Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: What is your most anticipated returning show of the fall season? Why?
Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire
There’s a lot I’m very excited about returning: “BoJack Horseman” Season 4, as just one example, is truly extraordinary. But I’m fascinated by the thought of what “Mr. Robot” Season 3 is going to be like, given the crazy political environment it was created during. The latest trailer teased a lot of exciting developments about the new world order descending upon the hacker drama; plus, it’s a show that always has at least one big secret up its sleeve. Of everything coming out this fall, it seems like the most unknown quantity, which means, good or bad, I can’t wait to see what happens.
Caroline Framke (@carolineframke), Vox
The quality of new fall shows is generally so bleak that I’m pretty much only anticipating returning shows with anything approaching enthusiasm. But if I have to pick one, the show I’m most excited about getting back is “The Good Place.” Even in a TV season packed with creative shows like “Atlanta” and “Fleabag,” “The Good Place” was such a bizarre and beautiful surprise that it quickly became my favorite. The expertly deployed twists and final reveal make the show particularly rewarding upon a re-watch (I’ve probably seen the first season four times through now), but now I’m dying to know how Season 2 is going to deal with them all moving forward. The more TV I watch, the more genuinely thrilling it is to find a show like “The Good Place” that makes me admit I have no earthly clue where it might go, but that I trust it, anyway.
Also: Ted Danson gets to play a fully evil character now, which is gonna be great.
Erik Adams (@ErikMAdams), A.V. Club
The initial chapters of “The Good Place” charmed the shirt out of me last fall, the middle passages produced some benchin’ high-concept comedy, and then the season finale pulled off one complicated mind-fork of a twist. By turning the world of “The Good Place” upside down, that finale opened up all manner of possibilities within a show that had already, in the span of 13 episodes, expanded exponentially on its “admitted to the wrong afterlife” premise. It also performed a maneuver I typically roll my eyes at—a comedy with a strong ensemble ending a season by scattering the members of that ensemble to the winds – but since the goal of Season 2 seems to be reuniting Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and sweet, dumb, “pre-successful” Jason, it’ll feel less arbitrary and have more narrative verve than when, say, “Girls” moved Hannah Horvath to Iowa for a few weeks. And on top of all that, I just want the show’s joke-telling style back in my life: The creatively covered-up cursing, the setups that elegantly fold into their own punchlines, Ted Danson’s immortal overseer delighting in human behavior and ingenuity.
Eric Deggans (@deggans), NPR
I’ve often thought of NBC’s “This Is Us” as a litmus test for cynicism. Folks with a little more, shall we say, jaundiced view of entertainment and showbiz seem angered by the show’s earnest, obvious emotionalism in ways that viewers looking for a good cry might not share. So mark me among the rubes who can’t wait to have his heartstrings pulled once again by the complicated, multiracial and multigenerational stories at the heart of the most successful network TV drama of last year. The obvious obsession among some fans is knowing exactly how patriarch Jack Pearson dies. But that story, for me, is a side dish – wonderful if it’s delicious, but if it’s just okay, that’s fine, too. Instead, I want to see how Randall deals with the mom who betrayed him (I’m also secretly hoping the Gods of Makeup somehow transform Mandy Moore’s old age prosthetics into something more realistic-looking); whether Kate will finally put jokester boyfriend Toby out of our misery and how they will work in flashbacks featuring Ron Cephas Jones as Randall’s now dead biological father. Most of all, I want creator Dan Fogelman to work out such a cool cameo for Sylvester Stallone that all the snarky writers who tossed off snide pieces about shark jumping when Sly’s appearance in the second season was announced will have to eat substantial helpings of crow. Hey, an earnest TV critic can dream.
Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), Uproxx
The answer to this depends, I suppose, on what’s meant by “most anticipated.” There are a lot of returning shows where I’ve already seen many screeners: the new “BoJack Horseman” season is wonderful, “Top of the Lake” makes a triumphant return, “Better Things” has made a leap in its second season, etc. So if I have anticipation for those shows, it’s more about other people getting to see them, and then all of us talking about them, since I’ve seen most (or in some cases, all) of each new season. Then there are other shows that I know will make me happy when they return, like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Speechless,’ but that last aired episodes in May, and thus don’t feel like they’ve been gone long enough to qualify.
So let’s go with one where I not only haven’t seen any new episodes yet, but haven’t seen any episodes, period, in six years, and didn’t expect to ever see any again: “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” This is one of TV’s greatest comedies, and at its best makes me laugh harder than Larry David’s other show. It’s not always perfect, as evidenced by that hit-or-miss 2011 season that for a long time seemed like it would be the last one ever, but its highs are so high that the lows feel at worst like minor inconveniences — the sort of thing Larry and Jeff would complain about on the golf course — to get to the genius. I have high hopes for the new batch, if only because David didn’t need to do this — there had to be some idea, or series of ideas, strong enough for him to even bother doing this much work again — but even if most of them are faint echoes of what Curb used to be, if there are one or two episodes as brilliant as “Palestinian Chicken” or “Mister Softee,” it’ll still be one of my favorite TV experiences of 2017.
Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider
There are several returning shows that I’m curious about this fall, in terms of whether or not they’ll get back to their former glory (“Mr. Robot,” “The Flash”), if they’ll use a reset to propel the show into new territory (“Arrow,” “Outlander”), or if they’ll still feel as wonderfully homey in their new seasons (“Poldark,” “The Durrells in Corfu”) as they have in years past.
