Alright folks, it’s that time of year again where I get inordinately excited for all my shows coming back, along with some fresh meat. My fellow purveyor of pop culture Emily and I have gotten together again for another list of shows you need to check out this fall. Enjoy our Top Ten List of Best New & Returning Shows – Read, then go forth and watch!
Empire broke records in its debut season as its audience grew exponentially each new episode. Despite plot issues and some slipshod acting, I thoroughly enjoyed the first season. Empire chronicles the story of music mogul Lucious Lyon, his ex-wife Cookie and their three boys Jamal, Hakeem and Andre as they struggle for power and the controlling stake in the family company. Lucious is a bigoted, egotistical father with a penchant for bringing out the worst in the people around him. He doesn’t really understand his sons as much as he likes to control them and how they live their lives. It’s a drama, heavy on the soap, and can sometimes veer into exaggerated territory.
However, the show is extremely watchable, mainly due to their secret weapon: Cookie Lyon. Taraji P. Henson has taken the TV world by storm and she can only continue to tear shit up. She is a bad-ass mama bear who will bite your head off if you try to mess with her cubs. She is a tremendously melodramatic character, with all the juiciest one-liners, but Henson plays her with such incredible pathos she is incredibly compelling to watch. She is so fantastic, I would recommend the show on her talent alone. But alas, the show has more going for it than just Cookie. Timbaland produces all of the music featured on the show and his talent is not to be underestimated; check out some of the fun music that’s already out from the first season for your listening pleasure – and tune in for season 2! – GN
For Fans Of: Scandal, Nashville
PREMIERE: Wed, Sept 23 @ 9 PM on FOX
2. Jane the Virgin
Jane the Virgin had a lot going against it when it premiered last October for it’s first season. With a wacky title, oddball plot and scenes entirely in Spanish, it seemed Jane The Virgin might be the laughing stock of the fall television season. However Jane premiered to solid ratings and showed audiences how much heart it actually had.
Jane, the result of a teenage pregnancy by her mother, has vowed not to have sex until she’s married. While it is partly a religious decision, it’s also because she wants to take charge of her life and ensure that nothing will stop her from pursuing her dreams. She is engaged to her understanding boyfriend of two years and is pursuing her degree part time while she works at a hotel to help pay for her tuition. Her life is on track. Then when she goes to a routine checkup at her gynecologist she accidentally gets artificially inseminated and becomes pregnant, even though she’s a virgin. To make matters worse, the sperm belongs to her married boss, whom she also has a crush on. To say her life takes a turn is a bit of an understatement.
Based off a Spanish novella of the same name, Jane proved early on that it while it could live up to the drama promised by its telenovela of the same name, it could also be one of the funniest and most genuine shows on television. Watching Jane struggle to figure out what to do with the baby is one of the most honest portrayals I’ve seen on tv. The family dynamic is also something other shows should envy. With three generations of strong women who live under the same roof, they always support, love and take care of each other and it’s beautiful. Even their love triangle is entirely original. Though a common device used on television, rarely has it been so well executed. The two men who are competing for her heart, are entirely different, yet completely fleshed out as characters with strong merits. The writers have done an incredible job at not making a clear winner out of her suitors creating two compelling, flawed and realistic men who both deserve to win Jane. With season two promising to bring about a baby, a wedding, and a cameo by Kesha as a neighbor who hates babies, it should be a hoot and a half. -EM
For Fans Of: Ugly Betty and Gilmore Girls
PREMIERE: October 12, 2015 at 9 on CW
Of all the new fall returning shows, I am most excited for iZombie. Last season left off on quite a doozy of a finale and I can’t wait to see all of the blowback after some of the tough decisions Liv had to make. In case you know nothing about the show, medical student Liv Moore is invited to a particularly hellish boat party and wakes up in a body bag with a craving for brains. She quits her job, ends her engagement with fiancée Major and gets a job at the morgue where she has an endless supply of brains and no one to accidentally turn. No one of course, except for her boss Ravi whom Liv confides in with her secret.
One of the perks of being a zombie happens to be both visions of the person’s life and traits the person had when they were alive – i.e. obsession with video games, agoraphobia, sniper skills and more. After accidentally having a vision around detective Babineaux, Liv gets roped into being a “psychic for the police.” Let me remind you this is only the set up, and it only builds as the season progresses from comedic weekly cop show to deeply serialized drama with high stakes by the finale. -GN
For Fans Of: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars
PREMIERE: Tues, Oct 6 @ 9 PM on the CW
4. Sleepy Hollow
People were laughing when Sleepy Hollow premiered two years ago. Two and a half centuries after Ichabod Crane’s fateful encounter with the headless horseman, Ichabod is resurrected into present day Sleepy Hollow. He now has to fight demons and unravel history with the help of Lieutenant Abby Mills, all while trying to adapt to modern culture and kill the headless horseman who also has come back to Sleepy Hollow. Watch your head. But season 1 literally and figuratively killed, and it became one of the highest rated new series on television.
