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My Kitchen Rules (Thursday, Jan. 12, Fox), series debut: This what the “celebrity” competition show has come to: a cook-off. In a borrowed Australian format, this show features teams of two taking turns hosting dinner parties for their competitors and judges—you suck, you go home. The “star” duos of My Kitchen Rules are N’Sync’s Lance Bass and his mom, bro-and-sis singers Brandy and Ray J, comedian Andrew Dice Clay and Mrs. Clay, Real Housewife of Who Gives a Shit? Brandi Glanville and some dude, and singer Naomi Judd and her long-suffering husband. Judges Curtis Stone and Cat Cora, chefs who are arguably bigger celebrities than everyone else in this clown car, could keep it interesting, but what’s next? Landscaping With the Stars? Celebrity Dog Wash? Or …

Caraoke Showdown (Thursday, Jan. 12, Spike), series debut: I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, this is exactly like James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke!” Wrong-o, you cynical dolt! It’s totally different, because there are no celebrities! Also, the host is Craig Robinson! It’s like comparing the bassline of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”—the ocean of disparity between the two is staggeringly vast! Incomprehensibly colossal! Goddamned yuge! How dare you suggest that Spike has given up on original ideas because of the success of Lip Sync Battle, which is just a stolen Jimmy Fallon bit! We’re making America great again here, people—you can either get onboard with Caraoke Showdown, or sit over there on the wrong side of history like a chump! Sad!

Homeland (Sunday, Jan. 15, Showtime), series premiere: After losing touch with/interest in terrorism soap Homeland a few years ago when—spoiler!—Damian Lewis’ co-lead character Brody was killed off, I’ve recently gotten caught-up on the Crazy Carrie (Claire Danes) solo-album seasons. Much to my surprise, Homeland has held up well without Brody—and Danes, who was great to begin with, is fan-damn-tastic on her own and unencumbered by that ginger dead weight. (Lewis is better off on Showtime’s Billions, anyway.) Season 6 finds Carrie back stateside after last year’s harrowing Berlin arc, but all isn’t well in the U.S.: A new president has been elected (!), and the transfer of power is looking to be tense and rocky (!!). If that’s not eerily real enough, this season will take place entirely between Election Day and Inauguration Day (!!!). Hell, let’s just go full bizarro and stage a crossover with Billions, already.

Teachers (Tuesday, Jan. 17, TV Land), season premiere: Last January, TV Land quietly debuted this raucous mashup of Super Troopers, Bad Teacher and Broad City from six-woman comedy-improv troupe The Katydids (all of their first names are variations on “Katherine”), a hilariously wrong half-hour that almost elicits sympathy for their elementary-school pupils—until you remember that, oh yeah, they’re elementary-school pupils. The Teachers rank at varying levels on the Hot Mess Scale, but no Katydid (Caitlin Barlow, Katy Colloton, Cate Freedman, Kate Lambert, Katie O’Brien and Kathryn Renée Thomas … whew) outshines another in the ensemble, reminiscent of old-school cable anarchy-com It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Your homework: binge Season 1.

Six (Wednesday, Jan. 18, History), series debut: A SEAL Team Six action drama? “Inspired by real missions”? Like USA’s military-leaning Shooter, Six has experienced setbacks and delays. (Original star Joe Manganiello dropped out during filming, causing Six to scrap its planned July 2016 premiere.) Also like Shooter, which has become an underreported stealth hit, Six has just enough jingoistic grit and brothers-in-arms heart to appeal to a flyover ’Merica wary of the dark geopolitical ambiguousness of shows like Homeland (though both share a director, Lesli Linka Glatter). In a lucky get, Walton Goggins (Justified), an actor who can do no wrong, has replaced Maganiello as captured SEAL Team Six leader “Rip” Taggart, adding some serious gravitas to this modern Saving Private Ryan riff. Big words aside: Much yellin,’ explodin’ and killin.’

