13 Fall Shows To Be Excited About, 10 To Give A Chance, And 5 To Avoid

To be specific, there's one show you need to avoid like the plague.

Be excited: The Deuce


HBO, Sundays at 9 p.m. (In progress.)

The Deuce begins in 1971 and follows a group of sex workers and their pimps in Times Square, as well as assorted other characters buzzing around the grossest place on Earth, especially then. (Now, too, though, in its cleaned-up corporate incarnation!) The show was co-created by David Simon, the creator of The Wire and Treme for HBO, and novelist George Pelecanos (who also wrote on Simon's previous shows). Its atmospheric pilot, directed by Michelle MacLaren — who was behind some of the best episodes of Breaking Bad — expertly evokes '70s New York City at its scuzziest, as seen in classic films by Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet. The acting on The Deuce is naturalistic and savvy: James Franco plays twins Vincent and Frankie Martino, and he is in scenes with himself seamlessly (less mind-blowing in the post–Orphan Black era, but still a feat). Vincent is the (mostly) responsible brother who aspires to get out of Brooklyn, and soon ends up running a successful Times Square bar; Frankie is the charming fuckup, who leaves his messes for Vincent to deal with — which he always does. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Eileen (street name: Candy), a prostitute insistent on living without a pimp, who is tired of her job and yearns to break into the burgeoning world of legal pornography.

Though Franco and Gyllenhaal are the two recognizable leads, it wouldn't be a David Simon show without a huge cast — and there are a lot of Wire alumni here doing great work, including Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (who played D'Angelo Barksdale on The Wire), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Chris Partlow), Chris Bauer (Frank Sobotka), Anwan Glover (Slim Charles), and Method Man (Cheese Wagstaff). (I'm sure I missed a few, so don't @ me.) The Deuce is most interested in morally compromised strivers, but there's also some heart — prostitute Darlene (Dominique Fishback, who was in Simon's Show Me a Hero) has a regular client who pays her to watch old movies with him rather than have sex, and Eileen has a young son who lives with her mother and has no idea what she does for a living. As with most of Simon's television work, The Deuce is a slow burn, more intent on creating a world than speeding through plot — this eight-episode first season sets the table potentially for two more that Simon and Pelecanos have planned, which would eventually lead the characters into the still-debauched sex industry of the '80s. —Kate Aurthur

Give it a chance: The Orville


Fox, Thursdays at 9 p.m. (In progress. The second of its premiere episodes airs Sept. 17 after football, before moving to its regular time period on Thursday, Sept. 21.)

Never a Seth MacFarlane fan, I approached The Orville with dread. Yet I came away from the first three episodes with...puzzlement. MacFarlane — the show's creator, executive producer, and star — plays Ed Mercer, a spaceship captain living 400 years in the future who's been fucking up since he caught his wife, Kelly (Adrianne Palicki), cheating on him. Despite his problems, he gets a promotion to command a ship, which is called the Orville, and he decides to step up. There's a motley crew of crew members, some human, some alien, and Kelly, who is there to be a foil for sexual tension and ex-wife jokes. The tone of this MacFarlane dramedy, which is clearly a labor of love, is not what he's known for: Yes, The Orville can be crass — there are dick jokes and barf — but there's an earnestness about it that I was truly confused by. I guess this is the MacFarlane who was an executive producer of Cosmos and loves space?

The third episode takes a truly bizarre turn when Bortus (Peter Macon), one of the crew from an all-male alien species, has a baby who is female and wants her to have have sex reassignment surgery until he watches Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and changes his mind (but his mate doesn't, and they go to court). There's no way to write that sentence without feeling insane. And it's not particularly played for laughs. This is all to reiterate that The Orville flummoxed me. There aren't that many jokes; the sci-fi drama is, so far, not compelling; and MacFarlane isn't much of a leading man. So who is it for? Is it for Star Trek geeks who...I don't even know how to finish that sentence. But I will be curious to see how this show performs, and whether it finds a consistent voice. Oh, and Jon Favreau directed the pilot, which is clearly expensive and a vote of confidence on Fox's part. —K.A.

Be excited: The Vietnam War

Courtesy of AP/Horst Faas

PBS (This 10-part documentary will premiere on Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m., airing nightly through Sept. 21. Skipping Friday and Saturday, it will then resume Sunday, Sept. 24 through Sept. 28.)

The war itself was a muddle, but this 10-part, 18-hour documentary directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is clear as a bell. The Vietnam War fits in neatly with Burns' other major works, which began in 1990 with The Civil War, about another war that tore the United States apart (that one literally). Following their usual directorial style, Burns and Novick take an exhaustive look at the Vietnam War, which began to brew soon after the end of World War II as the fever dream of communist boogeymen infected US foreign policy. As US involvement in Vietnam progresses from "advisers" under the Kennedy administration to a full-scale war, The Vietnam War tells the story through American veterans, press, protesters, and more — and Vietnamese witnesses and ex-soldiers as well. All of the interviewees give insightful, heartbreaking, sometimes infuriating testimony over compelling (and often gorgeous, if disturbing) archival footage. Make no mistake, The Vietnam War, which was written with clarity and depth by Geoffrey C. Ward, is a major cultural event. If you've ever been curious about this decades-long morass, the effects of which are still felt today, do watch this epic, sprawling docuseries. —K.A.

