Television comes back with a vengeance this month, as the start of the traditional broadcast season syncs up with the never-ending deluge of fresh content from streaming services and cable channels. With that in mind, The A.V. Club is breaking down its usual fall TV preview into monthly installments; we’ll be back in October and November with a rundown of those month’s premieres. And stay tuned next week for the staff’s picks for the fall debuts and returning favorites that we’re most excited for.
All times are in Eastern.


September 4

Mayans M.C. (FX, 10 p.m.)

Gas up your hogs, because Kurt Sutter is taking another trip into outlaw territory with Mayans M.C., the Sons Of Anarchy spin-off he co-created with Little Birds writer Elgin James. The sprawling drama fits seamlessly into the SOA template, complete with a conflicted central figure. East Los High breakout J.D. Pardo plays EZ Reyes, who, like Son Of Anarchy Jax Teller, finds himself irresistibly drawn to his show’s titular motorcycle club. But this prospect is no Hamlet stand-in, just as Mayans M.C. is no mere continuation of Sons. Sutter’s signature is all over the series, which overflows with testosterone and baroque plotting even in its early episodes. James isn’t just along for the ride, though—his own multicultural background means the predominantly Latinx cast, including Edward James Olmos and SOA alum Emilio Rivera, informs the storytelling as much as the southern California setting. [Danette Chavez]

The Purge (USA, 10 p.m.)

Announcing the commencement of the annual Purge, this time in accessible small-screen format! The four-films-and-counting action-horror franchise is getting adapted into a 10-part TV series, as the big themes and blunt-force satire of the movies are repackaged into a story of a half-dozen people spending the night of the Purge in a variety of high-pressure situations. Using flashbacks to develop a more involved and sprawling narrative, the show attempts to find some human moments and character development amid the public executions and gaudy spectacle of a night where all crime is legal. There’s still no clear explanation of just how Purge insurance would work—surely progressive balks at reimbursements for cars set aflame during the night?—but this series is deadly serious about keeping its political relevance second to its adrenaline-laced fun. [Alex McLevy]


September 9

The Miniaturist (PBS, check your local listings)

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This joint production from BBC One and PBS Masterpiece promises Gothic chills and feminist thrills, along with gorgeous costuming and another powerful performance from The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy. Once again, Taylor-Joy plays a young woman navigating her place in society—only instead of entering into a pact with Black Phillip, Nella (Taylor-Joy) marries a wealthy merchant, Johannes (Alex Hassell), and finds herself among the Dutch elite. Before leaving her in the care of his reclusive sister, Marin (Romola Garai), Johannes gives Nella an exquisite dollhouse that’s an exact replica of his stately home, which she proceeds to fill with custom-made furnishings from the eponymous miniaturist. Hereditary and HBO’s adaptation of Sharp Objects have recently shown just how creepy dollhouses can be, and the one at the center of this story initially appears to be no exception. But as the miniseries unfolds, this “plaything” could also be the means through which Nella becomes more than just a beautiful object herself. [Danette Chavez]

The Bad Seed (Lifetime, 8 p.m.)

Lifetime’s wheel of remakes lands on The Bad Seed this September, with Rob Lowe, a regular on the network when he’s not hunting ghosts with his sons on A&E, taking charge as director and star in a superficially gender-swapped take (the parent has been changed from mother to father, but the evil offspring will remain a girl) on the the 1956 Oscar-nominated evil kid classic. Lowe turned in one of the loopiest performances of the contemporary Lifetime era as the title character in Drew Peterson: Untouchable, and with any luck he’ll bring that campy B-movie flair as a director as well. [Katie Rife]

Rel (Fox, after NFL On Fox; moves to Sundays at 9:30 on Sept. 30)

Joking with TV critics this summer about the sorry state of the multi-camera sitcom, Rel executive producer Jerrod Carmichael asked, “Aren’t you like, ‘Is integrity dead?’’” The comedian’s namesake NBC series—with its throwback Norman Lear vibe and frank discussions of hot-button issues (plus jokes!)—was a show that dodged such rhetorical questions; this vehicle for Carmichael Show co-star and Get Out breakout Lil Rel Howery could be one, too. Howery plays a newly single Chicago dad, trying to pick up the pieces after his wife sleeps with his barber and moves with their kids to Cleveland (again: plus jokes!), aided/foiled by his best friend (Jessica “Jess Hilarious” Moore), younger brother (Jordan L. Jones), and father (Sinbad). It’s a little early to tell if Rel will be the second coming of integrity in multi-cam, but its moodily lit pilot at least proves that “taped before a live studio audience” doesn’t have to mean “illuminated by every bulb we could find on the lot.” [Erik Adams]

You (Lifetime, 10 p.m.)

