There are literally hundreds of TV shows debuting or returning between now and the end of the year. You can’t—and shouldn’t—watch all of them. No sane person would even try.
But most of us can manage a few (especially when they’re bingeable). That’s why we sorted through all the upcoming fall shows and picked just four that we feel are worth your limited time and energy. From the porn industry to serial killer psychology, these are the TV shows you need to know about over the next few months (with a few others to keep an eye on):
The Wire creator David Simon is back on HBO with another sprawling, sociopolitical drama. Like The Wire, The Deuce is a captivating portrait of an American city, exploring in industrious detail the rise of the porn industry in 1970s Manhattan.
Come for the stylish period costumes and setting, stay for Simon’s distinctive interweaving plot lines and diverse cast of complicated characters.
- Network: HBO
- Premiere: Sunday, Sept. 10
- Must watch if you are one of those people who constantly tell your friends to watch The Wire; liked HBO’s Vinyl for the 1970s New York setting but not much else; are intrigued by the idea of dual, mustachioed James Francos.
- Skip if you need your shows to jump immediately into the action (rather than spend the first few episodes building the world and introducing its characters, as The Deuce does).
Mr. Robot hit a sophomore slump last year, but it created more than enough goodwill in its fantastic debut season to deserve a chance at redemption. One part techno thriller, two parts mystery, the hacker drama has never been more timely as large corporations and political institutions continue to be attacked by computer criminals.
- Network: USA
- Premiere: Wednesday, Oct. 11
- Must watch if you want to see the most realistic portrayal of computer hacking on TV; are immersed in Reddit fan theory culture; prefer when the characters’ heads are placed in the bottom corner of the frame.
- Skip if you need things spelled out for you or dislike the feeling of confusion.
David Fincher, one of the best film directors alive, is headed back to television with Mindhunter, his first foray on the small screen since he directed the pilot of House of Cards. Mindhunter is the Seven, Zodiac, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo director at his best—telling stories about serial killers.
Based on the book of the same name by former FBI criminal profiler John E. Douglas, Mindhunter follows Holden Ford (a special agent in the bureau’s behaviorial science division, based on Douglas and played by Hamilton performer Jonathan Groff) as he interviews infamous killers like Edmund Kemper.
- Network: Netflix
- Premiere: Friday, Oct. 13
- Must watch if you wish Zodiac was a 10-episode TV series you could binge; are fascinated, if terrified, by the psychology of serial killers; thought King George was the best part of Hamilton.
- Skip if you are prone to nightmares.
The surprise hit of last summer, Stranger Things is not sneaking up on anyone this time. The second season of Netflix’s 1980s-inspired sci-fi adventure is perhaps the fall’s biggest TV event. While it may not be as philosophically deep as The Deuce or as purely chilling as Mindhunter, Stranger Things might be the most entertaining show you watch (and more than likely binge) this fall.
- Network: Netflix
- Premiere: Friday, Oct. 27
- Must watch if you yearn to feel like a kid again; are obsessed with all things Halloween; want creepy 1980s synth tracks to be the background music of your fall.
- Skip if you are sick of seeing these kids everywhere you look.
- American Horror Story: Cult (FX, Sept. 5): Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology series returns with a satire of the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election.
- Top of the Lake: China Girl (SundanceTV, Sept. 10): Season two of this gorgeously shot mystery finds Robin (Elisabeth Moss) taking on a new disturbing murder.
- The Orville (Fox, Sept. 10): Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane wants to bring optimistic science fiction back amidst all the dystopia we see everywhere else.
- American Vandal (Netflix, Sept. 15): Netflix spoofs the true crime genre (which it’s no stranger to) with a mystery of who drew a bunch of penises on cars in a high school parking lot.
- The Vietnam War (PBS, Sept. 17): Prolific documentarian Ken Burns covers the Vietnam War in this 10-part, 18-hour educational epic.
- Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, Oct. 1): It’s pretty, pretty, pretty good that Larry David’s semi-scripted comedy is back on HBO after a six-year hiatus.
- The Mayor (ABC, Oct. 3): A young rapper accidentally becomes the mayor of his hometown in what looks like one of the better broadcast comedies this fall.
- Godless (Netflix, Nov. 22): An outlaw, played by none other than Jeff Daniels, chases a deserter across the American West (we’re not sure why this hasn’t gotten more buzz).