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The Busy Man’s Guide to Fall TV in 2016

TVThe Busy Man's Guide to Fall TV in 2016

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Overwhelmed by all the new and returning shows clogging up your DVR? Let us help.

Apart from the occasional bright spot of a Stranger Things or a Mr. Robot, it's been a pretty underwhelming summer for TV—but if you've spent the past few months flipping channels and scrolling Netflix in favor of something decent to watch, you're about to have a lot more options. We're on the cusp of the fall TV season, when networks roll out a massive slate of beloved old favorites and promising newcomers.

But hey, you're busy. With so many options, how can you decide which TV shows are actually worth your time? To help, GQ has divided fall's massive lineup of new and returning TV shows into a few categories: shows you should watch live, shows you can watch later, and shows you can just add to your DVR, to be binge-watched or deleted at a later date. Of course, we've also taken a look at all the streaming-only shows you won’t want to miss. It's a crowded season, but take our advice. Your DVR will thank us.

Sunday

What to watch live:

Westworld Season One (HBO, premiering Oct. 2 at 9 p.m.)

It's been a rough couple years for any HBO drama not called Game of Thrones. The Night Of is underwhelming at times, The Leftovers is underappreciated, and Vinyl is dead. But there's one intriguing new HBO drama looming on the horizon: Westworld, a loose adaptation of the 1973 sci-fi drama of the same name. Set at a futuristic theme park that allows visitors to live out their deepest fantasies with the help of incredibly lifelike robots—and where things eventually, inevitably, go haywire—Westworld boasts a stellar ensemble cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Tessa Thompson, and Jeffrey Wright. Westworld's ambition has led to some rumblings of trouble behind the scenes—at one point, HBO shut down production so the show's writers could catch up to the schedule. But with so much potential, it's worth keeping your eye on this one.

The Walking Dead Season Seven (AMC, premiering Oct. 23 at 9 p.m.)

At the very least, you have to watch the premiere to answer the burning question from The Walking Dead's season six finale: Which major character got his or her head smashed in by a barbed-wire baseball bat? As a drama, The Walking Dead remains an uneven proposition at best. But if you want to stay ahead of the spoilers, you'd better watch this one live. And if you dropped out over the past few seasons, this may be a year to consider coming back: the larger-than-life villain Negan, played with shit-eating charisma by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, may be the shot in the arm this otherwise dour drama needs.

What to watch later:

Son of Zorn Season One (Fox, premiering Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m.)

With the success of The Last Man on Earth under their belts, Hollywood wunderkinds Phil Lord and Chris Miller return with another high-concept sitcom: Son of Zorn, which follows a He-Man-esque animated warrior (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) who moves to California to spend time with his ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) and son. In a crowded fall season, Son of Zorn's Roger Rabbit-esque blend of live-action and animation makes it stand out from the crop.

What to DVR for a rainy day binge-watch:

Showtime's stylish period drama Masters of Sex enters the '70s (premiering Sept. 11 at 10 p.m); The Simpsons and Family Guy get more attention, but Bob's Burgers has long been the standout of Fox's animation block (premiering Sept. 25 at 8 p.m.); get a bit of the old ultraviolence with the second season of Starz's Ash vs. Evil Dead (premiering Oct. 2 at 8 p.m.); watch disgraced newsman Walter Blunt (Patrick Stewart) fumble his way through life in Los Angeles in Starz's Blunt Talk (premiering Oct. 2 at 8:35 p.m.).

Monday

What to watch live:

Timeless Season One (NBC, premiering Oct. 3 at 10 p.m.)

Arguably the most promising freshman show in NBC's fall lineup, Timeless is a sci-fi drama with a high-concept twist: After a criminal (Goran Visnjic) steals a time machine and begins altering history, the U.S. government sends a team of specialists back in time to follow his trail and stop him. The cast includes Rectify's Abigail Spencer and Malcolm Barret from the late, lamented ABC sitcom Better Off Ted, and the time-hopping premise should offer plenty of room to dig into the particulars of some actual events from American history. The pilot, for one, reveals that the villain had a hand in the explosion of the Hindenburg.

