We have officially hit the summer dead zone. There are nearly 400 scripted series per year these days, but hardly a one of them airs in mid-August. We’ve still got Review, a couple of episodes of Mr. Robot and Suits left, as well as the HBO Sunday night line-up now anchored by the phenomenal David Simon series, Show Me a Hero, but there’s not much going on besides that in the world of television right now.
That will all change in September, when the fall season returns, late-night television gets a couple of new faces, and we get to sample a lot of new series, many of which will probably fail by December. What do we have to look forward to the most, beyond Fear the Walking Dead, which premieres this Sunday?
Here are the 10 most anticipated new and returning shows of September. It’s time to reset your DVRs.
Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS, Sept. 8th, 11:30 p.m.) — It will have been three and a half months since David Letterman’s last show, and eight months since the last Colbert Report, but on Sept. 8, we’ll finally get some gravitas back into our late-night rotation (all the more absent since the departure of Jon Stewart). The Jimmys are great, Seth is fine, Conan is solid as always, but Colbert will bring some weight — and his actual personae — to the mix. Late-night television has definitely been missing something this summer, and I think that Colbert will help fill the void.
You’re The Worst (FXX, Sept. 9, 10:30 p.m.) — Beloved by critics and the few people who have actually watched it, You’re the Worst may be the best sitcom on television. With nearly a year to benefit from the buzz, hopefully the ratings for the second season of You’re the Worst will catch up to the viewer adoration. Aya Cash is simply the greatest actress in sitcom television at the moment, and the way that You’re the Worst subverts romantic comedy tropes is nothing short of brilliant. It’s funny. It’s scathing. And it’s wrong. So very wrong, and that’s exactly why it should be watched this fall. The first season is currently available on Hulu if you need to catch up.
Bastard Executioner (FX, Sept. 15, 10 p.m.) — Kurt Sutter will follow Sons of Anarchy with this new FX drama, which will follow a warrior knight in “King Edward The Thirds charge who is broken by the ravages of war and vows to lay down his sword. But when that violence finds him again, he is forced to pick up the bloodiest sword of all.” It’s Kurt Sutter (who will also play a deaf mute character) and his wife, Katey Sagal, and based on seasons one, two, four, and six of Sons, it’s worth at least checking out. Hell, it’s a must-watch alone based on the fact that Sutter almost called it The Head in the Basket (because every episode contains a head in a basket).
Doctor Who (BBC America, Sept. 19, 9:00 p.m.) — David Tennant may still be the best modern Doctor, but no one has transcended Stephen Moffat’s writing flaws better than Peter Capaldi, perhaps the boldest and certainly the grumpiest of the modern Doctor incarnations. After teasing us with her departure at the end of last season, Jenna Coleman (who plays Clara Oswald) may actually leave at the end of season nine, and that’s reason enough to watch. She is the most independent of all the Doctor’s companions so far, and the Coleman and Capaldi have chemistry to spare. The Mistress will be back this season, and we’ll even get to see Maisie Williams in an episode. That’s worth being excited about.
Minority Report (Fox, Sept. 21, 9 p.m.) — There are a lot of remakes, reboots, and television adaptations coming to television this fall (and beyond), and there’s no real reason to think that Minority Report will be better or worse than any of the others, except for the fact that the Phillip K. Dick’s source material offers a lot of promising possibilities, and the Fox series has Steven Spielberg as executive producer. Then again, so did Terra Nova, so who knows? Based on the trailer, at least, it looks like a show worth trying out.
The Muppets (ABC, Sept. 22, 8 p.m.) — This may be yet another resurrected title, but how can you go wrong with The Muppets (Muppets From Space notwithstanding)? This one comes with a Larry Sanders/30 Rock type premise: It will follow the Muppets behind the scenes of their late-night talk show, Up Late with Miss Piggy, and it will feature the usual gamut of celebrities (including, among others, Reese Witherspoon, Imagine Dragons and Topher Grace). Sadly, however, there may be some tension between Piggy and the executive producer of the show, Kermit, as the two recently announced their separation. And if that’s not enough to draw you in, I have two words for you: Wynn Duffy.
Scream Queens (Fox, Sept. 22, 8 p.m.) — It’s basically Glee crossed with American Horror Story crossed with House Bunny crossed with Scream, I guess? Look: It’s Ryan Murphy. The show will probably be completely unavoidable, and it will probably even be very good. For half a season, anyway, and then it may turn into a train wreck (but like a lot of Ryan Murphy train wrecks, it’ll be fun to watch … to a point). Personally, I’m in for Jamie Lee Curtis alone, and Abigail Breslin doesn’t hurt. Lea Michele and Ariana Grande are not exactly huge draws, but what if they die gruesome deaths? It could be the best thing since Paris Hilton getting speared in House of Wax.
Empire (Fox, Sept. 23, 9 p.m.) — The biggest show on network television last year returns for a longer season two, but now it comes with high expectations. Can it follow up the most buzzed-about season of TV that’s not either The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones? This season will add Marisa Tomei in a recurring role, and feature a slew of guest stars, including Alicia Keys, Chris Rock, Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey. The question is: Can Empire keep its breakneck plot-chewing pace up in its second season, or will it fall prey to the Shonda Rhimes/Ryan Murphy syndrome, especially now that Lucious Lyon is behind bars and Cookie is calling the shots. Who will be the underdog worth rooting for?
Heroes Reborn (NBC, Sept. 24, 8 p.m.) — Creator Tim Kring argues that the failure of Heroes the first time around — when it acquired a huge following in its first season before subsequently losing it all in the second and third seasons — was because they were forced to produce more than 20 episodes a season. But even with a shorter 13-episode order, can Heroes rebound five years after the original left the air, especially without its most popular characters, played by Hayden Panettierre, Zachary Quinto and Peter Petrelli? Morbid curiosity may compel us to give it a shot, but Kring is going to have to prove himself quickly if he wants us to stick around.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central, Sept. 28, 11 p.m.) — Trevor Noah’s announcement as Jon Stewart’s replacement way back in March was met with a ton of excitement and enthusiasm … for about 12 hours. That’s when some old jokes on Twitter prompted some to question whether Noah was the right guy to succeed Stewart. He has, however, managed to weather that storm very well in the interceding months, and thanks to a stint on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, has some of us very, very excited about him taking over the show. He’s smart, he’s quick on his feet, he’s got International appeal, and he’s bright enough to succeed Jon Stewart but different enough (hopefully) not to invite too many comparisons. I, for one, am rooting for him, even if he has decided not to attack Fox News as much as his predecessor.