Fall TV: Your guide to the best new and returning shows

Grab the popcorn and stay in for the night

Labor Day has come and gone, and this means a couple of things for most people: you can't wear white anymore, festival season is over, and the fall television season is just weeks away from beginning.

While certain shows have already started to trickle out, the season doesn't really begin until mid-September, then running through the beginning of November. These include heavy hitters from legendary showrunners like Shonda Rhimes, Chuck Lorre and Greg Berlanti, and new series that have the potential to be the next great show. The promise of a new season for a super fan or the prospect of a fresh series to get hooked on are just a couple of reasons the fall season is so exciting year after year and 2016 is no exception.

For the major networks, reboot is the key word, as series like MacGyver, Lethal Weapon and Exorcist all premiering this year. It's a conscious decision, too, with ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey saying the network is well aware of how many reboots it was taking on. According to Dungey, however, ABC wouldn't have pursued any reboot if there wasn't a solid idea for a new angle within the concept. It's a sentiment echoed earlier this year by other heads of networks who are looking for shows that can compete for attention alongside new, acclaimed series from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and premium cable channels. Reboots may seem like a grab for views, and while name recognition is important, series like Lethal Weapon and MacGyver actually hold their own.


Of course, there are also a barrage of new series making their way to television that hold nothing but promise. Community's Donald Glover is back on television with his dramedy, Atlanta, about trying to make it in the titular city's iconic rap community. HBO's next possible "it" series is Westworld, about a group of people at a strange amusement park in the mid-west, and it's finally set to debut after multiple delays and a troubled production. Of course, there's also the debut of Netflix and Marvel's third superhero show, Luke Cage, which will finally happen at the end of the month.

As streaming grows, so does the amount of television available to subscribers and this fall season is packed with shows worth checking out. To seperate the good from the bad, the great from the atrocious and the shows that we want to watch versus shows that are just kind of there, Polygon has put together a preview for the shows we're most interested in.


Atlanta: Created, written and starring Donald Glover, the show follows a down-and-out man, Earnest, struggling to make a life for himself in the suburbs of Atlanta. When his cousin becomes an up-and-coming rapper, he decides to jump on board and manage him. What follows is a series of unfortunate events that will turn into a lesson in adulthood for Earnest and take him down the path toward chasing the new version of the American dream.

Premieres: Sept. 6 on FX at 9:30 p.m. ET

Better Things: Starring Louie's Pamela Adlon, Better Things is a dry comedy about a single mom raising three daughters. The series can get into some pretty dark territory, but much like the best parts of Roseanne, there's an honesty to the situations that take place and how families operate that makes the show work. It's just as funny as it is dramatic and is one of the best new shows premiering this fall.

Premieres: Sept. 6 on FX at 10 p.m. ET

One Mississippi: Described by creator, writer and star Tig Notaro as semi-autobiographical, the show follows Notaro as she returns to her hometown in Mississippi after the death of her mother. The show will touch on themes that Notaro became notably famous for after an iconic stand-up comedy routine about her fight with a disease that almost killed her, a rough breakup, and of course, the death of her mother.

Premieres: Sept. 9 on Amazon Prime

Flea Bag: Flea Bag isn't a new show to anyone across the pond, but the beloved British cult comedy is getting a North American release, and there's no longer any excuse not to dive in. The show, which stars actress and comedian Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is about a thirtysomething woman trying to live her day-to-day life in London after experiencing a terrible tragedy. The show is crude, honest and hilarious. Plus, it's only six episodes. This is one that you could binge in a day.

Premieres: Sept. 16, 2016 on Amazon Prime

High Maintenance

High Maintenance: Based on the web series of the same name that first kicked off on Vimeo, the newest HBO comedy follows "The Guy" as he makes his way across New York City delivering weed to different citizens. Much like Broad City, High Maintenance doesn't just use New York City as a backdrop, but instead tells the stories of the different types of people that you come across across the five boroughs. Everyone from the strange neighbor down the hall to the high-powered financial executive is covered in the show, and it's all experienced through the eyes of The Guy.

