12 TV shows to watch this fall
Anthony Hopkins, Kristen Bell, Jason Sudeikis, Minnie Driver, Kevin James and other Michiganians star in new series
Kristen Bell has reached her professional sweet spot.
The actress and Huntington Woods native could’ve easily rested on her laurels and a small fortune after “Frozen” became a smash hit in 2013. Bell, of course, is the voice of Anna. But she kept on pushing, reprising her signature TV role as Veronica Mars in the eponymous movie, chuckling through a series of Samsung commercials with her husband — actor and Milford native Dax Shepard — and enjoying five successful seasons on the Showtime comedy “House of Lies” until it came to an end this year.
Now fans will see the mother and Shrine Catholic High School graduate tap into her comedic genius on the new NBC sitcom “The Good Place.” Funny for all the right reasons, the comedy follows Bell’s character Eleanor Shellstrop, a snarky and mischievous woman who dies, accidentally gets into heaven and does everything she can to stay. TV veteran Ted Danson stars as her spiritual adviser.
“The Good Place” will premiere at 10 p.m. Sept. 19 on NBC and is one of a dozen inaugural shows viewers should watch this fall. The list also includes “Atlanta” on FX, “Conviction” on ABC and “Queen Sugar” on OWN. Read on for more tidbuts on each new series:
“Atlanta” (premieres 10 p.m. Tuesday, FX): This brilliantly introspective comedy takes viewers on a slow ride on the gritty and impoverished side of the southern metropolis. Star Donald Glover (“Community” and “The Martian”) created “Atlanta,” which follows Earn (Glover), a struggling rap manager, and his rapping cousin Paper Boi aka Alfred (scene stealer Brian Tyree Henry, “Boardwalk Empire”), as they hustle and meander through life’s endless challenges. Keith Stanfield (“Straight Outta Compton”), Zazie Beetz and Detroit native Harold House Moore round out this ridiculously talented cast.
“Pitch” (premieres 9 p.m. Sept. 22, Fox): Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury, “Under the Dome”) changes professional baseball forever when she becomes the first woman to pitch in the MLB on this uplifting and well-executed new drama. Bunbury is so winsome and believable that TV audiences will wish this story were real.
“This Is Us” (premieres 10 p.m. Sept. 20, NBC): This thoughtful and diverse new drama reminiscent of “Parenthood” centers around a group of people all born on the same day, with each person facing a life-altering event. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia, “Heroes”) is becoming a father while Randall (Sterling K. Brown, “The People V. OJ Simpson”) finds and forgives the biological father who abandoned him. Meanwhile, Kate (Chrissy Metz) decides to do something about her overeating disorder, and Kevin (Justin Hartley) has to make a change for the better when his job as a TV actor leaves him unfulfilled.
“Kevin Can Wait” (premieres 8:30 p.m. Sept. 19, CBS): “King of Queens” star Kevin James returns to primetime and the Eye network as a newly retired police officer. The only problem is his family may need him to keep working. Erinn Hayes (“Childrens Hospital”) co-stars as his wife, and Taylor Spreitler plays his college-aged daughter. Familiar but funny, “Kevin Can Wait” is the best series on CBS’ freshman schedule, which has been rightfully criticized for having all white male leads.
“Conviction” (premieres 10 p.m. Oct. 3, ABC): Hayley Atwell (“Agent Carter”) heats up the screen as Hayes Morrison, a gifted-but-troubled attorney and daughter of a former U.S. president. Cornered into taking a job investigating questionable convictions, Morrison wastes no time shaking up the status quo. Liz Friedlander (“The Secret Circle”) created the drama, which feels a lot like “Scandal,” and like “Scandal,” it will intrigue viewers with its case-of-the week approach.
“Queen Sugar” (premieres 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday , OWN): Beautifully shot and told, “Queen Sugar” follows the three vastly different adult children of sugar plantation owner Ernest Bordelon (Glynn Turman) in Louisiana. Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) lives in Los Angeles with her NBA superstar husband and their son; Nova (Rutina Wesley, “True Blood”) is a journalist who crusades against injustice but has bad taste in men; and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) is an ex-convict trying desperately to better his life and raise his son. Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) created “Queen Sugar” along with network head Oprah Winfrey. She based the drama on the novel of the same name. DuVernay also is one of eight women directing the series.
“Speechless” (premieres 8:30 p.m. Sept. 21, ABC): Viewers will cheer for this acerbic but heartwarming comedy which follows JJ (the lovable Micah Fowler), a teenager with cerebral palsy, and his devoted family. Minnie Driver stars as his pushy but well-intentioned mother; Mason Cook co-stars as Ray, JJ’s starved for attention younger brother; and Cedric Yarbrough plays Kenneth, JJ’s unexpected friend and helpmate.
“No Tomorrow” (premieres 9 p.m. Oct. 4, The CW): Romcom lovers will revel in this sexy and fun series about Evie (Tori Anderson), an uber cautious woman, falling in love with Xavier (Joshua Sasse, “Galavant”), a handsome free-spirit. But the road to romance is riddled with red flags when Evie discovers Xavier’s devil-may-care attitude is driven by his belief that the world is coming to an end in less than a year.
“Versailles” (premieres 10 p.m. Oct. 1, Ovation): French King Louis XIV, aka the Sun King, was a young, cunning and strategic man who had to address threats of death and dethroning at every turn. Amid all of this, Louis XIV commissioned Versailles, one of the most opulent and beautiful palaces in Europe and arguably the world. This period drama perfectly captures the tension, fashion and culture of the time while giving viewers lots of twisty plots inspired by history and gossip. “Versailles” star George Blagden captivates as Louis XIV.
“Son of Zorn” (premieres 8:30 p.m. Sept. 11, Fox): The word “silly” doesn’t even begin to describe the comedy and concept behind this half-animated/half-live-action sitcom. It’s basically what would happen if He-Man had a baby with a real woman. But behind the silliness is a ton of thought and creativity that cannot be ignored. Jason Sudeikis (“Saturday Night Live”) provides the voice of Zorn, and Highland Park native Tim Meadows (“Saturday Night Live”) plays his hilarious nemesis, Craig, his replacement in Edie (Cheryl Hines) and Alan’s (Johnny Pemberton) hearts.
“Westworld” (premieres 9 p.m. Oct. 2, HBO): Sci-fi fans who enjoyed the 1973 film version of “Westworld” with Yul Brynner as the Gunslinger will truly appreciate the sleeker, more modern and cerebral take from Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams. Ed Harris is the futuristic Gunslinger now and goes by the name the Man in Black, an android determined to liberate his species. That’s because the other androids — many of whom are female — are subjected to a number of sexualized and violent acts, begging the question: What is humanity? The star-studded cast also includes Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and James Marsden.
Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based TV critic and entertainment reporter.