We're in the era of peak TV, but quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality. That's why we've combed through the upcoming fall schedule and picked out a must-watch new show for every night of the week. We've also marked a few shows we had strong thoughts about with tags both good (best return to TV, family friendly), and bad (LOL nope).
Here's your fall guide to the overwhelming boob-tube buffet. For the streaming shows not to miss, click here. And for a full schedule of Fall TV premieres, click here.
MUST WATCH: Westworld
9 p.m., HBO, Oct. 2
Inspired by the 1973 film of the same name, Westworld is an exploration of artificial intelligence and human vice. Basically, rich folks can pay to visit Westworld (in the film, also Medieval World and Roman World), a place that's — you guessed it — Wild West-themed, and partake in anything their little hearts desire. Nothing is illegal and anything goes. Kind of like HBO. Want to drink like a fish, shoot up a bank and take home a prostitute? Go for it. And here are some leather chaps and a cowboy hat to make it feel authentic. It stars Anthony Hopkins, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris and Thandie Newton.
BEST RETURN TO TV: Divorce
10 p.m., HBO, Oct. 9
It's been 12 years since Sex and the City ended (let's not talk about the movies), and we are very excited to welcome Sarah Jessica Parker, back to the small screen. She plays Frances, a woman going through the brutal motions of ending her marriage to Robert (Thomas Haden Church). This half-hour dramedy comes from Sharon Horgan, England's Tina Fey and the creator and star of Catastrophe, so we can also expect some raunchy humor.
10:30 p.m., HBO, Oct. 9
Hopes are high for HBO's half-hour comedy, in part because entertainment industry diversity has been a huge topic this year, but more so because The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, the Web series by Issa Rae, has been hailed as hilariously bold and refreshing. Rae stars as an L.A. woman balancing work, dating and her circle of friends, though she has summed up the show's underlying question as, "What does it mean when you don't fit into this definition of being black?"
Son of Zorn
Fox; special preview at 8 p.m. Sept. 11; regular 8:30 p.m. time slot begins Sept. 25
Son of Zorn is outrageous and ridiculous in all the right places, a blend of animation and live action with Jason Sudeikis voicing the lead character, who happens to be a scantily clad warrior from a fictional island nation. What could go wrong? Zorn is just a regular, ultra-manly warrior who wants to reconnect with his teenage son, Alangulon, a.k.a. "Alan," played by Johnny Pemberton. We are more interested in hearing the love story of Zorn and his ex-wife Edie (Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and how they made a human child.
MOST BINGEABLE: Eyewitness
10 p.m., USA, Oct. 16
From the opening scene, Eyewitness sets a grisly tone. While fooling around in a secluded cabin, two boys end up witnessing a triple homicide. They barely escape, but with the perpetrator still out there, they soon realize they can't keep the crime, and their relationship, secret. Julianne Nicholson, whose multiple supporting roles give her one of those familiar faces you never can place, leads the cast as the small-town sheriff who investigates the crime, even after the FBI steps in. This 10-episode series is adapted from a critically acclaimed Norwegian show. We'll wait and watch it in its entirety over a weekend.
MUST WATCH: Timeless
10 p.m., NBC, Oct. 3
Part of this season's time travel trend, this series teams a professor (the history supergeek), a soldier (the butt-kicker) and their tech guy (the neurotic one) tasked with chasing a rogue time traveler (Goran Visnjic, ER) with dubious intent, starting with a trip back to the Hindenburg disaster. Slight changes lead to major butterfly-effect consequences — a gimmick that might be tough to string out over entire seasons. The complications of traveling through earlier America with a black man, however, could make interesting commentary if NBC is willing to keep going there.
MOST FAMILY-FRIENDLY: Kevin Can Wait
8:30 p.m., CBS, Sept. 19; moves to 8 p.m. on Oct. 24
Prime-time veteran Kevin James returns to TV as a blue-collar family man (a recently retired cop) who's into day drinking with his also-retired cop buddies, eating all the hamburgers, disliking his daughter's boyfriend and annoying his gorgeous wife (Erinn Hayes), but in a cute way with lots of laugh track. It's comfortably familiar, formulaic and a safe bet to become a hit.
People of Earth
9 p.m., TBS, Oct. 31
From executive producers Greg Daniels (The Office) and Conan O'Brien comes this absurd comedy about aliens. People of Earth is a welcome addition to TBS's already stellar lineup of original comedies. The show centers around an alien abduction support group that a skeptical journalist, played by Daily Show alum Wyatt Cenac, joins. The ensemble cast also includes Ana Gasteyer and Oscar Nuñez (The Office). But the real laughs come from the aliens themselves, who have relationship and workplace problems — just like us!
