Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
The L Word (Screenshot: YouTube), The Mandalorian (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.), His Dark Materials (Photo: HBO), and Watchmen (Photo: Mark Hill/HBO)

The A.V. Club’s 17 most-anticipated shows of fall 2019

The L Word (Screenshot: YouTube), The Mandalorian (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.), His Dark Materials (Photo: HBO), and Watchmen (Photo: Mark Hill/HBO)
Graphic: Jimmy Hasse

With autumn upon us, it’s time to harvest the benefits of studio executive sessions, production deals, and in certain cases, years of storytelling. The A.V. Club has looked out at the ever-widening TV landscape—where networks are doubling their pleasure by launching proprietary streaming services—to put together our most-anticipated fall debuts (and returns). There’s something for every TV viewer, from long-awaited adaptations to exciting new sci-fi projects; from shiny new vehicles for sitcom actors to a new spin on an old favorite.


Emergence, ABC (September 24)

First of all, a big thanks to Emergence for remembering that no one should be without the opportunity to see Allison Tolman (Fargo, Downward Dog) once a week. But also, the show’s campaign is one of the most tantalizingly oblique network promotions since Lost: Ads often feature little more than the numbers on a digital clock rearranging themselves, or a mysterious symbol appearing on a static TV screen, or a safety pin inexplicably flying across the room to stick to a radiator. Still, further explanations don’t reveal much: Tolman plays a police chief who sees strange lights one night, then goes out to investigate a bizarre plane crash (shades of Lost again!) with one survivor—a young girl who reportedly wasn’t on the flight. From there, a strange conspiracy starts to emerge of people who are not who they seem, all hell-bent on capturing the strange girl who Tolman’s cop has taken under her protection. Did we mention the car that seems to flip on its own, à la Stranger Things? With Agent Carter’s Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters writing and executive-producing, Emergence looks like a mystery worth exploring. [Alex McLevy]

Sunnyside, NBC (September 26)

If Sunnyside’s premise sounds familiar to you—a fast-talking, charismatic ne’er-do-well starts off conning a diverse group of oddballs and outcasts, but over time they learn to love each other and make each other better—you’re not alone. The pilot gives us a strong Community vibe, too. But what the show lacks in originality, it makes up for in other areas, like the behind-the-scenes creative team—led by creators Kal Penn and Matt Murray (who was actually a producer on Community), and supervising executive producer Michael Schur—or the lovable-as-hell cast, headlined by Penn, Kiran Deol, Joel Kim Booster, and Samba Schutte. The show also has a timeliness that may or may not work in its favor, as it centers on a group of immigrants who reach out to a disgraced former New York City councilman (Penn) for help in navigating the convoluted path to American citizenship. So, sure: the pilot feels like a rehash, but the building blocks for success are there. Let’s just hope Schur and company can find their footing, and create something that feels distinctive and fresh. [Baraka Kaseko]

The Politician, Netflix (September 27)

The Politician, the first of presumably many Ryan Murphy Netflix originals (though we should note that this particular series flies under the Fox 21 Television banner, as it was part of Murphy’s deal with Fox), is basically Election meets Succession—a battle of egos, set in the beyond posh environs of the 1%. Tony winner Ben Platt stars as the exceedingly ambitious Payton Hobart, a wealthy scion who’s mapped out his life, including multiple political victories, starting with a high school election that seems anything but juvenile. The Politician has all the markings of a Ryan Murphy (and Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan) show, right down to the musical numbers and pert, borderline psychotic teens. But this is more overt satire for Murphy et al., who have been touting the series as a takedown of the rich, not a brief foray into their swanky surroundings. Frankly, The Politician sounds a little unwieldy already, but in the words of fellow Netflix player Marie Kondo: We love mess. [Danette Chavez]

Transparent Musicale Finale, Amazon (September 27)

