The 2018-19 television season is finally getting into full swing. Many network, cable, and streaming TV shows debut or return in late August and September. Some will not survive October. Others will feed our weekly viewing habits. To create a guide for some of the series you might like to check out, I narrowed down the wealth of programs and listed the TV shows that I will be watching this fall.
Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay
New And Returning Network TV Shows
The Good Place (NBC) – This is my favorite returning network TV show. The Good Place has flourished with one of the most unusual sitcom premises. In its third season, the series stars Ted Danson as a guide who leads four hapless humans through the afterlife. Kristen Bell is forking amazing as the deceased Eleanor Shellstrop, the leader of the small group.
The show has sharp writing and excels at the unusual challenge of interweaving moral philosophy into the framework of a network sitcom. The series is not heavy-handed, however, and there are enough twists and turns that it only takes a few episodes to become invested in a likable and charming cast.
If you are not watching The Good Place, you are missing out. For a sneak peek with spoilers, check out the short video:
The Kids Are Alright (ABC) – ABC airs two of my favorite family comedies – The Goldbergs and Fresh Off The Boat. The network has a new family sitcom this year that has piqued my interest: The Kids Are Alright. So far, this is a show that looks like an Irish-Catholic version of The Goldbergs.
Set in 1972 Los Angeles, Michael Cudlitz (Band of Brothers) and Mary McCormack (The West Wing) are the parents of a large family. One son appears to double as the narrator. He is also more interested in acting rather than more traditional passions (which is similar to The Goldbergs).
It is a tossup to see if The Kids Are Alright is an unoriginal clone of The Goldbergs or if it can stand on its own merit. I would not surprised to see if The Kids Are Alright is cancelled early in the Fall, but I’m willing to give it a short leash.
*Beware of a horrible “phony news” joke in the trailer.
Single Parents (ABC) – ABC is taking a different tact for the sitcom Single Parents. Headlined by Taran Killam and Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond), the series follows a group of single parents who support a Dad overwhelmed by the “vortex” of raising a child by himself.
The trailer for Single Parents has a few solid laughs, specifically Leighton Meester singing “Wheels On The Bus” to a deliveryman. Taran Killam was one my favorite cast members in his six seasons on SNL. I am willing to bet that his comedy chops are enough to carry the series to a full season renewal.
Premium/Cable TV Shows Airing In The Fall
Kidding (Showtime) – Outside of Robin Williams, Jim Carrey is the most amorphous talent I have ever seen. He can act in a wide range of parts that others can only dream of. His new Showtime gig Kidding looks like a role in which Carrey can unleash his comedy and dramatic chops.
Carrey plays Mr. Pickles, a Fred Rogers-type children’s television host. Despite a positive exterior, the popular host has challenges in his family life beyond his show business persona.
This is not the first time he has played a multi-faceted character. The balance of performing as a children’s TV personality and switching to a more serious side is the type of role Jim Carrey was born to play.
Better Call Saul (AMC) – The Breaking Bad spin-off is probing new ground in its fourth season. After three years of an intrafamily squabble between Chuck and Jimmy McGill, the show’s lead is inching closer to becoming Saul Goodman.
Jimmy is waiting out his law license suspension by selling cell phones to dodgy customers. He has paid a price for the illicit sales, but the scam artist just can’t stay on good behavior. Watching his decline is painful, but Better Call Saul continues to get more interesting each season.
Camping (HBO) – With VEEP on hiatus, it has been awhile since I watched an HBO comedy. Camping looks like it might contain a little comedy gold.
Jennifer Garner plays Kathryn Siddell-Baurs, a Type-A mother who plans a camping trip with a group of adult misfits. The unlikely pairings include self-obsessed and free-spirited personalities. These characters are poised to clash, with funny scenarios emerging from the mismatched group. David Tennant, Juliette Lewis, and Busy Phillips are also cast in the potentially hilarious series.
Escape At Dannemora (Showtime) – The mini-series is based on the 2015 story of two convicted murderers who escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in New York. The story became extra sensational after it was discovered that the inmates were having an affair with a prison employee.
Escape At Dannemora is primed to be memorable. All eight episodes were directed by Ben Stiller. Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano play the two escapees. Patricia Arquette portrays the woman who schemed with the prisoners, Tilly Mitchell. A glimpse of the trailer shows that her unsual character might be a scene-stealer.
New Streaming TV Shows
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix) – Any project associated with Joel and Ethan Coen is worth a look. The brothers are amazing at conceiving original characters and few genres create enduring legends better than Westerns. The combination could be too good to turn away from.
Their upcoming frontier mini-series The Ballad of Buster Scruggs appears to be something easy to fall for. The anthology is going to be released as a movie, but was also re-purposed as a six-chapter series for Netflix. Each episode will present different Wild West characters. To flesh out the Coen Brothers’ universe, Netflix enlisted an impressive cast that includes James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, and Zoe Kazan.
The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime) – Amazon Prime’s anthology series may flaunt the most talent of any new show. It is created, written, and directed by Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner. The huge cast includes Aaron Eckhart, Christina Hendricks, Paul Reiser, John Slattery, Amanda Peet, Ron Livingston, Diane Lane, and Kathryn Hahn (to name a few).
The Romanoffs will separately explore people who believe that they are descendants of the Russian royal family. Told over eight episodes, The Romanoffs begins on October 12 and wraps on Black Friday.
Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina (Netflix) – This new witch series is based on the same Archie Comic teenager who spawned the Melissa Joan Hart show. This is not your ordinary reboot.
The vibe of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina appears closer to a horror series than an ABC sitcom. Sabrina is a high school student by day who grapples with dark forces at night. The series is a perfect show to fill the Netflix Halloween slot that was vacated by the Stranger Things production gap.
The title character of Sabrina Spellman will be played by Kiernan Shipka, whose biggest roles have been Sally Draper in Mad Men and D.B. Merrill in Feud: Bette and Joan.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (Amazon Prime) – I am slowly making my way through Amazon Prime’s reboot of Jack Ryan. I have been disappointed by the series so far. Jack Ryan has been a generic show, but I like previous editions of the character enough to give the rest of the first season a chance. John Krasinski is solid as the title character, but the creative choices by Amazon have gutted what made Jack Ryan thrilling.
For starters, Wendell Pierce plays a new age Jim Greer. Even though Pierce plays the character capably, he is no longer an admiral and is just a middle management CIA officer. This is the start of the downfall of the series. By transitioning Greer to a different role, Jack Ryan loses the high-level chess match that made The Hunt For Red October and Patriot Games so enticing. The current season focuses on terrorism. That can be an interesting topic, but is not a match for the character.