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Bad Judge, A to Z (Thursday, Oct. 2, NBC), series debuts: On second viewing, The Only TV Column That Matters™ has revised its assessment of Bad Judge: Kate Walsh is still great as a party-animal judge, but this sitcom is an underdeveloped mess, even compared to NBC’s own Mysteries of Laura, the fall TV season’s designated Underdeveloped Mess. With better writers and a home on cable (Walsh’s smart, wicked comic streak would kill on FX or Showtime), Bad Judge could have been a contender. (Scroll down to see the trailer.) Rom-com A to Z, on the other hand, is more focused and on-point with the network’s recent Less Weird/More Sweet comedy mandate. Plus, Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother’s mother) and Ben Feldman (Mad Men’s Ginsberg) have an easy, if somewhat vanilla, chemistry. Only one of these shows is likely to make it out of October alive—guess which?

Gracepoint (Thursday, Oct. 2, Fox), series debut: Do you like the British crime series Broadchurch, but wish it were more ’Merican and dull? Here’s Gracepoint, with Broadchurch star David Tennant reprising his detective role with questionable haircut 2.0 and a faint air of, “Haven’t I already done this?” Joining him is Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn, and the pair will work a single murder case for 10 episodes—like The Killing, but with a (promised) conclusion. Tennant and Gunn work the dialogue and trench coats effectively, but there’s about as much reason for Gracepoint to exist as any subsequent season of, well, The Killing.

Mulaney (Sunday, Oct. 5, Fox), series debut: It’s already out there that Mulaney is the worst new sitcom of the season, but the question was posed to my TV Tan podcast (available on iTunes and Stitcher, kids) recently: Is it worth hate-watching, or at least a drinking game? My theory is that quality hate-watching requires at least one redeeming element in a show, something not-eye-gougingly-heinous on which to focus. In Mulaney’s case, that would be ex-Saturday Night Live player Nasim Pedrad, who must have paid someone off to the get the only funny lines in the pilot (though the cranked-to-11 laugh track begs you to believe that it’s all funny). As for a drinking game, just take a shot every time star John Mulaney, who possesses all of the acting skill of a young Seinfeld, recites a cue card like it’s a Chinese takeout menu; tomorrow morning, you won’t remember this ever happened.

Homeland (Sunday, Oct. 5, Showtime), two-hour season premiere: It’s now The Carrie Mathison Show (iffy idea, Showtime), as our precarious heroine is deployed to the Middle East. The first hour of Homeland’s Season 4 premiere doesn’t offer much hope for a post-Brody future; it’s a deadly dull slog of exposition and bad jazz livened up only by the sight of guest star Corey Stoll free of his hilarious wig from The Strain. The second hour makes a better case for Claire Danes carrying the series—if you make it that far.

The Flash (Tuesday, Oct. 7, The CW), series debut: Fox’s Gotham has all the marketing muscle, but this high-gloss Arrow spin-off is the season’s most comic-booky series of the DC Comics wave. The Flash, about Central City CSI investigator-turned-Fastest Man Alive Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), is closer to the early years of Smallville than the dark and growly Arrow; even though there’s some darkness in his past, nerdy Barry is having more fun here than broody Oliver Queen is back in Starling City. At the very least, it’s better than CBS’ 1990 attempt at a Flash TV series, back when televisions were square, and the best Marvel Comics movie was Howard the Duck (!).


DVD ROUNDUP FOR OCT. 7!

Bates Motel: Season 2

As Norman (Freddie Highmore) becomes weirder and more blackout-y, Norma (Vera Farmiga) makes new allies to save the motel, and Dylan (Max Thieriot) gets deeper into the local drug trade. White Pine Bay really does have it all. (Universal)

Edge of Tomorrow

Actually re-titled Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, not that anyone should need to be tricked into watching this movie about alien-fighter Tom Cruise being killed over and over again. Good sci-fi action flick, dumb name. (Warner Bros.)

