TV gets spooky this October with Helstrom, Monsterland, and The Haunting Of Bly Manor

Nicole Kidman in The Undoing (Photo: Niko Tavernise/HBO), Jaden Jordan and Maliq Johnson in Grand Army (Photo: Netflix), John Slattery in NeXt (Photo: Ed Araquel/Fox), Kelly Marie Tran in Monsterland (Photo: Barbara Nitke/Hulu), Annet Mahendru in The Walking Dead: The World Beyond (Photo: Carlos Serrao/AMC)
Nicole Kidman in The Undoing (Photo: Niko Tavernise/HBO), Jaden Jordan and Maliq Johnson in Grand Army (Photo: Netflix), John Slattery in NeXt (Photo: Ed Araquel/Fox), Kelly Marie Tran in Monsterland (Photo: Barbara Nitke/Hulu), Annet Mahendru in The Walking Dead: The World Beyond (Photo: Carlos Serrao/AMC)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

We might not end the month by trick or treating, but the spirit of Halloween is alive and well in October’s TV premieres. Netflix follows up the breakout success of The Haunting Of Hill House with The Haunting Of Bly Manor; Hulu beckons viewers to its own bloody anthology series with Monsterland; the hunt for the worst of humanity begins on Helstrom; The Walking Dead tries to reanimate the franchise with World Beyond; hell, even Patrick Dempsey’s chasing Devils. Chills can also be found in this month’s non-genre fare, including The Salisbury Poisonings, and NeXt and Soulmates, where technology is the real terror. As for thrills, The Undoing and The Good Lord Bird deliver them in spades.

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Gangs Of London (AMC+): Premieres October 1

Gangs Of London (AMC+): Premieres October 1

The Raid creator Gareth Evans returns to TV with Gangs Of London, a hyperviolent and stylized new drama starring Peaky Blinders alum Joe Cole. Set in contemporary London, the series follows Sean Wallace (Cole), the son of a powerful gang lord (Colm Meaney as Finn Wallace). The eponymous (and multicultural) groups vie for territory and control of the city, but there is a delicate balance that keeps it all from going to hell—that is, until Finn is assassinated. Sean must take his father’s place while also trying to solve his murder, and you can expect both of his missions to cause considerable turmoil in the underworld. And that’s all before an infiltrator is revealed. While Gangs Of London’s “Shakespeare meets The Departed” premise doesn’t feel wholly original, the series bowled over U.K. viewers in the spring with its gritty performances and intricate, exciting fight choreography by Jude Poyer. We can see why AMC is banking on the series to help launch its new AMC+ service. [Danette Chavez]

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The Salisbury Poisonings (AMC+): Premieres October 1

The Salisbury Poisonings (AMC+): Premieres October 1

Amazon’s Utopia isn’t the only fall show with a story of containment and widespread fear that will feel eerily familiar: The Salisbury Poisonings is based on the real-life poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the Amesbury poisonings, and the government measures taken to protect the public in their wake. Written by Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, the three-part series follows in the footsteps of HBO’s Chernobyl, remaining detailed but admirably restrained in its depiction of a full-blown public health crisis. It’s chilling enough to watch the efforts at containment unfold and for the realization of an initially known threat to sink in for everyone in the town. The Salisbury Poisonings doesn’t have to look hard for everyday heroes or for shadowy villains (the real-life Sergei Skripal was a British double agent who was poisoned by a Russian-made nerve agent known as Novichok). What makes this mystery drama such a nail-biter is how it reflects the new normal. [Danette Chavez]

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Monsterland (Hulu): Premieres October 2

Monsterland (Hulu): Premieres October 2

Nathan Ballingrud’s short story collection North American Lake Monsters was always begging to be turned into an anthology series, so kudos to Hulu for making it happen. Transposing eight of the book’s nine stories to the small screen, Monsterland has employed an impressive pedigree of actors for this look at broken people in extreme circumstances, including Kaitlyn Dever (rapidly becoming one of the finest performers in America), Bill Camp, Jonathan Tucker, Nicole Beharie, and Taylor Schilling. It’s always good to see a group of horror-based tales more interested in the psyches of the people experiencing the supernatural than the larger-than-life events themselves, and with behind-the-camera talent like creator and executive producers Mary Laws (The Neon Demon, Succession) and Babak Anvari (Under The Shadow, Wounds) steering the ship, Monsterland looks to be a cut above many of the other shows currently filling our streaming services in the new anthology-revival wave. [Alex McLevy]