But the series I’m the most excited for is “Top of the Lake: China Girl.” The first season was such a haunting take on what could have easily been just a small-town crime story. But through Elisabeth Moss’s exceptional work as a deeply conflicted detective and director Jane Campion’s atmospheric examination of rural New Zealand culture (and one unforgettable women’s camp!), the show became one of the most engrossing, heartbreaking, and sometimes oddly humorous I’ve ever encountered. When I heard that there would be a second installment, I couldn’t wait to see where Campion and Moss would take us next. Though I haven’t binged through the screener episodes yet (having handed off the review to a colleague), I think I might actually wait and savor it week by week — a rare treat.
Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), TVGuide.com
I’ve already sung its praises here, but “Great News’” renewal was the only one I legit screamed out loud about in May. It was only improving toward the end of its first season and I’m just stoked that it has a chance to fine-tune its nutty, silly voice. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Tina Fey and Reid Scott coming on. But let’s not overlook the real win: more Nicole Richie. We are not worthy.
Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine
Of course I am excited for all of my superhero shows to get back to saving the day. “Gotham” is going full-on “Batman Begins,” and if “Legends of Tomorrow” can keep up the fun it had last season, it’s third round could be a total scream. The ensemble works perfectly now. “The Flash” has a lot of promise with the decision to put Candice Patton’s Iris in a bigger team role. Both women are ready for it, as are the fans. “Supergirl” never fails to make me happy and “Arrow” is finally free of the Lian Yu flashbacks, so fingers crossed we can put them behind us and move on—plus, Katie Cassidy back as Black Siren? Sign. Me. Up.
But the non-cape show I am most intrigued by-slash-excited about is “Star.” The non-“Empire” spin-off will be crossing over at the start of Season 2, and that means Queen Latifah’s Miss Carlotta versus Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie Lyons and if you’re not down for that, you should take a seat and shut it. “Star” was an odd bird last year. Part social commentary, part fantasy fulfillment and soapy enough to earn a cliffhanger-packed finale, the gritty musical fable left us wondering so much: Would pregnant Alex (Ryan Destiny) really keep the baby if her man was paralyzed? How could Cotton (the amazing Amiyah Scott) avoid all sorts of jail time for stealing all that money to pay for her gender-reassignment surgery? And would anyone miss awful Eva or Hunter after being shot to death during the, um, act by the hitman after Jahil (Benjamin Bratt)? TBH, the only redeeming quality Hunter had going for him was his abs and Eva, please, that monster should have been killed with fire five minutes after arriving in Atlanta. So yeah, clearly, I am deeply invested in this one. Do not judge.
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
The popcorn TV lover in me says Netflix “Stranger Things” for the sheer chills, thrills, and spectacle of it. My absurdist heart says “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO, as Larry David returns after a long hiatus.
But the grown up, female me is really waiting on FX’s “Better Things,” simply because of the loose ends they left Sam Fox with from Season 1. I’ve cheated and seen the first two episodes. So good! I’ve mentioned before that Pamela Adlon’s character is highly relatable and it’s just one of those shows that hit the right chord. This dramedy is rooted in heavy situations that Sam usually maneuvers her way through. It’s adult, and quite heartfelt at the same time. I love the cast chemistry, the writing and how Adlon mucks through it all.
Tim Surette (@timsurette), TV.com
It’s a pretty lean fall season, isn’t it? But who cares as long as “Nathan For You” is back? Comedy Central’s absurd experiment into human nature, terrible business and the creeping loneliness of Nathan Fielder is unlike anything else on television. You’d think the schtick – dweebus tries to help small businesses with bad out-of-the-box thinking – would get stale, but Fielder somehow manages to slightly transform his show to give it new meaning each season. I expect nothing to change in Season 4.
Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter
“Fall season” kinda implies broadcast networks and I think the returning broadcast show I’m most anticipating is “The Good Place,” which had a really good first season, but hasn’t been on for half-a-year at this point and that was following a really twisty finale. If “fall season” can refer to anything, though, I’ve got to say that the only returning fall show that was in my Top 10 last year and the year before was Netflix’s hilarious ode to ’90s sitcom stardom and equine depression “Bojack Horseman,” which is following up on a third season that included a couple of the finest individual TV episodes of the past decade and since I’ve seen the entirety of the fourth season already, I know it’s worth looking forward to and will almost certainly be my “best TV show currently on the air” pick for next week. [Special honorable mention to “Better Things,” which had a damn good first season and, based on the few episodes I’ve seen for S2, is on the verge of making that next step to greatness.]
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire
After a stellar first season — that could have worked beautifully as a close-ended limited series — “Search Party” is returning for a sequel season in November, ripe with possibility for what’s next. Sarah Violet-Bliss and Charles Rogers crafted a twisty, hilarious, and ultimately shocking first season, bending genres as viewers watched Dory (Alia Shawkat) search for the missing Chantal along with her posse of less-enthused (but very funny) friends.
It was a helluva journey, but one wonders what the game-changing finale will do to Season 2: Will it be darker? More dramatic? Open to more bold risks or keen to draw the story back down to Earth? It could really be anything — the IndieWire staff marveled at the idea of starting over, with the actors playing new characters in a similar, but fresh mystery — and that’s exciting with this much talent involved. Bring on November 19.
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
A: TIE: “The Bold Type,” “Halt and Catch Fire,” and “Twin Peaks” (two votes each)
Other contenders: “American Horror Story: Cult,” “Insecure,” “The Lowe Files,” “People of Earth,” “Survivor’s Remorse” (one vote each)
*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.