The Best TV Shows Coming This Fall: From ‘Gilmore Girls’ to the Next ‘Game of Thrones’
For the love of TiVo, there’s an ungodly number of new series premiering this fall. From the Gilmore Girls revival to HBO’s buzzy Westworld, here are 35(!) worth watching.
There are enough new series premiering this fall across seemingly infinite number of networks and streaming services that, if you watched television every night of the week from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., that would only be enough time to sample half of them. And so we combed through the 70 or so new series hoping to grab your precious couch time to parse out the most exciting, most deserving or, at the very least, most different offerings. From the returns of the Gilmore Girls and Sarah Jessica Parker to the next Game of Thrones and another Exorcist, here are our picks for 35 new shows worth transforming into an actual couch potato for. Just remember to rotate. (You know, bed sores…)
Loosely Exactly Nicole (MTV) Premieres Mon., Sept. 5 at 10:30 p.m. ET
MTV’s new sitcom stars Nicole Byer, fall TV’s biggest sparkplug, who semi-autobiographically chronicles her experience as a stand-up comic and aspiring actress who also happens to be black, overweight, outspoken, and a little hapless. In person, Byer is a joy: effortlessly hilarious, with unfiltered insight on her experience in show business. Her sitcom more than just loosely exactly mirrors that energy and humor, making it a solid comedy start to the fall TV season.
Atlanta (FX) Premieres Tues., Sept. 6 at 10 p.m. ET
While often the funniest person on Community, Donald Glover always felt different, special, maybe even cooler than the rest of the cult favorite sitcom—like he had so much more to say. Cue Atlanta, the new series for FX that Glover created and stars in. His self-described thesis for the series: “to show people how it felt to be black, and you can’t really write that down. You kind of have to feel it.” And that’s what he creates with Atlanta, a show that—for all its humor or insight or message—is one you can feel.
Queen Sugar (OWN) Premieres Tues., Sept. 6 at 10 p.m. ET
For the better part of the last 2½ years, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who directed the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma, has found herself as the default voice advocating for inclusion and representation in Hollywood, after two years of #OscarsSoWhite. So scrutinizing eyes are on her first major project since Selma, which she teamed up with none other than Oprah Winfrey to bring to OWN. And—wouldn’t you know it—Queen Sugar is a passionate, painful, beautifully shot and beautifully human portrait of a family in the throes of grief. All that, and a necessary showcase for an array of talent that had been waiting for such opportunity.
Better Things (FX) Premieres Wed. Sept 8 at 10 p.m. ET
For years Pamela Adlon has been known as Louis C.K.’s partner in crime, as an executive producer, writer, and co-star on Louie. Better Things marks her turn in the spotlight, a show loosely based on her life raising three daughters while hustling as an actress in Hollywood. Like Louie, it sits in that magical space between comedy and drama that, really, can only be classified as “life.” And genre be damned, Adlon’s voice is one that demands attention.
One Mississippi (Amazon) Premieres Fri., Sept. 9
The fall of semi-autobiography continues with Amazon’s One Mississippi, a comedy series inspired by the life of Tig Notaro—a stand-up comedian whose frankness about her sexuality and battle with cancer has made her somewhat of an instant comedy legend. One Mississippi, however, centers on Notaro’s journey home from Los Angeles to her Mississippi hometown following her mother’s death, exploring life after grief.
American Horror Story (FX) Premieres Wed., Sept. 14 at 10 p.m. ET
What can I tell you about the new installment of American Horror Story? To be honest practically nothing. Creator Ryan Murphy has insisted that sixth iteration of the anthology series be shrouded in mystery, to the point that teasers and promo materials have been purposeful red herrings. What do we know? Troupe players Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, and Lady Gaga will all be back, though in what capacity is still unclear. But given the streak Murphy is on—The People v. O.J. Simpson was amazing—any new Horror Story is one worth seeking out.
