BIG RELEASE: The Family (Sept. 13)
BIG PICTURE: It's The Sopranos meets The Godfather meets National Lampoon's European Vacation... meets Robert De Niro sleepwalking through another mobster role (I've heard the Academy is contractually obligated to buy him a large pizza every three mafia movies). De Niro stars as wise guy snitch shipped off to France -- along with his sociopathic family -- and placed under witness protection. Under instructions to lay low, the family's violent, destructive behaviour attracts unwanted attention. Tommy Lee Jones plays the sour-faced lawmaker charged with the unenviable task of keeping them safe. While Vacation's Clark Griswold might have accidentally knocked down Stonehenge, this American family would be more likely to blow it up -- and then pickpocket the stunned tourists.
Forecast: France's Luc Besson (Transporter, The Fifth Element) directed and wrote this action-packed dramedy, which should lend the fish-out-of-water European storyline some credibility. Michelle Pfeiffer will steal this one as the unhinged, one-time godfather's wife. Picture Mad Men's frustrated housewife Betty Draper -- only with far more weapons at her disposal than a shotgun.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Insidious: Chapter 2. Another family that can't catch a break: The Lamberts. Though grappling with the mob seems like a walk in the park when compared to the creatures of the night these guys are facing. Imagine a family being haunted instead of a house. I'm hoping for a cameo by American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert (as a long-lost cousin?) who tries to exercise the spirits via theatrical pop rock.
BIG EVENT: The X Factor (Fox, CTV Two, Sept. 11, 8 p.m.)
BIG PICTURE: I guess Fox never received the letter I wrote, in which I asked them to blowup The X Factor's format for Season 3. I wanted to see Simon Cowell run a school for gifted youngsters that's secretly a training ground for a mutant super hero team. What better way to shape up a bunch of mutant misfits than to unleash the biggest jerk on television? The X Factor hopes an early start in the fall TV season helps it live up to its name. The ever-evolving mentor panel finds Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato joined by singers Kelly Rowland and Paulino Rubio. Last season's mentoring flops included L.A. Reid and Britney Spears (who I wouldn't let mentor a pet rock). Part 2 of the three-hour (really?) season premiere airs Thurs. Sept. 12.
FORECAST: This year's talent hawkers will compete for less coin -- the winner will receive $1 million and a big-studio recording contract (which is worth slightly more than Monopoly money these days). I predict another mentor bites the dust midseason and is replaced by Lindsay Lohan.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Million Second Quiz (NBC, Citytv, Sept. 9, 8 p.m.; Sons of Anarchy (Sept. 10, FX Canada, 10 p.m. ET/PT). It's Jeopardy meets The Truman Show meets insomnia meets that annoying guy named Ryan from American Idol. Million Second Quiz contestants test their knowledge, endurance patience -- and bladders -- in a million-second long trivia tournament. These game-show lab rats will compete for 12 days and 12 nights straight. Head-to-head battles will determine the top four contestants, and users can play at home for a chance to join the marathon contest the next night. For each second a player spends in "the money chair," he will earn $10. Ryan Seacrest is the ever-smiling, ever-wooden host (Am I the only one who thinks he was probably carved by Gepetto?). Meanwhile, the dark, violent -- and often brilliant -- biker drama Sons of Anarchy returns for Season 4. Ten-second quiz: How long could Ryan Seacrest last if he walked into a biker bar?
BIG RELEASES ON SEPT. 10: Janelle Monae (The Electric Lady)
BIG PICTURE: She's too badass to be a Bond girl; If they ever get around to making James Bond a female, the role should go to Janelle Monae. The otherworldly, young R&B queen is releasing an ambitious, 19-track sophomore album -- the funky, groove-laden sequel to her acclaimed debut The ArchAndroid. Guest artists include Erykah Badu, Solange, Esperanza Spalding and Prince, to whom she owes a deep artistic debt. Princess would have been an ill-chosen stage name, but she truly is Prince's musical soul mate.
FORECAST: Janelle's album title lives up to every letter. She puts her pop-star contemporaries -- from Lady Gaga and Katy Perry on to Beyonce -- to shame in the talent and creativity department. Monae can effortlessly shift from rap to reggae to soul -- sometimes in the same song. She is a musical chameleon whose colours paint a vibrant portrait.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Sheryl Crow (Feels Like Home). Meanwhile, Sheryl Crow has found a home in Nashville and fully-embraced the country tunes that were always at the roots of her rock numbers. I predict a future cameo appearance on ABC's Nashville.