Fox, Mondays, 8 ET/PT
Premiere: Sept. 17
Where we left them: "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel) is the prime suspect in a murder case, thanks to the ingenious machinations of serial killer Christopher Pelant (Andrew Leeds), whom executive producer Stephen Nathan calls the show's "favorite villain." Brennan goes on the lam with her baby, Christine, without telling Booth (David Boreanaz), Christine's father. "Knowing that Pelant has access to any computer system he wants, Brennan and her father, Max (Ryan O'Neal), realize the only way to escape prosecution and guilt is for her to go off the grid," Nathan says. The season ended with Booth sitting on the steps of the church where Christine was just baptized, "lost and left and angry and determined to do anything he can to get Brennan back and get Pelant."
Where they're headed: Season 8 has a darker tone. "We now have this presence (Pelant) that's hanging over the heads not only of Booth and Brennan but everyone at the Jeffersonian Institute," Nathan says. "We have our brilliant team up against someone as brilliant. Every time they think they're one step ahead, he turns out to be one step ahead." By the end of Episode 1, (a blond!) Bones will be back, but she and Booth will have a lot to deal with. Three months have gone by since she ran. "We like to say that Season 8 is the 'Is Love Enough?' season," Nathan says. Multiple romantic relationships on the show will be challenged. "We're still a murder show," he says, "but all the personal lives have been shaken up."
Who's new or returning: Leeds is in at least four episodes, and O'Neal is back for a few. Nathan says he would love to bring back David Alan Grier (Bunsen Jude, The Science Dude) and Ralph Waite (Booth's grandfather Hank). Cyndi Lauper returns as psychic Avalon Harmonia. -- Carol Memmott
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
CBS, Wednesdays, 10 ET/PT
Premiere: Sept. 26
Where we left them: Under attack from the former undersheriff of Las Vegas, the murderous Jeffrey McKeen (Conor O'Farrell) -- who runs an underworld empire of drugs and corrupt cops from his prison cell -- the CSI team was on the ropes, with Undersheriff Ecklie (Marc Vann) gunned down on the street, investigator Nick Stokes (George Eads) handing in his resignation in frustration, and supervisor D.B. Russell's (Ted Danson) young granddaughter kidnapped.
Where they're headed: The Season 13(!) premiere picks up the moment the cliffhanger ended, with even more team members in danger -- including the newest, Julie Finlay (Elisabeth Shue), who takes off after the kidnapped Kaitlyn and shares a secret-filled past with Russell. The "Cape-Fear-ish" storyline, says executive producer Don McGill, was designed to take the ever-serene D.B. and see "what would happen if we took that guy who seemed to have everything in control, his family and work, and really pushed him to the edge."
That push will carry through the season. "We show his worst fears, that his granddaughter is dead, and we see his demons and his darker side, his impulse to go an eye for an eye," McGill says. "As we lean forward into the season, we'll see that worst fear play out. Once something happens to a family -- even if the resolution seems neat and tidy -- the emotional fallout is anything but."
They'll also explore the relationship between him and Shue's Finn. "They have a long history," albeit a mostly professional one, McGill says. While D.B. is committed to his family, "for Finley, who struggles to have relationships with men, Russell is kind of the perfect man -- but unattainable, which is part of the attraction."
Who's new or returning: McGill says they'll focus on the core cast this season -- including, finally, answering the perplexing question: What's up with Sara (Jorja Fox) and Grissom (the long-departed William Petersen)? He's been in the jungle for years, but she's still on the case -- are they even married anymore? "We'll answer that, in a way that may surprise people." McGill says. "We'll deal with her dissatisfaction with the long-distance relationship, and may find a resolution as to where the marriage is headed." The season also will explore the relationship of Ecklie to his estranged CSI daughter Morgan (Elisabeth Harnois) -- and his romance with Hodges' mom Olivia (guest Jaclyn Smith). -- Bruce Schwartz
ABC, Thursdays, 10 ET/PT
Premiere: Sept. 27
Where we left them: The mysterious Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes) was in custody after being questioned following her discovery of a murder victim. The president, Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), was trying to get out from under a sex scandal, needing the help of crisis management expert Olivia (Kerry Washington), to whom he is romantically drawn, and his wife, first lady Mellie (Bellamy Young). In a major surprise, presidential chief of staff Cyrus (Jeff Perry) was revealed to be behind the murder of a young woman who was at the heart of the president's sex scandal.
"You're left wondering what will happen in the future with Fitz and Mellie, as well as with Fitz's relationship with Olivia since, when she walked out of the White House she handed in her hard pass, making us feel like she was never going back," executive producer Shonda Rhimes says.
Where they're headed: Viewers will quickly find out the identity of Quinn. "It becomes a question not of who she is but why she is who she is and who made her that way," Rhimes says.
The show will explore the relationship between the president and first lady, who was planning to announce -- falsely -- her pregnancy at the end of last season as part of scandal damage control. The complicated relationship between Olivia and Fitz also will get attention. "That's definitely going to be fraught. There are moments when we wonder how this can continue and I think the characters do, as well," Rhimes says.
Who's new or returning: Two of last season's guest stars, Young and Joshua Malina, who plays Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rosen, come back as series regulars. When the show returns, Olivia's colleague Stephen (Henry Ian Cusick) is gone and "you discover what that means for Olivia," Rhimes says. -- Bill Keveney
CW, Wednesdays, 9 ET/PT
Premiere: Oct. 3
Where we left them: The monster-hunting, apocalypse-busting Winchester brothers were separated in two very different places after an epic battle with the head Leviathan. Sam (Jared Padalecki) was left on Earth while Dean (Jensen Ackles) wound up in the violent, creature-filled environment of purgatory.
Where they're headed: The premiere of Season 8 picks up a year later with both of them back together on Earth but changed, especially Dean, who was forced to make alliances he wouldn't have in the real world. "You can't expect someone to come back and be completely normal when they come back" from purgatory, executive producer Jeremy Carver says. "What do you do when you're thrust back with the one person you had expected never to see again?" Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard return as angel Castiel and demon Crowley respectively, but this year will be mainly about Sam and Dean on a mission to permanently close the gates of hell. "It's very, very personal and harkens back to their earliest days," Carver says. However, he adds there will be maturation in how the brothers communicate with each other and take stock of their lives. "Not that they haven't been hard-edged realists before, but there's a lot of unvarnished truth-telling. There are punches thrown in the rhetorical sense, and these guys are pretty much stripping each other bare at certain points in the season."
Who's new or returning: Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica) joins the show as Benny, a vampire who escapes purgatory with Dean, and Liane Balaban (Alphas) is Amelia, a love interest for Sam. "She's a presence throughout the season in various ways," Carver says, most importan how their relationship affects Sam and "what that does to his present-day outlook of hunting and such." -- Brian Truitt