The 50 Best Fall TV Shows to Distract From the End of the World, From ‘The Crown’ to ‘Selena’
More “PEN15” and “This Is Us,” new stuff with the likes of Nicole Kidman and Chris Rock, and a slew of “pandemic productions” are coming to make it easy to keep staying inside.
With the pandemic shutting down film and television production for months, there was a prevailing anxiety that, at some point, networks and streaming services were going to run out of original content to entertain us. After spending some time compiling this fall TV preview, I can say unequivocally that WE WERE WRONG.
What I learned is that, yes, the major broadcast networks are going to be light on new episodes of your favorite returning racist cop procedurals for the next few months, pivoting instead to “gently used” content that already aired on cable networks or streaming services. But outside of that there is still the overwhelming deluge of new and already beloved series coming at you this fall, the bulk of which you’ll just ignore for whatever shows up in the Top 10 of Netflix that week.
That said, the pandemic has had an undeniable effect on programming, whether it’s a handful of shows developed during quarantine that directly address the time, or others that have shifted their premiere dates. It’s another twist in an already drastically evolving #TooMuchTV industry, which has seen an explosion of streaming services enter the fray. In all of my years of writing these previews, I’ve never had to type the “+” sign so many times.
So from when favorites like This Is Us and PEN15 are back, what new true-crime series will haunt your nightmares, and which major stars are heading to your screens—Nicole Kidman! Bette Midler! Chris Rock! Jude Law! Princess Diana! Sharon Stone and a monkey on her shoulder!—here’s our chronological rundown of 50 new and returning shows to watch.
Sept. 9 on Hulu
As you could guess by its buzzword title, Woke is meant to be timely. It’s also very clever. New Girl standout Lamorne Morris plays a Black cartoonist whose entire existence is altered after a racially motivated run-in with police. It’s when the animated household items start talking to him that the series really takes off.
Julie and the Phantoms
Sept. 10 on Netflix
The director of Disney Channel’s High School Musical and The Descendants franchises is doing a Netflix musical series about a girl who finds her rock star voice after summoning the ghosts of ’90s boybanders, based on a Brazilian series. Truly chaotic description! I love it!
Sept. 12 on HBO
No one quite knew what to expect as Hollywood navigated the COVID-19-induced production shutdown, other than that there would definitely be some sort of very actory series filmed during quarantines in a way that looks like it was shot on Zoom. As fate foretold, Coastal Elites stars Sarah Paulson, Bette Midler, Issa Rae, and Dan Levy.
Dancing With the Stars
Sept. 14 on ABC
ABC is relaunching a celebrity dance reality TV competition in the middle of a pandemic with Tyra Banks replacing a host who had been with the show for 29 seasons, and it is exactly the kind of chaotic energy we are here for.
The Drew Barrymore Show
Sept. 14, Syndicated
In trying and stressful times, you know what seems nice? Drew Barrymore beaming into our homes every afternoon with a talk show.
The Third Day
Sept. 14 on HBO
Jude! Law! Alert! Take a break from your quarantine schedule of watching The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Holiday in constant loop to feast on Law’s new HBO series, which boasts this epically specific plot description: “A man and a woman make separate journeys to a mysterious island off the British coast.”
We Are Who We Are
Sept. 14 on HBO
Luca Guadagnino heard you’ve finally recovered from the sumptuous heartbreak of Call Me By Your Name and showed up right on cue to create and direct this new series, about two American teens living on a U.S. military base in Italy coming of age together.
Sept. 16 on Netflix
Already a popular international format, Sing On! judges contestants on who can sing a popular tune with the most accuracy to the original version. All of that is irrelevant, however, as the real news is that it is hosted by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Tituss Burgess, a gift to us all.
Sept. 18 on Hulu
There are not enough gel pens in the world for me to write out how truly, deeply wonderful PEN15 is. That the series, in which Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle star as Y2K middle schoolers, has become such a critical darling—and returns in such fine form—has me drawing hearts all over my spiral notebook.