TBD, TBS, Nov. 21
We don't need another introspective show about the weird meandering lives of millennials, but this one involves a murder-mystery plot that will keep us watching for at least a few more episodes. Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development, Ilana Glazer doppelganger) plays doormat Dory, who makes it her personal mission to find a missing college acquaintance.
10 p.m., ABC, Oct. 3
ABC is determined to keep Hayley Atwell on TV despite abruptly canceling Agent Carter earlier this year. Atwell plays a 30-something former first daughter who seems to have never left her rebellious-teenager phase. To save face (and her mother's Senate run) after a drug charge, she reluctantly takes a job to lead Los Angeles' newly created Conviction Integrity Unit. This tedious procedural feels like Cold Case meets How to Get Away With Murder, so we'll totally DVR this for a weekend binge.
WORST RETURN TO TV: Man With a Plan
8:30 p.m., CBS, Oct. 24
Matt LeBlanc returns to network TV to play a contractor and dad who takes a bigger role with the kids when his wife returns to full-time work. You can decide whether the whole Mr. Mom novelty is regressive or simply old school, but like a stereotype of a TV dad from 50 years ago, LeBlanc's Adam Burns isn't crazy about his wife (Liza Snyder) having a job and is disturbingly puzzled about the day-to-days of caring for his own kids.
MUST WATCH: Atlanta
10 p.m., FX, premiered Sept. 6
Donald Glover (Community) plays Earn Marks, a bright but dead-broke dude who discovers his cousin Alvin "Paperboy" Miles (Brian Tyree Henry, of Broadway's The Book of Mormon) is a buzzing mixtape rapper, and wants to be his manager. But this is no Empire-style soap about hip-hop superstardom. Earn and Paperboy are grounded in unglamorous reality; they have a goal but no idea how to reach it, and the show dives into their lives at a leisurely pace befitting its Southern setting. It's not that funny — if anything, it feels like a prestige drama cut down to a half-hour — but it has a light, dreamlike touch; it's beautifully filmed; and the characters are deep and likable.You'll want to keep watching, even if you're never really sure where it's going. Jay Cridlin, Times pop culture/music critic
TISSUES REQUIRED: This Is Us
10 p.m., NBC, Sept. 20; moves to 9 p.m. on Oct. 11
Sometimes, we just want to cry, okay? For those still reeling from last season's Parenthood series finale, NBC found us a new place to wallow in all the feels. Step aside, twisty political thrillers and crime procedurals; This Is Us is TV drama comfort food. We immediately fell in love with these characters who share the same birthday, and more. Our teenage crushes Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember) and Milo Ventimiglia (Gilmore Girls) play soon-to-be parents of triplets. But it's Sterling K. Brown who makes our hearts melt. He gave a standout performance in FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, but here he's a family man who decides it's time to meet his biological father. We'll be tuning in each episode for our weekly cry fest.
BEST ROM-COM: No Tomorrow
9 p.m., the CW, Oct. 4
We are definitely here for hipster, Australian-accented Michael Fassbender-look-alike Joshua Sasse (Galavant). Evie (Tori Anderson) is a risk-averse goody-two-shoes who avoids spontaneity. Naturally, awkward situations find her anyway. But when she meets Sasse's Xavier at a farmers market (where else?), Evie's world is turned upside down. Xavier is exciting, charming and loves adventure. Just one problem: He believes the apocalypse is coming. Deal breaker? Not for us.
TNT, 9 p.m., Nov. 15
In her first TV role after Downton Abbey, Michelle Dockery is quickly making sure she's not typecast as the mean and proper Lady Mary for the rest of her life. Here she plays Letty, a woman fresh out of prison and trying to get her life back on track for the sake of her 10-year-old son. But immediately she's entangled in a hot mess of debauchery and seduction. What's that M.I.A. song that comes to mind? Oh, right. "Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well."
9 p.m., CBS, Sept. 20
When Tony DiNozzo's time on NCIS had more or less run its course, Michael Weatherly decided to leave the CBS juggernaut to see what else is out there. He didn't have to look far. Here he's Dr. Jason Bull, the head of a top trial consulting firm. Defense lawyers hire him to go inside the minds of the jury members, and this happens quite literally when characters check out of scenes to share their unfiltered thoughts. Bull is inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw. Yes, that Dr. Phil.
8:30 p.m., ABC, Oct. 11
We get it, ABC. Westport, Conn., is full of ridiculously wealthy housewives who are seemingly "perfect," and mother of three Katie Otto (played by Katy Mixon from Mike & Molly, above,) just doesn't fit in with her flawed family and curvy body. But fatness as a comedic trope has been exhausted. The original title for this series was The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport. COME ON. Take away the constant reminder of Otto's supposed fatness and American Housewife is a hilarious family program that shows what some people are really like under all that athleisure. Diedrich Bader plays her fun-loving husband.
