William Jackson Harper in The Good Place (left), Kiernan Shipka in The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, Hasan Minhaj, Nafessa Williams in Black Lightning, Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who
Photo: Justin Lubin (NBC), Diyah Pera (Netflix), Paul Zimmerman (Getty Images), Bob Mahoney (The CW), Steve Schofield (BBC Worldwide)

The broadcast television season begins in earnest this Sunday, September 23, though you’d be forgiven for feeling like a half-dozen seasons have come and gone in the weeks since Labor Day, what with the Streampocalypse and cable premieres—and you still have to wait until tomorrow to get into Maniac, whose Matryoshka doll structure will only increase that time-bending sensation. With so much TV already in the queue and more on the way, the TV editors of The A.V. Club have taken it upon ourselves to each identify the shows we’re most excited for this fall. For some of these shows, we’ve gotten an early look; for others, we’re operating on hunches and anticipation-stoking early notices. But all 11 are something to look forward to, whether you watch them on the day they premiere, or don’t get around to them until mid-2019.


The Good Place (NBC, returns Thursday, September 27 at 8 p.m.)

Following another season-ending gambit from reformed demon Michael (Ted Danson), The Good Place finds itself in unfamiliar territory once more: The first days of the rest of Team Cockroach’s lives. As was the case with one of the show’s spiritual antecedents, The Leftovers, season three relocates to Australia, where Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto) are drawn by a little divine intervention, their desire to become better people, and a Chidi (William Harper Jackson) lecture whose opening question is not only the title of one of The Good Place’s foundational texts, but also a solid summation of the episodes ahead: “What do we owe each other?” Barry and Killing Eve scene stealer Kirby Howell-Baptiste makes a welcome addition to the cast as a neurology professor; equally welcome are a few twists confirming that a down-to-earth version of The Good Place still has a limitless capacity for surprise. [Erik Adams]

Advertisement


Big Mouth (Netflix, returns Friday, October 5)

The most beloved cartoon on Netflix not starring a talking horse has a built-in advantage when it comes to new seasons, because the horrors of puberty only get deeper as the years go on. And so the second season of Big Mouth adds a new face to its collection of things that go bump in the mind, as Nick (Nick Kroll), Andrew (John Mulaney), Jessi (Jessi Klein), Missy (Jenny Slate), and Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) come face to face with a Shame Wizard, voiced by one-time Wizarding World werewolf David Thewlis. He’s a worthy adversary for hormone monsters Murray (also Kroll) and Connie (Maya Rudolph) and an excellent way of broadening the show’s emotional palette, spending the new episodes murmuring corrosive nothings in the kids’ ears. Meanwhile, they’re struggling with feelings for and jealousy of a new student (voiced by Gina Rodriguez), and generally going through true-to-life adolescent experiences that can only be represented in a TV-MA comedy and are only watchable thanks to the medium of animation. Fortunately for the characters and the viewers of Big Mouth, the jokes fly faster and funnier in season two, particularly when they’re being mumbled by the character who’s having the hardest time growing up, Coach Steve (Kroll, once more). [Erik Adams]

Advertisement


Flight Of The Conchords: Live In London (HBO, Saturday, October 6 at 10 p.m.)

We’re probably never getting another season of Flight Of The Conchords—those business hours are over, baby, as Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie have both nabbed roles in high-profile TV and film projects like What We Do In The Shadows, Legion, and The Hobbit franchise. (We also think their characters are probably happier in New Zealand.) But in October, HBO will have the next best thing: a Flight Of The Conchords concert special. The delightfully deadpan folk-parody duo went on tour earlier this year, stopping in July to play London’s Eventim Apollo. Directed by Hamish Hamilton, who’s got a few Oscars telecasts under his belt, Live In London finds Clement and McKenzie picking up exactly where they left off—perfectly in tune with each other. Fans who weren’t able to catch the group live can look forward to a mix of songs new and old (and one set long ago, in the “Summer Of 1353”). [Danette Chavez]

Advertisement


Doctor Who (BBC America, returns Sunday, October 7 at 9 p.m)