Sept. 18 on Netflix
Sarah Paulson and Ryan Murphy continue their epic TV partnership, this time raising the stakes by crafting an origin story for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest terrifying Nurse Ratched. The dinner party of your dreams joins Paulson in the cast: Cynthia Nixon, Judy Davis, Corey Stoll, Sophie Okonedo, not that handsome one from American Horror Story but the other one, the cute son from Weeds, that one guy from 13 Reasons Why, and Sharon Stone with a monkey in a dress on her shoulder.
Sept. 18 on Peacock
There was a brief time from 2015 to 2016 that Comedy Central aired the most insightful topical late-night show on TV, The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore. Audiences, of course, are historically allergic to smart things, and the show was canceled. Blessedly, Wilmore is returning on Peacock this fall, just when we need that insight most.
Sept. 21 on Fox
Sound the siren any time icon of free-association jazz scatting Kim Cattrall is on our screens, especially if the occasion is to play the wealthy Southern host and co-founder of a major Christian TV network who finds out that her dead husband fathered three illegitimate children.
Agents of Chaos
Sept. 23 on HBO
Famed documentarian Alex Gibney turns his scrutinous lens on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. You know, comfort viewing.
Sept. 23 on Netflix
Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown playing the precocious sister of Sherlock Holmes in an intellectual property-trouncing spin-off seems, on the surface, extremely cloying, yet every preview I’ve seen of it so far appears to be an adorable delight.
The Masked Singer
Sept. 23 on Fox
Anyone would be lying if they said they’re not at least curious about what fresh hell is in store with the new season of this one.
Sept. 25 on Apple TV+
Spy thriller Tehran is Apple TV+’s first non-English series, acquired during the pandemic in the sweep of content pipeline anxiety. About the Israeli-Iranian conflict, the series sparked a wide range of passionate opinions when it aired in Israel this summer. It should be interesting to see what the stateside reaction will be.
The Amber Ruffin Show
Sept. 25 on Peacock
One of the greatest delights of Late Night With Seth Meyers—and there are many—is the “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” segment, in which Amber Ruffin and fellow performer/writer Jenny Hagel trade off telling jokes about marginalized demographics. It’s a comment on the limitations of the predominantly white male late-night lineup, which makes Ruffin’s upcoming show such a perspective and pleasure to look forward to.
Sept. 25 on Amazon Prime
Gillian Flynn, the writer behind Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, serves as showrunner for an adaptation of the timely conspiracy theory thriller that was originally a British series in 2013. The words that should be gripping you here are “Gillian Flynn, the writer behind Gone Girl and Sharp Objects.”
A Wilderness of Error
Sept. 25 on FX
Wee-oo! Wee-oo! Prestige true-crime series alert! This entry in everyone’s darkest TV genre obsession is adapted from Errol Morris’ nonfiction book that chronicled the murder of an Army surgeon’s pregnant wife and two daughters on a base in 1970. Sounds horrifying! I’m sure y’all will love.
The Comey Rule
Sept. 27 on Showtime
Whether or not you want a limited series dramatizing former FBI director James Comey’s relationship with Donald Trump, you’re getting one, and, no, you will not be able to escape everyone’s hot takes on it.
Sept. 27 on FX
After pretty much rewriting the rules about how seriously to take the idea of limited series and how to remake and remix existing intellectual properties, Fargo’s fourth installment arrives with maybe its most interesting cast yet. Chris Rock is at the top of the call sheet, with Ben Whishaw, Timothy Olyphant, Jessie Buckley, Glynn Turman, and Jason Schwartzman all honing their best “you betcha.”
Sept. 28 on NBC
After burning fast and bright as a game-show sensation almost two decades ago with its format of a host being cold and mean to trivia contestants, Weakest Link is being revived with Jane Lynch as the stern emcee. I can’t think of a time more gratifying in which to watch someone insult stupid people.
