by Meredith O'Brien
Clear your DVRs and TiVos. It’s time for new and returning fall TV shows, and if you’re in between babysitters, really, TV’s a pretty cheap date.
And while it’s true that shows premiere at all different times of the year now -- with small clusters beginning new seasons in the winter and spring -- autumn boasts the largest crop of ‘em. Here’s a group of shows which feature parents and families that I’ll be watching and later writing about for Mommy Tracked.
Desperate Housewives , Sept. 26, 9 p.m., ABC
I used to love the Housewives, was eager to peek in on haps at the Lane. I was so enamored of its first season and its sharp suburban satire. Then it got sloppy, slack and silly. There’ve been several times when I was about to give up on it altogether. Last season there were moments of lunacy (hated the serial killer and the Angie-on-the-run arcs), but there were good parts too, like Lynette Scavo’s pregnancy discrimination story and storylines where Gaby had to deal with parenting challenges, which is why I haven’t completely given up on the show. Yet.
This season, the show’s seventh, features the addition of Vanessa Williams as Lynette’s former college “frenemy.” We’ll see.
Brothers & Sisters , Sept. 26, 10 p.m., ABC
God, did this past season end in a shocking fashion what with Robert McCallister appearing to have been mortally wounded in a horrific multiple car accident, Holly Harper wounded in the same accident and Saul Holden learning he had AIDS. Robert’s wife Kitty, the mom of a toddler, at the end of the season appeared to have resurged nicely from her cancer treatment and decided to run for office. This season picks up a year after the car accident , when Kitty’s about ready to maybe consider rejoining the dating scene. Hopefully the writers will not have forgotten that Kitty has a son – her having a child was a huge part of her storyline for so long -- and show us more of Kitty the single mom trying to balance her work and her home life.
House , Sept. 20, 8 p.m., Fox
Dr. Greg House enters the world of kiddie care as House starts its seventh season. Now that House has hooked up with Dr. Lisa Cuddy “and she also has a kid . . . [the show] will explore the reality of what that means and how willingly Cuddy is at first to share [her daughter] Rachel and expose her child to the relationship,” the show’s executive producer told Entertainment Weekly . I’d love to see the curmudgeonly House attempt to play Elmo or Dora the Explorer with this kid. That’d make for a great scene.
Parenthood , Sept. 14, 10 p.m., NBC
Parenthood was one of those shows that premiered in the spring, ran a baker’s dozen of episodes, then got picked up for a full season which starts this fall. I thought the show’s first season grew stronger as the season progressed, gaining emotional punch with a story arc about high school harassment as it overcame over some initial awkwardness.
According to promo videos from NBC, the sophomore season will feature “the good, the bad and the ugly” of childrearing, said Peter Krause (Adam Braverman), where he and his TV wife will teach their teenage daughter how to drive and where his single mom sister starts working at his shoe company. Adam’s other sister Julia, a high achieving career professional whose husband is an at-home dad, also consider having a second child in this second season.
The Good Wife , Sept. 28, 10 p.m. CBS
The solid freshman season of CBS’s The Good Wife concluded with Alicia Florrick – after having beaten an unattached twentysomething for the post of junior associate at the law firm where she works – trying to decide whether she wants to remain by the side of her duplicitous husband who publicly humiliated her by cheating with call girls and spent time in prison for corruption but now wants to run for public office again. She’s been maintaining a brave face for their two children, but behind the scenes, viewers know that Alicia’s mulling over advances made by her boss Will, a friend from her law school days.
I’m looking forward to the politics/political spouse angles and tales about how Peter’s campaign affects his family more than I want to see some love triangle between Alicia, Peter and Will play out. Let’s face it, the politics and the betrayed political spouse/Silda Spitzer angle is what makes this show fresh.
The Middle , Sept. 22, 8 p.m., ABC
Okay, I’ve got precious little by way of new information about the second season of this underdog family comedy which portrays lower-middle class families in a way not seen in a lot of shows these days, or at least not since Malcolm in the Middle ended. Last season we were introduced to the Heck family of five with Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton) as the harried working mom laboring away at a car dealership where she’s an underachieving saleswoman, her husband Mike as the manager of a quarry that was shut down for much of last year (causing financial hardships for the family) and their three children, two teens and one eccentric yet brilliant grade schooler.
This is a show that gets the challenges of parenthood and how they affect those who aren’t affluent. Its season premiere has a premise a mother of three sports-playing kids like me loves: With Frankie trying to get a handle on her kids’ schedules as the new school year starts.
Modern Family , Sept. 22, 9 p.m., ABC
I. Love. This. Show. So do the Emmy voters who bestowed upon it best comedy show props, best comedy writing honors and best supporting actor love. I can’t recall another comedy’s freshman season as fabulous as Modern Family’s first one which concluded in May.
That’s setting the bar for this multi-generational show mighty high, not too high, I’m hoping that it’ll leave fans like me disappointed. The show’s Emmy-winning co-creator/writer, Steven Levitan, told an entertainment web site  that at least one episode in the new season will feature the dramatic reenactment of “a running argument Levitan and his wife have over the quickest way to get home from a restaurant,” Manny (who was born an old soul) having his first date  and Claire and Phil get caught at an “awkward” moment. Can’t. Wait.
Grey’s Anatomy , Sept. 23, 9 p.m. ABC
Like the season finale of Brothers & Sisters, Grey’s Anatomy’s finale was horrific and much more violent. A gunman who blamed Derek Shepherd for his wife’s death, went on a shooting rampage throughout the hospital, killing Seattle Grace staffers, seriously wounding several including Derek and Alex Karev. The stress, especially when she thought her husband had died, caused Meredith Grey, who’d recently discovered she was pregnant, to miscarry.
Show-runner Shonda Rhimes told Entertainment Weekly  that in Grey’s seventh season viewers can expect a wedding and variations on the theme of “rebirth.” The season premiere is even entitled, “With You I’m Born Again .” Dark and twisty Meredith as a mommy? That would be something to watch.
Private Practice , Sept. 23, 10 p.m. ABC
Private Practice may not have concluded its third season with a mass shooting like Shonda Rhimes’ other show Grey’s, but it committed severe emotional violence, what with Dell Parker, who was the only living parent for his daughter, killed in a car wreck and Addison Montgomery having her heart broken as her boyfriend Pete Wilder reunited with the mother of his child Lucas, the same child whom Addison, who is infertile, had finally opened her heart to with the idea that she could raise and nurture him. On top of that, Sam and Naomi Bennett’s 15-year-old daughter gave birth to a baby boy. So there’ll be plenty o’drama on Thursday nights when the two Rhimes’ shows return.
What shows are you looking forward to seeing this fall?