This season, start with the old and ring in the new

Now that you have settled back into the rhythm of school, it is time to add one more thing to your busy schedule – your favorite television show.

The new season has officially begun and with it comes new shows and returning favorites. So pick up that remote and grab a bowl of popcorn because it’s time to choose a show.

Among the returning favorites are a slew of dramas, comedies and the all-too constant reality shows. The first is the WB fan- favorite “Gilmore Girls,” which premiered on Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. The drama about a young mother Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and her college-age daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) enters its fifth season with trouble between Lorelai and her maybe-one-day boyfriend Luke (Scott Patterson). Rory will supposedly find a new man at Yale, but no matter what, “Gilmore Girls” promises to maintain its grip on the dramedy genre, creating scripts that test the mother/daughter relationship among others.

The “disturbingly perfect” drama “Nip/Tuck,” which is in the throes of its second season at 10 p.m. on FX, is also on Tuesday nights. The drama stars Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon, who are two plastic surgeons – one who makes the mistakes (McMahon) and one who cleans them up (Walsh). Though I will admit I have never actually watched an episode of the show, from what I have read, it looks like a combination of plastic surgery, family and sex which create a drama so intense that, well, I assume it won’t make you want that new nose.

Following in the dramatic vein is “The O.C.,” which, despite its popularity, will not be returning to prime time until Nov. 4, when it moves to Thursday nights at 8 p.m. According to creator Josh Schwartz in an interview for “Entertainment Weekly,” the show will be more about the characters’ lives this year rather than the constant melodrama that pervaded its last season. The show will pick up three months after the season finale, with everyone right where they left off. New love interests will make their way to “The O.C.” and, all in all, the characters will continue leading their drama-filled lives in style.

The comedy “Everybody Loves Raymond” began its ninth and final season on Sept. 20. The 16-episode final season will bring back old guests and continue with the show’s usual brand of familial comedy that caused people to rally for another season. Phil Rosenthal, the creator, reported to “Entertainment Weekly” that he was ready to wrap the show last season but finally agreed with star Ray Romano to entertain one more season of the hit comedy. According to Rosenthal, he plans to use the same final script he wrote for the show last year. We will be the judges of whether this final season was worth it.

For those looking for true comedy in a talk show format, look no further than “Chappelle’s Show” on Comedy Central. Dave Chappelle uses his own brand of comedy in sketches, political and pop culture humor and other pieces. The show is entering its third season and will air Tuesdays at 10 p.m. I haven’t seen any episodes of this show either, but in reading synopses, I can tell that despite how funny Chappelle may be, his sketches can get somewhat racy and would not be recommended for those uncomfortable with racial and other jokes.

We would, of course, be remiss without mentioning the king of reality television, the man who coined the phrase “You’re fired” – Donald Trump and his hit show, “The Apprentice.” After the success of its first season and the boardroom trials, the reality show returns for its second season with 18 new players, all vying to be Trump’s new employee. As viewers try to figure out Trump and who he will dismiss each week, he will be waiting to crown the next Bill Rancic.

As these shows return to the airwaves, there are several new programs waiting to be the “next big thing.”

Perhaps the new show with the most critical attention is “Joey,” the “Friends” spinoff starring Matt LeBlanc. Filmed on the same stage as the “Friends” franchise, the comedy takes Joey Tribbiani (LeBlanc) to Hollywood where, with the help of his sister Gina (Drea de Matteo), nephew Michael (Paulo Costanzo) and agent (Jennifer Coolidge), he will try to make it big as an actor. NBC is putting a great deal of faith into this show, placing it in the “Friends” timeslot, and, so far, the show is living up to its expectations. I watched the series premiere and, I have to say, it was good to watch LeBlanc reprising his trademark stupidity as Joey. If lines such as Joey’s “I’m name” when reading the cue card on an entertainment show are any indication, this spin-off will beat the old tired saying that “spin-offs never last.”

“Hawaii” is a new show that premiered on NBC on Sept. 1. The basic premise is cops catching criminals in sunny, gorgeous Hawaii. I don’t know about anyone else, but this sounds like an attempt to bank on the CSI franchise and appeal to those who want to visit warmer climates – not exactly the stuff of which hits are made. With its big-name cast comprised of Eric Balfour from “24” and “Six Feet Under,” Ivan Sergei from “Crossing Jordan” and Michael Biehn of “The Terminator,” this show looks to me to be a showcase for the actors rather than an actual hit in the making.

Probably the show I’m most looking forward to is the new ABC drama “Lost,” which debuts tonight, Sept. 22. The show from “Felicity” and “Alias” mastermind J.J. Abrams chronicles the lives of 14 strangers who are stranded somewhere between Australia and America after their plane goes down. “Lost” combines sci-fi, medicine and romance to create a very complex show. According to “Entertainment Weekly,” Abrams is looking to make viewers become invested in the characters, a feat he will accomplish with his team of writers, including David Fury, who penned several episodes of the critically acclaimed “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.” I urge everyone to watch and, if the premise and writers don’t turn you onto it, check out the cast list including “Lord of the Rings” actor Dominic Monaghan and “Party of Five” star Matthew Fox.

Also on Wednesday nights is ABC’s “Wife Swap,” dubbed the most promising reality show by “Entertainment Weekly.” It takes two families and switches the wives, providing family members an opportunity to realize how hard it would be to live without their entire clan. The first episode, airing Sept. 29, features an heiress to a color-copier fortune switching places with a mom in rural New Jersey. Although I am not a fan of reality television and probably will not be tuning in, the good thing about this premise is that the end result is not a cash prize, but rather a greater realization of how much everyone loves and appreciates their family (of course I don’t know why it takes a television show to realize this, but, hey, all in the name of reality TV).

Many of the shows being touted this year are the new dramas on the WB. The network has taken several losses this past year and is trying to regain its key teenage audience with some new shows filled with their usual brand of angst and romance ? la “Dawson’s Creek.” The first, and possibly the most critically discussed, is “Jack and Bobby,” which premiered on Sept. 12. The premise centers on two brothers, one of which will become president of the United States in 2041. The first episode was supposed to reveal which brother would have this special honor, but between the actual present-day action and the flashes forward to 2049 with reflections on his presidency, the real content is lost. The show is mainly about two brothers trying to survive high school with their pot-smoking mom. Although it looks to be somewhat interesting, it is confusing watching the switches between present day and the future. Although if that means the show is more than just mindless nonsense, maybe everyone should tune in.

As for the network itself, it will take some time to determine whether the WB’s new crop of dramas and comedies, including such shows as “Commando Nanny” and “Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show,” can make the cut and help the network rise from below average ratings to a more secure place among the television viewers.

And so ends another overview of some of this season’s hottest new and returning shows. Time to prepare the TiVO, purchase a copy of TV Guide and prepare for another year of good and bad television viewing.