One of the nice things about the current television landscape is that there really aren’t many rules anymore. Wanna cast a couple movie stars in a show that lasts a total of 10 episodes? Cool. Wanna release all the episodes of your next season at once in the middle of the night and just let people watch whenever they want? Nice. Wanna make a goofy comedy that’s also an incredibly deep dive on the subjects of depression and loneliness, and tell the whole thing from the perspective of an animated showbiz horse? Go nuts, my guy.
But even if there aren’t real “rules” anymore, in a hard and fast sense, there are still some pretty helpful guidelines. Tips, if you will, to help make sure a season of television is on the right track. Here are three pretty important ones.
– Michael Schur should be in charge of a network comedy.
– Kiefer Sutherland should have a show in which America is under attack from a mysterious group of evildoers who are probably in cahoots with a current, former, or future Vice President.
– There should be at least one show about a talking dog.
This is why I’m optimistic about the upcoming fall television season. All three of those boxes are checked off together for the first time since 2014, when Parks and Recreation, 24: Live Another Day, and Dog With a Blog were all airing new episodes. There are other things to look forward to as well, and we’ll get to them in a minute, but this is a very exciting development. I mean, for me, at least. But I’m the one making this list, so that’s kind of what we’re working with here.
Below, please find the most exciting new shows of the fall season, ranked. Check out our full September preview for more.
10. The Crown (Netflix)
The Crown is Netflix’s big fancy British-American series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, who will be played by Claire Foy, which is notable because Claire Foy is not Helen Mirren. I didn’t even know you were allowed to make a movie or TV show about Queen Elizabeth without casting Helen Mirren.
I suppose the reasoning behind the decision was that the first season will focus on an earlier part of Elizabeth’s life, but Netflix reportedly spent $156 million on the first 10 episodes, so don’t you dare try to tell me that there wasn’t money to cast Helen Mirren and age her down a few decades with CGI. It’s shameful, really. The only way I will be swayed from this opinion is if it turns out they made the show for $6 million and they just put a $150 million pile of cash in the background of every scene without even explaining it.
8. Downward Dog (ABC) and Conviction (ABC), tie
If there is one thing you need to know about me, it’s that if someone makes a show about a talking dog that co-stars Allison Tolman from season one of Fargo (Molly Solverson, herself), I am going to watch that show. At least once. I don’t care. And who are you to judge me, anyway? Sitting there with your bad attitude and $7 coffee, looking down your nose at me and my talking dog show. You’re not so great, Trevor!
(Your name is Trevor, yes? I bet it is. There has never been a good Trevor.)
Okay, good news, bad news, and more good news.
GOOD: Hayley Atwell is back on television already after ABC canned the fun, ratings-challenged Agent Carter.
BAD: Watch that trailer. Then read the official description of the show:
Lawyer and former First Daughter Hayes Morrison is about to accept a job offered from her sexy nemesis, NY District Attorney Wayne Wallis, to avoid jail time for cocaine possession and avoid hurting her mother’s Senate campaign. Working with his team at the new Conviction Integrity Unit will let her use her brilliant mind to turn over cases where there is credible suspicion of wrongful conviction, and give her a chance to turn things around with her high-powered political family…
GOOD: Wait, the bad girl cocaine-loving former First Daughter is a brilliant lawyer who is blackmailed by “her sexy nemesis” — their words! — into freeing unjustly accused criminals?! Dear God. This is the greatest show I’ve ever heard of. I can’t believe it’s real. I want to kiss whoever came up with it straight on the mouth.
7. Westworld (HBO)
… a long-developing, very expensive series from Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams, based on a 1973 film directed by novelist Michael Crichton, that stars Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, and Evan Rachel Wood, among others, and takes place in some sort of evil futuristic theme park, from where it will explore “the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.”
There is a lot going on with Westworld. HBO would really like for you to like it, because Game of Thrones is ending soon and they could use a new show that everyone goes nuts about. We’ll know they’re getting desperate if we see dragons riding a roller coaster at some point.
6. Better Things (FX)
A new comedy starring Pamela Adlon, you say? Produced by Adlon and Louis CK? On the same network that gave us Louie, in addition to one of television’s best current drama/comedies, You’re the Worst? Yeah, okay. That’ll work.
5. Designated Survivor (ABC)
Look, here’s the thing: Kiefer Sutherland’s character in this show is named Tom Kirkman. Tom Kirkman is the Secretary of Urban Housing and Development. I know this because I watched the trailer and looked the show up on Wikipedia. But I do not care. I choose to believe he is still playing Jack Bauer. Like, an undercover version of Jack Bauer, who is so deep inside the system that he successfully got appointed to the President’s cabinet and switched networks. That’s why he’s wearing the glasses. He’s in a disguise, like when Superman wears them as Clark Kent. I’m sure of this.
Sincere apologies go out to Mr. Sutherland and the rest of the cast and crew of this show, all of whom presumably worked much too hard on it for me to sit here like “lol but that’s jack bauer tho,” but it’s all beyond my control.
4. Son of Zorn (Fox)
Son of Zorn is interesting for two reasons:
– It stars Jason Sudeikis as the voice of a He-Man-like animated warrior who returns to real-life Orange County to reconnect with his ex-wife and teenage son.
– That premise is so crazy and delightful that I almost can’t believe it ended up on network television.
I truly hope this show is good, and not only because it sounds great and I want another fun show to watch. I also just want to live in a world where weird-ass comedies like this are huge ratings successes that fill the airwaves. The dream, if you will.
3. Luke Cage (Netflix)
Marvel’s Netflix shows have been great so far. Jessica Jones had a strong, critically-lauded freshman run and Daredevil is a dark and violent take on the character that has been so good that it has almost — almost — erased the Ben Affleck version from the public consciousness. There’s no reason to expect that Luke Cage will be bad, especially since Mike Colter’s brief appearances as the character in Jessica Jones were so intriguing. Let’s just go ahead and block out that weekend for a binge-watch. You can find the time.
2. Atlanta (FX)
Atlanta is getting some of the best early buzz among critics and industry types, which is both good news and not a huge surprise, because star and creator Donald Glover is a talented dude. The series follows his character as he attempts to navigate the Atlanta hip-hop scene with his rapper cousin, kind of like if Vinyl had been a present-day show about Southern rap instead of a look at the 1970s rock scene. And if it had been, uh, good. And different. Just those three small differences, really.
1. The Good Place (NBC)
There has been a hole in the network television schedule, and in my heart, since Parks and Recreation ended, so I am very happy to have a new comedy from Michael Schur and company. The Good Place stars Kristen Bell as a woman who dies and is mistakenly sent to a heaven-like place, where Ted Danson is her guide to the afterlife. Bell’s comedic chops have been underrated for a while, even after she starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and had a terrific guest run on Parks. Danson’s comedic chops are… not underrated. He was Sam Malone. His chops are properly rated as “legendary.” It is good to have him back in a show like this after a few years of using Roombas to investigate murders on CBS.
So yes, we are very optimistic about this show.