Daniel Fienberg and Tim Goodman reveal their top choices for new and returning series through October.
In a broadcast season low on ambition, CBS' Evil is the closest the Big Five come to taking a big, or at least mid-sized, swing. Hailing from Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife), Evil is an interesting blend of spiritual procedural, legal drama, supernatural thriller and dark, dark comedy. Leading man Mike Colter (Luke Cage) is a star. Leading lady Katja Herbers (Manhattan) has long deserved this sort of spotlight. Maybe it will become something more generic in future episodes, but the Evil pilot is worth a look.
Honorable Mentions: FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, ABC's Stumptown
Like most of you, our affections for NBC's venerable comedy institution run hot and cold. But the start of the show's 45th season has ample storylines to stoke intrigue, including the departure of Emmy nominated castmember Leslie Jones and the arrival of new faces Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang. Will the premiere acknowledge Shane Gillis, cast and dropped for racist and homophobic comments before he ever appeared in a sketch? Will Alec Baldwin return for more been-there-done-that yuks as Donald Trump and, if so, how will the writers choose from the summer's myriad targets? The reliable Woody Harrelson hosts the premiere as we bide time for more anticipated episodes with Fleabag auteur Phoebe Waller-Bridge and returning SNL legend Eddie Murphy later in the fall.
Honorable Mention: Amazon's Transparent series finale, Facebook Watch's Sorry For Your Loss
Few series have been so visually arresting as Sam Esmail's Mr. Robot, which rewrote many of the rules for framing and composition. But the series has also remained distinctly original in its concept, coming back from what some thought was a "down" second season to have a vastly more thrilling third season. Now, heading into its final season, with myriad surprise cameos planned and the shackles off on how far Esmail wants to take Rami Malek's character Elliot, this will be a show not to miss.
Honorable Mentions: Showtime's Back to Life, Netflix's Big Mouth, Netflix's Raising Dion
Is there a bigger no-brainer, must-watch show that you can think of? One of the top five greatest dramas ever created returns with a post-finale movie wherein we find out what happened to Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman character after he drove his El Camino out of hell and into safety (or so we think). Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan made this in total secrecy and it will also get a limited theatrical release in 68 cities while appearing on Netflix. So much of the project is still hush-hush so, you know, be there to find out what happens.
Honorable Mentions: Discovery's Why We Hate, USA's Treadstone, Hulu's Looking For Alaska
With The CW's Legends of Tomorrow, DC Universe's Doom Patrol and Amazon's The Boys, we're in a golden age of superhero deconstructions. Looming as the potential ruler of this roost is HBO's sequel to the utterly iconic Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons comic series. Damon Lindelof's follow-up to The Leftovers uses the comic as a jumping off point for an entirely original look at vigilantes, justice and the ethics of masked heroism. It's also an excuse to let Oscar and Emmy winner Regina King play a butt-kicking action hero. Add in co-stars including Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Adelaide Clemens and many more and you get a show that's sure to be talked about, even if it's also polarizing.
Honorable Mentions: HBO's Catherine the Great, Hulu's Castle Rock, Netflix's Living With Yourself