Must-See TV

Fall TV’s Most Exciting New Shows: ‘Gotham,’ ‘Selfie,’ ‘How to Get Away With Murder,’ and More

Get the DVR ready. With dozens and dozens of new series to sift through, we’ve done the dirty work. Here’s the most intriguing of fall TV’s freshman offerings.

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Quit your job. No really. That’s the only viable option, as the fall’s flood of new TV shows leaves no other reasonable recourse than to wipe your DVR clean and binge on each of the season’s varied new offerings all day long.  There are dozens of new shows debuting this fall on the major broadcast networks, and the tally becomes almost unfathomable once all the cable networks and streaming services are factored in there, too. From another surefire Shonda Rhimes hit to a Batman origin story (without Batman) to a comedy that seriously is calling itself “Selfie,” we break down the 20 most exciting new series that merit checking out—in order of their premiere dates.

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Red Band Society (FOX)

Premieres Wed., Sept. 17 at 9 pm

 

As absurd as it sounds, Red Band Society might best be described in shorthand as Glee meets Grey’s Anatomy. Set in a children’s hospital staffed by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) and TV journeyman Dave Annable (Brothers and Sisters, 666 Park Avenue), the show chronicles the comings-of-age of a rag-tag group of adolescents with seemingly nothing in common but a bleak health diagnosis that bonds them. The pilot was directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who might not sound familiar but whose work proves uncanny: Glee’s go-to director, Gomez-Rejon imbues Red Band Society with the same warm, candy-colored zip that make its preciously outcast characters snarky, earnest, and seemingly fresh as those New Directions singers. To that end, Red Band Society is a feel-good drama about dying kids, if you can believe it.

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The Mysteries of Laura (NBC)

Special preview Wed., Sept. 17 at 10 pm

Regular timeslot premiere Wed., Sept. 24 at 8 pm

 

You know that tired adage: can a woman really have it all? For Detective Laura Diamond, that apparently means nabbing the bad guy in time to read a bedtime story for the kids. Ambitiously going full-throttle on three engines as a single-cam comedy, a family drama, and a cop procedural, Mysteries of Laura might be fall’s most tonally interesting series. Debra Messing plays the titular mysterious Laura (though the show’s title more refers to her dual challenges solving cases in the field and family crises at home) with a blend of the broad ham that zinged so well on Will and Grace and the melodrama that reinvented her as a dramatic actress on Smash. For added bang, Hollywood’s go-to action maestro McG directs.

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Madam Secretary (CBS)

Premieres Sun., Sept. 21 at 8 pm

 

Much like The Good Wife wasn’t not not loosely based on Elliot Spitzer’s family post-affair, Madam Secretary isn’t exactly not not overtly sending Hillary Clinton vibes your way. Tea Leoni plays Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst who is tapped to be the new secretary of state when the sitting one dies mysteriously. It’s easy to imagine, as she balances her family life with, oh, WORLD PEACE, that Leoni’s Secretary McCord might laugh in the face of Messing’s Detective Diamond. The show is less ripped-from-the-headlines than The Good Wife, but executive producer Lori McCreary says that its mere existence is owed to a question that was raised as Clinton was weathering the Benghazi hearings: what is life really like for the secretary of state? Tim Daly co-stars as McCord’s husband, Keith Carradine plays POTUS, and a bonkers supporting cast is on board for extra intrigue, including Bebe Neuwirth, Zjelko Ivanek, and Patina Miller.

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Gotham (FOX)

Premieres Mon., Sept. 22 at 8 pm

 

Gotham is Fox’s big, highly touted, heavily promoted Batman show. But it’s not about Batman. Oh, what’s that? You didn’t realize that Gotham wasn’t about Batman? That’s the first thing that must be said about Gotham, off the bat (tee hee): it takes place long before there’s a Caped Crusader. The second is that it doesn’t matter. It turns out Bruce Wayne’s city—its citizens, its criminals, how it became what it is today—is interesting enough in its own right, as Gotham explores the famed locale through the eyes of James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), the storied cop who will eventually become the Commissioner of Gotham. It’s moody and menacing and with enough ties to the Batman legends we’ve become obsessed with—Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a The Penguin and Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman—to delight comic obsessives.

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NCIS: New Orleans (CBS)

Premieres Tues., Sept. 23 at 9 pm

 

Is it silly to get excited about another NCIS spin-off? Aren’t we tired of umpteen iterations of the NCIS-CSI-SVU franchises cluttering the broadcast lineup? Maybe. But there’s a reason these things are popular, first of all: the formula they’ve nailed is endlessly watchable (as anyone who’s lost an entire weekend to Law and Order marathons can attest to). And there’s especially a reason to get excited about this one: Scott Bakula. The veteran performer has quietly become one of the most warm and interesting actors on TV in recent years, with his turns on Men of a Certain Age, New Adventures of Old Christine, and especially Looking as proof. Expect him to ground what could be kitschy, overdone material, especially with the venerable CCH Pounder by his side.