The new season of this long-running sci-fi drama really aims to put the “new” in nu-Who, most notably with the casting of Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to portray the Doctor in the show’s 55-year history. Whittaker is re-teaming with Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall, who, along with Matt Strevens, has taken over for Steven Moffat. The 13th Doctor’s already being described as “really intelligent” with a “childlike wonder,” which sounds reminiscent of former co-star David Tennant’s tenure on the show. Gender-swapped roles are all the (cause of) rage these days, but Whittaker, who broke out in Broadchurch and Trust Me, would give any performer a run for their money (a prerequisite for this gig). Chibnall and Strevens are committed to ushering in a new era for the revival—the former knew right away that he wanted to introduce a female Doctor. And, in further breaking with tradition, they’ve also exterminated hope of an appearance from the Daleks anytime soon. Throw in a new theme from Segun Akinola, and we can’t wait to meet Thirteen and her companions, played by Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole. (The show will also air on a new night: Sundays.) [Danette Chavez]

Advertisement


Black Lightning (The CW, returns Tuesday, October 9 at 10 p.m.)

This superhero drama from veteran TV creators Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil was a blast of fresh air when it premiered on The CW, which has quickly become the network home for speedsters, archers, and Legends. Starring Cress Williams as the eponymous DC hero, Black Lightning centers on an underrepresented and underserved community, but maintains a high-flying attitude. The series is powered as much by its tight-knit cast—which includes Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain, and Christine Adams—as its grounded storytelling, which still offers plenty of humor and satisfying throwdowns with Freeland’s villains. Season one set the stage for Black Lightning’s comeback, and the emergence of his two daughters (Williams and McClain) as fledgling crimefighters. The ass-kicking Pierce family will have its work cut out for itself in the new season, which is full of new threats, including a familiar face (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III as Tobias Whale). And no, there’s still no hint of a crossover with the rest of the Arrowverse, but frankly, Black Lightning doesn’t need ’em. [Danette Chavez]

Advertisement


The Romanoffs (Amazon, debuts Friday, October 12)

There are many reasons to look forward to The Romanoffs: the stunning international locales, the stacked cast, the Mad Men pedigree, the fact that Amazon is rolling out the episodes once a week. But the drama about supposed descendants of the Russian royal family is also a genuine episodic anthology series, a format that really ought to be more en vogue these days, considering the popularity of Black Mirror, the cult success of High Maintenance, and the limited commitment it presents to on-screen talent. Really, who is the rest of the TV industry to argue with the Oscar nominees (Diane Lane, Isabelle Huppert), primetime stars of yesteryear (Paul Reiser, Noah Wyle, Mary Kay Place), actors you’re always happy to see in a cable show (Amanda Peet, Kerry Bishé, Andrew Rannells, Corey Stoll, Clea DuVall, Annet Mahendru), the stars of Amazon’s I Love Dick (Kathryn Hahn and Griffin Dunne), and former employees of Sterling Cooper (John Slattery, Christina Hendricks, Cara Buono, Jay R. Ferguson), who all signed on for an episode of The Romanoffs? [Erik Adams]

Advertisement


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW, returns Friday, October 12 at 9 p.m.)

In its final season, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend sets out to prove that people can change. And it means that literally and figuratively: In one of the most symbolic choices made by a show that’s had its share of fun with symbols (the set dressing from “The Miracle Of Birth,” anyone?), Rebecca Bunch’s settled-for one-time love interest Greg Serrano is returning, with a twist—he’s now played by Skylar Astin instead of Santino Fontana. But is the woman who moved to West Covina all those years ago (you know, for no particular reason or anything…) capable of a change herself? And was that capacity reflected in the season-three cliffhanger, when Rebecca plead guilty to a charge of second-degree murder, rather than wriggling her way out of it with an insanity plea? “For better, for worse, this is her finally taking responsibility for not only her life, but her happiness,” creator and star Rachel Bloom told The A.V. Club this summer. [Erik Adams]

