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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.

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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

'Luke Cage'

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

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘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