25 must-watch TV shows coming in fall 2019
The post-Game of Thrones TV era is still pretty epic
It's hard to think about fall television when you're still turning up the TV to hear it over the blare of the air conditioner. But with the return of Succession last weekend, I'm at last starting to get excited about the incredible slate of shows coming our way as the days start to get darker and cozier.
Something about this fall in particular just feels epic: The shows are bigger, the stakes are higher, and the horror and fantasy genres reign. And if you're looking for a new crime procedural or a great documentary series instead, rest assured — there's a little something for everyone. Here are the 25 shows I'm going to be keeping my eyes on this fall.
1. Succession (HBO, August 11)
This consistently excellent show, about the dynamics of an American media family, ended last season with Kendall Roy's shocking version of the Chappaquiddick incident, and season two picks up right where it left off. With Shiv and Tom tip-toeing around the understanding of their marital arrangement, Roman vying for the respect of his father, and cousin Greg getting the hang of blackmail, all the pieces are in place to make this season even more electric than the first. Succession was criminally under-watched when it premiered, but if you missed the boat the first time around, there's still time to binge before season two wraps up later this fall.
2. The Terror: Infamy (AMC, August 12)
The second season of this Ridley Scott-produced horror anthology escalates quickly. A Japanese community living near Los Angeles during the outbreak of World War II is forced to reckon with a murderous spirit from across the ocean while also being subjected to the more earthly (but no less horrifying) Executive Order 9066, which allowed for the imprisonment of anyone of Japanese ancestry after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Terror: Infamy is notable for being one of the only depictions of Japanese internment camps on mainstream American television, which is surprising because, based on the first several episodes I've seen, it is the perfect backdrop for a brooding noir-ish ghost story.
3. Mindhunter (Netflix, August 16)
Netflix's popular serial killer crime drama Mindhunter returns this fall, with season two set several years after the development of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. Agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench's (Holt McCallany) methods are tested by the Atlanta child murders, during which at least 28 people were killed between 1979 and 1981. To help in Ford and Tench's understanding of the mind of the serial killer is the Son of Sam and Charles Manson, in addition to the return of Ed Kemper from season one. Fun fact: Mindhunter's Manson is played by Damon Herriman, who also played the notorious cult leader in this summer's Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood.
4. On Becoming a God in Central Florida (Showtime, August 25)
On Becoming a God in Central Florida has changed hands since I anticipated its release in our 2019 TV preview. Now on Showtime, On Becoming a God is an odd little black comedy produced by George Clooney and Yorgos Lanthimos, and starring Kirsten Dunst as Krystal Gill, a water park employee whose husband is entrenched in a cult-like pyramid scheme selling household goods. I loved the strange, dark tone set in the pilot "Stinker Thinker," which takes a turn at the end of the episode and fully had me both laughing and gasping in horror. With a fantastic performance by Dunst, On Becoming a God has locked its place in my fall rotation — I just can't wait to see what happens next.
5. Carnival Row (Amazon, August 30)
Orlando Bloom returns to high fantasy in Carnival Row, in which he stars as the human detective Philo opposite Cara Delevingne, who plays a refugee faerie named Vignette. When the story begins, Vignette is living in the squalor of Carnival Row where she learns that Philo — her former lover — is still alive, and investigating the string of murders terrorizing the city. This romance, set in a city reminiscent of Victorian London, represents just one of Amazon's several big bets on fantasy in the wake of the end of Game of Thrones; Prime Video's massive Lord of the Rings TV series is expected to follow in 2021.
6. Undone (Amazon, September 13)
A new project from Bojack Horseman's showrunner, Undone is a mind-bending, time-twisting animated-adventure-comedy in which a young woman name Alma (Rosa Salazar) attempts to save her dead father (Bob Odenkirk) from ever being killed. With Hisko Hulsing doing the art, Undone has an entirely different look, feel, and texture than Bojack, but seems assured to create the same diehard fans.
7. Country Music (PBS, September 15)
An eight-part, 16-hour series from one of America's premier documentarians, Country Music looks deeply at the history of the nation's most popular music genre. Director Ken Burns (The Civil War; Baseball) ropes in more than 80 musicians, including Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks, to chart country music's rise from bluegrass and ballads to the billion-dollar industry it is today. You can listen to the show's curated Spotify playlist in anticipation here.
8. A Little Late with Lilly Singh (NBC, September 16)
1:35 a.m. is a little past my bedtime, but I'll make a point to stay up for Lilly Singh's new late night spot on NBC. The only woman to have a late-night show on any of the major broadcast networks, Singh was a popular YouTuber before getting the gig when Carson Daly stepped away from the half-hour spot after 17 years. The New York Times reports that A Little Late "will include in-studio interviews as well as taped skits and segments." The writers room will reportedly be gender-balanced — another plus — with Singh promising "to bring a new, authentic perspective to late night." Count me in.