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Penn Badgley had many years to prepare for his romantic stalker role on the new Lifetime series You—after all, who was Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey, if not the sneaky, obsessive guy who was reporting on everyone, getting outed as the title character at the end? This time Badgley is a bit more sinister, as his lovestruck bookstore manager Joe Goldberg pulls out all the (unhinged) stops to win the heart of aspiring writer Beck (Elizabeth Lail). None of it is bound to turn out well, but the show’s compelling leads and unusual tack of pivoting its POV make for some riveting (if slightly trashy) viewing; Lifetime has already renewed the show for a second season. There’s a moral here for all of us about the transparency of even seemingly innocuous social media. [Gwen Ihnat]

Kidding (Showtime, 10 p.m.)

There’s more than a hint of autobiography to Kidding, Jim Carrey’s first big TV role since he left In Living Color in 1994. Like Carrey, sad-eyed Mr. Rogers wannabe Jeff Pickles is seemingly a man trapped within walls of his own success, embodied by a TV producer (Frank Langella), who would like his golden goose to stop publicly breaking down about his divorce or trying to tell kids about death, please, and just stay in his money-making box. Judy Greer and Catherine Keener co-star as Pickles’ ex-wife and the show’s troubled puppet-maker, respectively, while Michel Gondry—who directed Carrey’s own best attempt at busting loose from the shackles of his rubber-faced goofball image—is situated behind the camera, capturing the famous (fictional) entertainer’s collapse. [William Hughes]


September 11

The Great American Read (PBS, check your local listings)

In May, the PBS project The Great American Read announced a list of 100 “best-loved novels,” asking the population to vote on what the No. 1 book will be. That project picks up again this fall, as various celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and George R.R. Martin expound on their favorites from the list in an eight-part miniseries hosted by Meredith Vieira. Looking the lens of topics such as “Villains & Monsters” and “What We Do For Love,” the series cracks open the likes of The Lord Of The Rings, Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, Pride And Prejudice, and Things Fall Apart. The winner of The Great American Read will be announced in October, so get your to-read list in order. [Gwen Ihnat]


September 14

Forever (Amazon)

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An air of mystery has been successfully cultivated around Forever, the new Fred Armisen-Maya Rudolph team-up that arrived in critics’ inboxes accompanied by an envelope that reads, “DO NOT OPEN PLEASE WATCH SHOW FIRST.” Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen play June and Oscar, a married couple who’ve grown comfortable and content in their routines and their old standbys—like an annual trip to the same old lake house. And to say any more would be to say too much. Co-creators Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard worked together on Parks And Recreation, but Forever is way, way, way outside of the Pawnee city limits—but even that’s too much information. Given the talent involved, deadpan punchlines abound—nope, just going to stop typing. Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen are in Forever. They will surprise you. That’s all for now. [Erik Adams]

The First (Hulu)

A big, bold swing into outer space, Hulu’s original series The First considers the possibility of the first manned mission to Mars in the near future and wonders, “What if we sent Sean Penn?” With gorgeous visuals (and a presumably hefty budget to pay for all those lovingly rendered shots of zero-G training and Oscar-winning actors), the show follows a crew of five astronauts overseen by Natascha McElhone’s aerospace magnate as they attempt to become the first humans to set foot on the red planet. Boasting a top-shelf cast (James Ransone, Hannah Ware) and a seasoned creator in House Of Cards’ Beau Willimon, with the aforementioned visuals getting a boost from cinematographer Adam Stone (Midnight Special), The First is the Hulu series most likely to blast off into watercooler-worthy orbit this fall. [Alex McLevy]

Norm Macdonald Has A Show (Netflix)

Judge Judy (left), Norm Macdonald
Photo: Netflix

It remains to be seen just what it will look like, but Norm Macdonald getting a new TV show is cause for celebration regardless of format. Netflix has ordered 10 episodes of a talk show hosted by the comedian, who will be joined by his Norm Macdonald Live podcast cohost Adam Eget, for a series of sit-downs with various guests who will presumably be alternately delighted and befuddled—or perhaps genially mocked—by one of the sharpest and most distinctive comedic minds of the past 30 years. There’s no trailer yet, but there is an idiosyncratic guest list that includes Drew Barrymore, David Spade, Judge Judy, and Michael Keaton, among others, and the title tells you everything you need to know. Norm Macdonald has a show—and we’ll be watching. E-I-E-I-O. [Alex McLevy]


September 16

Warriors Of Liberty City (Starz, 8 p.m.)