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Seth MacFarlane directs, co-writes and plays Albert, a farmer who falls for a woman (Charlize Theron) who teaches him how to be a gunslinger, thus pissing off her outlaw husband (Liam Neeson). More plot than a Family Guy episode. (Universal)

Obvious Child

When struggling Brooklyn comedian Donna (Jenny Slate) finds herself jobless, dumped and pregnant, she decides to get an abortion on Valentine’s Day—now that’s comedy! More bodily function jokes than a Family Guy episode. (Lionsgate)

Rick and Morty: Season 1

Boozehound scientist Rick (the voice of Justin Roiland) takes his nephew Morty (also Roiland) on adventures into other dimensions, few of which end well—hence, the best new Adult Swim cartoon in years, courtesy of Community creator Dan Harmon. (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD Releases (Oct. 7)

American Horror Story: Season 3, The Following: Season 2, Hemlock Grove: Season 1, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Million Dollar Arm, Psych: The Complete Series, Sharknado 2: The Second One, Vikings: Season 2.

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The League (FXX; Wednesday, Sept. 3, season premiere): The funniest sorta-sports-related show ever returns, with Katie as the reigning (and insufferable) fantasy football league champion. Thanks to The Simpsons, FXX is finally on America’s radar.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO; Sunday, Sept. 7, season premiere): In the fifth-season (and final-season) premiere, Nucky’s in Cuba wooing Bacardi Rum as Prohibition ends, and the Great Depression of the 1930s sets in. So, if you though the show was a downer before

Sons of Anarchy (FX; Tuesday, Sept. 9, season premiere): In the premiere of the seventh and final season, Jax sets a new mission for SAMCRO: Avenge the murder of Tara, as soon as he figures out who did it. Yes, the premiere is 90 minutes, and yes, half of it is musical montages.

Z Nation (Syfy; Friday, Sept. 12, series debut): In Syfy’s answer to The Walking Dead, a group of survivors must transport a man with the potential cure across a zombie-ridden U.S. of A. Finally, we’ll learn if West Coast zombies are more laid-back than East Coast zombies.

Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories (Adult Swim; Thursday; Sept. 18, season premiere): Last year’s Halloween special is now an anthology series, with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim inflicting more weirdness on a higher budget than ever. Like $200.

Squidbillies (Adult Swim; Sunday, Sept. 21, season premiere): The redneck sea creatures return for Season 9 (!), this year taking on “marriage inequality, taint cancer, speciesism, and the impending Russian snake apocalypse.” Thanks a lot, Obama!

South Park, Key and Peele (Comedy Central; Wednesday, Sept. 24, season premieres): No one knows what Trey Parker and Matt Stone have in mind for Season 18 of South Park, probably not even them. Same goes for Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele with their new season. Godspeed, Comedy Central censors.

Homeland (Showtime; Sunday, Oct. 5, season premiere): It’s now The Carrie Mathison Show, as our precarious heroine is deployed to the frontline in the Middle East (great plan, CIA). No, she won’t be bringing the Brody baby—she’s not that nuts.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX; Wednesday, Oct. 8, season premiere): In 1952 Florida, a traveling troupe of carnival folk (including AHS regulars Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson, as well as newcomers Michael Chiklis and Wes Bentley) encounter dark, evil forces. Insert Florida joke here.

The Walking Dead (AMC; Sunday, Oct. 12, season premiere): Will Rick and the gang get out of the boxcar alive? Or will they become Terminus burgers? Are Carol and Tyreese on the way? Where’s Beth? Will the Z Nation entourage pass through Georgia? Why the hell is Comic Book Men still on? So many questions.

The Affair (Showtime; Sunday, Oct. 12, series debut): Joshua Jackson, Maura Tierney, Dominic West and Ruth Wilson star in the story of how an extramarital affair affects two families. It’s a departure for Showtime in the fact that only one affair is happening.

Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (HBO; Friday, Oct. 17, series debut): Director Dave Grohl documents the history of musical landmark cities over eight episodes. Oh, and the Foo Fighters record one song for their new album Sonic Highways in each town.