This fall, we bid a fond farewell to the Pfeffermans, but not before they sing a literal swan song (or two) in the Transparent Musicale Finale. Creator Jill Soloway and their sibling, Faith Soloway, have been writing music together for years, so you can expect the finale’s score to be full of songs about boundary-less mothers and finding a way to exult in life despite inherited trauma (both as a family, and as Jews). Keep your eyes peeled for guest stars, as well as more of Judith Light’s great moves. The Amazon dramedy saw lead actor Jeffrey Tambor exit the series following allegations of sexual misconduct, which likely affected its plans for a full fifth season. But Transparent Musicale Finale doesn’t feel like a plan B; it’s a loving sendoff for the groundbreaking show, honoring its history while setting a path toward healing for its cast, characters, and audience. [Danette Chavez]

Returning show dates for September

Disenchantment (9/20); The Conners (9/24); This Is Us (9/24); Modern Family (9/25); South Park (9/25); It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (9/25); The Good Place (9/26); How To Get Away With Murder (9/26); Saturday Night Live (9/28); The Simpsons (9/29)


Raising Dion, Netflix (October 4)

Raising Dion, Netflix’s next sci-fi stand-out, dwelled in development hell for a few years. Since comic book creator and director Dennis Liu sold audiences on the story of a widowed mother raising a son with super powers, fans have been waiting to witness just how the streaming giant would elevate a premise already preceded by an impressive viral short film. The wait comes to an end this fall when the Michael B. Jordan-produced adaptation finally comes to life with a nine-episode first season starring Alisha Wainwright, Jason Ritter, and newcomer Ja’Siah Young. Telling this story from the perspective of a Black parent centers a narrative that is typically sidelined in sci-fi, and pairing the distinctive elements of that experience with supernatural visuals promises something fresh and exciting. [Shannon Miller]

Nancy Drew, The CW (October 9)

This fall The CW returns to its familiar well of taking a beloved childhood classic and yanking it into the dark side. Now joining the moody teens of Riverdale is titian-haired sleuth Nancy Drew. Those looking for the young detective’s usual square, solid-citizen ethic may be disappointed, as Kennedy McMann’s spirited take on the iconic detective features a Nancy who’s often on the wrong side of the law, along with maybe-boyfriend/ex-con Ned Nickerson (Tunji Kasim). Her usual squad of BFFs, Bess (Maddison Jaizani) and George (Leah Lewis), work with her at the local diner, but the trio are far from pals in the pilot. The original books rarely traveled much past general thievery, so this Nancy Drew kicks up the crime a notch, starting off with a mysterious murder in Horseshoe Bay (apparently River Heights didn’t have enough Wuthering Heights-worthy cliffs), possibly connected to the town’s own spooky ghost legend, the unimaginatively named Dead Lucy. Only a year after the death of her mother, former golden girl Nancy is on a bit of a depressing path, like Veronica Mars sans wisecracks. But there are enough possible suspects (including Ned, George, and Bess) in that introductory murder to intrigue the viewer. And the show’s inventive supernatural element offers some decent jump scares, along with the possibility that Nancy and stern dad Carson (Scott Wolf) may be living in a house haunted by Dead Lucy herself. [Gwen Ihnat]

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Netflix (October 11)

When last we saw Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), he was finally free: Free from the drug trade, free from the Neo-Nazis who’d made him their meth-cooking slave, free from the monstrous mentor who’d poisoned nearly every aspect of Jesse’s life. But if a combined nine seasons of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have taught us anything, it’s that nobody in the Vince Gilligan-verse escapes the consequences of their actions. Gilligan, Paul, Netflix, and all of Albuquerque are being tight-lipped about this sequel film, which is named for Jesse’s getaway car and will apparently follow the erstwhile Cap’n Cook as he flees from the law, the violent bigots who kept him in captivity, and an uncertain destiny. “All I can say, I think people will be really happy with what they see,” Paul told The New York Times, showing incredible restraint by not punctuating the quote with Jesse’s signature “bitch.” [Erik Adams]

The College Admissions Scandal Movie, Lifetime (October 12)

