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NBCs fall lineup should offer compelling viewing for all

While NBC hasn’t used the “Must See TV” slogan to describe their Thursday night lineup of programming since the days of classic sitcoms like “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” it remains the best way to describe the three-hour block of television shows that many viewers look forward to on a weekly basis.

From “The Office” returning without its former lead Steve Carrell to shows like “Whitney” and “Prime Suspect” making their debuts, perhaps the “Must See TV” slogan should return once again.

Scene & Heard gives you a look at our most anticipated shows that air tomorrow night on NBC.

“Community” 8 p.m.

This Thursday marks the beginning of a new term at Greendale Community College for Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) and his study group pals. The cult hit “Community” returns with a whole new season, promising more of the insanely off-kilter adventures of its ever-neurotic and pop culture-conscious cast of characters.

The big guest star news of this season is the addition of John Goodman as Greendale’s new Vice Dean, who’s sure to shake things up with the students and faculty. Hopefully, this season will deliver a healthy dose of the unforgettable self-contained episodes the show has become famous for.

While it will be tough to top last season’s memorable clay animation Christmas special or two-part, paintball-splattered finale, this series has never failed to be inventive and should be trusted to have more than a few tricks up its sleeve.

– Damon Lord

“Parks and Recreation” 8:30 p.m.

Making the bureaucracy of a small-town parks and recreation department involving is no small task, but “Parks and Recreation” has succeeded through its truly three-dimensional protagonist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and a hilarious writing staff that includes Greg Daniels and Harris Wittels.

What initially started as an uneven spinoff of “The Office” greatly improved in a second season that fleshed out characters like deadpan libertarian Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and excitable musician Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), and created an expansive, almost “The Simpsons”-like tapestry of the fictional Pawnee, Ind., in its third season.

Thursday’s premiere picks up right where last’s season finale left off, as Leslie reacts to an unexpected offer and Ron flees from his first ex-wife Tammy One, who will be played by Patricia Clarkson.

– Jimmy Geurts

“The Office” 9:00 p.m.

There’s something different about the eighth season of “The Office” -that’s because Michael Scott (Steve Carell), one of the most charismatic characters of the show, has left for good. Last season concluded with Scott proposing to his longtime girlfriend Holly (Amy Ryan) and moving to Colorado with her, resigning from his role as regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc.

With Scott gone, “Boston Legal” actor James Spader’s character Robert California is rumored to be the next regional manager. At the 2011 Primetime Emmy awards, Ryan Seacrest asked Carell how he felt about the upcoming season despite the absence of his iconic character, with Carell responding: “It’s going to be a big year. I’m very excited about it.”

“The Office” premieres at its regular 9 p.m. timeslot, and it will be up to the fans whether the series can remain just as humorous with a supporting cast without Michael.

– Brittany Mulligan

“Whitney” 9:30 p.m.

Comedian Whitney Cummings is perhaps best known for her standup routines on Chelsea Handler’s hit late night talk show “Chelsea Lately,” but seeing as NBC has been relentless in its effort to market her new show “Whitney,” it looks as if Cummings is ready to step out on her own.

The show looks to tackle many of the topics found in her standup, such as sex and relationship troubles, so let’s hope that Cumming stays more in the realm of the strong female leads found on “Parks and Recreation” and less like NBC’s quickly canceled “Perfect Couples.”

This is Cummings’ second show starting this season, along with CBS’s “2 Broke Girls,” and looks to be more in the realm of broad humor shows like the previously mentioned “Friends.”

– Benjamin Wright

“Prime Suspect” 10 p.m.

“Prime Suspect” may be like “The Office” in that it’s also based on a popular British television series, but unlike the laugh-a-minute pace of that show, “Prime Suspect” is a gritty street drama more along the lines of HBO’s “The Wire” mixed with a cop procedural like “Law & Order.”

Played by Maria Bello, in a role originally held by Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren, Jane must fight her way through the ranks of a tough New York City police precinct dominated by treason and greedy male officers.

While American versions of shows from across the pond don’t always translate well, Bello is a respected actress and advance word on her performance has been positive. While a gritty cop show may seem out of place in a block of programming dominated by comedy, perhaps “Prime Suspect” will find itself to be in the position of past serious “Must See TV” shows like “E.R.”

– Benjamin Wright