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Emily In Paris (Netflix): Premieres October 2

Emily In Paris (Netflix): Premieres October 2

Darren Star combines a few of the more attractive features of his previous TV productions for Emily In Paris: an appealing lead embracing a whole new life (Younger) while sporting more high-fashion costume changes than she could possibly afford on her salary (Sex And The City). Lily Collins is the lucky young lady of the title, sent by her marketing firm to shake up a Parisian company with her fresh, American point of view. Unfortunately, Emily doesn’t speak French, to the dismay of her new coworkers, who find her innovative social media ideas pretty annoying. (In their defense, Emily describes Paris to her probably-not-long-for-this-world boyfriend thusly: “The entire city looks like Ratatouille!”) That our plucky heroine will eventually win over her snooty French colleagues seems like a given; less certain is whether Star’s new series (and Emily’s cloying charm) will win over viewers, though in the current quarantimes, the gorgeous on-location shots (and the enviable Devil Wears Prada-worthy wardrobe) may be enough to draw them in. [Gwen Ihnat]

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The Comedy Store (Showtime): Premieres October 4

The Comedy Store (Showtime): Premieres October 4

With I’m Dying Up Here, Showtime’s already taken a shot at dramatizing the pivotal role that The Comedy Store has played in cultivating new stand-up talent. Now Mike Binder’s docuseries will take a closer look at the legacy of Mitzi Shore’s iconic club, which has helped launch an astonishing number of careers over the last 47 years. “I don’t think that there is a building that has affected culture more than the Store,” notes Neal Brennan. The Comedy Store is packed with talking heads with many of the biggest names to ever take the stage on Sunset—Chris Rock, David Letterman, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jim Carrey, just to name a few—as well as footage of late greats like Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison. [Danette Chavez]

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The Good Lord Bird (Showtime): Premieres October 4

The Good Lord Bird (Showtime): Premieres October 4

Don’t look at The Good Lord Bird’s shifting place in Showtime’s fall lineup as a loss of faith—or nerve—in Ethan Hawke and Mark Richard’s adaptation of James McBride’s novel of the same name. This seven-part limited series arrives two months later than originally scheduled, but with no less urgency or compelling action (Showtime reportedly took the extra time to refine its marketing strategy, given the nationwide civil rights protests that began anew in June of this year.) Hawke stars as John Brown, the abolitionist who is just as readily described as a madman as he is a martyr. As he gears up for war, he is surrounded by historical figures both dashing and heroic, including Frederick Douglass (Daveed Diggs). But The Good Lord Bird is mostly seen through the eyes of Henry “Onion” Shackleford, an enslaved boy rescued by Brown from the midst of Bleeding Kansas. The series works hard to maintain the book’s humor and dizzying turns in tone, so don’t expect a straightforward history lesson. And as the story races toward Brown’s ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry, this larger-than-life figure is brought down to more manageable—and relatable—size. [Danette Chavez]

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The Walking Dead: World Beyond (AMC): Premieres October 4

The Walking Dead: World Beyond (AMC): Premieres October 4

If you’re among the many who enjoyed the world of The Walking Dead but feel it’s gotten a little long in the tooth, AMC is working overtime to give you a reason to reinvest in the zombie apocalypse. World Beyond begins 10 years after the undead swarmed the face of the earth, centered on a Nebraskan university whose secure walls have enabled something like a stable community to develop as a haven within the collapsing society. But there’s a distinct YA flair to this tale, as a group of teens set out to find the scientist working on a cure for the undead affliction, shepherded by a pair of badass warriors (Younger’s Nico Tortorella and The Americans’ Annet Mahendru), yet still dealing with the universal issues shared by all kids: Who am I? What am I doing here? What kind of person do I want to be? Of course, there’s also plenty of zombie-killing action; it will be interesting to see if World Beyond can successfully reset its universe for a new mission. [Alex McLevy]