Premieres: Sept. 16 on HBO at 11 p.m. ET

Good Place: The newest show from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Office, and Parks and Recreation co-creator Mike Schur, The Good Place is a surreal comedy about heaven and anti-hero Ellen's quest to figure out if she actually is good enough to be there. Schur recently said the series was less about religion and more about the moral and ethical choices we make in life, leading up to who and where we are right now. The show stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson in their respective roles as Ellen and the Architect who oversees all of the "Good Place."

Premieres: Sept. 19 at on NBC at 10 p.m. ET.

This is Us: On the surface, This is Us is just a story about three people who share a birthday, but the show is one of the more thought-provoking series that will premiere this season. It stars some pretty heavyweight TV talent, including Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia, and has one of the best twists in recent history. It's heartfelt, if a little cheesy, but it's full of great writing.

Premieres: Sept. 20 on NBC at 10 p.m. ET.

Lethal Weapon: One of the most anticipated reboots of the fall season — and boy is this year full of them — is Fox's Lethal Weapon. The show will follow LAPD officers Roger Murtagh (Daman Wayans) and Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) as they learn to work with one another. Murtagh is a veteran officer who's not going to take crap from anyone and his new partner Riggs is a young, hot-headed rookie. The show is based on the 1987 film of the same name that starred Danny Glover and Mel Gibson.

Premieres: Sept. 21 on FOX at 8 p.m. ET.

Speechless: One of the most unique and heartwarming comedies of the season, Speechless centers on Jennifer, a tough-as-nails mom as she fights for her disabled son to have as normal of a life as he possibly can. The show also introduces and stars Micah Fowler, who suffers from cerebral palsy. It's a 30-minute comedy that manages to get to the heart of each issue they want to tackle about family life, motherhood and love without missing a beat.

Premieres: Sept. 21 on ABC at 8:30 p.m. ET.


Pitch: The concept of this show centers on some heavy topics, and while that's the hook of the series, it's not what makes it worth watching. Pitch tells the story of Ginny Baker, the first female baseball player to play in the major leagues. The show, which was created by Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love), examines issues like gender and racial discrimination in sports, along with addressing the question over whether or not women and men should be in different leagues when it comes to sports.

Premieres: Sept. 22 on FOX at 9 p.m. ET

MacGyver: CBS' reboot of the network's series from 1985 is explosive and action-packed, and for fans of the original looking to sink their teeth back into the show, 2016's MacGyver holds up. It may be too early to claim that this will be the show of the year for a specific audience, but it's definitely going to score big. MacGyver is just goofy enough that it's still fun amidst the ridiculousness and just action-packed that the less-than-stellar acting is passable.

Premieres: Sept. 23 on CBS at 8 p.m. ET.

Exorcist: Created by Jeremy Slater (writer of The Fantastic Four and the upcoming Death Note), Exorcist attempts to be a serialized version of William Blatty's 1971 novel of the same name. Although there are homages to the iconic 1973 film, the horror is slowed down and it's not nearly as blasphemous as the original film was viewed as when it was first released. The show has a slow start, but there are some promising aspects that may keep those curious about where a weekly series about exorcisms goes.

Premieres: Sept. 23 on FOX at 9 p.m. ET

Van Helsing: Although this may sound like a remake or adaptation, but there's a new twist to the series that gives it a bit of an angle in this season of recycled ideas. The show focuses on Vanessa Helsing, the daughter of Abraham Van Helsing after she's resurrected into a post-apocalyptic world and tasked with leading an army of men and women against a plague of vampires that have taken over. It's a Syfy series, so expect there to be some pretty corny writing and special effects, but it does have a promising premise.

Premieres: Sept. 23 on Syfy at 10 p.m. ET

Son of Zorn: The newest comedy coming to Fox's animation block, Son of Zorn, was created by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and stars Saturday Night Live's Jason Sudeikis. The show follows a (cartoon) Barbarian leader who leaves his war-torn village to spend time with his (human) teenage son and try to reconnect with his (human) ex-wife. The concept for Son of Zorn is interesting, but the humor does seem to come in a little flat. Although, with a creative team like Miller and Lord at the helm, there's a very good chance the show will find itself as it goes on.