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How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)

Premieres Thurs., Sept. 25 at 10 pm


Few things in the world of television are as tantalizing as Oscar-winner Viola Davis starring in a drama executive produced by Shonda Rhimes that is called How to Get Away With Murder. I mean, that title. My god. Basically, the idea is that Davis plays a criminal defense professor who, in typical Shonda Rhimes fashion, gets entangled in a murder conspiracy with some of her law students. The series completes Rhimes’s total takeover of ABC’s Thursday nights, capping off a lineup that starts with Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. And the thought of Davis ripping into those grandiose, melodramatic, hyper-emotional monologues that are Rhimes’s signature is just, well, killer.

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Transparent (Amazon)

Premieres Fri., Sept. 26 on Amazon Prime

 

Amazon has done a solid job thus far of quietly breaking into the original content business. Its political comedy Alpha House is probably its biggest hit thus far, though a it’s far cry from Netflix’s House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black when it comes to popularity or critical success. It’s on that latter metric that Transparent could take Amazon’s original programming to the next level. The series stars Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor as Maura, a woman who has spent her entire life to that point living as Mort. Mort was the esteemed patriarch of a typical suburban family, and his transition to Maura all but unravels their conventionality. Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker, and Jay Duplass plays his kids and Judith Light plays his wife, all whose secrets begin pouring out when Maura enters their lives.

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Selfie (ABC)

Premieres Tues., Sept. 30 at 8 pm

 

Are people willing to forgive a truly heinous title in order to watch what promises to be one of the fall’s most solid new comedies? That’s the biggest question facing Selfie, one of the zippiest, most modern sitcoms debuting this year with a groan-inducing title that makes you want to run screaming from the room. Selfie is a modern retelling of My Fair Lady (just typing that phrase is enough to make one weep for culture), about a girl named Eliza Dooley who is obsessed with becoming famous over social media. The ruminations on what social media and viral fame mean to us are actually quite clever and relevant, and the characters and dialogue pretty sharp. Bad title, good show. Could it work?

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Happyland (MTV)

Premieres Tues., Sept 30 at 11 pm

 

MTV’s transformation from music video showcase to teen-targeted scripted programmer is nearly over, or maybe even long over, with series like Awkward, Teen Wolf, and Faking It not just winning over the network’s younger demographic, but critics, too. Happyland is its effort to continue the streak. A soap-opera-comedy about a group of family, friends, and frenemies who work at a theme park, the series is already stirring up a fair share of controversy thanks to a twist at the end of its trailer revealing that the hot guy the show’s hot girl lead is kissing might also be her (SPOILER ALERT!) hot brother. Teen incest? Well, you can’t say MTV has totally given up on pushing buttons.

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Gracepoint (FOX)

Premieres Thurs., Oct. 2 at 9 pm

 

On pedigree alone, this seems like the show to watch. It stars Anna Gunn, who just took home her second Emmy for her role on Breaking Bad, and David Tennant, known better as the recently exited Doctor on Doctor Who, and boasts the creative talent behind Capote and In Treatment as showrunner. Oh yeah, it’s also the American remake of Broadchurch, the critically huzzahed BBC murder mystery that viewers in the States shunned because of their aversion to accents but might lap up as an Americanized reimagination.

John Fleenor/NBC

Bad Judge (NBC)

Premieres Thurs., Oct. 2 at 9pm

 

In a nutshell, Bad Judge is Bad Teacher but about a judge instead of a teacher and starring Kate Walsh instead of Cameron Diaz. And you know what? All of that is just fine. Sure, Bad Judge doesn’t seem to be reinventing the wheel, but there’s nothing about a spitfire actress like Kate Walsh playing a judge with a penchant for unconventional rulings in the courtroom and uncouth choices in her personal life that doesn’t seem utterly watchable.

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A to Z (NBC)

Premieres Thurs., Oct. 2 at 9:30 pm

 

The cuteness quotient on A to Z is almost too much to handle. It stars two effortlessly adorable actors who met uncharacteristically grim fates on their most recent series: A is Andrew, played by Ben Feldman, who was last seen slicing off his nipple on Mad Men. Z is Zelda, played by Cristin Milioti, last seen, um, dying on How I Met Your Mother. Together, they launch a total charm offensive as A to Z chronicles, according to the narration, “the comprehensive account of their relationship.” The rom-com might be dead at the movies, but with these two, it should be alive and well on the small screen.