Web Therapy (Showtime; Wednesday, Oct. 22, season premiere): Lisa Kudrow is back for a new season as online therapist Fiona Wallice, with a new patient list that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Hamm, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Matthew Perry, Allison Janney, Lauren Graham, Craig Ferguson, Calista Flockhart, Dax Shephard and Nina Garcia. Then, in November, Kudrow returns to HBO in the comeback of The Comeback—she’ll be starring in two comedies on two premium-cable networks simultaneously. What are you up to, David Schwimmer?


DVD ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 9!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Cap (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) battle an inside conspiracy against S.H.I.E.L.D. and the titular Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). It ties in with a certain TV show below. (Marvel/Disney)

Homeland: Season 3

Carrie (Claire Danes) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) search for the CIA headquarters bomber, while Brody (Damian Lewis) takes on a mission of redemption in Iran, which doesn’t go well at all. Oh, don’t get hung up on spoilers. (Paramount)

Mantervention

After a girl breaks his heart, a dude asks his friend to stage a “mantervention” of sex and debauchery to cure him of being a hopeless romantic—only to learn that love isn’t so bad, after all. But neither is sex and debauchery, so win-win. (Vision)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1

Not-dead Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a ridiculously good-looking team of operatives to investigate weird cases-of-the-week and occasionally intersect with Marvel movies. Maybe just skip the first nine episodes. (Marvel/ABC)

Supernatural: Season 9

Sam and Dean must reopen the gates of heaven and stop a demon insurrection in hell while dealing with their own personal, heh, demons. Meanwhile, Castiel adjusts to being human and Crowley steals the whole damned, heh, show. (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD/VOD Releases (Sept. 9)

Blue Bloods: Season 4, Brick Mansions, Burning Blue, Dead Within, Deadheads, Doctor Who: Deep Breath, God’s Pocket, The Goldbergs: Season 1, Killer Mermaid, Last Passenger, A Long Way Down, Monika, Palo Alto, Top Model, The Vampire Diaries: Season 5.

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The Crazy Ones (Thursday, Sept. 26, CBS), series debut: In his … triumphant? … return to television, Robin Williams (over)plays advertising exec Simon Roberts, a whacked-out genius who’s as difficult to tolerate as he is, of course, brilliant. His daughter and partner, Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar), is his uptight polar opposite; forced dramedy ensues. Like another new—and funnier—CBS comedy, We Are Men (premiering Monday, Sept. 30), The Crazy Ones is a single-camera, no-laugh-track outing, which means it’s ultimately doomed: The Eyeball Network’s viewers need to be told where the punchlines are—and there ain’t none here.

Homeland, Masters of Sex (Sunday, Sept. 29, Showtime), season premiere, series debut: Alleged bomber Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) is laying low in the Season 3 premiere of Homelandpretty damned low. Meanwhile, things are going from bad to worse to supremely eff’dup for Carrie (Claire Danes) during the Senate investigations into the “Second 9/11” bombing that killed more than 200, and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) takes some seriously un-Saul-like actions to distance the CIA from the whole mess. The tense “Tin Man Down” goes a long way toward getting Homeland back on track after some sub-soap distractions last season—and the sure-to-be-huge ratings should deliver a lot of curious eyes to the fantastic new Masters of Sex, the dramatized story of 1950s sexuality-research pioneers Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) that’s more about human relationships and academia (and, yes, gorgeously-detailed Mad Men period style) than sex and nudity—but there’s plenty of that, too. Go, Showtime!

