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Fall TV Preview: Hip-Hop, Harlem Superheroes and ‘The Walking Dead’

New sitcoms, Marvel’s “Wu-Tangification” series and the return of AMC’s zombie soap — everything you need to know about the small-screen season

In the old days, the fall season was when the networks brought out this year's models and viewers suddenly found themselves wading through a gajillion new dramas, sitcoms, procedurals and whatever must-see TV gamechangers to see what would live, die or become a hit. Now, of course, you're apt to get incredible new shows all year-round — from streaming services, premium and basic cable channels, the deep left-of-the-dial outer reaches of your local providers and beyond. A show may suddenly appear en toto, to be consumed in a single weekend instead of a seven-month arc or sweeps-week blowout. The vintage idea of the Big Three using September as their big product-launch month now seems kind of quaint.

That said, autumn is still a time when there's no shortage of returning favorites and future canon-worthy shows hitting the airwaves, Internet, etc. We've singled out 30 titles we're excited about — some traditional network fare, some tantalizing Netflix reboots/continuations (Black Mirror!), a handful of HBO contenders, something old (MacGuyver! The Exorcist!), something new, something borrowed and something blue in the face (that Woody Allen project!). Break out the Visine if, like us, you like to watch.

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‘Atlanta’

FX, September 6
Showrunner, writer, star — Donald Glover serves as a virtual one-man band in this story of backpack-toting guy who decides to help out his aspiring musician cousin negotiate the Southern rap game. If his slow-burning show takes a while to lock onto, it's because Glover and director Hiro Murai have created something like nothing else on TV: a hip-hop dramedy which veers from deadpan humor to violence and back with deliberately disquieting ease. After five seasons on Community and a two albums as Childish Gambino, Glover seems like a known quantity. Atlanta suggests the depths of his talent are only beginning to be tapped. SA

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‘Queen Sugar’

OWN, September 6
Oprah's network has been on a roll lately with original programming — see this past summer's polished, thoughtful primetime soap Greenleaf. Now the channel is poised to break into the "best of television" conversation with this new series, co-created by Selma director Ava DuVernay. Retina Wesley and Dawn-Lyen Gardner co-star as sisters grappling with what to do with their family's Louisiana sugarcane farm. From its gorgeous bayou imagery to its rich depiction of black life, this is the very definition of prestige TV. NM

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‘Better Things’

FX, September 8
Teaming up with her Louie co-star Louis C.K., Pamela Adlon stars (and co-created, co-writes, and directs) this showcase sitcom about a cracked actor raising three daughters on her own. It sounds very much a passion project for the talented writer-performer (and voice of Bobby on King of the Hill!) — so will FX's high-risk, high-reward hands-off approach to C.K.'s projects extend to his collaborator? STC

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‘One Mississippi’

Amazon, September 9
Comedian Tig Notaro's stand-up act moved into more personal territory recently when she was diagnosed with cancer and received a double mastectomy. Now she, Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody and former Six Feet Under scribe Kate Robin have co-created a semi-autobiographical "traumedy," about a gay woman who returns to the deep south after her mother dies. The show is a quiet charmer, full of low-key humor and observations about modern southern living and mortality. NM

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‘Documentary Now’ (Season 2)

IFC, September 14
You don't have to be a nonfiction nerd to appreciate Bill Hader and Fred Armisen's pitch-perfect doc-mockery series — but if you are, you can only gaze in slack-jawed disbelief at the laser-guided accuracy with which it simultaneously pays tribute to and sends up landmarks like The War Room, Salesman and a two-part take on The Kid Stays in the Picture. It's astonishing anything this specific ever got on the air, let alone that it's back for another season. SA

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‘High Maintenance’

HBO, September 16
Over 19 webisodes, Katja Blickfeld and Ben Sinclair's online D.I.Y. project has been sketching little corners of Manhattan and Brooklyn, one bong-fueled comic vignette at a time. Now HBO has picked up the boutique hit for six episodes, each visiting a new set of characters, with Sinclair’s hirsute pot dealer (called simply "The Guy") serving as their meek, agreeable, comically hapless common denominator. With new stories every week, you can drop in any time, which suits the offbeat, hangout vibe of show just fine — but if you need to start somewhere, the Yael Stone/dog-in-love episode is a perfect gateway drug. ST

