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Here are the 44 biggest shows to watch this fall

Chris Rock stars as Loy Cannon in FX's

Chris Rock stars as Loy Cannon in FX's "Fargo." Credit: FX/Matthias Clamer

 Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. We have some bad news for you: The Fall TV Season has been canceled

In its place, "the fall TV season."

Please don't let those ironic quote marks deter or deceive you. There will be a fall season, after all. Just look outside. (You know — those yellowing leaves.) 

 And there will be TV. Lot's of that. Missing to an extent will be structure, or the long-enforced network mandate that fall begins by the third week in September. They can't even fake it this time, although — being the networks — they will assuredly try.

ABC will have lots of game shows. NBC will tell us fall really begins mid-November, when its big guns ("This Is Us" and the "Chicago'' franchise) roll out. CBS … well, at least the new season of "60 Minutes'' will arrive on time (Sept. 20). 

Instead, think of this "fall TV season" as your TV season. Rather than be forced to watch some tepid "new" sitcom on CBS Mondays, check out that new thing on Peacock. Had it (already) with ABC Game Night? There will be enough new streaming content out there to address that.

So while this will be an odd fall, I'm willing to bet a fascinating one too. Necessity breeds invention and this one has bred … oddities, but in the best sense of the word. 

With that in mind, here's my 44-for-fall list, covering September and October. 

SEPT. 6

POWER BOOK II: GHOST (Starz, 9 p.m.)

 Courtney Kemp's spinoff of "Power" arrives with a cast that … will let some of the names do the talking: Michael Rainey Jr. back as Tariq (who killed his old man, Ghost, in the season finale; Naturi Naughton back as Tasha, and Mary J. Blige as newcomer Monet.

SEPT. 9

WOKE (Hulu)

 Lamorne Morris (Winston Bishop of "New Girl") stars as Keith Knight, a San Francisco-based cartoonist who is gang-tackled by some cops (case of mistaken identity) and after he shakes off the trauma, begins to see things — funny things, like singing soda bottles. Yup, wild. And amusing. 

SEPT. 12

COASTAL ELITES (HBO, 8)

This Jay Roach comedy based on a script by Paul Rudnick was effectively ripped from the Zeitgeist. It's America (and New York) circa-right-about-now, as five people (played by Bette Midler, Dan Levy, Issa Rae, Kaitlyn Dever and Sarah Paulson) work their way through COVID-induced paranoia, each in extended monologues. From what I've seen: Funny. 

SEPT. 14

DANCING WITH THE STARS (ABC/7, 8)

 Or as one website (Metacritic) accurately put it, a "Dancing" edition with stars who didn't test positive. And those would be: Carole Baskin, Nelly, AJ McLean, Monica Aldama, Jesse Metcalfe, Anne Heche, Johnny Weir, Vernon Davis, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Justina Machado, Charles Oakley, Jeannie Mai, Skai Jackson, Chrishell Stause and Nev Schulman. Tyra Banks is your new host.

ENSLAVED (Epix/Amazon Prime)

 In this six-parter, Samuel L. Jackson looks at the history of the slave trade, and goes to Gabon to locate his own ancestors in the Benga tribe. Each episode follows three stories: Jackson's personal journey; the search for a sunken slave ship; and an "historical investigation" by "investigative archaeologist" Simcha Jacobovici and British writer/TV commentator Afua Hirsch.

THE THIRD DAY (HBO, 9)

 A distraught man (Jude Law) arrives on a mysterious island off the British coast where he observes strange, magical, horrifying things and … well, I'm not sure I understand this miniseries (which also stars Naomie Harris and Emily Watson) much more than that. But it is fascinating and before COVID happened, a whole chunk of it was to be broadcast live from London.

WE ARE WHO WE ARE (HBO, 1O)

 This Romeo-meets-Juliet 8-episode miniseries unfolds on an army base in Italy, while exploring gender and sexual identity, racial politics and much, much else. Acclaimed Italian director Luca Guadagnino ("I Am Love," "Suspira") is at the helm in his first TV series. Stars Jack Dylan Grazer ("Me, Myself and I") and Jordan Kristine Seamón in her first TV role. 

SEPT. 16

SING ON! (Netflix)

 Tituss Burgess ("Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt") hosts this self-described "ultimate karaoke contest" in which the "most accurate singer is the winner." 

CHALLENGER: THE FINAL FLIGHT (Netflix)

This four-part docuseries from J.J. Abrams explores the 1986 Shuttle disaster and promises rare archival footage and new interviews.

SEPT. 17

DEPARTURE (Peacock)

 When Flight 716 shockingly vanishes over the ocean, investigator Kendra Malley (Archie Panjabi, "The Good Wife") is brought in — alongside her mentor Howard Lawson (Christopher Plummer," Knives Out") — to find the missing jet. Panjabi and Plummer should be reason enough to check it out. 

SEPT. 18

JURASSIC WORLD, CAMP CRETACEOUS (Netflix)

 In this animated series, six young campers uncover the "wonders and secrets of Isla Nublar," in which you, the viewer, are forced to ask yourself, what self-respecting parent would let their precious brood camp out on Isla Nublar anyway? 

