“The Good Place” (NBC, Sept. 26)
[Editor’s Note: The following blurb contains spoilers for the Season 2 finale of “The Good Place,” in case you haven’t heard.] Holy forking shirtballs, how will “The Good Place” avoid swearing now that its foul-mouthed lead is back on Earth? That’s just one of the many fun questions facing Season 3, as the big twist to end Season 2 sent the four main subjects for an apparent redo on Earth. Michael (Ted Danson) is trying to prove whether or not people are capable of change, a rather lofty idea for any show to tackle, but certainly one within range for a series about the meaning of life. Really, though, Michael Schur’s new episodes will be a success if they can find a way around that one big question: Can the show maintain its out-there authenticity if Kristen Bell’s Eleanor isn’t cursing 24/7?
“Superstore” (NBC, Oct. 4)
When “Superstore” returns for Season 4, it’s been several months since the finale — when the hookup between Amy (America Ferrera) and Jonah (Ben Feldman) was live streamed to every Cloud 9 store on the globe. The show picks up on their first day back after suspension, and the different reactions that Amy gets, compared to Jonah, says a lot about how people perceive sex and men vs. women. The couple strives to keep their new relationship secret, while Amy and Dina (Lauren Ash) prepare for their own respective babies.
“Big Mouth” (Netflix, Oct. 5)
One of the most disgusting yet delightful surprises of last year, “Big Mouth” features a hilarious all-star voice cast to portray the bodily horrors of puberty in all of their premature-ejaculating, hair-sprouting, vagina-bleeding, cringe-worthy glory. Season 2 picks up where the first left off, with Jessi and Jay having left town together and running into his anthropomorphic masturbation pillow “son” Scorpion. As you do. Meanwhile, Nick and Andrew compare their Hormone Monsters, who’ve pushed them to explore new ways to deal with their growth.
“Fresh Off the Boat” (ABC, Oct. 5)
While production on this season had started long before “Crazy Rich Asians” became a box-office hit, we wouldn’t put it past the writers to make some sort of sly, if anachronistic, reference to the rom-com. Nevertheless, it would be worth noting if new viewers flock to the show to check out Constance Wu and occasional guest star Ken Jeong, both of whom are in the movie. As for the show itself, the Huang family will be going through some adjustments as Louis is no longer under Kenny Rogers’ thumb at Cattleman’s Ranch and Jessica is an accomplished, Stephen King-blurbed author. Meanwhile, Eddie and his friends continue to explore prejudice and challenge norms after having taken a stand on a gender-restrictive dress code at the school dance in last season’s finale. “Fresh Off the Boat” also notably moves to Fridays as part of ABC’s revived TGIF lineup.
“The Walking Dead” (AMC, Oct. 7)
Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
The producers behind “The Walking Dead” are setting up Season 9 as a whole new chapter in the show’s evolution. They’re still mum on how Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) are written off the show as Lincoln and Cohan move on to other projects. But they do say this season will look and feel much more like a western. “There is hope, and we’re starting to see society come back,” executive producer David Alpert said this summer. Some of this change comes from new showrunner Angela Kang, who is also overseeing the addition of several new characters from the comics — including Tammy Rose (Brett Butler), Earl the Blacksmith (John Finn), and Alpha (Samantha Morton), the leader of the group the Whisperers. But at least one thing hasn’t changed: Negan’s still around to stir up trouble. “Negan is Negan,” Kang said.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (The CW, Oct. 12)
It’s the fourth and final season for Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) and her gang of misfit friends in West Covina (The storyline has been planned for this many chapters from the very beginning, so viewers can expect a tight season.) When last we left Rebecca, she finally decided to take responsibility for her actions and not enter a plea of insanity for an attempted second-degree murder charge. So we’re expecting at least part of Season 4 to take place in jail (and hopefully inspire a “Cell Block Tango” type of song). And while the show has challenged rom-com norms before, it will make its boldest move yet when Rebecca’s old flame Greg returns looking pretty different. Instead of Santino Fontana reprising his role as the alcoholic bartender, “Pitch Perfect” star Skylar Astin will take over instead to visually illustrate how Rebecca’s perception of a person has changed.
“House of Cards” (Netflix, Nov. 2)
Somehow, last season ended in exactly the right way, as if it were prescient about the the multiple sexual assault allegations that would require Kevin Spacey be fired and then written out of the series. Frank Underwood (Spacey) had resigned from the presidency to avoid scandal, his wife Claire (Robin Wright) was sworn in, and her first act as President was to declare war on the Islamic Caliphate Organization (ICO). She did not, however, pardon Frank as planned, which sets up a Season 6 that can easily deal with Frank’s…disappearance. As Netflix’s first original series to really break through for the streaming service, “House of Cards” making its final run would be intriguing television, but the image of a female president finally taking charge in the wake of male misconduct (be it onscreen or off) makes it the ultimate #MeToo must-see this year.
“Outlander” (Starz, Nov. 4)
Outlander © 2017 Starz Entertai
Season 4 of the romantic time-bending drama will transport audiences to colonial America following last season’s shipwreck, but here’s what really matters: The show’s erstwhile heroes, Claire and Jamie, reunited after decades apart, building a life together. As the series continues to explore the material provided by Diana Gabaldon’s books, one thing continues to be more and more clear: “Outlander” is one of television’s most romantic shows, and the way it brings that to the forefront without shirking away from the real-life complications involved has guaranteed the show’s longevity for years to come, should Starz choose to keep it going.
“Mars” (NatGeo, Nov. 12)
National Geographic/Dusan Martincek
Produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Nat Geo’s docu-drama hybrid made for a compelling hybrid in its first season. It looks great, and the creators don’t skimp on crucial storytelling details like good actors and human connections. Season 2 is making a nine-year time-jump, as the astronauts start to build a new life on Mars, and the scripted narrative examines how boundaries between science and industry can affect the construction of a new world. What have we really learned? Is it enough to do better on our second chance with a new planet? Maybe the documentary subjects can answer those questions more definitively, but “Mars” Season 2 makes sure watching won’t feel like homework.