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‘The Good Place’

NBC, September 19
The cast and creator alone make this one of the more promising new sitcoms: Parks & Recreation honcho Michael Schur and magnificent comic actors Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are working with a wonderful premise, following a mean-spirited libertine who dies and goes to heaven due to a clerical error. Naturally, she then finds herself frustrated by how nice everybody is. There's a tasty mix of sweet and sour here, in this comedy about what it really means to be "good." NM

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‘Designated Survivor’

ABC, September 21
Following a line of succession that includes Bill Pullman in Independence Day, Harrison Ford in Air Force One, and that time George W. Bush was flown onto an aircraft carrier, Kiefer Sutherland takes his rightful place as President Kick-Ass in this deliciously absurd ABC thriller. The title phrase refers to a government official held in a secure location during the State of the Union in the event of catastrophe. After one such mighty kablammo, Sutherland’s low-level cabinet member must lead the country through a crisis worse than Pearl Harbor and 9/11 put together. ST

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‘Speechless’

ABC, September 21
A family run by a take-zero-amount-of-crap mother (hi there, Minnie Driver!), a lovable dud of a dad, some adorable offspring and a class-based fish-out-of-water premise … so far, so very ABC sitcom. So what might set this apart from the primetime pack, you ask? One of the kids, played by disabled actor Michah Fowler, has cerebral palsy — and the notion is that dealing with trials and triumphs of a teen with a disability will be a major part of the show. Chalk one up for the network once again standing up for the media-underrepresented. DF

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‘The Exorcist’

Fox, September 23
We know what you’re thinking: a TV show based on one of the greatest horror movies of all time? Have we learned nothing from the Shining incident? But recent series from Fargo to Hannibal have proven worthy of their impressive pedigrees, and the presence of Geena Davis as the terrified mother of a possessed teen — not to mention the ever-loosening censorship standards for small-screen horror — have us praying that the power of Christ will compel us with this one as well. STC

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‘MacGyver’

CBS, September 23
Back in the 1980s, Terminators and RoboCops and Rambos were rampaging on the big screen — but TV action heroes were represented by Angus MacGyver, the gun-hating secret agent who could escape certain death by improvising explosives from a paperclip and a stick of chewing gum. This fall, the Tiffany Network is rebooting the old Richard Dean Anderson vehicle with new lead Lucas Till — and, boldly enough, Furious 7 director James Wan behind the camera of the pilot. The look is CSI contemporary-primtime slick; the ability to defeat bad guys with common household objects is pure old-school. STC

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‘Transparent’ (Season 3)

Amazon, September 23
Remember those beautiful, bizarre flashbacks to the Weimar Republic that occasionally popped up in the Amazon hit's second season? You can expect more rewind moments in the award-winning drama's next round — and this time, you get to meet Maura as a 12-year-old, played by young trans actress Sophia Grace Gianna. And we're sure there will be plenty of Pfeffermans-behaving-badly shenanigans as well. DF

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‘Son of Zorn’

Fox, September 25
By the Power of Greyskull, I have…a sitcom! This intriguing blend of live-action and animation, about a cartoon barbarian trying to make his way in the very real suburbs, is executive produced by Lego Movie directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, who helped give Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte a welcome showcase in The Last Man on Earth. Jason Sudeikis voices the sword-wielding, pants-eschewing Zorn, while Curb Your Enthusiasm's Cheryl Hines and fellow SNL vet Tim Meadows play his ex-wife and her new fiancé respectively — a killer cast more than capable of handling the crazy high concept. STC

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‘Crisis in Six Scenes’

Amazon, September 30
Amazon made news last year when the company signed Woody Allen to write, direct, and star in his first TV series. Then the veteran comedian got some headlines of his own when he admitted to the press that he had no idea what he was doing. At some point, the guy responsible for Annie Hall must've figured it out, because Crisis in Six Scenes looks unusually ambitious. The six-episode miniseries, set in the 1960s, stars Miley Cyrus as a hippie who rocks a middle-class New York suburb. Prepare for wry quips and comic neuroses galore. NM