Be excited: Neo Yokio


Netflix (Starts Sept. 22.)

The hipster quotient is high in Ezra Koenig's new anime show, Neo Yokio. The story follows Kaz Kaan (voiced by Jaden Smith), a wealthy young socialite in this New York City–ish environment who carries on the family legacy of demon hunting. (Susan Sarandon plays Aunt Agatha, Kaz's taskmaster and a fellow "magistocrat" who always has her eye on lucrative opportunities for the family.) Kaz is obsessed with clothes, his ex-girlfriend, and his place on the so-called "bachelor board," the rankings of the eligible single men in the city — there's a fun Gossip Girl vibe to all of this. Smith, whose real-life persona has always confused me, is appealing and charming as the shallow, put-upon, yet good-at-heart Kaz.

As far as the show's plotting goes, the stakes are relatively low: No one blinks at demons or terrorism, and downtown is underwater (it's referred to as the "sea below 14th Street" and seems posh). I thoroughly enjoyed the world created by Neo Yokio. The animation — by the anime studios Production I.G and Studio Deen, and MOI, the South Korean animation studio — looks gorgeous. And the casting is clever: Jude Law plays Charles, Kaz's mecha-butler; The Kid Mero and Desus Nice voice Kaz's best friends, Lexy and Gottlieb; and Tavi Gevinson is Helena St. Tessero, a disillusioned fashion blogger who goes from indulging in the upscale world of Neo Yokio to trying to convince Kaz of its bourgeois evils after she is possessed by a demon. Other notable names — Jason Schwartzman, Willow Smith, and Amandla Stenberg, among others — dot the voice credits too. Episodes of Neo Yokio run around 20 to 22 minutes long, so you can knock out the whole six-episode season, should you so choose, in one amusing night. —K.A.

Be excited: Young Sheldon


CBS, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. (Starts Sept. 25.)

I haven’t watched The Big Bang Theory in years, so I’m not necessarily the prime target for Young Sheldon, a BBT prequel about Jim Parsons’ character growing up in Texas, circa 1989. But when I tell you this Wonder Years–esque show charmed me to no end, I mean it. Iain Armitage (so good in Big Little Lies) is superb in the role Parsons won four Emmys for. Without stooping to mimicry or imitation, Armitage quickly and impressively gets at the root of who the character is — or rather, was — at 9 years old: a stickler for the rules who doesn’t mince words, lacks a fear of authority, and has issues with germs. But he hasn’t yet been made to feel like an outsider because of these propensities, so there’s a much softer, sweeter nature on display. It’s also an inspired choice to have Zoe Perry play Sheldon’s mother, Mary, since Perry’s real-life mother, Laurie Metcalf, plays Mary on The Big Bang Theory. There were a million ways for this show to go wrong, but the pilot doesn’t make a single mistake. An excellent start. —Jarett Wieselman

Give it a chance: Me, Myself & I


CBS, Mondays at 9:30 p.m. (Starts Sept. 25.)

Three actors play the same character at different points in his life: Jack Dylan Grazer is Alex at 14 years old in 1991, Bobby Moynihan is Alex at 40 in present day, and John Larroquette is Alex at 65 in 2042. At all three stages, Alex is an inventor — starry-eyed as a teen, disillusioned as a middle-aged man, and wildly successful in his later years. The question is, how did that high schooler lose his way and what spark of ingenuity brought him back from the brink? The other question is, will viewers care?

As This Is Us proved, audiences are interested in multigenerational stories that span decades, but the pilot didn’t convince me the same emotional resonance can be achieved in a half-hour comedy. That said, the three actors are rather endearing in their approach to their shared role, particularly Grazer, whose sense of comedic timing is razor sharp. —J.W.

Avoid: The Brave

Simon Mein / NBC

NBC, Mondays at 10 p.m. (Starts Sept. 25.)

The number of military dramas on the way (three on the networks this fall) indicates that TV executives think people want to watch shows about teams of experts in the Middle East who are efficiently taking care of things over there. Despite all evidence to the contrary IRL! Anne Heche plays an intelligence officer whose son was recently killed in combat. No time for mourning, though; without any sort of subtlety or deeper characterization, she's back running an operation in what is now a familiar setting for television: a room with lots of screens and anxious people with headsets facing those screens. Mike Vogel (Under the Dome) plays the Special Ops leader in charge of extracting a Doctors Without Borders physician from Syrian kidnappers in the pilot. The group he leads is, of course, diverse, racially and ethnically — there's even a Muslim character who's there to try to temper the show's travel ban-ish impulses, but...well, it doesn't work. The acting is drab from top to bottom, but Heche in particular is phoning it in. A couple of notes to those aforementioned television executives: 1) It seems impossible to make people staring up at screens seem dynamic and interesting! And 2) it's actually possible to show a Middle Eastern setting without seeming like the camera is shooting through a dust storm! —K.A.