9. mixed-ish (ABC, September 24)
The second spin-off from ABC's wildly popular comedy black-ish, mixed-ish is based on main character Rainbow Johnson's life in the 1980s, when her mixed-race parents move from a hippie commune to the suburbs. "As her parents struggle with the challenges of their new life, Bow and her siblings navigate a mainstream school in which they're perceived as neither black nor white," writes Deadline in synopsis. Mixed-ish joins a stacked ABC fall slate and was reportedly the "strongest comedy pilot" of their upcoming season, with 11-year-old Arica Himmel cast as young Bow.
10. Emergence (ABC, September 24)
Looking a little like if Stranger Things took place in modern day and with adult protagonists, Emergence is ABC's big supernatural drama for the fall. The story follows a mysterious young girl named Piper, who is discovered with no memory at the site of an accident by police chief Jo Evans (Allison Tolman). Piper, though, has strange psychic powers, and it becomes Jo's job to protect her from the strangers trying to steal her away.
11. Stumptown (AMC, September 25)
Rounding out ABC's trifecta of new shows debuting in September is Stumptown, a Portland-set comedy based on the series of graphic novels of the same name. Dex Parios is a former Marine-turned-private eye who is looking to dig herself out from under $11,000 in gambling debts while also taking care of her brother. With a no-nonsense performance by Cobie Smulders in the lead role, Stumptown introduces a charismatic new female character to the rich tradition of P.I. stories.
12. The Good Place (NBC, September 26)
NBC's hit comedy The Good Place is set to end its award-winning run this fall. But before you shout "son of a bench," know that creator Michael Shur confirmed he mapped out The Good Place's arc this way, and that the four seasons were the "right lifespan" for the show. In a few short weeks, then, we will learn how Eleanor Shellstrop's adventures in moral philosophy and the afterlife conclude. Want to catch up before the grand finale? Seasons one and two are available to stream on Netflix; the third season can be watched via NBC here.
13. The Politician (Netflix, September 27)
Ryan Murphy is a titan of television, having created Nip/Tuck, Glee, and American Horror Story. It seems almost surprising, then, that The Politician is going to be his first time teaming with Netflix. Starring Ben Platt and Gwyneth Paltrow, along with AHS alumna Jessica Lange, the show is, in the words of Murphy, about "wealthy people behaving badly. All of this has been percolating in the culture, particularly under this president and this idea of Ivanka [Trump] and Jared [Kushner as] the sort of satanic poster boy and girl for privilege and nepotism." You can read more about the show at The Hollywood Reporter here.
14. Batwoman (CW, October 2)
Ladies and gentlemen, meet your Batwoman. Ruby Rose plays Kate Kane, a Jewish, lesbian superhero who is getting her own gritty show on CW, complete with her own archenemy, a villain known in the Arrowverse as Hush. According to Den of Geek, the first season of the show is expected to explore Hush's origin story, from being a friend of Kate's to becoming her antagonist. Oh, and don't worry, there will be lots of angst and brooding to go around.
15. Evil (CBS, September 26)
One of the characters I'm most excited to see on screen this fall is Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Westworld's Katja Herbers), a skeptical psychologist who partners with a Catholic priest-in-training (Luke Cage's Mike Colter) to help him discern the difference between demonic possessions and medical insanity. It looks from the trailer a little like if The Exorcist met The X-Files, which is to say, is it September 26 yet?
16. Nancy Drew (CW, October 9)
Like most girls, I went through a very intense Nancy Drew phase when I was in elementary school (I still think The Secret of Shadow Ranch is a modern classic!). Everyone's favorite teenage detective is getting the Riverdale treatment over at the CW this fall, with Kennedy McMann bringing the character to a whole new generation of fans. This is the third time Nancy Drew has been adapted for television, and from the looks of the trailer, this particular revival is being geared toward younger teens. Still, if Riverdale is any indication, a successful Nancy Drew adaptation could be a huge hit for fans of all ages.
17. Looking for Alaska (Hulu, October 18)
Fourteen years in the making, Looking for Alaska is at last coming to TV via Hulu. The 2005 YA bestseller of the same name orbits an intriguing girl named Alaska Young, whom 17-year old Miles Halter meets at boarding school in Alabama. The story deals with mature themes like grief and sexuality; it famously was the "most challenged" book of 2015 due to the number of pushes to get it banned from school libraries. It will be interesting to see if Hulu plays up the themes for a more mature audience, or leaves it accessible — at least ratings-wise — for a younger generation. Either way, the success of author John Green's other adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars, will likely lead a lot of fans to Alaska this fall.
18. The Mandalorian (Disney+, November 12)
The first live-action Star Wars TV show is coming to Disney's new streaming platform, Disney+, this fall, and practically guarantees the service thousands of subscribers out of the starting gate. While there is no trailer for the show just yet, we do know from director Jon Favreau that The Mandalorian is set after the events of the original trilogy but before the newest films, and centers on the world of intergalactic bounty hunters. Taika Waititi, who is one of the directors on the show, told the press, "Star Wars is very different to Marvel style. They know that the tone of the first films really should be kind of adhered to." Whether that attracts or repels you, The Mandalorian is set to be the biggest TV event of the fall.
