The start of the fall TV season isn’t the major cultural event it once was—and, for the most part, the broadcast networks’ new offerings aren’t going to light an artistic fire in just about anyone—but that doesn’t mean it’s not chock full of exciting TV. From the highly anticipated sophomore seasons of The Good Place (NBC) and The Girlfriend Experience (Starz) to the revivals of Will & Grace, Curb Your Enthusiasm and even Total Request Live everything old is new again—and the new, including limited series with names like David Fincher, Sarah Polley and Errol Morris attached, promises to be worth writing home about, too. Ladies and gentlemen, start your DVRs: Paste’s fall TV preview is here.
1. The Vietnam War
Premieres: September 17
It’s by marshaling the familiar images and frequent phrases of that tumultuous era into a single, stricken epic that The Vietnam War becomes the most thorough screen treatment of the conflict since its ignominious end, and perhaps the definitive one: What it lacks in the immediacy of Emile de Antonio’s In the Year of the Pig, the Winterfilm Collective’s Winter Soldier, Peter Davis’ Hearts and Minds, and the thousands of hours of ghastly footage that Americans watched from the dinner table in the 1960s and 1970s, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s indispensable docuseries regains from the sheer grandeur of its portrait, and from its plaintive understanding that the war was the hinge on which the optimism of “the American century” swung firmly, irrevocably shut.
2. The Good Place
Premieres: September 20
After ending its first season with one (pardon the pun) hell of a plot twist, one of the best new comedies from last season returns. Michael (Ted Danson) has hit the reset button on Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) experience in the afterlife. How long until Eleanor figures out what is going on? In its debut season, the series thrived because of it razor sharp humor and its ability to constantly surprise viewers. Will that continue in the second season? We really forking hope so.
3. Will & Grace
Premieres: September 28
NBC joins the revival craze with the return of this popular sitcom, which ran from 1998 to 2006. Old pals Will Truman (Eric McCormack) and Grace Adler (Debra Messing) are still in their New York apartment, and their friends Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) are still bantering. If the new version’s a success—it’s already been renewed for a second season—expect to see more of the biggest broadcast series of the ‘90s and ‘00s back for another spin. Oh, and the original series finale, which saw Will and Grace reunited after 18 years apart? Just ignore it: That’s what co-creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick are planning to do.
4. Tin Star
Premieres: September 29
Tim Roth stars as a police chief in a small town in the Canadian Rockies who must defend his community when a new oil refinery opens. Christina Hendricks co-stars as—you know what let’s stop right there—obviously we are going to watch anything Hendricks is in. But if you must know she plays corporate executive Elizabeth Bradshaw. The 10-part series promises suspense after Jim’s family is befallen with tragedy.
5. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Premieres: October 1
The world’s happiest man is back. We joke. But we are delighted that Larry David returns for a ninth season and the first new episodes since 2011. All the regulars will be back including Cheryl Hines as Larry’s wife and Jeff Garlin as his best friend Jeff. Look for guest appearances from Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Nick Offerman, Jimmy Kimmel, Lauren Graham, Carrie Brownstein, Elizabeth Perkins, Ed Begley, Jr., and Nasim Pedrad.
6. Total Request Live
Premieres: October 2
Photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
Video killed the radio star—and then the Internet killed Total Request Live. Until this fall, that is, when MTV rolls out its revival of the daily, music video-centric show that defined much of my childhood. Though TRL is returning to Times Square nearly 10 years after the original went off the air, the new edition will be housed in a brand new (and much larger) studio, and (sad face) Carson Daly won’t be coming back as host. Those duties fall to a diverse set of radio, TV and Internet personalities, none of whom we’d ever heard of. Wanna feel old?
7. The Mayor
Premieres: October 3
We’re not going to lie. The new fall network TV season is BLEAK and littered with uninspired drama and hackneyed comedies. So The Mayor really shines as the season’s best new network show. Brandon Micheal Hall headlines as twentysomething rapper awaiting his big break. He runs for mayor of his small town of Fort Grey, California as a stunt and much to his surprise/horror he wins. Hall is a charming delight and Yvette Nicole Brown and Lea Michele round out this strong ensemble.
Premieres: October 11
The CW’s reboot of the Reagan-era primetime soap starts with the same premise: With glamorous heiress Fallon Carrington (Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll standout Elizabeth Gillies) objecting to her wealthy father’s marriage to an employee/possible gold-digger. But as one might expect of Gossip Girl and The O.C. veteran Josh Schwartz, who developed the series with Stephanie Savage and Sallie Patrick, there are plenty of CW-friendly twists: Blake Carrington (Grant Show) is a babe, his fiancée, Cristal (Nathalie Kelley), is Latina, and his son, Steven (James Mackay), is gay. Whether audiences will have an appetite for the intrigues of a rich, powerful, careless family with one already in the White House remains to be seen, but at least Dynasty isn’t attempting to replace the irreplaceable right out of the gate: No word yet on who’ll step into Joan Collins’ iconic role as Blake’s ex-wife, Alexis.
