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Fall TV Preview: The 17 Most Anticipated Comedies of 2016

Our most anticipated fall comedies take us from a heavenly "Good Place" to the hells of "Divorce" — with some stops along the way for millennial angst, undead witches and Woody Allen.

Fall 2016 Comedy Preview Ted Danson, Issa Rae, Zorn

NBC/HBO/Fox

“Mary + Jane”

September 5 on MTV 

"Mary + Jane."


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What Is It? From the writer/directors behind the cult favorite “Josie and the Pussycats” adaptation, this series follows two “ganjapeneurs” who run a weed delivery service in Los Angeles.

I’ll Like It If I Like… The “Broad City” influence is pretty clear, as the show is focused on the tight friendship between Jordan (Scout Durwood) and Paige (Jessica Rothe) and their stoner antics.

Why Should I Care? Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont’s unique approach to satirizing LA hipster culture really help this show stand out from the pack of other female-led comedies, while also promising a more surreal touch. Durwood and Rothe also make for an enjoyable pairing. For fans of the pot comedy genre, it’s an easy sell.

“Atlanta”

September 6 on FX

ATLANTA “The Big Bang” Episode 101 (Airs Tuesday, September 6, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Donald Glover as Earnest Marks, Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred Miles

What is it? Donald Glover of “Community” fame returns to TV in his most ambitious project yet, which he produces, stars, writes and even directs. Set in Atlanta, the series follows Earn (Glover) and his cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) as they try to make it in the hip-hop music scene. It’s a curious Bildungsroman and meditation on what it’s like to be black in America.

I’ll like it if I like… Lucid dreaming. No really. “Atlanta” is a show like no other, and the surreal qualities are hard to describe until you experience them. Even our TV critic Ben Travers found it easier to compare it to what it was not. OK, if you really want to imagine “Louie” as a show about a young, black, broke, would-be rapper manager in Atlanta, that may be the closest comparison.

Why should I care? It’s a gorgeously realized TV show, from the way it’s shot to the subtlety of its pacing and putting the “Earn” in earnestness. It’s not a laugh-a-minute comedy, but the feelings of joy you get are far sweeter and less ephemeral.

READ MORE: ‘Atlanta’ Review: Donald Glover’s First Series Is Already Essential Viewing

“Better Things”

September 8 on FX

BETTER THINGS "Sam/Pilot" Episode 1 (Airs Thursday, September 8, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Pamela Adlon as Pam. CR: Colleen Hayes/FX

What is it? Pamela Adlon, who was a consulting producer and recurred as Pamela on “Louie,” breaks off on her own to play Sam, a former child star turned voice over actress who is a single mom of three girls. The show is not-so-loosely based on Adlon’s real life.

I’ll like it if I like… “Louie.” Duh.

Why should I care? While you’re waiting around for the next season of “Louie,” this is the project he’s been working on with Adlon in the meantime. It has that unflinching honesty and biting commentary, but with an underlying optimism in a giving zero fucks way.

“One Mississippi”

September 9 on Amazon Prime

What is it? The prodigal daughter (comedian Tig Notaro) returns to Mississippi for her mother’s death.

I’ll like it if I like… “Louie.” Look, we hate to keep invoking this name, but not only is the tone similar, but Louis C.K. is an executive producer, so that’s not surprising.

Why should I care? Diablo Cody co-created the series with Notaro. Also, almost everyone will have to deal with the loss of a parent, or at least a major loss, someday, and treating this with the right amount of humor and poignancy is about as honest as it gets.

“Son of Zorn”

September 11 on Fox

What Is It? A blend of animation and live-action brings to life the mighty warrior Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) who returns to Orange County in order to reform bonds with his ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) and son (Johnny Pemberton).

I’ll Like It If I Like… “Zorn” deliberately invokes childhood fondness for classic 1980s series like “He-Man” and “Thundercats,” albeit updated for an adult mindset. It’s a show that’d feel right at home on Adult Swim, thanks to its absurdist humor.

