50 New Fall TV Shows Worth Watching: ‘Will & Grace,’ Lady Gaga, Twin James Francos & More
We winnowed down the 50 most exciting new series, including more ‘Will & Grace’ and ‘Curb,’ a James Franco porn drama, and an adorable spinoff of ‘Big Bang.’ God save our DVRs.
The television industry, producing shows at a clip we’ve never seen, has one message for you: Quit your job. How else could you possibly keep up with the never-ending stream of content coming your way—and nearly all of it star-studded, expensively produced, and, for various reasons, worth your time.
We started making a list of every show, new and returning, premiering this fall, but when the list crossed 100 shows before we were even through October on the calendar, we had a panic attack and decided to focus solely on the crop of new series (and limited series with new installments) competing for your attention.
Here are the 50 most intriguing—including revivals of Will & Grace, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and TRL, a James Franco porn drama, an adorable spin-off of The Big Bang Theory, and must-see projects featuring the likes of Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Seinfeld, and the imitable Tiffany “New York” Pollard—all presented in order of premiere dates.
Godspeed, friends, and solidarity in DVR-ing.
American Horror Story: Cult
Tuesday, Sept. 5 on FX
The seventh installment of American Horror Story reads like such a Ryan Murphy parody that transcends any reflexive disgust and becomes, sight-unseen, iconic. There’s post-election anti-Trump rage-induced paranoia; Sarah Paulson and Allison Pill play lesbians; and for some reason creepy clowns terrorize everyone. Plus, at some point, Lena Dunham will show up. Spooky!
The Confession Tapes
Friday, Sept. 8 on Netflix
Making a Murderer was a bonafide phenomenon. The Keepers was actually good. Now, Netflix is attempting to capitalize on its true-crime mojo with a more episodic approach to the genre with The Confession Tapes, which investigates cases in which people convicted of murder claim their confessions were coerced, involuntary, or false.
Sunday, Sept. 10 on HBO
The Wire mastermind David Simon turns his urban-focused attention to detail to ’70s New York, porn, and prostitution. (Yep, you read that right.) James Franco pull double-duty as twins, Method Man shows up as a pimp named Rodney, and, in a fabulous spitfire performance, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Candy, a world-weary prostitute with a glint in her eye for adult filmmaking.
Sunday, Sept. 10 on FOX
We’re getting our first new Star Trek series in over a decade later this month and, it turns out, a comedic homage to the franchise created by and starring Seth MacFarlane to tide you over until then. Your initial reaction to that sentence should pretty much dictate whether this one’s for you.
Top of the Lake: China Girl
Sunday, Sept. 10 on Sundance
Can any actress boast a more epic run of prestige TV dramas—The West Wing, Mad Men, Top of the Lake, The Handmaid’s Tale—than Elisabeth Moss? Back in 2013, Moss proved herself outside of the walls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce when she went full-accent as a New Zealand-born detective living in Australia in the first installment of Jane Campion’s sweepingly gorgeous, emotionally brutal crime series. China Girl casts Moss opposite Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie and Nicole Kidman as a lesbian in a grey rat’s nest of a wig and have you set your DVR yet?
Thursday, Sept. 14 on Sundance Now
Should the swift end of Top of the Lake (the series’ six episodes will air across three consecutive nights) leave you jonesing for more prestige climb thrillers and accents, then Sundance Now has your fix with Riviera, a 10-part British drama starring Julia Stiles as the new wife of a billionaire who is killed in a yacht explosion. Also blowing up: all his secrets!
Friday, Sept. 15 on Netflix
Suffice it to say that American Vandal is the only fall series that stars a penis. Well, sort of. The true crime docuseries craze has reached the point of satire, with this series chronicling a (fictional) investigation into a high school prank that left 27 faculty cars desecrated by phallic graffiti—and the troubled senior who may have been unjustly expelled.
The Vietnam War
Sunday, Sept. 17 on PBS
In what Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are calling their “most ambitious project yet,” the acclaimed documentary filmmakers (The War, The Civil War) is giving their event treatment to the Vietnam War with a 10-part, 18-hour documentary epic that was over 10 years in the making.
Jerry Before Seinfeld
Tuesday, Sept. 19 on Netflix
For “Jerry Before Seinfeld,” the first of two Netflix stand-up specials guaranteed as part of the comedian’s mammoth $100 million deal with the streaming giant/money minter, Jerry Seinfeld heads back to New York’s Comic Strip comedy club, where he launched his career. In an Instagram post, he teased that the special will discuss how he got started in comedy in the ’70s—and therefore maybe also “what’s the deal” with those glasses.
