fall TV season to finally begin? Well, we certainly are. From the new kick-ass spy series Nikita and AMC's zombie apocalypse The Walking Dead to the return of our favorite spy nerd, Chuck, and the battling Olivias over at Fringe, the new 2010 season is filled with promise.

Here's part one of our massive two-part fall TV preview with a look at 20 new and returning science fiction, fantasy and spy shows, and what you can expect from each, with details straight from the executive producers and a ton of trailers. Beware, spoilers abound.

Part two covers TV's midseason and beyond, as well as canceled shows.

Note: This has been recently updated with new trailers for Caprica, Sanctuary and Stargate Universe.

The Big Bang Theory, CBS

Season 4 premieres Thursday, Sept. 23, at 8 p.m.

Last season Penny and Leonard broke up, Sheldon had to deal with his nemesis, Wil Wheaton, and Sheldon also met the girl of his dreams (a female version of himself named Amy).

What do we have to look forward to? Big Bang Theory moves to Thursday nights, where you'll see Mayim Bialik return as Amy to make Sheldon's heart skip a beat. Beyond that, Raj tries to solve his own romantic problems, Penny and Leonard attempt friendship again, and evil Wil Wheaton will return this season to torment Sheldon.

Here's a season-four promo:

Caprica, Syfy

Season 1.5 continues on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 10 p.m.

In the first half of season one Barnabas' war with Clarice escalated, but his assassination attempt failed. Meanwhile, Joseph Adama finally found his daughter, but she killed his avatar to prevent him from returning to New Cap City. And Zoe attempted to escape by stealing a van, but ended up ramming it into a police barricade with unknown consequences.

What do we have to look forward to? Not having to wait until January to see new episodes of this gripping series. According to the Syfy press release, "The second half of season one will transport us from stunningly vivid, twisted Virtual realities to the fascinating outer worlds of the 12 Colonies. Along the way, revolutionary tensions rise, family power shifts and our characters grapple with the physical and emotional consequences of their questionable decisions. As the season races towards its stunning conclusion, each episode lays the groundwork for the inevitable (and brutal) clash between the new Cylon race and its human creators."

Here's a season 1.5 preview:

Chuck, NBC

Season 4 premieres Monday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m.

Last season Morgan, Ellie and Awesome discovered that Chuck was a spy, Chuck and Sarah became a couple, and Chuck's dad was killed (but not before leaving a posthumous mission for Chuck to find his mom). And, oh yeah, Morgan accidentally blew up the Buy More.

What do we have to look forward to? So with the Buy More blown up, does that mean no more Jeffster or Big Mike? Not to worry, said co-creator and executive producer Chris Fedak. "I couldn't imagine the show without Scott [Krinsky], Vik [Sahay] and Mark Christopher Lawrence. This season the Buy More is back. However, it is now wholly owned and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. Because of the success of Operation Bartowski, they decided they needed to rebuild the store. So we have a lot of fun this season with the new store, which is a much better-run version of the Buy More."

Beyond that, Chuck and Sarah will remain a couple, even though Chuck is officially quitting the spy business, as he promised his sister, Ellie, he would. "At the heart of this season is the search for mom," said Fedak. Mom will be played by Linda Hamilton (The Terminator). Other guest stars this season include Robert Englund, Dolph Lundgren, Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Dalton, Eric Roberts, Armand Assante and the Old Spice guy, Isaiah Mustafa.

Here's a season-four promo:

The Event, NBC

The new series premieres Monday, Sept. 20. at 9 p.m.

What do we have to look forward to? According to creator Nick Wauters, you won't have to wait long to get answers when it comes to his new conspiracy series about the biggest cover-up in U.S. history. Of course, the first question we'll want answered is, what the heck was the "event," anyway? "We will follow our characters as things lead up to the event, throughout the event and then after the event. So the event is not the endgame, and things will happen past the event in the series. That's pretty much all I can tell you at this point."

The Event stars Jason Ritter as the "everyman" who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his fiancee. Blair Underwood plays the newly elected president, and Laura Innes is the leader of a mysterious group of detainees.

Here's a preview of The Event:

Fringe, Fox

Season 3 premieres Thursday, Sept. 23, at 9 p.m.

Last season we learned that Walter caused all the alternate-universe problems when he went "over there" and stole the alternate version of Peter as a boy after his own Peter died. When Walternate (or alternate Walter) convinced Peter to return to the alternate universe, Olivia and Walter went to get him back. When they came back they didn't realize that they had the wrong Olivia.