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More professional football players hail from Miami, Florida than any other city in the union. Many of them grew up in Liberty City, the impoverished neighborhood where Miami native and 2 Live Crew founder Luther Campbell helped set up the Liberty City Optimist Club in 1990. Among the after-school and summer time programs offered by the Optimist Club is the Liberty City Warriors, a Pop Warner football organization that’s become a reliable pipeline of talent to college teams and the pros. After chronicling the Warriors for Vice World Of Sports, director-producer Evan Rosenfeld digs deeper in Warriors Of Liberty City, profiling the community surrounding and supporting these school-age athletes, while catching up with the NFL veterans who also got their start on the fields of Charles Hadley Park. [Erik Adams]


September 17

Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon, 6:30 p.m.)

The most radical change happening in Nickelodeon’s latest Turtles reboot isn’t the decision to ditch Shredder in favor of a John Cena-voiced mutant alchemist called “Baron Draxum”—it’s the art style, a sketchy, quick-moving return to 2D animation after years of depicting the team as a quartet of green-skinned CGI bobbleheads. Defying lyrically established leadership hierarchy, this version of the Turtles is headed by Raphael (Omar Benson Miller) rather than Leonardo (Ben Schwartz), but they’re still accompanied by best bud April (The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham). This version of the Turtles also promises a much goofier, quip-heavy take on the world’s most fearsome fighting team, who seem to be a lot better at making mid-battle jokes than they are at actually fighting Draxum’s horde of mutated weirdos (voiced by the likes of Lena Headey, Johnny Rotten, Sam Richardson, and Timothy Simons), or any other sorts of competent ninja stuff. [William Hughes]


September 18

The Hunt For The Trump Tapes With Tom Arnold (Viceland, 10:30 p.m.)

It would be an all too fitting end to our two-year-long national nightmare if the Donald Trump presidency were brought down by a stand-up comedian with a Viceland series—a bookend to our incredibly stupid time provided by the star of 1996’s The Stupids. Tom Arnold claims to have heard the recordings of the former Apprentice host spouting bigotry between takes, and now he’s on the trail of that incendiary audio as well as the un-holy grail of all Trump recordings: The fabled “pee pee tape.” It’s not as if this docu-comedy has a chance at ejecting anyone from the Oval Office; it’s a sideshow to the sideshow, less investigative journalism than reiteration of the president’s long, public record of shittiness. Arnold’s Hunt is much more about putting a recognizable face on the stone-turning mania that’s turned the American public into a raving mob of conspiracy mongers. [Erik Adams]


September 21

The Good Cop (Netflix)

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Sixteen years after Andy Breckman’s Monk set the pace for USA’s “Characters Welcome” era, his latest effort in the realm of idiosyncratic crime solvers offers a bit of a changeup for Netflix. The most important thing to know about The Good Cop isn’t that it’s based on an Israeli format, or that its stars Tony Danza and Josh Groban as, respectively, a disgraced former officer of the New York Police Department and the straight-arrow detective who’s also his son. No, what you need to know about The Good Cop is that it’s a completely unserialized procedural that wraps up its cases by the 45-minute mark, a minor miracle in the current era of Netflix bloat. [Erik Adams]

Maniac (Netflix)

Not to be confused with the slasher classic of the same name (or its 2012 remake, or the Flashdance soundtrack cut inspired by William Lustig’s original), this Maniac is dancing through genres, tones, and time periods like no other Netflix limited series ever before. Superbad co-stars Jonah Hill and Emma Stone reunite for a far stranger, less drunken descent into madness that’s supervised by pharmaceutical suits Justin Theroux and Sally Field, all under the kaleidoscopic direction of Cary Joji Fukunaga. It’s the most stylish dive into the human psyche this side of Legion, and we can say with almost complete certainty that no other psychedelic dystopian mind-fuck coming to TV this fall will have as much star power—provided HBO doesn’t suddenly greenlight a Charlie Kaufman-penned adaptation of Ubik starring Tom Hanks and, oh, let’s say, Beyoncé? [Erik Adams]


September 24

Jane Fonda In Five Acts (HBO, 8 p.m.)

