The Undefeated guide to the blackest fall in television ever
The first Golden Age of Television kicked off as America was transitioning out of radio as its primary mass entertainment — 1947-1960. Lucky Americans gathered around their TV sets to watch high-quality series and made-for-TV movies on limited channels. I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Dragnet, Gunsmoke, and many more. But something was missing. Black folks.
There was the racist Amos ’n Andy in the early 1950s. And then from Julia (1968-72) to Room 222 (1969-74) to Good Times (1974-79), there were peaks, certainly, and many valleys. By 1975, George and Weezie Jefferson made us all aspire to “the East Side,” and a dee-luxe apartment in the sky. NBC introduced us to the Huxtables in 1984 (a show now impossible to watch, and rarer than ever in syndication), an upper-middle-class family who just happened to be black and who proved that white America would watch shows that starred black people. But it took 30 years before the United States was introduced to its millennial counterparts, ABC’s black-ish Johnsons.
But hello, 2016. The year in which we’re all over the dial is unlike anything seen before. In front of the camera. Creating shows. Directing. Show-running.
It’s a new day. No longer do shows that resemble black life all have to be contained on a lone page on the back of a historic micro magazine no longer in print publication. There’s diversity of blackness on television now. And it’s about time.
What follows is a roster of as many fall shows as we could come up with that feature black people, the black experience, black people on-screen, black people behind the camera, blacks being their creative, fun, dramatic, comedic, authentic selves. Please send us any shows we’re missing, and let us know about any professionals we left out. All times are Eastern Standard.
How to watch: Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning Sept. 21
Featuring: Damon Wayans, Keesha Sharp, Johnathan Fernandez, Chandler Kinney, Dante Brown
An action-drama show based on the late ’80s/early ’90s film series fronted by Danny Glover and Mel Gibson as Los Angeles police detectives Murtaugh and Riggs. This time taking the lead roles are Wayans and Clayne Crawford (Rectify).
Why you should watch: While not everyone is loving it, Wayans does know how to do good TV. He helped his brother Keenan Ivory Wayans make the Fox network a go-to station for black families in the ’90s with the groundbreaking In Living Color, which made his entire family famous. In this series, he’ll integrate the funny with seriously good crime capers.
How to watch: Thursdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 22
Featuring: Paris Barclay (director), Kylie Bunbury, Kelly Jenrette, Shamier Anderson
Major League Baseball is finally breaking the gender barrier — Ginny Baker is a pitching force to be reckoned with and women all over the world are ready for her to show the boys of summer how it’s done.
Why you should watch: Bunbury is a relatively fresh-faced actor who’s stepping up to the big leagues. Her entire life has prepared her for this role (dad and brother are professional soccer players, she was a high school athlete) and she’s comes across as authentic and rooted.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
How to watch: Oct. 20 at 8 p.m.
Featuring: Laverne Cox, Ben Vereen, Christina Milian
Forty years is a long time, and longtime fans were concerned about this remake. But as Ben Vereen (Dr. Scott) says, “I don’t believe that we’re remaking anything … this is not a remake. You cannot remake The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But you can pay tribute, and honor it. That’s what we wanted to do, and we accomplished.” Victoria Justice, Staz Nair and Adam Lambert round out the cast.
Why you should watch: Tim Curry returns (in a different role), and is into it.
How to watch: Wednesdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 21
Featuring: Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Jussie Smollett, Trai Byers, Bryshere Y. Gray
The premiere will answer the question we’ve been pondering all summer long: WHO GOT PUSHED OFF THAT BALCONY?
Why you should watch: Henson is at her best as former inmate-turned-music-mogul Cookie Lyon. Also, Mariah Carey is on deck as a guest star, and other visitors include Taye Diggs, Birdman, Sierra McClain and French Montana.
How to watch: Thursdays at 8 p.m. beginning Sept. 22
Featuring: Morris Chestnut, Lorraine Toussaint, Gabrielle Dennis, Jaina Lee Ortiz
Fresh off his starring turn in When The Bough Breaks, Chestnut returns as a private pathologist who teams up with Miami police to solve mysterious deaths. Brian Austin Green was set to join the cast, but at the last minute, Eddie Cibrian of CSI: Miami was brought on board in a “mysterious” new role. Anna Konkle and Domenick Lombardozzi are also featured.
Why you should watch: Chestnut is a consistent, steady (and sexy) actor who pushes past his heartthrob status to turn in really good work.
How to watch: Tuesdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 20
Featuring: Keke Palmer, Niecy Nash
You can’t mention Ryan Murphy these days without mentioning The People v. O.J. Simpson: An American Crime Story, but don’t forget about Scream Queens, where Murphy indulges his campier inclinations.
Why you should watch: The show is full of winning one-liners like: “Everyone loves me: men, women, animals at the zoo, plants probably.”
How to watch: Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 20
Featuring: Lamorne Morris, Damon Wayans Jr.
Elizabeth Meriwether’s half-hour comedy began as a cheerfully optimistic show following Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and her oddball roommates looking out for each other. The show has weathered some ups (the gang gets to go to a party and meet Prince) and downs (figuring out what to do with Jess and Nick), but it’s still good for a consistent laugh.
Why you should watch: Lamorne Morris’ Winston Bishop is still one of the most gloriously peculiar balls of contradictions on television these days.
How to watch: Tuesdays at 8 p.m. beginning Sept. 20
Featuring: Terry Crews, Andre Braugher
Last season ended with detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) forced to abandon their beloved Brooklyn for the safer, suburban confines of witness protection in Florida. How will they make their way back?
Why you should watch: Maya Rudolph and Niecy Nash drop in this season as guest stars.