Give it a chance: The Good Doctor

Liane Hentscher / ABC

ABC, Mondays at 10 p.m. (Starts Sept. 25.)

Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, has gotten a job at a fancy San Jose hospital. As he travels there, he encounters an accident at the airport that requires his unique expertise. Simultaneously, his benefactor, the president of the hospital (Richard Schiff), has to fight with the board of directors about Shaun's job offer — they want to rescind it after learning he's autistic.

Despite The Good Doctor's heavy hand, the show's pacing works well in the pilot, and Highmore, as always, turns in a good, nuanced performance, speaking in halting tones as he both recites medical terminology and puts words to Shaun's nonlinear thinking. (I do wonder what the autism community, which is increasingly vocal about representation, will think about Shaun and Highmore's portrayal of him.) David Shore, who created House, created this medical drama too, and like House, The Good Doctor features immersive, technical diagnoses; we see Shaun's thought processes through CGI graphics on the screen. Nothing shocked me about The Good Doctor — though I was taken aback by the abusiveness of Shaun's dad, rendered briefly in flashback — but I was interested enough in the characters (including a few adversaries for Shaun) that I'll continue watching. And there is one scene when the board asks him why he wants to be a surgeon, during which Shaun, stoic and determined throughout the rest of the pilot, wells up a tiny bit. And so did I. —K.A.

Give it a chance: SEAL Team


CBS, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (Starts Sept. 27.)

SEAL Team, the second of this fall's three military dramas to premiere, is approximately 1 million times better than the other two. David Boreanaz — who has now been starring on television for more than 20 years (since the 1997 series premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) — plays Jason Hayes, the on-the-ground leader of...well, of a SEAL team. Hayes has PTSD, particularly after having lost a friend and close colleague in a recent botched mission. His intense, dangerous job has also cost him his marriage, as well as damaging his relationships with his three teen-ish children. (Jim Caviezel originally starred as Hayes, but Boreanaz's ironic approach seems much better here.) Other good things: Jessica Paré (Megan Draper on Mad Men) is more believable than I would have thought she'd be as the team's CIA handler. Max Thieriot's newbie team member — a foil for Hayes, who thinks he's reckless — was less obnoxious than I feared he'd be. And director Chris Chulack, who directed a lot of ER episodes and has a real sense for action, made the pilot's main set piece exciting and nerve-racking. SEAL Team just knows what it is — a solid, straightforward drama about the strategic assessments, moral dilemmas, and emotional lives of Navy SEALs. And that is pretty high praise for a pilot. —K.A.

Be excited: Liar

Two Brothers Pictures/ITV/SundanceTV

Sundance, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. (Starts Sept. 27.)

This six-part miniseries stars Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt as Laura, a newly single teacher who — because of her sister’s urging — goes out with a handsome doctor, the recently widowed Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd). The first date could not go better: Their conversation is effortless and funny, their chemistry is spot-on, and a second date is all but guaranteed. But just as Andrew is getting ready to say goodbye, he realizes his phone has died, and Laura offers to let him charge it in her apartment. While they wait, they share a glass of wine — and that’s where Laura’s memory ends. When she wakes up the next morning, Laura is convinced Andrew has raped her.

While Liar certainly engages in a compelling “he said, she said” narrative, complete with piecemeal flashbacks to the night in question that offer flashes of clarity, the show’s real interest lies in how all of the characters choose to react to the accusation, particularly Laura, who quickly tries to discredit Andrew’s reputation. Liar boasts a pair of spectacular performances, an engrossing narrative, and the increasingly rare allure of complete closure at the end of six episodes. — J.W.

Avoid: Marvel's Inhumans

Courtesy of Marvel / ABC

ABC, Fridays at 8 p.m. (Starts Sept. 29.)

I adored Agent Carter, and I think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is coming off its best season to date, so please read what follows with the knowledge that I love Marvel TV shows: ABC’s Inhumans is an absolutely mind-boggling waste of time, talent, and money. The script is terrible, the visual effects are laughable, and everyone involved should be embarrassed. Inhumans deserves to be the most expensive flop in TV history. —J.W.

Give it a chance: Ghosted


Fox, Sundays at 8:30 p.m. (Starts Oct. 1.)

