It was at the very end of the TV tour -- final network, final day -- when we finally came across what had been missing -- a really superb, top-of-the-line new show.
That's "Boardwalk Empire," the richly layered Martin Scorsese series that opens Sept. 19 on HBO, in the "Sopranos" slot. We're not surprised that it's great; we are surprised that it's alone.
A typical fall crop might include several superb shows. Last year brought "Glee," "Modern Family," "The Good Wife" and more.
This season? "Boardwalk Empire," which starts just as Prohibition begins in a giddy Atlantic City, is alone at the top.
At least, this tour (organized by the Television Critics Association) offered some things with promise. I'll tell you more about the trip soon; first, here are some of the better things I saw:
-- A brilliant, break-out performance by James Wolk. That's in "Lonestar," a complex character-scam piece on Fox.
-- Two first-rate comedies -- CBS' "Mike & Molly," ABC's "Better Together."
-- A complex conspiracy thriller, NBC's "The Event."
-- "My Generation," a clever-but-complex ABC drama that visits teens at graduation time and 10 years later.
-- Some OK police stories; ABC's "Body of Proof" and CBS' "Blue Bloods" -- that stand out.
-- ABC's offbeat (and sort of fun) "No Ordinary Family."
-- Lots of PBS documentaries. "Circus," "God in America" and Ken Burns' "Baseball" sequel are excellent; and on cable, a sampling of National Geographic's "Great Migrations" looks spectacular.
-- The brilliance of British writers. I haven't seen PBS' "Sherlock" yet, or the "Torchwood" that is moving to Starz, but they are being written by the superb Steven Moffat and Russell Davies, respectively. I have seen the first hour of BBC America's "Luther" and it's compelling.