There will be game shows, lots of game shows.
Fall TV is, of course, going to be altogether different this year, just like every other thing in our pandemic-disordered lives. The production of scripted shows is still largely on pause, only just starting to reawaken, leaving the broadcast networks in particular with little new to offer up. So far, they’re relying heavily on series that have already been available on their streaming platforms (CBS will air CBS All Access’s “Star Trek: Discovery”), imported content (the Canadian medical drama “Transplant” on NBC), and — you guessed it — reality TV.
And game shows, lots of game shows.
The irony is that, with the world closed, and outdoor summer activity coming to an end, people are going to spend a lot of time in front of their TV sets this fall, looking for fresh dramas, comedies, and hybrids to get lost in. And yet the networks will be stalling, promising more to be delivered “soon” — maybe November, maybe midseason, maybe. Most of the returning network series that have managed to go back into production (with safety protocols) will still be late, leaving fans to either grow fonder from their absence or, possibly, drift off to other stories. NBC’s “This Is Us,” for example, won’t be back until Nov. 10, and the likes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Station 19” don’t even have tentative return dates yet.
All that said, there are new series coming to TV this fall, but you’ll have to have access to the streaming services and cable channels, which still have new material in their coffers. Here are 20 of the more promising new and returning shows.
“We Are Who We Are” (HBO, Sept. 14)
Luca Guadagnino, director of “Call Me By Your Name,” tries TV for the first time with this eight-episode series about an introverted 14-year-old American boy (Jack Dylan Grazer) who moves to an American military base in Italy with his two mothers (Alice Braga, Chloë Sevigny). There, he explores his identity through (I think that’s blurb-speak for “has sex with”) an American girl and an older male solider.
Sounds like: “Call Me By More Names”
“The Third Day” (HBO, Sept. 14)
This six-part psychological thriller about a mysterious island with a highly ritualized population is split into two sections, “Summer” and “Winter.” In the former, Jude Law plays a London man who finds himself drawn to — and then stuck on — the island off the British coast, called Osea. In the latter, Naomie Harris plays a woman whose arrival on Osea throws its future into question. Emily Watson, Katherine Waterston, and Paddy Considine also star.
Sounds like: The “Lost” Pope
“Ratched” (Netflix, Sept. 18)
We’ve done the backstory of Norman Bates of “Psycho” with “Bates Motel.” Now it’s time to track the history of another sadistic villain. In this series, already renewed for a second season, Ryan Murphy gives us a prequel to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” — the 1975 movie and Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel — focusing on Sarah Paulson as the young Mildred Ratched (played by Oscar winner Louise Fletcher in the movie). The 1947-set drama, about the growing darkness inside Mildred, features a typically Murphy-esque star-stocked cast including Cynthia Nixon, Judy Davis, Amanda Plummer, Sharon Stone, Corey Stoll, Finn Wittrock, Rosanna Arquette, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Sounds like: “One Took Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
“Filthy Rich” (Fox, Sept. 21)
In this prime-time soap opera, a wealthy Southern televangelist family learns about the patriarch’s three illegitimate children after he dies in a plane crash. Whoops! Kim Cattrall from “Sex and the City” stars as his widow, who is also a popular host on their Christian TV network.
Sounds like: “Cheat Pray Love”
“Agents of Chaos” (HBO, Sept. 23-24)
This one is timely, and painfully so. The latest documentary from director Alex Gibney (“Going Clear”) is a two-part look at Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election. It includes new footage from inside Russian troll farms, as well as new interviews with American insiders like Andrew McCabe, Carter Page, and members of the Mueller investigation.
Sounds like: “The Bot Against America”
“Utopia” (Amazon, Sept. 25)
This eight-episode thriller — an adaptation of a 2013 UK series — is from “Gone Girl” and “Sharp Objects” author Gillian Flynn, who also serves as showrunner. It’s about comic-book fans who are targeted by a shadowy organization when they get hold of a graphic novel that may depict a real government conspiracy. John Cusack, Sasha Lane, Rainn Wilson, Dan Byrd, Desmin Borges, and Jessica Rothe star.
Sounds like: “Death Panels”
“A Wilderness of Error” (FX, Sept. 25)
This five-part adaptation of Errol Morris’s true-crime book looks into the famous case of Army surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald, who was convicted — possibly wrongly — for murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters in 1970. By the way, Morris appears as host in the series but does not direct. That job goes to Marc Smerling, whose producing credits include “Capturing the Friedmans” and “The Jinx.”
Sounds like: “Fatal Vision?”
“The Comey Rule” (Showtime, Sept. 27)
It’s time to revisit the 2016 election again, because we haven’t done that enough, have we now? This two-part scripted adaptation of James Comey’s memoir stars Jeff Daniels as the former FBI director, with Brendan Gleeson as Donald Trump, Peter Coyote as Robert Mueller, Michael Kelly as Andrew McCabe, Holly Hunter as Sally Yates, William Sadler as Michael Flynn, Jonathan Banks as James Clapper, Joe Lo Truglio as Jeff Sessions, and Scoot McNairy as Rod Rosenstein.