Pilots have a tendency to be made up of heavy plot-based lifting — Ghosted has one of those pilots. There’s a lot of information to get across in just 22 minutes, but in short, the show is about a disgraced cop named Leroy (Craig Robinson) and a bookstore clerk named Max (Adam Scott) who are brought together by a shadowy government agency to investigate paranormal activity. Leroy, a skeptic, and Max, a believer, spend the first episode gathering just enough information to pique their ongoing interest in explaining the unexplainable. The good news is, with all that exposition out of the way, Ghosted should have plenty of time to focus on what really works here: the actors’ chemistry and the show’s very welcome comedic sensibilities. —J.W.

Give it a chance: Wisdom of the Crowd


CBS, Sundays at 8:30 p.m. (Starts Oct. 1.)

One year after the murder of his daughter, billionaire tech genius Jeffrey Tanner (Jeremy Piven) creates Sophe, a crowdsourced crime-solving app designed with the sole purpose of finding the person who killed his kid. Tanner is surrounded by a cadre of familiar pop culture techie tropes: a brilliant hacker (Jake Matthews), a slim white nerd (Blake Lee), a no-nonsense boss lady (Natalia Tena), and the initially skeptical detective who begrudgingly joins the team (Richard T. Jones). About halfway through the pilot, information begins to pour in about crimes having nothing to do with the death of Tanner’s daughter, and it becomes clear to everyone involved that Sophe truly has the potential to revolutionize crime-solving. It’s less clear if Wisdom of the Crowd can be as much of a game changer when it comes to the “rich guy uses his vast resources to modernize an outdated occupation” genre: Last season, both CBS and Fox tried, and failed, with Pure Genius and APB, respectively. Unlike those shows, the ace up Wisdom of the Crowd’s sleeve may end up being the crowdsourcing angle, because as a recent wave of super popular true crime offerings — Serial, Making a Murderer, The Jinx, S-Town, The Keepers — have shown, there’s something undeniably rewarding about watching everyday Americans committed to the pursuit of justice. —J.W.

Be excited: Ten Days in the Valley

Eric Mccandless / ABC

ABC, Sundays at 10 p.m. (Starts Oct. 1.)

It’s been seven years since Kyra Sedgwick was the star of a television show and judging from this deeply compelling pilot, it would appear that the wait was worth it. Sedgwick plays Jane Sadler, a TV writer whose daughter goes missing in the middle of the night while she’s high on coke and crafting last-minute script revisions for the cop drama she created.

Jane doesn’t instantly think her daughter Lake (Abigail Pniowsky) has been kidnapped; instead, she believes this to be the latest drama with her ex, Pete (Kick Gurry), who is frustrated with their custody arrangement. But when the cop assigned to her case (Lost’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) clears Pete as a suspect — although he seems less innocent by pilot’s end — Jane begins to question everyone in her life.

While this premise isn’t the most groundbreaking, there’s something incredibly engaging about this series despite the troubling subject matter — and I think that has a lot to do with Sedgwick. There’s a reason The Closer ran for seven years; she has a unique ability to create instantly relatable characters and, despite Jane’s propensity for lying to everyone in her life (including the police), Sedgwick makes the character someone you want to go on this journey with. —J.W.

Give it a chance: 9JKL


CBS, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. (Starts Oct. 2.)

Josh Roberts (Mark Feuerstein) is reeling from two big life changes: his wife divorced him and his TV show — Blind Cop, exactly what it sounds like — has come to an end. In a bid to get his mojo back, Josh returns home to New York City and moves into the apartment between his parents' (Linda Lavin and Elliot Gould) and his brother's (David Walton). The block of apartments — units J, K, and L on the ninth floor, hence the title — seem designed for maximum eavesdropping: Their balconies are connected, the walls are too thin, and no one locks their doors, therefore no one knocks. The building also comes complete with a doorman (Matt Murray) whose loyalty to Judy (Lavin) irritates Josh to no end. What’s amazing is that for a show predicated on our protagonist being endlessly annoyed by his family’s lack of boundaries and meddling tendencies, the show itself never feels unwelcome. Despite the canned laugh track erupting after every punchline, the jokes are fresh and genuinely funny, while the chemistry among the five actors (Liza Lapira plays Walton’s wife) feels instantaneous, effortless, and infectious. Also, though it’s far from the point of 9JKL, with Feuerstein, Gould, and Lavin leading the show, there’s a refreshingly and unmistakably Jewish sensibility to the entire endeavor. —J.W.

Be excited: The Gifted

Ryan Green/Fox

Fox, Mondays at 9 p.m. (Starts Oct. 2.)