Why Should I Care? Executive produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, “Zorn” is right in line with their established brand of smart, genre-bending comedy, and the cast (which also includes Tim Meadows and Artemis Pebdani) is a delight. How this show grows over the first season will be something interesting to track.

“Fleabag”

September 16 on Amazon Prime

What Is It? Created by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Fleabag” chronicles a London woman’s dysfunctional life with significant candor, intriguing character work and some really funny bits.

I’ll Like It If I Like… “Catastrophe” by way of “Sex and the City.”

Why Should I Care? Talking directly to the camera might feel a bit out of style, but Waller-Bridge makes a compelling lead and for those who love their British comedies on the raunchy side, “Fleabag” should deliver.

“High Maintenance”

September 16 on HBO

Ben Sinclair High Maintenance

What Is It? The award-winning digital series migrates from Vimeo to HBO, nimbly adapting its vignettes about the “high” life to a half-hour format. The new season brings together an eclectic cast including Yael Stone, Michael Cyril Creighton, Hannibal Buress, Gaby Hoffman, Dan Stevenson and Amy Ryan — all united by “The Guy” (Ben Sinclair) who delivers their weed.

I’ll Like It If I Like… “High Maintenance” has less to do with pot and more to do with New York, with its anthology-esque structure invoking character-oriented narratives not too different from what’d you expect from Woody Allen or similar.

Why Should I Care? Creators Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld created something really wonderful and human with “High Maintenance,” and the changes made to bring the show to television have only made the series deeper. Technically, you don’t need to watch every episode to understand the series, but once you get into it, you’ll want to.

“The Good Place”

September 19 on NBC

Kristen Bell and Ted Danson on "The Good Place"

Kristen Bell and Ted Danson on “The Good Place”

What is it? Eleanor (Kristen Bell) finds herself in the afterlife — the good place, not the bad place — after an auto accident. The only problem? She’s there by mistake, having taken a good person’s spot in a bizarre mix-up, and her mentor Michael (Ted Danson) is bound to find out sometime.

I’ll like it if I like… “Defending Your Life,” thematically if not tonally. Its rapid-fire humor consists of naughty jokes, silly puns, gallows humor, sight gags and slapstick.

Why should I care? This comedy brings Kristen Bell back to our TVs, and we’d watch it even if it were just an extended Samsung commercial. Also, “Parks and Rec’s” Mike Schur is behind this, and we trust his comedic chops, especially if it’s a send-up of all we deem holy.

“Speechless”

September 21 on ABC

What Is It? Starring Minnie Driver and Cedric Yarbrough, “Speechless” joins the ABC Wednesday night lineup after “The Goldbergs” and before “Modern Family” and “Black-ish.” This family’s biggest struggle is balancing the needs of a child with cerebral palsy with the desires of the rest of the family. After moving houses and switching schools a number of times in a very short time span, the DiMeo family has proven they’ll do whatever it takes to make J.J. (Micah Fowler) happy. But what about Ray (Mason Cook) and Dylan (Kyla Kenedy)? Being a parent isn’t easy, but seeing things from the eyes of a child — as “Speechless” portrays — might hold the key to making it all work.

I’ll Like It If I Like… “Modern Family,” “About a Boy,” and/or “Malcolm in the Middle”

Why Should I Care? “Speechless” is about more than just laughs, but it doesn’t skimp on either. The Cerebral Palsy Foundation has been heavily involved with the production, helping to make sure characters and their motivations are authentic. And, frankly, it shows. “Speechless” has some bumps to iron out (like most sitcoms do when they first start out), but it holds great potential. Plus, who doesn’t want Minnie Driver in their lives every week?

“Easy”

September 22 on Netflix

Easy Netflix

What Is It? The details surrounding Joe Swanberg’s Netflix anthology series are scarce, but we know Season 1 will consist of eight episodes focusing on various romantic relationships in Chicago. Swanberg’s name sells it for us (as does the Midwestern setting), but the cast (which we’ll get to in a second) is a big selling point.

