After the wild success of the Sopranos, cable—particularly premium cable—became the wellspring of quality television. Plenty of lower tier cable networks like TNT and USA churned out their own middling and formulaic comedic dramas to pass the time in between sitcom reruns and years-old movies, but HBO and Showtime more than made up for it. In recent years, even those oft-ignored lower cable channels became harder to pass up. FX (and now FXX) took massive gambles on Louie, Wilfred, and Terriers and mostly won, AMC knocked it out of the part with Mad Men and The Walking Dead, and Starz shocked just about everyone with Outlander.
But that quality also trickled down into network television. If you’d asked me 10 years ago if ABC was going to be THE VOICE in network television diversity, I’d have laughed in your face. They are the opposing force against CBS. Not that there’s anything especially wrong with CBS, but it’s not exactly know for its progressivism. That being said, Hawaii Five-0 and Criminal Minds are some of my favorite shows, despite their subject matter, so there you go. Fox continues to do its edgy thing, but it’s lost a lot of its fire with age. Gotham is the kind of risk only Fox would take, but they’ve done it in the least riskiest way possible. But at least ABC, CBS, and Fox (and The CW) know their target audiences. The trouble with NBC is that the only personality they have nowadays is “We were pretty cool in the 90s!” I really want Constantine to work, but somehow I suspect it’ll end up as yet another supernatural detective show—NBC wants to take risks, but it’s not daring enough to actually go through with them.
The Big Four have a vested interest in maintaining their version of the status quo for as long as possible. It was the Frankensteined young upstart, The CW, that saw the wide open playing field of SFF and ran for it. They aren’t the only channel to throw themselves into SFF, but they are the only ones who have been able to maintain, improve, and expand it. The reason for their success is two-fold. They know their audience extremely well, and have learned how to play their very specific tune with precision and grace. But their success also comes through trusting SFF it as a valid storytelling option rather than treating it as a gimmick or as a trendy way to capitalize on Twilight. Which means right now, the best comics TV show on air is The CW’s Arrow.
What’s really interesting is the shift toward internet television. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have all gotten in on creating shows, and even if they all aren’t excellent, they’re all at least unique and intriguing. Some of the best television in the last couple of years isn’t on the small screen but on the digital one. And with Transparent, Amazon took the high mark and said “Is that all you got?” Frankly, I can’t wait to see what comes next in this brave new digital world, but in the meantime, here’s what’s coming up this fall.
Shows with an “*” are new this season.
The 100 (CW, Wed 9p)—premieres 10/22
American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX, Wed 10p)—premieres 10/8
Arrow (CW, Wed 8p)—premieres 10/8: I’m telling you, Arrow is the superhero show you’ve been waiting for. Full of charm, action, suspense, clever plotting, good dialogue, great characters, feminism, and diversity. Watch. This. Show.
*Ascension (Syfy, Mon 9p)—premieres 11/24
*Constantine (NBC, Fri 10p)—premieres 10/24: What happens when you take a rich, complex world and attempt to cover up the brutal network-demanded defanging by cluttering it up with too many nods to fans? A) Gotham; B) Constantine; C) Both; D) Stahp, networks, for the love of Hera.
Doctor Who (BBC America, Sat 9p): I’ve reached a point of painful resignation with DW, wherein I willingly watch every episode, and very occasionally fall in love all over again, but mostly it’s a series of continual disappointments. When not even Capaldi can improve on Moffat, you know there’s a major problem.
*The Flash (CW, Tue 8p)—premieres 10/7: By all accounts, it sounds like Arrow but happier. Please and thank you.
*Gotham (Fox, Mon 8p): Each ham-handed introduction of a character from the comics and continual wink-wink-nudge-nudge lines tossed in their direction only serves to make the show less interesting.
Grimm (NBC, Fri 9p)—premieres 10/24: It’s like OUaT: too scattered to commit to its camp and too uncommitted to sustain the more serious plots. It doesn’t have to be grim, but it should at least strive to be good.
*The Intruders (BBC America, Sat 10p)
Legend of Korra (Nick.com)
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC, Tue 9p): I really, really want to like this show, but I really, really don’t. This and Gotham are the only shows I’m watching this season despite not actually wanting to.
Once Upon a Time (ABC, Sun 8p): I caught Sebastian Stan’s episodes this summer. By which I mean I watched only the Sebastian Stan scenes and fast-forwarded through the rest.
The Originals (CW, Mon 8p)—premieres 10/6: It’s rare to have a spin-off better than its original, and Vampire Diaries is pretty darn good.
Person of Interest (CBS, Tue 10p)
Resurrection (ABC, Sun 9p)
*Star Wars Rebels (Disney XD, Mon 9p)—premieres 10/13
Supernatural (CW, Tue 9p)—premieres 10/7: The show’s had some very rocky patches in recent seasons, but unleashing Demon!Dean on the world should make for some excellent fireworks. I’ll be sporadically covering the final season starting this Tuesday.
Vampire Diaries (CW, Thu 8p)
The Walking Dead (AMC, Sun 9p)—premieres 10/12: Season 5 shambles back onto your televisions, thankfully sans The Governor. Once again, I’m reviewing it weekly starting this Sunday.
*Z Nation (Syfy, Fri 10p): More like Zzzzz Nation, amirite?!