There's little more to understanding The Gifted's pleasures than its straightforward idea behind it, which is X-Men: The Show. But at least in the pilot, that is enough. Reed and Caitlin Strucker — Stephen Moyer (True Blood) and Amy Acker (Angel, Person of Interest) — find out that their two teenage kids (Natalie Alyn Lind and Percy Hynes White) are mutants (he can blow shit up, she can create force fields out of air and water). And, as we know from X-Men, America inexplicably hates mutants and has passed laws against them! So they're in grave danger after Andy reveals his powers in a dramatic display at a school dance. It's an added complication that Reed is a lawyer in charge of rooting out and prosecuting mutants, but that also means he's familiar enough with the mutants' network that he can get in touch with their underground to get help. And that's sort of it? There's no mystical gobbledygook like there was in Heroes, which also had this premise. But the mutants have cool powers, Bryan Singer (who directed several X-Men movies) directed the exciting and expensive-looking pilot, and Matt Nix (the Burn Notice creator) has written an adept pilot episode that delivers exactly what an audience would want. The Gifted doesn't offer the sometimes transgressive pleasures (cursing, nudity, more explicit violence) of Marvel's Netflix shows, but instead is a network family drama with a twist. Since its creation, X-Men has provided political allegories for the persecution of people who are outside the norm, so let's see whether this show draws particular strength (and possible resonance) during These Troubled Times. —K.A.

Give it a chance: The Mayor

Craig Sjodin / ABC

ABC, Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. (Starts Oct. 3.)

I will begin by admitting that the idea of an outsider running for political office as a joke and winning strikes me as less funny now than it might have a year ago. And The Mayor, in which Brandon Micheal Hall plays Courtney Rose, a young rapper who runs for mayor of his Northern California town — and wins — has the added disadvantage of having to spend its whole pilot setting up the premise before it can really get going. But The Mayor does have some things going for it — mainly, its likable cast, which includes Yvette Nicole Brown as Courtney's mom (she gets the pilot's biggest laughs), and Bernard David Jones and Marcel Spears as his friends turned aides. Lea Michele plays Valentina, Courtney's straitlaced chief of staff, and I trust she will be allowed to be funnier as the show progresses. ABC is pairing The Mayor with the newly moved Black-ish, offering an hour of black sitcoms on a network for the first time since (from our collective research) The CW aired Girlfriends and The Game back-to-back in the 2007–8 TV season. Despite not arriving as fully baked as ABC's comedies usually do — which is a credit to ABC's comedies, and less a criticism of this show — The Mayor should fit in neatly with them, assuming it finds a way to be funnier (and I imagine it will). Also, since Daveed Diggs is an executive producer and writing Courtney's music, there needs to be more of it! —K.A.

Give it a chance: Kevin (Probably) Saves the World

Ryan Green / ABC

ABC, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (Starts Oct. 3.)

For two seasons, Jason Ritter starred on CBS’s Joan of Arcadia, a drama about a young girl who is asked by God (appearing as other people) to perform good deeds. Now the always-wonderful Ritter finds himself playing the vessel of goodness in ABC’s spiritual drama Kevin (Probably) Saves the World.

After touching a meteor that has fallen to Earth, Kevin is knocked unconscious and wakes up to meet Yvette (Kimberly Hébert Gregory), an angel — although she prefers to be called a “warrior for god” — that only he can see. Kevin, a deeply selfish man, is informed by Yvette that for as long as humans have roamed the Earth, they’ve been protected by 36 righteous souls: men and women whose mere existence keeps the universe in balance. But now Kevin is the last soul left and has to learn to be selfless in order to find and anoint 35 new people to join him in this quest.

There’s a lot more going on, too — in the pilot’s opening scene, Kevin returns to his hometown following a suicide attempt to live with his recently widowed sister (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) and his niece (Chloe East); Kevin also reconnects with his ex-girlfriend (India de Beaufort) and other figures from his past. There’s also something about Swisher’s character being a scientist involved with the 36 meteors that fell to Earth that I found confusing and am ignoring until it’s relevant.

Inevitably all of those characters and relationships will prove pertinent to Kevin’s path of self-improvement, but whether the show takes an equally enlightened journey remains to be seen. I’m hopeful after the pilot though, particularly given the dynamic performance Ritter delivers — notably in a surprisingly emotional airport scene — and the seemingly effortless chemistry he shares with East and Gregory. — J.W.

Avoid: Valor

The CW

The CW, Mondays at 9 p.m. (Starts Oct. 9.)

The final fall military drama follows an elite team of Army helicopter people (that's the technical term for them, I'm sure) who are sent to Somalia to extract a prisoner — but after they're attacked, everything goes wrong, and they crash. A few die, a few live, and two become prisoners of a (Somali, I think) terrorist who really hates music. Later, when the two surviving pilots — Nora Madani (Christina Ochoa) and Leland Gallo (Matt Barr) — are returning to military action, we learn that they conspired together to lie about what happened, though it's unclear why. When one of the POWs is allowed to call home, the Army and the CIA decide a rescue mission is warranted, which Gallo and Madani will lead (even though she seems extremely not ready for such a thing). The whole setup is supposed to raise a few different mysteries, like who was the man they rescued, why was it more top secret than usual, what actually happened when they were in Somalia, why is the CIA involved, and can they get the POWs back? Also: Will Gallo and Madani hook up? But Valor is truly uninteresting, both as a military thriller and a character study. These pilots should be judged on their merits, yes, but I did keep wondering as I watched why this show would ever be on The CW. The leads are like the guest stars of an NCIS episode before the charming NCIS team swoops in to solve the crime! Also, the whole enterprise, which involves helicopter flying that's meant to be exciting, looks cheap. —K.A.

