As they say of Southern California, television seems to have become a place without seasons. Autumn used to bring in the TV harvest; now, new fruit drops on-screen the year ’round. What does it mean to be a fall series anymore? Are they the best of the best? Not necessarily! (Indeed, networks seem to hold some better ones back for when their first line of new offerings is shot down.)
But traditions die hard. Fall, in its profusion, still feels important. Here's some of what's coming, whether to ripen into maturity or to rot on the ground. (As always times and dates subject to change.)
Seth MacFarlane, who gave you "Family Guy" and "Ted" to your delight and dismay, commands a starship and crew of high-concept characters in this space comedy. The first joke is about alien ejaculation; in a later scene, in the background, a dog licks itself. (Fox, 8 p.m.; regular time begins Sept. 21, 9 p.m.).
David Simon and George Pelecanos re-team for a colorful early-1970s epic of Times Square prostitution and porn, set back when liberation and exploitation got in bed together. James Franco stars as twin brothers (one worse, one better). As a sex worker in and out of a blond wig, Maggie Gyllenhaal also may be said to play two people. Good dialogue keeps even the scum relatable. (HBO, 9 p.m.).
Top of the Lake: China Girl
Second season of the Elisabeth Moss-starring, Jane Campion-directed Antipodean crime drama. Nicole Kidman's in this one, on her home turf. The series plays out over three consecutive nights. (Sundance, 9 p.m.).
Sassy Australian legal drama from the creators of "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries." (Acorn TV).
Julia Stiles stars in
True crime satire, in the investigative mode of "Serial," gets the look and Ira Glass-derived tone just right. ("So here's what we know.") Did Dylan
The Vietnam War
Ken Burns, America's maker of prestige documentaries, orchestrates an 18-hour trip through the Vietnam War. Anyone paying attention should come out the other side a more thoughtful person. (PBS, 8 p.m.).
Mike Judge Presents: Tales From the Tour Bus
Discursive documentary series from Mike Judge (hosting in cartoon form) is a sort of semi-animated, group-narrated "Drunk History" in which bandmates, crew members and family remember country music troublemakers like Johnny Paycheck and Jerry Lee Lewis. Inspirational dialogue: "I was the thinking adult in that relationship," recalls Myra Gale Brown, Jerry Lee's infamous child bride. (Cinemax, 10:30 p.m.).
Star Trek: Discovery
Boldly going to some extent where someone has gone before. (Space, it's still the final frontier.) Jason Isaacs is your captain. The first episode will be broadcast to get you to subscribe to the premium service CBS All Access, where the remaining ones will stream, should you wish to boldly go there. (CBS, 8:30 p.m.).
A portrait of the nerd as a very young man, this single-camera "Big Bang Theory" prequel is a more naturalistic take on the material, with Sheldon (Iain Armitage, charmingly oddball) as a 9-year-old East Texas high school freshman and square peg. "Go play," he is told. "Go play," he replies. "If only life were that simple." (Note proper use of the subjunctive.) (CBS, 8:30 p.m.; "special series debut"; regular time begins Nov. 2, 8:30 p.m.).
Me, Myself & I
Sweetly optimistic sitcom wherein Bobby Moynihan, Jack Dylan Grazer and John Larroquette play the same character, an inventor, at three ages, from 1991 to 2042, not in that order. The message is that things will go wrong, and be all right, and that though you may get heavy around 40, you can take off the weight by 65. (CBS, 9:30 p.m.).
Of the fall's new special-ops dramas, this is the one with Mike Vogel supervising things in the field and Anne Heche running intel at home. (NBC 10 p.m.)
The Good Doctor
Freddie Highmore plays a surgeon with autism who has an encyclopedic mind. "He's not Rain Man," says sponsor Richard Schiff. Other, buffer doctors are around to have the human intercourse — sexual and otherwise, but definitely sexual — Highmore won't. David Shore (“House”) created with Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost”) from a South Korean model. (
Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
The success of last year's O.J. Simpson miniseries made an adaptation about another Los Angeles family murder case-turned-national obsession all but inevitable. Dick Wolf takes the challenge. With Edie Falco as the brothers’ defense lawyer, Leslie Abramson. (NBC, 10 p.m.).
Of the fall's new special-ops military dramas, this is the one with David Boreanaz running things in the field and Jessica Paré supervising intel at home. (CBS, 9 p.m.).
Will and Grace
Groundbreaking situation comedy returns, cast intact, to survey what's grown on the broken ground. (NBC, 9 p.m.).
Super-beings from the dark side of the moon, some of whom share names with figures from classical mythology, bring their palace intrigues (and a really big dog) to Earth and Hawaii. Some of it was shot with an IMAX camera, which won't matter much to your television. (ABC, 8 p.m.).
Tim Roth is the new, British sheriff of a Canadian small town and Christina Hendricks is the public face of the oil refinery whose workers are disturbing the social fabric in a thriller penned by Rowan Joffé ("28 Weeks Later"). (Amazon).
Animated puberty comedy from Nick Kroll and friends includes a Hormone Monster, talking sperm and the Ghost of Duke Ellington. Sample dialogue: "Those girls are going to eat him alive, and then barf him out because they're bulimic." (Netflix).
Wisdom of the Crowd
Jeremy Piven is a billionaire techie who invents a crowdsourcing crime-solving app to plug that "Person of Interest"-shaped hole in the CBS schedule. Of course, it works. (CBS, 8:30 pm).