What to watch later:

The Good Place (NBC, premiering Sept. 19 at 10 p.m.)

Kristen Bell and Ted Danson star in this intriguing blend of sitcom and fantasy by Mike Schur, best known for his work on The Office, Parks & Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. When an unrepentant sinner (Bell) dies and ends up in heaven due to a clerical error, she's forced to adjust to an afterlife without cursing, booze, or any of the other vices she enjoyed in her normal life. If you're hooked by the first two episodes, you won't need to wait long for the third; after the back-to-back premiere on Monday, Sept. 19, the series will move to its regular timeslot on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.

What to DVR for a rainy day binge-watch: Conviction, Hayley Atwell's post-Agent Carter return to ABC (premiering Oct. 3 at 10 p.m.); Supergirl, making its new home on the CW with Superman in tow (premiering Oct. 10 at 8 p.m.); The CW's critically beloved Jane the Virgin, a soap opera riff that might feel over-the-top if it weren't so capably anchored by Gina Rodriguez.

Tuesday

What to watch live:

Atlanta Season One (FX, premiering Sept. 6 at 10 p.m.)

After a long run on Community, key supporting roles in Magic Mike XXL and The Martian, and a successful side hustle rapping under the name Childish Gambino, Donald Glover probably could have done anything—so Atlanta is clearly a genuine passion project. Glover serves as creator, producer, and star of this semi-autobiographical FX dramedy set in his own hometown, which he describes as a "magic jungle." Offering a stylized glimpse at the city's booming music scene—and described by Glover himself as "Twin Peaks with rappers"—Atlanta is easily one of the most intriguing shows premiering on any network this fall.

What to watch later:

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Four (ABC, premiering Sept. 20 at 10 p.m.)

When it first premiered, Marvel's sole remaining network superhero drama was (correctly) dinged for being dull and cheesy—but if you haven't checked in on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a while, now's probably the time to give it another look. With several longtime cast members killed off in the Season Three finale, and protagonist Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) ditching S.H.I.E.L.D. and becoming a fugitive from the law, Season Four is a soft reboot of the show's premise, aimed more squarely at adults in a new 10 p.m. timeslot. And if that's not enough to draw you in, the fourth season will also introduce the MCU version of Ghost Rider, the fan-favorite antihero last played by Nicolas Cage in a couple of so-so movies. Maybe they'll get him right this time.

What to DVR for a rainy day binge-watch: Heading into its fourth season, Fox's cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine still boasts one of the best ensemble casts on television (premiering Sept. 20 at 8 p.m.); its sophomore run was slightly shakier than its debut season, but The CW's The Flash is still the freshest and most buoyant of the DC superhero shows (premiering Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.); ABC's Fresh Off the Boat, premiering its third season, remains a triumph of both diversity and comedy (premiering Oct. 11 at 9 p.m.).

Wednesday

What to watch live:

Designated Survivor Season One (ABC, premiering Sept. 21 at 10 p.m.)

24 star Kiefer Sutherland returns to primetime to play a very different character in a very different kind of political thriller. When a terrorist attacks the U.S. Capitol during the State of the Union Address—killing the President and every member of the Cabinet—the line of succession is followed all the way down to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (Sutherland), who is sworn in as the new President of the United States. It's a far-out concept (with, admittedly, a grounding in actual U.S. policy)—but if anyone can sell an implausibly twisty political drama, it's Kiefer Sutherland.

What to watch later:

Rectify Season Four (SundanceTV, premiering Oct. 26)

SundanceTV's critically beloved, criminally under-watched drama Rectify is premiering its final season, putting a capper on a quiet, beautifully crafted human drama about a death-row inmate (Aden Young) freed on the basis of new DNA evidence 19 years after being convicted of the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend. If you're a fan of top-tier prestige dramas, and you haven't sampled Rectify yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a look. (Psst—the first three seasons are on Netflix right now.)

If you're missing FX's Louie in the midst of its indefinite hiatus, don't sleep on Better Things.

