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McNamara's Pick's: 'Sleepy Hollow,' 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,' 'The Returned'

"Sleepy Hollow." Thank heaven that World Series is over; after a three-week baseball-imposed hiatus, Fox's hysterically historical monster mash is finally back. And as the latest installment includes an appearance by Mr. John Noble ("Fringe," "Lord of the Rings"), it will no doubt be worth the wait.

Noble plays a Sin Eater, someone who can take on the transgressions of the recently dead (a creature last seen, perhaps, in the Heath Ledger film "The Order"). Teasers promise that a search for a missing Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) will reveal secrets from his past, which apparently "weigh heavily on him." We can only hope they weigh heavily enough to make the sin-eating Noble a recurring character. 

With the Colonial soldier in modern America providing wit, Crane and his cop partner, Abbie (Nichole Beharie), throwing just the right amount of sparks and the whole New York state by moonlight conjuring mist and mood, "Sleepy Hollow" is on a shivery fun and vaguely instructive ride through American myth. But as good as this new series is, Noble can make it only better. Fox, Mondays, 9 p.m.

FALL TV 2013: Watch the trailers

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." American TV needs a hero who is neither super- nor anti-, and Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson is it.

Brimming with integrity, loyalty and quiet but still quite impressive competence, Coulson is an old-fashioned leading man, neither broken nor eternally adolescent. The American Christopher Foyle, as it were, with a tricked-out airplane. That he may be dead, robotic or mostly a computer chip is a possibility but beside the point. As in previous "Avenger" films, Gregg and his character provide an antidote to all the supercilious masculinity cluttering up screens large and small. 

That he has surrounded himself with a team similarly arrayed in very human talents helps too. For all its special effects and nifty gadgets. "S.H.I.E.L.D." is a story of people learning to work together, if not for the common good then because Agent Coulson told them to. ABC, Tuesdays, 8 p.m.

 "The Returned." For those who consider themselves too highbrow for "The Walking Dead" or any of the many fine supernatural tales unwinding on TV today, we give you "The Returned," a six-part French supernatural thriller debuting Halloween night on Sundance.

Yep, that's right, the undead and subtitles; French majors, I sense some easy extra credit.

In a small mountain town, people presumed dead for several to many years begin showing up, seemingly untouched by time or decay, as confused by their status as friends and family members are. Carefully paced and lovingly shot, what seems to be a psychological exploration — what would people do, really, if their prayers were answered and their dead returned to them — slowly builds to something a bit more sinister. (Hint: Not all the Returned are beautiful children or good guys.) Secrets emerge, relationships unravel, and soon even the idyllic setting shades ominous. A satisfying creepfest that even the eggheads among us can watch without guilt. Vive la France! Sundance, Thursdays, 9 p.m.

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