1) “Parks and Recreation” (Season 6 available Sept. 26)
Why Should I Watch It? If you don’t know by now why you should be watching television’s best comedy, there’s only one more reason I can give: Chris Pratt. You know, the guy from that “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie everyone liked so much (mostly). The new Han Solo. The next great leading man. Hollywood’s summer box office hero. He’s been doing great work on TV for six seasons of “Parks and Recreation,” and he hasn’t slowed down a bit. In the sixth season about to pop up in your Netflix queue, Pratt continues to find new ways an adolescent-minded adult can act like a kid and still survive in a Midwestern world of personal politics. He’s delightful, and so is the show. Get ready for the binge.
Best Episode: While Season 6 offered many historic moments for a show already brimming with memories, the one-hour season finale “Moving Up” had to be the kicker. Without giving anything away: Guest stars galore! Time jumps! Twist ending(s)! New music from Mouse Rat! And… the return of Lil’ Sebastian.
2) “About a Boy” (Season 1 available Sept. 14)
Why Should I Watch It? Jason Katims just doesn’t miss. The showrunner, writer and EP of “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” took some time out of his lax schedule to create yet another TV show based on a popular film, and again his reinvention rivals the original. The similarities to the charming movie starring Hugh Grant are cut down to the necessities, with Will (now played by David Walton) still being an unemployed Lothario coasting off the residual checks he gets for writing a hit Christmas jingle in his youth. His new neighbors force him into motion, though, as a young boy named Marcus takes a shine to him (still pronounced with a charming British “ahr” by his mother, played by Minnie Driver). Fiona, Marcus’ eco-friendly momma, does not, but she does recognize the importance of having a male role model for her son. Daddy issues give way to maturation challenges for both men, and Katims manages to balance both with light a touch, never ignoring the comic or dramatic reality.
Best Episode: “About a Birthday Party” takes a conventional sitcom premise and — instead of playing it conventionally — deals with each issue head on. Will must choose between attending an important work dinner with his serious girlfriend or going to Marcus’ birthday party, which he’s partially responsible for ruining. Will’s girlfriend Sam isn’t painted as a huge bitch irrationally demanding her needs be placed above those of a child, but she’s not rolled over by the lead character’s selfish demands either. Instead, the couple reaches a mature compromise laid out in dramatic fashion. Oh, and it’s pretty funny to boot.
3) “The Walking Dead” (Season 4 available Sept. 29)
Why Should I Watch It? Because everyone else has been for years. AMC may be without “Breaking Bad” and about to lose “Mad Men,” but “The Walking Dead” has always been the network’s best ratings draw. In addition to peer pressure, you should be tuning in if you’re a fan of a) horror movies; b) zombies; c) depressing and twisted storylines; d) hopeless endeavors, and e) exquisite makeup/body art (however you prefer to look at it).
Best Episode: For being based around the principal of survival at all costs, “The Walking Dead” manages to establish more seasonal secrets than would traditionally be expected from a horror series. This leads to some eye-opening final episodes each year — and we don’t just mean literally. “The Grove,” “Us” and “A” made for an exciting finish to Season 4, expertly building tension for the Season 5 premiere.
4) “New Girl” (Season 3 available Sept. 16)
Why Should I Watch It? “New Girl” is a conundrum of TV comedy. With so many talented actors involved — and a simple but effective premise — it should be one of the go-to sitcoms for anyone seeking some guilt-free laughs (if you have no shame, go ahead and flip over to any CBS show). Instead, it’s wildly uneven. Some episodes are a non-stop riot with well-paced arcs and time alotted to each actor based on their capabilities (read: Max Greenfield gets extra minutes while Lamorne Morris is relegated to sixth man duties). Others are forced time fillers that feel written for another, lesser group of thespians and by someone totally unfamiliar with the actors’ strengths. Season 3 is the series worst yet, despite the addition of the cast’s second best comedy actor, Damon Wayans Jr. (the first being Greenfield while the show’s lead, Zooey Deschanel, is relegated to third place). Still, the gems are worth digging for — at least for now.