However when season 2 premiered, there was a marked difference in writing, tone, and stories. The show seemed to take a lot of wrong turns, by introducing new characters that weren’t necessary, underwriting some of the great characters they had already created, and moved away from the monster of the week format to push for reoccurring storylines over an entire season. Fans and critics were less than impressed.
So why is this show on the list? Well the season 2 finale showed a vast improvement from the second season. Also, the showrunner lost his head. I mean, was fired and replaced. With a new head boss, old fans that have given up should come back and give it another try. If it’s anything like it’s first season, it will return to being one of the funniest, most outlandish, and awesome shows on television. -EM
For Fans Of: Grimm and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
PREMIERE: October 01, 2015 at 9 on FOX
5. The Last Man on Earth
There has never been another sitcom like this one. Will Forte created this series and upon viewing the pilot, I was sold on one of the first gags alone (I’ll let you guess which one). Forte is frequently offbeat and weird, but creating a comedy about what people do after the end of civilization with such a small cast seemed like it could fail miserably, or be exactly what Forte needed; it turned out to be the latter.
The pilot episode introduces us to Phil, an average guy who is unraveling at the seams after a virus wipes out all of humanity. Phil is narcissistic and lazy and spends most of his time wasting away his day bathing and drinking out of a kiddie pool filled with margaritas. Phil thinks he’s all alone – that is, until he happens to run into another person – a woman – named Carol, the always hysterical Kristen Schaal, who is the antithesis of Phil. Their friendship rivalry fuels the show and Forte and Schaal play off each other so well that even when you are cringing at their behavior, you can’t help but laugh.
This show was honestly a surprise for me; I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. It is the single greatest comedic pilot I have seen in years – thanks for that Emmy nod – and Will Forte has never been funnier. There are a few bumps along the road, but it’s a solid first season. I’m looking forward to what season 2 has to offer. – GN
For Fans of: Community, New Girl
PREMIERE: Sun, Sept 27 @ 9:30 PM on FOX
6. How to Get Away With Murder
How To Get Away With Murder had some of the highest expectations coming into the Fall 2014 television season. It’s Executive Producer was the great Shonda Rhimes, producer of two hit primetime shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and the show was starring Academy Award Nominee Viola Davis. It was also premiering immediately after Greys and Scandal providing it a built in audience. Needles to say, it had a lot to live up to.
Luckily for Murder, everything Rhimes touches turns to gold. The show is about Annalise Keating a high power lawyer and professor who teaches a class to freshmen known amongst everyone at the university as ‘How To Get Away With Murder.’ The show opens up in present day as four of her students frantically try to cover up the murder of Annalise’s husband Sam. The show then rewinds back in time to the first day of class. For the first half of season 1, the show splits back and forth between past and present as the puzzle pieces fall into place and audiences realize nothing is quite as it seems.
The second half of season 1 was just as good and suspenseful as it’s predecessor and the finale had one of the most jaw-dropping reveals of the spring. Audiences were finally told who had killed Lila Stangard, the mystery that had been plaguing us since the first episode. As it seemed that season 1 was wrapping up in a perfect bow, another shocking murder rocked the group, setting up season 2, to be just as crazy and unbelievable as its first. -EM
For Fans Of: Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal
PREMIERE: 09/24/15 at 10pm on ABC
When they announced there would be a TV series about one of the Coen brothers’ best films, I think everyone was a bit skeptical. How do you recreate that type of flash in the pan genius? For starters, you don’t take a single character from the film and instead create the story around the atmosphere of the film – the cold Minnesota winter and the brutal violence hidden in such an innocent place. By distancing themselves from the film’s storyline and characters, they were able to carve out a new space for their own story in the ever-expanding Coen brothers’ world.
