Gather ’round kids and let me tell you about a magical time called the 1980s. Dayglo fashion was in. Madonna was young and hot. Michael Jackson was alive and black. And families flocked around the television on Thursday nights to watch the National Broadcasting Company.

They put together a powerhouse lineup that featured The Cosby Show, Family Ties and Cheers. They coined the phrase “Must See TV” … and it truly was. It felt like you were actually watching television with the rest of America. At least the part of America you were willing to associate with.

Nothing has come close to that level of American TV-watching solidarity, although Fox’s Sunday night lineup has made a run at it. Which is why it’s so wonderful to have all my rowdy (animated) friends coming back.

Family Guy has probably been surpassed in quality by American Dad (which once upon a time struggled to find its identity as an FG clone). Bob’s Burgers has been sneakily gaining ground on both shows. Meanwhile, the dean of Fox Sundays – The Simpsons – has enjoyed something of a revival in the past five seasons.

Aside from filling the world with edgy, ink-and-paint humor, Fox’s lineup has paved the way for much of the adult-themed animation that has risen in popularity and visibility. Let’s face it, there probably wouldn’t be an Adult Swim without Fox Sunday night. So grab some donuts, a Pawtucket Pat and recognize what a wonderful gift we have. And one day, you can put your grandkids on your knee and tell them how great it was to watch TV in 2012.

Begins Sunday night at 8 p.m., FOX

This week’s Dude Tube Picks to Click

Modern Family (season premiere) – Wednesday, 9 p.m., ABC

Fresh off winning four Emmys as Sunday night’s award show, the Pritchett/Dunphy clan is back … with a baby on the way. Aside from the awkward, “we’ve all been there” humor that has become the show’s trademark, Modern Family excels because it has done the nearly impossible trick of having child actors that aren’t completely annoying. Huzzah for that!

Louie (season finale) – Thursday, 10 p.m., FX

I’d like to describe Louie’s recent dalliance with network executives over late night television hosting gigs as awkward. But that would be redundant. Louie ends his third season with a look at the holidays. Take a guy with awkward friends and acquaintances and put them all in a normally emotionally awkward time and … well, this should be fun to watch.

Fringe (season premiere) – Friday, 9 p.m., FOX

The final season begins for the team from Fringe division. In the last couple of seasons, things have gotten a little bit convoluted, but the mission is still the same – save the world. No big deal. Will Olivia and Peter ever find happiness together? Has Walter finally learned Astrid’s name? Have the Observers learned about Hair Club for Men? So many questions, not nearly enough answers.

Dexter (season premiere) – Sunday, 9 p.m., Showtime

Well, it was bound to happen … Dexter’s been found out. Now comes the cover-up. This could be interesting. After all, the family that slays together, stays together. We’ll see if Dexter’s dark passenger takes full control now that this has become something of a family business.

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