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Soulmates (AMC): Premieres October 5

Soulmates (AMC): Premieres October 5

As if real life weren’t dark enough, writers from Black Mirror and Stranger Things have created a new dramatic series that asks, “What if your soulmate was genetically predetermined?” Soulmates takes an anthropological look at our world 15 years into the future, where scientists have found a genome that biologically connects humans to the one person that is “meant” for them. It’s a discovery that thoroughly topples the lives of some existing couples and introduces new boundaries to others. Although other works have taken a sterile approach to love with varying results, incorporating sci-fi into stories of togetherness has the potential to yield wistful, “San Junipero”-esque results or reveal the Shadow Monster in all of us. Because even if there is a person that is our biological match in the most fundamental sense, nothing trumps free will. We imagine that some poor saps might have a tougher time dealing with that than others. [Shannon Miller]

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NeXt (Fox): Premieres October 6

NeXt (Fox): Premieres October 6

Decades after The Terminator, it’s more believable than ever that tech companies will someday send us hurtling toward the apocalypse. In real life, that’s happening because they let elections get stolen, but Fox’s NeXt—the latest in a long line of fiction about how cell phones are actually scary—suggests that it’s not the skull-stomping Terminators we need to be afraid of, but SkyNet itself. Or, as it’s called here, “neXt.” John Slattery stars as the head of a big tech company who has lost faith (so to speak) in technology, making him the perfect person to assist the FBI’s Cyber Crime Task Force. After all, if anyone knows tech and the evil it’s capable of, it’s a guy who helped program it to do those evils. That’s all pretty straightforward TV procedural fare, but there is a bonus hook here: Slattery’s character sees stuff that isn’t there and has a tendency to smash computers with a hammer because he’s so afraid of them. So maybe he’s not the perfect person to assist anybody. [Sam Barsanti]

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Devils (The CW): Premieres October 7

Devils (The CW): Premieres October 7

We haven’t seen much of Patrick Dempsey since he was offed in Grey’s Anatomy. But he makes a Machiavellian return in The CW’s Devils (purchased from SkyTV)—less McDreamy and more McCutthroat. The 10-episode series—based on a bestseller by Italian trader Guido Maria Brera that was inspired by the 2008 financial crisis—takes place in the world of international finance. Dempsey’s silver fox Dominic is the CEO of a London-based bank who becomes a sort of mentor to new Italian transfer Massimo Ruggero (Alessandro Borghi) when the discovery of a worldwide financial conspiracy upends their entire relationship. The trailer doesn’t reveal a hell of a lot, although Dominic’s Judas/Fredo-like kiss to Massimo appears to foreshadow some sort of cataclysmic break between the two. That production wrapped on this series pre-pandemic, offering a recognizable star and some glamorous European, if enigmatic, appeal, may help it pull ahead in the meager fall primetime pack. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Connecting… (NBC): Premieres October 8

Connecting… (NBC): Premieres October 8

Connecting... isn’t the TV offering made for and about the quarantimes, but it is the only one that also represents a network’s (NBC) only new scripted series for the fall. The COVID-19 pandemic is the backdrop for this sitcom from Martin Gero and Brendan Gall, who previously collaborated on Netflix’s The Lovebirds. But Connecting... aims to mine humor and a bit of pathos from existing questions about whether technology has brought us closer to each other or just given us platform upon platform to disagree with each other. The central group of friends—played by Otmara Marrero, Parvesh Cheena, Keith Powell, Jill Knox, Shakina Nayfack, Ely Henry, and Preacher Lawson—stays in touch virtually, sharing the particulars of their day and newfound hobbies. That sounds an awful lot like real life for most of us, and Gero and Gall will have to stretch further than capturing the feel of our family Zoom calls in order to make Connecting... more than just an instant time capsule. [Danette Chavez]

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Code 404 (Peacock): Premieres October 8

