There are ever more choices of both television shows and ways to view them, which leads to an overload of new shows for someone hunting around the channels. Here are a few highlights from the throng of previews inundating the Internet.
Best Bets Among the network comedies and dramas, there are a few that look like honest, intelligent representations of people, even if the situations are sometimes extreme. A couple of comedies address families who are trying to do their best by children with special needs. Speechless (ABC, 9/21) and American Housewife (ABC, 10/11) feature loving families who move to find the best educational situation, putting stressors on their other children and on other aspects of their lives. As always, it remains to be seen whether these shows will take the higher road or succumb to the temptation of crass comedy.
Change is a prominent theme in the new shows. One Mississippi (Amazon, 9/9) is the story of a woman who returns to her small hometown as her mother is dying, then decides to stay for a while. Based on some of comedian Tig Notaro’s own tragic life experiences over the last several years, it looks like a quirky and melancholy comedy. In the drama Pitch (Fox, 9/22), a young female pitcher moves up to become the first woman to play for a Major League Baseball team. And in the six-part thriller Undercover (BBC America, 11/17), a woman chosen to be the Director of Public Prosecution finds that her long-time husband may be hiding something from her. Designated Survivor (ABC, 9/21) finds Kiefer Sutherland’s U.S. Secretary of Housing and Development suddenly promoted to president after a terrorist attack at the State of the Union Address leaves him the designated survivor. And This Is Us (NBC, 9/20) explores the changes in the lives of an assortment of people who were born on the same day and are all turning 36 years old.
A Different Perspective A number of shows this fall will examine aspects of what it is like to be a person of color in America. In the upcoming show Atlanta (FX, 9/6), Donald Glover stars as a young man trying to break into the hip hop scene with his cousin so they can have a better life. The much raved-about comedy appears to have a very stylized approach to filming, and will likely take a look at the gritty side of living with little means. Queen Sugar (OWN, 9/6) is a drama created and directed by Ava DuVernay (Selma), featuring two successful sisters who return to run their father’s Louisiana sugarcane farm after his death. The documentary series America Divided (Epix, 9/30) follows different celebrities as they examine the inequities in their own lives. And in Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise (PBS, 11/15-11/22), Harvard professor and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. explores recent African American history.
True Story Documentaries and docu-series are popping up everywhere. 9/11 Inside the Pentagon (PBS, 9/6) remembers the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the U.S. Department of Defense. The 5-part Taking Fire (Discovery, 9/12) follows soldiers in Afghanistan. Spotlight Education (PBS, 9/12-9/17) takes on different aspects of the U.S. educational system. And Captive (Netflix, 12/9) will spend 8 episodes exploring the shadowy world of hostage-taking and negotiations.
Thanks to the success of the O.J. Simpson true-crime stories last season, we are getting another rehashing of a 90s murder. JonBenét Ramsey’s story is getting double treatment through The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey (CBS, 9/18) and JonBenét: An American Murder Mystery (Investigation Discovery, 9/12). And, wearyingly, you can look forward to a Lifetime movie about the same story in the near future.
Missing Downton Abbey? There are a few period dramas headed your way. Churchill’s Secret (PBS, 9/11) tells the hidden story of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s stroke in the 1950s. The Crown (Netflix, 11/4) takes on retelling the life of Queen Elizabeth II, while she’s still living! And while Call the Midwife is not exactly new, the Christmas special (PBS, 12/25) sees the team traveling to a whole new place, working with a mission hospital in South Africa.
Something for Everyone If none of the above have piqued your interest, never fear. Perhaps you would enjoy Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse (Amazon, 9/2) in which, you guessed it, Emeril eats with different chefs around the world. Or maybe you are into drumlines; you might enjoy Clash of the Corps (Fuse, 10/5). Abandoned (Viceland, 9/1) tags along with skateboarder Rick McCrank as he checks out abandoned buildings and structures. And last but certainly not least (at least at my house), there’s Haters Back Off (Netflix, 10/14), a comedy starring Colleen Ballinger as her quirky, belipsticked YouTube alter ego Miranda Sings.
What Have We Missed? This is only the tip of the iceberg, my friends. And that’s a chilly place to be. So many shows don’t pan out, or they have potential but never get past the first few episodes. Hopefully I’ve helped to narrow down the choices to some that are a bit more worthwhile than others. Let us know if there are any new shows on your must-see list, or if you have discovered something we missed!