Oct. 1 on NBC
“Pandemic programming.” They might as well be trigger words as far as I’m concerned, given the rocky start to how scripted series are handling the new abnormal. This one is about a group of friends trying to maintain their relationships while remaining socially distanced in quarantine.
The Salisbury Poisonings
Oct. 1 on AMC+
A wild true story about the 2018 assassination attempt on two spies in the British town of Salisbury, after which traces of lethal nerve agent were found all over the city and, gee, I don’t know why a story about the terrifying spread of a deadly spore somehow seems so resonant?!
Emily in Paris
Oct. 2 on Netflix
You know what show is great? Younger. You know what other show is great? Sex and the City. You know who made both of those shows, and now another one that is set in Paris and has Lily Collins doing the whole fumbling through love adorably while wearing pretty clothes thing? Darren Star, which should pique anyone’s interest in Emily in Paris.
Oct. 2 on Hulu
The great thing about anthology series, in which each episode tells a new and isolated story, is you can assemble stellar casts for it. This one includes Kaitlyn Dever, Nicole Beharie, Kelly Marie Tran, Taylor Schilling, Mike Colter, and more, alongside mermaids, fallen angels, and other strange beasts. Hulu said “diversity!”
The Comedy Store
Oct. 4 on Showtime
The famed L.A. comedy club that boasts a mindblowing roster of talent among its alumni is getting the docuseries treatment. Among the comedians who honed their early acts there, so you can be on the lookout for footage of them when the series airs: David Letterman, Jay Leno, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Marc Maron, Whitney Cummings, and more.
The Good Lord Bird
Oct. 4 on Showtime
After first being teased for a spring premiere, then delayed to the summer, and now scheduled for October, The Good Lord Bird might finally be taking flight, leading a flock that includes Ethan Hawke as abolitionist John Brown and Daveed Diggs as Frederick Douglass.
Oct. 5 on AMC
We’ll leave the “like an episode of Black Mirror” insights to the rest of the internet when it comes to Soulmates, an anthology series set in a future where technology tells every person who their soulmate is.
Oct. 6 on Fox
A sci-fi thriller about an artificial intelligence advancement that proves too smart for our own good when it starts pursuing its own agenda and threatening our global cybersecurity. On the one hand, John Slattery stars! I would like to see it. On the other hand, the spelling in that title! I would like to stop it.
Oct. 8 on The CW
After airing for many lifetimes and, now, across a global pandemic, the interrupted final season of Supernatural that began last year will conclude this fall, 15 seasons and more than 300 episodes later.
The Right Stuff
Oct. 9 on Disney+
After being adapted into an Oscar-winning film more than 35 years ago, Tom Wolfe’s book about the early days of the U.S. Space Program is getting the full-on, big-budget series treatment. Originally set for National Geographic but now airing on Disney+, the series’ astronauts will be played by a true treasure trove of Hollywood’s “oh, that guy!” handsome men: Patrick J. Adams, Jake McDorman, Colin O’Donoghue, Aaron Staton, and more, all acting out our fantasy of being blasted off this planet.
One Day at a Time
Oct. 12 on CBS
To help fill holes in its schedule because of production shutdowns, CBS is airing the recent season of One Day at at Time that ran on Pop, the network that rescued the show from Netflix and I swear to god if you imbeciles don’t watch this miraculous, beautiful series this time around...
Oct. 13 on ABC
There have already been so many headlines about this installment of the dating franchise, even though it’s yet to air, owed to the speculation that there might be two women looking for love in the The Bachelorette’s COVID-19 production bubble—five words that make up my waking nightmare.
Oct. 16 on Hulu
I absolutely cannot keep track of all of these Marvel series, where they air, if they’re on TV or movies, and what have you. HOWEVER. Helstrom is apparently a creepy horror take on the whole Marvel thing and, for the first time, I am interested!
