Television shows: They’re like movies, but viewed from the safety of your home.
Though a few premieres and productions were delayed due to COVID-19 concerns, TV remains the ol’ reliable of show business, with a flurry of new and returning series set for the next three months. While they can’t offer the exact comfort of a tailored-to-coronavirus Parks and Recreation special of Freeform’s Love in the Time of Corona, the fall premieres promise the right balance of distraction, action, and introspection — and most of it’s on demand so you can still watch the presidential debates.
The fall TV shows are coming from every direction. There are streaming exclusives set for Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu, and traditional cable series hoping to muscle their way into the on-demand zeitgeist. There are long-awaited returns (Fargo is back!), long-awaited finales (Supernatural is actually ending!), and long-awaited (?) extensions of long-running franchises (There’s a new Walking Dead show!).
We might just watch them all. You, with a life, can be a little picky. Here’s what to watch out for.
Raised By Wolves (Sept. 3, HBO Max)
From writer Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners) and director Ridley Scott, Raised By Wolves might as well be called Alien: Covenant: The TV Show. Channeling Scott’s obsessions with man’s creation, sci-fi spirituality, and absolutely bloody mayhem, this one-hour drama finds two androids landing on the distant planet Kepler-22B in hopes of birthing a new generation of off-world terrans. At the same time, a pair of Earthly “anarchist” soldiers smuggle their way onto the ship of a religious sect looking for answers in the stars. Their paths all collide in what will either be the next Game of Thrones or a cult favorite whispered about for ages. It’s huge, it’s bizarre, it’s hyper-violent, and there’s endless potential — if it finds an audience. —Matt Patches
The Boys, season 2 (Sept. 4, Amazon Video)
Picking up from the twist ending of season 1, Amazon’s razor-sharp superhero satire tackles everything from white supremacy to corporate woke-isms and the collected works of Billy Joel in its second season. In reimagining Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic book series for 2020, showrunner Eric Kripke (Supernatural) makes ex-CIA operative Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) a bad man who is also our hero, Homelander (Antony Starr) an even worse man who everyone else thinks is the hero, and both of them familiar reflections of voices in the Trump era. In that way, The Boys season 2 is a total miracle: a show that’s pitch black and “twisted” but with meaning. The laughs are huge, the shocks are affecting, and you never know what’s coming at any turn. With the first three episodes premiering on Sept. 4 before rolling out episodically on Fridays, it’s also a show that will keep delivering all fall. —MP
Away (Sept. 4, Netflix)
It’s Hilary Swank’s turn to be sad in space! In the upcoming Netflix series, created by playwright Andrew Hinderaker, Swank plays an astronaut embarking on a three-year mission to Mars. Much of the trailer is dedicated to her relationship with her husband (Josh Charles) and teenage daughter (Talitha Bateman). According to Netflix’s official summary, “It is a series about hope, humanity and how ultimately, we need one another if we are to achieve impossible things.” —Emily Heller
Julie and the Phantoms (Sept. 10, Netflix)
Netflix is aggressively trying its hand at every genre under the sun. This time around, the streaming service is taking a stab at the classic Disney Channel Original Series — bringing on DCOM veteran and icon Kenny Ortega as producer. The show is based on a Brazilian series of the same name. It follows the titular Julie, a young musician who’s coping with the loss of her mother, as she meets three hot boy band members… who happen to be ghosts. Julie teams up with the Phantoms (haha, get it) to rediscover her love of music and help them cross on over to the other side. —Petrana Radulovic
We Are Who We Are (Sept. 14, HBO)
Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria filmmaker Luca Guadagnino returns with this realist, eight-episode drama about two American kids who live, love, and thrive on a U.S. military base. According to HBO’s description, Jack Dylan Grazer (It) stars as 14-year-old Fraser, who moves from New York to a military base in Italy with his mothers, Sarah (Chloë Sevigny) and Maggie (Alice Braga). There he meets Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón), who has basically grown up on the base. Their connection sparks a set of events that should fall right in Guadagnino’s wheelhouse. —MP
Ratched (Sept. 18, Netflix)
