EW Staff
September 11, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Office
Returning Comedy — 9-9:30PM — NBC
The beginning of season 6 centers on Jim (John Krasinski) and pregnant Pam (Jenna Fischer) scrambling to get married before Pam starts to show. (The wedding episode airs Oct. 8.) ”They decided to have a wedding at Niagara Falls with the hope that the drive would keep people away,” says exec producer Paul Lieberstein, ”but Michael [Steve Carell] gives everyone Friday and Monday off, so everybody goes.” Pam will give birth before the season’s end, but the writers haven’t settled on a gender. Asks Lieberstein, ”Do you have any requests?” Boy or girl, just keep it away from Creed. (Sept. 17)

SNL: Weekend Update Thursday
Returning Comedy — 8-8:30PM — NBC
Last time Saturday Night Live faux newsman Seth Meyers went live on Thursday nights, he had an endless comedy well in the form of a folksy, winking Alaskan governor running for vice president. This year, he won’t. ”Wait. What? This is the first I’m hearing that it’s not an election year,” jokes Meyers. ”The good news is there’s always someone out there doing something silly.” Including SNL vet Amy Poehler, who will join Meyers at the desk for the show’s first two weeks, while she’s on hiatus from shooting Parks and Recreation. Any chance the six-episode run will be extended? ”We’ll see how it goes,” says Meyers. ”Let’s just say that historically at SNL we don’t ask for people to turn in their security badges.” (Sept. 17)

Returning Drama — 8-9PM — Fox
Just because Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) didn’t really have sex in May’s finale doesn’t mean there won’t be fallout. ”What happened in the alternate reality has a huge impact on how the fifth season is going to unfold,” says creator Hart Hanson, who confirms that Booth will suffer some residual amnesia as a result of his brain tumor. On the casting front, ’80s icon Cyndi Lauper guests as Angela’s (Michaela Conlin) psychic, Stephen Fry may return as Dr. Wyatt, and the search will soon get under way for an actor to play Booth’s tough Korean War-vet grandfather. The show celebrates its 100th episode next spring, where we may get a flashback to B&B’s first meeting. ”We alluded in the pilot that the first time they worked together went very badly,” reminds Hanson. ”They had a terrible time.” (Sept. 17)

Survivor: Samoa
Returning Reality — 8-9PM — CBS
Think you’ve seen it all on Survivor? Think again. The show’s 19th edition features host Jeff Probst laying down the law like never before. ”For the first time in the history of Survivor, I throw somebody out of a challenge,” says Probst. ”I’d say it’s a pretty noteworthy moment considering we’ve run 500 some-odd challenges.” Who’s the culprit? Our money is on 36-year-old oilman Russell Hantz, someone Probst describes as ”an evil man through and through.” While Russell may be Samoa‘s resident bad boy, he’s not the only one in the South Pacific with a nasty disposition, as Mother Nature will also make her intense presence felt. ”With the combination of heat and rain, dehydration plays a huge role this season,” promises the host. Some things never change. (Sept. 17)

Parks and Recreation
Returning Comedy — 8:30-9PM — NBC
After attempting to transform a local pit into a park last season, Pawnee, Ind., parks-and-rec deputy director Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) will be turning to more important issues like…gay-penguin rights? ”She’s doing little ceremonies for the animals as zoo promotions,” explains co-creator Michael Schur. ”She has a wedding for two penguins who turn out to be gay, so she unwittingly thrusts herself into the middle of the gay-marriage debate.” But it won’t be all work and no play for Leslie in season 2, as she gets a love interest — a policeman played by comedian Louis C.K. Elsewhere, Andy (Chris Pratt, upgraded to a regular this season) will attempt to win back ex-girlfriend Ann (Rashida Jones), but Schur teases, ”there’s one very big specific thing that’s gonna keep them from getting together right away.” Hmmm…does it have something to do with gay penguins? (Sept. 17)

Returning Drama — 9-10PM — CBS
It’s a math problem no network wants: Subtract three stars from a hit show without ticking off fans. (Extra credit for adding a new guy.) Not even the CSI staff could easily solve that one after losing William Petersen, Jorja Fox, and Gary Dourdan within the span of a season and a half. ”Looking back, could we have made the transition a little smoother?” asks exec producer Carol Mendelsohn. ”I think we could.” But the fix is in for season 10, starting with Fox’s Sara Sidle returning for five episodes. (Mendelsohn won’t say why she’s there and what it means for Sidle’s relationship with Petersen’s Gil Grissom.) Also look for promotions for George Eads’ Nick Stokes and Laurence Fishburne’s not-so-newbie Dr. Ray Langston as they hunt a new serial killer, Dr. Jekyll. Here Mendelsohn is willing to dish — to a point. ”His crime scene will be bodies.” Um, how’s that? ”It’s not about what’s around the body, it’s about what’s in it.” Ewww. (Sept. 24)

Grey’s Anatomy
Returning Drama — 9-10PM — ABC
Izzie (Katherine Heigl) beats cancer, but comes down with an even more debilitating malady: survivor’s guilt. ”She’s going to be wrecked by the death of George [T.R. Knight],” reveals exec producer Krista Vernoff. There’s also the little matter of her ”getting married on her deathbed to Alex [Justin Chambers],” adds Vernoff, who points out that Grey’s is entering uncharted territory in its sixth season. ”We started the series with no couples except Bailey [Chandra Wilson]. And now we have everybody coupled except Bailey.” Of course, no one said those couples would be happy. An as-yet-uncast skeleton will soon tumble out of Owen’s (Kevin McKidd) closet, threatening his romance with Cristina (Sandra Oh), and the age difference will pose a challenge for Mark (Eric Dane) and Lexie (Chyler Leigh). Meanwhile, Grey’s will have to do without both of its leading ladies for a time when Ellen Pompeo goes on maternity leave this fall and Heigl is written out for five episodes beginning in November to accommodate a movie shoot. Despite Pompeo’s imminent absence, Vernoff maintains that Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and Meredith will continue to be Seattle Grace’s core duo. ”We love the place we left them. We believe in the Post-it marriage. And we absolutely have more stories to tell for them.” (Sept. 24)

