The designation of #TooMuchTV isn’t just a cutesy label for the current era. There is actually too much TV. It’s no longer, “Who has the time?” but, “There is literally not enough time to watch it all.”
This fall will see an explosion of streaming services in addition to the usual mass of new programming, with Disney and Apple set for big launches. It’s a lot! So what to watch? We’ve combed through most of the new series that have been announced, watched what we could, read the tea leaves on others, and, for the rest, relied on our gut, good casting, and batshit press releases.
A lot of these shows we’ve seen and can confirm are great. Some are here because they have great buzz. Some are on this list because of what they signify at the crossroads of the streaming apocalypse for the future of the industry. Others we expect you’ll be talking about for, let’s say, different reasons.
Here, presented in order of premiere date, are the 20 most exciting new fall TV shows. Godspeed.
On Becoming a God in Central Florida
Aug. 25 at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime
Kirsten Dunst plays a waterpark employee in a down-trodden Orlando suburb in the 1990s. After her husband drowns the family’s finances in a multi-level marketing scheme, rather than be crushed by the pyramid, she crafts a clever way to scale it. Beth Ditto co-stars. We will pause while you set your DVRs.
Wu-Tang: An American Saga
Sept. 4 on Hulu
If Showtime’s four-part documentary series on the seminal rap group wasn’t enough, now Hulu is coming in with a 10-episode dramatization of the Wu-Tang Clan origin story, set in the 1990s. (Fall TV’s hottest recent-history time period!) Founding member RZA, who co-created the series, promises that the series goes even deeper than the documentary, telling reporters earlier this summer that it delves into things the group was “too shy to say in front of a camera.”
Sept. 13 on Netflix
It’s not every fall TV show that counts a Pulitzer Prize-winning story as source material—or a cast this good to tell it. Based on the ProPublica investigation, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” the series centers on a young girl who recants a report she made that she had been raped at knifepoint after police don’t believe her. When detectives in a neighboring state notice a series of rapes with similar details to her original story, they set out to find the truth. Toni Collette and Meritt Wever star as the detectives, with Booksmart breakout Kaitlyn Dever playing the young girl.
Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on FOX
Sometimes network TV gets flak in the age of cable and streaming and dark, disturbing dramas. But, honestly, God bless it. On Prodigal Son, Malcolm Bright is a gifted criminal psychologist, attuned to how killers think because his father was the most notorious of them all, a serial killer named “The Surgeon.” That’s right, friends, MURDER IS THE FAMILY BUSINESS! Michael Sheen stars.
Sept. 24 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC
Broadcast TV never met a pitch it didn’t like about a creepy child who mysteriously appears in a small town with no memory of how he got there. This year’s offering: Emergence, a new drama with a plot that is... well, exactly that. ABC actually rescued the series from NBC, which originally passed on the pilot. We are eternally grateful, as Fargo and Downward Dog’s Allison Tolman is the lead, and any time Tolman is on our TV is a good time.
Carol’s Second Act
Sept. 26 at 9:30 p.m. ET on CBS
Maybe without us even realizing it, Patricia Heaton has become the greatest modern sitcom star. Certainly, she’s the most prolific, basically not having left our TV screens since Everybody Loves Raymond began in 1996—a nine-season run followed by a year on the underrated Back to You and then a monster nine seasons on The Middle. Carol’s Second Act is the perfect showcase for Heaton’s talents, casting her as a woman in her fifties who, after a divorce, joins the ranks of twentysomethings training to be a doctor.
Sept. 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC
It’s basically Pitch Perfect meets GCB starring Bradley Whitford and Anna Camp. That’s it. That’s our pitch. From that one sentence you already know whether this is your favorite new show or something that’ll send you running for the hills.
Sept. 26 at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC
There is no phrase that makes a TV recommendation safer than “executive produced by Michael Schur,” network comedy’s Last Great Hope and creator of The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Parks and Recreation. He’s behind Sunnyside, too, a series starring and created by Kal Penn about a disgraced politician who pivots to helping immigrants in their pursuit of becoming American citizens. Timely, eh?
Sept. 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS
Network TV’s best new comedy stems from an idea that is perhaps not that groundbreaking: Walton Goggins is very attractive. The Justified alum plays against type here as an almost impossibly sweet widower, so involved in his daughters’ recovery that he doesn’t realize he needs to jumpstart his own life as well. With a nudge from his friends, he re-enters the dating pool, shocked to learn that he is its biggest catch: Not a divorcee or playboy, but there for the right reasons. In other words, a unicorn.
Sept. 27 on Netflix
Ryan Murphy’s first Netflix series is a surprisingly understated affair. Yeah, right. Starring Tony-winner Ben Platt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Lange, a red carpet’s worth of beautiful gowns and diamonds, and the most opulent sets you’ve seen since… Ryan Murphy’s last show, it chronicles a privileged, wealthy young Californian male’s upwardly mobile political ambitions.