Best Episode: To save you some time, I’d skip (or at least skim) Episode 1-5. The writers try to come up with reasons to keep Schmidt and Cece apart, despite being the show’s obvious romantic core, and it all falls flat. “Keaton” is a brief reprieve, marking a funny Halloween episode based around Schmidt’s belief he’s been communicating with Michael Keaton for more almost two decades. Then Coach joins the cast, and the writers spend a few misguided episodes trying to figure out how he fits in among the group (he’s Coach — a sports nut with a heart of gold, not a loud and stupid jock caricature). The season’s best episode comes just before its worst. “Birthday” finds Nick trying to orchestrate the perfect birthday party for Jess, forcing the whole group together for a climactic kicker. Schmidt helps Cece with her new job as a bartender, allowing them to flirt and Greenfield to flex his unparalleled condescension muscles. Finally, Coach and Winston are paired up in a bake off, which gives the former a much needed softer side and the latter the perfect foil to play off. It’s a harmonious moment, soon shattered by the appearance of Prince in the season’s non-sensical Super Bowl episode.
5) “Californication” Season 7 (available September 1)
Why Should I Watch It? David Duchovny. Very attractive naked people (including David Duchovny). Great music. That’s about it, considering “Californication” flew too close to the sun in its first season, nearing perfection only to come crashing to an Earth of mediocrity every year since. The series finale was disappointingly cliched, and too close in spirit and expectations to the Season 1 finale, which really should have been “Californication’s” last episode. We elaborated on the series and final season in more detail in our review, so check it out if you want more.
Best Episode: Season 7 peaked with Episode 5, “Getting the Poison Out,” in which Hank hires a prostitute to take the virginity of his recently discovered son. While that may sound like a low point, trust us, it’s not. A few conversations are actually had about whether or not the deed is justifiable, reminding viewers of the good ‘ol days when Hank Moody was a soul searching romantic instead of a man beaten down by LA livin’.
6) “How I Met Your Mother” Season 9 (available September 26)
Why Should I Watch It? The only good reason to watch Season 9 is because you have to watch Season 9. It’s the final episodes of a show that ran far too long, received far too much praise for being “original” when it was always retreading the best aspects of “Friends” and/or “Cheers” and failed to close on the one kicker it promised to deliver from day one, how Ted meets his kids’ mother. No spoilers here (look here for a roundup of all the issues with the series finale). Just dive in, binge hard, and get through this redundant, bloated mess of a last year.
Best Episode: As a massive fan of the Chicago Bears, I can enjoy a good Wisconsin joke perhaps better than most. Make it focused on the team with the ugliest uniforms of all time living in the worst city in the U.S. and I’ll be laughing harder than Barney after he pulled his last prank on the office worker across the street. That’s why Marshall’s trek through Packers country in “Last Time in New York” marks the best moments of Season 9 (at least for me). While a Vikings fan — another hated rival of the Green Bay Packers, for anyone unfamiliar with the Midwestern mega rivalries — Marshall and I bonded over the years through our mutual distaste for the cheese-lovers up North, making this a nice send-off for one fan (before the series finale ruined it all).
7) “The Blacklist” Season 1 (available September 7)
Why Should I Watch It? There really aren’t that many great hour-long dramas airing on the major networks anymore. So as long as you’re a fan of James Spader, you should have no problem falling in love with this twisty crime thriller engineered as if for a network other than NBC.
Best Episode: The finale of course! Why else would Netflix spend $2 million an episode on “The Blacklist” if it thought the show was going under after one season. This thing is built to last and Netflix wants to be a part of the game right from the start. Well, as close to the start as Netflix can get.
Coming Soon: (and not just in September)
“Hinterland” Season 1 (September 1)
“The League” Season 5 (September 2)
“Bones” Season 9 (September 16)
“Revolution” Season 2 (September 22)
“The Vampire Diaries” Season 5 (October 2)
“The Originals” Season 1 (October 7)
“Supernatural” Season 9 (October 7)
“Arrow” Season 2 (October 8)*
“Portlandia” Season 4 (November 1)
*Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this story, we reported “Arrow Season 2” would be available September 14. Netflix has since pushed back the release until October 8.