Each Fall TV season begins with some promise but also wariness of how the “sure thing” doesn’t really exist. Last year, The Muppets was supposed to be a slam-dunk hit but limped its way to a weak cancellation. Likewise, The Grinder got great reviews and good ratings but it too was axed. Meanwhile, Lucifer was dismissed as forgettable but turned into a hit that’s coming back this fall. Some networks have cleaned house, while others keep their slates steady. The CW not only renewed all their series but are adding Supergirl to the lineup with other new entries. ABC has been doing away with long-running shows like Castle but Nashville will be getting new life on CMT. Despite such uncertainty, there are still some shows that look the most promising and the ones likely to check out the most.
As usual, you can see some trends in programming. There are no less than four network series utilizing time travel (a couple at mid-season) in various ways. Likewise, there are a few shows based on movies like Lethal Weapon. The rise of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon has pushed more options and it’s harder to figure out your watching schedule. Some of the more promising shows are pushed to mid-season such as American Gods and others. However, the fall still promises some major fun and several shows to watch. Here are 15 of the biggest new shows to check out this fall to make your TV watching all the better.
15 Son of Zorn
Probably the nuttiest show of the fall, it might end up being among the funniest. Jason Sudeikis voices an animated cartoon character from a mystical island who had an affair with a human woman (Cheryl Hines). He’s now come to Los Angeles to be closer to her and his son while dealing with becoming a nine-to-five work guy. The gimmick is that Zorn himself is animated while everyone else is live action with various fun touches like Zorn going around in his barbarian outfit and folks accepting it. Tim Meadows plays Hines’ new boyfriend and the show also focuses on the struggle of this warrior at an office job (Zorn refuses to accept his boss can possibly be a woman). While it seems wild, the mix of the humor of this animated guy walking around like normal and the talent involve promise the most offbeat comedy of the year and could rank among Fox’s better efforts.
14 Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
After various delays, the late Douglas Adams’ hilarious sci-fi mystery comedy book series is being adapted for TV in what’s already been called “Doctor Who meets Sherlock.” Samuel Barnett plays the title role of a quirky detective who claims to try to solve the “whole” crime in any way (which means running up ridiculous expense accounts for trips abroad) which angers clients. Elijah Wood plays a hotel bellhop whose humdrum life is thrown when he becomes part of one of Dirk’s investigations and then his sidekick. From there, the two are thrown into a crazy case involving time travel, aliens, government agents, mobsters and more which Dirk sees as just another day at the office. BBC America is counting on winning over book fans as well as newbies with its wild plots, nutty humor and offbeat style to do the late Adams proud and be a nice hit.
NBC’s time travel adventure promises to be a big budget epic. Goran Visnjic plays a criminal who steals an experimental time machine from a private corporation and heads to when the Hindenburg went down. The company uses a backup machine to follow him with three people: A historian (Abigail Spencer), a soldier (Matt Lantner) and a pilot (Malcolm Barrett). They have to figure out why Visnjic is doing this and stop him before he changes history too much. The series promises to address the brutal truth of the past as the black Barrett points out “there is literally no era in American history that is awesome for me.” The adventures will take place through time from the Titanic to the 1960s as the team try to stop Visnjic’s plot. But it promises a layer with the hints that his character isn’t trying to change history but rather fix it from someone whose already altered it. The mix of high budget action and time travel fun could make this a good sleeper hit that the network could use.
12 Good Behavior
Michelle Dockery leaves Downton Abbey behind big-time for this new TNT series. She plays Letty, a thief and con artist fresh out of jail and wanting to turn over a new leaf to reunite with her young son. However, there aren’t many job openings for an ex-con and she falls back into her old habits of scamming folks with multiple identities. While on a job, she overhears a hitman (Juan Diego Botto) planning to kill a man’s wife and interferes in the hit. This sets the two on a strange rivalry/partnership as Botto is tempted to either kill Letty or bed her. Dockery looks to step into the limelight nicely in this role, plenty of baring skin (as far as network allows) and showing a wicked side as this con lady. She and Botto get along nicely as the series explores the darker tones of trying to put your life back together and shows how TNT is upping their game when it comes to more edgy dramatic fare.
