If fall to you means kids back in school and your favorite shows are back on TV, 2020 remains the pits. We don’t yet know when we’ll see Queen Latifah make her debut as CBS’s The Equalizer, or when ABC’s The Goldbergs will return for more Jenkintown shout-outs.
What we do know is that there will be plenty to see this fall, some of it set in places — Britain, Italy, France, outer space — we can only reach through television. When production shut down in the spring, some networks went shopping for other countries’ pre-pandemic programming, or raided corporate siblings to fill in gaps. The streaming services that have fueled our quarantine binges haven’t yet run out of new shows, either.
Still, for fans of the broadcast networks’ scripted shows, September and October may feel like summer, with reality competitions and game shows filling spots that might once have gone to sitcoms or dramas. NBC has pushed its premiere week to Nov. 9-13, with This Is Us scheduled to return with a two-hour season premiere on Nov. 10. Much of the planned scripted programming at CBS, ABC, and the CW will be delayed, too, as studios work out how to bring actors together safely. Fox, with its animation-heavy Sunday lineup, and a couple of shows held back from last season, may look closer to normal. Not even COVID-19 could stop The Simpsons, which begins its 32nd season Sept. 27.
Also on the horizon: an HBO Max 30th anniversary reunion special with Will Smith and his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cast mates that’s expected around Thanksgiving, the fourth season of Netflix’s The Crown on Nov. 15, and on Oct. 4, the coronavirus-delayed Season 10 finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead, which brings Cherry Hill’s Lauren Cohan back to the show and will be followed by the premiere of a new spin-off, The Walking Dead: World Beyond.
Here’s some of what else is in store:
Away (Friday, Sept. 4, Netflix). I’m a sucker for space sagas, and this one, about the first human expedition to Mars, fits our times well, with stories of people at a distance trying to stay close. Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank plays the mission commander, who leaves a husband (Josh Charles, The Good Wife) and teenage daughter (Talitha Bateman), at what turns out to be a tough moment, to lead an international team of sometimes cranky characters on the ultimate quarantine-pod experience.
Noughts + Crosses (Friday, Sept. 4, Peacock). Six-episode British drama is based on Malorie Blackman’s novel, set in a world in which the people of what we know as Africa long ago colonized Europe and enslaved white people. Slavery’s over, but the Crosses, the ruling class in Britain — (or, as it’s known, Albion) — are still Black, and the country’s underclass is white. Masali Baduza plays Sephy, a politician’s daughter who becomes romantically involved with Callum (Jack Rowan), the white (Nought) son of her family’s housekeeper. (Peacock is the Comcast-owned, ad-supported streaming service that’s free to Xfinity X1 and Flex subscribers.)
Power Book II: Ghost (9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6, Starz, moving to 8 p.m. on Sept. 13). The first of four planned spin-offs of the Starz hit stars Michael Rainey Jr., reprising his role as Tariq St. Patrick. With his mother (Naturi Naughton) charged in the killing of his drug lord father, Tariq juggles college and trying to make enough money to pay for his mother’s expensive defense. Mary J. Blige and Clifford “Method Man” Smith join the Power crew for this 10-episode season.
Woke (Wednesday, Sept. 9, Hulu). Cartoonist Keith Knight (The K Chronicles) cocreated this series about a Black cartoonist, Keef Knight (Lamorne Morris, New Girl), who, after a traumatic experience with police, finds his purpose — even as he appears to others to be losing his mind.
The Duchess (Sept. 11, Netflix). Katherine Ryan, a Canadian comedian and actress who’s based in Britain, created and stars in this comedy about a single mother in London who’s thinking about having a second child with the despised father of her first.
The Third Day (9 p.m. Sept. 14, HBO). Jude Law, Naomie Harris, Katherine Waterston, and Emily Watson star in a limited series set on a mysterious island off the British coast. (Think Stephen King with British accents.) Three separate but related stories will be told, two presented in three-episode arcs, with the middle piece becoming a live, immersive theatrical event that will be available online.
We Are Who We Are (10 p.m. Sept. 14, HBO). From Luca Guadagnino, the director of Call Me By Your Name, this coming-of-age series stars Jack Dylan Grazer (It) and Jordan Kristine Seamón as Fraser and Caitlin, American teenagers living on a U.S. military base in Italy where Fraser’s mother (Chloë Sevigny) is the new commander.
Departure (Sept. 17, Peacock). Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife) and Christopher Plummer star in an eight-episode British-Canadian thriller about the investigation of a mid-Atlantic airliner crash. It first aired in the U.K. last year.
Ratched (Sept. 18, Netflix). American Horror Story fans probably won’t want to miss Ryan Murphy’s take on the origin story of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s iconic tyrant Nurse Ratched, which stars AHS regular Sarah Paulson in the title role. No, it’s not part of the same world as the FX anthology series, but it feels as if it could be.
» READ MORE: 10 big books for fall 2020
Last Tango in Halifax (8 p.m. Sept. 20, WHYY12). After a longish gap, the dance continues in this series about 70-something newlyweds Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid). In this latest installment, the couple are now seven years married, and still not always seeing eye to eye.
L.A.’s Finest (8 p.m. Sept. 21, Fox). Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba play Los Angeles police detectives in a show that premiered in 2019 but until now has been available only to subscribers of Charter Communications’ Spectrum Originals.