What to DVR for a rainy day binge-watch: After a whopping 20 seasons, Comedy Central mainstay South Park shows no signs of slowing down (premiering Sept. 14, time TBA); FX's American Horror Story is a reliable source of lurid, pulpy thrills—even if we still have no idea what this season will actually be about yet (premiering Sept. 14 at 10 p.m.); Fox's Lethal Weapon brings Riggs and Murtaugh to the small screen (premiering Sept. 21 at 8 p.m.); Fox's smash hit Empire returns for another season of whiplash-inducing twists; ABC's Black-ish continues to sharpen its hilarious and fearlessly political storyline with every passing season (premiering Sept 21 at 9:30 p.m.); Arrow, the granddaddy of The CW's superhero lineup, still manages to hit most of its targets as it glides toward its fifth season (premiering Oct. 5 at 8 p.m.).

Thursday

What to watch live:

__Pitch Season One (Fox, premiering Sept. 22 at 9 p.m.)__

With countless people watching and untold millions of dollars at stake, it's a little surprising professional sports don't end up as fodder for TV drama more often. But Pitch—which tells the (fictional) story of Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), the first woman to play Major League Baseball—is aiming to mine all that untapped potential for something truly unique. Pitch was created with the cooperation of the MLB, so the series will gain an extra sense of authenticity from the use of real teams and stadiums. It remains to be seen how long this premise can be sustained—can the series really keep the stakes so high if Ginny throws a game every episode?—but for now, it's a hell of a pitch.

Falling Water Season One (USA, premiering Oct. 13 at 10 p.m.)

Mr. Robot doesn't exactly have sky-high ratings, but it did usher in a new era of ambitious dramas for USA—and Falling Water looks a lot like Phase Two. A sci-fi-infused drama about three strangers who realize they've all been having the same dream, Falling Water promises to combine the sinister conspiratorial overtones of Mr. Robot with the supernatural mysteries of Lost.

What to watch later:

Better Things Season One (FX, premiering Sept. 8 at 10 p.m.)

Thursday is always a jam-packed night of television—but if you're missing FX's Louie in the midst of its indefinite hiatus, don't sleep on Better Things. The series offers a similarly semi-autobiographical look at the life of co-creator and star Pamela Adlon, a frequent Louie guest, as she navigates life as a single mother of three daughters.

What to DVR for a rainy day binge-watch: It got off to a rocky start last year, but now that The CW's Legends of Tomorrow is off the ground, there’s no reason it can't soar in Season Two (premiering Oct. 13 at 8 p.m.); it aired in the U.K. last April, but Sophie Okonedo and Dennis Haysbert are reason enough to check out the dramatic thriller Undercover when it debuts its six-episode run on BBC America (premiering November 17, time TBA).

Friday

What to watch live:

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season Two (The CW, premiering Oct 21 at 9 p.m.)

Don’t let the title scare you off. The musical dramedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of the most inventive, entertaining, and nuanced shows on television—as well as the best new series to premiere in 2015, period. (If you don't believe me, the whole first season is on Netflix right now.) Co-creator and star Rachel Bloom, who won a Golden Globe for her lead performance in the show's first season, stars as a woman whose quarter-life crisis leads her to quit a high-paying job in New York and follow an ex-boyfriend to California. Season Two picks up after a cliffhanger in the Season One finale, which should push the show into bold new directions and musical pastiches.

What to watch later:

__High Maintenance Season One (HBO, premiering Sept. 16 at 11 p.m.)__

Few shows have climbed as far as High Maintenance, the little-webseries-that-could that spent six seasons on Vimeo before getting tapped for a quasi-reboot on HBO. The move to premium cable will expand the scope of High Maintenance to a full 30 minutes, but otherwise, the concept remains largely the same: a weed dealer (Ben Sinclair) tools around the city, delivering pot to an ever-expanding roster of eccentric New Yorkers.

What to DVR for a rainy day binge-watch: CBS reboots MacGyver, your grandpa's favorite show, for a younger generation (premiering Sept. 23 at 8 p.m.); Fox becomes the latest network to tap a beloved horror movie for the small screen with The Exorcist (premiering Sept. 23 at 9 p.m.).

