Much of this fall TV season can be summed up in three words: family, fantasy, and farewells.
NBC’s This Is Us is back for yet another emotional wrecking ball of a season. Fox’s new Prodigal Son portrays what looks to be one of TV’s darkest, most twisted father-son relationships, but Walton Goggins in CBS’s new comedy The Unicorn could restore your faith in paternal bonds.
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Among the shows entering their final seasons: NBC’s The Good Place, USA’s Mr. Robot, Fox’s Empire, ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, and ABC’s Modern Family.
Unbelievable (Sept. 13, Netflix). Toni Collette and Nurse Jackie’s Merritt Wever star in this chilling drama as a female detective-duo who discover the connection between a series of sexual assaults. Thousands of miles away, Marie (Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever) reports her rape by a home intruder, only to be doubted by everyone around her. The story is based on Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting that uncovered a nationwide systemic under-investigation of sexual assault claims by local law enforcement.
Country Music (Sept. 15, WHYY). Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns has chronicled everything from American wars to baseball. In this 16-hour, eight-part documentary series, Burns turns his eye to the evolution of country music through the people and places that made it — from Southern Appalachia and California’s honky-tonks to the Carter Family and Garth Brooks.
American Horror Story: 1984 (Sept. 18, FX). The ninth season of Ryan Murphy’s fright-fest is going to summer camp and taking a dip in the bloody lake of 1980s slasher horror tropes. With most of the series’ big names, including Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson, sitting this season out, FX is betting on big hair and big scares, à la Friday the 13th and Halloween, to lure you in.
Prodigal Son (Sept. 23, Fox). Any Walking Dead fans missing their favorite (and former) hilltop leader Jesus are in luck. Tom Payne has been revived in this new Fox drama that takes dysfunctional father-son dynamics to sinister heights. Featuring Lou Diamond Phillips and Scandal’s Bellamy Young, the crime procedural centers on Michael Sheen (Good Omens, Masters of Sex) as a notorious serial killer who tries to woo his son, Malcolm (Payne), a criminal profiler, to his side.
Bluff City Law (Sept. 23, CBS). Jimmy Smits returns to TV as a famed Memphis lawyer who reconnects with his daughter to fight for the little guy and fight injustice together.
Empire (Sept. 24, Fox). It’s the final season of Lee Daniel’s music-fueled soap opera, whose offscreen drama last season led to the expulsion of star Jussie Smollett. Expect the musical drama about the Lyons family to go out with a roar.
Mixed-ish (Sept. 24, ABC). In this prequel to Black-ish, Mark-Paul Gosselaar (The Passage) and Tika Sumpter (The Haves and the Have Nots) play the parents of a 12-year-old Rainbow — Tracee Ellis Ross’s Bow in Black-ish — who swap their mixed-race family’s freewheeling commune life for 1980s suburbia, throwing their kids into an identity crisis.
This Is Us (Sept. 24, NBC). Television’s favorite family returns for yet another 18 episodes of heart-wrenching melodrama. Season Four promises to expand the Pearsons’ world — both in the past and through 15-year time jumps — as they grapple with the “unexpected moments” that can change everything. Guest appearances include Jennifer Morrison (Once Upon A Time), Omar Epps (House), and director M. Night Shyamalan.
Modern Family (Sept. 25, ABC). After a whopping 22 Emmy awards, the ensemble that ushered in a new age and image of the American family begins its final season.
The Goldbergs / Schooled (Sept. 25, ABC). Jenkintown’s Goldbergs will head out on a Vacation-style episode, bringing Anthony Michael Hall and Christie Brinkley along with them. Following the Season 6 premiere of The Goldbergs is the second-season premiere of the 1990s-set spin-off Schooled, starring Tim Meadows and Goldbergs’ alum AJ Michalka.
Stumptown (Sept. 25, ABC). Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother fame is Dex, a sharp-witted and unapologetic Army veteran and private investigator whose complicated professional life frequently overlaps with her even more complicated personal one, putting her on the wrong side of criminals and cops alike. Michael Ealy (The Following), Jake Johnson (New Girl), and Camryn Manheim (The Practice) round out the cast in this series based on an Oni Press graphic novel.
Carol’s Second Act (Sept. 26, CBS). Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle star Patricia Heaton plays a divorcee, mother, and retired teacher whose late-life decision to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor makes her the hospital’s oldest intern.
EVIL (Sept. 26, CBS). Former Luke Cage star Michael Colter plays a priest-in-training and actress Katja Herbers, a skeptical female clinical psychologist, who together investigate extraordinary events, including alleged miracles and demonic possessions. The Good Wife and The Good Fight producers Michelle and Robert King are behind this psychological mystery.