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Friday, Sept. 22 on Netflix
You had me at Gaga documentary. Director Chris Moukarbel (Banksy Does New York, Me @ The Zoo) followed the singer in the lead-up to her monster Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, but instead focuses on an emotional Lady Gaga offstage as she reckons with the loneliness that comes with celebrity and invites fans in to the most intimate look yet at what makes her tick.
Star Trek: Discovery
Sunday, Sept. 24 on CBS All Access
The first new Star Trek series since 2001’s Enterprise boldly goes where, well, only one other show has gone before: a launch on CBS’ digital service, All Access, where it will join The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight. The series will reportedly take place in the years just before the original Star Trek series, and will follow its lead for trailblazing, diverse casting, including Michelle Yeoh, Maulik Pancholy, and Sonequa Martin-Green as first officer.
Me, Myself & I
Monday, Sept. 25 on CBS
Fresh off his nine-year run on Saturday Night Live, Bobby Moynihan stars in the time-jumping comedy that examines an everyman named Alex Riley’s life over a 50-year span, focusing in on three formative periods: as an awkward 14-year-old in 1991, a 40-year-old in present day, and a 65-year-old in the year 2042. John Larroquette plays the older version of Moynihan’s character and newcomer Jack Dylan Grazer the younger version. That the three of them look nothing alike should, apparently, not faze you at all.
Monday, Sept. 25 on NBC
The Brave is the first of four military dramas unspooling on the major networks this fall—a genre I lovingly call “hoo-rahmas”—capitalizing on what executives estimate is a post-election craving among more socially conservative audiences for less Trump-skeptical programming and, apparently, excessive amounts of military heroism. The four dramas are borderline indistinguishable. This one stars Anne Heche!
The Good Doctor
Monday, Sept. 25 on ABC
Amidst the flood of TV reboots and revivals, it shows remarkable restraint that ABC went the route of creating an original “genius young doctor” drama instead of just bringing back Doogie Howser. Sprinkling a little twist to the Doogie formula, The Good Doctor stars Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) as a surgical prodigy who also has autism, leaving some at the hospital to wonder if he can handle the bedside, social responsibilities of being, um, a good doctor.
The Opposition With Jordan Klepper
Monday, Sept. 25 on Comedy Central
The former Daily Show correspondent succeeds Stephen Colbert and Larry Wilmore in the coveted post-Daily Show time slot, and like those predecessors, his show promises to offer a (slightly gimmicky) commentary on media—in this case satirizing the laughable extremism poisoning both the alt-right and “lamestream” media.
Monday, Sept. 25 on CBS
Cynically, it was only a matter of time before The Big Bang Theory cash cow spun off into its own cash calf. Refreshingly, Young Sheldon has enough heart, creative independence, and integrity to stand alone. Big Little Lies cutie Iain Armitage is the younger version of Jim Parsons’ Sheldon, as Parsons narrates his time as a 9-year-old genius learning to fit in at a high school in East Texas.
Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Tuesday, Sept. 26 on NBC
Have we mentioned yet that the true crime genre is popular? Looking for a piece of the People v. O.J. Simpson pie, NBC is slapping that iconic Dick Wolf dunh-dunh sound effect on one of the most sensational trials of the 1990s: the ghastly murders of Jose and Mary Louise “Kitty” Menendez by their two sons. The wonderfully random cast includes Anthony Edwards, Josh Charles, Heather Graham, and Edie Falco giving Nicole Kidman fierce competition for fall TV’s greatest wig.
Wednesday, Sept. 27 on Sundance
Two of our loveliest British actors—Downtown Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt and UnREAL alum Ioan Gruffudd—star in a psychological thriller about a teacher who is just out of a relationship and a handsome surgeon whose son attends her school. According to the uber-dramatic, laughably vague series logline, flirtation leads to a date and eventually “consequences” that neither could imagine, raising the question, “Are there two sides to every story?”
Wednesday, Sept. 27 on CBS
I mean, you read the title so you get the gist. Fresh off a seemingly interminable run on Bones, David Boreanaz leads the ensemble, reassuring us that in these volatile and uncertain times, at least we can count on David Boreanaz always being on television.