I’ll Like It If I Like… “Drinking Buddies,” “Uncle Kent”

Why Should I Care? Aya Cash is in this. She may not be in a lot of it, but she’s snagged enough screen time to justify a spot in the trailer. Beyond the “You’re the Worst” star, “Easy” is packed with fan favorites ranging from Orlando Bloom and Malin Akerman to Dave Franco and Marc Maron. This array of likable performers should be more than enough to sample this one.

READ MORE: ‘Easy’ Teaser: Joe Swanberg’s Netflix Series Gets Trippy, Animated Trailer

“Crisis in Six Scenes”

September 30 on Amazon Prime

Crisis in Six Scenes Woody Allen Miley Cyrus

What Is It? After some development struggles that led to regrets, Woody Allen’s first foray into television is finally set to debut. “Crisis in Six Scenes” is set during a turbulent time the ’60s, and the story follows a traditional suburban New York couple (Allen and Elaine May), their friend-of-the-family houseguest (John Magaro) and his fiancée (Rachel Brosnahan) who have their conservative beliefs challenged by a young hippie (Miley Cyrus) who’s been inspired by radical communist leaders.

I’ll Like It If I Like… Any number of Woody Allen’s films.

Why Should I Care? Woody Allen transitioning to TV is something to see on its own, as the workaholic filmmaker has been exclusive to the cinema since he broke out in the ’70s. Considering his antipathy for the process of making this, as well as its close-ended construction, this may be the only TV show Allen ever makes. The prolific writer and director may be hit or miss, so this could go either way. But the investment is minimal and the reward could be quite high.

READ MORE: Woody Allen’s ‘Crisis in Six Scenes’: First Series Images Show Miley Cyrus and Elaine May ’60s Chic

“No Tomorrow”

October 4 on The CW

No Tomorrow

“No Tomorrow,” premiering on the CW Fall 2016

What is it? Strait-laced Evie (Tori Anderson) falls for Xavier (“Galavant’s” Joshua Sasse), the bearded babe she ran into at the farmer’s market, and everything is perfect about him… except he believes the end of the world is nigh. Like, 8 months nigh. Despite this red flag, he’s had this maddeningly positive ability to make her seize the day with his insistence to cross items off her “apocalyst.”

I’ll like it if I like… “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Jane the Virgin.” Hear us out on this one. There is an unabashed optimism in this show about the end of the world, and you can’t fake positivity or integrity in a likable character. Also, it has some of the same producers and writers as “Jane the Virgin,” and that light-hearted but heartfelt touch is apparent.

Why should I care? Get over your serious self and nurture that ability to be grateful. Just because the world is ending doesn’t mean that you can’t fall in love, have fun or look forward to experiencing something. It’s therapy on TV without the high fees or uncomfortable navel-gazing. You’re welcome.

“Divorce”

October 9 on HBO

Divorce Thomas Hayden Church Sarah Jessica Parker HBO

What Is It? Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church star in this honest evaluation of a marriage that could be reaching its end. As the title implies, Frances (Parker) and Robert (Church) are leaning toward trouble through the series’ introduction, but nothing is as simple as signing on the dotted line. Kids, jobs, housing, assets and more all come into play, but never supersede the attempt to understand what was had and what was lost on an emotional level.

I’ll Like It If I Like… “The War of the Roses,” “Sex and the City”

Why Should I Care? “Divorce” springs from the creative mind of Sharon Horgan, but Sarah Jessica Parker took her reunion with HBO seriously — shepherding the series from conception to execution as a very invested executive producer. Parker and the co-creator of Amazon’s brilliant comedy “Catastrophe” are trying something a little different for both of them: “Divorce” is far from  your laugh-a-minute comedy, as its sense of humor is established early on as quite a few shades darker than “Sex and the City” fans might expect. Still, the upcoming half-hour series is intelligent, well-acted and unique, aiming to evaluate the complexities of one of life’s more difficult tasks, all with great respect to the couple going through it.

