Fall Arts Preview: Top 10 TV Shows

The Chair (Starz), September 6 (© 2014 Chair One Productions, LLC).
While Project Greenlight makes its return to HBO this fall, the premium channel’s rival Starz—and Project Greenlight executive producer Chris Moore—will debut its own director-centric reality show The Chair. Two filmmakers, YouTube comedy star Shane Dawson and actress-turned-writer-turned-director Anna Martemucci, will adapt a film from the same original screenplay with guidance from actor Zachary Quinto and producer Josh Shader. This show is sure to offer a complex look into the intricacies of filmmaking, spotlighted by the differences between the two artists’ films, while surely serving as applicable practice for Mr. Dawson and Ms. Martemucci as they enter into Hollywood, where all the scripts are the same anyway.
Doctor Who (BBC One), August 23 (© BBC/BBC WORLDWIDE 2013).
The times, they are a-changin’. Well, the Time Lord is anyway. The eponymous Doctor of Doctor Who has gone and got himself a new face again, and this time around it is the indelible Peter Capaldi who takes over as the 12th doctor. Gone are the days of Matt Smith’s babyfaced portrayal (Mr. Smith was the youngest actor to ever take on the role). Mr. Capaldi’s incarnation is an obviously older, more mature Doctor that is sure to bring new depth to a character that has been around since 1963. Can we expect the same quirky weirdness that has become this show’s staple? The series premiere boasted a Tyrannosaurus Rex stomping around the depths of London’s Thames River, so I think we’re safe on that front.
The Affair (Showtime), October 12 (2014 Showtime).
You don’t really have to stretch your imagination too far to figure out what Showtime’s latest drama is about. Married novelist Noah meets married waitress Alison in a Montauk diner, and the two do things together married people shouldn’t do. But Showtime has far more hits than misses in its original series line, Dexter finale notwithstanding. Coupled with a producer that co-executive produced Netflix’s House of Cards and a preview that hints this show will delve far past simple extramarital activities, this one could be an affair to remember (so, so sorry about that one). Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/SHOWTIME
Transparent (Amazon), September 26 (Courtesy Amazon Studios).
Jill Solloway, who rose from writer to co-producer on Six Feet Under, has created her hit show for the streaming generation. Transparent’s pilot episode was already released back in February on Amazon, and the rave reviews it received have only gotten better in the interim. This show is carried pleasantly along by its incredibly varied cast (GIRLS’ Gaby Hoffman and Who’s the Boss? alum Judith Light, to name a few) and bolstered by Jeffrey Tambor’s turn as a father coming out to his family as transsexual. The title is a play on words, but it is clear that Amazon has finally found the breakout hit that it’s been looking for.
Shonda Rhimes continues on her ever-progressing quest to take over television. The creator of both Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy is now backing How to Get Away with Murder, ABC’s newest legal drama. Viola Davis breathes intimidating life into Annalise Keating, a legendary law attorney who takes on four of her Criminal Law 100 students to work in her firm. Oscar-nominated Ms. Davis looks to be the captain driving this show, and a compelling one at that. “You can spend [life] in a corporate office drafting contracts and hitting on chubby paralegals before putting a gun in your mouth, or you can join my firm and become someone you actually like,” she snarls in a pilot preview. Jeez. We’ll join Ms. Rhimes and Ms. Davis in the late-September premiere, at least. (ABC/Nicole Rivelli) VIOLA DAVIS
Gotham (FOX), September 22 (Jessica Miglio/FOX).
The highly anticipated Gotham must answer one simple question: how do you make a Batman show without Batman? This new Fox series centers on the days following the murder of young Bruce Wayne’s parents, but years before the orphaned millionaire dons the cape and cowl. The key to the show’s success is simple—include basically every other character comic lovers and casual fans can recognize. Ben McKenzie stars as a fresh-faced Jim Gordon, brought up to speed on the ethics (and lack thereof) of the Gotham police force by his partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). On the villainous side, Cory Michael Smith portrays a bespectacled, pre-Riddler Edward Nygma while the high-energy Robin Taylor fills the three-piece suit of a youthful Oswald Cobblepot. That’s not all—we’ve seen the pilot, and there is a seemingly inconspicuous stand-up comedian you might want to keep an eye on. Jokers in Gotham usually have a hard time fitting in. (Jessica Miglio/FOX)
Boardwalk Empire (HBO), September 7 (Macall B. Polay).
“No one goes quietly,” states the ominous advertisements running for HBO’s final season of Boardwalk Empire. But in a world of constantly disappointing show-enders, can we expect a satisfying conclusion to Nucky Thompson’s story? Boardwalk showrunner Terence Winter has learned from one of the best to ever bring a show to the finish line—or worst, depending on who you ask—The Sopranos’ David Chase. And Mr. Winter is taking a risk with this final run in the form of a seven-year time jump from season four’s finale to 1931 and early days of the Great Depression. The shiny shoes and boardwalk lights of the ’20s may be gone, but this is still a must-see season simply to see how Steve Buscemi’s Thompson goes out, however loudly or quietly that may be.
Mulaney (FOX), October 5 (Ray Mickshaw/FOX).
Listen, we all already know that Mulaney—a show about a stand-up comedian, featuring bits from that stand-up comedian, who also happens to be playing a version of himself—bears more than a passing resemblance to Seinfeld. But Mulaney also has a ton of non-Seinfeldian things going for it. The show is executive produced by none other than Lorne Michaels, and creator John Mulaney won an Emmy in 2011 for his writing on Saturday Night Live. Mr. Mulaney also managed to snag SNL veteran Martin Short and big-screen stalwart/Oscar-nominee Elliott Gould in supporting roles. And if none of that is doing it for you, is Seinfeld really the worst show to be compared to? (Ray Mickshaw/FOX)
(Adam Rose/FOX)
Utopia is basically every reality show you have ever seen, except way, way bigger. The show, based on a Dutch version of the same name, follows 15 participants who will leave their lives behind for an entire year and attempt to build an entirely new society in a remote area of Vermont (possibly the only state where it wouldn’t be weird to stumble across a new civilization in the woods). The people they’ve picked to be on this show, well, they are a different bunch. There’s Amanda, who plans to keep the fact that she is pregnant a secret for as long as she can in Utopia, polyamorous belly-dancer Dedeker, Christian preacher Jonathan, and Dave, a former drug-dealer who’s been in and out of jail since 17. The list goes on like that in similar fashion. In a final twist, FOX is offering 24/7 streaming online of the going-ons in Utopia, but let’s be honest, this is a reality show on Fox so you’re probably just going to be watching people have dark and blurry sex. (Adam Rose/FOX)

While some may look forward to the fall for the change of the weather, the rustic color of the trees or the sound of football helmets clashing together, we have our eyes glued on that new fall TV slate. With summer newcomers like The Leftovers or The Strain in our rear-view mirror, we embrace the winds of television change. While it looks like comic books are this year’s moneymakers (what else is new these days?), a Time Lord, a transsexual father, and a certain returning bootlegger from New Jersey also make their case for the top TV show coming this fall.

Here’s a look at the best, and the dates they premiere.

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