What to watch this fall: The L.A. Times TV critic’s guide
It’s that time of year again.
It seems like only one year ago this month that television was having a fall season. I seem to recall a lot of other TV seasons between then and now, some of which might have consisted of a single show. It is becoming hard to keep track of them all, but fall somehow retains its conceptual if not its chronological purity. (It will still be summer when some of these shows debut, and they will keep on premiering, not within a few weeks as in days of old, but all the way to winter’s doorstep.) September is still when the TV year begins, as the networks’ big new shows are harvested and brought to market. (That’s you, pal.) Here’s most of what’s coming to a screen presumably near you.
“The Bastard Executioner”
FX, 10 p.m.
Kurt Sutter’s follow-up to his motorcycle drama “Sons of Anarchy” may be a witchy tale of old England, but the haircuts are the same, and there’s a lot of leather. With Lee Jones as a Welsh knight who winds up undercover working as an executioner for his English enemies, just as he’s decided to give killing a rest. There will be blood, and irony.
“Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris”
NBC, 10 p.m.
Neil Patrick Harris, who has made a career-shaped habit out of surprising you with the many things he can do, is the latest and most likely person to pull the ancient form of TV variety back from its dusty tomb — and how can you call this a New Golden Age without it?
Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m.
Comic cop cartoon steeped in a big-shouldered, 1980s new wave aesthetic, something like “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Miami Vice” ground together into a fine paste, used as the ground for a Patrick Nagel painting. Rob Lowe stars as the vain, lucky nincompoop Det. Dazzle Novak, a ringer for Rob Lowe in “St. Elmo’s Fire” (sans saxophone). Elizabeth Banks is his chief, Pizzaz Miller; Will Forte his rival, Rad Cunningham.
“Life in Pieces”
CBS, 8:30 p.m.
“Parenthood” by way of “Modern Family,” take that as you will. Much silliness, but a cast that could populate the next Woody Allen film: James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, Colin Hanks, Zoe Lister-Jones, Angelique Cabral, Thomas Sadoski, Betsy Brandt, Dan Bakkedahl.
NBC, 10 p.m.
In which Jaimie Alexander, with not a memory in her head but a body covered in new tattoos, awakens naked in a bag in Times Square. No, it’s not “The Hangover: The Series,” simmer down, but a wheels-within-wheels thriller from Greg Berlanti (“Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl”). Sullivan Stapleton is the G-Man.
Fox, 9 p.m.
Sequel to Steven Spielberg’s big-screen Philip K. Dick adaptation, set in 2065. Stark Sands plays a psychic “precog” who teams with detective Meagan Good to stop crimes before they happen. My takeaways from the pilot: Vinyl is still collectible in the future, selfies remain a thing, holograms are cool. And “The Simpsons” is still on.
ABC, 8 p.m.
Muppets go meta in this mockumuppetmentary about the staging of a new Muppet show, “Up Late With Miss Piggy.” Not your parents’ Muppets, for better or worse, and arguably not the Muppets at all. But still the Muppets.
Fox, 8 p.m.
Ryan Murphy remakes “American Horror Story” as a comedy, but on purpose. Year 1 involves a sorority and a serial killer, because: women. Jamie Lee Curtis is here to remind you of “Halloween,” alongside Lea Michele, Nasim Pedrad, Oliver Hudson, Keke Palmer, Ariana Grande.
Fox, 8 p.m.
“Quincy, M.E.” if Quincy were self-employed, cheerful, black, hot and living in Miami with a heart condition. Everyone seems weirdly fine with Morris Chestnut’s title character acting like a real cop, even new detective in town Jaina Lee Ortiz, but maybe that’s just a Florida thing.
NBC, 10 p.m.
Your intuition that the world is just the plaything of the rich will find fictional support in this crime-stopping series in which Philip Winchester literally has to beat the odds to keep horrible things from happening, as shadowy gamblers lay their millions down. Wesley Snipes runs the game.
NBC, 8 p.m
“We could be heroes, just for another 13 episodes,” David Bowie might sing of this “Heroes” reboot were he in a mood to shill for NBC. Zachary Levi As You’ve Never Seen Him is a hunter of superheroes, in a world that has no time for mutants (in a real world that apparently has nothing but time for mutants). Jack Coleman, Greg Grunberg and Masi Oka are back from the olden days. Hayden Panettiere still has a job on ABC.
