The idea of a “fall TV season” feels particularly antiquated in 2017, as two of the year’s buzziest series (“Game of Thrones” and “Twin Peaks”) have already wrapped for the year. Fall may even be a bit of an afterthought now compared to spring, as networks aim to catch Emmy voters with prestige TV premieres when campaign season gets underway.
And yet, there’s nearly 70 years of tradition with the fall TV season. It’s when Nielsen still resets the calendar for the new TV year; when blue chip advertisers like the automotive sector roll out their own new wares; football season returns (don’t discount that huge impact on TV schedules); and the weather gets chilly, which conceivably means more viewers watching TV indoors.
This year, they’ll find a lot of familiar titles on broadcast TV, including the return of NBC’s “Will & Grace”; a prequel to “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS’ “Young Sheldon”; The CW’s modern interpretation of “Dynasty” and CBS’ reinvention of “SWAT”; another Marvel show on ABC, “Inhumans.” (The new “Star Trek: Discovery” also gets a one-night-only debut on CBS before moving to CBS All Access.)
Things get a little more original in the cable and streaming world, as filmmakers Neil Jordan, David Fincher, Peter Farrelly, Steven Soderbergh, and Spike Lee all have new TV projects on tap.
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Of course, there are plenty of returning series to get excited about, including the second seasons of “Stranger Things,” “This Is Us” and “The Girlfriend Experience.” IndieWire will focus on those shows later this week, but until then, here’s a round-up of our 25 most anticipated new shows of the fall, and when to expect them.
The Deuce (HBO, Sept. 10)
Executive Producers: David Simon, George Pelecanos,
Stars: James Franco, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Margarita Levieva, Gary Carr, Dominique Fishback, Method Man, David Krumholtz
Two immense creative forces behind “The Wire,” David Simon and George Pelecanos, reunite for another intimate and enthralling examination of institutionalized exploitation — with twin James Francos! This time, their focus shifts from cops and criminals in Baltimore to a gritty, grimy, so-dirty-you-need-a-shower New York story about the birth of the American pornography industry. Starting on the streets with prostitutes and pimps, the hour-long drama builds an inclusive ensemble cast to illustrate how the sex trade went from an illegal-but-organized side hustle to a multi-billion dollar business, thanks to opportunistic entrepreneurs who saw an opening when obscenity laws shifted. The period detail is brought to vivid life by, among others, acclaimed director Michelle MacLaren, and the cast includes a number of old favorites and new stars. Maggie Gyllenhaal (who also produces) is an absolute force, while the supporting cast more than holds their own. It’s a fascinating piece of history told with an eye for detail and an ear for humor that makes for thoroughly outstanding TV.
Riviera (Sundance Now, Sept. 14)
Executive Producers: Neil Jordan, Liza Marshall, Kris Thykier, Paul McGuinness
Stars: Julia Stiles, Iwan Rheon, Anthony LaPaglia, Lena Olin, Adrian Lester, Phil Davis
A family torn apart by the sins of the father hardly makes for a revelatory TV premise these days. But “Riviera” looks to be one of the few shows that actually approaches the dissolution of one of these families from the perspective of the woman at the top. A murder mystery that also sees a new mother figure (Stiles) doing her best to keep the family together in the wake of a marriage to a billionaire, the series will also look to draw some intrigue and ambiance from its south-of-France setting. In addition to serving as an EP, Jordan is on board as the co-writer on the table-setting opening two episodes.
American Vandal (Netflix, Sept. 15)
Tyler Golden / Netflix
Executive Producers: co-creators Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault, Joe Farrell, Josh Lieberman, Ari Lubet, and showrunner Dan Lagana
Stars: Tyler Alvarez, Jimmy Tatro, Griffin Gluck, Camille Ramsey, Calum Worthy, Camille Hyde, G Hannelius, Eduardo Franco, Jessica Juarez, Lou Wilson
True crime series have slowly exploded in public perception over the past few years. Whether it’s surprising or inevitable, one of the best additions to the docuseries canon is a scripted series centered around an elaborate, spray-painted penis prank. But this is more than just a “high schoolers do ‘Serial'” simple premise. A meticulous recreation and reinvention of the boilerplate mystery doc style and construction, “American Vandal” also leaves room for some thoughtful self-examination among all of the laughs. It’ll hook you just as easily as all the Netflix-backed crime stories that came before it.
