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20 shows to binge watch this fall

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                                This image released by Disney Plus shows Pedro Pascal in a scene from “The Mandalorian.” An announcement on the Star Wars Twitter account Wednesday said new episodes would be available on Disney+ starting on Oct. 30.


    This image released by Disney Plus shows Pedro Pascal in a scene from “The Mandalorian.” An announcement on the Star Wars Twitter account Wednesday said new episodes would be available on Disney+ starting on Oct. 30.

                                Actress Elizabeth Debicki poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘The Burnt Orange Heresy’ at the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival, Venice, Italy. Elizabeth Debicki will play the Princess of Wales in seasons five and six of “The Crown,” the Netflix series announced.


    Actress Elizabeth Debicki poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘The Burnt Orange Heresy’ at the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival, Venice, Italy. Elizabeth Debicki will play the Princess of Wales in seasons five and six of “The Crown,” the Netflix series announced.

In recent years, the fall television season had been the last bastion of the broadcast networks. Then came COVID-19. With production barely restarting, the network comedies and dramas that usually fill the fall season are mostly absent this year, replaced by reality competitions, true-crime anthologies and recycled shows making their “broadcast premieres.”

Meanwhile, cable channels and streaming services, more flexible in their scheduling and more accustomed to dealing with international producers, still have new product to put on the shelves. So this fall season roundup of 19 notable shows (in chronological order) looks, for the first time, like our winter and summer TV roundups — dominated by cable and streaming series. Time will tell whether this is a one-year blip or if the networks will feel the lingering complications of the pandemic. But even with the networks on the sideline, there are as many intriguing shows as ever on the fall schedule, perhaps more than usual.

All dates are subject to change.


Well timed and, based on its first few episodes, legitimately funny, which would set it apart from some other comedies lauded for their wokeness. Lamorne Morris of “New Girl” plays a Black cartoonist in San Francisco (based on Keith Knight, a creator of the series) who’s poised for his big break when an encounter with the police inconveniently awakens his consciousness of race. His new awareness is helped along by inanimate objects that hector him about his lack of mindfulness, from a Native American spoon to an angry marker voiced by J.B. Smoove. (Sept. 9)


Samuel L. Jackson follows his DNA to Gabon, home of his African ancestors and a major embarkation point for the Middle Passage. This six-episode series employs the bright tone and fragmented structure of docureality TV to examine the history of the Atlantic slave trade: Jackson travels to beautiful West African landscapes with horrifying pasts, while off the coast of Florida a team of divers looks for ships that went down with slaves chained in their holds. (Sept. 14)


Like his film “Call Me By Your Name,” Luca Guadagnino’s first TV project depicts the dizzying effects of Italy on visiting Americans, in this case an angry, lonely New York teenager (Jack Dylan Grazer) and his mothers, the new commander of an American garrison (Chloë Sevigny) and an Army doctor (Alice Braga). Rather than a gorgeous Lombardy villa, the setting is an Army base in the Veneto and its drab surroundings, but the vibe is equally indolent and sunstruck. (Sept. 14)


Toby Jones, the sad sack’s sad sack, plays a British tour-bus driver whose gloomy but predictable life is disrupted by the discovery of a stowaway on his cross-Channel coach. Jones created and wrote the series with the experimental playwright Tim Crouch, and it’s as if his character from the wonderful “Detectorists” had been dropped into a darker, artier sitcom. (Sept. 15)

‘PEN15’ (HULU)

Playing versions of themselves as middle-school losers and fiercely loyal friends, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle can arrive at a piercing intensity that’s both familiar and strange. Familiar because many of us have experienced it; strange because they’re adults acting out adolescent jealousy and sexual discovery with performers who are actually teenagers. In Season 2, the fictional Anna and Maya negotiate the fallout from their school-dance three-way and cope with the increasingly childish behavior of Anna’s parents. (Sept. 18)


It’s a prequel to the Milos Forman film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but in the hands of Ryan Murphy Productions, the presiding spirits are Sirk, Hitchcock and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.” Sarah Paulson, in the Nurse Ratched role that won Louise Fletcher an Oscar, arrives for work at a Northern California mental hospital that’s a cross between Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu and Stanley Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel. This could turn out to be a campfest like Murphy’s recent “Hollywood,” but the cast is phenomenal: Paulson, Amanda Plummer, Judy Davis, Corey Stoll, Cynthia Nixon, Finn Wittrock, Sophie Okonedo, Sharon Stone and a spiffy fleet of 1940s sedans. (Sept. 18)


The 50-year-old case of Jeffrey R. MacDonald, the ex-Green Beret imprisoned for life for killing his wife and daughters, is opened once again. And as has happened before, the investigator is a big part of the story: The series is based on the 2012 book of the same title by the documentarian Errol Morris, in which he argued for MacDonald’s innocence. Directed by Marc Smerling, a producer on “Capturing the Friedmans” and “The Jinx,” the five episodes feature Morris as an avuncular host and are as much an hommage to his filmmaking style as they are a detailed explication of the case. (Sept. 25)