How to watch: Thursdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 22
Featuring: Daniel Sunjata, Lisa Arrindell
It’s the high-stakes and manipulative world of the “nightly news” and gives us an intimate look at what’s happening behind those big, delicious high-profile court cases and crime dramas. Piper Perabo of the late, great Covert Affairs co-stars.
Why you should watch: Sunjata, a former football player known for Rescue Me and Graceland, smolders in his portrayal of attorney Jake Gregorian (built on high-profile and not black lawyer to the stars Mark Geragos), and is not afraid to cry in character. Also: The show is in the Scandal slot, and apparently “employs some How to Get Away With Scandal-esque music cues.”
Secrets and Lies
How to watch: Sundays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 25
Featuring: Michael Ealy, Mekia Cox, Charlie Barnett
The Secrets and Lies cast experienced a complete shakeup, save for Juliette Lewis as Detective Cornell, at the end of its 10-episode first season run. Like Fargo or American Horror Story, Secrets and Lies is a limited series, meaning it will explore new storylines and characters this season. This season, Detective Cornell is investigating the death of Kate Warner (Jordana Brewster), a newly wealthy bride. Ealy plays Warner’s husband Eric, the prime suspect in her death. Cox plays Amanda Warner Young, Eric’s protective sister who’s also a criminal attorney. Barnett is the youngest Warner sibling.
Why you should watch: Fans will be pleased to hear that we’ll be finding out more about Cornell’s secret criminal daughter as the new storyline unfolds.
How to watch: Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 21
Featuring: Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Daveed Diggs, created by Kenya Barris
An upwardly mobile father (Anthony Anderson) worries that his upper-middle-class kids are assimilating too much into the white world his success affords them.
Why you should watch: The show isn’t afraid to go there. Last season’s episode about black kids being gunned down was touching, poignant, and very special without being “very special.”
How to watch: Sundays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 25
Featuring: Aunjanue Ellis
Quantico was one of the buzziest new shows of the fall 2015 season, due in no small part to its Bollywood star lead, Priyanka Chopra. Chopra stars as Alex Parrish, an FBI recruit, who, by the end of season one, discovered that her fellow trainee Liam O’Connor was the terrorist who’d been framing her for his murderous misdeeds.
Why you should watch: Quantico is completely nutty (like detonating nukes nutty), filled with all sorts of improbable twists and turns that keep it fun.
How to Get Away With Murder
How to watch: Thursdays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 22
Featuring: Viola Davis, Billy Brown, Alfred Enoch, Aja Naomi King, Mary J. Blige, Stephen Williams, Erika Harrison
Considered one of the most progressive shows on television: a brilliant law professor assembles four top students to help her defend her seemingly indefensible clients.
Why you should watch: Davis rightly earned an Emmy last year for her portrayal of Annalise Keating. The Oscar-nominated actor leaves it all on the soundstage and delivers a master class in how to pull off good, meaty drama — without making it too campy. Someone’s always dying. Get used to this.
How to watch: Thursdays 8 p.m. beginning Sept. 22 on ABC
Featuring: Jesse Williams, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens, Jerrika Hinton, Jason Winston George, Kelly McCreary
Shonda Rhimes’ first hit for ABC, and the one that later begat Private Practice, is still going strong, even as new cast members continue to rotate through, and originals, such as Patrick Dempsey and Sandra Oh, have bid the show adieu.
Why you should watch: The way Rhimes presents Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) depression (as a woman who’s dark and twisty) can be deceptively simple, but it never goes away. The show has become a chronicle of Grey’s resilience in the face of more awfulness than most humans would see in multiple lifetimes.
How to watch: Fridays at 8:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 23
Featuring: Tisha Campbell-Martin
Dr. Ken did not exactly enjoy an auspicious critical beginning. It was panned as forced, unfunny and crass. Still, ABC picked the show up for a sophomore season after it posted solid ratings. Hope that will give it an opportunity to right the sins of the first season.
Why you should watch: Curiosity. Is there any chance for improvement?
How to watch: Fridays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 23
Featuring: Daymond John
A steady crew of wealthy venture capitalists take pitches from average Joes to see if they have businesses worth investing in. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran fill out the cast.
Why you should watch: It’s fun. Also: John made his fortune as the founder and CEO of FUBU. Plus, the show gives us all hope that we can be rich one day. Kinda.
America’s Funniest Home Videos
How to watch: Sundays at 7 p.m. beginning Oct. 2
Featuring: Alfonso Ribeiro
Season 27! Twenty. Seven. It’s been on as long as The Simpsons! It’s never not been on.
Why you should watch: Because isn’t everyone, obviously? And just not talking about it?
NCIS: Los Angeles
How to watch: Sundays at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 2
Featuring: LL Cool J, Daniela Ruah
The successful first spin-off of the highly successful NCIS is a classic old-school procedural that satisfies even the casual watcher. Chris O’Donnell (hey, Robin) rounds out the cast with the excellent Eric Christian Olsen.
Why you should watch: LL Cool J as Sam Hanna makes you (almost) forget he’s one of the best rappers ever, and kind of pioneered the whole hip-hop thing as a Def Jam artist in the late 1980s and early ’90s. He melts into his terse role as a former Navy SEAL working with an elite division. Fingers crossed that Sam Hanna’s wife, Michelle, a recurring CIA agent character portrayed by Aunjanue Ellis, appears in some episodes.
How to watch: Wednesdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 28
Featuring: Aisha Tyler
A top crew of profilers team up to figure out which unsavory “unsub” (short for unknown subject) has committed a horrific serial killing, arson, or kidnapping.
Why you should watch: Well, even though Shemar Moore is no longer holding it down as the intense and incredibly fit Derek Morgan, and Thomas Gibson is out as Hotch for acting way out, Paget Brewster is back. And Tyler has been upped to series regular — the way she brings forensic psychologist Dr. Tara Lewis to life proves she’s way more than just one of the funniest comedians ever to hit a stage.