BECOMING (Disney+)

 Speaking of questions without easily apparent answers, how did Rob Gronkowski become the Gronk anyway? This eight-parter from Hollywood-mogul-in-the-making LeBron James, finds out, and explores the lives of other celebrities too.

RATCHED (Netflix)

Sarah Paulson stars as Nurse Ratched while the trailer promises both a sendup of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and an "American Horror Story" re-imagining of it. In other words, Ryan Murphy strikes again.

SEPT. 20

72ND PRIME-TIME EMMYS (ABC/7, 8)

 You might even watch this time, if only to see exactly how a major awards show hands out statues to people who won't even be there to get them; plus, host Jimmy Kimmel promises to do this from his closet. 

SEPT. 21

FILTHY RICH (Fox/5, 9)

 Fox is pretending that the fall season really is beginning on time, and this is their proof — with a couple of first-raters (Gerald McRaney, Kim Cattrall) starring in the lead roles in a Southern Gothic, outrageously soapy prime-time soap about a filthy rich family and their Christian TV network.

SEPT. 23

I CAN SEE YOUR VOICE (Fox/5, 9)

 Can you guess a bad singer without hearing them sing a single note? Do you even want to? This game show is, of course, a twist on the show that precedes it --- the season premiere of "The Masked Singer." 

SEPT. 25

TEHRAN (Apple TV)

If you loved "Fauda," this may be for you — from Israeli TV, a thriller about a Mossad agent who infiltrated Iran, and then is marooned there. 

UTOPIA (Amazon Prime)

This series, from novelist Gillian Flynn, and starring John Cusack and Rainn Wilson, had a very long gestation, but the timing looks pretty good: It's about a cult underground graphic novel, a worldwide pandemic, and the merry band of heroes who must save that world. 

A WILDERNESS OF ERROR (FX, 8)

This five -part docuseries comes from some of the guys who brought you "The Jinx" (Marc Smerling, Jason Blum) and is based on the Errol Morris book, both hinting at the same conclusion: Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald (the Patchogue native serving a life sentence for the murder of his pregnant wife and two daughters in 1970) may be innocent after all. 

SEPT. 27

THE COMEY RULE (Showtime, 9)

 This two-night "event" series based on former FBI Director James Comey's account of his tumultuous encounter with President Donald Trump stars Jeff Daniels as the former and Brendan Gleeson (Madey' Moody from "Harry Potter") as the latter. We already know the ending but at least conceivably fun to watch Gleeson say "you're fired." 

FARGO (FX, 10)

At long last, "Fargo" is back, this time in 1950s Kansas City, with a Black crime syndicate and its boss Loy Cannon (Chris Rock) up against the established KC mob and its minions. Besides Rock, lots of other big names here too — like Glynn Turman as one "Doctor Senator" and Timothy Olyphant as Dick "Deafy" Wickware. We already know it's great; the outstanding question: How great? 

SEPT. 28

WEAKEST LINK (NBC/4, 10)

Remember the Brit import "The Weakest Link" from all those years ago? Now imagine Jane Lynch saying, "you are the weakest link. Goodbye." 

SEPT. 30

THE BOYS IN THE BAND (Netflix)

 After Ryan Murphy revived this for Broadway, how long would it take for him to adapt it for Netflix? (Oh, about two years.) Joe Mantello ("Wicked") directs the cast from the revival: Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer and Andrew Rannells.

THE GLORIAS (Amazon Prime)

 This Julie Taymor-directed biopic of Gloria Steinem stars Bette Midler, Janelle Monáe, Timothy Hutton and Lorraine Toussaint, with Julianne Moore as Steinem. 

OCT .1

GANGS OF LONDON (AMC+)

 Pakistani, Albanian, Kurdish, Welsh and you-name-it gangs in London fight it out after the city's top gangster (Colm Meaney) is killed — and yes, there's already a second season on the way. 

THE SALISBURY POISONING (AMC+)

"Novichok?" Does that sinister word ring a bell? Should because news reports say Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned by it, while this three-part mini looks at the 2018 poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripa on a park bench in Great Britain. 

CONNECTING (NBC/4, 8:30)

 This sitcom set in the Age of the Coronavirus is about a group of pals who connect the only way they know how. Yes, the very first Zoom comedy in TV history.

OCT. 2

MONSTERLAND (Hulu)

This 8-episode horror anthology is based on Nathan Ballingrud's 2013 "North America Lake Monsters: Stories," and in the words of Hulu, is about people “driven to desperate acts in an attempt to repair their lives, ultimately showing there is a thin line between man and beast.” You know the kind of beasts — werewolves, fallen angels, the usual suspects.

OCT. 4 

FLESH AND BLOOD (WNET/13, 9)

 This four-parter starring Imelda Staunton, Francesca Annis and Stephen Rea may well be the most addictive series of the fall; I should know: I've become helplessly addicted. It's about a widowed mother (Annis) whose three adult children (Claudie Blakley, Russell Tovey, Lydia Leonard) disapprove of her new lover (Rea). By the way, so does their longtime neighbor, Mary (Staunton). It's great (really) and a second season's on the way. 