If anyone deserves her own documentary, discussing the “five acts” of her life, it’s Jane Fonda. Daughter of a cinematic legend, the young starlet soon became a cinematic legend in her own right, winning two Oscars (to date), the first in 1971 for Klute. She went on to attract even further attention for her controversial visit to North Vietnam in the ’70s and kicking off the home video fitness craze in the ’80s. Following the comeback of sorts marked by her starring role in Grace And Frankie (alongside longtime BFF Lily Tomlin) and movies like Book Club, this HBO documentary is perfectly timed. Co-stars including Robert Redford and Sam Waterston chime in on Fonda’s tenacity, while the legend herself fearlessly looks back at her life’s previous chapters (including marriages to director Roger Vadim, activist Tom Hayden, and mogul Ted Turner): “I’m proud of most of what I did, and I’m very sorry for some of what I did.” [Gwen Ihnat]

Magnum P.I. (CBS, 9 p.m.)

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CBS goes back to the generic playbook that brought us reboots of Hawaii 5-0 and MacGyver to resuscitate their fellow decades-old hit Magnum P.I. If you like those (especially the latter), you’ll love this Magnum, complete with snappy voice-over, a loyal band of sidekicks (Zachary Knighton, what are you doing here?), and a will-they/won’t-they right out of the gate. At least this spin is a little inspired, harnessing all that palpable Magnum/Higgins chemistry from the original by turning Robin Masters’ assistant into a sophisticated English blond (Perdita Weeks). Jay Hernandez has the considerable aw-shucks charm to personify Magnum, and the Justin Lin-directed pilot offers plenty of action-movie worthy stunts involving helicopters and sports cars set against picturesque Hawaiian backdrops. Still, as with MacGyver, Magnum seems more indicative of a network out of new ideas than anything else—putting this reboot firmly in the category of palatable but uninspired (and uninspiring). [Gwen Ihnat]

Manifest (NBC, 10 p.m.)

One of the more ambitious and high-concept shows of the network television season, Manifest tweaks the back-from-the-dead formula of The Returned and gives it an airborne sci-fi twist. An airplane carrying 191 passengers encounters unsettling turbulence, but eventually lands safely—which is when everyone on board learns they’ve been missing and presumed dead for the past five and a half years. Such a launchpad would be enough for most series, but NBC’s dramatic mystery ups the stakes by suggesting something even stranger may have happened to them all while up in the air. Executive producer Robert Zemeckis is on hand, presumably to ensure some appropriately thrilling special effects, while stars Josh Dallas and Melissa Roxburgh try to keep the high-flying drama grounded in believable terra firma. [Alex McLevy]

September 25

FBI (CBS, 9 p.m.)

Dick Wolf’s love of procedurals knows no bounds—geographic, network, or otherwise. That’s why, after longtime broadcast partner NBC passed on this proposed Law & Order: Special Victims Unit spin-off, the founder of the Chicago first-responder empire simply took FBI (not to be confused with the Ford Motor Company’s The F.B.I.) to the eye network. Rookie Blue’s Missy Peregrym (who appeared in a 2017 episode of SVU) and L&O alum Jeremy Sisto star as members of an elite squad—sorry, federal agents—who investigate heinous crimes, presumably ones that are committed across state lines. It’s a boilerplate premise, but Peregrym has the potential to be as winning a lead as SVU stalwart Mariska Hargitay—and there’s nothing wrong with giving the NCIS franchise a little in-network competition. Still, given the ever-crowded TV landscape (which is already lousy with crime-based dramas), FBI will have to work quickly to make its case. [Danette Chavez]

New Amsterdam (NBC, 10 p.m.)

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New Amsterdam may be the umpteenth “medical procedural with heart” to premiere in the last couple decades, but its pervasive optimism still feels like a deliberate rebuff to the current state of medical care in the United States. Imagine a world in which the health industry was less “industry” and more about helping people regardless of cost! Imagine a doctor who can turn an entire hospital system upside down with rousing monologues that invoke doctors to put their patients first! Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) takes over as the new medical director of New Amsterdam hospital, and his first order of business is some showy group firings—not because of some misanthropic Dr. Greg House-style gruffness, but because some doctors aren’t prioritizing their patients above their billing. Lest this turn into a socialist healthcare dream, the trailer reveals that Dr. Goodwin has his own diagnosis to reckon with as the physician tries to heal himself. [Laura M. Browning]


September 26

Single Parents (ABC, 9:30 p.m.)