What do we have to look forward to? "They are being more proactive this season," said executive producer Jeff Pinkner. "It also goes for Walter and everybody. You will watch each character define their own course. Last year, and season one as well, they were reacting to the situation. Whereas now they have enough information to form their own opinions and make their own decisions," he said.

Initially, however, the gang won't realize that they have the wrong Olivia. "We're going to start to explore in a larger way what Walternate's plan is for both Olivia and O-livia, sort of evil Olivia. We've been referring to her as Olivia B or Bolivia. There are conditions on the other side that we get to tell stories about." Amy Madigan will guest-star as Olivia's mom.

Here's a season-three preview:

Human Target, Fox

Season 2 premieres Friday, Oct. 1, at 8 p.m.

Last season we discovered how Chance became Chance and Winston was kidnapped.

What do we have to look forward to? "We obviously deal with last season's cliffhanger and last season's mythology. But the idea of the season is to give the show a little bit of a reboot," said executive producer Matt Miller. "We are adding two new female characters. ... Too much testosterone out there. I thought we could use a little female touch to see how that shakes up a little bit."

New series regular Indira Varma plays Ilsa Pucci, a wealthy woman whose husband was murdered. She becomes a "female Charlie" for the boys. "What that does is add a little bit more wish fulfillment to the show in the sense that they have access to her cars and jets and her connections. At the same time it creates an interesting dynamic for Chance and the rest of the team in that they have sort of a boss." Also joining the cast is Janet Montgomery as Ames, a thief with "one foot in the criminal world and one foot still in our world."

Here's a season-two preview:

Medium, CBS

Season 7 premieres Friday, Sept. 24, at 8 p.m.

Last season Allison had a near-death experience after brain surgery, Joe got a job, and Scanlon and DiNovi got married and had a baby.

What do we have to look forward to? Actress Sofia Vassilieva, who plays Ariel, is headed off to college, so her character will go to college as well, said executive producer Craig Sweeny. "The first few episodes are about what new roles within the family would mean for her sisters. Is Bridgette really happy to see her sister go, or is there a part of her that regrets it? What does this mean for Allison and Joe? It's a key change in their lives. ... Sofia leaves in the fourth episode this year."

Allison will decide to resume her law studies, and she'll be "forced to confront the possibility, or certainty, that nothing is permanent [at work] either," said Sweeny. In stories this season, Allison and Bridget will switch bodies, the ghost of Scanlon's brother will pop up, and Saturday Night Live's claymation character Mr. Bill will put in an appearance.

Here's a season-six recap:

Nikita, The CW

The new series premieres Thursday, Sept. 9, at 9 p.m.

What do we have to look forward to? In the latest version of this spy tale, a rogue spy named Nikita returns to destroy the organization that created her. While much of the early focus has been on action star Maggie Q, who portrays the latest version of Nikita, there's another leading spy lady who gets her share of stories. Lyndsy Fonseca plays Alex, who is brought in to Division to be trained as a spy.

"My version of Nikita is kind of a cross between a sequel and a remake. I'm calling it a sequ-ake," said creator Craig Silverstein with a laugh, about how his series fits in between the movies and the Le Femme Nikita series. "You're following that chapter of Nikita that you haven't seen before. We are also doing justice to the origin story. ... You get to watch that through Alex. The key there is that the character of Alex. She is not Nikita. So you're not watching the same story from the beginning. This girl may make different choices." The series also stars Shane West as Michael and Xander Berkeley as Percy.

Here's a Nikita preview:

No Ordinary Family, ABC

The new series premieres Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m.

What do we have to look forward to? When an ordinary family goes on vacation and accidentally ends up with superpowers after their plane goes down, they suddenly aren't so ordinary after all.

"Every episode will put Jim's powers to use," said creator and executive producer Jon Feldman. "He is a frustrated police sketch artist, but he now has the ability to actually make a difference. Every episode he is aided by his best friend, George, played by Romany Malco. Jim [Michael Chiklis] will undertake the crime-fighting of the week ... against villains sometimes ordinary, sometimes extraordinary, like him. It will have a very closed-end feeling to it. But like any family show or any show that has an ongoing mythology, there will be threads that will certainly carry through and hopefully reward the loyal viewers over the course of the season." The series also stars Julie Benz, Jimmy Bennett and Kay Panabaker.

Here's a No Ordinary Family preview:

Sanctuary, Syfy

Season 3 premieres Friday, Oct. 15, at 10 p.m.

Last season Will fell for Big Bertha, who came to him in the form of a beautiful woman rather than the gigantic spider she really is. However, she thought he betrayed her, so Bertha unleashed a tsunami.