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Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

‘Luke Cage’

Netflix, September 30
Ooh baby, we like it raaaaw. With trailer music and episode titles alike nodding to classic New York hip-hop, the latest of Netflix’s street-level Marvel superhero shows (it follows Daredevil and Jessica Jones and precedes Iron Fist and team-up series The Defenders) looks like it will make good on the promise of its lead character, the pioneering African American superhero-for-hire created in the 1970s. Actor Mike Colter’s cameos on Jessica Jones were among the show’s high points; let's see if his solo turn is as bulletproof as his skin. STC

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‘Ash vs. the Evil Dead’ (Season 2)

Starz, October 2
At the end of last season, Bruce Campbell's brave, boneheaded Ash set in motion a global demonic invasion. After a long year of waiting for more of Evil Dead's bloody slapstick and WTF weirdness, we finally get to find out what happens next. Lucy Lawless will be back as the villainous Ruby — now fighting alongside our hapless heroes — while Lee Majors is popping up in the all-too-perfect role of Ash's dad. In other words: One of premium cable's most gory, gloriously disreputable shows should be just as much trashy fun in its second go-round. Groovy. NM

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‘Westworld’

HBO, October 2
Saddle up, folks: HBO has a whole lot ridin' on this sci-fi western, inspired by the Michael Crichton–scripted, Yul Brynner–starring movie of the same name. The show packs serious power both on camera and off: The cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jeffrey Wright, with J.J. Abrams producing and Christopher Nolan's frequent collaborator/brother Jonathan as co-creator, writer, and director. With Game of Thrones nearing the finish line and Vinyl already in the bargain bin, can this retooled take on Seventies sci-fi cheese hit the ratings bullseye? STC

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‘Conviction’

ABC, October 3
Don't cry for Hayley Atwell, folks — Agent Carter may have gone to that great TV retirement home in the sky, but its British star has another show in which she gets to right the wrongs and serve up justice. Only this time, she's a recovering addict and daughter of an ex-POTUS (!) who runs a crack unit of investigators and legal eagles dedicated to getting innocent people set free. It's called Conviction for a reason, people. DF

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‘Divorce’

HBO, October 9
Now here's a promising combo: Catastrophe co-creator/co-star Sharon Horgan, creating a new HBO series about modern love for Sarah Jessica Parker, an actor as crucial to the network's legacy as James Gandolfini. Thomas Haden Church plays Parker's soon-to-be-ex-husband, while Molly Shannon heads up a strong supporting cast and Girls producer Jesse Peretz directs the pilot. We're close to not even asking for a pre-nup here. STC

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‘Insecure’

HBO, October 9
Based partially on Issa Rae's web series "Awkward Black Girl" — and co-created by Rae and Larry Wilmore — this comedy has the bracing filth of other HBO hits about female friendship, Sex and the City and Girls, but its look at two black women facing a personal and professional crossroads is significantly more down-to-earth. Rae plays the only African-American at a foundering inner-city educational program; Yvonne Orji plays her best friend, a corporate attorney who notches few wins outside the courtroom. Together, they’re a specific, relatable, and brutally funny pair. ST

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‘Chance’

Hulu, October 19
The good news: Hugh Laurie has returned to television to play another doctor whose last name doubles as the name of the show. The bad: Eldon Chance is, frankly, an even more ridiculous name than Gregory House. Based on a novel by Kem Nunn, the co-creator of John From Cincinnati, Hulu's show stands to be a great deal weirder than House, following Laurie's forensic neuropsychologist through the seedy underbelly of San Francisco. Chance's lover has multiple personalities; her husband is an abusive detective with sinister connections; and Room director Lenny Abrahamson, who helms several episodes, has probably seen Vertigo once or twice. ST

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‘Black Mirror’

Netflix, October 21
Charlie Booker's techno-dystopian anthology is so uncannily prescient that it's not a matter of whether most of its predictions will come true but when. The shift from the BBC to Netflix gives the six new episodes a more American feel, but the show's vision is as acute as ever. Can you imagine a world where people are ranked like restaurants on Yelp and every interaction is as authentic as a Facebook post? No need: Black Mirror's done it for you. You'll never think of an Uber driver's five-star rating the same way again. SA