A Ryan Murphy project starring Sarah Paulson in a mental asylum sounds like a case of deja vu. But while there is no American Horror Story season 10 premiere set just yet, Ratched will have to hold us over. The miniseries is a prequel to 1975’s Academy Award winning One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, giving an origin story to the fearsome, controlling Nurse Ratched. Paulson, of course, plays Nurse Ratched herself. The show follows her rise to power in the psychiatric hospital. —PR
Pen15 season 2 (Sept. 18, Hulu)
Season 1 of Hulu’s Pen15 distinctly captured the experience of middle school in the early aughts, from chatting on AOL Instant Messenger to crying after one sip of beer. Created by and starring real life BFFs Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine as fictionalized versions of their pre-teen selves, the show is gross and silly and cringe-inducing and heartwarming all at once. A season 2 trailer promises even more embarrassing moments, devastating crushes, and declarations of undying friendship. Konkle and Erskine are a delight, but be warned: to love Pen15 is to submit to the mortifying ideal of being known. —EH
The Comey Rule (Sept. 27, Showtime)
Election fever is in the air, and what better way to celebrate the biggest election of anyone’s lifetime than reliving the October surprise of the 2016 edition? Starring Jeff Daniels as former FBI Director James Comey and Brendan Gleeson as President Trump, the two-part series is a ripped-from-the-headlines saga that should give you PTSD nightmares, regardless of party. —MP
Fargo season 4 (Sept. 27, FX/Hulu)
Fargo is back for a fourth season that no one was completely sure it would get. This time around, the Noah Hawley-created anthology show is setting its sights on a mob war in 1950s Kansas City, which means you can expect loud jazz and a lot of guns. As with the show’s other seasons, this one has an all-star cast that will jump in an out of the story including Timothy Olyphant, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Jack Huston, Jason Schwartzman, and leading the charge as the season’s main character is none other than Chris Rock. While season 3 didn’t exactly meet the absurdly high bar of the previous two seasons, early trailers make it look like this latest story might recapture the show’s strange brand of magic. —Austen Goslin
Bob’s Burgers season 11 (Sept. 27, Fox)
Bob, Linda, Tina, Gene, and Louise are back for the 11th season of Bob’s Burgers, Fox’s animated sitcom about the weird, wonderful Belcher family. There isn’t a single “bad” season throughout the course of its entire 10-year run, even as the tone has shifted slowly away from the “edgier” storylines of the first few seasons into distinctly wholesome territory (the fart jokes have stayed consistent though.)
Any Bob’s Burgers fan will tell you that part of why the show works so well is that voice actors record together, meaning they’re able to riff and play off each others’ energy. But because of social distancing guidelines around the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the voice acting in season 11 had to be recorded from home. Whether that will have an effect on the vibe of season 11 remains to be seen, but we trust this team to pull it together. (The pandemic also delayed the release of the long-awaited Bob’s Burgers movie, which is now tentatively due out on April 9, 2021.) —EH
Good Lord Bird (Oct. 4, Showtime)
Ethan Hawke stars as abolitionist John Brown with Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs costarring as Frederick Douglass in Showtime’s upcoming adaptation of James McBride’s 2013 novel, The Good Lord Bird. According to production company Blumhouse, the limited event series is, like the novel, “told through the perspective of Onion (Joshua Caleb Johnson), a fictional enslaved boy, who is part of John Brown’s motley crew of abolitionist soldiers during the time of Bleeding Kansas, eventually participating in the famous 1859 raid on the Army depot at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Brown’s raid failed to initiate the slave revolt he intended, but was the instigating event that started the American Civil War.” The official trailer promises “All of this is true...most of it happened.” —EH
The Walking Dead: The World Beyond (Oct. 4, AMC)
Have you heard? The Walking Dead is for kids now. The latest spinoff of the sprawling comic franchise follows a band of young adults who grew up inside the walls of a protected city, but venture out into the unknown to encounter a world full of undead. At the 2019 Comic-Con, The Walking Dead’s chief content officer Scott Gimple teased the series as a kind of Lord of the Flies with zombies. “We’re going to see some of these kids become heroes, and some becomes villains,” Gimple said at the time. —MP
