Brace yourself for what might be the weirdest fall TV season ever.
Thanks to production delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the broadcast networks have been forced to cobble together funky-looking lineups full of reality series, game shows, cartoons and content imported from other countries (see Canada’s “Transplant” on NBC) or streaming platforms (“Star Trek: Discovery” on CBS).
Meanwhile, new episodes of our favorite scripted shows will arrive later than usual. Eager to see what happens next on “This Is Us”? Check back in November.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of amazing television to sample as autumn arrives. Many shows were in the can — or close to being finished — before the pandemic hit. And they’ll be debuting in the coming weeks, mainly on streaming sites and cable channels.
We’ve sifted through all the fresh inventory to uncover 10 see-worthy gems. These are the new shows that have us most excited:
‘Emily in Paris’ (Netflix)
Remember when everyone wore out the word “adorkable” to describe Zooey Deschanel in “New Girl”? Lily Collins is worthy of that epithet in this sparkly romantic comedy from Darren Star (“Sex and the City,” “Younger”).
Collins plays the title character — an ambitious Chicago marketing exec who unexpectedly lands her dream job in the City of Light.
Forget frustrating blind dates and online matchmaking services. What if there were a piece of technology so advanced that a simple test could unequivocally tell you who your one true soulmate is? That’s the mind-blowing premise behind this smartly written anthology series. Set 15 years from now, the stories are pegged to a company called Soul Connex that promises to hook up twosomes that are simply meant to be.
‘Utopia’ (Amazon Prime)
Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl,” “Sharp Objects”) returns to TV with this audacious eight-part conspiracy thriller she describes as “The Goonies” meets “Marathon Man.”
It revolves around a group of comic-book nerds who are obsessed with a graphic novel called “Utopia.” But things get deadly serious when they unearth hidden meanings embedded in its pages that predict dire threats to humanity. The group embarks on a dangerous mission to save the world — one that brings them face-to-face with the comic’s mysterious protagonist, Jessica Hyde (Sasha Lane). The cast includes John Cusack, who plays a billionaire philanthropist. And in an anxiety-inducing plot line that resonates in this turbulent year, Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) is a virologist battling a global pandemic.
We’ve been waiting for someone to reward the likable and amusing Lamorne Morris (“New Girl”) with something meatier than a supporting role. In this timely comedy series, he takes the lead as Keef, a San Francisco-based Black cartoonist who, after a long struggle to make ends meet, is finally on the brink of mainstream success.
But then a run-in with the police rocks his world.
Suddenly, Keef, who had always insisted on “keeping it light,” views life in a very different way and feels challenged to say something socially relevant through his art. Likewise, “Woke,” which is inspired by the life and work of artist Keith Knight, uses humor to deliver sharp observations about identity, culture and racial inequity.
‘Filthy Rich’ (FOX)
Every TV season needs at least one drama series that delivers some good, soapy fun.
Enter Kim Cattrall.
The “Sex and the City” alum takes on a Southern twang in this over-the-top saga in which she portrays Margaret Monreaux, the flamboyant wife of a super-rich, New Orleans-based televangelist (Gerald McRaney) who dies in a plane crash. Imagine the shock when Margaret and her two grown children discover that the patriarch fathered three children outside the marriage.
‘We Are Who We Are’ (HBO)
Enigmatic director Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me by Your Name”) takes viewers to his native Italy for what essentially is a teen melodrama. But “Dawson’s Creek” this ain’t.
Set in the summer before Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, the story follows two youngsters (Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamon) who live on a U.S. military base as they get to know each other while navigating the identity issues and various growing pains that come with adolescence. Chloe Sevigny plays the boy’s mom and the new commander of the base.
‘The Undoing’ (HBO)
Nicole Kidman and writer David E. Kelley, part of the team that brought us “Big Little Lies,” deliver another instantly addictive whodunit largely rooted in marriage, wealth, deceit, and the blind spots that can develop in relationships over time.
Kidman, in a breathtakingly gripping performance, plays an affluent Upper East Side therapist who leads a seemingly carefree life. Her husband (Hugh Grant) is a renowned pediatric oncologist and her teen son attends an ultra-exclusive private school. But overnight a violent death upends their lives and a chain of horrific revelations ensues. Guided by Susanne Bier’s taut direction, the twists keep coming and nothing is quite what it seems.
From iconoclastic producer Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” ‘American Horror Story,” “Pose”) comes this luridly entertaining and visually seductive drama that tells the origin story of Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson), the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” nurse everyone loves to hate.
Set in 1947, the series follows Mildred as she finds employment at a remote psychiatric hospital near Big Sur, where new and disturbing experiments have begun on the human mind. Though she presents herself as a dutiful caretaker, she’s on a secret mission that could leave multiple victims in its wake.
“Ratched” contains all the usual Ryan Murphyisms — the snarky quips, dark humor, squirm-inducing gore and eye-rolling excesses.
The long wait is over. After three years, we finally have a fourth edition of the critically acclaimed Midwestern crime anthology.
This one stars Chris Rock, who takes a dramatic turn as Loy Cannon, the head of an African-American group of mobsters that, for now, has struck an uneasy truce with an Italian syndicate in 1950 Kansas City.
The period and setting may keep changing, but “Fargo” remains a thrilling saga packed with visual verve, eccentric rhythms, taut energy and jaw-dropping twists.
‘Flesh and Blood’ (PBS)
A late-life romance, family dysfunction and a juicy mystery are the prime ingredients of this riveting four-part “Masterpiece” miniseries.
Francesca Annis plays Vivien, a widow living alone in a lovely seaside abode. Her husband died 18 months ago and she is now being courted by a new gentleman friend (Stephen Rea) who raises suspicions among her three adult children. Does he have illicit intentions?
Meanwhile, a comically nosy neighbor (Imelda Staunton) has a front-row seat to all the drama.