Eastbound and Down, Hello Ladies (Sunday, Sept. 29, HBO), series premiere, series debut: At the end of Eastbound and Down’s third and intended-to-be final season last year, baseball-legend-in-his-own-pants Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) quit the game and faked his own death to be with his true love, April (Katy Mixon). Season 4 (the real final chapter, if you trust HBO this time) opens with a sadly domesticated Kenny working in rental-car hell and denying his lust for the spotlight—until he’s tapped to guest on a popular sports-talk TV show by its host (Ken Marino); within two episodes, KFP is back in all of his obnoxious glory. New companion comedy Hello Ladies, starring and almost entirely carried by Stephen Merchant, is far more low-key and dry: Brit Stuart (Merchant) and a staggeringly awkward crew of fellow singles look for love in Hollywood, with staggeringly awkward results. It’s the anti-Entourage.

Breaking Bad (Sunday, Sept. 29, AMC), series finale: The final episode of Breaking Bad is titled “Felina.” It’s 75-minutes long; there’s still an hour of dead air called Low Winter Sun between it and Talking Bad; and … that’s all The Only TV Column That Matters™ knows. AMC isn’t sending out preview screeners to TV critics or real people—and why would they?

Super Fun Night (Wednesday, Oct. 2, ABC) series debut: Don’t dismiss a TV-subdued Rebel Wilson with an American accent: Super Fun Night works hilariously, largely due to Wilson’s (relative) underplaying as Kimmie, a junior attorney whose recent promotion is moving her up the social ladder. Will she abandon her equally geeky best friends (Liza Lapira and Lauren Ash) and their standing Friday shut-in “Super Fun Night”? It’s an odd pairing with Modern Family, but Super Fun Night shares the same underlying sweetness and bonding. It’s also saltier and edgier than the rest of ABC's Wednesday—and look where that got Happy Endings.


NEW-RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR OCT. 1!

Awkward: Seasons 1 and 2

Jenna (Ashley Rickards) narrates/blogs about the perils of being a teenager and dealing (awkwardly, duh) with cute boys, mean girls, dumb parents and wasting her child-bearing years on high school and learning—according to MTV, at least. (Paramount)

Beauty and the Beast: Season 1

A detective (Kristin Kreuk—yes, really) fights her attraction to a horribly disfigured monster (Jay Ryan—playing “horribly disfigured” with a wee scar on his face) as they solve her mother’s murder in an appropriately sexy manner. (Paramount)

Fright Night 2: New Blood

In the sequel to the 2011 remake, a professor (Jaime Murray) who also happens to be a vampire prepares to feed on American idiot high-schoolers in Romania. Can the vamp-hunting host of Fright Night (Sean Power) stop her? Should he? (Fox)

New Girl: Season 2

Jess (Zooey Deschanel) gets fired from her teaching job, then spends 25 episodes on temp gigs (model, shot girl, general quirkstress, etc.), wacky misadventures and falling for roommate Nick (Jake Johnson). In other words, Comedy Gold! (Fox)

This Is the End

Five Hollywood pals (Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and James Franco) and one asshole (Danny McBride, of course) get high and wait out the Apocalypse. Will they burn in L.A. or be Raptured to Heaven? Yes. Comedy Gold! (Sony)

More New DVD Releases (Oct. 1)

Bob and the Monster, China Beach: Season 1, The Croods, Dead Before Dawn, Ferocious, The Frozen Ground, Glee: Season 4, Hallow’s Eve, How I Met Your Mother: Season 8, Morning, Treasure Guards

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Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators (Thursday, Sept. 5, Syfy), movie: It’s the last Syfy B-flick of the summer—and this one doesn’t live up to the idiot-genius of Sharknado. As you’ve probably guessed, Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators is about killer swamp-chompers; what you can’t possibly surmise is how they got that way: “Contaminated moonshine dumped in a Louisiana swamp turns the bayou’s gators—and the people who eat them—into deadly mutants.” Yes, alligators are a delicacy in the South—do you think Syfy just makes this stuff up? The “Sy” stands for syience!

