Each fall season, the major networks and streamers dump hours and hours of new shows on our laps, and we, the laid back, just-need-to-be-entertained audience tries to keep up. Meanwhile, a number of series that survived past season 1 try to re-catch our eyes.
Which shows should you either catch up and pick up with for season 2 or continue with after stellar first seasons? Whether they’re deep explorations of the human psyche, comedies that have been on so long you forgot they were or guilty pleasures of the most bombastic order, these are the underrated hits of the 2018-2019 season that absolutely deserve your time.
Titans (season 2)
Returns Sept. 6
DC Universe’s Titans was much better than you would have guessed from its profanity-laced trailers. The first season ended on a cliffhanger and the second season is introducing enough new characters for an entire secondary team — from Superboy to Batman — and plowing right ahead with its take on the younger generation of DC Universe heroes.
OK, if you watch one show on DC Universe, watch Doom Patrol, but as long as you’ve got the subscription running, you could do so much worse than Titans, especially if you’re a die-hard comics fans. —Susana Polo
The Deuce (season 3)
Returns Sept. 9
The first two seasons of The Deuce, David Simon and George Pelecanos’ exploration of sex work on the streets of New York City and the pornography industry’s evolution during the 1970s and 1980s, seemed to fly under the radar. (In fairness, Simon’s shows can sometimes feel like homework. But what greater draw is there than porn?) Here’s hoping that the third and final season, which will bring the HBO series into the ’80s to focus on the AIDS epidemic and the advent of videocassettes, will be a coming-out party.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is giving one of the finest unheralded performances on TV as prostitute-turned-pornographer Candy. As turf wars heat up in Manhattan, will the Martino brothers (James Franco and ... James Franco) ever be able to get out from under the thumb of the Mafia? And will it all be rendered moot as the NYPD and City Hall work together to “clean up” the Deuce once and for all? —Samit Sarkar
9-1-1 (season 3)
Returns Sept. 23
Ryan Murphy’s outlandish rescue series is not “good,” but I watch it. Maybe you should, too. It now has Ronda Rousey, and it almost ate her finger. The end. —Dave Tach
Single Parents (season 2)
Returns Sept. 25
I’ll never understand why SNL let Taran Killam go. The man is pure charm! So one might be forgiven for expecting his new ABC sitcom to get by solely on that charm. But Single Parents’ showrunners, New Girl’s Elizabeth Meriwether and J.J. Philbin, put together an ensemble cast that is every bit as charming as Killam. (Brad Garrett! Precocious children! Leighton Meester, who is really funny!)
Sitcoms rarely have spectacular first seasons — it takes a while to figure out characters and relationships — but Single Parents showed enough potential that I’ll be back for season 2, if only because I can’t get enough of Devin Trey Campbell. —Emily Heller
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (season 14)
Returns Sept. 25
There are plenty of shows about terrible people doing terrible things to each other, but It’s Always Sunny takes that premise to its razors edge. It works, though, precisely because the characters are irredeemable. In contrast to a show like Succession, Mac, Dee, Charlie, Frank, and Dennis are rarely rewarded for their selfish decisions, and usually end up more miserable as a result. Sure, it’s debatable to call the longest running sitcom since 1966 underrated, but it’s truly remarkable that one of the weirdest, most uncomfortable shows on television is getting a 14th season. —EH
Superstore (season 5)
Returns Sept. 26
Ok, seriously, why aren’t you watching Superstore? —EH
Kidding (season 2)
Returns Nov. 6
The first season of Kidding was singular, balancing the brightness of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood-esque world of Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time with the darkness harbored in the heart of its anchor, Jeff Piccirillo (Jim Carrey). Following his separation from his wife, the death of one of his twin sons (Cole Allen), and the sense that control over his own show was slipping away from him, Jeff’s life was in havoc at the beginning of the series. The show practically weaponizes Carrey as we dive into this beloved children’s show staple’s mind, using his elastic features and our collective impression of him as a funnyman to make it all the heartbreaking when the whimsical layers of Puppet Time peel back to reveal that Jeff is just as human — just as fallible, just as selfish, just as mean — as anyone else. The first season ended on a cliffhanger that irrevocably proves as much, and the second season (which boasts Ariana Grande as a guest star) is set to take things to the next level. —Karen Han