Oct 18 on ABC
The debt we all owe to game show Supermarket Sweep, the ’90s version of which randomly hit Netflix at the start of the pandemic lockdown and even more randomly became one of the most popular options on the streamer. This new reboot features superfan SNL alum Leslie Jones presiding over the shopping carts barreling through the grocery store. Remember grocery stores?
Oct. 22 on NBC
It’s been heartening how much of a passionate fanbase Superstore has accrued over the years. This may also be the only series in which I am interested in seeing how coronavirus is handled. Is there a mask policy in Cloud 9?
Oct. 25 on HBO
The Paddington Cinematic Universe makes its way to HBO, as the films’ iconic villains team up in, OK, a completely unrelated psychological thriller. That said, we’d like to know how much of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant’s conversations between takes were Paddington-adjacent.
Oct. 30 on Disney+
The only elements of this show that made its way into my consciousness is the adorable Baby Yoda phenomenon and the fact that it somehow earned a Best Drama Series Emmy nomination (over, like, The Good Fight, Pose, and The Morning Show), which is to say I am grateful and extremely bitter about this series. Enjoy season two.
This Is Us
Nov. 10 on NBC
It will be back! It will tackle the pandemic! You will cry! Or you will hate it as much as you always did so get over it and let those of us who love this show just weep and be at peace.
Eater’s Guide to the World
Nov. 11 on Hulu
Maya Rudolph narrates this series about travel and good food, as I once dreamed.
Law & Order: SVU
Nov. 12 on NBC
Alerted to the fact that an alarming number of people have indeed rewatched all 428 episodes of this series while stuck at home in Quarantine Times, NBC is bringing back new episodes in November. Season 22!
Nov. 15 on Netflix
The gasp you would have heard if you were sitting on the couch next to me when I watched the trailer for the new season of The Crown and they did that dramatic wide shot from behind of Princess Diana in her wedding dress. Between that and Gillian Anderson joining as Margaret Thatcher, the show is sight unseen already fall TV’s biggest thrill.
Nov. 15 on Showtime
Matt Tyrnauer, the documentarian so skilled at linking cultural taboos and shady underbellies to power, politics, and history, follows up last year’s Where’s My Roy Cohn? with a four-part series on the Reagan dynasty.
Nov. 20 on Hulu
There is not a person in their thirties who heard the news that Steven Spielberg is bringing back his madcap-brilliant animated series from the ’90s—Yakko, Wakko, Dot, Pinky, and the Brain all aboard—and did not screech like a hyena and run circles around their living rooms in excitement.
The Flight Attendant
Fall TBD on HBO Max
Kaley Cuoco was the underrated highpoint of The Big Bang Theory’s run and no, I will not sit down and be silent about it. Given that, I’m very curious what’s in store for The Flight Attendant, a dark comedy in which her character wakes up in a hotel room next to a dead man and no recollection of how she got there.
Fall TBD on Showtime
Fred Armisen, Tim Heidecker, and John C. Reilly are "three subpar astronauts living in NASA’s Moon Base Simulator in the desert with high hopes of being the next chosen to travel through to the moon,” a comedy sentence that is most pleasing to me.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City
Fall TBD on Bravo
With no shortage of opinions raging about the currently airing New York City, Beverly Hills, and Potomac iterations of Bravo’s venerable franchise, the network is launching its first new city and cast in years. Raising more eyebrows is the Salt Lake City setting, where the omnipresence of the Mormon church seems inherently at odds with the boozy antics we’re used to from Real Housewives.
Selena: The Series
Fall TBD on Netflix
Expectations are sky-high for this series telling of late singer Selena’s life, given how beloved the Jennifer Lopez-starring film and especially the entertainer who inspired it still are. More, it’s been two years since this show was announced. The fans are ready to bidi bidi bom bom!
Fall TBD on Netflix
Another (brace yourself) pandemic production. This one is from Orange Is the New Black and Weeds mastermind Jenji Kohan, and like this summer’s Love in the Time of Corona features a cast of family units and partners who could film while quarantining together.