Avoid: Dynasty

The CW

The CW, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (Starts Oct. 11.)

I couldn’t have been more excited for The CW’s Dynasty reboot. On paper it’s everything I love in a TV show: gorgeous people flaunting their extravagant wealth while trading vicious barbs and brilliantly undermining one another at every turn. In reality, it’s none of those things. OK, it’s The CW so everyone’s sort of pretty, but every element of this show is completely misguided.

First of all, the world of these one-percenters looks shockingly cheap. Sure, the Carringtons have a massive mansion, private jets, the ability to FaceTime in Haiti (what?), and an array of Bentleys at their disposal, but the devil is in the details —at one point, four members of the famed family sit on wicker chairs in their solarium. WICKER! CHAIRS! There is no world in which anyone with limitless wealth would say to their decorator, “Can we get more woven straw seats up in here?” Any show that invokes Donald Trump’s name (aspirationally!) twice should at least have the good sense to also invoke an aesthetic so gilded, so decked out in eleganza, that even Donny would begrudgingly admit, “Damn, now here are some people with cash to burn.”

As for the show’s famous clandestine machinations, the high schoolers on Gossip Girl could outscheme these novices. You almost wonder how this family earned its fortune given how bad they are at wheeling and dealing. And don’t get me started on the acid-laced language; the way these characters insult one another is kindergarten-level shade that would get you laughed out of a RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party.

Clearly The CW hoped Dynasty would be TV’s next great guilty pleasure soap opera, but the pilot lacks every ounce of brains, beauty, and bite that made the original worth rebooting in the first place. —J.W.

Be excited: White Famous


Showtime, Sundays at 10 p.m. (Starts Oct. 15.)

In this comedy loosely based on the life of Jamie Foxx (he is an executive producer on the show and has a riotous guest spot in the pilot as himself), SNL alum Jay Pharoah plays Floyd Mooney, an up-and-coming comedian who finds himself suddenly on Hollywood’s radar.

Only Floyd is not quite sure being white famous — ”so famous that you transcend color” — is actually what he wants...especially since making it in Hollywood means sacrificing the amount of time he can spend with his son (This Is Us's Lonnie Chavis) and the ex-girlfriend he still has feelings for (Last Man on Earth’s Cleopatra Coleman).

White Famous boasts a star-making performance from Pharoah, who proves to be so much more than an ace improviser. And in just two episodes, the show reveals itself to be a deeply insightful exploration of how Hollywood treats actors of color, the conflict between ambition and happiness, and the fear of actually being offered everything you think you want from life. —J.W.

Avoid like the fucking plague: Hit the Road

The Audience Network

The Audience Network, Tuesdays at IDK (Starts Oct. 17.)

Jason Alexander’s new show — about a modern-day Partridge Family that acts more like The Osbournes offstage — is one of the most deeply unfunny comedies I have ever seen in my entire life. The show attempts to mine humor from the most banal (kids swearing is high-larious) and offensive (gay panic is high-larious) subject matter. It isn’t worthy of the broken iPhone it was, seemingly, shot on. — J.W.

Be excited: Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television

YouTube Red

YouTube Red (Starts Oct. 25.)

I know what you’re thinking: YouTube Red is making TV shows now and they expect me to pay $9.99 a month for them?!? I need another streaming service like I need another CBS show with a white male lead. And I hear you — but YouTube Red’s latest scripted series actually feels worth the price of subscription.

Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television stars Veronica Mars alum Ryan Hansen as himself and Orange Is the New Black fan favorite Samira Wiley as a police detective who is inexplicably assigned Hansen as her partner after he’s deputized by the mayor. Oh, and Hansen (the character) is also filming the entire endeavor for a TV show that will air on YouTube Red, a fact that is mocked by every character the instant they hear the streamer's name. The series was created by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who wrote 2004’s Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and directed 2013’s We’re the Millers if that helps explain the style of comedy on display here.

Taking a cue from TV’s cop-plus-gifted-civilian trope — perfected by ABC’s Castle — every episode opens with a dead body and focuses on the duo trying to find the killer(s). But the crime, frankly, takes a back seat to the show’s charmingly ridiculous meta Hollywood comedy and the chemistry Hansen and Wiley share. It should be noted that Wiley is sensational as the frustrated, expletive-prone detective and the brilliant woman who actually sees value in what Hansen brings to the table.

Whether the show’s winky schtick gets tired after a few episodes remains to be seen, but I laughed my way through two episodes and hope to do so for seasons to come. —J.W.