Code 404 (Peacock): Premieres October 8

It’s a tale as old as time: A city’s best cop dies in the line of duty, allowing criminals to run amok and leaving the police with no choice but to use technology to bring the cop back to life, robo-style. The catch in Code 404 is that the cop (Daniel Mays) comes back… wrong. Not Pet Sematary wrong, thankfully, but still a bit busted. His judgement is all messed up, his memory has big holes, and yet he thinks he’s more of a super-cop than ever. Luckily, he has his old partner (Stephen Graham), to ease him back into policing, which seems like it will mostly involve cleaning up his messes. It’s all decidedly low-tech, with Mays’ robotic cop seemingly needing to be plugged into a computer pretty often, and while that means the practicality of this whole idea is pretty suspect, it does set up a nice gag about him forgetting when he’s still plugged in. [Sam Barsanti]

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The Haunting Of Bly Manor (Netflix): Premieres October 9

The Haunting Of Bly Manor (Netflix): Premieres October 9

Here’s hoping you weren’t too attached to Hill House, because that haunted residence’s time has passed. Instead, the next season of Netflix’s eerie anthology series turns its attention to an estate across the pond, in a story that creator Mike Flanagan says is inspired by the works of Henry James, most notably The Turn Of The Screw. Set in 1980s England, a man (Henry Thomas) hires a nanny (Victoria Pedretti) to care for his orphaned niece and nephew following the unexpected death of their au pair. Only a few other employees occupying the gothic Bly Manor, and it’s not long before strange occurrences begin. Once again featuring direction from Flanagan (and yes, his bevy of lurking-in-the-background spectral beings will return), the show promises a haunting supernatural romance, centuries of mystery—and probably more than a few peek-through-your-fingers sequences, if there’s anything like last season’s bent-neck lady. [Alex McLevy]

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The Right Stuff (Disney+): October 9

The Right Stuff (Disney+): October 9

Hollywood’s preoccupation with space continues apace with The Right Stuff, a new Disney+ drama based on Tom Wolfe’s book of the same name. The series follows the Mercury Seven astronauts, the rigors of their training, and the daunting nature of their mission that elevated them to near mythic status. The Mercy Seven became a whole new breed of (American) hero, but though the national mood is low (to put it mildly) right now, The Right Stuff will need more than just great production values (courtesy of National Geographic and Appian Way) and a solid cast (including Jake McDorman and Patrick J. Adams) to break free from all the other recent NASA-inspired dramas on TV and film. The last two years alone have seen the premieres of The First, Ad Astra, Away, First Man, and For All Mankind (hilariously enough, Eric Ladin appears in both FAM and TRS), so Disney+ will have to hope this new series does indeed have The Right Stuff to set it apart. [Danette Chavez]

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Helstrom (Hulu): Premieres October 16

Helstrom (Hulu): Premieres October 16

Curious Hulu viewers who happen across the trailer for the upcoming adaptation of Helstrom could be forgiven for having no idea they’re watching Marvel characters on the small screen—the company’s signature logo is conspicuously absent from the series. The sole remaining survivor of Marvel’s phase-out of its live-action series from anywhere but the corporate home of Disney+ (animated relative Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is still forthcoming on Hulu as well), it’s the story of a pair of siblings, Daimon and Ana Helstrom (Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon), who are the children of a powerful and mysterious serial killer (Elizabeth Marvel), who’s been locked up for 20 years. The show is described as following the pair “as they track down the worst of humanity—each with their own attitude and skills.” In other words, there’s a bit of Supernatural going on here. Still, with Helstrom being one of the most powerful sorcerers in the Marvel comics universe, it will be interesting to see whether the show leans into its source material, or stands mystically apart. [Alex McLevy]

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Grand Army (Netflix): Premieres October 16