THE GOOD LORD BIRD (Showtime, 9)

 James McBride's 2013 novel about abolitionist John Brown (Ethan Hawke) has finally arrived. With Daveed Diggs as Frederick Douglass. This 8-episode series is easily one of the must-watch shows of the entire year. 

THE WALKING DEAD: THE WORLD BEYOND (AMC, 10)

This third spinoff takes us to Nebraska where it's ten years after the apocalypse and where some people have grown up who never knew a world without "walkers." Lots of reasons to check this out, including this one: Scott Adsit ("30 Rock") plays a recurring character. 

OCT. 5

SOULMATES (AMC, 10)

Set 15 years from now, this anthology is based on a (fictional, thankfully) technology that allows people to find their perfect "soul mate." But the cast alone might be the biggest hook here (Malin Akerman, Betsy Brandt, Sarah Snook, Kingsley Ben-Adir and David Costabile to name a few). 

OCT. 6

NEXT (Fox/5, 9)

The pretty much always-good Manny Coto ("24," "Star Trek: Enterprise") has created this sci fi thriller starring John Slattery ("Mad Men") about a self-improving AI contraption that has gone (gulp) rogue. This was originally a midseason entry. 

OCT. 7

BOOKS OF BLOOD (Hulu)

 Horror master Clive Barker wrote a collection by this name back in the mid '80s, and clearly was waiting for the Advent of streaming TV to return it as an anthology. With stories like "The Midnight Meat Train," "Rawhead Rex," "Human Remains," "Down, Satan!" and "How Spoilers Bleed," streaming's pretty much a no-brainer.

OCT. 9

THE 40-YEAR-OLD VERSION (Netflix)

The "version" here is New York-based writer Radha Blank who wants to "make a mixtape about a 40-year-old woman's point of view" — specifically hers. Yes, a movie (which premiered at Sundance) but Blank's POV is unique indeed. Also funny. And in black-and-white.

THE RIGHT STUFF (Disney+) 

From Tom Wolfe's bestseller (adapted into a 1983 movie) about the Mercury 7. The eight-hour drama stars Jake McDorman ("Shameless") as Alan Shepard, Michael Trotter ("Underground") as Gus Grissom, Patrick Adams ("Suits") as John Glenn; James Lafferty ("One Tree Hill") as Scott Carpenter; Colin O'Donoghue ("Once Upon a Time") as Gordon Cooper; and Micah Stock (Tony nominee for "It's Only a Play"). 

OCT. 12

 ONE DAY AT A TIME (CBS/2, 9)

This reboot of Norman Lear's 1975-84 classic has gone on quite a journey, first at Netflix, then after cancellation, PopTV and now, finally full circle, back on CBS. This is the 4th season of the critically beloved series, and still stars one of the Greatest of All Time: Rita Moreno. 

OCT. 13

DRIVING WHILE BLACK: RACE, SPACE AND MOBILITY IN AMERICA (WNET/13, 9)

Gretchen Sorin published her "Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights" back in February, and now there's the documentary. This two-hour film, co-directed by Ric Burns ("New York: A Documentary Film") and Sorin, also includes commentary from the author, who is  director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies at SUNY Oneonta.

OCT. 14

THE AMAZING RACE (CBS/2, 9)

 Darned right "Race" is back. No worldwide pandemic is gonna stop this show from another (the 32nd, if you can believe it) race around that world en route to another $1 million pot. In fact, filming took place in late 2018.

OCT. 16 

MARVEL'S HELSTROM (Hulu).

 The capacious Marvel Universe grows some more with this 10-episode series based on Marvel's brother/sister team, Daimon (Tom Austen, "Grantchester'") and Satana Hellstrom  (Sydney Lemmon) burdened by a terrible legacy (their serial killer dad). Elizabeth Marvel ("Homeland") is mom Victoria who's been committed to an insane asylum. 

OCT. 17

DAVID BYRNE'S AMERICAN UTOPIA (HBO, 8)

 This special directed by Spike Lee is essentially the filmed version of Byrne's Broadway hit. 

OCT. 18

SUPERMARKET SWEEP (ABC, 8)

 Turn down the volume on your TV set: Leslie Jones is about to host the revival and you can be reasonably certain she will assume the role in her own unique, high-decibel fashion. 

OCT. 23

THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT (Netflix)

 Star Anya Taylor-Joy is easily the best reason to check out this six-parter about a young chess prodigy. A prodigious talent herself, she was most recently Emma Woodhouse in the big screen adaptation of Emma. 

OCT. 25

THE UNDOING (HBO, 10 p.m.)

Yes, a fall must-watch because "The Undoing" reunites David E. Kelley with Nicole Kidman in a six-episode adaptation of the 2014 novel "You Should Have Known," by Jean Hanff Korelitz, about a New York therapist, in this adaptation from Danish director-executive producer Susanne Bier, behind the also-compulsively-watchable "The Night Manager." Cast includes Hugh Grant, Donald Sutherland, Lily Rabe and Edgar Ramirez.

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