Everyone from the Big-Three networks to the basic-cable movers and shakers get their tentpoles and marquee projects up and running in September – by October, however, they’re bringing back some under-the-radar favorites (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and trying out some ambitious one-off experiments. (Ready yourself for whatever a FOX-approved Rocky Horror Picture Show might look like!) Meanwhile, Epix, TBS, and HBO launch promising new series pretty much covering the breadth of genres, and oh yeah, some horror show called The Walking Dead lurches back onto television to let fans in on who, exactly, took that spiked bat to the cranium. It may be a spooky lead-up to Halloween, but at least you don’t have to worry about the sheer terror of having nothing to watch.
Berlin Station — Epix, 10/16
There’s been a CIA leak out of their base of operations in Berlin, and the only hope of plugging it up is Hannibal‘s Richard Armitage as Langley analyst Daniel Miller. His new assignment: Go to Germany and ferret out the rat. Homeland meets The Departed in this taut espionage yarn of subterfuge and deception, hitting the usual man-undercover beats of conflicted identity, going native, and allegiance to the state. Reliable character actors Richard Jenkins and Rhys Ifans also star as Daniel’s main suspect and CIA handler, respectively. We hope you like your “spy vs spy” thrillers on the tense side.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — CW, 10/21
The big find of last year’s crop of new shows, Rachel Bloom’s manic-depressive musical takes center stage after a showstopping kiss between Bloom’s avatar Rebecca Bunch and the object of her (occasionally excessive) affection, Josh Chan. Expect the sophomore season to continue the cult series’ unlikely marriage of goofy Broadway theatricality, oversized rom-com emotions, and sharply observed commentary on feminist matters and mental health; viewers can check their privilege without even realizing their toes are tapping.
Divorce — HBO 10/9
The last time HBO stuck Sarah Jessica Parker in a comedy about the trials and tribulations of interacting with the opposite gender, it ran for six seasons and turned the network into a giant of premium cable. The executives are betting that she’s still got some of the Sex and the City magic left over for this new half-hour dramedy, jumping ahead to the next major relationship hurdle after courtship: the split. She and Thomas Haden Church play a married couple who take a long hard look at themselves and decide it’d be best to call it quits – foul-mouthed hilarity and pathos ensue. Co-creator Shannon Horgan has been doing a bang-up job with her other show, Catastrophe, so early signs look positive.
Insecure — HBO, 10/9
Writer and performer Issa Rae rose to prominence on the strength of her popular YouTube series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl; like the creators of HBO’s newest critical darling High Maintenance, she’s now spun her online stardom into a small-screen vehicle. Along with The Nightly Show grad Larry Wilmore, she set up a two-pronged storyline: Rae returns as Dee, a variant on her Awkward Black Girl character, but now she shares the spotlight with Yvonne Orji as Molly, an executive trying to negotiate her personal and professional lives. Together, they bring a much-needed dash of color to HBO’s new slate, importing her frank take on the banality of race relations right to America’s TV sets.
No Tomorrow — CW, 10/4
Girl meets boy, girl falls for boy, boy warns girl of coming apocalypse, girl takes long and difficult look at life and choices — a story old as time, right? This American rework of Brazilian comedy How to Enjoy the End of the World stars Tori Anderson as a discontented factory forewoman and Galavant’s Joshua Sasse as the spontaneous free spirit she falls for. The only chink in Prince Charming’s armor is his belief that humanity has a little more than eight months left on Earth, which freed him from petty concerns over the day-to-day. Is he totally nuts, or more enlightened than the drones scuttling through their morning commutes? Better question: If you didn’t have to worry about money, consequences, or the future, what would you do?
People of Earth — TBS, 10/31
Daily Show alumnus Wyatt Cenac stars in this sci-fi-inflected comedy about a support group for survivors of alien abduction. He plays Ozzie Graham, a former abductee who’s tracking down folks with similar experiences and trying to piece together what their extraterrestrial captors had in mind for them. Series creator David Jenkins doesn’t shy away from showing the aliens, either: They’re bug-eyed freaks, but they act just like regular folks, cursing in frustration when they screw up while using the tractor beam. If you dig the deadpan sensibility of the comedian’s TV bits or underrated standup albums, this one is right up your alley.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again — FOX, 10/20
Fox scored a solid hit with their recent live production of Grease, for their next foray, the network will resurrect the one midnight movie to rule them all, with Laverne Cox snapping on Dr. Frank-n-Furter’s surgical gloves, Victoria Justice succeeding Susan Sarandon as Janet, and Disney Channel alumnus Ryan McCartan donning Brad’s customary tighty-whiteys. Christina Milian and Adam Lambert will add their starpower to the ensemble, and the original mad doctor Tim Curry (!) will briefly step in to assay the role of the Narrator. You may insert your own “Time Warp” joke here.
Timeless — NBC, 10/3
No-goodniks infiltrate a secret facility and make off with a prototype for a time machine to change the course of global history. Naturally, only a crack team of time-traveling peacekeepers can set things temporally straight. There’ll be drama galore — dead-wife grieving, being a contemporary black man dealing with pre-Civil Rights America — but does anyone really need to be sold on this premise beyond the “dueling time travelers” concept?
The Walking Dead — AMC, 10/23
Let’s see, where were we? Oh yeah, the last season ended mere seconds before lethal newcomer Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was about to splatter someone’s brains all over the pavement in a cliffhanger that infuriated even the most faithful fans. They’ll get their long-awaited resolution late this month, when the seventh season picks up right where it left off before sending the ragtag band of zombie-infestation survivors back on the dreary path of survival. Throw in a post-apocalyptic Kingdom run by the mysterious and powerful comic-book fan favorite Ezekiel, and it’s shaping up to be another feeding frenzy.
Westworld — HBO, 10/2
Maybe you want to watch a futuristic sci-fi spectacle full of robots and secret subterranean testing facilities. Maybe you want to watch a classicist Western. HBO would never make you choose between the two – hence, this shiny new remake of Michael Crichton’s 1973 film with a nerd-friendly lineup behind the scenes. (Jonathan Nolan developed the project, and J.J. Abrams came aboard as an executive producer.) You know the drill: In the distant future, Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) reigns over a Old West-themed full-immersion amusement park. There’s a shadowy figure known as the Gunslinger (Ed Harris) and an android saloon maiden (Evan Rachel Wood) who becomes self-aware. This is poised to be HBO’s next big hit. Resistance is futile. You will obey.