Grand Army (Netflix): Premieres October 16

Netflix is taking a much more grounded approach to its latest teen show Grand Army, but that doesn’t mean its story is ordinary. Based on Katie Cappiello’s Slut: The Play, the series follows a multicultural group of teenagers at Brooklyn’s Grand Army high school, whose rites of passage are colored, but not derailed, by growing intolerance in this country. Odessa A’zion, Odley Jean (a former student of Cappiello’s in real life), Maliq Johnson, Amalia Yoo, and Amir Bageria star as five ambitious teens of varying grade levels but who are all determined to define themselves on their own terms. There will be some melodrama—this is high school, after all—but Grand Army is much more naturalistic than your Gossip Girls and Riverdales (though it hasn’t been free of its own controversy). [Danette Chavez]

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The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix): Premieres October 23

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix): Premieres October 23

October certainly isn’t lacking for adaptations: This month will also see the debut of The Queen’s Gambit, Scott Frank and Allan Scott’s limited series based on Walter Tevis’ novel of the same name. This coming-of-age story follows chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy, following up The Miniaturist with another period drama) as she strives to become a Grandmaster in the game. Of course, Beth isn’t just coming up against other highly skilled competitors; she’s also contending with good old-fashioned sexism. But though The Queen’s Gambit will certainly track her rise, it’s not a feel-good story of an underdog. The series veers into more suspenseful territory (and we begin to see The Talented Mr. Ripley producer William Horberg’s hand in things), as Beth struggles with addiction and a hidden past. After an arch turn in Emma., it’ll be exciting to see Taylor-Joy venture into the darker side of storytelling once more. [Danette Chavez]

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The Undoing (HBO): Premieres October 25

The Undoing (HBO): Premieres October 25

Nicole Kidman reunites with David E. Kelley for The Undoing, a limited series adaptation of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel, You Should Have Known. Kidman, fresh off the second season of Big Little Lies, stars as Grace Fraser, a therapist who leads a charmed life. She’s got a hugely successful career (which nets her a book deal) and a husband and son who adore her. That blessed existence soon crashes down around her, leaving Grace struggling to figure out how to rebuild her life when everything she was sure she knew about herself comes into question. Hugh Grant co-stars as Grace’s husband, Mike, who may not be nearly as devoted as he seems; the rest of the impressive cast includes Edgar Ramirez, Lily Rabe, and Grant’s Paddington 2 co-star Nadine Marshall. The Undoing certainly has all the makings of the newest event series obsession, including The Night Manager’s Susanne Bier as series director and a satisfyingly twisty narrative. [Danette Chavez]

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City So Real: Premieres October 29 on National Geographic; available October 30 on Hulu

City So Real: Premieres October 29 on National Geographic; available October 30 on Hulu

Preeminent documentarian Steve James has made a career within a career by casting his shrewd but empathetic gaze on Chicago, time and time again. Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, and America To Me all shine a light on distinct elements of this multi-faceted city; his latest project, City So Real, looks to encompass them all. This five-hour docuseries, which debuted at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri, earlier this year, takes James’ typically unflinching look at the Second City—its shortcomings and big-shouldered strengths—starting with Rahm Emanuel’s decision to pick up stake after eight years as mayor, and the grassroots efforts led by Black activists to hold the Chicago Police Department accountable for the death of Laquan McDonald (as detailed in the similarly engrossing documentary 16 Shots). City So Real also follows the mayoral race of 2019, including the campaigns of Lori Lightfoot and Amara Enyia, who were among several Black women candidates, suggesting a turning point in Chicago politics (newsflash: it wasn’t). [Danette Chavez]

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Returning

Returning

Left: Pedro Pascal in The Mandalorian (Photo: Disney+/Lucasfilm); right: Sonequa Martin Green in Star Trek: Discovery (Photo: Lilja J—nsd—ttir/CBS Interactive)
Left: Pedro Pascal in The Mandalorian (Photo: Disney+/Lucasfilm); right: Sonequa Martin Green in Star Trek: Discovery (Photo: Lilja J—nsd—ttir/CBS Interactive)

Saturday Night Live, season 46 (October 3); Kipo And The Age Of Wonderbeasts, third and final season; The Bachelorette, season 16 (October 13) Star Trek: Discovery, season three (October 15); The Conners, season three (October 21); Black-ish, season seven (October 21); Superstore, season six (October 22); The Eric Andre Show, season five (October 26); The Mandalorian, season two (October 30)

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