9 can't-miss new dramas this fall
Take a chance on one (or more) of these shows this season.
As the frivolity of summer gives way to darkness heading into winter, the craving for serious new TV dramas to carry us through the starry nights kicks in. Ambitious entries on our watch list include Apple TV+'s adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation, Amazon Prime Video's spin on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time saga, and HBO's heartbreaking Scenes From a Marriage. Plus, the reunification of the Yellowjackets on Showtime looks killer.
USA Network's 2004 sci-fi series The 4400 is getting a modern — and meaningful — update this fall. The CW's reimagining of the cult-favorite show drops the "The" from the title to become simply 4400, and the changes don't stop there. The series begins when 4,400 marginalized people vanish without a trace throughout the last hundred years and are all returned in an instant in 2021 with no memory of what happened. As some begin to develop powers, the government races to analyze the potential threat while "the 4400" must grapple with the mystery of what happened to them — and why they've reappeared now. The CW's version stars a predominantly Black cast and uses time travel to explore the history and legacy of white supremacy in America, so buckle up, because this is going to be like no time travel show you've seen before. —Sydney Bucksbaum
The Big Leap
After offering us dance music on the reality TV front with So You Think You Can Dance, Fox applies that ethos (and its choreographers) to their new drama. The Big Leap follows aspiring contestants on the titular reality show designed to bring amateur dancers together to mount a production of Swan Lake for television. Scott Foley returns to TV as the show's scheming producer, Nick Smart. But his villainous tendencies are balanced out by the earnestness of contestants like single mom Gabby (Simone Recasner) and lovelorn, laid-off blue collar worker Mike (Jon Rudnitsky). Audiences will likely come for the dancing, but it's hard to resist being sucked into the drama of this ensemble cast — and the promise of a juicy love story between Gabby and a pro-football player looking to make good (Ser'Darius Blain) leaves you yearning for more. —Maureen Lee Lenker
Related: Fox unveils fall 2021-22 schedule
Many people have tried to adapt Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels. The series, which spans thousands of years as a vast galactic empire crumbles, is dense with mythology, characters, and intricate sci-fi jargon. But screenwriters have trudged on with this unenviable task because the books have been so influential for the genre, even inspiring George Lucas' Star Wars. Most, however, have failed. Until now. David S. Goyer, the writer behind Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Man of Steel, and DaVinci's Demons, is at the helm of a new series coming to Apple TV+ this Sep. 24 and it's the streamer's most lush productions to date. It's clear by the elaborate costumes, sequences shot on location around the world, and advanced set designs. Could this show be the Star Wars of Apple TV+? Time will tell. —Nick Romano
Invasion, a new series coming to Apple TV+ Oct. 22, might not be on your radar since the marketing has been rather light so far, but it is indeed one of the most exciting shows coming this fall. The setup involves an alien species invading Earth and threatening humanity's very existence, but the aliens are the least interesting part. In fact, these extraterrestrials are barely seen during the first few episodes. Invasion is really about a collection of seemingly disparate people adapting to this global catastrophe: A small-town sheriff on the verge of retirement investigating a mysterious event, a Muslim mother switching into her survival mode to protect her children as her neighbors demonize them, a soldier in the military left stranded in the desert due to an alien explosion, and more. The fast-paced, enthralling storytelling immediately draws you in for what ends up being quite an addicting, binge-able ride that has more to say about our current moment than anything futuristic. —Nick Romano
No, you aren't seeing triple — James Wolk really is taking on three roles in the NBC feelings-based drama Ordinary Joe. The Watchmen alum stars as Joe Kimbreau, who has to make a key decision on the night of his college graduation. Viewers watch three different versions of Joe's life play out — as a nurse, as a cop, and, sure, as a famous musician — based on his choice that fateful night. "We all have that moment where a decision just took our life in a totally different direction than we thought it was going to," says Wolk. "I think the show is going to be really pertinent and very poignant for people because everyone has that 'moment' — and this show explores what that would look like." A parallel-universe(s) adventure awaits, in the least sci-fi way possible.—Dan Snierson
ABC comes correct with this new musical drama, brilliantly casting the multitalented Brandy, Eve, and Naturi Naughton, plus Major Crimes alum Nadine Velázquez, as a '90s rap quartet ready to make their comeback. Created by Scandal alum Zahir McGhee, the show starts with the women long past their days as Nasty Bitches, now holding more seemingly respectable titles like "mom," "church lady," "host," and "singer." But the current status quo is draining, so an opportunity to perform at the BET Awards comes with the hope they can unlock the confidence that helped them bring the house down back and the day, and introduce the world to the Queens they've become. Plus, with Swizz Beatz serving as executive music producer, the songs are sure to be hit-worthy. —Marcus Jones
Scenes From a Marriage
Based on Ingmar Bergman's emotionally devastating miniseries, Scenes From a Marriage (currently airing Sundays on HBO and available to stream on HBO Max) stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain as Jonathan and Mira, a Jewish professor and corporate executive whose union unravels over five wrenching episodes that make Marriage Story look like a cheerful romp. Suffice it to say it's not always an easy watch, but Isaac and Chastain's performances are more than worth the price of admission, as the two bring their palpable chemistry (and 20-plus years of friendship) to bear in a searing exploration of love, marriage, and divorce. —Tyler Aquilina
The Wheel of Time
Over the course of 15 volumes, Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time saga built both a passionate fanbase and a complex mythology. That makes adaptation no small feat, but Amazon Prime Video is putting the effort in. Rosamund Pike leads the large ensemble cast as Moiraine, a member of the Aes Sedai — an all-female mystic order who wield the magical force known as the One Power. Together with her loyal bodyguard Lan (Daniel Henney), Moiraine rescues a trio of young village men from monstrous attackers because she suspects one of them might be a reincarnated messiah. You'll just have to watch to know if she's right. —Christian Holub
When a plane transporting a high school girls soccer team to their next game goes down in the remote wilderness, the teens are left to fend for themselves and — spoiler — things get very dark very fast. Showtime's Yellowjackets, which premieres Nov. 14, follows the events surrounding the plane crash, while also catching up with some of the survivors 25 years later. Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis, Melanie Lynskey, and Tawny Cypress star as four of the survivors who, years later, are forced to come back together to solve a mystery that could tie into their time in the wild. Talk about an A+ cast with an A+ mystery. —Samantha Highfill
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