'Muppets,' 'Supergirl,' 'Evil Dead' & more: Intriguing new fall shows
In the strange new world that is Peak TV in America, the idea of getting excited about the start of the fall TV season feels on one level silly and antiquated. In a year when there will be over 400 original scripted shows in primetime, and so many terrific new shows have already debuted that I cringe just thinking about winnowing them down to a Top 10 list in December, what's the big deal about fall premieres?
Even the broadcast networks, the ones who made Fall TV into a thing to begin with 50 or 60 years ago, aren't as invested in it as they used to be. "Empire," the biggest broadcast hit in a decade, debuted at mid-season (though it'll be returning in the fall), and of the large swath of new product debuting over the next few months, I have to squint to find more than a few broadcast premieres I'm particularly excited about.
But a benefit of the current programming glut is that we've long since stopped relying on the Big Four (or even them plus the CW) to provide exciting new content. When you factor in cable, and the rise of original streaming options, there's still plenty worth at least sampling coming up between now and December.
I picked a dozen new shows I'm at least intrigued by — some of which I've seen, some of which I'm only guessing on based on some combination of the premise and pedigree — plus a few more that I'll be giving a serious look to. Of course, given how unrepresentative pilots are, it may be that some of the broadcast shows not mentioned here might blossom into something much better in the weeks and months to come, while some of the ones listed here may fall far short of their pilots/promise. But these are the ones I'm looking forward to seeing what they can become.
(Coming up tomorrow morning: the 12 shows I'm most excited to see return this fall.)
"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" (CBS, Sept. 8)Photo Credit: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS
If you want to be technical, Colbert's continuing the "Late Show" franchise rather than launching a wholly-new show, but talk shows are defined by the personality of their hosts far more than by the title. After a decade of "The Colbert Report," does Colbert have any interest in further re-inventing the late night wheel, or does he just want to do his own take on Johnny/Dave/Conan/etc? Hopefully, there's enough "Report" DNA in this, even if he's no longer playing "Stephen Colbert."
"The Bastard Executioner" (FX, Sept. 15)Photo Credit: FX
Kurt Sutter's "Sons of Anarchy" had become over-plotted and over-long by the time it went for its final ride, but once upon a time it was among TV's most exciting and complex series. By starting over with a new show (about a former knight from King Edward I's army who winds up impersonating an executioner), can Sutter return to the leaner and meaner narrative style that once made "Sons" so addictive, or will it be convoluted from the start? His best moments as a storyteller are great enough to make it worth sampling, at least.
"The Muppets" (ABC, Sept. 22)Photo Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC
"Big Bang Theory" co-creator Bill Prady got his start in showbiz as an entry-level employee of Jim Henson's, and now he (along with Bob Kushell) gets to bring some of his late boss's most beloved creations into the modern TV era. Where "The Muppet Show" was a riff on the variety shows that dominated '70s TV, "The Muppets" is a mockumentary in the vein of "Parks and Rec" and "Modern Family," as Kermit, Fozzie and friends work backstage at Miss Piggy's new talk show. The pilot presentation had its ups and downs, but Prady also knows these characters very well, so I'm eager to see full episodes.
"The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" (Comedy Central, Sept. 28)Photo Credit: Peter Yang
As with Colbert on "Late Show," we're treating this as new, even though Noah is, for now, retaining virtually the entire writing team and support staff that were there for the end of Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" tenure. So don't expect as clean a break from the Stewart incarnation as Stewart's was from the Craig Kilborn years. But the show has always been filtered through the personality and interests of its host (including that summer when John Oliver filled in and gave us our first hints of the genius of "Last Week Tonight"), and this "Daily Show" will surely start to deviate from Stewart's, for good and for ill.
"The Grinder" (FOX, Sept. 29)Photo Credit: FOX
In an unpromising fall for new broadcast network series, "The Grinder" — starring Fred Savage as a small-town lawyer and Rob Lowe as the older brother who has returned home after becoming famous playing a lawyer on TV — is one of the few I genuinely want to see a second episode of. It's a pleasure to have Savage acting in sitcoms again, and the the genial narcissism of the celebrity brother suits Lowe well. It's not a perfect pilot (and its biggest laughs come from guest star Kumail Nanjiani), but it's a good cast (also including Mary Elizabeth Ellis, William Devane, and Natalie Morales) and a decent premise to let them all play.
