We see it every year: networks hoping to capitalize on the popularity of past shows by stacking their new ones with the stars and creators of old favorites. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. (For every Veep, there's a Bob Patterson and a Michael Richards show.)
What makes the coming fall season different is the sheer number of big names returning to TV. With Apple and Disney joining Netflix, Amazon, HBO and everyone else hoping you'll pony up a few bucks a month for their subscription service, each are placing big bets on some familiar faces. For some, only a brief amount of time has passed since their last TV project, for others it's been more than a decade.
Here are the projects (and the returning creatives involved) that have us most excited:
(Netflix, premieres 9/13) - Merritt Wever and Toni Collette
Inspired by real events, this Netflix limited series sees Emmy winners, Toni Collette and Merritt Wever as detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall investigating intruder rapes that are strikingly similar. One of the victims is Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever, the first of the Party Down alums on this list) who is having a hard time convincing anyone that something happened to her. Collette and Wever playing dogged cops who won’t let a case go when everyone around them is being dismissive is a huge selling point. Add Oscar-nominated writers Susanna Grant and Lisa Cholodenko into the creative mix, all but guarantees it will be told with sensitivity, nuance, and grace. It won’t be the easiest of watches, but it is a vital story that needs to be told.
Bless the Harts
(Fox, premieres 9/26) - Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph
Joining Fox’s animation Sunday line-up, Bless the Harts looks part King of the Hill, part Daria following a broke North Carolina family struggling to get by. Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph play mother and daughter and while they are not swimming in cash, the Harts have a lot of love to go around. A Saturday Night Live reunion extends to creator Emily Spivey, who has recently worked on the canceled-too-soon The Last Man on Earth. Rounding out the voice cast are The Mindy Project’s Ike Barinholtz and Fortune Feimster, plus Jillian Bell as suitably sardonic (hence the Daria comparison) teen Violet.
(CBS, premieres 9/26) - Michelle and Robert King
The Good Fight’s Michelle and Robert King are back on primetime and they’re bringing Good Wife/Fight alum Mike Colter along for the ride. The sadly short-lived BrainDead proved they were a dab hand at mixing political satire with horror, now they are looking to good old fashioned possession versus insanity as a reason for murder. This looks very much in the CBS procedural wheelhouse, but with the King’s at the creative helm, it will hopefully go beyond the usual crime fare. Along with Colter, the cast includes Michael Emerson (aka Ben from Lost), Westworld’s Katja Herbers, and Aasif Manvi.
(Netflix, premieres 9/27) - Ryan Murphy, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange
The first of Ryan Murphy’s Netflix output, he has made sure to bring some of his illustrious and always expanding troupe of actors along for the ride. It hasn’t been too long since audiences last had the pleasure of Jessica Lange on their TV screens but it will be fun to see her out of the horror sphere facing off against Gwyneth Paltrow. Prior to this, Paltrow’s TV career is made up of guest appearances on Glee and Web Therapy and she hasn’t done a great deal of acting outside of the MCU recently (not that she can remember which movies she is in). Playing Georgina Hobart, mother to wannabe politician Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) should give her ample opportunity to show us what we have been missing.
(The CW, premieres 10/9) - Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage
There was a time when Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage ruled Teen TV, following the success of The OC with Gossip Girl. The latter is getting a reboot for the new streaming platform, HBO Max, but before the Upper East Side gets a shock, Fake Empire Productions is bringing Nancy Drew back to life. Teen detectives are big business (see Veronica Mars), so it is about time for the original Nancy to headline her own show. The CW is the perfect home for Nancy, particularly as it is being paired with Riverdale, a show that has had a number of serial killers and an amateur investigator in the form of Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart).
Living with Yourself
(Netflix, premieres 10/18) - Paul Rudd
Paul Rudd has guest-starred on some of TV’s most beloved sitcoms, played horndog Andy on Wet Hot American Summer, and co-created Party Down. Now he is headlining his own show on Netflix that sounds like it falls into the trippy sci-fi comedy category recently vacated by Forever and Maniac. After undergoing a procedure, Rudd as Mike has to deal with the better version of himself. Yep, that’s right, we get two Paul Rudds for the price of one.
(HBO, premieres 10/20) - Regina King and Damon Lindelof
Damon Lindelof returns to HBO two years after wrapping up The Leftovers and he is bringing Regina King back with him. Based on the characters created by Alan Moore and David Gibbons in the graphic novel of the same name, this adaptation isn’t simply retelling the same story as the 2009 movie. Instead, it is set 34 years after the comic ended and this alternate reality has Robert Redford (playing himself) as the longest-serving president. King’s performance as a detective in Southland didn’t get the recognition it deserved, but she is back playing a cop. This time she has a group of white supremacists wearing Rorschach masks to contend with, however, she gets her own cape and mask to wear. HBO is looking for something to fill the giant hole left by Game of Thrones, this could be it.
Castle Rock (Season 2)
(Hulu, premieres 10/23) - Lizzy Caplan
From a guest spot on Freaks and Geeks and New Girl to a lead role on Party Down, Caplan has done a lot of TV comedy. Five seasons on Masters of Sex showed that drama was also in her wheelhouse; now trying her hand at horror in the Stephen King universe anthology series Castle Rock. The first season included references to iconic characters from his novels, but the closest any of the lead characters got to the books is Jack from The Shining’s niece. In the second season, Caplan is playing Annie Wilkes from Misery fame, as she gets stuck in the town of Castle Rock.
The Morning Show
(Apple TV+, premieres 11/1) - Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell
Apple TV is an unknown entity in terms of quality programming, but one thing they do have is big-ticket names and they are launching this service with TV royalty. Jennifer Aniston is the only one of the six pals that hasn’t headlined their own series since Friends ended in 2004. The NBC sitcom has found new life on Netflix, but instead of doing a reunion show, Aniston has instead picked a project alongside the actress who played Rachel Green’s younger sister. Reese Witherspoon guest starred as Jill in two episodes back in 2000, having recently made her stamp on TV in both a producing and acting capacity. Joining them on what looks like a daytime version of The Newsroom is Steve Carell in a Matt Lauer-style role. As with Aniston, Carell has tempered any revival hopes of The Office (also big on Netflix) and this is definitely one of the most anticipated fall debuts.
His Dark Materials
(HBO, premieres 11/4) - Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy
Ruth Wilson departed The Affair under murky circumstances, but she is back on TV in one of the event series’ of 2019. Based on Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, this HBO collaboration with the BBC, fans are hoping it is better than the 2007 movie adaptation. Also returning to television is James McAvoy who got his big break in the British versions of Shameless and State of Play, as well as the definitive Poirot, David Suchet. And for those missing the (Hot) Priest from Fleabag on their TV screens, you’re in luck as Andrew Scott is also coming along for the ride.
Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina.
TOPICS: Peak TV, Apple TV+, CBS, The CW, FOX, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Bless the Harts, Castle Rock, Evil, His Dark Materials, Living With Yourself, The Morning Show, Nancy Drew, The Politician, Unbelievable, Watchmen, Andrew Scott, Ben Platt, Damon Lindelof, Gwyneth Paltrow, James McAvoy, Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Lange, Josh Schwartz, Kristen Wiig, Lizzy Caplan, Maya Rudolph, Merritt Wever, Michelle King, Mike Colter, Paul Rudd, Regina King, Robert King, Ruth Wilson, Ryan Murphy, Stephanie Savage, Steve Carell, Toni Collette