THE NINE ABC, WEDNESDAYS, 10 P.M. E.T.; PREMIERES OCT. 4 Late one fine afternoon, nine innocents are caught in a bank robbery. The hostages are rescued after a bloody 52-hr. ordeal. In between, life-changing things happen, some noble, some regrettable. But what, exactly? We don't see, and the answer is the key to this whydunit. It's a high-wire premise--how long can the series keep us in the dark about a riddle the characters all know the answer to? The tense pilot suggests the series has a few twists up its sleeve and a cast up to the challenge: as suicidal nerd turned hero Egan Foote, John Billingsley looks like the season's breakout character. Not only for how it teases out the brutal events inside the bank but also for how it shows the bonds among the survivors rebuilding their lives, this post-hostage drama is, well, captivating.
SIX DEGREES ABC, THURSDAYS, 10 P.M. E.T.; PREMIERES SEPT. 21 Was Kevin Bacon unavailable? Beats me, but this serial about connected strangers still has dramatic muscle. Steven (Campbell Scott) is a great photographer in a slump ... who is hired by ad exec Whitney (Bridget Moynahan) ... who befriends recent widow Laura (Hope Davis) ... who hires as her nanny mystery girl Mae (Erika Christensen) ... who attracts the attention of cop Carlos (Jay Hernandez, above, with Christensen) ... who forms an alliance with Damian (Dorian Missick), a gambler struggling to go straight. It's a drama of chance with enough charm to roll the dice on.
DEXTER SHOWTIME, SUNDAYS, 10 P.M. E.T.; PREMIERES OCT. 1 The aaying "It Takes A Thief to catch a thief" apparently goes double for serial killers. Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a suave psychopath whose cop father taught him to channel his murderous impulses--by killing only other murderers. Hall, an undertaker on Six Feet Under, makes a seamless transition to the supply side of the death business, helping cops sleuth out killers to pay the bills while coolly meting out justice on the side. Or is it justice? The morals of this provocative show are as intriguing as its cases.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS NBC, TUESDAYS, 8 P.M. E.T.; PREMIERES OCT. 3 You don't need to know a quarterback from a halfback--I'm told those are football terms--to appreciate this drama about a high school team in gridiron-obsessed Texas. The fictionalized version of the based-on-a-nonfiction-best-seller movie (directed by Peter Berg, who co-produces and directs here) has the same quick-cut look, crisp dialogue and bone-crunching game scenes. And the series promises to get deeper into the lives of the players, who are treated like gods and movie stars--as long as they win. Kyle Chandler is cool and cagey as the new coach who receives the subtly menacing good wishes of the townsfolk, while a strong young cast ably inhabits the pressured lives of kids whose futures ride on a sport that is far more than a game.