High Maintenance (HBO) Premieres Fri., Sept. 16 at 11 p.m. ET
High Maintenance’s unlikely, rather ambitious journey to HBO is atypical of what you might think about a series starring a weed delivery guy. The show began as a webseries in 2012, eventually releasing six seasons of about three episodes apiece on Vimeo, each one centering on the nameless deliveryman’s brief interactions as his clients procure their cannabis. The format provided such fleeting, almost beautiful glimpses into human lives that critics went gaga over the series, which eventually won over HBO.
The Good Place (NBC) Premieres Mon., Sept. 19 at 10 p.m. ET
Only the best of the best of us make it to The Good Place, heaven as we can only dream it, with froyo stands on every corner, people so happy there’s no cursing, and the ability to drink as much wine as you desire with no hangover. Through a mix-up, Kristen Bell’s Eleanor dies and ends up in The Good Place, though she really, really doesn’t deserve to be there, throwing utopia into an apocalyptic tailspin. It’s a fun high-concept change of pace from the king of workplace comedy Mike Schur (Parks and Recreation, The Office), with Bell playing the girl who’s not as sweet as she looks—her specialty—and Ted Danson along for the ride, to boot.
Bull (CBS) Premieres Tues., Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. ET
Few actors or performances have been as broadly charming as Michael Weatherly’s eons-long run as Anthony DiNozzo on NCIS. (If you don’t believe me, ask your grandparents. They’ve seen it.) So it’s no surprise that CBS is banking on that Weatherly charisma to headline a primetime drama of its own, now that the star has exited the land of acronyms. Making this pitch all the more hilarious: it is created by and inspired by the early career of one Dr. Phil McGraw. Expect Bull to devolve into a run-of-the-mill procedural in CBS fashion. But initial intrigue is high.
This Is Us (NBC) Premieres Tues., Sept. 20 at 10 p.m. ET
Somewhere out there among the sci-fi addicts, comedy nerds, and those with insatiable appetites for zombie, vampire, and dragon gore, there are those TV fans who simply want to have their heart strings plucked like a ukulele until they collapse into a messy pile of tears. This Is Us is for them. And perhaps only them. The NBC melodrama stars Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, and Milo Ventimiglia’s butt, among a huge ensemble, in a series of heartwarming, heartbreaking, heart-abusing storylines that are all interconnected in a twist. Depending on who you are, this pitch is a rousing endorsement or a damning indictment. The choice is yours.
Designated Survivor (ABC) Premieres Wed., Sept. 21 at 10 p.m. ET
During the State of the Union, when the president, vice president, and all the Cabinet members are in one location, the designated survivor is a member of the Cabinet chosen to stay behind in an isolated, undisclosed location. In the case of a catastrophe, the designated survivor becomes president. This, as you can imagine, is a freaking fantastic idea for a TV show. In ABC’s Designated Survivor, Kiefer Sutherland is the titular Cabinet member, and disaster does strike, requiring this low-level bureaucrat to suddenly become leader of the free world. It’s unclear where this goes past the pilot, but Sutherland playing anxious and brave instead of intense and fearless for once has us excited to find out.
Speechless (ABC) Premieres Wed., Sept. 21 at 8:30 p.m. ET
The push for diversity in television has gifted us with a pleasant surprise we don’t often think about when have that conversation: the first special-needs lead of a broadcast series since Life Goes On went off the air in 1993. In Speechless, Minnie Driver plays the mother of JJ, a nonverbal child with cerebral palsy, who crusades—sometimes isolating not just strangers, but the other members of her family—to get her son all that he needs to live his best, normal-ish life. Micah Fowler, who has cerebral palsy, plays JJ, with so much wit and self-awareness that Speechless skirts any trap to become inspiration porn, instead offering the kind of heartwarming family comedy that has become a network TV rarity.
Pitch (FOX) Premieres Thu., Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. ET
In a bit of cleverness, Fox is marketing Pitch as “a true story on the verge of happening.” That story is of the first woman to play in Major League Baseball. The fact that the MLB is actually partnering with Fox to tell this story is indicative of the potential for this milestone to become a reality, and in its blunt confrontation of the pressures and backlash, a refreshing acknowledgment of the roadblocks in the way.