Fox, 8 p.m.
The notion of John Stamos discovering that he’s a grandfather is inherently hilarious only in a society where 1) being really good looking means never having to settle down and 2) nobody has kids until they’re over 25. The show is funny, though, with restaurateur Stamos surprisingly relaxed at finding himself an instant patriarch. Paget Brewster is in it, so don’t even think of arguing with me about this.
Fox, 8:30 p.m.
Rob Lowe is not a lawyer, but he plays an actor who plays a lawyer on TV and decides he’s going to be one for real. Fred Savage, back in front of the camera, is the brother who is a lawyer but doesn’t play one on TV, except for this show.
CBS, 10 p.m.
Into every generation an “ER” is born. This one’s set in Los Angeles, lays on the chaos and stars Marcia Gay Harden as the resident genius. And Luis Guzman as a nurse is something I feel I have waited to see, without ever knowing it.
“The Last Kingdom”
Refreshingly matter-of-fact Viking yarn saga adapted from Bernard Cornwell’s novels. Alexander Dreymon is a 9th century Saxon nobleman, kidnapped as a child and raised among the Danes; loyalties will of course be tested. Dutchman Rutger Hauer lends Scandinavia-adjacent cred.
CW, 8 p.m.
Musical magic-realism, with Rebecca Bloom tearing up the trailers as a girl who moves across the country — to West Covina, represent! — in pursuit of an ex-boyfriend that every rule of romantic comedy says is not the guy for her.
“Truth Be Told”
NBC, 8:30 PM
Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Vanessa Lachey and neighbors Tone Bell and Bresha Webb play a mixed-doubles game of middle-class angst. In the opening episode, the men (and later the women) try to work out whether a new baby-sitter is also a porn star; this is what 8:30 p.m. on broadcast television has come to.
“The Man in the High Castle”
The season’s other Philip K. Dick adaptation, alongside “Minority Report,” is a Ridley Scott-produced alternate history thriller in which the Allies lost the Second World War and the Axis didn’t. Alexa Davalos, Rufus Sewell, Rupert Evans, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and DJ Qualls live that life.
CBS, 8:30 p.m., moves to 8 p.m. the following week
Superman’s also Earthbound cousin Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) goes to the city to feel her power, like Mary Tyler Moore, but with flying. Calista Flockhart is the boss who tortures her; Helen Slater, who played her in a movie, and Dean Cain, who was Superman on TV, have been cast as her adoptive parents. Why isn’t she called Superwoman? It will be addressed.
“Ash vs. Evil Dead”
Starz, 9 p.m.
Show of the year? Ten-episode giddy gorefest reunites original “Evil Dead” director Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell, who straps on the chain saw once again to fight an army of darkness. Expect camera angles! Plus Lucy Lawless, Ray Santiago, Mimi Rogers. Also, it’s Halloween.
“Flesh and Bone”
Starz, 9 p.m.
Pliés, sir, may I have some more? Dark ballet drama — the phrase “rollicking ballet comedy” having yet to enter the language — with Sarah Hay as a messed-up small-town dancer in the messed-up dance world of the greatest messed-up city in the world, New York! Yeah! Ben Daniels is the Boris Lermontov in this picture. Real dancers make the sweat authentic.
“Into the Badlands”
AMC, 10 p.m.
Six-part martial arts drama, set in a feudalistic future — I think — follows Hong Kong action star Daniel Wu as he makes his way across a gunless America with a karate kid (Aramis Knight) in tow. Their object: I have no idea. Those still mourning “Revolution” might find themselves distracted here. From the writers of Jackie Chan’s “Shanghai Noon.”
NBC, 10 p.m.
“Law & Order” kingpin Dick Wolf opens up a third branch of his “Chicago” franchise, to join his “Fire” and “P.D.” (“Sanitation” next, I hope.) With Oliver Platt, without whom it wouldn’t feel like a fall season, and “L&O” 17-year vet S. Epatha Merkerson, among others.
Like an interplanetary edition of “True Detective,” with police inspector Thomas Jane and spaceship skipper Steven Strait hopping around the solar system as the search for a missing girl uncovers a conspiracy. Not for the first time the survival of humanity is threatened.
Credits: Produced by Elizabeth Bourke