Sadly, ABC decided to cancel Agent Carter after two low-rated seasons. Thankfully, the network has been quick to make sure Hayley Atwell isn’t unemployed long. The British actress takes on an American accent to play the daughter of a former President who’s better known for her wild ways. Without her father in office to protect her, Hayes’ antics catch up to her as she’s busted for drug possession. The D.A. (Eddie Cahill) offers her a deal: The charges dropped in exchange for Hayes becoming the face of a group who handle wrongful conviction cases. At first, Hayes treats it as just a lark, letting the rest of her staff (including Shawn Ashmore and Emily Kinney) do the work while she just enjoys the press. However, as she gets deep into the cases and realizes how innocent people have been screwed by the system, she finds herself caring for them. While the buzz may be a bit low right now, Atwell’s great talent and sex appeal promise to elevate this series up more and another strong female lead for ABC’s lineup.
Fox has some big faith in this series which was intended for mid-season but now bumped to the fall. It’s gotten major attention for being the first TV series to have the full backing of Major League Baseball as instead of some fictional team, it uses the San Diego Padres. Kylie Banbury plays Ginny Baker, who makes history as the first woman to play for a MLB team. The show focuses on her struggles as the press is adding massive pressure while her teammates aren’t sure of having a woman on board and she’s unprepared for the venom she gets from opposing players. Mark-Paul Gosselaar is the Padres’ former star player not happy with Ginny getting the attention while Ali Larter is her high-powered agent. Mo McRae plays Ginny’s father whose own baseball career was cut short and thus pushed his daughter for the fame denied him. Banbury is getting great reviews as the woman unsure of becoming a trailblazer but doing her best and the series winning over more fans. With the World Series playing at the same time of its premiere, this should be able to win over baseball fans and female viewers to be a hit.
Donald Glover is well known for his comic work such as Community. But he’s giving drama a try in FX’s latest series. He plays a young man who works various small jobs as he tries to help his cousin (Brian Tyree Henry) become a rap star. The fact that Glover has seen his own attempts to be an artist fail makes it harder to deal with his cousin’s success. Atlanta hasn’t been featured much in movies or television but this series promises to highlight the city majorly, especially its racial issues. Glover (who also produces the series) has promised to showcase how progressive the city is and a great place for young artists. This being FX, expect plenty of edgy drama with cursing and frank talk on racial and political issues as well as some sexiness from its ladies. The buzz is growing of another fantastic FX drama that gives Atlanta the spotlight it has long deserved.
8 The Good Place
From the creators of Parks & Recreation comes NBC’s most promising comedy of the season. Kristen Bell plays Eleanor, a lawyer killed in a freak accident. She wakes up to find herself in a wonderful afterlife with wonderful people and Ted Danson as her guide. However, she confesses to her soulmate (William Jackson Harper) that there’s been a major mistake. She’s not the woman they all think she is as she was really a selfish person who never helped anyone but herself. Eleanor now has to handle a heaven where she can’t curse and everyone is so nice, facing up to whether to be a good person or find a way back to Earth. She also has to worry about someone finding out the truth and sending her to “the bad place.” The concept is offbeat but Bell is always great on TV and playing against type in a whacky setting can make this another surprise NBC winner.
After a long absence, Emmy Award-winning creator David E. Kelly returns with this new Amazon series. Naturally a law dramedy, Billy Bob Thornton is a once high-powered attorney who’s now a boozing ambulance-chaser. A wrongful death suit against the powerful firm he helped found gets him interested and before long, Thornton is up against his old partner (William Hurt) in a major high-stakes trial. Along the way, he discovers how dirty his firm has gotten and his life soon in danger as the case is bigger than he anticipated. The supporting cast includes Olivia Thirlby, Maria Bello and Molly Parker, and the series promises some very sexy goings-on amid the powerful case. Cutting loose on cursing and sexuality, this can be a dark but fun ride that reminds folks of the great actor Billy Bob can be given the right material.
6 The Exorcist
TV shows based on movies have a so-so track record (see last year’s Limitless) but the buzz on this is big. Based on the horror classic, a priest (Alfonso Herrera) is called upon to check on a troubled teenage girl. As he investigates further, he realizes that this is a true case of demonic possession and has to fight it. Academy Award winner Geena Davis returns to TV as the mother who alerts him to this danger and the realization of evil under her roof. Ben Daniels is a former priest who has to advise how to battle this danger as the demon grows in power and may spread its influence across the city. Gaining large buzz for its scares and with the star power of Davis, this may break the streak of movies turning to flop TV shows and be a great horror entry in its own right.