The Blacklist (NBC, Mon 10p): Why, America? Why?
Blue Bloods (CBS, Fri 10p)
Bones (Fox, Thu 8p)
Castle (ABC, Mon, 10p)
Chicago Fire (NBC, Tue 10p): Meh.
Chicago P.D. (NBC, Wed 10p): Meh x2
Criminal Minds (CBS, Wed 9p): Surprisingly, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s recently introduced character is like a breath of fresh air. Wish they brought her in years ago.
CSI (CBS, Sun 10p): The unkillable juggernaut.
Elementary (CBS, Thu 10p)—premieres 10/30
*Forever (ABC, Mon 10p): This is going to be my Moonlight, I just know it. I can already see myself drooling over the box set.
The Good Wife (CBS, Sun 9p)
Gracepoint (Fox, Wed 9p): Despite being an almost shot-for-shot remake of Broadchurch, Gracepoint feels more like a retcon of the American version of The Killing.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC Thu 8p)
Hawaii Five-0 (CBS, Fri 9p): It’s so much more enjoyable when you watch it under the veil of McDanno.
Homeland (Showtime, Sun 9p)
*How to Get Away with Murder (ABC, Thu 10p): I would give all the monies if ABC would air this nightly, à la telenovela style. Once a week is not nearly enough Viola Davis.
*Legends (TNT, Wed 9p)
*Madam Secretary (CBS, Sun 8p)
*The Missing (NBC, Sat 10p)—premieres 11/15: We’ve hit maximum Procedural capacity.
*The Mysteries of Laura (NBC, Wed 10p): Every season has its version of Work It, a trite, tone-deaf, plodding show that relies on insensitive tropes and grating stereotypes. This is that show.
NCIS (CBS, Tue 8p): Your grandparents have single-handedly kept this show alive.
NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS, Mon 10p): Literally the only thing I know about this show is that it once crossed over with Hawaii Five-0.
*NCIS: New Orleans (CBS, Tue 9p): CBS tries again to spin-off NCIS. Because 1 spin-off isn’t nearly enough.
The Newsroom (HBO, Sun 9p)
*Red Band Society (Fox, Wed 9p): Paging Dr. Network Television Version of The Fault in Our Stars.
Revenge (ABC, Sun 10p)
Scandal (ABC, Thu 9p): The slogan TGIT—Thank Goodness It’s Thursday—is both perfect and terrible, and I grimace every time I hear it.
*Scorpion (CBS, Mon 9p): CBS’s conception of The World Wide Web is vaguely right-ish but mostly jabberwocky and involves lots of shouting and hipster hackers.
Sleepy Hollow (Fox, Mon 9p): YES YES YES!
*Stalker (CBS, Wed 10p): There is not enough “ugh” in the world to convey how I feel about this awful, terrible show.
*State of Affairs (NBC, Mon 10p)—premieres 11/17
*Transparent (Amazon Prime): Heartbreaking. Beautiful. Powerful.
White Collar (USA, Thu 9p)—premieres 11/6: Final season.
*A to Z (NBC, Thu 9:30p): Better than Manhattan Love Story and Selfie, but somehow less interesting than both.
Awkward (MTV, Tue 10p)
*The Awesomes (Hulu)
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, Mon 8p)
*Black-ish (ABC, Wed 9:30p)
Bob’s Burgers (Fox, Sun 7:30p):
Gene: “It’s the documentarian who hates Dad and puts wigs on cows!”
Tina: “Werner Herzog?”
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox, Sun 8:30p)
Comedy Bang! Bang! (IFC, Fri 11p)—premieres 10/17
*Cristela (ABC, Fri 8:30p)—premieres 10/10
*Garfunkel and Oates (IFC, Thu 10p)
*Happyland (MTV, Tue 11p)
Key & Peele (Comedy Central, Wed 10:30p): LIAM NEESONS!
*Manhattan Love Story (ABC, Tue 8:30p): I’m a huge fan of the new rom-sitcom trend, but this is not the show to lead the charge.
*Marry Me (NBC, Tue 9p)—premieres 10/14: “Six years ago, Annie and Jake bonded over their mutual love of nachos and they have been inseparable ever since.” *rolls eyes* Ken Marino and Casey Wilson are in this. *perks up*
The Mindy Project (Fox, Tue 9:30p)
New Girl (Fox, Tue 9p)
The Regular Show (Cartoon Network, Thu 7:30p)—premieres 10/9
*Selfie (ABC, Tue 8p): The only thing keeping me watching is John Cho.
*Survivor’s Remorse (Starz, Sat 9p)
Boardwalk Empire (HBO, Sun 9p): Final season
Comic Book Men (AMC, Sun 12a)—premieres 10/12:
*Death Comes to Pemberley (PBS, Sun 9p)—premieres 10/26: Any connection to Jane Austen, no matter how remote or tenuous, and I’m there.
Hell on Wheels (AMC, Sat 9p)
Makers (PBS, Tue 9p): Documentary series about awesome women being awesome. In other words, yay!
*Marco Polo (Netflix)—premieres 12/12
Reign (CW, Thu 9p)
Talking Dead (AMC, Sun 10p)—premieres 10/12: Aka, AMC’s excuse to not include important plot points and explanations of character behavior in TWD.
Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.