How to watch: Tuesdays at 8 p.m. beginning Sept. 20
Featuring: Rocky Carroll, Duane Henry, Wilmer Valderrama
The dude who terrified you with his portrayal of Ted Bundy in the late ’80s is now a defender of naval law. Your mom and dad watch NCIS, and when you’re over there, you settle right in to see what’s good.
Why you should watch: Yes, we get it. Tony DiNozzo is gone. Sad face emoji. But Gibbs and Abby and McGee are still there. And can we not act like Rocky Carroll isn’t standing right there in his everyday suit, all stoic and still sad about his wife? Plus Valderrama is new, and so is British actor Henry. Caf-Pow drinks all around.
How to watch: Wednesdays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 28
Featuring: Boris Kodjoe, Cress Williams, William Allen Young
Think of Code Black as a grungier Grey’s Anatomy, set in an understaffed, overcrowded Los Angeles hospital. The medical drama added Rob Lowe after a cast shakeup, while Kodjoe appears as chief of surgery.
Why you should watch: Well, Code Black is based on the documentary of the same name, and probably offers a closer dramatization of the unsexy constraints of American emergency rooms than other medical dramas.
How to watch: Fridays at 8 p.m. beginning Sept. 23
Featuring: Justin Hires, Tristin Mays
You know MacGyver, even if you don’t know him. You know him as the dude who makes something out of nothing. Well, now he’s been rebooted.
Why you should watch: To judge if this guy’s as creative and inventive as the original, duh.
The Great Indoors
How to watch: Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. beginning Oct. 27
Featuring: Chris Williams, Shaun Brown
Irksome not-that-old guy (Joel McHale) returns to an office after spending years as an adventure reporter. He does not get millennials.
Why you should watch: To see how many episodes this show lasts before CBS gets dragged for not getting millennials, either.
Kevin Can Wait
How to watch: Mondays at 8:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 19
Featuring: Leonard Earl Howze
This seems alarmingly similar to King of Queens, just with a different improbably hot wife. And Kevin James is a retired cop instead of a delivery guy.
Why you should watch: Maybe it’s a TV spot-the-difference game that you play by watching alongside King of Queens?
How to watch: Tuesdays at 9 p.m. beginning on Sept. 20
Featuring: Jaime Lee Kirchner, Christopher Jackson
A new procedural focused around a psychologist/trial consultant/purported jury expert who doesn’t like lawyers.
Why you should watch: If Olivia Pope was a white guy and a trial consultant, this would be her show.
How to watch: Thursdays at 10 p.m. beginning Oct. 27
Featuring: Aaron Jennings
What if a tech bro created a hospital and completely revolutionized medicine with all sorts of see-through fingerprint-reading tablets? He’d still need a doctor — that would be Dermot Mulroney’s character — to practice medicine.
Why you should watch: You know how the early World’s Fairs used to have visions of the future that were completely, utterly off? This is like those, but with hospitals.
How to Watch: Sundays at 10 p.m. beginning Oct. 2
Featuring: Jon Michael Hill, Nelsan Ellis
Sure, it’s the classic Sherlock tale, except wrung through the CBS procedural wringer, but according to Vulture, Lucy Liu’s Joan Watson is the best version of the character.
Why you should watch: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are busy and season four of Sherlock doesn’t arrive until next year.
NCIS: New Orleans
How to watch: Tuesdays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 20
Featuring: CCH Pounder, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell
Kind of the weak link in the NCIS universe, but Pounder is beyond excellent as always, Scott Bakula can be a charmer and Mitchell is at his nerdy best.
Why you should watch: It’s truly and actually filmed in NOLA. And Vanessa Ferlito should bring some added melodrama.
How to watch: Available to stream Sept. 30
Featuring: Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard, Simone Missick
Audiences were first introduced to the modern-era Luke Cage in Netflix’s Jessica Jones. Luke Cage creator Cheo Hodari Coker has taken Luke and moved him from the New York City neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen back to Harlem, and saturated his story with sound and color. Not only is Luke Cage filled with warm golden tones — in contrast to the purples and blues of Jessica, it’s set to a beat — every episode is named after a Gang Starr song. Yes, the character is based on the hero for hire who first appeared in Marvel comics in 1972, but he’s shed his signature chain belt and acid yellow togs in favor of a black hoodie, making him a bulletproof superhero fit for the modern era.
Why you should watch: Colter offers a smoldering Luke Cage, but as cousins Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes and Mariah Dillard, Woodard and Ali are formidable, shudder-inducing villains. Plus, the music is fantastic.
Kulipari: An Army of Frogs
How to watch: Available to stream Sept. 2
Featuring: Keith David, Phil LaMarr, Trevor Pryce
It’s a 2-D animated show about frogs fighting evil scorpions created by two-time Super Bowl champion Trevor Price. This is meshed with aboriginal Australian folklore, as well as the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog. It’s “part of a fall wave of original kids’ programming coming to the service.”
Why you should watch: The kids will love it. And the merchandise too — it’s by Under Armour.
Hand of God
How to watch: Available to stream TBA on Amazon Prime
Featuring: Emayatzy Corinealdi, Nia Long, Andre Royo
A judge believes God is guiding him on a path of vigilante justice.
Why you should watch: Everyone loves a morally ambiguous lead. Nia Long’s casting in the second season is also a huge draw.
How to watch: Oct. 21 at 9 p.m.
Featuring: Lin Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, the original Hamilton company
This could have been nothing, just an interesting-but-quirky film from a director (Alex Horwitz) following his college roommate as he put together a concept album about the country’s first treasury secretary. But there was more to Hamilton, which originally began as The Hamilton Mixtape. In his documentary for PBS’s Great Performances series, Horwitz has not only captured the mania surrounding Broadway’s latest runaway hit musical, but the process that delivered it, and all of the emotional, breathtaking experiences that followed Hamilton’s success — such as the company’s visit to the White House.