Swamp Thing (Oct. 6, CW)
DC Universe Original Swamp Thing, based on the character popularized by Alan Moore and already adapted into one memorable television series, is coming to The CW this fall. First airing in May, 2019 on DC Entertainment’s standalone streaming service, the show was canceled a week after its first episode aired, despite positive reviews. Now, you’ll be able to watch the adventures of Abby Arcane and Alec Holland — or maybe the swamp monster that thinks it’s Alec Holland? — without a DC Universe subscription. —SP
The Haunting of Bly Manor (Oct. 9, Netflix)
Netflix’s hit horror series The Haunting of Hill House ended conclusively, leaving little room for a second season. But hey, that’s god invented anthology series. Bly Manor, which transplants most of the cast from Hill House into new roles, lifts directly from Turn of the Screw and the ghost stories of Henry James to once again creep us the hell out. Jump scare maestro Mike Flanagan returns as a director and producer for the series, which follows a young American au pair who takes a job caring for two British kids who seem to communicate with forces beyond the grave. —MP
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 (Oct. 15, CBS All Access)
After tracking Michael Burnham down a wormhole in the second season finale, the U.S.S. Discovery is starting season 3 in an unknown future — which is a bit of a first for Trek lore. With Star Trek: Discovery the jewel of the current crop of Trek shows, we’re excited to see how the episodic-but-not approach handles the far future of a world we only think we know. The good news: There’s room for more inclusivity wherever Burnham and the crew have wound up. —MP
Helstrom (Oct. 16, Hulu)
The last of Hulu’s Marvel shows, Helstrom follows Daimon (Tom Austen) and Ana (Sydney Lemmon), adult children of a serial killer who now spend their time grown up into detectives that hunt killers and demons.
But in the comics, Daimon goes by the moniker Son of Satan, so expect the supernatural to be a significant part of the show. The first season will run 10 episodes in length, but hopefully it doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, as Disney shifts its Marvel Comics television productions to Disney Plus. —SP
The Queen’s Gambit (Oct. 23, Netflix)
Anya Taylor-Joy plays a young chess prodigy in this Netflix miniseries, based on the cult novel of the same name. Named after one of the oldest known chess openings, The Queen’s Gambit follows a young orphan named Beth Harmon as she sets out on a quest to become a chess Grandmaster — all while battling her own addictions. Thomas Brodie-Sangster also stars, along with Moses Ingram and director Marielle Heller. The first trailer for the series is pretty tense, bringing a lot of Taylor-Joy’s signature unnerving stares. —PR
The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (Nov. 17, Disney Plus)
Tell the Lumpy in your life: Life Day is back. Yes, the bane of George Lucas’ existence is revived in Lego form. The new special takes places after the events of The Rise of Skywalker, with Rey and Chewbacca heading out to discover a Jedi Temple. Rey will apparently encounter many iconic Star Wars heroes and villains, including Darth Vader, Luke, and Yoda. Cross your fingers for Bea Arthur cameo, somehow. —MP
Supernatural, the final season (Oct. 8, The CW)
If you thought Supernatural was over, you were wrong! The CW staple was supposed to end back in May, but the show went on hiatus in March thanks to COVID-19, and only now have they shot the grand finale. But the Winchester brothers are back, with new episodes resuming on Oct. 8 and the series finale premiering on Nov. 19. —PR
The Mandalorian, season 2 (Oct. 30, Disney Plus)
Rosario Dawson as the first live-action Ahsoka Tano? Timothy Olyphant as Boba Fett? The return of Temuera Morrison from the prequels? There are a ton of rumors swirling around The Mandalorian season 2, which completed filming before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of Hollywood. We don’t know anything concrete about this season besides what the above poster teases: Another road trip with Mando and Baby Yoda aka The Child. And that’s just fine — we’re all in. —MP
Animaniacs (Nov. 20, Hulu)
Here’s what you have to know about the revival of Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. TV’s ’90s cartoon oddity: They’re animaniacs. Dot is cute. Yakko yaks. Wakko packs away the snacks while Bill Clinton plays the sax. They’re animaniacs. They have pay or play contracts. They’re zany to the max. There’s baloney in their slacks. They’re animany, totally insaney, Citizen Kane-y, animaniacs. Those are the facts. —MP
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