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Tonight's TV Hot List: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009 - Featured

* Cougar Town (9:30/8:30c ABC)


Lest ye think this new comedy is all about older women chasing younger men - though there is that - the producers, including Scrubs' Bill Lawrence, conveniently dodge that cliche tying it to a high-school football team's nickname. As for that first premise, it could also describe fortysomething divorcee Jules Cobb (Courteney Cox) being figuratively chewed up and spit out by a big cat called life. Should she get back out there and date? Well, she's just not sure, and, in tonight's premiere, neither is her mortified teenage son.


* Modern Family (9/8c ABC)


"Family. Redefined." That's an old tagline for The Sopranos, but TV familial units have been evolving since the beginning, and this new comedy is living proof. Shot mockumentary-style, the series follows the unusual kinship of the Pritchett clan, led by patriarch Jay (Ed O'Neill), whose much younger wife (Sofia Vergara) has a son of her own. Revealing more would spoil the fun of peeling back the layers one at a time, and the undercurrent of warmth at work here makes it one of the season's most promising sitcoms.


* Mercy (8/7c NBC)


The highs and lows of three nurses at a hospital in Jersey City, N.J., are charted in this new medical drama. The series centers on Veronica Callahan (newbie Taylor Schilling), an adept caregiver who lands work at Mercy Hospital after a tour of duty in Iraq. But Veronica's love life is ready to flatline: Her marriage is splintering, and a tempting new doctor only complicates matters. Veronica's nursing colleagues include a swaggering gal pal (Jaime Lee Kirchner) and a naive rookie (Michelle Trachtenberg). Although this is yet another entry in the crowded hospital-drama genre, the gritty New Jersey locations and an attractive young cast make for good medicine.


* The New Adventures of Old Christine (8/7c CBS)


Last season's hilarious finale ended in a cliffhanger that left a couple of key questions unanswered. Are new Christine and Richard getting married and is Barb being deported? It's not giving anything away to say the answers are no and yes. As the fifth season begins, the wedding is off and Barb is in the Bahamas after being booted out of the States. But not to worry. Christine and Matthew fly down to help Barb obtain an illegal visa so she can return to the U.S.


* Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (9/8c NBC)


After a hiatus filled with reports on hard-fought contract negotiations, Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni are returning for the series' 11th season, albeit on a new night and at a new time. And they've got some reluctant company tonight: Off. Nate Kendall (Prison Break's Wentworth Miller), a cop who likes to do his things his own way. He helps a rape victim, then must stay on the case after by-the-book Executive ADA Sonya Paxton (Christine Lahti) suspects a serial rapist is behind things.


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