Just a couple years ago, the arrival of a new TV season was a cause for celebration: the opportunity to not only welcome back your favorite programs, but hopefully find several new ones to fall in love with among the freshman crop of shows hitting broadcast television.
That has changed dramatically in the Peak TV era, where almost on a daily basis there is an abundance of new offerings, from streaming services and other outlets (with even more to come, as Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max and Peacock prepare their respective rollouts). That means the bar is the highest it’s ever been for the 17 new broadcast entertainment series set to roll out over the next few weeks.
Adweek has done the heavy lifting for you, pulling together fall’s seven most promising new broadcast shows—the ones actually worth your attention. (Note that these aren’t necessarily the shows most likely to be the biggest hits, though the networks do have high hopes for many of the series on this list.)
Here are the fall broadcast TV shows you should keep your eye on, in order of debut:
Premieres Sept. 24, airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC
The plot: In this Black-ish prequel, Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross, who narrates) looks back on growing up as part of a mixed-race family in 1985, when she was 12, and the upheaval she faced after moving from a hippie commune to the suburbs.
Why it could work: The cast is terrific, especially the three Johnson siblings (Arica Himmel as 12-year-old Bow, alongside Mykal-Michelle Harris, Ethan William Childress), who shine as each of them processes their first exposure to pop culture. The soundtrack is packed with memorable ’80s tunes (including “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Time After Time”), and the storyline is surprisingly relevant at a time where people who look “different” once again find themselves as political targets. Like Freeform’s Grown-ish, it’s a solid addition to the Black-ish universe.
Potential stumbling blocks: Recent TV prequels have been a mixed bag—Better Call Saul and Young Sheldon have been hits, but efforts like Taken and The Carrie Diaries sputtered. And given that ABC already has the ‘80s-themed family comedy terrain locked down with The Goldbergs, its viewers might not be open to a companion series.
Premieres Sept. 24, airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC
The plot: After a police chief (Alison Tolman) takes in a young girl who shows up near the site of a strange accident, with no memory of what happened or who she is, mysterious things begin to occur.
Why it could work: The magnificent Tolman—who also played a TV cop in Fargo—does a lot of the heavy lifting in the pilot. Her performance grounds the show and sets it apart from ABC’s long line of conspiracy-themed dramas of the past decade (see below).
Potential stumbling blocks: Lost aside, ABC has an abysmal track record when it comes to launching shows with grandiose conspiracy elements that quickly implode creatively. (Remember Zero Hour, The Whispers and FlashForward? The network certainly hopes you don’t.) With that in mind, the show’s creators promised at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour that they’ll begin answering key questions soon after the pilot—but audiences who have been burned too many times before might stay away.
Premieres Sept. 26, airing Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on NBC
The plot: A former Princeton music professor (Bradley Whitford) who has hit rock bottom following his wife’s death bounces back by leading a small-town church choir of misfits.
Why it could work: The pilot racks up a solid number of laughs, while the great ensemble cast—including Anna Camp, Tymberlee Hill and Geno Segers—should prove a fruitful source of comedy as the season progresses. It seems a worthy addition to NBC’s Thursday night comedy lineup, alongside The Good Place and Superstore.