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While a lot has changed within the television landscape, the influx of new and returning shows every fall is still a time-honored tradition. This fall, the crop of new shows is more promising than ever. Personally, as someone who rarely finds something worthwhile to watch on network television, I’ve found several interesting and well-constructed shows joining the television line-up this year. In addition to a couple of smart shows on cable and streaming sites, here’s my list of the top five new TV shows this fall.
Four episodes into Pitch‘s debut season the show has yet to deliver a weak episode. The series focuses on Ginny Baker, the fictional first woman to make it to The Show in Major League Baseball. While the series could stand to get a bit more in-depth regarding some of the struggles she faces (the series is being made in cooperation with the MLB, so some of the stories have softer edges than one might expect), the cast and writing are excellent. Kylie Bunbury does great work as Ginny (even though she’s a bit too small to actually have the pitching prowess the show touts), and Mark-Paul Gosselaar is giving the best performance of his career as catcher Mike Lawson. With a roster full of interesting characters, I’m in this show for the long haul, as it keeps getting better and better every week.
A disclaimer: I didn’t like the pilot for This is Us. It was so nauseatingly treacly and relied on easy to spot twists that I almost didn’t tune in for the show’s second episode. But I am glad that I did. This is Us isn’t quite up to the level of Pitch at this point in its run, but there are enough pieces in place to give me confidence that the series is on the right track, so I am including it on the list. As with all new shows, there are some arcs that have resonated more than others. There are also two performances that have lifted the series above so many others: Sterling K. Brown (The People v. OJ Simpson) and Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes, Gilmore Girls). When the show places its focus on their characters, it’s complex and intriguing. When the show’s other characters are at the forefront, it tends to drag, but it improves every week. This is Us walks the line between melodrama and genuine emotional impact, so it is entirely possible the series will ultimately fall off a cliff into the realm of unwatchable dreck. But until it does, I will be turning in every week to watch the trails and tribulations of this family.
This delightful comedy comes from the mind of Mike Schur (the co-creator of Parks and Recreation), and stars Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) and Ted Danson (Cheers). Set in the afterlife (the “Good Place” of the title), the series explores some fun concepts of what a heaven-like world would be. Only, in this Good Place, something is going wrong and this isn’t quite turning out to be the land of happiness one expects. The series has more world building that is common for a half-hour comedy, due to its light sci-fi/fantasy aspect, but after the initial four episodes layout the rules of the world and introduce us fully to the major characters, the series hits its stride. Yes, there are the usual potential pitfalls for a series built on a mystery (as we have seen from shows like Lost), but with the subtle twists and turns of The Good Place, coupled with its excellent cast and fun writing, I think this one might just work.
Donald Glover is a jack of all entertainment trades, and he’s the mastermind behind this dramedy. Smart, sophisticated, and moving, Atlanta isn’t quite like anything else on television. It’s an excellent showcase for Glover, who stars in, writes, and produces the series, but it’s also a excellent showcase for several young acting talents. The series follows Glover’s Earnest “Earn” Marks, who dropped out of Princeton and is now waffling trying to make it as a manager for an up-and-coming rapper, while trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his girlfriend and parents, and still be there for his young daughter. The series has a great deal of heart and emotional heft, while still finding the comedy and moving drama within the show’s main story.
Based real events in comedian Tig Notaro’s life, One Mississippi is the most recent in a string of moving dramedies on Amazon. The six episode first season covers what happens with Notaro returns home to Mississippi immediately before the death of her mother, having only just finished up treatment for breast cancer herself. The series finds the comedy in Notaro’s situation (sometimes its dark comedy, but there are plenty of light moments as well), but never cheapens what she is going through by going for the easy laugh. The series has been renewed for a second season, although there’s a part of me that wishes it was a one and done, because the first season is so well balanced.