Ever since the story broke in March, the tabloids have not been able to get enough of the Varsity Blues college admission scandal, as it involved celebrities like Desperate Housewives’ Felicity Huffman and Lori “Aunt Becky” Loughlin spending gobs of money in nefarious ways to get their kids into college, including falsifying their résumés and SAT scores. The College Admissions Scandal from Lifetime, which got a production in place before Huffman and Loughlin were even sentenced, promises to be packed with over-the-top drama, as the frantic moms fall prey to a scheming education consultant who thinks all the way outside the legal box when it comes to getting kids into elite schools. Penelope Ann Miller has the slightly more sympathetic role in the Felicity Huffman part (the “good” mom), just trying to get her troubled boy into a good school as she protests, “We did this because we thought we were helping you!” Mia Kirshner plays the bad mom part to a hilt, reminding her daughter about survival of the fittest as she sends her to photo shoots for her fake sports team photos. Then some associated money laundering draws in the feds, leading to a plethora of screaming, crying, and door slamming—and likely an instant Lifetime movie classic. [Gwen Ihnat]

Living With Yourself, Netflix (October 18)

The main attraction of Living With Yourself is in the premise: Double your pleasure, double your Rudd. Paul Rudd stars as Miles Elliott, a guy who’s in a rut at home and on the job, until a spa treatment recommended by a coworker (Desmin Borges) leaves him feeling like a whole other person. Turns out he’s the same guy, times two, and Miles is thrust into the Multiplicity monkey’s-paw scenario of co-existing alongside a clone that just might shield him from the parts of day-to-day existence that have been sucking the life out of him. Anyone who got a kick out of Maniac’s recombo-DNA job on mid-’00s arthouse fare should dig Living With Yourself’s Charlie Kaufman-but-directed-by-the-Little Miss Sunshine-team vibe, as Rudd makes like Nicolas Cage in Adaptation, his sad-sack side proving to be an ideal scene partner for his unjustifiably confident side—casting that just might make Judd Apatow and Allison Jones look into cloning technology of their own. [Erik Adams]

Watchmen, HBO (October 20)

Set 30 years after the events that unfolded in its source material, Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen is both a continuation and a reimagining of Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ seminal antiestablishment comic series. Fossil fuels and technological advancements like cell phones are a thing of the past (well, the latter were banned), and masks have been adopted by the police (led by Don Johnson as Tulsa police chief Judd Crawford) and domestic terrorists alike. The Watchmen of the comics are mere phantoms, but other vigilantes have taken their place. Oh, and Robert Redford is president. As is Lindelof’s wont, the pilot—which was screened as part of the Television Critics Association 2019 summer press tour—is full of Easter eggs and more provocative connections. There is a lot going on, but director and fellow Leftovers alum Nicole Kassell shoots the pilot with an eye trained on the comic’s legacy as well as the promising future of this adaptation. As if that weren’t enough, Regina King provides a fascinating center for all the government overreach and political dissent. [Danette Chavez]

Returning show dates for October

Big Mouth (10/4); Peaky Blinders (10/4); Supergirl (10/6); The Walking Dead (10/6); Black Lightning (10/7); The Flash (10/8); Riverdale (10/9); Arrow (10/15); Castle Rock (10/23); Silicon Valley (10/27)


His Dark Materials, HBO (November 4)

Given that the previous cinematic effort to adapt Philip Pullman’s rich and heady fantasy series ended up satisfying approximately nobody (save maybe for the people in the middle of the Venn diagram of bear fanatics and Ian McKellen audiophiles), hopes are high for HBO’s new translation of the three-book series to the small screen. Indeed, a series seems a better fit for Pullman’s complicated tale of kids slowly learning that organized religion is incredibly fucked up. Set in a magical alternate reality dominated by a group called the Magisterium (a.k.a. “the Church”), it follows Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen), a girl living in Oxford who decides to go on a quest after her uncle (James McAvoy) departs on a project that the church finds heretical: the story of Dust, a substance possessing unknown powers. Along the way, she and her animal daemon, Pantalaimon (all people have a spiritual companion of sorts), encounter a mysterious socialite (Ruth Wilson), an ace balloon pilot (Lin-Manuel Miranda), and a talking polar bear. Factor in a plot of kidnapped children, and you’ve got a bold blend of dark thrills and appealing glittery magic. With luck, this crusade will go better than the last Pullman adaptation. [Alex McLevy]