Bless the Harts
Sept. 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX
We’re just gonna throw a bunch of names at you for this one. The new FOX animated series, which takes place in the same universe as King of the Hill, is created by Emily Spivey (SNL, Wine Country), produced by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (The LEGO Movie, 21 Jump Street), and features the voice cast of Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Jillian Bell, Ike Barinholtz, and The Other Two’s Drew Tarver. Kumail Nanjiani recurs as the voice of Jesus, naturally.
Godfather of Harlem
Sept. 29 at 10 p.m. ET on Epix
Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker stars in this 1960s-set series about notorious real-life crime boss Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson. (His death is the catalyst for the events of the Denzel Washington movie American Gangster.) The series explores Johnson’s influence on his community, as well as his surprising relationship with Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch, reprising the role after playing the activist in Ava DuVernay’s Selma).
Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. ET on FOX
This is the most talked-about fall show among TV critics, but not for all the right reasons. Based in part on the Australian drama series Sisters, Almost Family centers on a girl who discovers that her dad, a fertility doctor, secretly used his own sperm to father over 100 children. Rattled, she starts to forge relationships with her new siblings. In interviews this summer, it’s clear that producers think they’ve landed on a new This Is Us-like series about emotional human connection. The reality that this is a lighthearted dramatization of what appears to be medical rape seems to be lost on them. The question is: Will viewers care?
Back to Life
Nov.10 on Showtime
The new series, which already aired in the U.K., is being called “the next Fleabag.” That’s partly because it is very good, and from a distinct, darkly humorous point of view, thanks to creator and star Daisy Haggard. It also literally took over the time slot in which Fleabag used to air. Comparisons end there with this series, which is about a woman navigating a return to her small hometown after 18 years in prison for a violent crime.
Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW
It speaks volumes about omnipresent producer Greg Berlanti—he of 15 shows airing in the 2018-19 TV season—and his push for racial, gender, and sexual diversity in his series that the monumental milestone of TV’s first live-action lesbian superhero lead character arrives with a whiff of, “About time.” Ruby Rose (Orange Is the New Black) will don the spandex of Kate Kane, better known as Batwoman, in the CW’s latest DC Comics adaptation.
Oct. 16 on Facebook Watch
For all the talk of new major streaming services coming up, don’t forget about the one you’re already too exasperated and overwhelmed to bother watching! After finally producing its first breakout show last year, the Elisabeth Olsen-starring Sorry For Your Loss, Facebook Watch’s next big play will be Limetown, based on the popular podcast about a fictional town where 300 people disappeared at a neuroscience facility. Jessica Biel and Stanley Tucci will star, and, should you need reminding, Biel was very good in The Sinner!
Oct. 18 on Amazon Prime
Based on the popular New York Times column, the new anthology series tells self-contained stories about the different ways we connect and love, romantic or otherwise. Think of it as Black Mirror, but... nice. Each episode features a new cast and new relationships based on actual columns, tugging at different heart strings each time. Anne Hathaway, Cristin Milioti, Tina Fey, Dev Patel, Catherine Keener, John Slattery, and more star.
Nov. 12 on Disney+
I don’t know much about The Mandalorian, a series set in the Star Wars universe starring Narcos’ Pedro Pascal as the titular character. But I do know that it is the big anchor series for the Nov. 12 launch date of the new Disney+ streaming platform, which will be the biggest disruptor yet in the burgeoning streaming wars—at least until we learn anything tangible about Apple’s own TV plans. A host of Disney, Marvel, and children’s content will also premiere the same day, but The Mandalorian seems primed to be the most attention-grabbing, at least in the traditional TV sense... whatever that means.
Nov. 15 on Hulu
Dollface begins with a brutal breakup scene, and then a brutal realization: After spending years off in Boyfriend Land, Jules has lost touch with all her former girlfriends. Dollface takes a unique, sometimes jarringly surreal journey through the well-trodden territory of “why don’t I get along with girlie girls?” and Kat Dennings as Jules couldn’t be a more appealing, more deadpan avatar for the ride.
The Morning Show
This Fall on Apple TV Plus
The industry’s greatest mystery: What the hell is Apple’s TV service? Outside of the litany of big names wooed with millions of dollars—Aniston! Spielberg! Oprah!—nothing is known about how this content will be distributed and how consumers will access it, let alone for how much. All whispers are that the service is still set to launch this fall, ostensibly with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon’s The Morning Show, the only series we’ve seen any actual footage from. And by footage, we mean a B-roll of a TV set with actors’ disembodied voices reciting dialogue seemingly left over from The Newsroom. Apple is either keeping secret a game-changing feat of entertainment brilliance or a total shit show.