Sounds like: “Déjà Ew”
“Connecting” (NBC, Oct. 1)
This entry in the pandemic-TV genre, which includes Freeform’s “Love in the Time of Corona” and HBO’s “Coastal Elites,” is from Martin Gero, creator of “Blindspot.” It tracks five friends who are trying to stay close despite social distancing. Jill Knox, Shakina Nayfack, Ely Henry, Preacher Lawson, and Keith Powell (from “30 Rock”) star.
Sounds like: “I’ll (Virtually) Be There for You”
“Emily in Paris” (Netflix, Oct. 2)
Darren Star of “Sex and the City” created this romcom series about love, life, and more love in Paris. Lily Collins (she’s Phil’s daughter!) stars as an American working overseas and coping with je ne sais quoi.
Sounds like: “Sex and the City of Light”
“Flesh and Blood” (PBS, Oct. 4)
A new “Masterpiece” arrives, with Francesca Annis as a woman in a late-life romance with Stephen Rea after the death of her husband. Her children, played by Claudie Blakley, Russell Tovey, and Lydia Leonard, are super wary of him. Meanwhile, a neighboring friend played by Imelda Staunton is behaving suspiciously.
Sounds like: “PBYes”
“The Good Lord Bird” (Showtime, Oct. 4)
I’ve previewed this eight-part miniseries a few times, since Showtime keeps postponing it. Based on James McBride’s 2013 novel, it features Ethan Hawke as 19th-century abolitionist John Brown. Daveed Diggs (as Frederick Douglass), Wyatt Russell, David Morse, Steve Zahn, Orlando Jones, and Ellar Coltrane also star.
Sounds like: “Good Lord Finally”
“Soulmates” (AMC, Oct. 5)
Shiv alert! Sarah Snook of “Succession” is among the actors featured in this “Black Mirror”-ish anthology series set in a near future when you can take a test that tells you who your soulmate is. Also featured in the six-episode first season, which has already been renewed: Malin Akerman, Charlie Heaton, Betsy Brandt, David Costabile, and Sonya Cassidy.
Sounds like: “OK Already, Cupid”
“Next” (Fox, Oct. 6)
John Slattery, Boston native and “Mad Men” star, plays a Silicon Valley billionaire whose company develops an A.I. that goes rogue, learns to constantly improve itself, and becomes a threat to national cybersecurity. Somebody did his job too well.
Sounds like: “A.Oy.”
“The Right Stuff” (Disney+, Oct. 9)
Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book gets a series treatment, after the 1983 movie. With Netflix’s “Away,” Apple TV+’s “For All Mankind,” and Hulu’s “The First,” space is having a TV moment. Jake McDorman stars as Alan Shepard in the retelling of the Project Mercury story, with Michael Trotter as Gus Grissom, Aaron Staton as Wally Schirra, and Patrick J. Adams as John Glenn.
Sounds like: “Ground Control to Major Ratings”
“The Undoing” (HBO, Oct. 25)
HBO tries to re-create “Big Little Lies” magic with this six-episode adaptation of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s 2014 novel “You Should Have Known.” David E. Kelley wrote the thriller, Susanne Bier (“The Night Manager”) directed, and Nicole Kidman stars as a New York therapist whose life is thrown into chaos after a violent death. Hugh Grant, Edgar Ramirez, Lily Rabe, and Donald Sutherland also star.
Sounds like: “Big Little Lies East”
“Roadkill” (PBS, Nov. 1)
Written by David Hare, this four-part “Masterpiece” series features Hugh Laurie as a scheming conservative politician whose public and private lives appear to be falling apart. Oh, you need more? Helen McCrory (“Peaky Blinders”) and Sidse Babett Knudsen (“Borgen”) costar.
Sounds like: “The ‘House’ of Cards”
“PEN15” (Hulu, Sept. 18)
The surprisingly wonderful 2000-set comedy with middle-school-aged teens played by adult show creators Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine is back. The second season will be split into two parts, because of COVID, with seven of the 14 episodes held back until 2021.
“Fargo” (FX, Sept. 27)
The three-year wait is over for season 4 of Noah Hawley’s Coens-influenced anthology. The new story is set in Kansas City in 1950, home to warring crime families, one run by Italian immigrants, the other by a Black syndicate. With a peace treaty that has each family giving its youngest son to the other, what could possibly go wrong? The cast includes Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, Ben Whishaw, Timothy Olyphant, Jack Huston, Jessie Buckley, Glynn Turman, and Andrew Bird.
“The Crown” (Netflix, Nov. 15)
The fourth season arrives, with Olivia Colman putting in her last episodes as Queen Elizabeth before Imelda Staunton steps in. The story moves into the 1980s, with Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher and Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer.