A wild whirlwind of a mess, without any coherence, without even a guiding principle.
For almost two decades now, I’ve used this time of year to pick out the best of the new offerings from the broadcast networks, adhering to the tradition of the standard “Fall Preview” that one would find in magazines like Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide. Part of it was being old-fashioned, but another part was that the broadcasts still adhere to a September/October launch schedule for a great deal of their returning and new programming, making a look at their entire slates easier than a company like FX or AMC, who sprinkle debuts throughout the year. Well, we all know that the broadcast nets don’t mean what they used to—the fact that no regular primetime show on them won an Emmy last week may be the final nail in this particular coffin—and the 2018-19 new shows just aren’t worth writing about at length. Trust me. So we’re mixing it up this year. With so much to watch across all the cable and streaming services, what should you pay attention to? What do you want to pick out from the crowd?
10. Something on Network TV?
Odds are there will be at least one hit in the crop from CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and The CW. Last year it was “The Good Doctor”; the year before it was “This is Us.” People will probably watch “Magnum P.I.” but not feel good about it. On CBS, “FBI” has the chance to breakout as it’s very much in the model of the “NCIS” procedural that has done so well for the network. The CBS sitcoms (“The Neighborhood,” “Happy Together”) are atrocious, but so are the FOX ones (“The Cool Kids,” “REL”). For a sitcom hit you might like, ABC offers “The Kids Are Alright” and “Single Parents” both ensemble comedies in the ABC Family Sitcom mold—and I don’t mean that as an insult as shows like “The Goldbergs,” “The Middle,” and “Black-ish” have found fresh material within it. Having only seen one episode of each, they’re impossible to judge as a whole but are two of the few shows on the nets I want to watch again. NBC’s “I Feel Bad” is halfway decent, but again, too soon to tell. “Manifest” is not the “LOST” clone you’re hoping for and “New Amsterdam” is smug nonsense. Speaking of smug, “A Million Little Things” really wants to be your new “This is Us” and the cast is strong enough to possibly make it so, but this is a daytime soap masquerading as something more profound. So, to recap, maybe ABC’s “Single Parents” & “The Kids Are Alright” and CBS’s “FBI.” That’s all I got.
9. Big Mouth (Netflix, 10/5)
Netflix has suddenly become an adult animation powerhouse with hits like “Bojack Horseman” and “Disenchantment,” but my favorite is this Nick Kroll and John Mulaney odyssey into teen hormones. The first season was ridiculously raunchy and hysterical, featuring a fantastic voice cast that includes Kroll, Mulaney, Jenny Slate, Fred Armisen, Jason Mantzoukas, and a show-stealing Maya Rudolph. It’s incredibly for adults only but also truthful about adolescence in ways that most shows aren’t.
8. Into the Dark (Hulu, 10/5)
Shows like “Black Mirror” and “Sherlock” have stretched the definition of a limited series, actually winning the “TV Movie” Emmys in recent years, but this feels like what could more honestly be called a series of films for television than anything else. Jason Blum produces a series of horror flicks for Hulu, premiering one a month, and each offering is a horror tale inspired by the holiday of the month in which it premieres. So the October premiere, “The Body,” has a Halloween feel; November’s “Flesh & Blood” will be set at Thanksgiving. Could be fascinating. Could be just a bad straight-to-video horror a month under a neat banner. We’ll see.
7. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix, 10/26)
Kiernan Shipka seems born to play the title role in this adaptation of the hit comic series of the same name, a dark reimagining of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” I may have been more skeptical before “Riverdale,” which shares a creator with this series and remains one of the most consistently interesting shows on network TV. (Yes, I’m serious. It’s much better than you think it is.) There are also rumors that this is going to be honestly dark—not just CW Dark—as the series was reportedly inspired by ‘70s horror, including “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” Sign us up.
6. Forever (Amazon Prime, on now)
There aren’t enough people talking about this excellent streaming dramedy, probably because Amazon made it so hard for critics to do so before it airs. I’ll avoid complete spoilers, but the cuffs are off a little bit now that it’s on the air, and I think it would actually draw people to know that this is more “The Good Place” than a standard relationship drama. It’s smart, funny, and insightful about modern marriage. And it contains Maya Rudolph’s career-best work to date. Our Allison Shoemaker has already reviewed this excellent show.
5. Camping (HBO, 10/14)
We can all forgive Jennifer Garner for that “Peppermint” nonsense if this new HBO comedy ends up being half as good as it could be. Surprisingly low on buzz given it premieres in a couple weeks, this Garner vehicle was created by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner and co-stars David Tennant, Janicza Bravo, Brett Gelman, Juliette Lewis, and Ione Skye. Garner plays a perfectionist who takes her husband, played by Tennant, on a camping trip for his 45th birthday. Chaos ensues. Plus, bears.
4. Homecoming (Amazon Prime, 11/2)
This thriller from the creator of “Mr. Robot” got a lot of buzz after premiering a few episodes at TIFF this year and it’s easy to see why. Look at that cast—Julia Roberts, Stephan James, Bobby Cannavale, Shea Wigham, Alex Karpovsky, Dermot Mulroney, Hong Chau, Jeremy Allen White, Sydney Poitier, and Sissy Spacek star in a show about “a caseworker at a secret government facility, and a soldier eager to rejoin civilian life.” Amazon took another step this year with its first series Emmy win for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Could this be its second?
3. The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, 10/12)
Matthew Weiner’s first show since “Mad Men” sounds like a fascinating experiment, billed as an anthology series that will follow multiple characters who may have a shared ancestry in the Russian royal family. Of course, everyone wanted to work with Weiner, which means another ludicrously stacked TV cast. This one includes Aaron Eckhart, Corey Stoll, Noah Wyle, Christina Hendricks, Isabelle Huppert, Jack Huston, Amanda Peet, John Slattery, Diane Lane, Ron Livingston, Radha Mitchell, Griffin Dunne, and Kathryn Hahn.
2. The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix, 10/12)
Mike Flanagan has become one of the hottest young horror directors with films like “Hush” and “Gerald’s Game,” and he’s going back to a holy text in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, already adapted twice as feature films called simply “The Haunting” (the first one rules, the second one not so much). With the room to expand on his style and storytelling skill in a series, this could easily be one of the best shows of the Fall.
1. Maniac (Netflix, on now)
I’ve already made it clear how strongly I feel about Cary Joji Fukunaga’s daring mind f**k of a TV series, and it’s been fascinating to see how people are responding to it now that it’s available. As I suspected, there are people who think it’s just about the best thing on television, and just as many who think it’s just about the worst. And I love it. The most memorable shows are often the ones that create the most conversation and people are talking about “Maniac.” And I suspect they will be all season long.
The 2020 Oscar nominations.
A review of Netflix's Dracula, from the creators of Sherlock.
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A collection of the reviews given our highest possible grade in 2019.