Despite the lack of Frances McDormand, the show makes up for it with newcomer Allison Tolman as the headstrong and resourceful Molly Solverson, Billy Bob Thornton’s evil drifter Lorne Malvo and the deplorable Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard. The show is visually stunning and the writing full of the darkly comic tone always present in the Coen’s films. Since the show was released as a mini-series, season 2 will be a related but ultimately different story. (So you don’t even need to catch up to watch the premiere!) – GN
For Fans Of: the film version of Fargo, Breaking Bad, True Detective
PREMIERE: Mon, Oct 12 @ 10 PM on FX
Premiering two years ago Reign, was one of the riskiest and boldest shows to premiere. Historical dramas based on true stories are hard to target to audiences because history is often thought of as boring. Also a historical drama costs a lot of money to produce because of the expensive sets and costumes, which is why they are rarely produced on basic cable networks. A lot of heads were turned when the CW network, the youngest and least known of the major networks announced it was creating a show around Mary Queen of Scots with a cast of relatively unknown actors.
When fifteen year old Mary, Queen of Scots when she arrives in France to marry her betrothed Prince Francis, she has no idea what she is getting herself into. Chronicling her rise to power, Mary must face enemies who will do anything to break up the alliance between Scotland and France, dark supernatural powers, and a world of sexual intrigue. Long may she reign.
Though the first few episodes seemed to falter, by the end of mid season 1 finale, the show had gotten back on track. By the end of the first season, the characters and relationships had been fleshed out, the story lines were continuous and more believable and it featured some of the most fun plots on television. I dare any other show to portray a king accidentally/sort of on purpose hump a woman out of a window.
The end of the first season made Mary Queen of France right in the middle of a plague, with her husband riding out of the castle to chase after his mistress who just had his illegitimate child. Basically they set up season 2 masterfully and it did not disappoint. After getting rid of some unnecessary story lines and characters, the writers introduced some crucial new ones who were more fun, interesting, and important to the central plots. They also introduced a sensitive, and well written rape scene that was applauded by critics and fans alike for how it and the aftermath was written. With season three making Queen Elizabeth a season regular, it promises to be even better than before. Long may this show reign. -EM
For Fans Of: The Tudors and Gossip Girl
PREMIERE: Sept 9 at 8pm on the CW
9. Brooklyn 99
I was skeptical about this show at first, but after watching several episodes, it was clear that this was not just a silly cop show, but one full of heart and well-drawn characters. And they are definitely an odd bunch. Andy Samberg’s delightful prankster Jake plays off every character so well – from sarcastic, deadpan Rosa to Joe Lo Truglio’s clueless Charles. Andre Braugher is the hardened, but fair Police Captain Ray Holt and his interactions with Jake (and Chelsea Peretti’s hysterical Gina) are some of the best moments on the show. The station is a safe space for these characters, and despite being very different, they have all found a surrogate family and a home at work. They fool around a lot, but face reality when they need to – and they always have each other’s backs.
Season 2 is changing the casting up as bit as Bill Hader joins the cast as the new police captain while Andre Braugher takes a hiatus. As much as I love Braugher, I can’t say I’m not excited to see Bill Hader join this already incredible cast. I think he will fit into the quirky tone of the series and may be be a great way to shake things up at the precinct. – GN
For Fans Of: Parks & Rec, New Girl
PREMIERE: Sun, Sept 27 @ 8:30 PM on FOX
Capitalizing on the superhero love in film and on television, Fox network decided to get in on the action. While picking one of the most popular superheros of all time, Batman, creator Bruno Heller decided to tell a side of the story that is rarely told. Instead of giving us yet another origin story of a superhero, he decided to tell the story of the city Bruce Wayne would one day save, Gotham.
The story follows Police Officer Jim Gordon a man with morals in a station filled with corrupt cops, and a city full of criminals. He and his partner, legendary Detective Harvey Bullock, must navigate the dirty politics of Gotham’s justice system, even as they tackle a high-profile case, the murder of billionaires Thomas and Martha Wayne. Gordon becomes a friend to their young orphan, Bruce. But this isn’t just his origin story, along for the ride is a young Penguin, Riddler and a preteen Catwoman.
Season 1, like a few shows on this list struggled in the beginning. It tried to fit every member of its ensemble cast in each episode, which made it a little crowded. It also tried to wrap up every story in a neat, one episode format. But the writers began to fix these issues half way through the season, and the show ended on a high note. With promises by the showrunners to ‘kill characters off quickly’ and an appearance by the famed Joker, season 2 promises to be better and darker than it’s freshman season. -EM
For Fans Of: The Mentalist and Daredevil
PREMIERE: 09/21/15 at 8pm on Fox
1. Ash vs. The Evil Dead
It is rare that a horror comedy does not attract my attention, but this new series continuing the adventures of Ash Williams and his endless battle with the Deadites has me hooked before you can say Necronomicon. These days, Ash is working a dead end job without hope for the future when the Deadites find their way back into his life and he has to don his chainsaw arm one last time. It looks very much like the tone of the original series will be consistent in this iteration and for that I am more excited than you know. Having been badly burned by the remake of Evil Dead, I really look forward to getting back into the campy horror that I fell in love with in the first place.
