Despite viewing habits changing so much over the last decade, the fall premiere season remains a key part of our TV consumption. An endless list of options can feel overwhelming, so we compiled 11 shows — some returning, some new — you should definitely put on your must-watch list. (Some minor spoilers ahead.)
GLOW, on Netflix
Season three premiere: August 9
How to catch up: Netflix
You’ll love this if you like: ‘80s nostalgia, girl power, Community
A story about perpetual underdogs set against the backdrop of 1980s big hair, in-your-face unwokeness, and neon everything, GLOW hit the megastreamer two years ago and instantly garnered attention. Led by the comedic and emotional timing of Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron, the series is loosely based on the real-life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. The 30-minute comedy is at its best when the jokes hit by focusing on an underlying truth: Whether it’s inside or outside the ring, these female wrestlers must fight sexism and racism at every turn.
Big question that needs answering: Season one of GLOW was a fun origin story. Season two was bigger and more substantive. With season three set in Las Vegas, can the ladies continue to carve out their individual lives despite needing each other now that they’ve left LA?
This Is Us, on NBC
Season four premiere: September 24
How to catch up: Hulu
You’ll like this if you like: Weepy television, family dynamics, Parenthood
Everyone’s weekly cryfest returns to television for its fourth season this fall, and it can’t come soon enough. It’s been months since we last traveled in time with the Pearsons. When we last saw the family, we got a glimpse into their future. Our guiding lights and #relationshipgoals Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) remain married (phew!). Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) is still around. And Kevin (Justin Hartley) is a dad! Unfortunately, an elderly Rebecca (Mandy Moore) is seriously ill and the whole clan has come together for a visit. Season four is sure to continue exploring how the Pearsons came to be, with flashbacks to when Rebecca and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) were dating and the early part of their marriage before the Big 3 arrived.
Big question that needs answering: Who does Kevin end up with?
Modern Family, on ABC
Season 11 premiere: September 25
How to catch up: Hulu
You’ll like this if you like: Nostalgia for the mid 2000s, dad jokes, network sitcoms
Like nearly all great family comedies that came before it, Modern Family suffered from its own success: The kids who are so central to the story got older, and thus less cute and less funny. The series has certainly seen better days, but after 10 seasons of hanging with the Pritchetts and the Dunphys you can’t blame us for wanting to know how the story ends. Last season’s finale gave us the birth of Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Dylan’s (Reid Ewing) twins (yes, they eventually got back together), which we expect to be the driving force of the drama, and hilarity, in season 11.
Big question that needs answering: Modern Family is very much from a different television era. They just don’t make many network sitcoms like this anymore. The show’s signature bit has been the end-of-episode voice-over that ties a grand, heartwarming lesson on the weekly proceedings. Which character will wrap that bow around the whole series when it comes to a close next spring?
The Good Place, on NBC
Season four premiere: September 26
How to catch up: Netflix or Hulu
You’ll like this if you like: Kant, Parks & Rec, Groundhog Day
Always funny, while at times irreverent but good-natured, The Good Place has given us one of the better contemporary takes on heaven, hell, and whatever may lie in between. And unlike many 30-minute comedies, this is a sitcom not afraid to rejigger things often. (Holy forking shirtballs, they were NOT at the real “good place!”) Season four will be the last installment for Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), Jason (Manny Jacinto), and this quirky take on eternity. Considering these characters found out they were trapped in incorrect afterlives and then returned to Earth for a second crack at it, we’re very excited to see what twists and turns come next.
Big question that needs answering: Will the series end with even more unanswered questions instead of arriving at a neat, polished ending?
The Politician, on Netflix
Series premiere: September 27
You’ll like this if you like: Ryan Murphy, House of Cards, Veep
The producer-writer-director behind such critically acclaimed and well-liked shows as FX’s Pose and American Horror Story and Fox’s Glee is coming to Netflix. Ryan Murphy’s first foray with the streamer follows the life of privileged Santa Barbara native Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) as he embarks on his quest to become President of the United States. Each season of the social commentary-laden dark comedy will chronicle a different race Hobart is involved in, with season one set in high school. Notable cast members include A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange as well as Zoey Deutch, who Netflix bingers will recognize from her role as Harper Moore in the romcom Set It Up. The series is still in production and we have yet to see a teaser or trailer.
Big question that needs answering: When IRL politics feel dystopian and our televisions have dark humor at every turn, will we have room for yet another show telling us laughing beats crying?