MUST WATCH: Designated Survivor
10 p.m., ABC, Sept. 21
The premise is irresistible: A low-level cabinet member (Kiefer Sutherland) is sequestered in safety during the State of the Union address in the event of a catastrophic attack. When that attack wipes out most of Washington's power players, the guy immediately becomes president. How was this not a terrible action movie in the '90s? Thankfully, this drama from screenwriter David Guggenheim (Safe House) makes great use of its golden premise. Unlike his indestructible 24 hero Jack Bauer, Sutherland's Tom Kirkland is a decent, soft-spoken family man who isn't sure he's ready for his sudden promotion. But he finds strength as a few D.C. do-gooders (including ex-24 co-star Kal Penn and Nikita's Maggie Q) help bring the postattack world into focus. Designated Survivor feels fully baked from the get-go. We'd be shocked if it doesn't survive to Season 2. ---Jay Cridlin, Times pop culture/music critic
8:30 p.m., ABC, Sept. 21
Add this to an already outstanding list of diverse ABC family sitcoms. Minnie Driver stars as a tenacious mother of three. It's a bumpy ride for the DiMeo family as they move to yet another new school for the oldest child, played by Micah Fowler, a teen with cerebral palsy. This isn't an after-school special about the unique challenges of a special-needs family. Jay Jay isn't around to teach everyone else a lesson on being a good person. He's a real person with thoughts and story lines.
BEST REMAKE: Lethal Weapon
8 p.m., Fox, Sept. 21
Big explosions and quickly wrapped-up crime plots abound in this TV version of the quintessential '80s/'90s buddy-cop franchise. There's nothing fresh here, but it does have the feeling, and even a bit of the chemistry, that made the Lethal Weapon films fun. Clayne Crawford as nothing-to-lose cop Martin Riggs skillfully channels Mel Gibson from that long-ago era when Gibson was the most charming guy in Hollywood, while Damon Wayans, is a tad goofier as Murtaugh than Danny Glover's film version.
BEST USE OF CLASSIC '90s JAMS: Frequency
9 p.m., the CW, Oct. 5
Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List, Mad Men) took after her father by becoming a police detective, even though Frank Sullivan (Riley Smith) was estranged from his family and died in 1996 during an undercover mission. When she discovers she can speak to him through an old ham radio, things get wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey, as the Doctor would say. They both mess with time and reap the consequences. Frequency isn't as sci-fi as it sounds. The father-daughter relationship between Raimy and Frank is the definite anchor to the series.
Midnight, Hulu, Oct. 19
Hugh Laurie, can do no wrong, and it's wonderful he's back leading a show. And playing a doctor. This time he's forensic neuropsychiatrist Dr. Eldon Chance. Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire), plays a troubled patient, and Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl) is downright frightening as, well, we're not sure what he's up to, yet. The eerie first episode hints at what's to come: mistaken identity, police corruption and mental illness. We're not quite sure where any of this is going, but Laurie sure is captivating to watch. Unlike Amazon and Netflix, Hulu releases one new episode a week. We'll let these collect and watch all at once when it's done.
Legends of Chamberlain Heights
10:30 p.m., Comedy Central, Sept. 14
A very adult series about kids warming the bench on the Michael Clark Duncan High School basketball team who are "legends" only in their own minds. They're obsessed with sex, parties and being cool in hilariously superficial ways — imagine an animated Superbad — but with a level of race humor and commentary that's going to make sensitive viewers squirm more than lead-in South Park, and that's saying something.
MUST WATCH: Pitch
9 p.m., Fox, Sept. 22
If there's no crying in baseball, well then this show isn't just about baseball. We're smitten with Kylie Bunbury, who plays Ginny Baker, a young female pitcher entering the major leagues. The first episode swiftly weaves between her tense first day as a San Diego Padre and her kid years playing ball with her dad (Michael Beach). The dynamics between characters add to the excitement that naturally comes with sports. So while the world seems ready for a woman breaking the glass ceiling in baseball, it's her teammates who give her the hardest time. It's up to scruffy Mark-Paul Gosselaar, to bring them together, with help from the coach (Dan Lauria). Major League Baseball is heavily involved with the show, so it will stay somewhat realistic about what's happening in the baseball world. So baseball's seemingly never-ending season will continue, because Pitch hits it out of the park. (Sorry not sorry.)
The Good Place
NBC; special preview at 10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19; regular 8:30 p.m. time slot begins Sept. 22
When you find yourself already quoting a show that hasn't even aired yet, you know it's going to be "forking" good. "Wait, why can't I say 'fork'?" NBC has done a heck of a job promoting this show, and for good reason. Kristen Bell, is as funny as ever playing Eleanor, a garbage person who mistakenly goes to the Good Place (kind of like heaven, because in this world, all religions are sort of right). Bell's co-stars, Ted Danson, and William Jackson Harper, are also having lots of fun with the quirky concept from Michael Schur (creator of The Office, Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine).
