Fall is here, which means there’s a ton of new TV premiering, all of it vying for the public’s attention. And to the credit of whoever’s approving all these new shows, a lot of the series premiering this season have us excited. There are enough crime dramas, sitcoms, Netflix and Amazon Originals, and PBS documentaries airing that pretty much every night for the rest of the year is guaranteed to find us watching something. Here are the shows we’re most excited about this fall.
The Vietnam War: Miniseries
Sundays at 8 p.m. on PBS
None of the other picks are going to be this heavy. Except maybe The Deuce, which is next, so we’ll get the two most serious picks done first.
Ken Burns, the guy whose name is now a synonym for a documentary style, is investigating the war in Vietnam in depth—as in, more than 100 witnesses, 18 hours of footage and testimonials, and more emotional torment on every side than people could possibly be comfortable with. But it’s high time the Vietnam War got this treatment, as it arguably built the template for modern American foreign policy, for better or for worse. Understanding the multifaceted quagmire could help us evaluate the way we engage politically at every level. It started weeks ago, but you can stream every episode so far on PBS’s website. Just don’t binge it. You won’t feel good about doing that, and in a much different way than watching Parks and Rec all day. PBS
The Deuce: Season 1
Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO
What we’ve already seen of The Deuce is enough to convince us it has the potential to reach The Wire’s level of prestige (also possible because it’s made by a lot of the same people). Well developed characters, excellent acting, real world setting, and grimy, street level crime all show up in force and make the show a riveting depiction of the ‘70s porn industry. That last part also makes it a difficult show to watch with people and by yourself, thanks to that weird tick in humanity that means if there’s sex in a show, that’s when people are going to barge in on you. Watch
American Vandal: Season 1
Available Now on Netflix
As much as we love documentaries, there are way too many of them. Everyone and their mother thinks they found the next great doc, whether that’s true crime, environmental awareness, podcast adaptations, or fonts. That’s why American Vandal is such a great concept. When documentaries treat Helvetica and World War II with the same importance, it’s not that much of a stretch to think a couple spray painted dicks could be the next Grassy Knoll shooter. Watch
Superstore: Season 3
8 p.m. on NBC
NBC has been the only one of the big three networks consistently putting out great sitcoms since it hit it big with Seinfeld and Friends. It had The Office, Community, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock, all on at the same time, producing consistently great episodes. We think Superstore is a worthy entry to that list of great sitcoms and it’s been on our radar for a little while now. It’s one of the few shows we use our cable provider for, though it’s nice to have something to look forward to watching at the same time every week.
Probably the best bit of praise we can give the show is that it obviously took inspiration from The Office, but the cast and writing team were capable enough to not make every character a Scranton clone. The staff of Cloud 9 are very much their own people and watching them bounce off each other creates some of the best workplace comedy we’ve ever seen. There are some genuinely creative twists to certain comedic formulas as well, like the episode where the hyper-Christian boss tries to make the store’s wedding section more inviting to gay marriage. His attempt is genuine and gets one of his gay employees to help him, but he misses the mark in the most heartwarming way possible.