Premieres: Sept. 25 on FOX at 8:30 p.m. ET

Claire Temple and Mike Colter in Luke Cage Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

Luke Cage: The third series in Marvel and Netflix's five-show plan, Luke Cage takes place in Harlem and follows the titular superhero as he becomes the reluctant hero the city needs. This is one of the most anticipated shows of the season and features some of the best fight choreography on television right now. The show may feature cameos from Jessica Jones and Daredevil, the other two superheroes that Netflix and Marvel have already introduced, as well as an appearance from the next hero, Iron Fist.

Premieres: Sept. 30 on Netflix

Westworld: As Game of Thrones gears up to enter its final two seasons, Westworld looks poised to be HBO's next big series. Based on Michael Crichton's 1978 film of the same name, the show follows a group of people in a dystopian, futuristic dream world run by artificial intelligence. It stars big name actors like Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood, with J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan serving as executive producers.

Premieres: Oct. 2 on HBO at 10 p.m. ET

No Tomorrow: One of the best, most surprising new shows of the fall season is No Tomorrow, which takes the concept of a romantic comedy and adds in a new detail — a man who believes the world is ending. It's charming, eccentric and hilarious, with one of the best new casts on television. It's the perfect palette cleanser for someone who wants to watch a classic CW show — without any superheroes involved.

Premieres: Oct. 4 on CW at 8:30 p.m. ET

Chance: Easily a favorite new show of the season, Chance follows a forensic neuro-psychiatrist (played by Hugh Laurie) in San Francisco who stumbles into an underground world full of police corruption, mental illness, and fraud. The show doesn't just use San Francisco as a backdrop, but like previous series have done with New York City, it incorporates the problems that inhabit the city and explores them at length. It's dark and disturbing, but Chance touches on a couple of very important topics and gives each one the critical attention it deserves.

Premieres: Oct. 19 on Hulu

Dirk Gently: Based on the Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency series written by sci-fi cult figure Douglas Adams, the show follows the time-traveling detective Dirk Gently and his reluctant sidekick Todd as they attempt to solve the strangest of crimes. The show stars Elijah Wood and Samuel Barnett, and is being executive produced by Max Landis.

Premieres: Oct. 23 on BBC America at 10 p.m. ET

Premiere dates for returning shows

Just because there are a bunch of new series headed to television this year — seriously, there are so many new shows — doesn't mean that the most important ones in your life are disappearing. To make it a little easier to find out when your favorite shows are coming back, we've included the premiere dates of some of the biggest shows on television returning this fall season.

American Horror Story premieres: Sept. 14 on FX at 10 p.m. ET

Gotham premieres: Sept. 19 on FOX at 8 p.m. ET

Big Bang Theory premieres: Sept. 19 on CBS at 8 p.m. ET

Lucifer premieres: Sept. 19 on FOX at 9 p.m. ET

Brooklyn Nine-Nine premieres: Sept. 20 on FOX at 8 p.m. ET

New Girl premieres: Sept. 20 on FOX at 8:30 p.m. ET

Scream Queens premieres: Sept. 20 on FOX at 9 p.m. ET

Agents of SHIELD premieres: Sept. 20 on ABC at 10 p.m. ET

Modern Family premieres: Sept. 21 on ABC at 9 p.m. ET

Blackish premieres: Sept. 21 on ABC at 9:30 p.m. ET

Transparent premieres: Sept. 23 on Amazon

Family Guy premieres: Sept. 25 on FOX at 9 p.m. ET

The Simpsons premieres: Sept. 25 on FOX at 8 p.m. ET

Last Man on Earth premieres: Sept. 25 on FOX at 9:30 p.m. ET

Bob's Burgers premieres: Sept. 25 on FOX at 7:30 p.m. ET

The Flash premieres: Oct. 4 on CW at 8 p.m. ET

Arrow premieres: Oct. 5 on CW at 8 p.m. ET

Supergirl premieres: Oct. 10 on CW at 8 p.m. ET

Legends of Tomorrow premieres: Oct. 13 on CW at 8 p.m. ET

Supernatural premieres: Oct. 13 on CW at 9 p.m. ET