Advertisement


Native America (PBS, debuts Tuesday, October 23, check local listings)

Maybe it’s just the crispness in the air (which we’re expecting to arrive any day now and rescue us from the interminable humidity), but we’re eager to dive into Native America and learn more about the indigenous peoples of the Western hemisphere. This ambitious four-part PBS series looks back on the 15,000-year (and counting) legacy of the First Peoples of the Americas, tracing stars, languages, and civilizations. But series producer Julianna Brannum and executive producer Gary Glassman take extraordinary care not to let this exploration become some kind of elegy. Interviews with Native American chiefs, scholars, and faithkeepers reveal just how vital and ongoing this story remains, while vibrant animated segments reconstruct some of the greatest metropolises that ever existed. Each hour is more sprawling and informative than the last—and it’s all presented in such an accessible manner that even the dickhead from Ancient Aliens could learn something. [Danette Chavez]

Advertisement


Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina (Netflix, debuts Friday, October 26)

Adolescence gets a fiendish makeover in Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, a supernatural drama from Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (the Archie Comics’ creative officer who’s written several titles, including the one on which this series is based). Kiernan Shipka stars as the titular teen witch, who’s facing a life-altering choice on the eve of her not-so-sweet 16: stay in the mortal world and live a “normal” life, or join her aunts (played by Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto) in service of the Devil. Season one’s central question—will Sabrina choose high school clubs over a coven?—is complicated by Doctor Who’s Michelle Gomez as her (tor)mentor. But though Sabrina struggles to figure out where she fits in, Shipka looks perfectly at home as the series lead. If you dig Riverdale, Aguirre-Sacasa’s ported over the house style he established on The CW, so expect foggy landscapes, muted palettes, and multiple pops of Cheryl Blossom’s signature color. But when it comes to teen turmoil and the unique pressures put on young women, Chilling Adventures seems to borrow as much from the haunting 2016 film The Witch. Sign us up already—for the show, not an eternity in Hell. [Danette Chavez]

Advertisement


Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj (Netflix, debuts Sunday, October 28)

Advertisement

Former Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj is following in several of his colleagues’ footsteps with a hosting gig on a talk show. But on the forthcoming Patriot Act, which received a huge episode order from Netflix (32 for the first season), Minhaj is avoiding the topical, usually Trump-related grind found in so many late-night series. As the comedian tells Glamour, his weekly show will pose “the larger questions we’re going to face long after” the current president leaves office. It’s a thoughtful, sanity-saving approach recently seen on the gone-too-soon The Rundown With Robin Thede and Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas (which HBO had the wisdom to renew). We know what you’re thinking—Netflix may have an insatiable appetite for programming, but you only have so many hours in a week. Well, what makes us especially excited for Minhaj’s take is his knack for storytelling, which earned him a Peabody for his poignant and winning comedy special, Homecoming King. Minhaj’s exuberant delivery is very much his own, but his themes are universal, whether he’s dealing with overbearing parents or a surveillance state. [Danette Chavez]


Homecoming (Amazon, debuts Friday, November 2)

Of course, all the star power packed into The Romanoffs can’t hope to outshine Amazon’s biggest casting coup of the fall: Julia Roberts, in her first TV role as a series regular. (Roberts and the small screen go way back: Her first screen credit was a first-season episode of Crime Story.) Here, she plays Heidi Bergman, case worker at the show’s namesake government facility, tasked with helping combat veterans re-acclimate to civilian life—but secretly gathering information that can be utilized by her boss, Colin (Bobby Cannavale). Early reviews from the Toronto International Film Festival haven’t skimped on the Hitchcock comparisons, and with wizard of 21st-century paranoia Sam Esmail on board as executive producer and director of all 10 episodes, this adaptation of the Gimlet podcast (in which the Roberts role was played by Catherine Keener) promises to deploy an equal number of suspicions and filmmaking tricks. Esmail’s career-defining series, Mr. Robot, is set to end in 2019, so it’s the perfect time to say, “Hello, friend,” to a new batch of anxieties about the modern world. [Erik Adams]

Advertisement