The Mandalorian, Disney+ (November 12)

The Streaming Service Wars are going to seriously heat up as 2019 leads into 2020, and one of the most devastating shots in the fight for your monthly bundle of streaming cash is definitely Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian. Set in the Star Wars universe between the original trilogy and Disney’s new sequel trilogy, the extremely expensive-looking series stars Game Of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal as a bounty hunter who looks a lot like Boba Fett but is cooler than Boba Fett because he works with a murder-robot voiced by Taika Waititi and accepts jobs from Werner Herzog—or at least a Star Wars guy played by Werner Herzog, but it’s usually hard to tell with him. If that cast isn’t enough, it’ll also have Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, and Giancarlo Esposito. The Mandalorian is launching on the same day as Disney+, meaning Disney is essentially presenting it as the must-see vanguard for its upcoming wave of streaming originals, like Marvel Studios’ WandaVision and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, as well as for Disney+ itself. Those Marvel shows and whatever else Disney has in mind is going to happen regardless of how well The Mandalorian is received, but the effort and money that it’s clearly putting into this thing seem like good signs for things to come. [Sam Barsanti]

The Little Mermaid Live! ABC (November 14)

ABC certainly took its time entering the live musical arena (and given a number of less-than-stellar missteps from veteran networks NBC and Fox, maybe holding off to learn a few valuable lessons was a smart choice), but selecting a mellifluous playground like The Little Mermaid could be worth the wait. However, The Little Mermaid Live! won’t exactly be a full-length live production: Per director Hamish Hamilton, the program will be a hybrid of live musical performances and the 1989 animated Disney staple, featuring “10 or 11” live performances. Starring Moana’s Auli’i Cravahlo as Ariel, Queen Latifah as Ursula, and Shaggy stepping in as Sebastian, the live event will leave the dialogue to the film and will cut to the cast and live theater for the splashy numbers—and this, in all honesty, may be ideal. The Little Mermaid’s vibrant, steel drum-laced soundtrack has always been the major highlight, and placing performers with proven range centerstage could more than make up for the lack of chatter, which tends to translate as awkward buffers between the more anticipated moments in similar events. The move to have Latifah don the tentacles of one of the most iconic villains in the Disney canon feels like the best nod to fans who have wished to see her in the role since her Disney-inspired photoshoot with Annie Leibovitz. And watching Shaggy lead a colorful cast in a rousing rendition of “Under The Sea” just feels inspired. [Shannon Miller]

The Crown season three, Netflix (November 17)

The Crown ended season two with Elizabeth and Philip tearfully reconciling after the Profumo scandal. For season three, the show picks up soon after that in 1964, headed into the ’70s—but with an entirely new cast, with Olivia Colman replacing Claire Foy as Elizabeth, Tobias Menzies stepping in for Matt Smith as Prince Philip, and Helena Bonham Carter taking over as Princess Margaret, replacing Vanessa Kirby. Netflix has also announced cast additions like Emerald Fennell as Camilla Shand (Prince Charles’ future second wife) this season, as well as Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher and Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in season four. In a recent Entertainment Weekly cover story, showrunner Peter Morgan was eager to tell Camilla’s side of the story: “People always assume Charles cheated on Diana with Camilla… It’s absolutely the wrong way round. He was deeply in love with Camilla and forced to marry Diana.” This season will also focus less on Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage, a focus of the first two seasons, and more on the breakdown of Margaret’s marriage to Anthony Snowdon, the decolonization of Africa and the Caribbean, and, says EW, the discovery “that the Queen’s art adviser Anthony Blunt was a Soviet spy, and Labour leader Harold Wilson’s rise to prime minister that same year.” So far Netflix has only released teaser trailers with brief glimpses of Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, but they’re enough to assure devoted Crown fans that, unsurprisingly, she’s completely commanding in the role. [Gwen Ihnat]

