By Devon Shuman, Culture Editor
Some call it the Golden Age of Television. Some call it Peak TV. No matter what label you throw on it, however, the fact remains — television is better now than it’s ever been before.
While this is great as it provides viewers with more access to high-quality programming, there is a downside. With the industry growing at such an unprecedented rate, networks and streaming services are ramping up their production levels and putting more and more shows on the air. Citing research from his company, FX President John Landgraf predicted this past summer that there are over 400 original scripted shows on the air this year.
With so many programs to choose from, it might be overwhelming trying to choose what to watch while putting off your latest class assignment. With that in mind, here are my picks for the best new shows premiering this fall. Procrastinate away!
In this wild era of TV, FX is the network most committed to consistently producing high-quality shows. With phenomenal programs such as “Fargo,” “The Americans,” and “Louie,” FX is constantly creating unique stories and pushing the limits of narrative storytelling. But that’s only part of the reason that “Atlanta” is the show I’m most looking forward to this fall. With the wildly talented Donald Glover (“Community,” “The Martian”) at the helm, Atlanta tells the story of Earn Marks (Glover), a determined college dropout who represents his cousin, Paper Boi (Bryan Tyree Henry), a young rapper on his way up through the Atlanta rap scene. Glover intentionally assembled an entirely African-American writing staff as he hopes to provide viewers a nuanced look at life, art and what it’s like being black in America. As a gifted writer, actor and rapper, Glover is sure to provide us with one of television’s best new programs.
Designated Survivor, ABC
I’ll be the first to admit that I harbor a heavy distaste toward the basic cable networks. While premium channels and streaming services are consistently churning out new and exciting programs, networks such as ABC and CBS seem content with the same rubbish that will get them good ratings (these are, in fact, the people that just decided Kevin James needed a new sitcom). That being said, I have to concede that ABC’s “Designated Survivor” has drawn me in with its simple, yet intriguing premise. Kiefer Sutherland is the designated survivor, the one member of the presidential cabinet who doesn’t attend the State of the Union. When a terrorist attack strikes the Capitol, he must assume the role of the presidency. Tossed into the political spotlight and tasked with healing an injured nation, Tom Kirkman (Sutherland) will certainly have a lot on his plate. It could just be another bland network drama, but like its titular character “Designated Survivor” has the ability to elevate itself to greatness.
With a sprawling cast of eccentric characters, an intricate plot and wild amounts of sex and violence, “Westworld” seems to be HBO’s attempt at replacing “Game of Thrones,” which will be wrapping up over its next two seasons. Based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi film, “Westworld” centers on a futuristic amusement park where guests pay to interact with robots that populate a virtual western landscape. Things get complicated, however, when the robots start malfunctioning and killing the human visitors. It’s like “Jurassic Park” meets “Ex Machina” as the park’s curators start recognizing the robots’ growing sentience. With an all-star cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris and Evan Rachel Wood, and with executive producers Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy and J.J. Abrams, “Westworld” could become the new water-cooler TV obsession.
One Mississippi, Amazon
If you haven’t yet heard of comedian Tig Notaro, now is your chance. In 2012, Notaro took the stage only four days after being diagnosed with cancer in both of her breasts and performed an immensely personal set that instantly became legendary. Two years later, after receiving a double mastectomy, she did a set topless, shocking the audience with her scars but overshadowing them with the power of her comedy. Now, Notaro’s semi-autobiographical show about dealing with the death of her mother has been picked up by Amazon. Following in the recent tradition of dark, half-hour comedies such as “You’re the Worst” and “Casual,” “One Mississippi” will find a way to work through grief and misery with the power of humor. Obscure streaming shows often fall by the wayside, but this is one you’ll definitely not want to miss.