Why you should watch: If you’ve seen Hamilton, the documentary provides an insider’s look at all your favorite cast members now that they’ve dispersed and moved to other career opportunities. And if you haven’t, the documentary offers generous clips of performance footage, not to mention the most comprehensive context for how and why Hamilton became such a big deal.
The Hollow Crown: War of the Roses
How to watch: Sundays, Dec. 11, 18 and 25 at 9 p.m.
Featuring: Sophie Okonedo
This season, The Hollow Crown, the well-regarded miniseries that adapts Shakespearean plays, takes on parts 1 and 2 of Henry VI and Richard III. Okonedo stars as Queen Margaret, joined by Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III. Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville is Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Judi Dench is Cecily, Duchess of York.
Why you should watch: This star-studded series breathes new life into the stories of England’s Civil War and Joan of Arc. It’s like your AP European history course come to life.
All The Difference
How to watch: Sept. 12 at 10 p.m.
Featuring: Krishaun Branch, Robert Henderson
From filmmakers Tod Lending, Joy Thomas Moore and Wes Moore comes a documentary that follows the ups and downs of two men (Henderson and Branch) from the South Side of Chicago attempting to become the first in their families to graduate from college. It isn’t easy.
Why you should watch: All the Difference highlights the difficulties of navigating college from freshman year to degree, from learning how to study well to combating homesickness.
Frontline: A Subprime Education/The Education of Omarina
How to watch: Sept. 12 at 8 p.m.
Featuring: Omarina Cabrera
This documentary lineup from Frontline is part of PBS’ Spotlight Education week of programming. A Subprime Education takes a deep dive into the fraudulent practices of for-profit colleges and the way they ripped off students by encouraging them to take out federal student loans to obtain near-worthless degrees. It’s immediately followed by The Education of Omarina, a student Frontline has been following since 2012, who went from struggling in her public school in the Bronx in New York to graduating from a prestigious New England prep school and getting into college.
Why you should watch: When it comes to accountability journalism, Frontline doesn’t hold anything back. For anyone unsure about the dangers of for-profit colleges, it’s a must-watch.
Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise
How to watch: Nov. 15 and 22 at 8 p.m.
Featuring: Henry Louis Gates, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Cornel West, DeRay Mckesson, Brittney Cooper
This is a new four-hour series from Gates that focuses on the last 50 years of black American history, with a special focus on contextualizing the Black Lives Matter movement.
Why you should watch: Gates’ documentaries are reliably politic and insightful, and this one captures the connections between the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today’s Black Lives Matter movement.
How to watch: Nov. 14-23 at 10 p.m.
Featuring: Sheila E., Ben Harper, Questlove, RZA, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, Q-Tip, Neneh Cherry
Why is it so difficult to pin down, in dramatic form, what it’s like to create music, in a studio, from inspiration to the final stages of mixing and mastering? What is it about our favorite songs that touch us like no other medium? Soundbreaking, PBS’ eight-episode documentary series looking at the production process, offers strikingly clear answers to both questions and features interviews with heavyweight after musical heavyweight. The series takes viewers through the journeys not only of creating new music, but new genres entirely.
Why you should watch: It’s a fascinating, deeply informative window into the creative processes of some of most talented and beloved musicians of the modern era.
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You
How to watch: Oct. 25 at 9 p.m.
Featuring: John Amos, Russell Simmons, Todd Bridges, Kim Fields, Marla Gibbs, Esther Rolle
Remember when “sitcom” wasn’t a dirty word that had to be replaced by “half-hour comedy (single camera, obviously)”? This documentary takes a look into the social significance of Lear’s work and how he was able to push the country into the modern age with yes, sitcoms. From All in the Family to Maude to Good Times and The Jeffersons, Lear held a mirror to the best and worst of America and everything in between.
Why you should watch: This look at the life and work of one of television’s greatest creators provides historical context for the mass of black stories and faces we’re seeing on television right now.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
How to watch: Wednesdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 21
Featuring: Ice T, Raul Esparza, Mariska Hargitay, and many, many guest stars.
The cast has undergone major changes over the years, and it’s so much in syndication, it’s easy to forget that new episodes are still being produced. But the thing that’s remained consistent? Detective Olivia Benson and SVU’s willingness to tackle any subject matter. Black Lives Matter? Covered. Police brutality and corruption? Gotcha. Questionable police tactics — yep.
Why you should watch: There’s no not watching it.
How to Watch: Thursdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 22
Featuring: Yaya DaCosta, S. Epatha Merkerson, Marlyne Barrett, Safura Fadavi, Mekia Cox, Ato Essandoh
Dick Wolf’s created his own televisual Chicago universe with Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire, with Chicago Justice coming next year. Ato Essandoh guest-stars this season as Chicago Med’s new cardiothoracic attending.
Why you should watch: What’s in store for Dr. Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell) now that his mentor is gone?
Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon
How to watch: Fridays at 8 p.m. on NBC beginning Sept. 23
Featuring: Nick Cannon
Cannon is back for NBC’s latest iteration of the clip show — more varied than America’s Funniest Home Videos and less bro-y than Tosh.O.
Why you should watch: To marvel at Nick Cannon’s continued ability to keep himself on multiple shows. Clearly, he is loved.
How to watch: Mondays at 10 p.m. beginning Oct. 3
Featuring: Malcolm Barrett
The modern-day perspective of the characters of the new time-traveling drama give the show a different lens to explore history, including the Hindenburg disaster and Lincoln’s assassination.