Returning Drama — 9-10PM — The CW
Even though the cult fave’s fifth go-round finds Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) giving the devil hell in order to avert Armageddon, exec producer Eric Kripke insists ”this is the most optimistic season we’ve ever done. It’s about building them back up [as brothers]. It’s the party apocalypse!” And if that doesn’t grab ya, Kripke promises the return of memorable Winchester adversary Meg (now played by Rachel Miner) and Sam’s dead ex, Jessica (Friday Night Lights‘ Adrianne Palicki). Plus, Paris Hilton guests as a monster who takes the form of…Paris Hilton. ”It’s a satirical episode about modern celebrity,” Kripke explains. ”The fact that she was game to do it speaks volumes about her sense of humor.” (Premiered Sept. 10)

New Comedy — 9:30-10PM — NBC
The Soup‘s Joel McHale stars as Jeff Winger, a slippery lawyer forced to attend community college after his undergrad degree is revoked. There, he forms the world’s most random study group, which includes an entrepreneur with no filter (Chevy Chase), a brassy single mom (Yvette Nicole Brown), a firebrand dropout (Gillian Jacobs), a pop culture savant (Danny Pudi), a wholesome perfectionist (Alison Brie), and a status-oriented jock (Donald Glover). ”He looks out for No. 1,” says McHale of Jeff. ”He’s not your typical Everyman where you go, ‘I relate to him!’ If he had all the answers, he would have nothing to do with this study group.” Notes creator Dan Harmon: ”They are an unlikely family. We’re going to bounce them off each other in different combinations — and there’s at least 49 of those.” (Sept. 17; moves to 8 p.m. Oct. 8)

30 Rock
Returning Comedy — 9:30-10PM — NBC
Times are tough, even for our favorite network honcho, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). ”In Jack’s head, the economy is off because people like him have lost touch with real America,” explains exec producer Robert Carlock. Jack’s two-step solution: (1) Jenna (Jane Krakowski) must become a Jessica Simpsonesque country singer; and (2) Liz (Tina Fey) must hire a new actor ”who will test well outside of major cities.” The core characters will be up to their usual high jinks in season 4: Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) organizes a page strike; Tracy (Tracy Morgan) fears for his life when two celebrities die in one week (famous people die in threes, you know); Jenna will star in a cut-rate werewolf movie; and Liz will face the downside of becoming a relationship guru thanks to her catchphrase That’s a deal breaker, ladies! ”Jack tries to launch a talk show with her as a host,” Carlock says. ”It implodes with a high-def camera test where it looks like she has a mustache.” (Oct. 15)

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Returning Comedy — 10-10:30PM — FX
Season 5 finds the Paddy’s Pub gang tackling serious issues like alcoholism: They’ll stage an intervention for Frank (Danny DeVito)…because he’s no longer a fun drunk. The economy plays a huge role too. ”Dee [Kaitlin Olson] decides to sell out her womb and — á la the Octomom — stuff as many babies as she can in there,” teases creator Rob McElhenney (Mac). ”And we buy a foreclosure house and try to flip it before we lose it.” In even more stressful news, Charlie’s (Charlie Day) about to learn the Waitress (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) is engaged. ”We try to find him another woman to stalk,” says McElhenney. ”We create this entire profile for him on a dating site and say he’s a philanthropist. He can’t quite pronounce the word correctly, so it comes out as ‘full-on rapist.”’ (Sept. 17)

The Mentalist
Returning Drama — 10-11PM — CBS
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…much. That was the Mentalist producers’ motto while putting together the sophomore season of last year’s breakout hit. ”The challenge was giving people something new,” says creator Bruno Heller, ”while not changing too much.” That ”something new” manifests as a 10 p.m. time slot, and a roadblocking rival for preternaturally intuitive California Bureau of Investigation consultant Patrick Jane (Simon Baker). Agent Sam Bosco (Oz’s Terry Kinney) sweeps into the CBI and snatches the case against Jane’s nemesis Red John, the serial killer who murdered his wife and daughter. The move ”sets up a competition and a rivalry between Bosco and Jane,” Heller says, ”and Bosco eventually gets Jane thrown in jail.” The situation delays Jane’s search for the elusive Red John, which Heller now characterizes as a ”lifetime’s journey.” (Sept. 24)

Private Practice
Returning Drama — 10-11PM — ABC
The Grey’s Anatomy spin-off starts season 3 roughly 20 minutes after Violet (Amy Brenneman) underwent the world’s scariest C-section at the hands of crazed patient Katie (Amanda Foreman). ”Violet spends the first part of the season dealing with what happened,” explains exec producer Betsy Beers. There’s also that pesky paternity issue. Beers says we won’t learn the identity of the baby-daddy — it’s either Pete (Tim Daly) or Sheldon (Brian Benben) — until later in the season, when ”it comes out organically…[in] a big, emotional moment.” Meanwhile, Addison (Kate Walsh) will take a break from the dating scene in the wake of her failed relationship with Noah, but ”romantic activity” is on the horizon, teases Beers. ”It’s been a rough ride for her,” she adds, ”but we all want Addison to find a good guy.” (Oct. 1)

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