8 TV shows to look forward to this fall

Updated September 23, 2017 - 6:18 pm

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: This is, at best, a mediocre crop of new fall shows.

It’s as though it was hit by drought, or boll weevils, or whatever else damages crops. (I haven’t spent much time around farms.)

But, in many ways, the failure to yield many quality series is a reflection on the overall success of last fall’s new shows.

HBO’s “Westworld” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” were up for best drama Emmys. FX’s “Atlanta” was nominated for best comedy, and the channel’s “Better Things” earned a best actress nod for Pamela Adlon. Throw in acclaimed series such as HBO’s “Insecure,” Netflix’s “Luke Cage” and Amazon’s “One Mississippi” and “Goliath,” and that left fewer spots and resources for new shows from the major players.

Still, it’s not all bad news. Fox’s “The Gifted” (9 p.m. Oct. 2), set in the X-Men universe, and Showtime’s “White Famous” (10 p.m. Oct. 15), about a comic (Jay Pharoah, “Saturday Night Live”) nervous about his big acting break, very nearly earned recommendations. I’ll give ABC’s “Ten Days in the Valley” (10 p.m. Oct. 1) a second look. And I’ve already written about why you should check out HBO’s “The Deuce” (9 p.m. Sundays), a period piece about pornography.

But here’s a look at what you should be watching this fall:

“Mike Judge Presents: Tales From the Tour Bus” (already airing at 10 p.m. Fridays, Cinemax)

If you’d have told me going into this that my favorite new series would be a documentary about the dark side of country music stars, I may have just hunkered down and waited for midseason. Yet “Tales From the Tour Bus” is just shy of amazing.

Narrated by Judge, who brought you “Beavis and Butt-head” and “Silicon Valley,” the series uses a mix of animation and archival footage to explore the demons of singers — including George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings and, most hilariously, Johnny “Take This Job and Shove It” Paycheck — through interviews with the people who knew them best.

Mixing wit, humor and actual interesting information, “Tales From the Tour Bus” is a bit like “Drunk History,” but with animation instead of recognizable actors — and somewhat less alcohol.

Paycheck’s manager, Ernie Stepp, recalls a confrontation with his tour bus driver during which Paycheck wanted a Big Mac, but the driver refused and pulled into a truck stop. “Anyway,” Stepp says, matter-of-factly, “I shot the bus driver in the ear.”

I would watch an entire series based on the show’s version of Paycheck. Heck, I’d even contribute to a crowdfunding for it.

“Liar” (10 p.m. Wednesday, SundanceTV)

A widowed surgeon (Ioan Gruffudd) musters the courage to ask his son’s teacher (Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey”) on a date. Afterward, she awakens, certain he’d drugged and raped her. He vehemently denies doing any such thing. As she fights to prove his guilt, and he struggles to save his reputation, flashbacks to the night in question help shed light on who’s lying in this six-episode British series.

“Ghosted” (8:30 p.m. Oct. 1, Fox)

Max (Adam Scott, “Parks and Recreation”), a disgraced Stanford astrophysics professor now working at a bookstore, and Leroy (Craig Robinson, “The Office”), a former LAPD detective turned mall security guard, are kidnapped by the paranormal investigation unit Bureau Underground to help investigate a case. With Max fully believing that something is out there and Leroy a devout skeptic, the comedy feels like someone threw “The X-Files,” “Ghostbusters,” “Men in Black” and “Beverly Hills Cop” into a blender and left in some of the chunky bits.

“Tin Star” (Sept. 29, Amazon)

Det. Jim Worth (Tim Roth) moves his family from London to tiny Little Big Bear in the Canadian Rockies to become its police chief and get away from, well, something. Little Big Bear is, according to his teenage daughter, “the most boring place on Earth.” Then a massive oil refinery fronted by a “corporate liaison” (Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”) opens nearby, bringing with it drugs and prostitution. When Worth does his best to stand in the company’s way, he incurs the wrath of big oil, organized crime and tribal elders at the Indian casino who rely on the oil workers to gamble away their paychecks. It’s a slow boil, but when Worth’s new enemies come after his family — well, let’s just say I’d watch anything with an enraged Tim Roth in it.