Saturday

What to watch live:

Saturday Night Live Season 42 (NBC, premiering Oct. 1 at 11:30 p.m.)

Let’s be honest: If you're spending a lazy Saturday night in, you're probably going to end up watching SNL. Previous standouts Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah won't be returning this year, but the cast still boasts an impressive array of talents, including Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, and Michael Che. Keep a special eye out for the episodes that air before November 8; with an election cycle this insane, there should be no shortage of material.

What to watch later:

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America, premiering Oct. 22, time TBA)

Based on the novel of the same name by Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame, this eccentric British comedy—which blends equal parts Doctor Who and Sherlock—follows the titular time-traveling detective (Samuel Barnett) as he solves mysteries with the help of a skeptical assistant (Elijah Wood).

What to DVR for a rainy day binge-watch: If you don't mind your "history" dressed up with a ton of sex and swordplay, you might get a kick out of Ovation's Versailles, a fictionalized chronicle of the political machinations of the French court in 1667 (premiering Oct. 1, time TBA).

Whenever:

Narcos Season Two (Netflix, all episodes available Sept. 2)

Netflix's buzzy crime thriller, which follows the DEA task force attempting to take down notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura), returns for a second season. The series certainly won't hold any major surprises for those who already know the Escobar story—and it remains to be seen how long Narcos can drag out the now-fabled manhunt—but the performances from ensemble cast members like Game of Thrones alum Pedro Pascal manage to bring the story home.

StartUp Season One (Crackle, all episodes available Sept. 6)

Long overlooked in the streaming landscape, Crackle made an ambitious bid for viewers with last year's The Art of More, a drama about the darker underbelly of auction houses starring Dennis Quaid, Cary Elwes, and Kate Bosworth. This year, Crackle is doubling down in the strategy with StartUp, a Miami-set crime drama with a similarly accomplished cast that includes Adam Brody, Ashley Hinshaw, and Martin Freeman, riffing on the sinister qualities he displayed in FX's Fargo.

Luke Cage Season One (Netflix, all episodes available Sept. 30)

The latest installment in Netflix's extraordinarily fruitful collection of interconnected shows set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—which will eventually culminate in a crossover miniseries called The DefendersLuke Cage stars Mike Colter as the Harlem-based superhero of the same name, who boasts super-strength and impenetrable skin. Viewers who have already seen Jessica Jones, in which Luke Cage played a major supporting role, will recognize Colter's brilliance in the title role—but there's just as much reason to get excited about the show's roster of brand-new cast members, which includes Alfre Woodard and House of Cards' Mahershala Ali.

Goliath Season One (Amazon, all episodes available Oct. 14)

David E. Kelley—creator of The Practice, Ally McBeal, and Boston Legal—brings the legal drama into the streaming age with Goliath. Billy Bob Thornton stars as a scrappy hard-luck lawyer who rails against better-connected power players manipulating the legal system to suit their purposes. William Hurt, Maria Bello, and Olivia Thirlby costar.

Chance Season One (Hulu, airing weekly beginning Oct. 19)

After key supporting roles in AMC's The Night Manager and HBO's Veep, Hugh Laurie takes the spotlight once again in Chance—his first leading role since Fox's House went off the air in 2012. Laurie stars as Dr. Eldon Chance, a forensic psychiatrist who gets drawn into a police corruption conspiracy. Details beyond that are murky, but Hulu clearly has faith in the series—Chance was picked up for two 10-episode seasons before a single scene had been shot.

Black Mirror Season Three (Netflix, all episodes available Oct. 21)

Charlie Brooker's ultra-grim anthology series Black Mirror—which offers a series of standalone, feature-length episodes exploring our modern relationship with technology—jumps directly to Netflix for a six-episode third season debuting just in time for Halloween. As always, the cast is tremendous, including actors like Bryce Dallas Howard, Michael Kelly, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. And if Black Mirror is generally a little too bleak for your tastes, this season might offer a little more comfort; Mackenzie Davis, who stars opposite Mbatha-Raw in the season premiere, told GQ's own Ashley Fetters that their episode is "the one that won't give you nightmares."

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