Why you should watch: “So much of history as we know it is the history of rich white dudes, and yet there’s so much untold history from a minority perspective, from a female perspective,” executive producer Eric Kripke told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour. “We’re really looking for a door into not just tell the iconic history that everyone’s heard before, but to tell a really exciting and fresh history that isn’t dusty and isn’t a school lesson, but is violent and exciting … and allows us to make commentary on issues that are happening today.”
The Good Place
How to watch: Mondays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 29
Featuring: William Jackson Harper
Harper co-stars alongside Kristen Bell and Ted Danson in a comedy about a not-so-good woman who’s mistakenly stuck in heaven aka The Good Place. There’s no cursing, but you can drink as much as you want without getting hung over.
Why you should watch: It’s a pithy, odd, yet refreshing approach to the afterlife.
This is Us
How to watch: Tuesdays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept 20
Featuring: Susan Kelechi Watson, Ron Cephas Jones, Sterling K. Brown
NBC’s new character-driven ensemble drama follows the lives of four people, all born on the same day, all 36 years old.
Why you should watch: We won’t judge you for watching to catch a glimpse of Milo Ventimiglia’s booty.
How to watch: Wednesdays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 14
Featuring: Michelle Hurd, Rob Brown, Ukweli Roach
A Jane Doe (that’s the character’s name) doesn’t know who she is or why she’s got these mysterious tattoos all over her body. And now she’s headed to a CIA black site.
Why you should watch: Archie Panjabi, who helped make The Good Wife so addictive, enters the show this season as the head of NSA’s secret department and nemesis to the CIA.
How to watch: Sundays at 10:30 p.m. beginning Oct. 9
Featuring: Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Tristen J. Winger, Sujata Day, Jay Ellis
Finally. It’s here. Or it will be. In another month.
Wooooooooooooo! Issa Rae’s new comedy, co-created with former Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore, follows the trials of late-20s adulthood in Inglewood, California, as lived through the eyes of everyone’s favorite awkward black girl. We should be clear: Insecure is not a continuation of Rae’s uber-popular web series, though it shares similar sensibilities. Fans of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl will be pleased to see that some of their favorites, namely Sujata Day and Tristen J. Winger, have also made the jump to HBO. Winger is now following up Baby Voice Darius with a character called Thug Yoda, while Day has been repositioned from BFF to adversary.
Why you should watch: There’s an uproariously funny-slash-inappropriate Marge Simpson joke that’s not to be missed, not to mention some nifty directorial vision from Melina Matsoukas and Cecile Emeke.
How to watch: Sundays at 9 p.m. beginning Oct. 2
Featuring: Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson
This adaptation of Michael Chrichton’s 1973 science fiction western thriller examines how people behave when they enter a deceptively real-seeming theme park, that allows them, should they choose, to indulge in their worst inclinations. Do the same rules of ethics apply if the “people” affected are actually android “hosts”?
Why you should watch: Newton, Wright, and Thompson are part of an impressive ensemble cast that also includes Anthony Hopkins, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood and and Ed Harris. It’s an interesting, bizarro spin on the Old West.
The Trans List
How to watch: TBA
Featuring: Janet Mock, Laverne Cox
The documentary is the next in filmmaker Timothy Greenfield Sanders’ List series that includes The Black List, The Out List, and The Latino List, which features revealing interviews with well-known American figures about their identity. The simple, stripped-down setting for the interviews not only gives the series a uniform style, but creates a sense of intimacy that makes for compelling television.
Why you should watch: The fact that Trans List exists separately from the Out List is an important distinction that points to our growing understanding in the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. Redefining Realness author Mock serves as interviewer.
How to watch: Sundays at 10 p.m. beginning Oct. 9
Featuring: Keisha Zollar, Geoffrey Owens
HBO It Girl Sarah Jessica Parker is back in another HBO dramedy after inhabiting quintessential single girl Carrie Bradshaw for so many years. Now, she plays Frances, who’s dealing with the aftermath of exiting her marriage to Robert (Thomas Haden Church). Zollar, who plays Grace, is a talented comic actress and a former instructor for the Upright Citizens Brigade improv comedy troupe. You may know her from the video she and her husband Andrew did for Glamour called Why Did You Marry Me?
Why you should watch: So what happens after one party sees that marriage isn’t working and says so out loud? Ouch.
How to watch: Tuesdays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 6
Featuring: Donald Glover, Keith Stanfield, Brian Tyree Henry
The show is an aggressively normcore take on black life in Atlanta and that’s in part due to its all-black writers room. Not normcore as in pulled straight from the Seinfeld wardrobe, but normcore in that the vision of Donald Glover’s Atlanta isn’t heavily stylized or cleaned up in a way that shouts this is television. It is a show about Regular Atlanta Negroes doing Regular Atlanta Negro things, captured in a single-camera format that makes it feel almost documentarian at times.
Why you should watch: Glover’s jailhouse experience is an expertly layered presentation of observation, comedy, and ennui.
American Horror Story
How to watch: Wednesdays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 14
Featuring: Gabourey Sidibe, Angela Bassett
Creator Ryan Murphy and FX have been unusually buttoned up about the latest season of American Horror Story. We don’t even know what this season’s theme is, but it looks possible that some unholy things will be happening with farm tools and a demon baby.
Why you should watch: If you don’t get nightmares easily, or if you like it that you do, we’re sure this will be right up your alley.
You’re the Worst
How to watch: Wednesdays at 10 p.m. (started Aug. 31)
Featuring: Samira Wiley, Brandon Mychal Smith, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Allen Maldonado
After a horrifying death for her beloved Orange is the New Black character Poussey, Samira Wiley gets to ease into something a little less fraught. In You’re the Worst, she plays the stable, straight woman therapist to Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash), who spent most of season two boozing and drugging her way through clinical depression. Somehow, Gretchen has managed to hang on to her job as publicist to the rap trio of Sam (Smith), S—stain (Britt-Gibson), and Honey Nutz (Maldonado).
