New TV Preview: Superheroes, Spaceships, and Swords

With more stuff to choose from than ever before, here’s a brief look at what might be worth watching this Fall.

Don Draper “Ohmm’d” into the sunset; the Parks and Rec gang lept into the future; Justified sang a final mournful tune. Now the weather is getting (slightly) cooler, which always prompts the question: what might take their places on our dials/streaming services? And no, I’m not talking about network drivel like the execrable-looking Dr. Ken or the sure-to-disappoint Minority Report or whatever the heck Blindspot is about. Out of the dozens upon dozens of new shows set to compete for your attention in the coming months, few will be truly good, and fewer still will live to see another season. Nevertheless, there are some points of intrigue. Here are my thoughts on a baker’s dozen of them, in order of when they premiere:

Project Greenlight (Sept. 13th, HBO)

Okay, so this first one isn’t technically “new,” but since PG last aired on Starz back in 2005, it might as well be. For the unfamiliar, it’s a documentary series, produced & presented by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (boy, how their careers have changed), centered on the production of a rookie director’s first film. And as the trailer above shows, the technology may have changed, but the inherent drama, creative compromises, and threat of financial ruin will always remain. A must-watch for anyone interested in the process of filmmaking.

The Bastard Executioner (Sept. 15th, FX)

Nearly every channel, swept up in Thrones-mania, is trying to push their own primetime Medieval Times (TBX is one of two in this article alone) — but where History and BBC America have tighter restrictions on standards and practices, things are a bit looser over at FX. It appears Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) had enough goodwill from the network to fast-track his bloody new series, about a soldier in the army of Edward I who takes up the sword of the King’s Justice amidst a Welsh rebellion. (This being Sutter, at least one thing in that previous sentence is a lie, but I won’t spoil it.) The authentic Welsh locations look good, and FX’s track record — The Americans! Fargo! — is impressive, so I’m in.

The Muppets (Sept. 22nd, ABC)

Once upon a time, the Muppets’ brand of vaudeville-inspired humor made adults the prime target, not their children. Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory) should know, because he first broke into the industry via the Henson workshop. Now it’s 2015, and after over a decade in the wilderness and a brief, Jason Segel-fueled resurgence, the Muppets are “together again,” trading their old variety show format for TV’s new staple: the mockumentary. Do you really want to know what Kermit and the gang do after hours? Do you need the sordid details on his and Miss Piggy’s breakup, and his new sloe-eyed paramour? The press tour for the show unflaggingly treated these felt characters like real living things, so at the least it’s a riff on our current celeb-obsessed culture. I just hope it’s funny.

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah (Sept. 28th, Comedy Central)

No one can replace Jon Stewart. Even with John Oliver thriving on HBO and Stephen Colbert settling in at CBS, The Daily Show must go on as an institution even without its brilliant, incisive, very short host. Stewart was The Daily Show, and I don’t envy the young South African tapped to replace him, who learned almost immediately that the internet can be just as unforgiving as it can be effusive. What will Noah’s TDS look like? Will his commentary be mature enough to have a fraction of the impact? I don’t have a clue, but I’m committed to giving him the chance.

The Grinder (Sept. 29th, Fox)

This is by far the most conventional new series on this list, and it’s only really here because of one name: Rob Lowe, who was so beloved on The West Wing and Parks that I would follow him just about anywhere, or at least through his latest pilot. No, it’s not about the gay hookup app (and I’m at least the 164th internet writer to make that joke) — Lowe plays a former TV star whose famous lawyer role has not prepared him for coming home and joining his family’s actual law firm. Also, it’s great to have Fred Savage back on TV. The supporting cast (Mary Elizabeth Ellis, William Devane) is solid and there are a few laughs in this trailer, so I’m crossing my fingers.

The Last Kingdom (Oct. 10th, BBC America)

And here’s that other Dark Ages-set series, a sibling of History’s Vikings — just shown from the other side. Downton Abbey producers Gareth Neame & Nigel Merchant bring us this adaptation of Bernard Cornwall’s book series The Saxon Stories, which will depict the birth of England itself in eight hours of television. If you haven’t already had your fill of swords and rain-strewn battlefields, this might float your Northman boat.

Supergirl (Oct. 26th, CBS)

Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg’s experience on CW hits Arrow and The Flash will hopefully benefit CBS’s first foray into modern caped storytelling. Most notably, even with the shadow of Zack Snyder’s Superman films hanging over it (though there are no plans for Henry Cavill to appear), Supergirl appears to be as fun and breezy as DC’s films are dark and gloomy. Melissa Benoist (Whiplash, Glee) is earning great notices for her take on the heroine; I’m not entirely sold yet on the show as a whole, but it should be a fun diversion.

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Master of None (Nov. 6th, Netflix)

I don’t have much to say here (because I don’t know very much), but if Aziz Ansari has his own show and it’s produced by Parks‘s Mike Schur, it has my attention. I’m just going to guess, without doing any further research, that Ansari plays a fictionalized version of himself looking for love in New York Cit–ah, that’s actually the premise? Gotcha. Cool.

Into the Badlands (Nov. 15th, AMC)

Here’s where things get…weird. Watch that trailer and tell me what you make of Into the Badlands: is it a martial arts show? A Western? Science Fiction? All of the above? AMC is dying for another hit, but this will either be an unconventional, opposite field home run, or a humiliating strikeout. There’s no in-between on this one.

The Man in the High Castle (Nov. 20th, Amazon)

Here’s another bit of high-concept risk-taking, this time from Amazon in their much-hyped adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel. Imagine a world where the Allies lost World War II, and a fractured America is under the thumb of the Third Reich. No one could fault the pilot (made available way back in January) for its world-building, but the writing and performances left something to be desired. Let’s hope those are improved, because it’s too good a premise to waste.

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Jessica Jones (Nov. 20th, Netflix)

If you loved Daredevil, you’re already hotly anticipating Jessica Jones: the newest series in what will become the Defenders saga. Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Don’t Trust the B– in Apt. 23) stars as the title character, a former heroine who give up her high-flying life for a much safer gig (she thinks) as a private detective. Also, the villain is played by David “Tenth Doctor” Tennant (!!!), and the series will introduce Mike Colter as Luke Cage, who will be next up for his own series in 2016. The Marvel gravy train just keeps on rolling.

Childhood’s EndThe Expanse (Dec. 14th, Syfy)

Finally, we wrap things up with these Syfy series, premiering the same night in mid-December. The network is trying to pull itself out of a Sharknado of its own making back into respectable genre storytelling (12 Monkeys is a good start), and much is riding on both of these. The first is an adaptation of that Arthur C. Clarke novel you probably read in high school, featuring GoT‘s Charles Dance as humanity’s new benevolent(?) alien overlord. The second, already called the “most ambitious” in Syfy’s history, is an action/mystery series in the vein of Battlestar Galactica. Both could be great, but it’s The Expanse that has the potential (thanks to Thomas Jane, Jonathan Banks, and the writing team from Children of Men) to really soar.


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