Fred Armisen and Bill Hader in "Documentary Now!"
Your favorite September to May shows are back! There’s a fall potpourri of returning programs from network and cable television that are worth going back to. Like the familiar cozy sweaters we reach for in September, it feels good to settle back into our normal television schedule. From the provocative series Masters of Sex to the smart comedy Black-ish, there are plenty of programs to check out this fall.
Masters of Sex – Showtime (returning Sept. 11)
Showtime’s Masters of Sex is the most serious of the shows I’m going to preview. Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) and Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls) star as human sexuality researchers William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson in this simmering series. It takes place in the 1960s and like its period contemporary Mad Men, it’s a bit of a slow burn. However, the chemistry between Caplan and Sheen is positively combustible. It’s really one of the best shows on television and if you haven’t seen it yet, watch from the beginning before starting the current fourth season.
Documentary Now! – IFC (returning Sept. 14)
Documentary Now! on IFC is truly one of the funniest and most unique series on television. It comes from comedic geniuses Fred Armisen (Portlandia) and Bill Hader of Saturday Night Live, and each episode is a short mockumentary of famous films from rock docs to Grey Gardens. The episodes strike just the right balance of goofiness and true intelligence. Armisen and Hader have chops to play any character to near perfection. While you don’t have to start from the beginning to follow the new season, it’s worth catching up because of the delightfulness of each episode. If you’re a fan of Portlandia, you really should be watching Documentary Now!
Project Runway – Lifetime (returning Sept. 15)
As far as reality competitions go, Project Runway is definitely in my top three favorites of all time. What I find makes PR so great is that for the most part, the show has retained its identity and level of quality, despite moving from Bravo to Lifetime. Oftentimes, reality television programs diminish over time because what’s “cool” in pop culture changes. However because fashion is always changing, Project Runway manages to stay fresh. Plus, Tim Gunn anchors the show; his genuine and kind-hearted feedback has saved many a designer from a dark fate. Judges Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen and Isaac Mizrahi do a nice job evaluating the garments and holding the designers to high standards (with a few exceptions.) And, let’s not forget the contestants! Designers like Christian Siriano and Michael Costello have gone on to dress fabulous women from Kim Kardashian to Serena Williams. The producers always seem to find the right mix of contestants, and I can’t wait to see what these new designers are capable of.
Black-ish – ABC (returning Sept. 21)
ABC’s family comedy Black-ish is one of the best shows on television, in any genre. It comes from creator Kenya Barris, and it interprets his life story as a black man who grew up to attain wealth and success through a career as an advertising executive. The main character Dre (played by Barbershop’s Anthony Anderson) struggles to achieve the balance between giving his four children everything he never had and teaching them tough but important life lessons. Girlfriends’ Tracee Ellis Ross plays Dr. Rainbow Johnson, a successful doctor, mother and wife. I love this series because of its ability to teach life lessons and keep us laughing. And its multi-generational cast helps it outshine other network comedies. I love this show, and everybody should be watching it.
The Goldbergs – ABC (returning Sept. 21)
There’s a special place in my heart for ABC’s other power-comedy, The Goldbergs. Maybe it’s because I learn multitudes about ‘80s pop culture from each episode, or maybe it’s because it once made me laugh so hard I spilled cereal all over myself (the joke was that good.) I started out as a skeptic, not quite knowing what to expect from this Wednesday night family comedy. However I was quickly converted to a fan and now the only way I can describe this show is just 100 percent warm fuzzies. The 1980s nostalgia is executed to a tee, and the strong cast — anchored by Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin and Bridesmaids’ Wendi McLendon-Covey — makes the stories from creator Adam F. Goldberg’s childhood come to life. If you liked Stranger Things but want more laughs and a snuggle monster instead of an actual monster (oh, Beverly,) then catch up on The Goldbergs.