Why you should watch: You’re the Worst took a dark turn last season while ending on a promising note. Now we get to see what happens to two narcissistic clowns’ post-declarations of love.
People of Earth
How to watch: Mondays at 9 p.m. beginning Oct. 31
Featuring: Wyatt Cenac, Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Wyatt Cenac stars in a new series created by David Jenkins and executive-produced by Conan O’Brien, Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Recreation), and Jeff Ross as Ozzie Graham, a skeptical journalist who finds himself reporting about a support group of “weirdo circus of attention-seekers and paranoid delusionals” who all say they’ve experienced alien encounters. And then, well, Graham has an alien encounter of his own. Graham follows the stories of this crowd of misfits that includes a woman who’s a part-time temp worker at a funeral home, and a man who believes most of our presidents were reptilian aliens (especially President Richard Nixon).
Why you should watch: Now that Stranger Things has reawakened a passion in us for all things science fiction, supernatural and just plain odd, an alien comedy seems rather well-timed, no?
How to watch: Mondays at 11 p.m. beginning Nov. 21
Featuring: Brandon Micheal Hall, Rosie Perez
There are quite a few shows this fall about narcissistic 20-somethings, and Search Party is another one. In this dark comedy, a group of five post-baccalaureates is looking for a former college mate, Chantal, who’s mysteriously disappeared. Perez plays a real estate agent who knows just a leeeetle too much.
Why you should watch: Newcomer Hall plays Julian, a journalist and ex-boyfriend to Alia Shawkat, whom you may remember from terrific performances in Arrested Development or Whip It.
Loosely Exactly Nicole
How to watch: Mondays at 10:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 5
Featuring: Nicole Byer
If there’s such a thing as sunny narcissism, Nicole Byer has managed to tap it in her comedy series. You may be familiar with Byer from Girl Code or her backstage duties at the MTV Video Music Awards. In Loosely Exactly, Byer plays a younger version of herself living in Van Nuys, California, with her roommate Devin (Jacob Wysocki). TV Nicole struggles to get auditions. She struggles so much that she paints her Asian baby-sitting charge (played by Fresh Off the Boat’s Forrest Wheeler) brown and tries to pass him off as her son to take him to a casting call for families. She also seriously contemplates saying yes to a Tinder hookup just for access to air conditioning. Look — summers in Van Nuys are hot.
Why you should watch: Nicole and Devin are — how shall we say this? — terrible people, offering a humorous window into messy, disappointing, crazy young adulthood.
How to watch: Nov. 17 at TBA
Featuring: Adrian Lester, Sophie Okonedo, Dennis Haysbert
The United Kingdom is experiencing its own growing pains when it comes to making the BBC more reflective of its population, especially the bustling jumble of cultures that is London. As The Night Of star Riz Ahmed said recently of himself and Idris Elba, “this is what British looks like.” So the existence of Undercover, a crime drama which stars two of Britain’s best black actors (actually, two of Britain’s best actors, period) in lead roles that aren’t directly or stereotypically tied to their race, is pretty remarkable. Okonedo and Lester star as a middle-class couple with three kids and a dog. Okonedo plays Maya, a civil rights barrister who represents death row inmates in the United States and is working to get justice for a protester who died in police custody. Lester is Nick, a former undercover officer who used to spy on political groups, but gave it up once he met Maya, trading his career for life as a writer and supportive husband. Now Nick’s being blackmailed into spying on Maya. Undercover aired Sunday nights on BBC One, the prime spot for prestige television in the U.K., previously occupied by such shows as War and Peace and The Night Manager.
Why you should watch: Season five of Luther is a possibility, but meanwhile, Undercover offers a great alternative for fans jonesing for a fix of British political drama.
How to watch: Wednesdays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 7
Featuring: From showrunner Ava DuVernay, Queen Sugar is OWN’s first foray into the crowded arena of prestige cable drama. Inspired by the Natalie Baszile novel of the same name, DuVernay, together with her mentor Oprah Winfrey, has produced one of the most intimate and personal looks at the lives of black women to ever grace a screen. Each of the 12 episodes of the first season were directed by women. Queen Sugar follows three siblings struggling to hang on to their father’s Louisiana sugar cane farm in the wake of his death. If The Knick is a study in translating the style of Steven Soderbergh for the small screen, Queen Sugar does the same for DuVernay, bringing the director’s signature aesthetic of independent film to television.
Why you should watch: The sheer gorgeousness of the actors and their surrounds is addictive; you just don’t want to stop looking.
How to watch: Monday-Friday at 6 p.m. beginning Sept. 19
Featuring: T.D. Jakes
One of the most prolific preachers in America rightly gets a talk show. The Dallas-based minister will shoot this show before a live studio audience in Los Angeles and will take on social topics, and interview celebrities and nonfamous folks.
Why you should watch: If you’ve ever driven past a black church and seen thousands of people lined up, it likely was because Jakes was a guest that day — his gifted words are worth waiting in line for.
If Loving You is Wrong
How to watch: Tuesdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 13
Featuring: April Parker Jones, Dawan Owens, Denzel Wells, Edwina Findley Dickerson, Eltony Williams, Heather Hemmens, Malik Whitfield, Matt Cook, Tiffany Haddish (non-cast: Tyler Perry and Mark E. Swinton)
The soap opera written, directed, and created by Tyler Perry follows five women whose lives are replete with scandal and betrayal.
Why you should watch: Someone needs to whiteboard all the relationships on this show to make heads or tails of them.
Iyanla: Fix My Life
How to watch: Saturdays at 9 p.m. (started Sept. 10)
Featuring: Iyanla Vanzant
Inspirational, but tough-as-nails, Vanzant helps damaged families find peace, resolve and helps them figure out solutions.
