Network: Fox
Stars: Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole
Premiere Date: September 23
Why we’re excited: Ever since Fox dumped it into the cauldrons of Friday night programming, the J.J. Abrams-backed Fringe has been on a short leash, endlessly flirting with cancellation. That makes the upcoming fourth season all the more crucial—if the ratings continue to dip, there’s no guarantees that sci-fi heads’ modern-day X-Files will make it to a sixth round; anyone who watched the show’s masterful third season can attest to just how infuriating that’d be.

Starting off as a more episodic investigation of supernatural and psychic occurrences, Fringe has matured over the last three years into a meticulous drama with a dense, continuously explored mythology. It’s also in a league of its own when it comes to insane cliffhangers and satisfying payoffs; last season’s emphasis on how two alternate universes affects Peter’s (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia’s (Anna Torv) star-crossed romance culminated in a time travel finale with a mind-raping closing shot.

The creative minds behind Fringe are in the zone, and the show’s quietly delivering some of TV’s best characters and story beats. Sadly, there’s no telling how much longer Abrams’ crack team of genre pushers will get to embarrass their television peers.