Sifting through the fall television season

There's more must-see TV this fall. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Are viewers suffering from narrative fatigue due to the unprecedented year-round increase in television programming since we entered the era of streaming video content? Maybe, but they’re still watching. Considering the bounty, our subjective guide to this fall’s television offerings — broadcast, cable, and streaming — tries to cover a lot of bases, while gleefully ignoring the brain drain known as reality TV.


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service franchise on CBS is still going strong, with the original NCIS (Season 16) and NCIS: New Orleans (Season 5) both returning Tuesday, Sept. 25. NCIS: Los Angeles (Season 10) returns Sunday, Sept. 30.

CBS’s reboots of the classic police/detective action hits MacGyver (Season 3) and Hawaii Five-0 (Season 9) both return Friday, Sept. 28. SWAT (Season 2) airs Thursday, Sept. 27, and a new version of the jovial and clever Magnum P. I. starts Monday, Sept. 24.

When you toss in the new FBI and the returning Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds, and SEAL Team, all on CBS, include NBC’s Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Blindspot, and the last representative of the Law & Order franchise (Season 20 of SVU). With Fox’s Lethal Weapon, and ABC’s Station 19, it seems like a lot of folks must love to watch noble public servants triumph over evildoers — or fight fires.

Returning medical dramas in addition to Chicago Med: ABC’s The Good Doctor (Season 2), Monday, Sept. 24; the venerable Grey’s Anatomy (Season 15), Thursday, Sept. 27; and The Resident (Season 2) on Fox, Monday, Sept. 24. Plus, NBC rolls out a new bit of “hospital-ity,” New Amsterdam, Tuesday, Sept. 25.

The third season of NBC’s honored, tear-jerking, multigenerational saga This Is Us returns Tuesday, Sept. 25. For more dysfunctional family fun, there’s the ninth season of Showtime’s dramedy Shameless on Sunday, Sept. 9. Even more intriguing is the second run of HBO’s The Deuce, set amid the Times Square sleaze of the ’70s sex industry, also scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 9.

On the guilty pleasure soap operatic front is The CW’s third go-round of Riverdale, with those tormented live action reimaginings of the teens from Archie Comics, Wednesday, Oct. 10, and a second helping of the rebooted Dynasty, Friday, Oct. 12.

On the streaming front, Jack Ryan, Amazon’s new series featuring John Krasinski of The Office as Tom Clancy’s modern-day spy hero, and Ozark, Netflix’s mordant money-laundering opus with Jason Bateman were just made available for bingeing. And Julia Roberts stars as a caseworker at a secret government facility in Amazon’s psychological thriller Homecoming, Friday, Nov. 2.


Millions will be sure to tune into the Season 12 premiere of CBS’s nerd-centric sitcom (and ratings magnet) The Big Bang Theory, Monday, Sept. 24, if only to see how the honeymoon of those newlywed misfit scientists Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) plays out. And many will stay tuned for a new episode of TBBT’s pipsqueak prequel Young Sheldon, beginning its second season.

FXX delivers the 13th season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the knockabout ensemble comedy, Wednesday, Sept. 5. ABC has gone all-in on family sitcoms with the new Single Parents. It gets a lead-in from the double whammy of The Goldbergs (Season 6) and Modern Family (Season 10), Wednesday, Sept. 26. Its Asian-American assimilation comedy Fresh Off the Boat (Season 5) returns Friday, Oct. 5. On the family-comedy front is ABC’s introduction of The Conners, the Roseanne-less spinoff of the ill-fated revival of Roseanne, alongside The Kids Are Alright, Tuesday, Oct. 16, with Black-ish (Season 5) and Splitting Up Together (Season 2).

CBS brings Candice Bergen and other original cast members out of semiretirement for an updated take on the controversial hit workplace comedy Murphy Brown, to see what’s now going on with the feisty proto-feminist newswoman and her colleagues. Look for it after Alison Janney and Anna Faris resume their parent-child bickering on Mom (Season 6), Thursday, Sept. 27.

CBS is also betting on comedy veterans to shore up a couple of fledgling programs, with Max Greenfield (New Girl), Beth Behrs (Two Broke Girls), and Cedric the Entertainer juicing up The Neighborhood, and Damon Wayans Jr. (Happy Endings) bringing the goods to the would-be domestic romp Happy Together, Monday, Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, NBC is still happy with its own prize resurrection as Will & Grace (returning last fall after a decade) heads into its 10th season Thursday, Oct. 4, sandwiched between Superstore (Season 4) and the newbie “mom-edy” I Feel Bad. All of that pales next to NBC’s most outrageous and creative comedy, The Good Place (Season 3), a brilliant send-up of the afterlife with Ted Danson and Kristen Bell doing some of their best work, alongside an unerringly funny supporting cast, Thursday, Sept. 27.

Finally, Fox’s one stab at a comedic series this fall, The Cool Kids, geriatric-themed despite its title, airs Sept. 28.


The latest run of the evergreen British sci-fi/fantasy program Doctor Who will premiere sometime in the fall, but the BBC and BBC America have been cagey about specifically when, which is rather droll since the show is about time travel. Nonetheless, it’s already (re)generated quite a buzz since the regenerating alien do-gooder at the heart of it will be portrayed by a woman — actress Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) — for the first time in 50-plus years and 13 incarnations.

There’s another superhero breakthrough on the horizon as the DC Comics lesbian heroine Batwoman is introduced to The CW’s interlocked DC TV Universe during a three-series crossover event in December. As for their individual premieres, The Flash (Season 5) reappears Tuesday, Oct. 9; Supergirl (Season 4), Sunday, Oct. 14; Arrow (Season 7), Monday, Oct. 15; and Legends of Tomorrow (Season 4), Monday, Oct. 22. The one standalone CW/DC show Black Lightning (Season 2) also drops on Tuesday, Oct. 9. Marvel Comics will be represented by the second season of the martial-arts-skewed Iron Fist, available from Netflix on Friday, Sept. 7; and the X-Men-connected teen mutant series The Gifted (Season 2), manifesting on Fox, Tuesday, Sept. 25.

When it comes to fantasy and horror, The CW is offering the Thursday, Oct. 11 return of Supernatural (Season 14), and a reborn version of Charmed with its young witchy trio casting their spells beginning Sunday, Oct. 14. Also, brewing up some sorcery, Netflix delivers the Archie Comics-spawned Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, about the trials of a teenage witch, Friday, Oct. 26.

The zombie apocalypse continues on AMC’s The Walking Dead (Season 9), Sunday, Oct. 7; and staying apocalyptic, Wednesday, Sept. 12 sees the eighth installment of FX’s American Horror Story, subtitled Apocalypse. Another kind of dystopian American future is addressed in USA’s series adaptation of the hit movie The Purge, Tuesday, Sept. 4; and an alternate, fascist U.S. is further explored on Friday, Oct. 5 in the third season of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon.


The most delightful animated treat to recently become available on our screens is Disenchantment, a jubilant skewering of fantasy and fairytale tropes from Netflix and Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. Speaking of which, FOX’s Sunday cartoon block is again in place on Sunday, Sept. 30, with new (probably perfunctory) episodes of The Simpsons in its record-setting 30th season, Bob’s Burgers (Season 9), and Family Guy (Season 17). Finally, the coarse yet often on-target japery of Comedy Central’s South Park has merited a 22nd season on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Let the viewer beware!

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Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on "Michael Snyder's Culture Blast," via, Roku, and YouTube, and on KPFK/Pacifica Radio’s “David Feldman Show.” You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster