And here you thought there would be no new TV to watch …
Photo-Illustration: Vulture, Hulu, Netflix and HBO
Photo-Illustration: Vulture, Hulu, Netflix and HBO
We’re staring down a fall TV season unlike any other in recent memory, one turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on television production. All but a handful of network TV shows won’t be making their usual post-summer returns until much later in the year, if at all, leaving streaming services and premium networks to swoop in with slates full of programming filmed pre-pandemic — and in a few unusual cases, mid-pandemic.
And yet there’s a thread of comforting familiarity winding through the season’s offerings, which together comprise the usual blend of glossy prestige series, both limited and ongoing; continuations and spinoffs of established properties; and a host of animated and documentary series, two forms that were better-positioned than most to weather the pandemic storm. There are even — gasp — some major awards shows! In short, we are still far from a full-on televisual drought, and there’s still plenty to anticipate in the months to come. Here’s what we’re looking forward to (or at the very least curious about).
Away (Netflix, 9/4)You know what’s better than the complicated interpersonal dynamics of a marriage, stretched tightly across the scaffold of intense public scrutiny and shaped into an episodic TV narrative? That same thing … but in space! Hilary Swank and Josh Charles star in this Netflix drama about a mission to Mars, executive produced by Jason Katims. It is designed to make you cry a little.
The Boys Season Two (Prime Video, 9/4)The first season of Amazon Prime’s The Boys was kind of a sleeper hit last year. Dark, gritty superheroes feel overplayed, but The Boys has upped the ante by harnessing an effective critique of capitalism to its wry, ultra-violent montages. That pitch-black critique is far and away the most interesting thing about the series, but it’s also got oodles of personality and vim to underscore all that bleakness.
Woke (Hulu, 9/9)Lamorne Morris, formerly New Girl’s dorky and strange Winston, plays a successful comics artist who tries not to think or talk about racism, until he’s attacked by police and starts to see its effects everywhere. He also starts to see talking animated characters who won’t stop reminding him about it. The comedy’s loosely based on the life of cartoonist Keith Knight, who co-created Woke with Marshall Todd.
Julie and the Phantoms (Netflix, 9/10)Praise the programming powers that be, Kenny Ortega has a new musical series with far less confusing punctuation than the offshoot of his High School Musical on Disney+. Julie and the Phantoms isn’t just a kicky band name: It describes the main character, who gets visited by dead pop-star ghosts who inspire her to follow her musical dreams.
The Duchess (Netflix, 9/11)U.K.-based Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan writes and stars in this series about a “powerful and problematic” single mum in London juggling relationships with her current boyfriend and her loathed ex, as well as parenting her tween daughter. We expect astronomical things from U.K. comedies helmed by and starring a single auteur woman, so we’ll have our eye on this one.
Coastal Elites (HBO, 9/12)What was originally conceived as a project for the Public Theater has turned into an HBO production starring Bette Midler, Issa Rae, Sarah Paulson, Dan Levy, and Kaitlyn Dever as individuals each struggling with their own set of circumstances during the time of the coronavirus. Written by playwright/screenwriter Paul Rudnick and directed by Jay Roach (Bombshell), Coastal Elites was shot “under quarantine guidelines,” which places it firmly in the burgeoning pandemic-TV genre.
The Third Day (HBO, 9/14)This six-episode limited series stars Jude Law, Naomie Harris, and Emily Watson in a two-part story — the first three episodes are dubbed “Summer,” the latter three “Winter” — that centers on a mysterious island. No, this is not a remake of Lost.
We Are Who We Are (HBO, 9/14)Luca Guadagnino, director of Call Me By Your Name, takes us all on another sunny, melancholy sojourn to Italy with his first TV series. Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón star as two American Army brats making their way through teenage-hood and its attendant big, complicated emotions. Notable supporting players include Chloë Sevigny as Grazer’s mother, Kid Cudi as Seamón’s father, and from what we can tell from the trailer, a soundtrack full of wistful piano arpeggios.
Ratched (Netflix, 9/18)Because every villain deserves an origin story in either movie or TV form, apparently, this Ryan Murphy joint acquaints us with a younger version of the (supposedly) evil Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as she begins working at a psychiatric hospital in northern California. The good news is that Ratched is played by Sarah Paulson, who is joined by co-stars Judy Davis, Finn Wittrock, Cynthia Nixon, Sharon Stone, and many others who look great in late-1940s fashions.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous (Netflix, 9/18)So it turns out that the people running a deeply unsafe dinosaur theme park were also running a deeply unsafe kids summer camp. In Netflix’s animated CGI spinoff show, the kids stranded on Isla Nublar’s adventure camp have to fend for themselves while everything falls apart on the island. Much more exciting than the typical camp activities of trust falls and learning to make lanyards.
PEN15 Season Two (Hulu, 9/18)Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle reprise their roles as their middle-school alter egos in the second season of this terrific, intentionally squirm-inducing coming-of-age dramedy. In season two, Maya and Anna continue to blaze new trails in doing embarrassing things that may remind you of the embarrassing things you also did when you were 13.
The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards (9/20)This year’s Emmy ceremony, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be handled virtually, so get excited to peek inside the homes of each winner when they accept their statuettes. We predict it will be a big night for Watchmen, and also Room Rater.
Filthy Rich (Fox, 9/21)It’s kind of like The Righteous Gemstones, but dramatic. A famous televangelist family in the South discovers the patriarch’s three illegitimate children after he dies in a plane crash. Kim Cattrall takes the lead.
WILMORE and The Amber Ruffin Show (Peacock, 9/18 and 9/25)While it would be nice to see Amber Ruffin and Larry Wilmore get late-night broadcast network gigs rather than being buried on Peacock, it’s a sign of smart programming that Peacock is investing in such smart, funny, exciting late-night talent. Wilmore’s Nightly Show was a real loss when it was cancelled in 2016, and it’s great that he’ll have another crack at late night. Ruffin, meanwhile, has long been one of the major highlights of Seth Meyers’ Late Night, and we’re looking forward to seeing what she does with her own platform.
A Wilderness of Error (FX, 9/26)This five-part true-crime miniseries adapts Errol Morris’s nonfiction book of the same name to examine the case of an Army surgeon convicted of murdering his family.
Fargo Season Four (FX, 9/27)The fourth season of Fargo was supposed to debut this spring, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the final episodes slated to go back into production this month, FX is ready to unveil this install