The Vietnam War (PBS, Sept. 17)
Executive Producers: Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
Stars: Peter Coyote as narrator
Monumentally ambitious, thorough and unflinching, Ken Burns’ 10-part, 18-hour miniseries tracks the history of the conflict in Vietnam, why it so long, and its devastating impact on both Vietnamese and Americans alike. The documentary uses never-before-seen archival footage and photographs, eye-opening audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations, and more than 80 interviews with participants on all sides to create a picture of how more than one nation became divided by an unpopular war. The series eerily echoes the current state of U.S. politics and is a must-watch for anyone who seeks understanding on how something so destructive was not only allowed to happen, but continued despite widespread opposition.
Star Trek: Discovery (CBS/CBS All Access, Sept. 24)
Executive Producers: Alex Kurtzman, Bryan Fuller, Heather Kadin, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Akiva Goldsman, Rod Roddenberry, Trevor Roth, David Semel
Stars: Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones, Shazad Latif, Maulik Pancholy, Anthony Rapp, Michelle Yeoh, Kenneth Mitchell, Clare McConnell, Damon Runyan, Rekha Sharma, Mary Wiseman, Rainn Wilson
“Star Trek” is back, and while screeners haven’t been available yet, everything we’ve seen so far indicates a bold take on the beloved franchise, one that could be game-changing for the TV landscape. CBS’s unique release strategy — premiering the first two episodes on CBS, then running the rest of the season on digital subscription platform CBS All Access — could be considered a risk. But established fans should at least plan to check out the launch of Lt. Commander Michael Burnham (Martin-Green) and a whole new universe of adventures.
Law & Order: The Menendez Murders (NBC, Sept. 26)
Executive Producers: Rene Balcer (writer), Lesli Linka Glatter (director), Dick Wolf, Peter Jankowski, Arthur W. Forney
Stars: Edie Falco, Heather Graham, Miles Gaston Villanueva, Gus Halper, Carlos Gomez, Lolita Davidovich, Josh Charles, Julianne Nicholson, Anthony Edwards, Elizabeth Reaser, Chris Bauer, Sam Jaeger, Constance Marie
What hath “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” wrought? The limited-run true crime genre is hot, and it won’t be long until every high-profile Hollywood murder gets its turn on TV. But this one deserves the benefit of the doubt to its auspices: TV mastermind Dick Wolf has once again expanded his “Law & Order” brand, but this time to something different. Edie Falco (“The Sopranos”) stars as defense attorney Leslie Abramson, who famously defended Eric and Lyle Menendez, the Beverly Hills brothers who claimed in 1989 that they killed their parents after years of abuse. Like many “Law & Order” stories, “The Menendez Murders” is ripped from the headlines. But unlike the long-running procedural, Wolf said he has an agenda here. “This is one of the crimes of the century,” he said, at last month’s Television Critics Association press tour. “It’s absolutely horrible, but when you see the information, I think people are going to realize, well, yeah, they did it, but it wasn’t first degree murder, with no possibility of parole. They probably should have been out 8 or 10 years ago, because they should have been convicted of first-degree manslaughter, which is a different punishment than first-degree murder. So, yes, this is a show that has an agenda to it.”
Liar (Sundance, Sept. 27)
Joss Barratt/Two Brothers Pictur
Executive Producers: Harry Williams, Jack Williams
Stars: Joanne Froggatt, Ioan Gruffudd
Description: This six-episode miniseries from the UK stars Emmy winner Froggatt and one-time Mr. Fantastic Gruffudd (OK, he’s also a critically acclaimed actor in his own right) as two people for whom one bad night could prove life-ruining. An acting showcase for both stars that also explores issues surrounding consent in a way that doesn’t pull punches, “Liar” proves that the Williams brothers (who have also been behind some great television of late, including “The Missing” and “Fleabag”) are folks to watch.
Big Mouth (Netflix, Sept. 29)
Executive Producers: Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin & Jennifer Flackett
Stars: John Mulaney, Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll, Maya Rudolph, Jordan Peele, Fred Armisen, Jason Mantzoukas, and Jessi Klein
This animated half-hour comedy puts puberty front and center in all of its ill-informed and cringeworthy glory. The adult comedy veers into the realm of the magical by imagining a giant creature who urges teenager Andrew to masturbate at inconvenient times or causes his pal Nick to see all of his friends as giant talking penises. You know, all the normal horrible stuff about the most confusing time in a growing boy’s life. Definitely NSFW, this series takes edgy and inappropriate to new heights in all the best, most relatable ways.
Up next: More from our Fall TV preview, including ghosts, mutants, and David Fincher