The fall season of television is about to begin, and it’s bringing the return of some highly anticipated shows. From Netflix’s “Stranger Things” to Shonda Rhimes’ “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC, this fall is going to usher in endless guilty pleasures and group binge-watching sessions.
“American Horror Story,” FX
The anthology format of “American Horror Story” makes it easy for series newcomers to jump right in with each new season, while longtime fans return for fresh torment every time. Season seven of the series is called “Cult” — and rumor has it that it will draw on the latest presidential election for inspiration.
“American Horror Story” is not for the faint of heart, as it dabbles equally in grotesque body horror and psychological thrills, all while peeling back the layers of cultural taboos — often to grisly ends. It’s debatable whether the show oversteps the limits of spectacle into far-too-disturbing territory, and recent seasons such as “Hotel” haven’t been as focused as earlier seasons — think “Murder House” or “Coven” — but hopefully, this coming season will bring critical discourse on the political moment in addition to its ghastly imagery and entertainment. “Cult” premiered Sept. 5 on FX.
“This is Us,” NBC
This heartwarming family drama premiered its first season last year. Bouncing between the present and the past, “This is Us” captures the lives of three siblings, both now as adults and as children with their parents in the ‘80s, which allows viewers to see the impact their upbringing continues to have on their lives. The show was celebrated for its representations of mental health and complex relationships leading up to its highly anticipated second season. “This is Us” returns to NBC on Sept. 26.
“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” NBC
One of the classic procedural dramas, “Law & Order: SVU” is returning for its nineteenth season this fall. The show follows Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and her team of detectives, who are tasked with investigating sex-related crimes. For decades now, “Law & Order: SVU” has used its platform — as the show has an average of more than 6 million viewers — to cultivate discourse within the ebbs and flows of the American political climate, with episodes spanning from Rolling Stone’s UVA story to an episode that tackled both racially motivated violence and Paula Deen’s use of a racial slur. The show’s approaches to these issues have been fraught, but it provides a uniquely focused space for such conversations to be had. This procedural certainly worth watching, if for nothing more than to see television history unfold. “Law & Order: SVU” returns to NBC on Sept. 27.
“Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC
What “Law & Order: SVU” is to procedurals, “Grey’s Anatomy” is to primetime dramas. One look at any primetime drama, and you’re sure to find the influence of “Grey’s Anatomy” — it’s one of the most influential series in recent television history for the way it bridges the gap between daytime soaps and highbrow premium cable. The series follows Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), as well as her friends, family and coworkers, as they save lives and try to stay alive themselves — an unusual amount of tragedy and adversity plague the lives of the surgeons at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. When the series returns this fall, the doctors will surely be responding to the recent departure of Stephanie Edwards (Jerrika Hinton) after she was stabbed by a patient and nearly died in a fire. Rumors abound as to whether this legendary series will wind down soon, given the announcement of a spin-off series coming soon. Season 14 premieres Sept. 28 on ABC.
“How to Get Away With Murder,” ABC
Shonda Rhimes is objectively a television genius, and “How to Get Away with Murder” is an extension of her mastery. Rhimes’ most successful series give us dramatic glimpses into the professions that fascinate us: “Scandal” delves into politics, “Grey’s Anatomy” into medicine and “How to Get Away With Murder” into law. This series follows a group of law students, tightly bonded after a series of catastrophes — they must trust each other to keep their mutual secrets, or else risk the strong arm of the law they practice. Good thing they have Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) on their side. Or do they? That’ll be one of many questions we hope to have answered when season four premieres Sept. 28 after “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC.
“Stranger Things,” Netflix
“Stranger Things” is for film- and television-history buffs and sci-fi fanatics alike. This show pulls its imagery from classics such as John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and Steven Spielberg’s “The Goonies,” breathing 1980s-era life into a bingeable television series. The first season followed a group of kids from Hawkins, Indiana, as they tried to find their missing friend, who disappeared into the Upside Down. Meanwhile, that same group of kids discovered Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) — a young girl with psychokinetic powers (and one of the most iconic television characters of the decade) — who defended them from bullies and gave them insight into the Upside Down.
The trailer for season two of “Stranger Things” doesn’t reveal a ton plotwise, but it promises the return of several leading characters, including Eleven, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), Jim Hopper (David Harbour), Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton). The show returns to Netflix on Oct. 27 — just in time for Halloween.
There’s going to be lots of quality television this fall, so now’s the time to catch up on your favorites (or explore some new terrain) before the premieres in these coming weeks.
Sophie-Marie Prime is the assistant arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].