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Rob Sheffield’s 2012 Fall TV Preview

Your day-by-day guide to the 21 new and returning shows worth watching

Fall TV Preview 2012

Every fall, a new TV season dawns, all shiny with promise. Your favorite shows return to pick up where they left off. New shows compete for your attention, since they are fresh and bouncy and as yet unencumbered by the acrid stench of failure and despair. (That usually arrives by the first commercial break.) Some rookies can deliver the goods; some don't. The Office will try to limp to the finish line with a little dignity. CBS' 2 Broke Girls will try to top the lofty standards of lines like, "Once you go Ukraine, you will scream with sex pain." With that in mind, here's a daily viewing guide to the new and returning shows that are truly worth your time.

'Fringe'

Andrew Matusik/FOX

‘Fringe’

Fox, Saturdays at 11 p.m.

Like The Office, of all shows, Fringe heads into a final season where nobody can even guess what the hell is going on. It's superb news that the astoundingly inventive Fringe is getting a fifth season to bring the story to a close. And it's a sure bet to be awesome, because Fringe has never screwed up before; every step of the way, through all the drugs and time travel, the writers have kept faith with the viewers without cheating or cutting narrative corners. Last season ended with a badass flash-forward to 2036, with Walter Bishop and the Fringe heroes plotting to outsmart the Observers who have taken over the planet. Despite all the complex lysergic narratives dangling in the air, this should be a hell of an endgame.