Returning show dates for November

Shameless (11/3); Rick And Morty (Exact date TBD)


The L Word: Generation Q, Showtime (December 8)

We know, there are several significant aspects of The L Word that don’t hold up to scrutiny (certainly not 15 years after its debut), including but not limited to biphobia and a general mishandling of trans characters—not to mention the absence of trans actors in those roles. But you can’t deny the groundbreaking nature of Ilene Chaiken’s series; it was one of the first to offer such an intimate and devoted look at the lives of queer women. Kate Moennig’s Shane McCutcheon is a heartbreaker for the ages, while Jennifer Beals’ Bette Porter made juggling personal and professional ambitions look almost easy. The first trailer for the sequel series, subtitled Generation Q, shows Bette mounting (ahem) a political campaign, Shane in seeming very good fortune, and Alice (Leisha Hailey) making the move to TV. Just as intriguing as the returning cast members is the sexy new ensemble, including Leo Sheng, Dani Nuñez, Jacqueline Toboni, and Sophie Suarez, who have their own stories to tell and no time for catcalling bullshit. There’s fresh talent behind the scenes, too, as Marja-Lewis Ryan has taken over for Chaiken as showrunner and executive producer (though Chaiken is still involved with the show). All in all, Generation Q looks to be one of TV’s most exciting do-overs. [Danette Chavez]

Returning show dates for December

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (12/6); Marvel’s Runaways (12/13); The Expanse (12/15)

Fall/winter 2019

For All Mankind, Apple TV+ (fall 2019, exact date TBD)

Too often, alternate histories present audiences with even bleaker circumstances than were recorded or remembered. But For All Mankind, the latest from sci-fi visionary Ronald D. Moore, imagines the 1950s and 1960s as both more complicated and hopeful. In this alternate reality, the global space race is still very much underway and the United States is the underdog, having been beaten to the moon by the USSR. Details aren’t plentiful at the moment, but we do know that Joel Kinnaman stars as one of the mission hopefuls; joining him in the cast are Michael Dorman, Jodi Balfour, Wrenn Schmidt, and Shantel VanSanten, among others. The piquant premise promises much more hands-on participation for women in this modified space race, along with stunning cinematography and the most drool-worthy midcentury design since Mad Men. It once seemed that For All Mankind would be the Apple TV+ service’s launch show, which could still happen. But now that we know when the streaming service is launching (November 1—suck it, Disney+), the odds of that happening become narrower by the day. Still, a new sci-fi series from Moore is a shoo-in for any most anticipated list, even as a fall premiere remains up in the air. [Danette Chavez]

The Witcher, Netflix (winter 2019, exact date TBD)

We know you have a lot of Dude With Swords to choose from when perusing the modern TV landscape. But there are few dudes swordier than Geralt Of Rivia, the stoic—bordering on sullen—protagonist of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s bestselling Witcher series of stories and books. Translated over the last decade-plus into a groundbreaking series of video games—and now a Netflix TV show, with Superman himself, Henry Cavill, in the title role—the Witcher books depict a medieval fantasy world in a constant state of bloody political upheaval, and the one guy who inevitably has to travel around, clearing out the monsters preying on the weak while kings and armies clash. Part violent fairy tale, part political thriller, and with a healthy dose of sex and blood added for good measure, The Witcher walks a tonal tightrope that often threatens to plummet into ridiculousness. (Fun fact: Witchers are magically enhanced mutants who are both sterile and immune to disease, a plot point apparently designed solely for the inclusion of a whole bunch of consequence-free sex.) Done right, though, and it’s able to present an undeniably working-class take on worlds full of war, sorceresses, and evil demons, one where getting paid can be just as dangerous as performing heroic deeds. Cavill certainly seems up for the part (flowing silver locks and all), and he’s surrounded with a cast of ringers, including Anya Chalotra as his magic-wielding lover Yennefer, and Freya Allen as Ciri, the young woman around whom his fate inevitably revolves. [William Hughes]

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