Bruce Campbell is always a fun treat, especially in the Evil Dead series, and now he has some new faces to brighten up this series – ahem ahem, Lucy Lawless. If you like your horror funny, and full of retro gore, I wouldn’t pass up this must see series! – GN
PREMIERE: Sat, Oct 31 @ 9 PM on STARZ
I am a big Bradley Cooper fan, so in 2011 when I saw he was starring all by himself in a dramatic movie, I knew I had to watch. The film Limitless ended up being a genuinely fun thriller that was entirely unique and really kickstarted Cooper’s career as a serious actor. Flash forward four years and the successful film is getting it’s own television series.
The movie and series is about a special type of drug that allows the taker to use 100% of his brain abilities. While this provides unlimited powers, intelligence and highs, it also causes some unwanted side effects and attention. The movie focused on Cooper’s character Eddie Morra, but the show focuses on a new user Brian Sinclair, though Cooper and his character will appear on the series.
While it’s mainly a gimmick for ratings, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see Bradley Cooper on the small screen. He’s been nominated for four Academy Awards since filming Limitless and is one of the highest in demand actors right now. Him appearing on this show for the first four episodes is kind of a big deal. So tune in for Cooper, but hopefully stay for the unique storyline. -EM
PREMIERE: 09/22/15 at 10pm on CBS
3. Fear the Walking Dead
Although the first couple of episodes have already aired, Fear the Walking Dead is indeed a different show than its originator. (Which is great, because you can watch it without seeing TWD beforehand.) In the 90-minute pilot, there were only two or three “zombie” sightings, and at this point not many people even know what is going on, even after seeing it for yourself. Where TWD focused on the aftermath of the apocalypse, FTWD is more concerned with the family at the center of the story and how a societal breakdown like this can affect an already strained family unit.
It seems promising not only because it takes place on the other side of the country, but because it is dealing with the chaos only beginning to tear people apart before they even know what is happening. It’s cool to be excited for a zombie show where the zombies are not the forefront, the relationships are what matters here. As a sucker for story, this had my attention from the very first scratch. You haven’t missed many episodes, so go and check it out now! – GN
PREMIERE: Sun, Aug 23 @ 9 PM on AMC
4. The Bastard Executioner
I admit, this show had me at the title. What’s not to like?
The Bastard Executioner is a daring new show that follows warrior Wilkin Brattle as he becomes an unwilling executioner in the 14th century. In a time of political upheaval, he walks a fine line of protecting himself, following orders, and listening to the advice of a mysterious healer, Annora. He must figure out which master he serves, all while fighting the ever growing connection between himself Baroness Lowry ‘Love’ Aberffraw Ventris.
I am a huge fan of historical dramas, especially British history and this story is taking place during the reign of King Edward III, a rarely explored time period before. I also typically love the anti hero and a show about an executioner with morals who is forced to continue his job is basically like catnip to me. I’m also beyond excited for Katey Segal to be a series regular. She’s a phenomneal actress in her first regular tv gig since coming off the incredible Sons of Anarchy. FX is also a network who isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty when it comes to storylines and gore. All of these elements adding up, make this appear to be an excellent show. -EM
PREMIERE: 09/15/15 at 10pm on FX
5. AHS: Hotel
After skipping out on last season’s entry (I do NOT do clowns), I’m really looking forward to this season – it’s first without Jessica Lange as the series anchor. There’s some fresh meat in town in the form of Mother Monster Lady Gaga. Gaga has a very obvious love of the macabre and I think she will fit in seamlessly with the minds at AHS. I am so ready for the buckets and buckets of blood to be released this season, along with some much more risky material now that Gaga is in the lead.
This season we are introduced to the Hotel Cortez, owned by Gaga’s Countess – a vampire queen who has attracted many characters to her hotel, including her lover Donovan (Matt Bomer) and his mother Iris (Kathy Bates), the manager of the hotel. This season there are some old faces, some new. Show veterans Evan Peters and Denis O’Hare return along with Sarah Paulson and Angela Bassett. Some new faces this season include Max Greenfield from New Girl, Darren Criss from Glee and Naomi Campbell. – GN
PREMIERE: Wed, Oct 7 @ 10 PM on FX
6. Wicked City
This show has the potential to be the most ordinary and common place show on this list. It’s a pretty basic concept that’s been done before, however, if done right, it has the potential to be great and I’m really rooting for it.