10 p.m., FX, premiered Sept. 8
Created by Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K., it's like a spiritual cousin to FX's Louie in that way that it makes you feel fairly uncomfortable, and you're not always sure where to laugh, but you definitely do. Adlon, in a well-deserved series lead, isn't letting the complex role of an empowered-yet-frazzled but always filthily hilarious single mom to three very different daughters go to waste.
10 p.m., USA, Oct. 13
Hailing from The Walking Dead's Gale Anne Hurd, Falling Water features three strangers who, through strangely connected circumstances, realize they are dreaming separate parts of the same dream. Though all three are on personal quests, their collective dream offers clues to guide them. Surprisingly, this is not a J.J. Abrams creation, though it does have some serious Lost vibes.
SEXIEST NEW SHOW: Notorious
9 p.m., ABC, Sept. 22
Though this ABC show is inspired by true-life stories, we as journalists feel it's not a very accurate representation of the interplay between criminal law and the media. But hey, it's TV. Julia George (Piper Perabo) and Jake Gregorian (Daniel Sunjata) both want to control the media and each other. She produces the news, he supplies the content as a defense attorney with plenty of high-level clients. Everyone is beautiful, and everyone gets to do what they want and who they want. Throw in a juicy celebrity homicide, and ABC now has network TV gold.
LOL NOPE: The Great Indoors
8:30 p.m., CBS, Oct. 27
A renowned magazine writer (Joel McHale) transitions from in-the-field adventure reporting to guiding a website run by listicle-loving, social media-addicted millennial desk jockeys. Modern media are no doubt ripe for parody, but this show's jokes rely on so many stereotypes (there are at least three participation trophy jokes in the pilot) that it's offensive to 20-somethings and older people alike.
10 p.m., CBS, Oct. 27
When a veteran surgeon with a shady past (Dermot Mulroney) joins a pretentious tech geek (Augustus Prew) to run his superpowered hospital ... Yawn. The premise isn't nearly as innovative as the world it sets out to create. We failed to stay interested in this "new school" approach to medicine where doctors and specialists argue over fancy glass computer screens. We expected so much more from Parenthood creator Jason Katims.
MUST WATCH: High Maintenance
11 p.m., HBO, Sept. 16
A comically deadpan weed dealer known simply as "The Guy," played by series co-creator Ben Sinclair, is the only recurring character as he delivers his product via bicycle and also delivers viewers to hilariously weird, poignant vignettes featuring eccentric and wildly diverse customers from every cross-section of New York culture, from middle-aged swingers to overachieving Islamic teenagers, to classically British actors who apparently love screwing with strangers' minds, and sometimes it all happens within a single Brooklyn apartment building. Even when a story seems purposely set up to feel cliche, this show always throws you a curveball, making it oddly thrilling for an offbeat comedy. HBO has only committed to six episodes of this gem, but luckily there are about a dozen episodes of the original web series of the same name just waiting for you to stream on HBO Go, HBO Now and Vimeo.
8 p.m., CBS, Sept. 23
This reboot of the ABC series from the 1980s revives the technical know-it-all character Angus MacGyver, played by Lucas Till, who's best known as Havoc in the X-Men films franchise. It's an update for the digital age, but that doesn't mean physical-world objects like tinfoil and chewing gum won't factor into the mix as Mac finds novel ways to save lives in service to the U.S. government. George Eads (CSI) is also in the mix as MacGyver's somewhat eccentric pal and government agent.
BLOODIEST NEW SHOW: Van Helsing
10 p.m., Syfy, Sept. 23
It was only a matter of time before SyFy took on the Van Helsing legacy. Luckily, this series has nothing to do with the campy Hugh Jackman film from 2004. The show follows Vanessa Helsing (Kelly Overton), daughter of Dracula's original nemesis Abraham Van Helsing, who awakens in a postapocalyptic world overrun with vampires. It's up to the daughter of the famed slayer to save the world ruled by undead blood-suckers.
9 p.m., Fox, Sept. 23
Come for Geena Davis. Stay for the impending nightmares. Nothing substantial happens in the pilot aside from hat tips to the original film from 40 years ago and establishing a sense of dread. With the film, we knew it was the little girl who was possessed; with the show it isn't quite clear, yet. The plot is relatively the same as the 1973 hit: Two very different priests (Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels) tackle an innocent family's case of demonic possession. No confirmation on pea soup or head spinning yet.
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
9 p.m., BBC America, Oct. 22
Elijah Wood branches out in this new role, playing an adorably miserable guy. Just kidding. Wood knows his type. And he does it well. This time he plays Todd, a man as dull as his name. That is, until Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) walks in to mess things up. This isn't the first adaptation of Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently novels, but this version smartly brings the characters to the States, yet Dirk is still British. The two make a delightful pairing, and we can't wait to get swept up in their shenanigans. Plus, there's a corgi!