The Exorcist (FOX) Premieres Fri., Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. ET
Are we tired of reinventions, remakes, reboots, re-whathaveyous of already perfect pop culture classics? Yes. Are we on board for a re-whateveryouwanttocallit of The Exorcist anyway? Yes. Why? Geena Davis, that’s why. The Oscar-winner stars in Fox’s take on the psychological thriller. It’s being billed as a brand new story told 40 years after the one that still haunts our nightmares. As Queen Davis told TV reporters, “If it’s the same story, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to do it.” True. A retread of the original would have just sent everyone’s heads spinning.
Crisis in Six Scenes (Amazon) Premieres Fri. Sept. 30
Crisis in Six Scenes will be both a first and a retread. It’s the first television venture for Woody Allen, who is otherwise prolific in the world of film. And it will be a retread of whether or not we should or can divorce Allen’s latest venture from his daughter’s allegations of sexual abuse. As you have your internal battle, here’s the not-so-much we can tell you about the secret project: It takes in the 1960s, is about a suburban couple whose conservative beliefs are challenged by a young hippie, and stars Allen, Elaine May, and Miley Cyrus.
Marvel’s Luke Cage (Netflix) Premiers Fri., Sept. 30
Mike Colter appeared in seven of the 13 episodes in Netflix’s standout first season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, playing Luke Cage, the comic book favorite who, despite having unbreakable skin that cannot be burned or cut, is emotionally bruised and broken. This spin-off of sorts, the third of Netflix’s four series in its deal with Marvel Studios, will take place months after the events of Jessica Jones, but will presumably also offer the backstory of the prison experiment that was conducted on him that gave him his special powers in the first place.
Versailles (Ovation) Premieres Sat., Oct. 1
With prestige cable television getting more expensive, more opulent, more grand in scale, have we reached its peak with Versailles? The series, which already aired in France and the U.K., chronicles the rivalry between King Louis XIV, whom history already knows and has plenty of opinions on, and his brother Philippe, a cross-dressing bisexual with a sibling’s chip on his shoulder—who, suffice it to say, most of us do know know much about. It’s all set against the backdrop of the construction of the Versailles Palace. The brutality of war, the deviousness of political machinations, and the sexiness of all the sexy—it’s all there. Plus a pretty palace.
Westworld (HBO) Premieres Sun., Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. ET
With a large audience missing and craving Game of Thrones, HBO hopes it has found, well, its next Game of Thrones. It’s impossible hype to live up to, but the adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1973 film Westworld still boasts enough sci-fi curiosity to foster a new Sunday night HBO addiction. The intriguing premise: Patrons indulge themselves at a Wild West theme park where they are able to interact in any way they wish—no matter how depraved the fantasy—with its inhabitants, who are androids programmed to behave like cowboys, robbers, and courtesans. The twist: What if these androids are more human than we thought?
No Tomorrow (The CW) Premieres Tue., Oct. 4 at 9 p.m. ET
As this fall’s only new romantic fantasy comedy-drama, No Tomorrow certainly stands out. It’s refreshing that The CW is continuing to explore the quirky path paved by irresistible critical hits Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and less the overly serious genre offerings that have been its buzzless bread and butter for the last decade (you can tune into the network’s other new drama, Frequency, for that). No Tomorrow follows an unhappy warehouse worker who swoons over a new neighbor only to discover that the sexy piece is also convinced that an asteroid will destroy Earth in less than nine months. As she tries to decipher if he’s insane, he helps her seize the day. It’s all kinds of cute.
Divorce (HBO) Premieres Sun., Oct. 9 at 10 p.m. ET
It’s been 12 years since the final episode of Sex and the City ended with Carrie Bradshaw falling happily ever after back in love with her soul mate, Mr. Big. How brilliant, meta, and possibly depressing, then, for Bradshaw’s charm-stuffed portrayer, Sarah Jessica Parker, to make her heralded return to television in a new HBO comedy titled, of all things, Divorce. Though the comparisons are inevitable, Parker is not Carrie Bradshaw in this, instead inverting that bright winsomeness to play a more muted, colder protagonist in Frances, who is given jarringly honest voice by Catastrophe co-creator Sharon Horgan—should you need another reason to tune in.
Insecure (HBO) Premieres Sun., Oct. 9 at 10:30 p.m. ET
When Insecure premieres, Issa Rae will be only the third black woman to create and star in her own TV comedy, following in the footsteps of Wanda Sykes and Sherri Shepherd. She’ll be the first do it, however, on HBO, a network that wisely is allowing Rae’s self-deprecating, intelligent, exceptionally current voice to blare through every second of Insecure, which chronicles a fictional version of Issa’s bumblings through work, love, and self-acceptance. It’s sharp, funny, and, dare we say, important?
American Housewife (ABC) Premieres Tue., Oct. 11 at 8:30 p.m. ET
The original title for this sitcom, The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport, signaled a ballsy and blunt take on the typical family sitcom, one that would deal with a mom’s insecurities and confidence while raising kids in a WASP-y town with self-aware honesty. Its neutered, ultimately official title hints at a sitcom too nervous to go there. The result is a compromise that lacks some of the nuance required to tackle this conversation and stay on the right side of the line of offense, but a still-provocative premise that could yet capitalize on its star Katy Mixon’s boundless charms.
Falling Water (USA) Premieres Thu., Oct. 13 at 10 p.m. ET
In one conversation with TV reporters recently, Falling Water co-creator Blake Masters both described how the show idea came out of a drunken conversation at a bachelor party and could also be described as a “metaphysical thriller,” which… sounds about right. The idea is that three unrelated people slowly realize that they are all dreaming parts of the same dream, and—wait for it—that dream could hold the key to humanity. It’s the kind of crazy-complicated mind game that sounds either exhausting or fascinating, depending on your tastes.
Berlin Station (Epix) Premieres Sun., Oct. 16
Epix has two big shows coming this fall that it hopes will announce its arrival in the original content market. One is a comedy called Graves starring Nick Nolte. We’re spotlighting the offering that seems more—how should we say—stable: 10-episode espionage drama Berlin Station. The cast is full of cult favorites, including Michelle Forbes, Rhys Ifans, Richard Jenkins, and Richard Armitage as a newbie CIA officer who graduates from analyst to undercover officer in Berlin seeking out a mole. “Ich bin ein Homeland: Berlin.”
Eyewitness (USA) Premieres Sun., Oct. 16 at 10 p.m. ET
Do you know what an underrated actress Julianne Nicholson is? Probably not, otherwise I wouldn’t be calling her underrated. But dear god is she one of our more gifted performers, finally getting a TV lead role in USA’s Eyewitness, based on the critically acclaimed Norwegian drama Øyevitne about two teenage boys who secretly meet up at a cabin, only to be witnesses to a crime and left with fear and a secret to keep. All that, plus: Julianne Nicholson!
Chance (Hulu) Premieres Wed., Oct. 19
Hugh Laurie has spent the years since House sort of un-House-ifying his résumé: a villain really concerned with global warming and obesity in Tomorrowland, a charmingly foul-mouthed political schemer in Veep, the Bond Big Bad in The Night Manager. Though Chance seems more of a return to Laurie’s curmudgeonly starmaker—he’ll play a doctor again!—he swears the character, a forensic neuropsychiatrist who gets overly involved in the problems of a patient, is worlds away from Dr. House.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (FOX) Premiers Thu., Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. ET
How enthusiastic are we about doing the time warp again? Theoretically about as thrilled as we are when any of our favorite musicals are cycled through the current TV staging trend. Fox’s version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is changing things up slightly. It won’t be live—unlike The Wiz or Grease—and it will incorporate the show’s cult status—the audience that shouts its own lines in between dialogue—into the production. Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox will play Dr. Frank-N-Furter, in a bit of landmark casting, while original star Tim Curry returns to play the narrator. So, hot patootie for that.
Good Girls Revolt (Amazon) Premieres Fri., Oct 28
Set in 1969, Good Girls Revolt is the story of a group of young female researchers at a news magazine who want to be taken seriously as writers in a newsroom that would only hire men to do the job—eventually sparking one of the most important sexual-discrimination cases of the era. Though ultimately historical fiction, the drama does have roots in a real case that was filed against Newsweek (full disclosure: 40-something years later Newsweek and The Daily Beast would share a newsroom, which I was a part of), and will feature Nora Ephron (played by Mamie Gummer) and Eleanor Norton Holmes (Joy Bryant), who litigated the lawsuit, as characters.