Will Cooper (Taran Killam) needs some assistance. He’s raising his 7-year-old daughter, Sophie (Marlow Barkley), on his own, and tending to no other aspects of his life. Enter: Leighton Meester, Kimrie Lewis, and Brad Garrett playing three parents to Sophie’s classmates who are in the same boat as Will, but are so much better at navigating these choppy waters that they’re also towing a Jason Mendoza-type sneaker doofus (Jake Choi) and his infant in their wake. Introduced as opposing forces, they bring Will under their wings in order to be single, together, in a sitcom that splits the difference between ABC’s family comedy bread and butter and the chummy hangout vibe of the last show creators J.J. Philbin and Elizabeth Meriwether worked on: New Girl. [Erik Adams]

A Million Little Things (ABC, 10 p.m.)

Though it strongly recalls The Big Chill, the mysterious death at the core of A Million Little Things also evokes tearjerker du jour This Is Us. The “how” of Jon’s (Ron Livingston) death seems pretty clear in the premiere, but the “why” is what his group of friends—played by James Roday, Romany Malco, Christina Moses, and David Giuntoli—will wrestle with throughout the season. Series creator and sitcom vet D.J. Nash can’t avoid the kind of bromide-heavy dialogue that usually follows unexpected loss. But even when he was working in relatively happier environs on ’Til Death and Truth Be Told, Nash took a warts-and-all approach to relationships. So A Million Little Things offsets its tendency toward mawkishness with a rare look at the establishing and nurturing of adult friendships. What could also make it worth the price of admission—45 minutes of your time, before commercials—is seeing Roday switch gears to play the group’s cynic. [Danette Chavez]


September 27

Murphy Brown (CBS, 9:30 p.m.)

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The rare TV revival project that might have an actual, legit reason to exist (beyond “Hey, remember them!?”), CBS is getting ready to play host to the return of Candice Bergen’s crusading journalist after 20 years off the air, taking on the fractured news landscape of 2018 as the host of her own fictional cable news morning show. Most of the rest of the old FYI crew—Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto, Grant Shaud—will be back, too, along with the mandatory youthful presences of IT dork Pat (Atypical’s Nik Dodani) and Murphy’s now-grown son, Avery (Jake McDorman), who are there to catch all the apparently irresistible “millennials versus ‘olds’” jokes the series has to offer. (Tyne Daly takes over for the late Pat Corley behind the bar at Phil’s.) Original creator Diane English is back, as well, presumably hoping to inject her Emmy-festooned series with the same headline-grabbing power it carried back in Dan Quayle’s day, with Murphy facing off against the era of Donald Trump and fake news. [William Hughes]


September 28

The Cool Kids (Fox, 8:30 p.m.)

Vicki Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Martin Mull, and Leslie Jordan star in The Golden Girls, But Three Of Them Are Dudes Now. Hank (Grier), Charlie (Mull), and Sid (Jordan) have things pretty well figured out for themselves at Shady Meadows Retirement Community, until Margaret (Lawrence) claims a recently vacated spot at the friends’ regular table, shaking up their seating chart and their group dynamics. The established names in the cast and some superficial characterization (Charlie’s the aging drug casualty! Sid’s the gay one!) might make The Cool Kids look like a fugitive from Hot In Cleveland-era TV Land, but it hails in part from Charlie Day, who based the show on his own pre-It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia work experiences and also plays a recurring role. (Fox has to get as much fresh content from the Paddy’s gang as it can while they’re still in-house.) [Erik Adams]


September 30

God Friended Me (CBS, 8:30 p.m.)

Like Selfie and SMILF before it, God Friended Me is saddled with a bad, buzzy title that obscures the show’s premise. Social media does play a role—so much so that you have to wonder how much Facebook ponied up for product placement—but this drama from Gotham and Hawaii Five-0 producers Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt aims to foster a real discussion about faith in modern times. On the side of secularism is Miles (Brandon Micheal Hall, who should be in everything), the host of a podcast devoted to reassuring its listeners that “there’s no god, and that’s okay.” His opponent is possibly the almighty, or at least a hacker who writes immaculate code. Sadly, that’s how nuanced their talks are in the pilot. But Lilien and Wynbrandt also add some of their procedural flair to a show whose supernatural element they’ve already downplayed to TV critics. [Danette Chavez]