Billy Ray (“Shattered Glass,” “Richard Jewell”) adapted this two-night, four-hour drama from “A Higher Loyalty,” the 2018 memoir written by the former FBI director James Comey. Jeff Daniels plays the straight-arrow Comey as first the Hillary Clinton email case and then the Russian election-interference case define and derail his career. With Peter Coyote as Robert Mueller, Scoot McNairy as Rod Rosenstein, Holly Hunter as Sally Yates and Brendan Gleeson as Donald Trump. (Originally scheduled for broadcast in late November, the show was moved to dates before the presidential election after Ray and Comey protested.) (Sept. 27)


In its fourth season, Noah Hawley’s exercise in arch noir and Midwestern mythopoesis jumps several states south and several decades back in time. Chris Rock stars as a financial wunderkind who leads a Black syndicate that’s in an uneasy power-sharing arrangement with the Italian mob in 1950 Kansas City. In Hawley’s telling, both groups, along with the Irish and Jewish gangs that preceded them, are victims of the bigotry of the mainstream white majority. (A plot device in which successive gangs swap children to ensure peace is right out of a Hong Kong crime thriller.) The enticing cast includes Timothy Olyphant, Ben Whishaw, Glynn Turman and Salvatore Esposito, the volcanic Genny of the great Italian gangster series “Gomorrah.” (Sept. 27)


Freeform got its filmed-during-the-pandemic comedy, “Love in the Time of Corona,” on the air first. Maybe the extra time will benefit this series about video-chatting friends from Martin Gero, the creator of the NBC drama “Blindspot,” and Brendan Gall. (Oct. 1)


This your-tech-will-kill-you thriller from writer and producer Manny Coto (“24: Legacy”), in which an artificial intelligence takes extreme measures to preserve itself, looks like another “Silence of the Lambs” descendant: old crazy guy is teamed with young skeptical woman. But it gains some credibility from the casting of John Slattery (“Mad Men”) as the shaky Silicon Valley billionaire trying to outwit his own creation with the help of an initially wary FBI agent (Fernanda Andrade). Fox got “Next” into its fall schedule by pushing it back from the spring. (Oct. 6)


The setting is uncommon, but the docureality format is strong. So one of the first things we learn in this eight-episode series is that the deaf and hearing-impaired students at Gallaudet University are as obsessed with sex as any other college-age human beings — and that they can express that obsession more vividly and entertainingly than your average reality stars. (Oct. 9)


Aaron Pedersen returns as Indigenous Australian detective Jay Swan in Season 2 of this atmospheric Outback noir. Cast additions include actor and writer Jada Alberts (“Cleverman”), as the local cop uneasily paired with the tetchy Swan, and Sofia Helin in her first TV role since Saga Noren in “The Bridge,” as a visiting archaeologist who gets involved in a murder case. (Oct. 12)


A new batch of episodes arrives in Netflix’s reboot of the venerable true-crime series, which is more stylish and restrained that it has any need to be. Cases include the murder of presidential adviser Jack Wheeler, whose body was found in a Delaware landfill in 2010, and the death of a woman in an Oslo hotel room in 1995 who remains unidentified to this day. (Oct. 19)


Nathan Fielder, whose “Nathan for You” was an alt-comedy trailblazer, is an executive producer of this series that’s written and directed by the lo-fi documentary filmmaker John Wilson. Consisting of run-and-gun footage and interview snippets overlaid with Wilson’s wry commentary, it transfers the omniscient awkwardness of “Joe Pera Talks With You” from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the sidewalks, storefronts and messy apartments of New York. (Oct. 23)


David E. Kelley and Nicole Kidman team up again, following “Big Little Lies” with another glossy thriller for HBO. Kidman plays a high-priced therapist in an apparently perfect Manhattan marriage with a winsomely grumpy oncologist (Hugh Grant); when she befriends the mother of a scholarship student at their son’s school, strange and tragic events ensue. Kelley wrote the six-episode miniseries, based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel “You Should Have Known,” and Susanne Bier directed. (Oct. 25)


East German spy Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay), spiritual cousin to Soviet agents Elizabeth and Philip Jennings of “The Americans,” reaches a turning point in his show’s third season that was still a few years off when the Jenningses’ show ended: the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Oct. 29)


Baby Yoda floats back for a second season in this surprise best-drama Emmy nominee, whose Saturday-matinee charm is matched, so far, by the slightness of its story. (Oct. 30)


Hugh Laurie plays a popular conservative member of parliament who doesn’t let his vulnerability to scandal get in the way of his ambition. The four-episode BBC miniseries, shown here as part of “Masterpiece,” is the latest project of politically minded playwright and screenwriter David Hare. The fine cast includes Helen McCrory (a major star in Britain known in the U.S., for better or worse, as Aunt Polly in “Peaky Blinders”), Patricia Hodge, Pip Torrens and, as the politician’s equally scheming chief of staff, Iain De Caestecker of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (Nov. 1)


One more season of Olivia Colman’s Queen Elizabeth II before Imelda Staunton takes over, in the series whose dramatic excellence is often overshadowed by its casting announcements. Season 4 carries the story into the 1980s, with Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher and Emma Corrin as the young Lady Diana Spencer. (Nov. 15)

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