First, a disclaimer: With approximately 183 TV series premiering every hour in America, it would be all but impossible for any one critic to view all the new fall shows. That said, I was able to screen 31 of the programs making their debut in the coming months — and now that my eyes have readjusted to sunlight, I humbly submit this report.
Sept. 13, Netflix
A slow-burn, “inspired by true events” mystery, Unbelievable stars Toni Collette and Merritt Wever as detectives who realize they’re chasing the same serial rapist. Wever is a marvel as Karen Duvall, a soft-spoken woman of faith whose calm demeanor stands in stark contrast to Collette’s brusque Grace Rasmussen. But both women are determined to capture the attacker, and Unbelievable mixes satisfying, meat-and-potatoes detective work with a pointed exploration of the systemic biases facing sexual-assault survivors. Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever costars as Marie, whose attack — and the subsequent doubts about it — serves as an anchor for the time-hopping narrative. This is the only True Detective season 4 we need.
Sept. 26, 8:30 p.m., CBS
What an odd treat to see prestige-cable character actor Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justified, Vice Principals) take center stage on this single-camera CBS comedy. He plays Wade, a widower and father of two whose married friends push him (gently, lovingly) to start living — and dating — again. Goggins is thoroughly likable as the titular unicorn (a high-quality, employed, single man over 40), while the ensemble — featuring Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Maya Lynne Robinson, and Omar Benson Miller — is one of the best assembled for broadcast TV since the late, lamented Life in Pieces. Give it a shot, please, so it doesn’t suffer the latter’s fate.
Sept. 26, 10 p.m., CBS
Westworld’s Katja Herbers stars as Dr. Kristen Bouchard, a lapsed Catholic and financially struggling forensic psychologist who gets hired by a priest-in-training (Mike Colter) to help investigate alleged religious and supernatural phenomena. There’s nothing here that’ll reinvent the “skeptic and believer” TV template, but thanks to innovative creators Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife), Evil is perhaps the sharpest, funniest, and smartest CBS drama since… The Good Wife. (It’s hard to imagine any other showrunners working Occam’s razor and Wernicke’s area of the brain into their network pilot.) Offering thoughtful debates about religion and more, Evil could be a new kind of TV animal: the philosophical procedural.
Living With Yourself
Oct. 18, Netflix
Miles (Paul Rudd) is burned out. He’s bored and uninspired at his ad agency job. He’s alienated from his wife (Aisling Bea) and unsure if he wants to start a family. He generally feels adrift in his midlife suburban existence. But a trip to the Top Happy Spa changes everything, with one really bad side effect: Miles now has a clone, one who is better than he is in almost every way. What follows is a silly, strange, and fast-paced comedy-thriller with a wise lesson at its core: You can be a passenger in your own life, or you can be the driver.
Oct. 18, Amazon Prime Video
Move over, Queer Eye — this star-studded anthology based on the New York Times column of the same name is angling to be your next happy-cry binge. Each episode tells a different tale of romance and heartache: A bipolar woman (Anne Hathaway) struggles to find love between her highs and lows, a single book critic (Cristin Milioti) bonds with her doorman (Laurentiu Possa) after an unexpected pregnancy, and so on. It’s all set against the backdrop of New York City at its rom-com best, as couples meet cute in the produce department at Fairway and snuggle in coffee shops reading the Sunday Times. With its jazzy score and heart-tugging mix of romance and yearning, Modern Love feels like vintage Woody Allen — without all the creepy baggage.
Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued.
Oct. 27, 10:30 p.m., HBO
Based on the novel by suburban-angst expert Tom Perrotta, Mrs. Fletcher follows Eve (Transparent’s Kathryn Hahn), a single mom in her 40s whose jerky jock son, Brendan (Jackson White), just left for college. With her empty nest looming like a void in front of her, Eve channels her loneliness into two new hobbies: taking a creative writing class — where she meets a flirtatious young student (Owen Teague) — and watching online porn. Meanwhile, Brendan is learning that his fellow freshmen aren’t here for his straight-white-cis-male perspective. Pensive and funny, and bolstered by another exceptional performance by Hahn, Mrs. Fletcher is a dramedy for grown-ups.
The Morning Show
Nov. 1, Apple TV+
Apple has been almost comically secretive about its new streaming service, but the company did screen episodes of this high-profile drama for EW… provided we promise not to geotag the location of the screening room. (Not a joke.) Jennifer Aniston is wonderfully intense as Alex Levy, the anchor of a hit morning show who becomes unmoored when her cohost (a mesmerizing Steve Carell) is fired following allegations of sexual misconduct. Enter Reese Witherspoon as outspoken reporter Bradley Jackson — but early episodes feel less like the well-worn “two women fight over a job” narrative and more like “two women fight an industry that undervalues them.” The Morning Show could be compelling enough to make viewers do the unthinkable: sign up for another streaming service.
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