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Mulaney (FOX)

Premieres Sun., Oct. 5 at 9:30 pm

 

Is it time for a new Jerry Seinfeld? Mulaney essentially nominates star John Mulaney for the position. There’s a lot there to draw the comparison from. It’s centered on a standup comic who gets a show named after him. Mulaney’s delivery cadence might remind some people of a certain comedian who constantly wanted to know what the deal was with certain things. He’s also a gifted observational humorist, honed through years as a writer for Saturday Night Live. You could never call Mulaney a Seinfeld rip-off, because it is so wisely tailored to his own point of view. But it certainly is a descendant of the ‘90s hit series. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Kingdom (DirecTV)

Premieres Wed., Oct. 8 at 9 pm

 

Everything about the description for Kingdom sounds so absurd…but also so right. It centers around a gym for Mixed Martial Arts competitors in Venice Beach. Nick Jonas, of the Jonas Brothers, and Matt Lauria, of none other than freaking Friday Night Lights, play the fighters. Everything about that is amazing because, have you seen Nick Jonas lately and also Matt Lauris is a ridiculously good actor. Naturally, there’s not just fighting in the ring, but of it, too, when girls and family drama enter the picture. (See what I did that there?)

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Cristela (ABC)

Premieres Fri., Oct 10 at 8 pm

 

If ABC’s head honchos are to be believed, Cristela was its highest testing pilot this season. It earned the series the distinction of “the little that show that could,” eventually helping the comedy, a semi-autobiographical family sitcom from comedian Cristela Alonzo, win a series order over project from much more well-known talents. About the rising frustrations as Cristela lives rent-free with her sister and brother-in-law while in the sixth year of law school and her mother pressures her to get a real job, Cristela mines a good amount of comedy, as one might expect, from the star’s straddling of two cultures. It’s on Friday nights, which means maybe no one will watch it, but its existence itself is a vote of confidence from ABC in Alonzo and her comedic point of view.

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The Affair (Showtime)

Premieres Sun., Oct. 12 at 10 pm

 

The Affair is more soapy than we’re used to from Showtime’s original dramas, and that’s precisely why it’s so intriguing. It stars Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Joshua Jackson, and Maura Tierney—a certainly appealing cast—as four New Yorkers whose lives are turned upside down when the married Noah (West) has an affair with a waitress (Wilson) during the former’s summer vacation on Long Island. Told through his and hers perspectives, the show is written by In Treatment’s Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi, who have a little bit of experience in character-based, point-of-view storytelling.

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Jane the Virgin (The CW)

Premieres Mon., Oct. 13 at 9 pm

 

Sometimes the convergence of title and network couldn’t be more perfect. Jane the Virgin couldn’t be a more appropriate bait for the teen-centric network, that so unabashedly mines adolescent sexual anxiety for its own scripted drama. The show’s premise is a doozy: an aspiring writer, who is also a virgin, is accidentally artificially inseminated. Following the snafu, and with a pregnancy and future child to deal with, she must navigate increasingly complicated relationships with her boyfriend, the baby’s biological father, and her mother and grandmother.

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Marry Me (NBC)

Premieres Tues., Oct. 14 at 9 pm

 

There are few comedy stars that are easier to root for than Casey Wilson, whose Year of Penny came to a tragically premature halt when Happy Endings was egregiously canceled, and Ken Marino, who has been a riotous guest star on pretty much every single sitcom you love but has yet to lead his own hit show. On Marry Me, they play a couple on the cusp of getting engaged, were every attempt at the proposal not haplessly bungled by a serious of unfortunate events. When they finally do manage to get the ring on the finger, more comedic calamities ensue on the way to the altar, the bulk of which are the fodder for Marry Me. “I do” want to watch that. (Get it? Get it!?)

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State of Affairs (NBC)

Premieres Nov. 17

 

A CIA thriller centering on an agent with an agenda and who refuses to play by the rules? Sounds familiar. State of Affairs is the broadcast’s answer to Homeland. Oh wait, The Blacklist already is that. State of Affairs is NBC’s answer to Homeland. Oh wait, The Blacklist is on NBC. State of Affairs is a show—and it’s very much like Homeland. Katherine Heigl plays the lead Carrie Matheson-like character, and you know what? That’s a good thing. Put your feelings about Heigl aside and remember that she is, really, an excellent TV star. She was wonderful on Grey’s Anatomy (totally deserving of her Emmy, by the way) and is just as engaging playing a less loosey-goosey character than Izzy. Add Alfre Woodard as the State of Affairs president, and we should all be on board.

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The Comeback (HBO)

Premiere TBA in November

 

Since The Comeback, Lisa Kudrow’s poignant, hilarious, unequivocally brilliant HBO comedy, was canceled in 2007, fans who turned the short-lived series into a cult sensation haven’t just been chanting for one more take. They’ve wanted a full-blown revival. They’re finally getting it, as delusional, desperate, and endearing TV star Valerie Cherish and her reality TV crew are back, finally, for another season in November. Is The Comeback a new show? Not at all. But we included it on this list in the hopes that the people who never watched the original, hence the cancellation, will tune in for the first time.