5 Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
After a decade, it’s the revival fans have prayed for. Amy Sherman-Palladino brings back her beloved WB/CW dramedy in a series of four 90-minute episodes for Netflix, each themed to a different season. Naturally, Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are back as the titular Girls but they’re not alone. Pretty much the entire cast of the series is back (yes, including Melissa McCarthy in later episodes) and will include guest stars such as Sutton Foster (rumored to be reprising her role from Sherman-Palladino’s Bunheads series) and Graham’s other TV daughter, Mae Whitman of Parenthood. Plot details are scarce but confirmed that Lorelai is back with diner owner Luke (Scott Patterson). Rory is handling her new writing career only to be thrown when former loves Dean (Jared Padalecki) and Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) return to her life. Sadly, the passing of Edward Hermann means Lorelai’s father, Richard, has also died and Emily (Kelly Bishop) is having a hard time living without him. Packed with the same pop-culture references and great humor, this promises to be the send-off to the series fans always wanted and the most anticipated revival in a while.
The most intriguing of the various time travel shows this season, this CW series updates the cult 2000 movie. Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List) is a police detective fiddling with a ham radio in the middle of a storm. She’s stunned to connect to her father, Frank (Riley Smith), a cop killed in a bad drug deal in 1996. Raimy warns her father of his fate and he avoids it to create a new timeline where he lived longer, Raimy the only one remembering the original history. However, Raimy discovers the consequences of meddling with fate when her boyfriend no longer remembers meeting her. Worse, a serial killer who should have died in 1996 continued his murder spree…and his new victims include Raimy’s mother. Now, Raimy must reach out to her father in the past to set things right.
There’s the question of how long-lasting the series can be but the concept is good. List has a great vibe to her performance and the show has fun with the different time periods. A running bit is Raimy forgetting the technology she takes for granted didn’t exist in 1996 (Frank using a slow dial-up model to get online). The series will focus on Frank changing things and Raimy sees the effects in the present and likely to join the CW’s fantastic sci-fi slate.
3 Designated Survivor
The title of this ABC thriller refers to the low-level Cabinet member who sits out the State of the Union address just in case. As it happens, this is warranted as in the middle of the speech, a massive explosion takes out the Capitol, most of Congress and everyone in the line of succession. This makes Secretary of Housing Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) the new President of the United States. Now a man with no political experience has to rebuild the government, win the public trust and fight the Pentagon and White House staff who don’t like him. Sutherland is always great on TV but this promises a new angle with a role far different from Jack Bauer as a man unused to politics has to handle being President during a crisis. Natascha McElhone plays Alex, his wife, who’s thrown that her new duties as First Lady mean she has to end her law career. Italia Ricci and Kal Penn play aides who aren’t sure of their new boss while Maggie Q is the FBI agent trying to find out who was behind the attack…and if there’s another one coming. With a mix of thrills and politics anchored by Emmy winning veteran Sutherland, this promises a very unique spin on White House shows that should make it a big winner for the fall.
After various delays due to its huge budget, HBO finally releases their most anticipated series since Game of Thrones. Based on the 1973 sci-fi classic, the series takes place in the future where life-like androids are used to populate an Old West theme park. Believing they really are Old West humans, the robots entertain guests with shoot-outs and even ladies as brothel workers. However, their creator (Anthony Hopkins) begins to worry when one robot (Evan Rachel Wood) suddenly realizes what she really is. She begins to open the eyes of others like gunfighter James Marsden and the mysterious Man in Black (Ed Harris) as the other programmers realize that the robots are getting out of control. Soon, a war breaks out between humans and androids that puts any Old West antics to shame. Backed by a stunning cast, this is the most expensive HBO series yet and the network hopes it can replace Thrones as one of the best of the network’s efforts.
1 Luke Cage
After stealing the show on Jessica Jones, Mike Colter now jumps to his own solo series. The last we saw of Cage, he was recovering from mind control by Killgrave and resistant to the life of a hero. As his series picks up, Cage has settled into a job at a barbershop in Harlem and wanting to live as normal life as possible. However, he’s drawn into a battle against a mobster that will force Cage to use his super-strength to save his neighborhood and become a hero despite himself. Like Jones, the series will be littered with flashbacks that will show how Cage spent time in jail and gained his steel-strong skin. Simone Missicik plays Misty Knight, a cop who aids Cage and Rosario Dawson reprises her Daredevil role as nurse Claire Temple. Netflix will release the entire series at once and the series is another step to their Defenders team-up and thus a must-watch for any Marvel fan.