Be excited: S.W.A.T.


CBS, Thursdays at 10 p.m. (Starts Nov. 2.)

S.W.A.T., an unexpectedly timely series from an even more unexpected network, reimagines the ’70s TV show and 2003 film of the same name to examine the strained relationship between police officers and the black community. After an accidental shooting nearly claims the life of a young black man, Hondo (Shemar Moore) is promoted to S.W.A.T. captain and is almost instantly asked, “Are you black or blue?” That conversation dominates much of the pilot as Hondo's team investigates a series of racially motivated crimes that may or may not be connected. Whether that continues to be a focus of the show remains to be seen, but I for one am hoping the series does engage in this all-too-relevant dialogue: It not only helps S.W.A.T. stand apart from all the other cop shows, but it also elevates it from procedural to potentially “important television.” And if topical subject matter isn’t your thing, S.W.A.T. also features some impressively cinematic action scenes. —J.W.

Be excited: Alias Grace

Jan Thijs / Netflix

Netflix (Starts Nov. 3.)

Sarah Polley, the former child actor turned accomplished writer-director (Away From Her, Take This Waltz), was meant to turn Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood's 1996 novel, into a movie — in fact, Polley tried to buy the rights when the book was first published when she was only 17, but was turned down then. Alias Grace, clearly a passion project for Polley, expanded to a six-episode limited series that will be broadcast on Netflix (it will be on CBC in Canada beginning in late September).

Grace Marks, the main character, was a real person who in the 1840s was convicted of murdering two people in a conspiracy with another servant; she was later freed. Alias Grace is set in 1859, years after the conviction, when a group of Grace's supporters who think she's innocent hire Dr. Simon Jordan — an alienist, in the day's parlance — to examine her with the aim of exonerating her. (Jordan was a fiction of Atwood's making.) As Grace (Sarah Gadon) tells Dr. Jordan (Edward Holcroft of London Spy and the Kingsman movies) her story, we learn it too — and we also learn she's an unreliable narrator.

Grace is an Irish immigrant in Toronto who goes into domestic service as a teenager after her drunken father kicks her out of the house, and she she ends up at the home of Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross, the star of Slings and Arrows, the most delightful show of all time, seriously don't @ me). Kinnear is in an illicit relationship with his housekeeper, Nancy (Anna Paquin), who has hired Grace so there's another woman in the house (people do gossip). And these are the two people she either willfully murdered or was in a hysterical state and — well, we don't know what happened! Grace's detailed narrative has an odd effect on Dr. Jordan; he finds himself so compelled and disturbed by her that he begins to lose his mind himself.

Polley, who wrote all six episodes, weaves Alias Grace's story expertly, raising questions about characters' motivations without hammering the viewer on the head, and twisting the plot to offer different viewpoints (even though there's really only one, which is Grace's). The acting is superlative. Gadon — in a role Polley herself might have excelled in, should she have chosen to — plays Grace as both an innocent and a possible manipulator, and as smarter than she's thought to be, which is difficult. Holcroft instills the largely passive Dr. Jordan with intelligence and sympathy — he's just listening to Grace, after all, though it's an act that starts to drive him mad. Gross and Paquin are appropriately icky, and Kerr Logan (Ser Davos's son from Game of Thrones) as Grace's possible co-conspirator is both menacing and dumb, which is right. Mary Harron (American Psycho) directed all six episodes, and they are beautifully rendered, with ugliness looming in the shadows. Harron and Polley's co-execution of Alias Grace comes together in a singular vision that plays with the conventions of costume dramas, but with subversive feminist twists throughout. —K.A.

Give it a chance: Marvel’s Runaways


Hulu (Starts Nov. 21.)

Marvel is leaning hard into stories about kids with superpowers, launching three new shows with the premise this season: Fox’s The Gifted, Hulu’s Runaways, and Freeform’s New Warriors in 2018 (one of the main characters in ABC’s Inhumans is also a teen girl…I think. IDK how those people age). Runaways is one of the rare instances where its pilot warranted a two-hour runtime because of how much exposition is crammed in.

Runaways revolves around six high school students who used to be best friends, but following the death of the group’s seventh BFF they all splinter into different social groups. Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano), the sister of the late Amy, becomes Wiccan, Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin) devolves into a clichéd jock douche, Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner) fully embraces her family’s church, and Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz) retreats into the world of video games, while the social justice–minded Gert Yorkes (Ariela Barer) and perpetually cheery Molly Hernandez (Allegra Acosta) remain close.

The pilot spends a lot of time introducing not only the kids, but also their parents, which means the audience must get familiar with 18 characters in under one hour — and that’s before the show even gets around to the super-plot, which kicks in around halfway through when Molly’s menstrual cramps manifest her super-strength. It's a discovery she doesn’t have time to share with anyone because the former friends are quickly confronted with a shocking revelation that shakes each of them to their core. And that’s where the episode ends.