READ MORE: Sarah Jessica Parker Digs Into ‘Divorce,’ HBO’s Next Great Drama (That’s Also a Comedy)

“Insecure”

October 9 on HBO

What Is It? The comedy talents of Issa Rae (“Awkward Black Girl”) come to HBO for an original comedy about Issa and her friends as they attempt to find love and happiness in Los Angeles.

I’ll Like It If I Like… “Girls” might not be the best comparison point, especially as “Insecure” is so definitively Rae’s voice, but both shows lean into the notion of “specific but universal,” which asks us to identify with experiences outside of our own.

Why Should I Care? “Insecure” has a fresh feel for HBO, and Rae is insanely likable on camera. It’s a show which could surprise us down the line, especially as it digs deeper into what it means to be a black woman today.

“Graves”

October 16 on EPIX

Graves Nick Nolte

What Is It? Nick Nolte stars as former President Richard Graves, a Republican who reevaluates the decisions he made in office years after he’s left it. Called out by the left and still worshiped by the right, Graves has to find his own solutions somewhere in the middle. Considering his advancing age and repressed wild side, President Graves isn’t going to do things by the book.

I’ll Like It If I Like… “Primary Colors,” “Alpha House,” “My Fellow Americans”

Why Should I Care? Nick Nolte is on TV! Come on! What more do you need? Nick Nolte, the star of such great films as “Warrior,” “48 Hours,” “Warrior,” “The Thin Red Line,” “Warrior” and “Warrior” is taking on a serialized comedic role tailor made for his blend of rambunctious gravitas. The pilot shows promise, too, as “Graves” could hold meaningful social commentary between the laughs. Better find a way to watch EPIX, everyone.

READ MORE: Epix CEO Mark Greenberg on Why His Channel is Getting into the Original Scripted Series Game

“People of Earth”

October 31 on TBS

What Is It? Wyatt Cenac and Ana Gasteyer star in this surprising and surreal comedy about a reporter who investigates the odd attendees of a support group for alien abduction survivors. Created by David Jenkins, Conan O’Brien and Greg Daniels executive produce, and Daniels directed the pilot.

I’ll Like It If I Like… Remember when “The X-Files” would dabble in comedy, especially when Darin Morgan was around? “People of Earth” might remind you a bit of that (and not just because of the subject matter).

Why Should I Care? Cenac is a delightful lead, the supporting cast is stacked with really strong character actors and the journey set up by the pilot has us intrigued. More TV shows need sarcastic aliens. They make everything better.

“Stan Against Evil”

November 2 on IFC

Stan Against Evil

“Stan Against Evil”

IFC

What Is It? Creator Dana Gould combines his love of comedy and horror for this original series about a curmudgeonly ex-sheriff (John C. McGinley) who works with his small town’s new sheriff (Janet Varney) to stop a plague of murderous undead witches.

I’ll Like It If I Like… There’s a pretty wide spectrum to play around in, when it comes to horror comedy. But from “The Evil Dead” to “Shaun of the Dead,” there’s a certain joy in blending good scares with good laughs.

Why Should I Care? McGinley is of course beloved for his work on “Scrubs,” and Varney is an extremely under-appreciated talent. With Gould’s comedy pedigree including a well-established stand-up career as well as several years on “The Simpsons.” So while we haven’t seen much from this one, all the pieces are in place for something that terrifyingly amuses.

“Search Party”

November 21 on TBS

Search party

What Is It? A dark comedy from the “Fort Tilden” filmmakers, “Search Party” tracks a group of four friends who become entangled in the complicated search for a missing girl. Dory (Alia Shawkat) is the most interested party, as the lost 20-something becomes obsessed with the mysterious disappearance of her distant acquaintance.

I’ll Like It If I Like… “Agatha Christie” and “You’re the Worst”

Why Should I Care? A smart blend of intrigue and comedy, “Search Party” combines genres in an immediately rewarding manner. Characters are prioritized early on, as it’s more important we learn why these four friends care about the fate of Chantal than what exactly happened to her. The strong ensemble cast sparks to the material, led by a subtly magnetic Shawkat, and the hip New York culture feels genuine, even when it’s being mocked. This is one to watch.

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