19. Forky Asks a Question (Disney+, November 12)
Forky Asks a Question is by all appearances a TV show for kids, but I'm not going to lie: I'm going to watch every single episode. I've been obsessed with Pixar's existentialist spork Forky ever since he debuted in a trailer for Toy Story 4 last year, and I fell even more in love with him after I saw the movie this spring. Luckily, the (apparent) end of the Toy Story movie series is not going to be the last we ever see of Forky.
20. The Crown (Netflix, November 17)
Netflix may have only offered us the briefest of glimpses of season three of The Crown in the teaser released this week, but you know what they say: A picture of Olivia Colman in royal garb is worth a thousand words. Actress Claire Foy had formerly portrayed Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of this beloved series, set in the 1950s and 1960s; for season three, which leaps to the 1970s, Colman will take over the portrayal of England's longest-reigning monarch. Also joining the cast is Tobias Menzies, taking over for Matt Smith as an older Prince Philip, and Helena Bonham Carter, replacing Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret. The Crown is one of Netflix's most ambitious and star-studded shows, and I can't wait to see how the new cast steps into their roles.
21. The Morning Show (Apple TV+, fall 2019)
As if you didn't already have enough streaming services to subscribe to, Apple TV+ is coming in strong this fall with The Morning Show, a newsroom drama starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell in his first regular TV role since he left The Office in 2011. The Morning Show will likewise see Aniston in her first regular television role since Friends ended in 2004. The series is reportedly inspired by Brian Stelter's nonfiction book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, with the 20-episode, two-season order snagged by Apple TV+ in "a multiple-outlet bidding war," The Hollywood Reporter writes. Apple TV+ has quite a few other good gets coming out (likely) next year — I'm deeply excited for the adaptation of Pachinko, as well as the Lisey's Story horror anthology and Amazing Stories reboot — so with The Morning Show sweetening the deal this fall, it might be worth pulling the trigger.
22. The Witcher (Netflix, late 2019)
Netflix's trailer for The Witcher describes the forthcoming horror-fantasy TV show as being an adaptation of the "bestselling book series," although the story is probably best known in the U.S. for the acclaimed video games of the same name. Either way, the show explores the mythology of the Witchers, who are described as genetically-enhanced monster-fighting humans. As in both the books and the games, the show's protagonist is a man named Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill); his lover, Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), will also be in the Netflix adaptation. Poland already adapted the series under the English-language title The Hexer, but, as many video game adaptations do, it received middling reviews. Can Netflix break the curse?
23. Watchmen (HBO, 2019)
The entertainment world seems to be overrun with comic book stories these days, but HBO believes there is room for one more. Watchmen is perhaps misleadingly titled, though; the TV series will reportedly take place after the events in the classic comic and 2009 movie of the same name. "We have no desire to 'adapt' the twelve issues [Alan] Moore and [Dave] Gibbons created thirty years ago," showrunner Damon Lindelof has said. "Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted." Set in an alternate version of America, the TV version of the story is focused on a time when illegal vigilantes are taking dueling sides as revolution bubbles to the surface. Who watches the Watchmen, indeed.
24. His Dark Materials (HBO, 2019)
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series was long overdue for a television adaptation, and thankfully HBO has gone all in on this high-budget production. With 14-year-old Dafne Keen as the orphan Lyra, the ensemble cast also features Ruth Wilson as the power-hungry Mrs. Coulter, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as the balloonist Lee Scoresby. Because His Dark Materials involves so many animals — all residents of this fantasy universe have companion "daemons" that take different forms — the story could easily have looked clumsy in lesser-talented hands. Thankfully, the effects for Lyra's daemon Pantalaimon, Mrs. Coulter's golden monkey, and the Armored Bear look great. It might just be my sentimentality for the story, which was such a staple of my childhood, but His Dark Materials is one of my most-anticipated shows of the year.
25. Catherine the Great (HBO, 2019)
What if Daenerys Targaryen was Russian, old, and played by Dame Helen Mirren? Welcome to HBO's four-part limited series about the end of the reign of the 18th-century empress Catherine the Great. Not convinced? "When I was young ... I dreamed of breaking chains," Catherine II says pointedly in the trailer. But the story of the powerful Russian empress need not draw Game of Thrones comparisons to justify its drama; Catherine II famously took power in a coup d'état that involved the arrest and forced abdication of her husband, then expanded the Russian empire while also taking and discarding many lovers (including, as played by Jason Clarke in the miniseries, Grigory Potemkin). While I'd been eagerly awaiting news of Netflix's The Crown, I decided this would be my royal fix in the meantime; with both shows airing this autumn, it only seems right to now pair the two as an imperial double-feature.