Tracey Ullman’s Show (HBO) Premieres Fri., Oct. 28 at 11 p.m. ET
A sketch comedy series starring sketch comedy legend Tracey Ullman is coming to your television. That should be all you need to know to be sold on Tracey Ullman’s Show. But just in case: The series already aired in the U.K., where it has already been picked up for a second season, and marks Ullman’s return to HBO 18 years after Tracey Takes On… ran for four seasons and won six Emmys. And lastly, Tracey Ullman is a goddamn treasure, what more do you need to know?
People of Earth (TBS) Premieres Mon., Oct. 31 at 9 p.m. ET
They say there’s a support group for everything. That includes, apparently, people who say they have been abducted by aliens. What’s sort of special about People of Earth is that, for as much as the tinfoil-hat lunacy of such claims is mined for comedy, the people who make the claims are treated with dignity and empathy—a kind ear asking, “What has made you this delusional?” and, maybe even, “Could this be real?” Mostly, though, it’s funny, with SNL vet Ana Gasteyer as a woefully unqualified therapist and Daily Show alum Wyatt Cenac as a skeptical journalist sent to cover the support group, but who stays when he finds himself questioning what he believes.
Stan Against Evil (IFC) Premieres Wed., Nov. 2 at 10 p.m. ET
Horror comedy has had a resurgence since Ash vs. Evil Dead has become a cult hit for Starz. IFC is getting into the game with Stan Against Evil, from the suitably demented mind of Dana Gould. Gould, who won two Emmys while writing for The Simpsons, has said that the series’ Halloween episodes were always his favorite to pen. Consider this show, then, that passion come to life, with more blood, profanities, and Scrubs star John C. McGinley gruffing it up as the lead.
The Crown (Netflix) Premieres Fri., Nov. 4
If you’re a person who is interested in the real-life soap opera of the royal family, then The Crown should be tantamount to porn. It’s a story about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II beginning with her 1947 wedding and stretching to present day. The talent involved is its own royalty when it comes to telling such stories, with Peter Morgan, who wrote 2006’s The Queen and the recent stage play The Audience, as creator and writer, and Stephen Daldry, who directed The Audience, helming several episodes, too.
Good Behavior (TNT) Premieres Tue., Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. ET
What would Lady Mary think of Michelle Dockery’s latest heroine, Letty Dobesh? Considering that, in the course of the first episode, she cons, steals, has a drunken one-night stand, and does crack, it’s safe to say she might be clutching her pearls. It’s a trip to see the Downton Abbey star seize the opportunity to distance herself from corsets and propriety in this steamy, seedy romantic thriller, about two con artists who become unexpectedly—and, eventually, passionately—entangled after crossing paths in their respective lives of crime.
Search Party (TBS) Premieres Mon., Nov. 21 at 11 p.m. ET
It’s impossible to talk about millennials without sounding absolutely insufferable. But, for the love of Snapchat and entitlement, Search Party certainly tries—and possibly pulls it off. It helps that this story of a twentysomething hipster (played by Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat) is given a high-concept backdrop: an acquaintance goes missing, and her self-absorbed network of friends try to at least feign interest in finding out what happened. But it’s the surprising nuance given to the characters’ relationships that gives this show a solid three smiley face emojis.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (Netflix) Premieres Fri., Nov. 25
Ten years ago, Gilmore Girls ended—but not the way its singular creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, intended. In the decade since, as the show gained in popularity thanks to ubiquitous reruns and a binge-ready launch of all seven seasons on Netflix, we’ve all heard about the creative issues that marred the series’ conclusion, and the four words that might have been, had Sherman-Palladino been allowed to end the show on her terms. By the grace of Netflix and nostalgia, Lorelai and Rory return for four movies—each a season in a year—to fast-talk us up to speed on their lives and, hopefully, give fans more closure. And, of course, those final four words.