With the fall TV season underway, the Tribune A&E team has compiled five returning and five new shows we’re excited for.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY
Returning for its fourth season, mini-series American Horror Story is taking a walk on the wild side with its newest theme, “Freak Show.” Taking place in 1950s Florida, the season will be centred on the lives of carnival performers and “evil forces.” While American Horror Story started strong in its first season by jumping on the Amityville Horror-esque train and riding it all the way to themes of school shoot-ups and disfigured neighbors warning of spectral forces, the show lost its steam in the next two seasons. It hooked onto complicated themes and introduced deus-ex-machina plot devices so often they became expected and irritating. Hopefully, the star-studded cast, featuring Jessica Lange and Evan Peters, will resurrect this floundering series.
American Horror Story: Freak Show returns Wednesday, Oct. 8 on FX.
Up-and-coming comedian John Mulaney—you may know him as the behind-the-camera half of the popular ‘Stefon’ sketches from SNL, or from his TV special New In Town—follows in the footsteps of Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K. by interspersing his stand-up routine with sitcom material. The decision to make this a multi-camera comedy in the era of single-camera dominance seems strange, but the pedigree on this show makes up for it—the supporting cast includes greats like Elliott Gould, Nasim Pedrad, and Martin Short. While early reports have been mixed-to-negative, this seems like a show that will eventually find its voice.
Mulaney premieres Sunday, Oct. 5, on Fox.
TRAILER PARK BOYS
After a six-year hiatus, Canada’s favourite booze and dope-fuelled ‘mockumentary’ series has finally returned. While the Trailer Park Boys team has filled the void with a series of highly successful films, the show’s peerless style is most charming when presented in vignette form. Its original creator and director Mike Clattenburg mastered a fast-paced, parodic formula geared more towards half-hour entertainment than a feature-length script. While Clattenburg still oversees the series’ production, its lead actors John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells, and Mike Smith own the rights to the show and are working with new directors. Another significant change is that instead of broadcasting on Showcase, the show will now be featured on television streaming kingpin Netflix. This will inevitably win the show new viewers and recapture the interest of old fans. It’s the way of the road boys, the way of the road.
Trailer Park Boys returned Friday, Sept. 5 on Netflix.
Transparent, by far the most promising of the new batch of shows this fall, stars Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor as Mort, the patriarch of a wealthy Los Angeles family who, after coming out to his family as transgender, begins the process of transitioning to a woman. The first season follows Mort’s transformation to Moira and her three adult children’s reactions. The pilot is already online and it is fantastic, shedding light on an important subject that has received very little attention from mainstream pop culture. Tambor in particular is great, giving what may be the performance of his career in this series, taking his trademark weary dissatisfaction from comedic roles and subtly tweaking it, playing for pathos rather than laughs.
Transparent premieres in its entirety Friday, Sept. 26 on Amazon Prime.
Loosely based on the tragic history of Mary, Queen of Scotland (Adelaide Kane), Reign is a romantic and thrilling political medieval drama geared towards teens and young adults. Full disclosure: If you’re looking for a witty and poignant political satire or a beautiful historic rendition, the show will disappoint. However, for those seeking to be consumed and lost in the drama of power struggles and love triangles, this show will do the trick. Look for the Black Plague to spice up this season with the promise of death, betrayal, and romance.
Reign returns Thursday, Oct. 2 on CW.
In keeping with the social media hype Eliza Dooley creates for herself on Selfie, it has gathered quite a buzz. The modern day My Fair Lady rendition is directed by the creator of Suburgatory, showcasing a cringe-worthy social media dialect and a surprisingly charming cast. Karen Gillan plays the vain, image-obsessed technology zombie, getting a personality makeover by her c-oworker, Henry (John Cho). Gillan’s quirky and well-timed comedic lines go well with Cho’s uptight and serious personality. By allowing momets of serious social criticism and personal struggles with self-image shine through the surface level comedy, Selfie manages to vault itself to a deeper level.
Selfie premieres Tuesday, Sept. 30 on ABC.
THE GOOD WIFE
This show follows Alicia Florrick, a top defence attorney and estranged wife to the governor of Illinois, and deftly blends ripped-from-the-headlines legal cases with weightier emotional material. It’s something of an anomaly from most prestige dramas: It airs on network television, runs for 22 episodes each season, and is more episodic than serialized. Despite this, it manages to be better than most TV fare, expertly shifting from joyful exuberance to moodiness to excitement—sometimes in a matter of seconds. The Good Wife is also one of the best-directed shows on television. Coming off of its fifth and best season yet, this is not a show to be missed.
The Good Wife returns Sunday, Sept. 21 on CBS.
FOO FIGHTERS SONIC HIGHWAYS
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl possesses a passionate reverence for rock ‘n’ roll history, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that his band’s eighth album release doubles as an ambitious homage to America’s musical heritage and is being accompanied by an HBO documentary series that he is directing. The project’s premise is that each track on the album has been recorded in a different iconic city and features the sounds of local musical legends. HBO has released a promising trailer that features the likes of Dolly Parton, Macklemore, Buddy Guy, and even Barack Obama. If Grohl’s directorial debut Sound City (2013) is any indication, rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasts will be in for a treat with Sonic Highways.
Foo Fighters Sonic Highways premieres Friday, Oct. 17 on HBO.
Somehow, after 17 seasons and multiple side projects such as Team America (2004) and Baseketball (1998), and smash-hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are still cranking out the TV show that started it all. And with gems from last season like the ‘Kimye’ spoof, “The Hobbit”, and the Game of Thrones-centric Black Friday trilogy, there’s no question that they’ve still got it. Last year, seasons started running for 10 episodes in the fall exclusively, so fans will have South Park to look forward to from the end of September to the beginning of exams.
South Park returns Wednesday, Sept. 24 on Comedy Central.
Pulling cast and crew from notable comedies including Suburgatory and Happy Endings, Marry Me is a cute and awkward ‘not-just-a-wedding’ comedy, promising equal amounts of laughter and sighs. After multiple failed proposal attempts, Annie (Casey Wilson) and Jake (Ken Marino) hit the brakes on the marriage franchise. Small previews for the show reveal a mutually and hilariously socially inept couple, refreshingly assured of their destiny together.
Marry Me premieres Tuesday, Oct. 14 on NBC.