Why you should watch: This season she’ll dispel the myth of the “Angry Black Woman,” by inviting eight women to move into a “House of Healing.”
The Eric Andre Show
How to watch: Fridays at midnight starting Aug. 5
Featuring: Eric Andre, Hannibal Buress
Somehow, even four seasons in, Andre and Buress are still catching celebrities off guard with their cable-access parody talk show. The show relies on making unwitting guests (such as Tichina Arnold, Wiz Khalifa and Tyler, the Creator) as uncomfortable as possible with Andre’s seeming ignorance of even the most basic social graces.
Why you should watch: Well, there was the time he set rats loose on Stacey Dash’s feet.
How to watch: Wednesdays at 9 p.m. beginning Oct. 5
Featuring: Mekhi Phifer
Inspired by the 2000 science fiction film of the same name, Frequency follows New York police detective Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List) after her life is upended when she discovers she can talk to her dead father on his old ham radio, but they’re separated by 20 years.
Why you should watch: Tune in for some emotional, oddball mystery-cracking.
How to Watch: Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 5
Featuring: David Ramsey, Cynthia Addai-Robinson
Stephen Amell stars as Oliver Queen, the billionaire who becomes Arrow, or Green Arrow, in his quest to fight crime in DC Comics’ Starling City. Addai-Robinson appears as Amanda Waller and Ramsey plays Queen’s bodyguard and partner Spartan.
Why you should watch: A billionaire vigilante who fights crime with a bow and arrow sounds incredibly cheesy, but the show’s focus on developing Oliver Queen’s backstory is what elevates it. Queen spent five years on a remote island, which lends itself to lots of flashback opportunities.
How to Watch: Tuesdays at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 4
Featuring: Jesse L. Martin, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Keiynan Lonsdale
This adaptation of the DC comic follows the life of crime scene investigator Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) who becomes the titular Flash and gains the power of superspeed after being struck by lightning. Martin plays Central City police detective Joe West.
Why you should watch: Even though The Flash and Arrow are tied together, Flash stands on its own, keeping its audience guessing just when it’s about to fall into redundancy.
How to Watch: Mondays at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 10
Featuring: Mehcad Brooks, David Harewood
Brooks plays the ever-devoted James Olsen, who has a massive crush on Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl/Kara Danvers and is one of the few people entrusted with the knowledge of her true identity. Now that they’re finally both aware of how they feel about each other, what happens next?
Why you should watch: Supergirl moves to the CW after airing its debut season on CBS. Hope that helps it find the same spark as network cohorts The Flash and Arrow. Also: musical episode?
Jim & Chrissy: Vow or Never
How to watch: Thursdays at 10 p.m. (it started Sept. 1)
Featuring: Jim Jones and Chrissy Lampkin
The whole reason we’re all so obsessed with Love & Hip-Hop anything is because of this couple, who kicked off the whole thing in the inaugural New York season on VH1.
Why you should watch: Everyone has always wanted to know when these two were going to jump the broom. Sounds like we’re about to finally see it. And if not, we’ll surely be entertained in the process.
Money Power Respect
How to watch: Thursdays at TBA beginning Oct 13
These women aren’t “housewives.” This is a group of six black female entertainment lawyers who work with their music industry clients — but we’re guessing there’s some drama here all the same.
Why you should watch: Sounds like there will be a shift from the norm in this new reality show.
Marriage Boot Camp Reality Stars
How to watch: Fridays at 9 p.m. beginning Oct. 7
Featuring: Keke Wyatt and Michael Ford, Margeaux and Merica
An assembly of the world’s biggest hot messes — many of whom we’ve all seen unravel on reality TV — and their significant others live in a big house and go through couples therapy.
Why you should watch: Don’t want to go through therapy yourself? That’s what reality TV is for!
Growing Up Hip Hop
How to watch: TBA
Featuring: Angela Simmons, Romeo Miller, Damon Dash, Kristinia DeBarge, TJ Mizell, Egypt Criss, Andre King, Brianna Issacs
Some of the children of hip-hop’s architects all hang out, live their lives in the spotlight and try to make names for themselves on their own.
Why you should watch: Virginal Angela Simmons — daughter of the legendary Rev. Run — is pregnant and we’ve all been dying to find out the who, the what, the when and the why of it all. Based on previews, we’re about to find out. Also? This show is actually fun to watch.
The Walking Dead
How to watch: Sundays at 9 p.m. beginning Oct. 23
Featuring: Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lennie James
This viral zombie apocalypse sensation has captured audiences from the beginning, and Gurira absolutely sings as Michonne. After an uneven start in earlier seasons, it’s established itself as must-see Sunday night viewing by making zombies the backdrop for exploring humanity and loss of control.
Why you should watch: Bolstered by a well-balanced ensemble cast, Walking Dead is a well-constructed mish-mash of horror, imaginative violence, and suspense.
Legends of Chamberlain Heights
How to watch: Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 14
Featuring: Michael Starrbury, Josiah Johnson
An animated comedy follows three benchwarmers on their high school basketball team — Jamal, Grover, and Milk. Unfortunately, the humor is just as crude as the animation and the show fails the most important test: Is it funny?
Why you should watch: Because you can’t find the remote?
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
How to Watch: Monday-Thursday at 11 p.m.
Featuring: Trevor Noah, Roy Wood Jr.
Trevor Noah hosts the nation’s most established brand in television news parody, having taken the reins from predecessor Jon Stewart.
Why you should watch: Have you heard? There’s a presidential election in coming in two months.
Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman
How to watch: Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (started Aug. 30)
Featuring: Morgan Freeman
Consider yourself forgiven if you mistakenly assumed this was a show about space hosted by Morgan Freeman — that’s what it sounds like. However, it’s not. Through the Wormhole has more in common with Shankar Vedantam’s Hidden Brain podcast, answering questions about human nature.