The Rundown With Robin Thede
Thursday, Sept. 28 on BET
Diversity in late-night remains one of the most important—and, because of its relentless lack of forward movement, frustrating—talking points in television. So it would merit all our attention that former Nightly Show head writer Robin Thede is debuting her own news satire series on BET even if Chris Rock wasn’t executive producing. (Oh, and by the way he is.)
Will & Grace
Thursday, Sept. 28 on NBC
It’s been over a decade since Will, Jack, Karen, and Grace completely changed how television and American mainstream culture in general looked at and accepted the gay community—and, as it were, since its flash-forward original series finale polarized fans. This fall’s much anticipated revival should placate those fans by, essentially, pretending the finale never existed. And so bullish is NBC that the Must See TV reboot will resonate that it renewed the revival for another season before any footage was even shot. Thinkpiece culture is certainly more rampant now than it was during the show’s first run, which should be interesting. But so is our desire for a good laugh.
Friday, Sept. 29 on Netflix
Literally all your comedy faves star in this new Netflix series—John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, Maya Rudolph, Jenny Slate, Jordan Peele—but the catch is they’re all animated. The goal is to take viewers on a raunchy comedic trip through the horror of puberty. In one clip for example, Mulaney’s Andrew is visited by hormone monster at a sleepover. (Quell any fears of gender inequity: a hormone monstress exists as well.)
The Magic School Bus Rides Again
Friday, Sept. 29 on Netflix
Few ideas sound as perfect on paper as a reboot of the classic animated children series The Magic School Bus with Saturday Night Live Emmy winner and vocal chameleon Kate McKinnon lending voice to eccentric elementary school teacher Ms. Frizzle. All ’90s kids have fond memories of the hybrid educational-whimsical cartoon series and books they’re based on, and McKinnon’s signature mischievous kookiness should make her the perfect recipient of Ms. Frizzle’s red bouffant from Lily Tomlin, who voiced the peculiar teacher in the original series.
Friday, Sept. 29 on ABC
This is ABC’s third Marvel TV series and its biggest gamble yet that any of us are invested in their corner of the Marvel universe: In addition to its two-episode premiere on Sept. 29, its unusual rollout will be prefaced by a two-week run on more than 1,000 IMAX screens starting Sept. 1. It’s a lot of fanfare for a series with advance buzz that, to put it delicately, could use some superhuman rescuing.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Sunday, Oct. 1 on HBO
We don’t need to tell you why you’re going to love every second of these first new episodes of the Larry David HBO comedy since 2011. Instead, we’ll just entice you with its laundry list of exciting guest stars, including: Bryan Cranston, Jimmy Kimmel, Lauren Graham, Nick Offerman, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Elizabeth Perkins, Carrie Brownstein, and, of course, Richard Lewis.
Sunday, Oct. 1 on FOX
In shorthand, Ghosted’s been referred to as a sort of sitcom version of The X-Files. There’s Craig Robinson’s skeptic, Adam Scott’s true believer, and paranormal mysteries to investigate. A premise this gimmicky leans heavily on writing and chemistry, which the pilot, at the very least, has in spades.
Ten Days in the Valley
Sunday, Oct. 1 on ABC
Ten Days in the Valley was inspired by a nightmare. Series creator Tassie Cameron (Rookie Blue) was writing late one night in her writer’s shed outside her house when she panicked that her daughter had been kidnapped while she was out. Her worst fear now manifests itself as the plot of Ten Days in the Valley, which stars Kyra Sedgwick as Cameron’s on-screen counterpart, takes place over 10 days, and, blessedly, solves the mystery by the season finale—or so we’ve been promised.
Wisdom of the Crowd
Sunday, Oct. 1 on CBS
On Person of Interest, Jeremy Piven plays a tech genius who develops an app that allows users to crowdsource the solving of mysteries. If that logline makes your head spin, may we tantalize you with the news of Parenthood standout and all-around delight Monica Potter—a reason to tune into just about anything—as Piven’s co-star?
Monday, Oct. 2 on CBS
Mark Feurstein, one of those actors you swear you recognize from something but can’t for the life of you remember what (probably the posters for Royal Pains), co-created this semi-autobiographical sitcom with his wife, about a grown man who moves into an apartment flanked by his parents and his brother and sister-in-law on either side. Hijinks ensue!
Monday, Oct. 2 on FOX
Marvel continues its television domination with this X-Men series about parents (Amy Acker and Stephen Moyer) who discover that their children are mutants and must work to protect them from the government. This one, though not perfect, is infinitely better than Inhumans, likely because X-Men director Bryan Singer produces and directs the pilot.
