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Community: a zippy new ensemble comedy Add to ...

One day you're sitting there watching the shenanigans in Ottawa. You're probably wondering, idly, how the fuzzy woodland creature known as Iggy would cope in an election campaign. The next day you're watching the riveting coverage of old Hair-in-the-Fridge Harper visiting Washington. You're probably thinking that Obama wakes up, looks at his schedule for the day and says, "Excellent. The Canadian guy is coming. Easy-peasy meeting. Just got to sit there, nod and look interested. Gives me time to think up some jokes for Letterman on Monday. Bonus!"

On those days, you're also probably wondering if this TIFF thing will ever end. (An aside here - I went to a TIFF event of the night and the star of the movie, who has appeared in two Oscar-nominated films, was buying drinks on his own tab! The recession has hit TIFF. There's TIFF news for you.) And you might be wondering when the new TV season starts and you can relax at home with your favourite shows, putting guilt about missing some important cultural events off until later.

Then one day, the proximity of the new TV season is no longer a notion in your head. The TV season is here. Today is that day.

Several dramas and comedies return with new episodes tonight. And you get a sneak peek at one totally new and darn good network show. First, the newbie.

Community (NBC, 9:30 p.m.) is a zippy and charming new comedy, a rarity in that it's an ensemble piece, not anchored by a single, allegedly funny star. At the start, the focus is on Jeff (Joel McHale), a sly and manipulative ex-lawyer who is attending community college because it's been discovered that his law degree is bogus. He's helped in getting into the college by his pal the dean (played by John Oliver from The Daily Show ), but finds it hard to abandon his slick, lying lawyer ways. Trying to get amorous with Britta (Gillian Jacobs), he sets up a study group for students learning Spanish. The study group becomes the focus of the show and the laughs. Along comes Chevy Chase playing a deeply irritating older guy who likes to bore everyone with his stories. There's the social misfit Abed (Danny Pudi) and high-strung Annie (Alison Brie from Mad Men ). Together they form a little band of oddballs. The comedy is quick, sharp and original. It's worth your time. Community moves into its regular slot Thursday slot on Oct. 8.

Bones (Fox, Global, 8 p.m.) returns tonight with a doozy of an episode. It's been ages since Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) have seen each other. See, Booth was having brain surgery and Brennan has been digging up bones in Guatemala. When we last met them, Booth seemed to be a bit in love with Brennan. Was it just his addled brain? Before that gets sorted out, there's this psychic named Avalon (guest star Cyndi Lauper, who also provides some of the soundtrack music) who says there are bodies buried under a Washington fountain. She is correct. While the investigation unfolds Booth sees shrinks and therapists and tries to figure out if he has changed and if, you know, his memory of his feelings for Brennan is authentic. That potential-romance subplot is handled deftly, with gentle comedy.

Fringe (Fox, A, 9 p.m.) also has its season premiere. It picks up right where last season ended -Olivia (Anna Torv) moseyed over to a parallel universe to meet the mysterious William Bell (Leonard Nimoy). This season starts with her return to that alternate reality. Nothing becomes clear, of course. This is a show about conspiracies and weird science. While Olivia is missing, Peter (Joshua Jackson) faces what is described as "an ominous mobile force" and his dad Walter (John Noble) cooks up something strange in the lab. What did I tell you? Fringe keeps chugging along in the same vein - horrible things are being concocted by certain conspirators and our heroes try to save themselves and the world. It's now being made in Vancouver, by the way.

Also airing:

SNL: Weekend Update Thursday (NBC, 8 p.m.) is back. Jokes about politics and stuff. It's just the start of a surge of returning prime-time shows on NBC tonight. Parks and Recreation , at 8:30 p.m. has the relentless Leslie (Amy Poehler) trying to promote the local zoo by arranging for two penguins to wed, but things go awry (both penguins are male). The Office (NBC, Global, 9 p.m.) has some drollery about summer interns and Michael being an idiot. Also, if you must know, there's a new Survivor (CBS, Global, 8 p.m.) starting tonight. Everybody goes to Samoa.

Lansky (HBO Canada, 8 p.m.) is a 1999 HBO movie about mob figure Meyer Lansky, but it's not your usual mob movie. Written by David Mamet, it presents Lansky (Richard Dreyfuss) as a low-key figure, a numbers man who, although notorious, tried to shun the limelight. Much of the drama, which is not presented in a linear fashion, involves Lansky's attempts, late in his life, to escape the U.S. justice system. He was hounded by various prosecutors, sought asylum in Paraguay and then Panama, but ended up back in Miami to stand trial.

 

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