Even in a dry fall for TV, there’s some new stuff on the horizon that could deliver.
The Fall TV season, as it has commonly been perceived, is kind of sort of dead. With network TV gradually losing its footing, and the traditional 22 episode season becoming pretty much a dying beast, there’s just a lot less focus around having a “season” of television premieres. Cable networks and streaming platforms have simply learned that they can release a new series whenever the hell they want, and get good ratings/subscribers regardless. That meant in year’s past I would have my entire nights filled with primetime content in the fall, and very little different in the spring. Clearly that’s very different now, with a new, promising TV series premiering pretty much weekly. Peak TV for ya, folks.
But just the Fall isn’t the hotbed of TV premieres like it used to be, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing coming in the next few months worth look forward to in the television realm. Here’s five of those shows, a completely arbitrary number based entirely on the limited amount of shows I could muster up for this piece. That being said — enjoy!
(Note: There was previously going to be seven shows on this list, but then two fo them decided to up and premiere all fast like. Either way, both Atlanta and Queen Sugar are great, so go watch ‘em.)
5. The Good Place
Network TV might be struggling in the drama department, but there’s a few notable creators still working in the comedy field that occasionally will deliver a winner. Michael Schur is one of those creators, as the Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine creator has a knack for creating extremely funny, enjoyable to watch sitcoms in an era that is slowly asking for less and less of them. Schur returns to his Parks and Rec home this fall with The Good Place, a comedy series about a woman (played by Kristen Bell) who dies and is sent to “the good place” (it’s heaven, okay?). The only problem is that Kristen Bell is actually a pretty terrible person, and feels like she got sent to this idyllic afterlife by mistake. Cue the series pitch, as our main character now has to start doing some good in order to win her place in, well, The Good Place.
Yes it could be a very kitschy concept, the success of Schur’s shows don’t really lie in the premise: it’s all about the fantastic character work, funny writing, and just enjoyable spirit. Schur is an expert at crafting a cast of character that are just a blast to be around, and that level of likability can get a sitcom very far. And with a cast lead by the likes of Bell (and Ted Danson to boot), I’m certainly on board. Let’s just hope the “NBC” of the whole situation doesn’t make this one a one and done. As Parks and Recreation taught us, it takes a while for the Michael Schur groove to set in. But when it does, only good things will follow. We’ll find out for sure when The Good Place lands on Monday, September 19.
4. Son of Zorn
Similar to The Good Place, the main draw of Son of Zorn is the people involved: producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are two of my favorite directors working today. Pretty much anything that these two touch is gold (so far at least), and just their name alone is enough to peak my interest. But even without the names, I still would be pretty excited to see this show based just on the weird, offbeat, but totally up-my-alley premise.
I’m always a sucker for a good live-action/animation hybrid (Who Framed Roger Rabbit? forever, baby), and Son of Zorn seems to be a fun spin on that concept. And since it’s rare we see this kind of thing on a weekly TV show, I feel like it’s almost my duty to support it. Add on a very impressive cast (Jason Sudeikis, Cheryl Hines, Tim Meadows, Artemis Pebdami, etc.), and you have a show that could easily become a geek fan favorite. That also means that it could become a one and done cult classic (this is network TV, after all), so, uh, let’s all watch it when the show premieres in a special timeslot this Sunday.
3. Luke Cage
I’ll be the first to come out and say I was never quite on the “JESSICA JONES IS THE BEST SHOW EVER MADE” bandwagon. I liked the show just fine sure, but the very sluggish plot and circular narrative really bugged me, as it was pretty clear 13 episodes was WAY too much for the story the series was trying to tell. But putting that aside, one of my favorite aspects of Jessica Jones was definitely Luke Cage, played with an excellent intensity by Mike Colter. Even if the series itself was only okay, I knew that I wanted to follow the adventures of Luke Cage even further. And in less than a month, I will be able to, as his own Netflix series arrives September 30.
And by the sounds of things, it will be well worth the wait. Critics have already gotten to see the first seven episodes of the show, and the reviews are for the most part pretty stellar. That’s a good thing if you ask me, as Marvel’s Netflix properties could use a win after the disappointment that was the latter half of Daredevil Season 2. The first half is still pretty fantastic if you ask me, but that’s a rant for another day. In any case, bring on the Hero of Harlem.
2. Better Things
I love Louie more than most of my family members, so the fact that we probably won’t be getting any more of the show (at least any time soon) certainly bums me out. But you know what’s a fantastic consolation price? A series co-created by Louis C.K., and starring one of the best recurring actors on the series.
The latter person is Pamela Adlon, who I’ve been a fan of ever since King of the Hill (yes, she’s the actress who gave us one of the very best lines of TV dialogue ever), and she was consistantly excellent on Louie as the characters on-again-off-again (but mostly “off-again) girlfriend. Now she’ll finally have the chance to show her stuff as a leading lady, and if the marketing for the show is any indication, she’s going to knock it out of the park. It could just be Louie from her perspective, and I would still be on board 100%. But hopefully Adlon will be able to bring a unique element to this somewhat new subgenre. We’ll find out soon, as the show premieres tonight on FX.
You’ve probably noticed that this list is mostly dominated by comedies — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any big, dramatic genre shows arriving this Fall that I’m psyched about — in fact, my number one most anticipated TV show of the year is just that.
Based on the short story by Michael Crichton, Westworld looks like an utterly fascinating combination of western and sci-fi storytelling, like if Ex Machina and Deadwood had a weird baby. And the talent attached to this one is just astounding: you have producer J.J. Abrams attached, and an incredibly talented pair of showrunners in Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. And the cast is an astounding collection of greats: Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Jason Marsdan, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Tandie Newton, Tessa Thompson, Clifton Collins Jr., Shannon Woodward, and many more. It even has a Hemsworth in Luke Hemsworth, if you need yourself one of those.
Great source material, wonderful writers, and a talented cast — what more do you need? HBO is really gunning for a new hit genre series to anchor them after Game of Thrones ends and, at this point in time, no show fits the bill better than Westworld. Consider me excited.
And that’s that, my most anticipated new shows of Fall 2016. Will they end up delivering? Within the next few months, we’ll be sure to find out.