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Eight shows to watch in September

Sean Penn and James Ransone star in Hulu's

Sean Penn and James Ransone star in Hulu's  "The First." Credit: Hulu/Alan Markfield

And just like that, September is nearly here along with dozens of new series. Where to begin? Well, here: I've selected eight notables, including the Emmy Awards, which will fall on a Monday this year.  

Kidding (Showtime, Sept. 9, 10 p.m.) In his first regular series gig since "In Living Color," Jim Carrey is a Fred Rogers-like kids TV host with a loving heart and tenuous grasp of his sanity. Poor Mr. Pickles does eventually lose his mind. Along with the impressive cast — Catherine Keener, Frank Langella and Judy Greer co-star — there's another bonus here: "Kidding" marks Carrey's reunion with Oscar-winner Michel Gondry, who directs. The last time they worked together was on 2004's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."

The First (Hulu, Sept. 14) Sean Penn's first TV series — and no, "Friends" does not count — will fictionally take him to Mars, as a member of a team of astronauts. Besides Penn, the other big stars along for the interplanetary ride include Natascha McElhone and LisaGay Hamilton as crewmates. Hulu broke the bank on this project (a reported $55 million production budget) and got a major name to write it — Beau Willimon ("House of Cards").

70th Primetime Emmy Awards (NBC/4, Sept. 17, 8 p.m.) What's most intriguing are the hosts, "SNL's" Michael Che and Colin Jost, who promise a why-are-we-even-here? irreverence. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Jost said the Emmys are "focused on things that 99 percent of the country doesn’t care about." Uh-huh.

Maniac (Netflix, Sept. 21) Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) and Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) are invited to a pharmaceutical trial. They have no idea what this is about, but — what the heck! — it offers a cure to (in her case) bad relationships and (in his) schizophrenia. A sinister trial doctor (Justin Theroux) promises no side effects. Right. This "Inception"-like mind-twister directed by Cary Fukunaga ("True Detective 1") is also supposed to be a comedy. A dark one.

Magnum P.I. (CBS/2, Sept. 24, 9 p.m.) Like CBS' other action reboots ("MacGyver," "Hawaii 5-0") you can expect lots of bullets, bombs and explosions (poor Hawaii can't catch a break). Your new Thomas Magnum is Jay Hernandez, who's maybe best known from "Scandal," while the new Higgins is a Juliet (Perdita Weeks, "Ready Player One").  

Manifest (NBC/4, Sept. 24, 10 p.m.) NBC posted the first act of this newcomer on YouTube Tuesday — an unusual move, but a shrewd one because it also generated what sneak peeks are supposed to: interest. A plane leaves Jamaica on April 7, 2013, then touches down in Newburgh on Nov. 4, 2018. Sure, history's worst and longest flight, but also a mystery. What happened to the darn thing? After five years' absence, no one on board has aged a day. But people on the ground have.

This Is Us (NBC/4, Sept. 25, 9 p.m.)  Now that we know how Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) died, how did he live? What — specifically — did he do in Vietnam, and how did that shape him? The third season promises a time-reversal back to the war, along with more questions, perhaps some answers: Who was Nicky, Jack's brother? (Michael Angarano, who played the son of Jack — umm, yes, different Jack — on "Will & Grace.") Apparently Nicky died in Vietnam, but how? Were Jack and Nicky in the same unit, same battle? Oh, and what will happen to Randall's (Sterling K. Brown) family? His daughter Tess was last heard saying to him, "I'm not ready to see her." Who is "her"? As usual, "Us" is all about the questions.

Murphy Brown (CBS/2, Sept. 27, 9:30 p.m.) And speaking of questions, this reboot begs 'em. Much of the original cast returns, including Candice Bergen, without whom this series would never have been possible, then or now. But how will "Murphy" be updated, considering that the world of television news has undergone a revolution since this last aired back in 1997?

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mentioned the wrong character in the description of "This is Us."

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