Why you should watch: For answers to questions such as what would happen if we had no privacy to why do we lie to is doing nothing the best way to address terrorism, this show has your back.
How to watch: Mondays at 11 p.m. beginning Sept. 19
Featuring: Neil DeGrasse Tyson
No, it’s not just Tyson babbling about astrophysics all the time, though his love for all things space is contagious. Tyson’s weekly gathering with a coterie of fun nerdy types — Bill Nye is a frequent guest — is a discussion of science, culture, and whatever else they feel like talking about. Last season, Tyson, perhaps unexpectedly, spoke with David Byrne for a segment about the importance of art education.
Why you should watch: Come for the interesting guests, and stay for the unexpected conversations. Previous guests have included Bill Clinton, George Takei, and Whoopi Goldberg.
Rob & Chyna
How to watch: Sundays at 9 p.m. (started Sept. 11)
Featuring: Blac Chyna, Rob Kardashian and entourage
Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian finally have their own spin-off show and we get to see the love flourish between the new couple as they prepare for their baby.
Why you should watch: Let’s be honest — we’re all interested in how this couple became a twosome in the first place. This reality show is a soap opera-lover’s dream.
How to watch: Wednesdays at TBA beginning Nov. 2
Featuring: Ashley Madekwe
Madekwe plays Tituba (yes, like Tituba from The Crucible and also real life) in this thriller set during the Salem witch trials. Season three picks up with the witches planning to summon the devil to earth, only to have him foil their plans.
Why you should watch: Marilyn Manson joins the cast this season as Mary Sibley (who’s supposedly dead) is the only hope for outsmarting the devil. She is his mother, after all.
How to watch: Tuesdays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 13
Featuring: Ed Gordon (including interviews with Nate Parker and the Mothers of the Movement)
One of the TV’s best journalists returns to the medium and launches a new talk show.
Why you should watch: Gordon knows how to interview all sorts — actors, musicians, politicians — and he gets the goods.
How to watch: Thursdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 15
Featuring: Cornelius Ortiz, Dexter Simmons, Kimber Richardson, Laurence Basse, Mah-Jing Wong, Tasha Henderson, Zendaya
This season features the show’s first pop-up shop, and Zendaya drops by to be a guest judge.
Why you should watch: Tim Gunn hated Season 14, too. This one’s got to be better, right?
Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge, & Me
How to watch: October date/time TBA
Featuring: Rhyon Nicole Brown, R. Marcos Taylor, Curtis Hamilton
Nicole Brown stars as Michel’le in the made-for-TV movie about the singer and former girlfriend of N.W.A’s Dr. Dre.
Why you should watch: If you want the stories of the women behind N.W.A, the ones who didn’t make much of an appearance in Straight Outta Compton, this is the biopic for you.
How to watch: Fridays at 8 p.m. beginning Sept. 16
Featuring: Kellita Smith
It’s a zombie-apocalypse drama with levity! Kellita Smith stars as a Lt. Roberta Warren, zombie apocalypse survivor, and part of the group heading west to take prison experiment and zombie bite survivor Murphy (Keith Allan) to the last remaining Center for Disease Control.
Why you should watch: Because The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead and iZombie weren’t enough for you.
How to watch: Fridays at 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 23
Featuring: Rukiya Bernard, Trezzo Mahoro
Vanessa “Van” Helsing, a descendant of famed vampire exterminator Abraham Van Helsing, is on a mission to save the world from a vampire apocalypse, you know, as one does.
Why you should watch: Don’t come for the gender-flipped vampire hunter. Come for the fact that her bite can bring vampires back to life.
How to watch: Wednesdays at TBA beginning Nov. 30
Featuring: Dennis Haysbert
SyFy’s new series from executive producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon imagines a future where corporations rules every part of a person’s life — and what happens when they try to resist.
Why you should watch: The slick vistas of this uniquely imagined universe will draw you in.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
How to watch: Thursdays at 8 p.m. (started Aug. 25)
Featuring: RuPaul, Coco Montrese, Todrick Hall, Raven-Symoné
RuPaul’s original series has been recognized with an Emmy nomination for his mission to bring his brand of subversive fabulous to the masses. The All Stars spin-off features all of your favorite queens from seasons past, plus guest judges Raven-Symoné and Todrick Hall.
Why you should watch: We could all use a little more Technicolor, wigtastic, shade-throwing camp in our lives.
The Mindy Project
How to watch: Tuesdays beginning Oct. 4
Featuring: Mindy Kaling, Xosha Roquemore
Mindy Kaling — on a constant quest for love — shows the world that curvy brown girls are sexy, smart and funny. Maybe this will be the season she’ll get her happily ever after.
Why you should watch: Roquemore is hilarious as the nurse in Kaling’s OB-GYN practice. We need more of her quick banter and sideshow comedy.
How to watch: Thursdays at 10 p.m. beginning Oct. 13
Featuring: David Ajala, Joey Auzenne
A supernatural drama that feels at least partly inspired by Inception — the main characters are all stuck in different parts of the same dream.
Why you should watch: It’s a thriller that imagines what it would be like to connect “cerebral cortex to cerebral cortex.” Jeez, is nothing private anymore? Not even thoughts?
How to watch: Tuesdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 20
Featuring: Whoopi Goldberg (executive producer), Isis King, Laith De La Cruz, Dominique Jackson, Ren Spriggs, Arisce Wanzer
Goldberg’s new reality series follows the lives of the models of Slay Model Management, the first modeling agency specifically for transgender people.
Why you should watch: There’s still a very limited representation of transgender people on television. In some ways, a reality series like Strut could function similarly for the transgender community as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (however dubious it may seem to modern eyes) did for the gay community when it first aired in 2003.