“Big Mouth” (Sept. 29, Netflix)

Best friends Andrew (voiced by John Mulaney) and Nick (co-creator Nick Kroll) confront puberty in this animated comedy that’s at least in the running as the filthiest thing I’ve ever seen. A bit in which a Michael Stipe-looking tampon sings about menstruation is one of the cleaner gags. But Mulaney and Kroll look hilarious as children, and the supremely talented voice lineup includes Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Jenny Slate and Jordan Peele as the ghost of Duke Ellington, who died in Nick’s house and is always there to offer advice.

“She’s Gotta Have It” (Nov. 23, Netflix)

Writer-director Spike Lee revisits his debut feature, three decades later, with this 10-episode update. Artist Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) is juggling sexual relationships with three very different men: investment banker Jamie Overstreet (Lyriq Bent), narcissistic model Greer Childs (Cleo Anthony) and the now-iconic sneakerhead Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos), who’s still obsessed with Michael Jordan. Lee directs each episode, and the first is bursting with his visual flair and love of Brooklyn. Nola’s unapologetic attitude about her sexuality is less revolutionary now than it was in 1986, but it’s still powerful hearing her declare, “I’m not a freak. I’m not a sex addict. And I’m damn sure nobody’s property.”

“Future Man” (Nov. 14, Hulu)

When janitor Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson, “The Hunger Games”) finally defeats his favorite video game, “The Biotic Wars,” its characters, Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and Wolf (Derek Wilson), emerge from the screen to tell him that everything he’s been playing is real. “The Biotic Wars,” they say, is a recruitment tool sent back from the future looking for the savior who could beat it. “That’s ‘The Last Starfighter,’ ” an incredulous Josh replies. “That’s the exact same plot as the movie.” From Seth Rogen, “Future Man” proudly name-checks its other influences, including “Quantum Leap” and “Children of Men.” But it’s basically a raunchy comedic version of “The Terminator.”

“Loudermilk” (10:30 p.m. Oct. 17, DirecTV’s AT&T Audience Network)

Sam Loudermilk (Ron Livingston) has gone from respected rock journalist to a substance abuse counselor sharing an apartment with his sponsor (Will Sasso) in this dark comedy from Peter Farrelly (“There’s Something About Mary”) and Bobby Mort (“The Colbert Report”). The two reluctantly let a young addict (Anja Savcic) crash on their couch, but who could blame them when she doles out compliments such as, “You’re pretty. Like herpes medicine commercial pretty.” The first episode’s a little iffy, but the second hit me with a wave of laughter spasms.

Five to look for

Screeners weren’t available for every new fall series. Here are five promising ones I wasn’t able to see:

“I Love You, America” (Oct. 12, Hulu): Sarah Silverman will look to connect with “un-like-minded people” in this weekly talk show.

“Marvel’s Runaways” (Nov. 21, Hulu): Six diverse teenagers discover they have superpowers, and that their parents are supervillains, in this comic book adaptation from the team of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (“The O.C.,” “Gossip Girl”).

“Godless” (Nov. 22, Netflix): On the run from the gang of outlaws led by his father figure (Jeff Daniels), a young man (Jack O’Connell, “Unbroken”) seeks refuge with a widow (Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey”) in an isolated mining town governed by women in this limited series created by Scott Frank (“Logan”) and executive produced by Steven Soderbergh.

“Happy!” (10 p.m. Dec. 6, Syfy): The life of Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni), an alcoholic former cop turned hitman, takes a new direction when he meets a tiny, relentlessly positive, imaginary blue winged horse named “Happy” (voiced by Patton Oswalt).

“The Punisher” (TBA, Netflix): After being introduced in “Daredevil’s” second season, Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) returns to avenge people other than his late family members.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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