"Red Oaks" (Amazon, Oct. 9)Photo Credit: Amazon
It's been a year, and what feels like several Amazon pilot seasons, since we first saw the debut of this Steven Soderbergh-produced nostalgia series set at a Jersey country club in the ’80s. Or maybe I've just gotten impatient to see more of a show that had such a strong command of tone and its world in its first outing. On the other hand, am I quite ready to face Richard Kind as the hero's father? BING BONG!!!!!!!
"Supergirl" (CBS, Oct. 26)Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
As the eponymous heroine, Melissa Benoist wears a costume very much in keeping with the Henry Cavill version of Superman. But "Supergirl" isn't beholden to the movie continuity (there are no plans for any version of Supergirl's famous cousin to ever appear), and it's blessedly free of the morose style that Zach Snyder and company are bringing to all of the DC Comics movies. Instead, it's light and fun (in the same vein as the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve "Superman" films) and takes advantage of the experience that producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg picked up on the other DC shows (plus Ali Adler's time writing for "Chuck" and "No Ordinary Family") to hit the ground moving quickly.
"Ash vs. Evil Dead" (Starz, Oct. 31)Photo Credit: Starz
Hail to the king, baby. Other than a brief cameo in the 2013 "Evil Dead" remake, it's been over 20 years since Bruce Campbell last played his iconic role as unflappable monster-killer Ash Williams, who here is older, battle-scarred, but still unmistakably groovy. Sam Raimi directed and co-wrote the first episode, so be sure to watch Starz, S-tarz, to see if the magic's still there.
"Master of None" (Netflix, Nov. 6)Photo Credit: Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images
Aziz Ansari not only becomes the first "Parks and Recreation" castmember to turn up in a new series, but one (where he plays an actor making his way through life in New York City) co-created by himself and former "Parks" writer Alan Yang, with "Parks" godfather Mike Schur around as producer. If you're going to follow up a role on a classic sitcom, may as well bring back as many talented creative people from it as you can.
"Into the Badlands" (AMC, Nov. 15)Photo Credit: AMC
The ’90s were a good decade for TV dramas with a martial arts flavor, including "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues," "Vanishing Son," and "Martial Law." The latter show employed the writing team of Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who would go on to create "Smallville," and are now the minds behind "Into the Badlands," a sci-fi/martial arts hybrid sent in a post-apocalyptic America that has no guns and is run by seven barons with their own private armies. If nothing else, it's a big swing for AMC.
"The Man in the High Castle" (Amazon, Nov. 20)Photo Credit: Amazon
It's been a shorter turn-around for "Man in the High Castle" (whose pilot dropped in February) than for "Red Oaks," and expectations are high for Frank Spotnitz's adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel about an alternate history where America lost World War II and has been split into two states controlled by the Germans and Japanese. The pilot was very strong on world-building, less so on characterization, so we'll have to see if Spotnitz can fill this fascinating reality with equally fascinating people.
"Jessica Jones" (Netflix, TBA)Photo Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
"Daredevil," the first product of Netflix's lengthy deal with Marvel, was a creative success, but also one based on well-known and beloved source material. "Jessica Jones" spins out of a more recent, less famous (albeit adored by the comics readers who know her) character, a former superhero (played by Krysten Ritter from "Don't Trust the (Bagel) in Apt. 23") who decided she had the powers but not the aptitude for the high-flying life, and now works as a self-loathing private eye specializing in super-adjacent mysteries. Melissa Rosenberg has been developing a version of this show for a while (it was set up at ABC well before the Marvel/Netflix partnership), so hopefully she's figured out by now how to translate all the great material from the Brian Michael Bendis comics to the screen.
Other Notable PremieresPhoto Credit: FOX
"Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris" (NBC, Sept. 15)
"Blindspot" (NBC, Sept. 21)
"Quantico" (ABC, Sept. 27)
"Grandfathered" (FOX, Sept. 29)
"Code Black" (CBS, Sept. 30)
"Casual" (Hulu, Oct. 7)
"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (CW, Oct. 12)
"Flesh and Bone" (Starz, Nov. 8)