Published 2:40 p.m. UTC Sep 5, 2018
This fall is going to be a very good season for television.
Thomas Magnum is back. So are the Charmed Ones, Murphy Brown and Sabrina Spellman. Jennifer Garner has a new series, as do Penn Badgley, Leighton Meester, Brad Garrett, Taran Killam, Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen. Movie stars Julia Roberts, Michael Douglas, Benicio del Toro, Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, Sean Penn and Jim Carrey are joining the small-screen ranks.
Dozens of new shows with A-List cast members and familiar characters are fighting for your attention, not to mention returning favorites like "This Is Us." It can be overwhelming. But we're here to help you sort through the clutter of gritty dramas, peppy sitcoms and miniseries. Here are 10 shows (listed chronologically) that are absolutely worth your time.
More: Fall TV: Premiere dates for new shows and all your returning favorites
Sept. 9 (Sundays, 10 EDT/PDT)
Lifetime's forays into scripted series have been a mixed bag, from the flameout of "UnREAL" to the off-kilter "Mary Kills People," but with "You" the network might have found a story that fits perfectly into its lineup. An expanded version of a Saturday night thriller, "You" follows a disturbed bookstore clerk (Penn Badgley, building on his "Gossip Girl" character's creepiness) who stalks (in person and online) a woman he meets (Elizabeth Lail), subtly worming his way into her life. Badgley deftly walks the line between charming and terrifying, and his performance anchors the series, a gripping mystery where you already know most of the answers.
"Superbad" co-stars Emma Stone and Jonah Hill reunite 11 years later. Both are bigger stars, but they still have great chemistry and capitalize on it in one of Netflix's weirdest series yet. Developed and directed by Cary Fukunaga ("True Detective"), "Maniac" is set in an alternate world with 1980s technology but modern clothing and hairstyles. The trippy miniseries follows Annie (Stone) and Owen (Hill), two damaged young adults who are looking for answers (or just a fix) from a pharmaceutical drug trial led by an eccentric researcher (Justin Theroux) that promises to cure any mental ailment. As you can imagine, things don't go according to plan.
Sept. 24 (Mondays, 10 EDT/PDT)
This series opens with a plane that mysteriously disappears one night, only to show up unscathed at its destination five years later. For the passengers, it was an uneventful flight in which no time passed, but their friends and family have aged, grieved and moved on with their lives. The subtle supernatural powers and connections between the passengers aren't helping their re-entry. The high-concept drama may seem like broadcast TV's umpteenth attempt to recapture the magic of "Lost", but "Manifest" has enough charisma to seem like more than a knockoff.
'A Million Little Things' (ABC)
Sept. 26 (Wednesdays, 10 EDT/PDT)
An alternate title for this new drama might be "This Is Thirtysomething," and that's not necessarily a bad thing. With the emotional heft of NBC's "This Is Us" family and the problems and friendships of ABC's own late 80s series, "Million" follows a group of friends (James Roday, David Giuntoli and Romany Malco), their wives and partners as they reel from the suicide of their de facto leader (Ron Livingston). Like "Us," "Million" mixes deep emotion with intrigue and mystery as the group tries to figure out why their friend took his life.
'Murphy Brown' (CBS)
Sept. 27 (Thursdays, 9:30 EDT/PDT)
Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) can't escape the world of fake news any more than you can. The legendary broadcaster is back in CBS's revival of the hit 1988-98 series, and the media and culture have changed drastically since we last saw her. Now the host of a morning show, Murphy tries to be the voice of reason in a chaotic climate with the help of her original team: Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto) and Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud). They're joined by Phyllis (Tyne Daly), the sister of former barkeep Phil, who now runs his bar, Pat Patel (Nik Dodani), a social media expert trying to keep Murphy relevant, and Murphy's son Avery (Jake McDorman), now all grown up and a journalist at a rival network.
Oct. 14 (Sundays, 9 EDT/PDT)
The power of three will set you free all over again. Sort of. CW's reboot of the 1998-2006 witchy series still calls its central sisters the "Charmed Ones," and they still fight demons with the help of a mentor "whitelighter" and the magic "Book of Shadows" encyclopedia, but the similarities mostly end there. Gone are the rhyming couplets, the Halliwell surname and the mechanics of the sisters' powers. It may be tough for longtime fans of the original to stomach the changes, but the new version of the show, from "Jane the Virgin" creator Jennie Snyder Urman, has its own, well, charming story to tell, even if it looks and sounds a bit different.
Oct. 14 (Sundays, 10 EDT/PDT)
Jennifer Garner returns to TV in this sunny and delightful HBO comedy, but she's playing a woman who's quite different from "Alias" hero Sydney Bristow. Based on a British series, "Camping" follows a group on a weekend birthday retreat for Walt (David Tennant), set up my his extreme Type-A wife, Kathryn (Garner), where the delicate balance of personalities is always on the brink of collapse. The cringe comedy was created by Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham ("Girls") and also stars Juliette Lewis and Brett Gelman. The series gets close to being too cringey, particularly with Garner's character, whom you'll soon love to hate, but it's smart enough not to go too far.
'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' (Netflix)
The new incarnation of the Archie Comics favorite has no talking cats or cheesy puns but takes the supernatural tale back to its pulpy horror roots. Kiernan Shipka ("Mad Men") takes on the role of the famous teenage witch, with a cast that includes Lucy Davis (U.K.'s "The Office) and Miranda Otto ("The Lord of the Rings"). Netflix's adaptation doesn't look much like ABC's Melissa Joan Hart version, but what it lacks in kitschy comedy it makes up for in a commitment to the creepy. Sabrina faces mythic challenges at the same time she deals with the same thing all teens do, whether they have magic powers or not: a search for identity.
'Escape at Dannemora' (Showtime)
Nov. 18 (Sundays, 10 EDT/PDT)
This ripped-from-the-headlines miniseries chronicles the 2015 prison break by two inmates in upstate New York. Ben Stiller directs the propulsive project, which stars Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano as the escapees and a nearly unrecognizable Patricia Arquette as Tilly, the prison employee who had sex with both men and helped them escape. The first-rate series shows new perspectives on a story that will be familiar to many viewers, making the most of its stranger-than-fiction source material.
'The Little Drummer Girl' (AMC)
Nov. 19-21 (Monday-Wednesday, 9 EDT/PDT)
If you enjoyed AMC's adaptation of John le Carre's "The Night Manager," the network has another of the author's spy-filled treats for you. Like "Manager," "Drummer Girl" follows a civilian, this time a young British actress recruited by Israeli intelligence officers to help infiltrate a Palestinian terrorist group in the late 1970s. Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Sheen and Florence Pugh star in the slick adaptation, which has all the outrageous costumes, classic rock and wavering loyalties you'd expect.