Ten Days in the Valley
Hollywood types collide in a well-proportioned and persuasive thriller about a driven TV producer (
Craig Robinson and Adam Scott (a little bit Scully and Mulder, a little bit Abbott and Costello) are men in reduced circumstances who find themselves investigating a world — worlds — of strangeness in this charming science-fiction buddy comedy. (Fox, 8:30 p.m.).
Mark Feuerstein is a divorced, jobless actor living in an apartment between his interfering parents (Linda Lavin, Elliott Gould) and surgeon brother (David Walton). Feuerstein's own life reportedly provided the sitcom-ready premise, have mercy on his soul. Jokes about the effect of cold on male genitalia, not drinking the breast milk left in that jar in the refrigerator and a son having been inside his mother. Comical doorman, sassy kid lurk inevitably in the lobby. (CBS, 8:30 p.m.)
More Marvel mutants, in the shape of a family drama. Stephen Moyer and
High-class hotel high jinks in World War II London, from the producers of "Downton Abbey" and "The Crown," who know what you like. (Ovation, 10 p.m.)
Brandon Micheal Hall is the outsider in this political wish-fulfillment comedy, a rapper accidentally elected the mayor of his town. Mom Yvette Nicole Brown and political consultant
Kevin (Probably) Saves the World
Cheerful inspirational comedy-drama features Jason Ritter as a Wall Street failure, living with sister JoAnna Garcia Swisher and sullen niece Chloe East, who is charged by God, maybe, to find 35 righteous souls to restore balance to the world. (There are only ever 36, and they have gotten down to one, him.) Pretty sure that's not how it works, even in the Bible, but seekers after family fare should be pleased. (ABC, 10 pm.)
Alaska town beset by supernatural activity. Created by Simon Barry ("Van Helsing"). (Syfy, 10 p.m.).
Georgia town beset by supernatural activity. Mario Van Peebles produces, will sometimes write, direct and appear. (Syfy, 10 pm).
Rome-set crime epic, imported from Italy, in Italian. Not to be confused with Sbarro, which is a pizza joint. (Netflix).
The CW's entry in the fall season's military sweepstakes is naturally the most sexed-up and soapy of the lot. Christina Ochoa and Matt Barr are special-ops helicopter pilots weaponizing their hotness as they uncover a long-arc mystery. (CW, 9 p.m.).
Trump Age revival of a Reagan-era favorite seasons the original with a dash of self-awareness, while leaving all the character dynamics in place. "When the revolution happens, it'll be your head they come for first," Carrington son Steven (James Mackay) affectionately tells ambitious sister Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies), back home for the wedding of billionaire father Blake (Grant Show) and soon-to-be stepmother Cristal (Nathalie Kelly). Alan Dale (“The O.C.”) is the butler who knows all, sees all. There will be catfights. (CW, 9 p.m.).
Fact-based David Fincher-produced (and sometimes directed) period piece, set in 1979, about new horizons in profiling. Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany are the feds who depose serial killers, controversially: "You want truffles, you got to get in the dirt with the pigs." Anna Torv plays a psychologist. (Netflix).
Jay Pharoah plays a comic primed for success;
Ron "Office Space" Livingston as a recovering alcoholic and drug counselor in a downbeat comedy from Peter Farrelly and Bobby Mort. "You're not warm and fuzzy," someone tells him. "You're hard and angular and uncomfortable. You're like an IKEA chair who leads sobriety meetings." (Audience Network/DirecTV/AT&T, 8:30 p.m.).
The Last O.G.
Tracy Morgan stars as a mug lately out of the jug, after 15 years in stir, confronting the modern world, his old girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish of “Girls Trip”) and the twins he didn't know they had. Cedric the Entertainer runs his halfway house. Jordan Peele is a co-creator. (TBS, 10 p.m.; moves to 10:30 p.m. Oct. 31).
At Home With Amy Sedaris
Fanciful, farcical adventures in home economics in Sedaris’ first starring series since “Strangers With Candy.” (truTV, 10:30 p.m.).
"Peep Show's" Mitchell and Webb reunite in a comedy about a pub landlord and the foster brother who returns to trouble him. (Sundance Now).
Canadian power trio! Netflix gets its own Margaret Atwood adaptation, a 19th-century true-crime tale, written by Sarah Polley and directed by Mary Harron ("I Shot Andy Warhol"). (Netflix)
Frankie Shaw turns her Sundance-certified short about a South Boston single mother attempting to reconcile wildness and responsibility. Rosie O'Donnell, as you've never seen her, plays her mother. Title is an acronym, I guess. You could look it up. (Showtime, 10 p.m.).
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg direct this action comedy about a time-traveling janitor (Josh Hutcherson) with superior gaming skills, enlisted to save the past from the future, or however that works. (
More mutants, but teenagers this time, versus their less-than-heroic parents. Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage ("Gossip Girl") run the show, appropriately. (Hulu).
Steven Soderbergh western features Jeff Daniels as an outlaw out to settle a score, and Michelle Dockery a tough widder woman in the New Mexico town he's headed for. There'll be a reckoning, I reckon. (Netflix).
She's Gotta Have It
Spike Lee turns his first feature, about a woman with three beaus, into his first television series. (Netflix).
Christopher Meloni as a drunk hit man and Patton Oswalt as an imaginary little blue-winged horse that enters his life — why would you not watch this? (Syfy, 10 p.m.)
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