9. I Love You America
Premieres: October 12
Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Hulu
is known for being outspoken and in this new series from Funny or Die she wants to speak to the people who don’t think like her. The 10-episode half-hour variety show will feature an opening monologue, an on-set focus group and find Silverman doing things like having dinner with a family who has never met a Jewish person. Silverman says the show won’t be political but rather emphasize the things we all have in common.
10. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Premieres: October 13
The sublime second season of Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s musical comedy ended with an excruciating, wait-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop romantic nightmare, which pretty much sums up both the series and my undying affection for it. In Season Three, after being spurned by Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), heroine Rebecca Bunch (Bloom, still awaiting a much-deserved Emmy nomination), plots her revenge. We never stopped humming “You Stupid Bitch,” so count us excited for this one.
Premieres: October 13
From executive producer David Fincher—whose films Zodiac and Se7en are among the most influential treatments of criminals and their profilers in the past three decades—Mindhunter, set in 1979, returns us to the origins of that relationship, as two agents (Holt McCallany and Looking’s Jonathan Groff) for the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit interview serial killers in prison and use the knowledge they glean to solve ongoing cases.
12. Stranger Things
Premieres: October 27
The Duffer brothers’ breakout homage to ‘80s horror returns for its second season, set one year after the vanishing of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). As he and his mother (Winona Ryder) continue to reel from the trauma of his trip to the Upside Down, the rest of the gang deals with the fallout from Barb’s (apparent) death and the disappearance of Eleven (Emmy nominee Millie Bobby Brown) in the Season One finale. It promises to be a perfectly creepy Halloween binge: Netflix is dropping all nine episodes Oct. 27.
13. Alias Grace
Premieres: November 3
Fast on the heels of one Margaret Atwood adaptation (Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale), the TV gods—well, Netflix, at least—are set to bring us another: Alias Grace directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho) and written by Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell) follows Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) and James McDermott (Kerr Logan), who are accused of killing their employer, Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross), and his housekeeper, Nancy (Anna Paquin, in her first TV appearance since True Blood), in Canada in 1843. Atwood, Harron, Polley: There may be no more compelling arrangement of behind-the-camera talent on the fall schedule.
14. The Girlfriend Experience
Premieres: November 5
After its taut, perceptively directed first season—featuring a brilliant performance by Riley Keough—Starz’s spin on Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film has a high bar to meet. So Soderbergh (an executive producer on the series) and writer/directors Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz decided to “blow up the format”: Season Two follows a pair of distinct seven-episode stories set in the world of high-end escorts, each filmed separately. In other words, with help from stars Louise Krause, Anna Friel and Carmen Ejogo, The Girlfriend Experience isn’t just blowing up its own format—it’s redefining the narrative structure of TV itself.
Premieres: November 5
Get to know the name Frankie Shaw. The Boston native is the star, creator, executive producer and writer on her new series SMILF, which is loosely based on her own life. Oh and she directs a handful of episodes too (and only is using female directors for her first season). Bridgette is a single mom navigating parenthood and the dating world. Rosie O’Donnell, in her first regular series role, co-stars as Bridgette’s mother.
16. Marvel’s The Runaways
Premieres: November 21
Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Marvel plus the creator of The O.C. and Gossip Girl is a TV match made in heaven. Executive producer Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage brings this tale of teenagers with super powers who happen to be the sons of daughters of super villains to the small screen. Of note, James Marsters (Buffy), Ever Carradine (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Kevin Weisman (Alias) play the parents. Could this be Hulu’s next hit?
17. She’s Gotta Have It
Premieres: November 23
Netflix is cementing itself as the place for some of the best in the business. Spike Lee directs all 10 episodes of this updated version of his 1986 breakout film. DeWanda Wise stars as Nola Darling, a woman in her late 20s who struggles to decide what man to date so she dates all three.
Premieres: December 15
Documentarian Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) returns to true crime with this experimental blend of narrative and non-fiction filmmaking, which explores the CIA’s role in the development of LSD during the Cold War. Peter Saarsgard and Bob Balaban star, but you had us at “Errol Morris.”
19. A Christmas Story Live
Premieres: December 17
With NBC pushing its live production of Bye Bye Birdie to next year, Fox can swoop in and claim what had become, in recent years, a family viewing event. Maya Rudolph stars as Ralphie’s mom while a nationwide search for the boy to play Ralphie is currently underway. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Tony Award winners for Dear Evan Hansen and Oscar winners for La La Land, may add Emmy winners to their resume next year. They’re composing new songs for the musical.
20. Black Mirror
Netflix’s popular anthology series, from master of modern sci-fi/horror Charlie Brooker, returns for its fourth season this fall—and with it, we’re sure, comes Brooker’s prescient sense of the ways technology shapes (or is it twists?) our lives. Netflix hasn’t made many details of the new season public, but we do know that it includes “USS Callister,” a Star Trek-influenced episode starring Jesse Plemons, Jimmi Simpson and Michaela Coel, and the Jodie Foster-directed “Arkangel,” with Mad Men’s Midge, Rosemarie DeWitt.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .
Matt Brennan is the TV editor of Paste Magazine. He tweets about what he’s watching @thefilmgoer.