Filthy Rich (9 p.m. Sept. 21, Fox). Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall stars as Margaret Monreaux, the matriarch of a New Orleans family that’s made its millions through televangelism. When a private jet carrying her husband (Gerald McRaney) crashes, she’s faced with not only keeping together the empire they built, but with evidence of his infidelity in the form of three grown children he fathered with other women. Fortunately, she seems to have a sense of humor.
Manhunt: Deadly Games (10 p.m. Sept. 21, CBS). Another show made for Spectrum Originals, this one grew out of Discovery’s 2017 miniseries Manhunt: Unabomber. This season the true-crime anthology series deals with the bombing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the case of Richard Jewell, the security guard who was falsely accused.
Star Trek: Discovery (10 p.m. Sept. 24, CBS). All good things come to those who wait. Sonequa Martin-Green stars in an edition of the franchise that may be new to many CBS viewers, although its premiere debuted on the network in 2017 as a come-on for the CBS All Access streaming service. Now CBS is plugging a hole with the entire first season. (Season 3 premieres on All Access on Oct. 15).
Utopia (Sept. 25, Amazon). Adapted by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn from, yes, a British series, this one has everything: comic books, violence, John Cusack, and, um, a viral pandemic.
The Comey Rule (9 p.m. Sept. 27 and 28, Showtime). Jeff Daniels stars as former FBI director James Comey and Brendan Gleeson as President Trump in a two-night miniseries that doesn’t cover anyone — including Comey — with glory, but does serve as a reminder that breaching governmental norms can have far-reaching consequences.
Fargo (9 p.m. Sept. 27, FX). After a more than three-year hiatus that included a coronavirus-related delay this past spring, the fourth season of the Noah Hawley anthology series is ready to roll. Chris Rock stars as the leader of a crime organization in 1950 Kansas City in another story inspired by the Coen brothers’ 1996 film.
Connecting ... (8:30 p.m. Oct. 1, NBC). How do you get a new comedy on the air quickly during a pandemic? Film it through video chats. From Blindspot producers Martin Gero and Brendan Gall, this one’s about a group of friends trying to stay close while social distancing. But will we all be too Zoomed out by then to tune in?
Emily in Paris (Oct. 2, Netflix). Lily Collins stars as the cutest of ugly Americans in this romantic comedy from Darren Star (Sex and the City, Melrose Place) about a social media expert who doesn’t speak more than a few words of French but who’s nevertheless transferred to Paris for a year to dazzle the locals with her Instagram expertise.
The Good Lord Bird (9 p.m. Oct. 4, Showtime). Ethan Hawke stars as abolitionist John Brown in a seven-episode adaptation of the National Book Award-winning novel by Lambertville’s James McBride.
Soulmates (10 p.m. Oct. 5, AMC). New anthology series is set in a not-too-distant future where science has supposedly discovered how to identify our “soulmates.” What could possibly go wrong?
Next (9 p.m. Oct. 6, Fox). John Slattery stars as a tech mogul who enlists a federal agent (Fernanda Andrade) in an effort to contain artificial intelligence that appears to have gone rogue from the company he founded. You may not want to watch with Alexa.
Welcome to Blumhouse (Oct. 6, Amazon). For those who need even more reasons to lie awake at night, Jason Blum’s Blumhouse is releasing four new films in October, two on Oct. 6, and two more on Oct. 13. In The Lie, from Veena Sud (The Killing, Seven Seconds), Mireille Enos (The Killing) and Peter Sarsgaard (The Looming Tower) try to cover for their daughter (Joey King) after she confesses to killing her best friend. The Black Box, directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr., stars Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad, Amanda Christine, Tosin Morohunfola , Charmaine Bingwa, and Troy James and tells the story of a man who undergoes an experimental treatment after losing his wife, and his memory, in a car accident.
Devils (8 p.m. Oct. 7, the CW). Grey’s Anatomy veteran Patrick Dempsey stars in a financial thriller from Sky Italia. Not quite what you expected to find in the home of Riverdale? As Deadline notes, “Devils was a hot commodity given that it is an English-language drama starring a recognizable U.S. star that was in the can before the pandemic forced a production shutdown.”
Supernatural (8 p.m. Oct. 8, CW). The long-running series will begin airing the coronavirus-delayed last episodes of its 15th and final season.
The Right Stuff (Oct. 9, Disney+). A new generation of actors gets to embody the Mercury 7 as Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about the early space program becomes a series, produced by Disney partner National Geographic. Stars include Patrick J. Adams (Suits) as John Glenn, James Lafferty (One Tree Hill) as Scott Carpenter, and Jake McDorman (Limitless) as Alan Shepard.
The Haunting of Bly Manor (Oct. 9, Netflix). A young American woman (Victoria Pedretti) takes a job as a governess in a remote English manor to look after two orphans. Do I even need to tell you what happened to the last governess? From Mike Flanagan, the creator of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.
Grand Army (Oct. 16, Netflix). A fictional Brooklyn high school is the setting for a new drama adapted by Katie Cappiello from her 2013 play Slut, which looked at rape culture and slut-shaming through the experience of a 16-year-old girl.
David Byrne’s American Utopia (8 p.m. Oct. 17, HBO). Definitely not to be confused with Amazon’s Utopia. Spike Lee directed the film adaptation of Byrne’s Broadway hit.