Ghosted: Season 1
8:30 p.m. on Fox
Adam Scott and Craig Robinson seem like an odd pairing to us, but they’re both talented enough that the show’s paranormal investigation comedy idea might actually work. They’ve both played the straight man and weird character through their career, so they’ll understand how best to play their characters off each other. And we like both of them, so our interest in the show is more about getting to see these two work together than excitement for the premise of the show. This also might be the kind of show that’s going to take a little while to find its footing. Fox doesn’t have a ton of luck with sitcoms and the premise could go wildly off the rails without a good writing staff. If this show is going to be good—which it totally could—it’ll probably find its groove around the middle of season 1. Check out the first episode and decide for yourself. Trailer
The Mayor: Season 1
9:30 p.m. on ABC
Let us first say that our attraction to this show has nothing to do with the new president. It is a form of wish fulfillment, but it’s more about what if the people who lived in a neighborhood, town, or city, actually got to make decisions that affected it. Basically, what if a homegrown rapper who had a genuine connection with his environment was given meaningful power and used it for good. It’s a great premise in theory, but everyone who’s ever attempted it has come off exceedingly preachy. Somehow, The Mayor doesn’t. In the short trailer, you get a real sense for the motivations and deep down decency of the characters and hope the young rapper’s mayoral tenure goes off without a hitch. It also looks like this show knows exactly what it is right away, so there won’t be any of that early season fumbling so many other sitcoms fall victim to. The only complaint we have is that we haven’t seen more publicity for The Mayor. It deserves success, so ABC needs to step up that exposure. Trailer
Suburra: Season 1
Plenty of great television and film has been made about the Italian-American mafia, but for how popular it is, there’s a surprising lack of representation from the home country. Suburra has to be one of the highest profile shows to attempt to remedy that. It uses the mafia, politicians, and the Vatican as the three main forces of the show, all of them at the center of a land dispute that eventually erupts into full-on violent confrontation. Obviously there are some comparisons to be drawn to The Sopranos, so assume that if you liked that show, you should at least give Suburra a shot. Watch
Mr. Robot: Season 3
10 p.m. on USA
Mr. Robot quickly became one of our favorite shows when it first premiered on USA, a network we otherwise rarely pay attention to. It’s one of the first pieces of pop culture that treated technology intelligently, at least to our understanding of how it all works. And where a few things about it were a bit on the nose for us (like naming your big antagonist “Evil Corp” and your anarchist hacker group “f Society”), the nuance of character relationships and covert tech ops of the hacker group balanced out the contrived. Season 1 and 2 are on Amazon Prime, and while the show isn’t conducive to binging, you can watch one or two a day and still catch up in time for the third season’s premiere.
Lore: Season 1
Amazon Prime Video
The best news about Lore being adapted to TV might be that Valhalla Motion Pictures is producing it. Valhalla is the company behind The Walking Dead, which, regardless of your feelings on the show, you have to admit looks great. The zombies are convincing and the settings are creepy, all stuff that a production company helps put together. Hopefully, this points to Lore avoiding those crappy production value traps that always seem to trip up ambitious shows like this. Most of them end up looking like half-assed student film projects, so having Lore work with a company with such a great reputation puts us a little more at ease for the final product. Having ancient folklore and modern mysteries come to vivid, gut-wrenching life is going to keep us up at night in the best way possible. Watch
Stranger Things: Season 2
We’re not exactly sure where they’re going to go with a second season of Stranger Things. Though, that doesn’t mean much, because we weren’t sure where they were going to go with a first season. What we can tell is that it looks like the scare factor is getting ramped up exponentially. Just the trailer got us sufficiently goosebumped, and if that’s what they’re letting us see right at the beginning, what’s actually in the show might mandate daytime viewing. They also look like they’re avoiding one of the greatest writing pitfalls shows and movies make and are having Will tell everyone he’s seeing things, rather than frustrate the audience with pointless lies. That way we can get right to the meat of the plot instead of spend three episodes having everyone be suspicious of the wrong things. Watch
Back: Season 1
David Mitchell and Robert Webb are wildly popular across the pond, but American audiences may not have heard of them. Sure you probably recognize the two from the occasional appearance in a sitcom or if you’re a rare and rabid Peep Show fan. Otherwise, these are two guys you may never have seen. If not, take our word for it. Any show they’re working on is worth watching. Back is their most recent collaborative work and it looks to follow in the footsteps of all their other dry, British comedy.
It’s also only available (legally) in the US on Sundance Now, which we didn’t even know was a streaming service until we wrote this article. We’re glad we know about it though, because while the selection is a bit limited, what it has is solid. The Writer’s Room, Travel Man, and The Trip are all excellent shows, and the other offerings look like they’re great under-the-radar entertainment. We may have a new subscription to buy.