What do we have to look forward to? Look for a conclusion to the Big Bertha story, although Will will be dealing with the results of his mind-meld with the spider beyond the first episode, said creator and executive producer Damian Kindler. And a few other things will be shaken up.

"We make a huge discovery that changes the way we view our world. We end up going to a place that is almost a place of myth and legend that turns out to be real. It really kind of points an interesting finger to history. We meet a villain from the Victorian era who returns seeking vengeance on Magnus and the Five, which is a wonderful thing to revisit. The who, what, where of the Five. We definitely get to see how the Five came together and how they created an enemy out of someone who almost joined their group." This season Syfy has ordered 20 episodes of Sanctuary, which means seven more than last year.

Here's a season-three promo:

Smallville, The CW

Season 10 premieres Friday, Sept. 24, at 8 p.m.

Last season Lois finally realized that Clark and the Blur were one and the same, Clark defeated Zod and banished him from Earth by sacrificing himself (like we're really sweating that one), and Oliver appeared to get captured by mysterious forces.

What do we have to look forward to? The Big Bads this season will be Darkseid and the New Gods, Tess survives thanks to Granny Goodness (one of the New Gods), and Allison Mack and her character Chloe say goodbye to Smallville.

According to actress Cassidy Freeman, who plays Tess, "The writers have like a bucket list, basically have a huge whiteboard in the writers' room of all the things they want to put in this last season, and they just keep trying to check off as many as possible. You've got 22 episodes and you're trying to pack duffel bags, and you're trying to pack it in and slowly zip it closed. And then pack more in and slowly zip it closed. I can't imagine what they're up against right now. I'm really excited just to be here for the last wave."

She, like everyone else, is hoping Michael Rosenbaum returns as Lex Luthor for this 10th and finale season. Guest stars returning for the final season include Laura Vandervoot as Supergirl, John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, John Glover as Lionel Luthor, James Marsters as Braniac and Michael Shanks as Hawkman.

Here's a season-10 promo:

Stargate Universe, Syfy

Season 2 premieres Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 9 p.m.

Last season the crew ended up in a fight for their lives when a group from the Lucian Alliance tried to take the Destiny. Lots of people got shot, and it looked like it might just be the end for Col. Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips).

What do we have to look forward to? The battle for the ship continues when the series returns. In the end, members of the Lucian Alliance will stay on board the Destiny, said executive producer Paul Mullie. New recurring characters include Julie McNiven as Ginn, Mike Dopud as Varro and Robert Knepper (Heroes) as Simeon.

"The other bigger aspect that plays out throughout the whole first half of the season is finding out a little more about the ship and gaining control over the ship. So exploring the ship, finding parts of the ship we haven't been to before, and eventually gaining some measure of control over the ship. That becomes part of the arc of the first half of the second season," says Mullie.

Here's a season-two preview:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Cartoon Network

Season 3 premieres Friday, Sept. 17, at 9 p.m.

Last season Anakin faced the mighty Zillo Beast and Boba Fett tried to assassinate Mace Windu. Boba Fett's quest for revenge led to an epic battle.

What do we have to look forward to? Twenty-two new episodes of the hit series. According to the Cartoon Network press release, "As war continues to rage throughout the galaxy, the dark side grows even stronger and the Jedi Knights are pushed to the breaking point. The lines between good and evil become blurred as secrets are revealed, truths are questioned and alliances are betrayed. Loyalties are tested as new enemies emerge and heroes rise - and fall." And we'll also learn what the destiny of the "Chosen One" will be.

Here's a season-three mega-trailer:

Supernatural, The CW

Season 6 premieres Friday, Sept. 24, at 9 p.m.

Last season the brothers took on Lucifer and the Armageddon and won. Well, sort of. Sam dragged Lucifer to hell, and Dean headed off to live with Lisa and Ben. However, at the end of the season finale, we saw Sam standing outside Dean's house.

What do we have to look forward to? Yep, Sam's alive, but Dean's given up hunting. However, you know that isn't going to last. Luckily, the gang at Supernatural has more monsters to hunt, this time of the cryptozoological sort, said executive producer Ben Edlund.

"I'm pretty pleased and happy that we have a whole undiscovered country inside the mythos of our world. So that is where the camera has turned. It does some things for us that are very handy. One is finding an interesting area laterally. We don't have to immediately get involved in the notion of trying to top the devil fighting," Edlund said with a laugh. "The whole fighting-the-devil thing ... very big." Guest stars this season include Corin Nemec and Mitch Pileggi, who appears in several episodes as the brothers' grandfather. And star Jensen Ackles will direct the season's fourth episode.