Boardwalk Empire (Sunday, Sept. 8, HBO), season premiere: Last year’s psycho villain Gyp Rosetti has been dispatched; one of this season’s potential antagonists is a far-more-subtle kind of weirdo: Agent Warren Knox (Brian Geraghty, The Hurt Locker) isn’t just the newbie fed he appears to be; that’s all I’m sayin.’ Meanwhile, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) cautiously gets back to Atlantic City business; Al Capone (Stephen Graham) expands his biz in Chicago; and Nucky’s now-ex Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) is nowhere to be seen in the season premiere—meaning there may not be a likable character left on Boardwalk Empire. It really is the new Sopranos.

The Million Second Quiz (Monday, Sept. 9, NBC), series debut: NBC has a handful of promising, could-be-hit dramas and comedies coming—so of course they’re kicking off their 2013-2014 season with a game show—a game show hosted by Ryan Seacrest, no less, because the space-time continuum will collapse upon itself if this gelled hobbit is off television for even a moment.

Sons of Anarchy (Tuesday, Sept. 10, FX), season premiere: Apparently, Tara (Maggie Siff) didn’t catch Orange Is the New Black before she was tossed in prison—the terrible haircut is optional. With his old lady in the joint, it’s up to Jax (Charlie Hunnam) to hold his motorcycle club together and take care of his two sons, with the latter mostly falling to the motley It Takes a Village crew of bikers and porn starlettes that makes up SAMCRO Daycare. Clay (Ron Perlman) is also behind bars, but probably not for long, as big bad Lee Toric (Donal Logue at his most menacing) is ready to strike any deal it takes to destroy Jax and the club for their inadvertent role in his sister’s murder. The 90-minute season opener, “Straw,” is so loaded with violence and cable-testing imagery—some inflicted on showrunner Kurt Sutter’s own recurring character, Otto—that it seems like Sutter and FX are practically telling moral watchdog groups to suck it. (The Only TV Column That Matters™ approves this message.)

The Heart, She Holler (Tuesday, Sept. 10, Adult Swim), season premiere: Between Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators and a second season of The Heart, She Holler, it’s an even worse week than usual for hillbillies on the TV lookie-box—or better, depending upon your social status. If only there were a mildly comedic way to tell if you might be a redneck. Anyway: When last we saw inbred man-child heir Hurlan (Patton Oswalt) and his jealous sisters two years ago, all was not well in the hick town; somehow, things have degenerated even further, as Heartshe has now become “the cosmic battleground of mankind’s final war between Pure Evil and Pure Awful!” TLC vs. MTV? I’ve waited so long for this … (single tear).


DVD RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 10!

Delete

When the Internet becomes self-aware and turns on mankind (just go with it), it’s up to a hacker-activist named Lucifer (Seth Green) to stop it. No, this isn’t a Robot Chicken sketch from 2007; it’s an actual miniseries that was on actual TV. (Sonar)

Homeland: Season 2

After not blowing up Washington, D.C., last season, semi-terrorist Brody (Damian Lewis) is now a U.S. congressman, and Carrie (Claire Danes) is out of the CIA—but will they be able to stay apart and out of danger? Oh, what do you think? (20th Century Fox)

Phil Spector

This shows the murder-trial life of music producer Phil Spector (played by Al Pacino and a dazzling array of wigs) and his defense attorney (Helen Mirren); based on true events but taken to ridiculous, fabricated extremes. Like Spector himself. (HBO)

Reality Terror Night

Five girls spend the night in a “haunted house” shooting a reality show, only to learn that the place really is haunted by a sadistic killer. So it’s like combining Big Brother with Ghost Hunters, then killing everybody? Sold! (Lightyear)

Star Trek Into Darkness

Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and the Enterprise crew are called back into action to battle a powerful wacko (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is totally not Khan. Nope, he’s not Khan. Don’t even think about him being Kahn. No Khans here. (Paramount)

More New DVD Releases (Sept. 10)

Army Wives: Season 7, The Big Bang Theory: Season 6, Castle: Season 5, Chicago Fire: Season 1, Clunkers, Luther: Season 3, Madonna: MDNA World Tour, Mary and Martha, Parade’s End, Peeples, Slip and Fall, Supernatural: Season 8, Wish You Were Here.

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