Ken Tucker's electrified by ''The Wire''
1. The Wire: A kid goes into hardware store to buy a nail gun, see...
HBO, Sept. 10, 10-11 p.m.
In the opening scene of the new, best-yet season of quite possibly the finest series ever made for television, a black youth goes into a big Home Depot-like store and asks the middle-aged white employee to recommend a nail gun. They exchange questions and answers about power and nail size, but their talk is completely at cross-purposes: The man is talking about home repair; the youth is talking about death. Get used to seeing The Wire on this list. I'm not going to give any plot points away, but if you like [NAME OF YOUR FAVORITE SHOW HERE, AND I DON'T EVEN CARE IF IT'S TWO AND A HALF MEN], you owe it to yourself to watch The Wire. It will rip your heart out and replace it with a new, stronger one.
2. Bob Dylan, singing ''Some Day Baby'' in iPod TV commercial
In silhouette, so as not to scare the kids cowboy hat, cowboy shirt, strumming acoustic guitar, singing into... no, not a ''mic,'' a microphone. Great idea, Apple, for pitting the lowdown-blues aural/visual dissonance of Bobby against a wiggly female form and their glistening product. Plus, in choosing this song, you avoid the one with the line about how ''The buying power of the proletariat's gone down,'' which would be such a bummer...
3. X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl
Marvel Comics trade paperback
If you're not a comics buff, forget the needlessly obscure title: Get it for the way (in collecting five issues of a miniseries) writer Peter Milligan and artists Mike Allred and Nick Dragotta critique superhero clichés such as bringing characters back from the dead (''especially the popular ones,'' someone remarks); muck around with one of Marvel's most fatuous, pretentious characters, Dr. Strange, by giving him hemorrhoids (a.k.a. ''the low pain that dares not speak its name''); and build to a multimedia satire that culminates in a group of deceased women imploring the superheroes and villains to let them go because ''Dorothy Parker is due to give a talk [and] we're going to offer her honorary membership in the Dead Sisters' Club.'' Heavenly.
4. Michael Tolkin's The Return of the Player
Although the ending is an unconvincing bummer, this sequel to the novel that inspired Robert Altman's excellent movie finds our title hero, Griffin Mill, middle-aged and making $1.5 million a year which, Tolkin makes clear, classifies you as washed up in Hollywood. Mill's travails will provide comfort and great amusement to any reader, younger or older, making less. Or more.
5. The Simpsons' season premiere
Fox, Sept. 10, 8-8:30 p.m.
Eighteen seasons on, perpetually zonked bus driver Otto gets a moment to shine, almost giving Metallica a lift (an opportunity cruelly denied, thanks to Bart) and expounding upon what a great rock song consists of: ''deals with the devil and far-off lands where you find smoke in relation to water.''