Here's a season-six promo:

Tower Prep, The Cartoon Network

This new live action series premieres in October.

What do we have to look forward to? Building on its live-action programming, the Cartoon Network's latest series focuses on a rebellious teenage boy, Ian (Drew Van Acker), "who wakes up one morning to find himself trapped at a mysterious prep school focused on tapping into the 'unique potential' of its students. Ian forms a secret group with fellow students CJ (Elise Gatien), Gabe (Ryan Pinkston) and Suki (Dyana Liu) as they search for answers to where they are and how to get home."

Here's a Tower Prep preview:

Ugly Americans, Comedy Central

The second half of season one returns on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 10:30 p.m.

In the first half of season one Department of Integration worker Mark Lilly offered career assistance for giant apes, mediated the public mating rituals of tree creatures and counseled women trying to become vampires.

What do we have to look forward to? With seven additional episodes, executive producer David Stern will only say, "The chance to delve further into this insane world with more episodes is a nightmare come true. But in a really, really good way."

Here's a Ugly Americans trailer from March to give you an idea what the series is about:

Undercovers, NBC

The new series premieres Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m.

What do we have to look forward to? A married couple, who also happen to be retired spies, gets pulled back in to working for the CIA when a spy friend named Leo goes missing. According to co-creator and executive producer Josh Reims, "the reason why they were brought back there is some sort of ulterior reason that [their handler] Shaw is not divulging to them. So there is a little mystery. It is not just to save Leo. There is another reason why they've been brought back."

They realize "by the end of the pilot that that little spark that had been out of their marriage, things have become a little routine, has been ignited by them going back into the field and doing their spy work," said Reims. The series stars Boris Kodjoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Gerald McRaney as their handler, Carlton Shaw.

Here's an Undercovers promo:


Season 2 premieres in November

Last season the Visitors arrived pretending to be friendly, and Erica and Father Jack began a resistance movement. In the season-one finale, Val gave birth to her baby, but Anna killed her. Meanwhile, Lisa betrayed her mother and helped Erica destroy Anna's soldier eggs before they could hatch. When Anna discovered what had happened, she experienced her first human emotion. But the big question is, why did the skies over Earth turn red?

What do we have to look forward to? Red skies and an angry Anna can't bode well for the human race. "In the Season 2 premiere, the Fifth Column, led by Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell), seeks out Dr. Sidney Miller (Bret Harrison), an evolutionary biologist who appears to have information about the Red Sky which was seen in last season's cliffhanger finale," stated an ABC press release.

Charles Mesure, who plays Kyle Hobbes, has been upgraded to series regular. Since his character appeared to betray the resistance in the finale, it will be interesting to see where they take Hobbes. And here's a cool casting alert ... Jane Badler, who played the alien Diana in the original V, will appear in a recurring role as Anna's mother.

Here's a V recap of the season-one finale:

The Vampire Diaries, The CW

Season 2 premieres Thursday, Sept. 9, at 8 p.m.

Last season Katherine pulled the strings behind the scenes until she popped up pretending to be Elena. That, of course, led to "the kiss" with Damon, and to chopping off John Gilbert's fingers and stabbing him. Beyond that, Jeremy tried to kill himself (hoping to come back as a vampire after drinking Anna's blood), Caroline was gravely injured in a car wreck, and Tyler seems to be a werewolf but doesn't know it.

What do we have to look forward to? We'll meet Tyler's hunky uncle, Mason Lockwood, and dig into werewolves this season. But first we'll learn the fates of everyone in the season premiere. "The first part of the season it is very much the fallout of Katherine's return to Mystic Falls," says co-creator and executive producer Julie Plec. "Damon obsessed over her for 145 years only to find out that she never really cared, and in the beginning of the season he learns the fundamental truth that for her it was always Stefan and not Damon. That sends him down a bit of a dark road." Taylor Kinney joins the cast in a recurring role as Mason Lockwood.

Here's a season-two promo:

The Walking Dead, AMC

The new series premieres Sunday, Oct. 31, at 10 p.m.

What do we have to look forward to? Zombies and lots of them. Kicking the series off with a 90-minute episode on Halloween, The Walking Dead is from Frank Darabont and is based on the Robert Kirkman comic book. According to the AMC press release, the series "tells the story of the months and years that follow after a zombie apocalypse. It follows a group of survivors, led by police officer Rick Grimes, who travel in search of a safe and secure home."

The series stars Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, along with Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeffrey DeMun, Jon Bernthal and Laurie Holden. Six episodes have been ordered for the first season.

Here's a Walking Dead preview:

What are you planning on watching this fall?

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