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By Tom Gliatto
Updated October 04, 2006 06:00 AM
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NEW SHOW

Watch It: The Nine (ABC, 10 p.m. ET)
The premiere episode, moody and intense, promises what could be the best new drama of the fall. A bank robbery turns into a 52-hour hostage ordeal, ending as nine people stumble back into lives that have been jolted off course. But they’re saddled now with the past, too – that awful 52-hour chunk, hard and black as coal, when they were hostages. What really happened in the bank? Flashbacks hint at both unexpected heroics and alliances worse than any Richard Hatch ever dreamed up for Survivor.

RETURNING SHOWS

Lost (ABC, 9 p.m. ET)
Many viewers actually try to keep track of this inscrutable show’s mystifying developments. Why bother? The answer will come, friend – or maybe it won’t. Either way, chill. Enjoy. Starting its third season tonight, the show has achieved its own narrative Zen. Anything could happen, and it would be intriguingly entertaining. A giant coconut could fall to earth and crack open, and out step Oprah and Gayle, fresh from their road trip and singing a cantata about the serial number that’s somehow key to the whole thing:

Oprah: Four!
Gayle: Eight!
Oprah: Fifteee-eeeeen!
Gayle: Sixteee-eeeeeen!
Oprah and Gayle: Twenty-three-eee-eee
Forty-two-ooo-ooo
Oooo-ooooooooo
We’re feelin’ so lost
On a journey we’ve been tossed

Matthew Fox would just squint in annoyance and turn so that we can admire his chiseled profile against the relentless, unanswering sea.

South Park (Comedy Central, 10 p.m. ET)
Season 10! I’m not sure anything can top last season’s death of Chef – one of the angriest, most mercilessly bloody bits of satire I’ve ever seen on TV.

More Fall TV Watch: What’s Hot on Thursday