Wicked City is a serialized anthology series a la American Horror Story or True Detective that resets itself in a different time period with brand new characters. The singular element between the hopefully eventual seasons will be a murder in Los Angeles.
The innagural first season takes place in L. A. in 1982 as a pair or romantically linked serial killers wreak havoc on the sunset strip, while FBI, drug dealers, and club goers all look to capture them. This show has a couple of things going for it. With just a ten episode season 1, it doesn’t have to add filler episodes just to reach the 22 episodes it’s contracted for. A rare feat for a prime time show, hopefully the few episodes will be the perfect amount to tell this story. The show also has a strong cast headlined by Tessa Farmiga and Ed Westwick. Lastly, who doesn’t want to spend some time in L.A. in the 80? – EM
PREMIERE: 10/27/15 at 10pm on ABC
7. Flesh & Bone
It has been a long time since I was this excited for a show (two including Evil Dead!) on STARZ. Flesh & Bone looks incredibly juicy as the journey of a small town ballet dancer rising quickly through the ranks in the cutthroat world of ballet in NYC. Dance is such a visceral sport and while there have been shows in recent years that take place in the world of dance (i.e. Bunheads), nothing has come close to showing the blood, sweat and tears that go into making a spectacular dancer. Bring on the dance drama and petty rivalries and bleeding toes – I’m am there 100%.
If you are a fan of the film Center Stage, you’ll see a few familiar faces in this show (Sascha Radetsky, can I get an amen?) so there will be excellent dancers working alongside the actors – who can also presumably dance- and I am thrilled to see that kind of talent on TV. I definitely think it’s worth looking into and who knows, maybe STARZ will finally have won me over with a drama about a sport that I have loved my entire life. – GN
PREMIERE: SUN 11/8 @ 9P ON STARZ
This show is the one I am most excited about on this list. Lucifer combines my love of angels, acclaimed horror author Neil Gaiman, and angry mothers with online petitions.
Lucifer the Morning Star angel who fell from grace and became Satan, has grown tired of Hell. So where does he go? Obviously the place closest to it on Earth, Los Angeles. Now Lucifer gets his kicks helping the LAPD catch and punish the worst criminals and fussing about with humans.
The pilot premiered at this summer’s Comic Con to rave reviews saying the witty dialogue is effortlessly delivered by the show’s lead Tom Ellis. The character was also created by the great Neil Gaiman for his landmark comic book series, “The Sandman.” Gaiman is author of some of my favorite novels and am minorly obsessed with him. (PSA: Follow him on Twitter, he’s perfect.) Also a group of ‘concerned mothers’ have started a petition to get this cancelled because the show is glorifying and humanizing Satan.
Y’all should tune in just because people are boycotting it. -EM
PREMIERS: No Official word from Fox yet.
9. Scream Queens
As the Kappa house is forced to open pledging to all female students, rather than just the ones with access to mommy and daddy’s credit cards, a killer starts picking off sorority girls one by one. While I’m always down for a blood fest, I admit I needed a bit more to be on board with this show. And then, in comes Jaime Lee Curtis to save the day – the OG Scream Queen herself. I am thrilled to see her back in the horror genre (and I think I’m not the only one more than a little happy to see her on something besides those sad Activia commercials). Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are back with an all new horror comedy series. Combining the whip smart bitchiness of Glee with the murder and mayhem of AHS was a good idea, and seemingly the logical next step of their journey in TV.
Murphy and Falchuk have created some pretty twisted shows, and I don’t expect this one to be different, but I do expect it to be fun and gruesome. As Murphy and Falchuck already know, there are no rules in horror and although they have touched on the humor of the macabre, they are really putting both feet in first with this new series. American Horror Story has bark, but I think this series – especially with snarky Queen Bee Emma Roberts in the lead – will definitely have the bite. – GN
PREMIERE: 9/22 @ 8P ON FOX
In a world where Black Widow can’t get her own Marvel Universe film when all the boys do, it’s essential that we finally get a female super hero starring in her own series.
I don’t think I need to say anything more. Watch and support. -EM
PREMIERE: 10/26/15 at 8:30pm on CBS
Thanks for reading! Sound off in the comments if you liked our recommendations! And check out this post on Emil’s blog here.