Total Request Live
Monday, Oct. 2 on MTV
It’s been practically an entire generation since MTV focused on music, creating tempered hopes for the reboot of turn-of-the-millennium staple Total Request Live, the networks’ daily (iconic) video countdown. The original run lived in a pop culture wonderland populated by the likes of Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Nelly, Kid Rock, Rage Against the Machine, and Destiny’s Child, all co-existing like some IRL bizarre party playlist. More, TRL represented the opportunity for intimate interaction with fans (hello, Mariah Carey and her ice cream cart) that today’s social media landscape doesn’t need the show to facilitate. Nonetheless, nostalgia does wonders in drumming up excitement.
Kevin (Probably) Saves the World
Tuesday, Oct. 3 on ABC
Some Kevins can wait. Some Kevins probably save the world. And others (this one) just writes about them. The wonky title is a last-minute change from The Gospel of Kevin, which was, honestly, just as likable as star Jason Ritter, who plays the hapless titular Kevin—a man whose sudden ability to communicate with God rescues him from a self-destructive downward spiral.
Tuesday, Oct. 3 on ABC
Imagine this: Someone wholly unqualified runs for office as a publicity stunt and to the surprise of everyone—himself included—actually wins. No, The Mayor is not a Donald Trump origin story, but instead chronicles an aspiring rapper’s reckoning with public office when his attention-getting campaign goes the way of Trump. (One of the comedy’s surprising highlights: Lea Michele as the rapper-turned-mayor’s chief of staff.)
Saturday, Oct. 7 on HBO
After all this time, what made Steven Spielberg finally agree to a documentary about his career? “I can only guess that turning 70 is a turning point for most people,” says filmmaker Susan Lacy, who was granted unprecedented, intimate access to Spielberg and his collaborators for the HBO documentary—she spent more than 30 hours interviewing Spielberg alone. At least one surprising tidbit to emerge from their conversations: Spielberg’s least favorite Indiana Jones film is Temple of Doom. Who knew?!
Monday, Oct. 9 on The CW
This hoo-rahma entry sprinkles some CW trademarks—conspiracy, soapy romantic entanglements, youth—into the military genre, with the series about Army helicopter pilots, a dramatic and tragic mission, and PTSD also boasting one more element to set it apart: It’s the only female-driven series of the bunch.
Wednesday, Oct. 11 on The CW
Maybe it’s smart to, amidst a revival of primetime soap operas praised as “in the vein of Dynasty,” just simply remake the ’80s crowning achievement of family feuding, catfights, and shoulder pads. Or maybe it’s a fool’s errand to think the CW could modernize what is both a glorious relic of its time, but also timeless in its own right. Brand recognition can be a bonus or a liability, two potential fates that will duke it out by the lily pond this October.
I Love You, America
Thursday, Oct. 12 on Hulu
When Sarah Silverman set out to do her own Daily Show/Last Week Tonight/Chelsea-style topical news talk show, she told The Daily Beast the one way she hoped to differentiate herself: “There are a lot of brilliant shows out there that are my favorite shows, but they connect with likeminded people,” she said. “My hope is to connect with un-likeminded people and expose to them, and to us, that we’re the same.” It’s a personal mission for Silverman, who’s been doing just that on Twitter throughout the election and its aftermath. Now we just have to see how she translates such idealism to TV.
Friday, Oct. 13 on Netflix
Almost four years after David Fincher changed television as we know it by directing the first episode of Netflix’s House of Cards, ushering in an era of streaming service domination, film auteurs flocking to TV—both in front of and behind the camera—and seemingly endless budgets, he returns with a crime drama about FBI agents (one played by Jonathan Groff!) in a serial crime unit that studies what makes serial killers and psychopaths tick. No word yet on how often Groff will deliver his lines directly to camera.
Sunday, Oct. 15 on Showtime
How does an up-and-coming black comedian navigate the minefields on the way to mainstream stardom—becoming “white famous”—without losing credibility in his community and selling out? That’s the question at the crux of White Famous, which stars Jay Pharoah and is executive produced by Jamie Foxx, who loosely inspired the series and also co-stars as himself… in a cheerleader’s skirt. *Sets DVR.*
Too Funny to Fail
Saturday, Oct. 21 on Hulu
In 1996, ABC launched the sketch comedy series The Dana Carvey Show, headlined by the comedian at the peak of his fame fresh off Saturday Night Live and a slew of films in the ’90s. It was co-created by SNL MVP writer Robert Smigel. Its writers room featured an eye-popping roster of future comedy greats, including Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Louis C.K., Charlie Kaufman, Jon Glaser, and Robert Carlock. Yet it lasted just eight episodes. Your reactionary how in the hell?! That’s the crux of Hulu’s forthcoming documentary.