How to Get Away with Murder (Sept. 26, ABC). For five years, Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) and her students at a Philadelphia law school have done exactly what their show title suggests, but time — and all those dead people — may finally be catching up to them. In the sixth and final 15-episode season of this Shondaland hit, Davis will lead the rest of the Keating crew one last time as they face their last law school semester and the FBI.
Perfect Harmony (Sept. 26, NBC). Bradley Whitford has swapped the drama of The West Wing and bleakness of The Handmaid’s Tale for the inspirational antics of a small-town chapel. Whitford plays Arthur, a resigned and widowed former Princeton University music chair whose drunken run-in with a ragtag Kentucky church choir helps him once again see the light and puts the group of vocal underdogs on the path of singing competition glory.
The Good Place / Sunnyside (Sept. 26, NBC). Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, and the rest of this NBC comedy’s forking excellent cast will deliver one more final and hilariously hellish twist on life in the afterlife. Creator Mike Schur (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) also created Sunnyside, about a disgraced councilman (Kal Penn) who coaches a group of immigrants for their citizenship test.
The Unicorn (Sept. 26, CBS). Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justified) is trading in dramatic intensity for comedic sensitivity in this sitcom about a recently widowed single father who tries to get back into the dating scene with the encouragement of his friends and two daughters.
Godfather of Harlem (Sept. 29, Epix). If Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, and Empire had a TV baby, it would be Godfather of Harlem, a prequel to 2007′s American Gangster that stars Forest Whitaker and Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil). Based on the life of the infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Whitaker), it has him returning after 10 years in prison to regain control of Harlem, a neighborhood he once ruled that’s now controlled by the Italian mob.
Mr. Robot (Oct. 6, USA Network). In the final season of this critically acclaimed drama about wealth inequality, cybersecurity, moral altruism, and mental health, Oscar and Emmy-winner Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Christain Slater take their final laps as their hacker and alter-ego act in what creator Sam Esmail has described as one season-long Christmas special.
Nancy Drew (Oct. 9, The CW). One of literature’s most recognizable sleuths is getting a makeover in this dark, Riverdale-esque spin on the famed female detective. Newcomer Kennedy McMann plays Drew, who’s trying to catch a spectral murder suspect. Fans of the 1977 show will appreciate the appearance by Pamela Sue Martin, TV’s original Nancy Drew.
Limetown (Oct. 16, Facebook Watch). On the heels of her critically acclaimed work in USA’s The Sinner, Jessica Biel produces and stars, along with Stanley Tucci and Marlee Matlin, in this mystery based on the popular podcast. Biel plays Lia Haddock, a journalist reporting on the unexplained disappearance of her uncle and 300 other people from a Tennessee research facility.
Watchmen (Oct. 20, HBO). Lost and Leftovers creator Damon Lindelof’s new series isn’t a prequel, sequel, or even reboot of writer Alan Moore’s dark, satirical take on superheroes, cultural anxiety, and power. Instead, consider the series — led by Oscar-winner Regina King as a mother and masked vigilante — an expansion of the colorful and acclaimed graphic novel universe of the same name. The new HBO series’ nine-episode first season retains Moore’s gritty examinations of technology, rule and order, identity, and corruption, but has shed the 1980s-based end-of-the-world aesthetic for the politics and pressures of our current societal landscape.
The Kominsky Method (Oct. 25, Netflix). Academy Award winners Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin return for the second season of this emotional Netflix comedy about navigating Hollywood as an aging Angeleno, from the mind of TV comedy giant Chuck Lorre.
Jack Ryan (Nov. 1, Amazon). John Krasinski returns as Tom Clancy’s future president. This time, Ryan spends his time in Venezuela, along with Wendell Pierce and series newcomer Noomi Rapace (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
The Morning Show (Nov. 1, Apple TV Plus). Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell head up Apple’s debut in television originals with this 10-episode series. Aniston plays one-half of America’s most popular morning show duo, whose life is upended when her co-anchor, played by Carell, is fired. When a new, younger anchor (Witherspoon) is brought on to rehab the show’s image, political and personal chaos overtake the newsroom.
Shameless (Nov. 3, Showtime). Last season marked the end of Emmy Rossum’s turn as the determined and quick-witted Gallagher matriarch Fiona. But not to worry. The criminally endearing gaggle of Gallaghers and their reliably inept father, Frank (played by William H. Macy), remain Chicago’s most dysfunctional family in their tenth season.
His Dark Materials (Nov. 4, HBO). A decade after a less than successful cinematic release, HBO is trying its hand at bringing to life Philip Pullman’s controversial fantasy saga about parallel universes and a powerful theocracy where children frequently disappear. Like its choppy and sanitized cinematic counterpart, the small screen adaptation is lead by an all-star cast, including James McAvoy (It Chapter Two), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), Dafne Keen (Logan), and Ruth Wilson (The Affair).