It seems like just yesterday that I was compiling a list of TV shows you should get caught up on and/or start watching through the doldrums of adult summer. But that was July, a simpler time when we could still believe we had something to look forward to in September, forgetting that we would still be months away from new seasons of Game of Thrones, Mad Men and Downton Abbey.
Looking at the new shows being hawked by the networks throughout September and October, I am beginning to wonder if in fact fall should start being considered the TV dead-zone. This summer at least we had Breaking Bad and True Blood to keep us entertained, and all the Star Trek: The Next Generation we could handle on Netflix Instant. The new shows being rolled out this season go from mildly disappointing (Revolution) to offensively stupid and borderline racist (Animal Practice). Then there are the old shows no one has the decency to mercy kill (The Office) and the new-ish shows no one has the decency to mercy kill (2 Broke Girls).
That said. I have culled through the rubble of our culture and found 10 sparkling gems of hope. All is not lost my friends. Read on:
1. The Walking Dead
Look, I already told you to start watching The Walking Dead. Even if you don't "like zombies." Even if you think it might be scary. This show is somehow the most apt metaphor for our time on TV. Watch it. Make your kids watch it. Or better yet, watch it before you decide to have kids.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, October 14 at 9pm on AMC.
Revenge was last year's sleeper hit. If you aren't yet hip to this overblown melodramatic take-down of the 1%, you clearly don't care about a) your country and b) being entertained. Intrigue, corruption and more intrigue and murder and sex and more intrigue. All set in houses bigger than your high school in The Hamptons. Yes, it IS as good as it sounds.
Revenge returns Sunday, September 30 at 9pm on ABC.
I started watching Treme because I thought it was sort of my duty as someone who writes about TV things and who liked The Wire. And watching it does occasionally feel a little dutiful, when you are wading through the mold-covered credits and the images of water covering New Orleans. But it is also a beautiful, slow-moving beast of a show, full of music and complex personal stories that are accentuated by Hurricane Katrina in the way King Lear is accentuated by the storm: they are human dramas that would be happening anyway, but the physical circumstances draw them into stark relief. The strange thing is, I do not know another soul who actually watches this show. So I am pretty much just asking you to watch Treme so we can talk about it. I really want to talk to somebody about it, okay?
Treme returns Sunday, September 23 at 10pm on HBO.
4. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
I'm going to be honest: I haven't watched It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia in ages because I don't technically have a TV and all my TV watching happens through Netflix Instant, Hulu Plus, HBO Go and other random places like Yahoo! and YouTube. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia is nowhere to be found for the TV-less fool like me anymore. But I am putting it on this list anyway because it is the dirtiest, craziest, most out-of-control thing on TV and it just warms my heart that it even exists. Watch it and invite me over so I can watch it too.
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia returns Thursday, October 11 at 10pm on FX.
5. Parks and Recreation
Amy Poehler and Will Arnett might be breaking up and thus throwing my world into a tailspin and causing me to question everything I ever believed in, but that doesn't mean the new season of Parks and Recreation won't be the Amy Poehler magic mix of civic pride and hilarity that it has almost always been. Last year's episode in which the boy scouting group wanted to join the girl scouting group actually made me cry. This is another show that only people who hate America aren't watching. Get on the Parks and Recreation train now, before this becomes embarrassing for you and your whole family.
Parks and Recreation returns Thursday, September 20 on NBC.
6. Happy Endings
If you want a sitcom to like and you are still a little trepidatious about swearing allegiance to New Girl (I mean, the boys are funny but Zooey's eye make-up? The third grade teacher thing?), I recommend Happy Endings. It's silly but not stupid, and it has women, men, gay people, straight people, white people and black people all hanging out together without being self-righteously full of itself (I'm looking at you New Normal). Also, Damon Wayans, Jr. You're sold, right?
Happy Endings returns Tuesday, October 23 on ABC.
New Reasons to Hope!
7. Call The Midwife
Now, this may be because part of my job is marketing Call The Midwife to the greater San Francisco Bay Area, but I've been hearing a LOT of good things about this show. Apparently in Britain it is bigger than Downton Abbey, and if it is bigger than Downton Abbey here, I guess it will mean that infants and cats go crazy for it too because I can't imagine anything with more crossover appeal than that Anglophile juggernaut. From what I gather (no preview is available yet), this show is about midwives in the late 1950s, riding bikes around London and helping people have babies. My mom is a midwife and I care about midwives and even I am a little confused about why this is going to be so popular. But just trust me and the people of the United Kingdom: this show will blow your mind.
Call The Midwife premieres Sunday, September 30 at 8pm on KQED 9 (or your local PBS station).
8. Last Resort
As far as I can tell (another show with no preview yet), Last Resort is about the commander of a US submarine who refuses to fire a nuke and destroy Pakistan and is then chased down by the US military. This premise sounds so subversive, I can barely stand it. I want so badly for this show to really be about what I just said it was about and for it to be awesome. It's premiering on my 30th birthday, which must be a sign, right? Fingers crossed that Last Resort is the show of the season.
Last Resort premieres Thursday, September 27 at 8pm on ABC.
9. The Mindy Project
Here is why I am putting more eggs than is probably emotionally safe in The Mindy Project basket: I seem to be in somewhat of a demographic sweet spot at the moment. In the last year or so, numerous shows purporting to be about someone JUST LIKE ME -- a middle class, single (ish) girl born in the '80s, making her way in this increasingly confusing world -- have come out on television. But unlike Whitney in Whitney, who appears to be supported by her dot-com millionaire boyfriend, or Zooey Deschanel in New Girl whose apartment and Anthropologie wardrobe do not quite comport with her teacher's salary in LA, or Lena Dunham who is living off the kindness of strangers and fairy dust in Girls, Mindy Kaling wears normal outfits and clearly supports herself through actually working at an actual job. She is a real character, dealing with that specific kind of disappointment that hits after grad school and a lifetime of romantic comedies and Bronte novels. Not only that, her best love interest is played by Claire Fisher's best boyfriend from Six Feet Under, Chris Messina. This show has promise. Please, please Mindy, follow through!
The Mindy Project premieres Tuesday, September 25 at 9:30pm on Fox.
Awesome Bonus Show on the Internet!
For those of us tragically underwhelmed by the dystopian future of Revolution, look no further than H+ on YouTube. In the short format of the best online-only shows but with the production value of Lost, this show about a future in which we all have iPhones implanted in our spinal cords just might BE the future. Right now there are 6 episodes available, out of the 48 that will be the show. YouTube plays them continuously and you will be begging for more by the time you get to the end of what is up now. Watch the first episode right now:
So maybe our culture is just changing and not necessarily crumbling. Anyway, what are you looking forward to? Tell me in the comments below.