NPR's Fall TV Preview: 11 New Shows To Watch Out For

Aug 25, 2017
Originally published on October 20, 2017 10:21 am

While the television season no longer runs neatly from September to May, there's still a rush of new shows — especially on broadcast networks — in the fall. Eric Deggans, NPR's TV critic, joined Pop Culture Happy Hour for our annual fall TV preview, and you can hear that audio by hitting the big PLAY button. (As always, our conversation concludes with our regular weekly segment What's Making Me Happy This Week, which this time around includes a music documentary, a new album, yet another TV show to consider and a podcast on the topic of television.)

But for the readers out there, we're also running down just some of the more talked-about and potentially interesting stuff that's on the way. Without further ado, here are 11 shows to watch out for this fall:

The Deuce, HBO (Sunday, Sept. 10)

The Wire creator David Simon has assembled a compelling drama about the rise of the porn industry around Times Square in the 1970s — back when Manhattan's 42nd Street, nicknamed "The Deuce," was way too seedy for Disney stores.

Don't be distracted by the gimmick of James Franco playing twins who each run a brothel and a bar, or the sight of male equipment on a show where the nudity is equal opportunity. Instead, focus on the story of how the legalization of porn created a billion-dollar industry and Maggie Gyllenhaal's daring, explicit performance as a prostitute turned porn director. — Eric Deggans

Star Trek: Discovery, CBS All Access (Sunday, Sept. 24)

Discovery is the first Star Trek TV series in a dozen years, and it was developed without many of the gatekeepers who turned TV versions of Trek into predictable, muddied messes many years ago.

The premise is geek heaven: The Walking Dead alum Sonequa Martin-Green plays a human who was adopted and raised by Sarek, father to Trek's most beloved character, Spock. Critics haven't seen a screener yet, but Trek nerds are optimists. We want to believe in a utopian future, so we're gonna keep the faith that Discovery will go where no Trek show has gone before. The first episode will air on CBS, and the rest of the season is only available on CBS All Access, the network's streaming site. — Eric Deggans

Young Sheldon, CBS (Tuesday, Sept. 26)

Love it or hate it, The Big Bang Theory has made a lot of money for a lot of people. So it's unsurprising that CBS has created a prequel, starring Iain Armitage as itty-bitty Sheldon Cooper and Zoe Perry as his mom. (Perry is the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who plays Sheldon's mom on Big Bang.)

Less silly and more sweet than Big Bang, Young Sheldon is a single-camera exploration of its central character's struggles with being different and his mom's efforts to help. It's hard to know whether fans of the original will welcome the tweaked tone, but Jim Parsons' voice-overs and Armitage's solid performance at least leave the door open for them. — Linda Holmes

Will & Grace, NBC (Thursday, Sept. 28)

At the time when Will & Grace was originally on, its presentation of the lives of gay characters got a lot of credit for breaking ground; now, it seems incredibly dated. The challenge of reviving the series (with the main cast and much of the behind-the-scenes talent intact) is in part that television's treatment of LGBT characters has passed it by, sure, but it's also that the finale sealed off sequel options by defining the next few decades of the characters' lives and making it clear they didn't spend them together.

The chosen solution, essentially: "Finale? What finale?" That's right — the producers are disregarding the series finale they themselves made. What you'll see is just more of the same, minus whatever part of the previous ending isn't convenient. Might be a fun show, but it's a weird development in the history of making finales. — Linda Holmes

Ghosted, Fox (Sunday, Oct. 1)

Adam Scott and Craig Robinson. Boom. Done. What more do you need? Because I? Need nothing more. But you want to know the premise: Scott and Robinson are recruited by a secret government organization to investigate the paranormal. The ensuing jinx are high.

