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This publicity image released by Fox shows Andy Samberg, from left, Joe Lo Truglio and Stephanie Beatriz in "Brooklyn Nine Nine," premiering Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. EST. (AP Photo/Fox, Eddy Chen)

So many shows, so little time.

Yes, the annual fall TV deluge is about to hit in all its wretched excess. Over the coming weeks, more than two dozen new series will debut, placing undue stress on DVRs across the nation.

Even with the ever-increasing multitude of channels and all the newfangled ways we watch television, programmers insist on sticking to the old-school system of force-feeding us the bulk of their wares in September and October.

Oh, and one other thing hasn't changed: The fall crop contains more bad TV than good. In fact, things appear to be so dismal this year that we had to lower the bar a few notches when it came to choosing the season's Top 5 offerings. Ultimately, these shows won us over:

1"Masters of Sex" (Showtime, 10 p.m. sun.) -- Who knew science could be so sexy?

Set in the late 1950s, this illuminating drama follows the real-life exploits of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the researchers who conducted groundbreaking sex studies that helped explain the mysteries of the bedroom to America.

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan play the ultra-curious scientists, while Beau Bridges is the skeptical dean who fears that allowing a parade of hookups in the laboratory isn't the best use of university funds.

The cast and the writing are solid, and "Masters" depicts the study of sexual behavior in a frank and explicit manner without ever feeling too tawdry. The nostalgic "Mad Men"-ish vibe doesn't hurt, either.


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This one should get people talking.

2 "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (Fox, 8:30 p.m. tues.) -- Team up former "Saturday Night Live" goofball Andy Samberg with oh-so-serious dramatic actor Andre Braugher, and what do you get? An arresting cop comedy bursting with potential.

Samberg plays a brilliant but immature detective who never shies away from a good prank. Braugher is a stern, by-the-book captain who is determined to rein in the young hotshot. It's a hoot to watch this odd couple play off one another.

Beyond the headliners, "Brooklyn" is populated with genuinely funny people, including Terry Crews and Oakland native Chelsea Peretti. The entire ensemble seems to have jelled from the get-go.

The offbeat pilot isn't a laugh-a-minute riot, but it's smart and witty -- and it comes to us from Mike Schur and Dan Goor of "Parks and Recreation," so we're in very good hands.

3"Marvel's Agents of "S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC, 8 p.m. Tues.): Agent Coulson lives! Clark Gregg is back as the amiable bureaucrat, even though he was killed in "The Avengers." They'll explain that in good time, but for now he has assembled a roving team of highly skilled operatives (including San Jose native Brett Dalton) who fend off all forms of evil.

This publicity image released by Fox shows Andy Samberg, left, and Joe Lo Truglio in "Brooklyn Nine Nine," premiering Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. EST.
This publicity image released by Fox shows Andy Samberg, left, and Joe Lo Truglio in "Brooklyn Nine Nine," premiering Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. EST. (AP Photo/Fox, Beth Dubber) ( Beth Dubber )

Executive produced by geek god Joss Whedon, this Marvel movie crossover is bolstered -- and burdened -- by stupendous expectations. Can it live up to the hype? That may depend on whether fans really want to watch a show connected to "The Avengers" that doesn't feature Thor, Iron Man or The Hulk.

While the pilot doesn't quite hit on all cylinders, it still contains enough exciting action, special-effects magic and Whedon-y wit to make it a must-see.

4"The Blacklist" (NBC, 10 p.m. Mon.): When it comes to giving off a weird, creepy-Zen vibe, few actors can match James Spader, who puts that mad skill to great use in this riveting crime thriller.

Spader plays a master criminal who surrenders himself to the FBI and offers to help them catch bad guys on one condition: He will only work with a particular young newbie agent played by Megan Boone. Let the cat-and-mouse games begin.

Yes, there are some obvious "Silence of the Lambs" overtones that make the pilot initially feel derivative. And, yes, the entire premise has its implausibilities. But Spader's enigmatic character is so alluring, and the twists and turns so compelling that the show just pulls you in and refuses to let go.

More, please.

5"Lucky 7" (ABC, 10 p.m. Tues.) -- Is it real-life wishful thinking that has us falling for this quirky comedic drama? Probably that, and more.

Adapted from a British show, "Lucky 7" follows a ragtag group of gas station employees who strike it rich when they win a $45 million lottery. Now come the dramatic life changes -- both good and bad -- and personal inclinations that will reveal who they really are.

The show is marred by a couple of stock characters, and there's a fear that, going forward, "Lucky 7" could wallow in a lot of trite moralizing. But the pilot had us at "hello" with its zippy pace and offbeat narrative style. And the diverse cast, led by Luis Antonio Ramos, Matt Long and Lorraine Bruce, features some instantly likable characters.

Follow Chuck Barney at Twitter.com/chuckbarney and Facebook.com/bayareanewsgroup.chuckbarney.