'Dexter' dives back in

What's happening on the West Coast, where TV critics have once again invaded an unsuspecting hotel -- this time it's the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, and are grilling actors, producers and the occasional network honcho:

Michael C. Hall, the star of Showtime's "Dexter," is in the house. And for those who've been wondering, yes, he looks great.

Hall, who underwent treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma after filming wrapped on Season 4, said he welcomed the return to the set for the beginning of Season 5, which returns to Showtime Sept. 26.

 "It was gratifying. I was grateful that the hiatus managed to coincide with my treatment," Hall said, referring to the cast and crew as a "family."

Some more than others, Hall having eloped with co-star Jennifer Carpenter -- who plays his sister, Deb -- on New Year's Eve 2008.

And as he generally does when asked how that works at work, he made it clear that there's a lot less drama in the actor's life than there is in "Dexter," even if his wife at home is his sister on the set.

"I think from our perspective, you know, we met at work, and we've always been comfortable working together...It's not such a difficult thing to wrap our heads around and it's nice to be on the same schedule."

I'm not big on spoilers, but it seems safe to say that Season 5 will take up immediately where Season 4 left off, and that Dexter Morgan will be struggling with feelings of guilt in the wake of his wife's murder at the hands of  "Trinity," the serial killer played by John Lithgow.

Lithgow's are big shoes to fills, and it sounds as if no one will actually be attempting to do so, producers having lined up a series of guest stars -- Julia Stiles, Peter Weller, Jonny Lee Miller and Philadelphia's Katherine Moennig -- who'll be part of Dexter's. um, journey.

I do hope that's vague enough.

"One of the things that we wanted to do this year was to shake up that single big bad," said executive producer Chip Johannessen.

We'll also apparently see more of Julie Benz, who was last seen looking very, very dead (and who'll be looking considerably more lively this fall starring opposite Michael Chiklis in ABC's "No Ordinary Family.")

Producers were coy about how she might appear, while ruling out the kind of relationship that Dexter's late father (James Remar) has with his homicidal son.

"You'll be seeing her more than dead in the bathtub, that's for sure," said Johannessen.