'Hamilton's America'

Sarah Krulwich/Redux

‘Hamilton’s America’

PBS, October 21
Alex Horowitz's documentary will still be catnip to Hamilfans, tracking the making of Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop musical from long before it became a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, and offering a look back at the nation's first treasury secretary himself. Those hoping for a filmed version of the show itself will still have to wait, but trust us: PBS is a lot cheaper than Hamilton tickets. SA

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‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’

BBC America, October 22
Controversial screenwriter Max Landis takes a stab at adapting the offbeat psychic-detective story by the late great Douglas Adams, the beloved sci-fi satirist responsible for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Samuel Barnett stars as the titular dick, while Elijah Wood tags along as Gently’s sidekick Todd Brotzman. Adams' brand of quirk could kill with the Whovian masses or choke on its own cleverness; finding out which it will be is a case worth cracking. STC

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‘The Walking Dead’ (Season 7)

AMC, October 23
Back in April, AMC's hit horror show introduced a badass new bad guy — Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s bat-wielding Negan — and then immediately had him kill one of the major cast-members. The question is: which one? Fans have been fuming over the cliffhanger all summer, but just about anyone who's trudged through the past six years of zombie mayhem will be tuning in this October to find out who died … and then who else is going to get clubbed, shot, burned and/or eaten. This year also promises new communities of survivors, setting up a war between Alexandrians, Saviors, Hilltoppers, and other rogue elements in a battle royale that could be as epic and gory as Game of Thrones. NM

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‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’

Fox, October 31
TV’s latest live musical event skews much edgier than the likes of Grease or Peter Pan. Orange Is the New Black's transgender star Laverne Cox takes on the role that Tim Curry made famous on the big screen, playing polyamorous mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter in a remake of a midnight movie classic. Glam American Idol belter Adam Lambert (as Eddie) and How I Met Your Mother mother Christina Milian (as Magenta) will be bringing their best rock ’n’ roll chops and campy B-movie poses, looking to honor the sexy subversiveness of the original. All of which raises one question: Are you ready to do the Time Warp again? It's just a jump to the left …. NM

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‘Soundbreaking’

PBS, November 14
Produced by no less an audio authority than the late Sir George Martin, this eight-part docuseries on, per its subtitle, "stories from the cutting edge of recorded music" charts the evolution of capturing sounds via technology — from early microphone prototypes to Pro Tools. Sound too wonky? You also get stories from Adele, Paul McCartney, RZA, B.B. King, Beck and dozens of others about the magic that happens once engineers hit the record button. This may be the only time we ever write this: Play this PBS show loud. DF

Brian Sweeney

‘Lovesick’ (Season 2)

Netflix, November 17
What, Scrotal Recall wasn't a good enough title for you? After Netflix commissioned a second series of the British rom-com about a man (Johnny Flynn) diagnosed with a venereal disease and who has to inform his past sexual hook-ups, the streaming service made the not-unwise decision to change the handle to something a little less Adult Swim-y. Expect the same screwed-up flashback sequences, missed-connection pining courtesy of his best friend (Antonia Thomas) and biting wit that characterized the original six-episode run. A rose by any other name …. DF

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‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’

Netflix, November 25
This four mega-episode revival of the cult series may seem like another example of Netflix fan service (Fuller House, anyone?). But it's really a chance for creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, who left the show before its final season, to wrap it up on her terms. Her rapid-fire pith hasn't graced the airwaves since the late, lamented Bunheads, and Lorelei (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) will have all their suitors back to woo them. Not that any of them are worthy of the Gilmores, mind you. Perish the thought. ST

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

‘Captive’

Netflix, December 9
Ever wonder what happens in the middle of a tense, high-pressure hostage negotiation? Filmmaker Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity) has — and along with producers Simon and Jonathan Chinn, has interviewed dozens of folks involved, from government mucky-mucks and various victims to the actual kidnappers themselves. To say that this docuseries is going to be a nail-biter is a no-brainer. DF

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