Look, I know a pilot is designed to entice — which Runaways certainly does — but it also has to introduce so many characters, so many relationships, and so many big ideas that it feels like nothing gets its proper time to shine. Luckily the entire endeavor is intriguing enough to earn it a few more episodes. — J.W.

Be excited: She's Gotta Have It

David Lee/Netflix

Netflix (Starts Nov. 23.)

In 2017, it's hard to explain the seismic event Spike Lee's debut feature film, She's Gotta Have It, was when it was released in theaters in 1986. Lee was a brand-new voice in cinema — a 29-year-old visionary — and shook up the world of black representation. Shot in black-and-white and made for $175,000 (according to this New York Times profile of Lee), She's Gotta Have It offered an explicitly different image of black people than had ever been in movies before. "Even the top stars like Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor never get to have any love interest in their films. How often have you seen a black man and woman kiss on the screen?" Lee said to the Times. His movie — about Nola Darling, a twentysomething black woman who lives in Fort Greene and has three boyfriends — aimed to correct that. And it did: It made Lee a star director, and he went on to change American culture with movies like Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, 4 Little Girls, and more.

Which brings us to She's Gotta Have It, the television show, originally developed at Showtime and now at Netflix. DeWanda Wise plays Nola, an artist (yes, she lives in Fort Greene) with three lovers: Jamie, an uptight yuppie (Lyriq Bent); Greer, a narcissist (Cleo Anthony); and Mars Blackmon, the fast-talker Lee played in the original (here played by Anthony Ramos, who was John Laurens and Philip in Hamilton). In the style of the movie, the show's characters directly address the camera — an inventive rarity then, and still fresh and often funny here. Netflix offered only one episode of She's Gotta Have It to screen, and it wasn't for review, but that one episode is promising: Wise is well-cast as the confident, sexual Nola, and the supporting cast — which includes Nola's friend group — is charming. The movie She's Gotta Have It had feminist leanings, but they were undercut by Nola's rape by one of her suitors, something Lee has said he regrets. With this new version of She's Gotta Have It, Lee, whose work is always political, is clearly seeking to rectify his own history — in one instance, Nola makes feminist art that she then pastes all over Fort Greene. In the age of Issa Rae and Insecure, there's not much room for error with She's Gotta Have It, and I imagine no one knows that more than Lee. Oh, and Fort Greene looks stunningly beautiful through Lee's camera (he directed all 10 episodes). —K.A.

Be excited: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Amazon Studios

Amazon (Premiere date TBD.)

By now, everyone probably knows whether they're an Amy Sherman-Palladino person or not. You either loved Gilmore Girls or you didn't; you either adored Bunheads and wept when it was canceled, or you avoided it like the plague. Me, I'm a Sherman-Palladino superfan — I recently looked up how many times I wrote about Bunheads' painful limbo period before its cancellation and gasped at the result. (Disturbing, really.)

Anyway! Sherman-Palladino's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, starring Rachel Brosnahan as Midge, a late-1950s housewife and mother who lives in the same Riverside Drive building as her neurotic, wealthy parents and suffers through her unfunny husband's ambitions to become a stand-up comic, is made for me. I love everything about the pilot, which Amazon picked up for two seasons in the spring. Brosnahan easily slips into Sherman-Palladino's fast-talking dialogue without sounding like she's trying to imitate Lauren Graham, and she makes Midge's loyalty to her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), interesting instead of pathetic (she makes food to bribe a Greenwich Village club owner into giving Joel a better time slot, she charts how each of his jokes did in a little notebook, and she wakes up before him so she can put on her face, do her hair, and look pretty when he wakes up). Joel is soon revealed to be a weak, joke-stealing asshole, and he leaves Midge — on Yom Kippur, no less — which leads to her epiphany that she is the funny one who should do stand-up comedy. If there was a chance she was going to think her act, which lands her in jail, was a fluke, club employee Susie (Alex Borstein) convinces her she has real talent. (Lenny Bruce, played by Luke Kirby, also helps her along.) Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle round out the cast as Midge's parents, and they're also terrific. Not surprisingly, Mrs. Maisel is my No. 1 choice for the fall, and since all the episodes are dropping at once, I'm particularly excited to binge the shit out of them. —K.A.

NOTE: Please read, especially if you're heading to the comments section to complain that something is missing!

We wrote only about shows we could screen at least one episode of. Will & Grace, Star Trek: Discovery, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, and Mindhunter were a few of the shows that didn’t have screeners available in time for consideration. We wrote only about new shows, not returning ones, as much as we also love Top of the Lake and Curb Your Enthusiasm. And there are shows we skipped, given the volume, especially if they failed to make any impression either way (such as Hulu’s Future Man, Amazon’s Jean-Claude Van Johnson, and the Audience Network’s Loudermilk). Complain away about anything else!



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.