Godfather of Harlem, on Epix
Series premiere: September 29
You’ll like this if you like: The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Narcos
Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker plays real-life 1960s Harlem gangster Bumpy Johnson who’s returned from a decade-long prison sentence to find his neighborhood run by the Genovese crime family. It’s gritty mid-20th-century New York City and mob wars all during Malcolm X’s rise. Chris Brancato, one of the minds behind Netflix’s Narcos and Narcos: Mexico, will be the showrunner.
Big question that needs answering: Can this series find the sweet spot between an antihero story and violence porn?
Riverdale, on The CW
Season four premiere: October 9
How to catch up: Netflix
You’ll like this if you like: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Pretty Little Liars
Our favorite dark, alternate universe-inhabiting teens return for more town-saving and hormone-raging hijinks in season four. The first few years of high school for Archie (KJ Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Jughead (Cole Sprouse), Veronica (Camila Mendes), and the rest of the gang involved mysterious murders, drug conspiracies, life-altering family secrets, mob activity, and a terrifying cult. What will make sure senior year at Riverdale High will be anything but normal? In a spring break flash-forward scene during the season three finale, Jughead is missing from the Fab Four (except for his iconic, now-bloodied beanie in Archie’s hand) as the other three agree to never speak of that night again, in a very I Know What You Did Last Summer way.
Big question that needs answering: How will the show honor the late Luke Perry and his character Fred, Archie’s dad? Perry died toward the end of season three and Fred’s absence was only lightly mentioned in a “he’s going out of town for a while” sort of way.
The Birch, on Facebook Watch
Series premiere: October 11
You’ll like this if you like: MTV’s Teen Wolf, the old CW series Angel
Based on the Webby Awards-winning short of the same name, The Birch chronicles a scary monster who protects the woods and ends up helping an unassuming teenager. The 15-episode horror series comes from Crypt TV, which signed a deal with Facebook Watch to develop more interconnected shows, and aims to “create culture changing monster stories,” so expect a lot of gore.
Big question that needs answering: So far, Facebook Watch has mostly served as a vehicle for celebrity talk shows and reality series. Horror and gore are already niche genres. Can a show like this find its footing on Facebook Watch?
The Mandalorian, on Disney+
Series premiere: November 12
You’ll like this if you like: Blockbusters on the small screen, Star Wars
Disney is banking on the power of Star Wars to anchor its new streaming service right at launch. The Mandalorian exists in the same galaxy far, far away and is set roughly five years after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi. The live-action series will chronicle the adventures of a fighter from the same warrior race as bounty hunter Boba Fett. Fans should expect blockbuster film-quality production to go along with a cast that includes Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones and Narcos), Gina Carano (Fast & Furious 6 and Deadpool), and Academy Award nominee Nick Nolte.
Big question that needs answering: With The Mandalorian being canon in the Star Wars saga, will it mean it’s required viewing? Or can the shows be skipped and can viewers just stick to the movies? The same questions will apply to the Marvel series Disney+ is set to release.
Watchmen, on HBO
Series premiere: TBD
You’ll like this if you like: HBO programming, Game of Thrones
HBO is jumping into the comics world with an adaptation of the treasured 1980s graphic novel Watchmen. The original story centers around retired superheroes looking into the murder of a fellow superhero and takes place in a world where their kind has been outlawed at the height of the Cold War. Although we don’t have a set premiere date, we do know a few things about the series. Damon Lindelof’s show (co-creator of Lost and The Leftovers) won’t be a straight comics-to-screen adaptation, so don’t worry about getting a repeat of the much-panned 2009 film version. It will move the story forward with stars like Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson and take place in modern day, as opposed to the ‘80s.
Big question that needs answering: Can Watchmen become HBO’s Game of Thrones replacement? The ominous teaser dropped in May sure seems like that’s what network execs are hoping.
Devs, on FX
Series premiere: TBD
You’ll like this if you like: Black Mirror, The Hack, podcasts about big tech
Details for this new FX limited series are scant, but what we have is plenty enticing. Devs is an eight-episode story about a Bay Area-based tech company with a covert development division. (Doesn’t that sound like a very real thing?) One of the company’s computer engineers, Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno from Ex Machina and Crazy Rich Asians), thinks her employer is behind her boyfriend’s death. Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation and Fargo) plays the company’s CEO in the Alex Garland-helmed (Annihilation and Ex Machina) sci-fi thriller.
Big question that needs answering: Similarly to Netflix’s Black Mirror, Devs aims to play with our fear of technology. Will it also have a near-future feel to it? Or, will it be very present day?