The creator is Tom Gormican, whose only other IMDB credit is a 2014 movie called That Awkward Moment, which ... yeah. But I believe in the sensibility — it seems to be vibrating on the same frequency as People of Earth, which I like a lot. — Glen Weldon

The Gifted, Fox (Monday, Oct. 2)

Marvel TV series have been a little all over the place. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. never quite became the juggernaut ABC hoped for; FX's Legion drew reasonably good notices; and Netflix's group of shows — which has now culminated in The Defenders — has had some hits alongside some misses. The Gifted, on Fox, is a new addition to the Marvel TV cannon. It takes place in the X-Men universe, where a couple is forced to go on the run with their kids after it turns out that the kids are, well, mutants. The cast includes Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker and Jamie Chung.

The pilot has to do an awful lot of setup work, but it does it pretty well, and the dynamic among the family feels genuine. The effects are extensive without being distracting, and what it means for kids to be mutants offers some interesting paths of exploration. — Linda Holmes

The Mayor, ABC (Tuesday, Oct. 3)

Sitcom pilots are like first dates: It's very rare that you walk away ready to commit to anything. Mostly, you're there to see whether there's some spark that makes you want to keep going.

This particular sitcom is about a young rapper (Brandon Micheal Hall) who runs for mayor of his small Bay Area town as a publicity stunt and winds up being elected. Yvette Nicole Brown plays his mom, and he's got some great pals as well as a former high school foe (Lea Michele) supporting him. It's a very sitcommy premise, but comedy is in the execution, and the pilot benefits from a strong cast (which put on a warm, entertaining panel for TV critics earlier this month) and some interesting ideas about the responsibility of individual people to take representative democracy seriously. — Linda Holmes

Dynasty, The CW (Wednesday, Oct. 11)

Is this the best or the worst possible moment for a fun, goofy soap about the obscenely rich? We'll find out when The CW unveils Dynasty. It both is and isn't a remake of the ABC original: There is a Blake Carrington (Grant Show), but he's a different kind of tycoon, and there is a Krystle sort of, and the producers will undoubtedly unveil their Alexis at some point, though she's an unseen presence for now.

This Dynasty comes from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who also made The O.C. and Gossip Girl, so if anyone can guide us into the moment where the evening soap snake eats its own tail, it's probably these two. — Linda Holmes

I Love You, America, Hulu (Thursday, Oct. 12)

Sarah Silverman might not seem like the most obvious uniting figure, but her goal with her Hulu talk show is to bring people together. She's going to come to you weekly with a monologue, some in-studio discussions and remote pieces to try to explore what she's called "the root of humanity in this country."

Hulu is pushing hard to continue to establish its originals in the wake of its success with The Handmaid's Tale, and talk/news shows are an area where streaming has yet to really establish itself the way it has with drama and comedy. In that Silverman seems to be specifically responding to the political moment, and Hulu is responding to the industry moment, it's a project worth tracking. — Linda Holmes

White Famous, Showtime (Sunday, Oct. 15 )

"White famous" is a shorthand term for that moment when black performers become superstars with white audiences, but this show is also kind of an experiment in metacomedy. Its story was inspired and executive produced by superstar Jamie Foxx, and it stars Saturday Night Live alum Jay Pharoah — a performer struggling toward that level of fame himself.

There's a danger White Famous could come off as a Jamie Foxx-ified version of Entourage. But the fight to remain connected to black culture while reaching white audiences has confronted performers ranging from Dave Chappelle to Beyoncé, suggesting fertile ground for a series on a premium cable network that could use some racial diversity in its lineup. — Eric Deggans

The Last O.G., TBS (Tuesday, Oct. 24)

Comic Tracy Morgan walks an interesting tightrope: He's occasionally embarrassing, sometimes insightful and often funny while mining comedy from black culture and his own humble beginnings. So I'll be watching his new comedy, The Last O.G., with a mix of hopefulness and apprehension.

Morgan stars as Tray, an ex-con struggling with modern life after spending 15 years in the joint. He returns to find Brooklyn filled with hipsters, and his African-American ex-girlfriend (Girls Trip's breakout star Tiffany Haddish) married to a wealthy white man who is raising the twin sons Tray never knew he had. This will either produce the most offensive comedy in TBS history or the most subversive. And Morgan's history doesn't provide much of a clue as to which way things might go. — Eric Deggans

Nicole Cohen and Jessica Reedy produced this story for the Web.

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