Monday, Oct. 23 on VH1
Sort of like a Halloween-themed outing of Surreal Life, the crown jewel of VH1’s iconic mid-2000s reality TV trash—a label that could not be given more lovingly—Scared Famous moves 10 of the network’s greatest reality TV stars into a haunted house and lets mayhem ensue. There are fun names on the list—Drag Race winner Alaska, America’s Next Top Model vet Eva Marcille—but none rival the legend herself, Tiffany “New York” Pollard.
At Home With Amy Sedaris
Tuesday, Oct. 24 on truTV
No brain in show business works quite like actress (Strangers With Candy) and expert crafter (Simple Times: Crafts for People) Amy Sedaris’. So when she announced her new TV show by teasing that the concept has been brewing in her brain for years, it was cause for excitement. We don’t know quite what to make of the plan for a hybrid hospitality/variety/talk show—Martha Stewart meets Jimmy Fallon?—but, honestly, that’s more reason to tune in.
The Trixie & Katya Show
Wednesday, Nov. 1 on Viceland
If you’ve ever watched RuPaul’s Drag Race you may have wondered why there’s never been a spin-off focusing on one (or all!) of the queens. Remedying that, in its own madcap way, is The Trixie & Katya Show, in which Drag Race MVPs Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova host a “hilarious hybrid of late night, daytime, and advice.” Interestingly, it won’t air on VH1 or Logo, which aired various Drag Race seasons, but on Viceland. Oh the shade, honey.
Thursday, Nov. 2 on CBS
The campy 1975 series is given a shot of adrenaline and a slick, muscular makeover, the latter owed to Shemar Moore’s peak action hero performance when his character is unexpectedly put in charge of an L.A. Special Weapons and Tactical unit in the aftermath of an accidental shooting that puts race relations square in the spotlight.
Friday, Nov. 3 on Netflix
Blessed be the fruit of Margaret Atwood, whose 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale inspired the most harrowing, resonant, and astonishingly produced TV series of 2017, and whose 1996 novel Alias Grace will now be adapted into a six-part Netflix miniseries. About a woman in 1843 convicted of a double homicide—though debate rages over whether she was an innocent witness—the series stars Sarah Gadon, Anna Paquin, Zachary Levi, and my anxious eyeballs.
Sunday, Nov. 5 on Showtime
Rising Hollywood multihyphenate Frankie Shaw writes, directs, produces, stars in, and, in some ways, lives SMILF, an unflinching comedy series that chronicles a twentysomething Southie girl’s struggle with relationships, sex, her career, and, in a turn of events, the realities of raising a child as a young, single mom. All that, and… drum roll, please… none other Rosie O’Donnell, in her first-ever series regular role, playing her mom.
The Long Road Home
Tuesday, Nov. 7 on Nat Geo
Based on ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz’s bestseller, The Long Road Home is one of National Geographic’s most ambitious scripted miniseries. It chronicles the events of “Black Sunday,” the 2004 incident in which a platoon was ambushed in Baghdad—which many consider to be the turning point of the Iraq War.
Tuesday, Nov. 14 on Hulu
The number of comparisons people have tried to shoehorn into a description of Future Man—“like The Last Starfighter meets The Terminator meets Back to the Future with a little Children of Men and some Quantum Leap”—should signal how original the series is: a Seth Rogen produced comedy in which Josh Hutcherson and Eliza Coupe travel through time to prevent the extinction of humanity. The biggest unanswered question: What’s with Seth Rogen’s obsession with the apocalypse?
Wednesday, Nov. 22 on Netflix
The Steven Soderbergh Is Not Retired Anymore tour continues with Godless, a western starring Jeff Daniels as the leader of a band of outlaws and Michelle Dockery as the hardened widower harboring the man on the run who betrayed him.
She’s Gotta Have It
Thursday, Nov. 23 on Netflix
Fall’s astonishing wooing of big-screen talent to TV concludes with She’s Gotta Have It, in which Spike Lee heads to Netflix for a 10-episode contemporary update of his groundbreaking 1986 indie film. Lee famously shot his breakthrough effort over 12 scorching days in the summer of 1985—suffice it to say this update will see him working his magic with the added help of some of that Netflix money.