The fall TV overhaul may be behind us, but, don’t worry, there are still plenty of must-see shows returning this month. From sitcoms to sex dramas, Westerns to medieval war sagas, there is something for everyone this November. Find out which series you should catch up on.
What it is: A family sitcom about recovering alcoholics, teen pregnancies, and other assorted curves life can throw may not sound like it’s mingling with laughing matters, but Mom works! Anna Faris leads as Christy, a mother of two who gets sober and moves to the Napa Valley to start her life anew. Allison Janney also steals the show as her mother, Bonnie, a fellow recovering addict who finally has the chance to be present for her daughter (and grandkids). In that sense, Mom is a comedy about making up for lost time.
Why you should watch it: This multi-cam sitcom from industry titan Chuck Lorre is five years strong thanks to the fact that it’s rough around the edges in a real-world way. It’s not too sweet, and it has standout (and, in the case of Janney, Emmy-winning!) performances across the board. They may not be a typical family, but for 30 minutes each week, they will be come a part of yours. Season 5 premiered November 2.
Commitment: Approx. 31 hours
What it is: Based on Steven Soderbourgh’s 2009 vignette-filled feature film of the same name, The Girlfriend Experience is an anthology drama series about the unexpected and complicated lives of sex workers. Season 1 follows a law student named Christine Reade (Riley Keogh) who moonlights in the profession. Season 2, which will follow two different story lines, premieres November 5.
Why you should watch it: While sex alone is likely a titillating enough calling card to pique many viewers’ interest, The Girlfriend Experience is about much more than its elevator pitch implies. Ultimately, it’s a meditation on feminist power, on the relationship between sex and manipulation, and the moral ambiguities of its protagonists’ careers (and those who employ them). Rich with finely realized performances and void of an imposing male gaze (Amy Seimetz is onboard as co-creator, co-director, and co-star), the series’ first season packed an emotional wallop while making you think. Season 2 will boast hourlong episodes (versus last year’s half-hours) and two parallel, concurrently running stories.
Commitment: Approx. 6.5 hours
What it is: While this comedy series has been around for so long that it’s hard to define it without giving away seven seasons of spoilers, but at its core, it’s an hour-long dysfunctional family comedy-drama about six children (led by Emmy Rossum as Fiona) who were forced to grow up too fast while under the watch of their single, alcoholic father, Frank (William H. Macy).
Why you should watch it: It’s tricky to strike the balance between broad comedy and aching drama, but it’s a skill that Shameless has perfected since its 2011 debut. Credit where it’s due: Rossum is an absolutely fearless knockout who bests herself season to season. It’s an excellent ensemble, and you can’t help but love the Gallagher family (even when they don’t make it easy), but watching the actress and Oscar nominee Macy go toe-to-toe as the central headstrong daughter and father just gets better with age. Season 8 premieres November 5.
Commitment: Approx. 77 hours
What it is: As an experienced comedian’s comedian, Maria Bamford finally gets the star treatment she deserves with Mitchell Hurwitz and Pam Brady’s half-hour semi-biographical comedy about a standup comedian who, after a breakdown and subsequent institutionalization, begins readjusting to an ever-changing world and ever-changing mental state.
Why you should watch it: Forgive the pun, but Lady Dynamite is explosive. It’s brave. It’s mental illness like you’ve never seen before — and in Bamford, it features a leading lady like you’ve never seen, either. With an eye for the surreal, the absurd, and the slapstick found in one standup comic’s everyday life, Lady is wacky, brilliant fun. Plus, it features a who’s who comedy roster of supporting players and cameos that will surely be even more impressive in Season 2, which bows November 10.
Where to watch: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 6 hours
What it is: Set in Wyoming’s fictional Absaroka County, this crime drama fits right in with the Westerns of the world, from Unforgiven to Hell or High Water. (Better yet, we’ve gotten to enjoy it for five seasons instead of just two hours!) The pilot picks up one year after the death of our titular hero’s wife, and through his grief, he digs deep into his work and sets his sights on getting reelected to the gold star.
Why you should watch it: Based on the bestselling Walt Longmire Mystery series, this A&E-turned-Netflix original is built on nostalgia for the all-American hero, and star Robert Taylor as Longmire is up to snuff going into its sixth and final season. Like the very best of classic Clint Eastwood and other gunslinging heroes of yesteryear, Taylor’s Longmire is stoically gruff, reserved, and a helluva shot. Need proof? Look no further than his early-series comparison between the small Absaroka’s issues of crime, poverty, and racism and those found in New York City: “Corruption, violence, greed, and murder — but Absaroka County has something that New York City will never have: They have me.” Good luck to those who stand in his way. Season 6 premieres November 17.
Commitment: Approx. 45 hours
What it is: Part relationship drama, part coming-of-age comedy, part noir-tinged mystery thriller, Search Party is undefinable —but that’s what makes it so good. It’s the story of Dory (Alia Shaukat), Drew (John Reynolds), Elliot (John Early), and Portia (Meredith Hagner), who, on account of their own self-interest and general aimlessness, entangle themselves in the potentially sinister disappearance of their college classmate.
Why you should watch it: Brooklyn-dwelling millennials have been beguiling subjects for many a film and TV auteur since Lena Dunham’s Girls, but never before have they been so exactingly (and excruciatingly) brought to life than in Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter’s incisive TBS satire-crime mystery cocktail. Season 2 premieres November 19.
Commitment: Approx. 4 hours
What it is: In the mood for a meaty, generations-spanning period drama that has violence, politics, sex, and true-to-history recreations to spare? Look no further than Vikings, Michael Hirst’s brilliant follow-up to The Tudors. The heart of the series is legendary rags-to-riches viking Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), his rise to power, and how he passes that power to his children and their children thereafter.
Why you should watch it: Vikings is complex, calculated storytelling at its best. Gorgeous, lush sets and production design, committed and gritty performances all around — it is a wonder that the program doesn’t garner acclaim on par with Game of Thrones (though it certainly draws comparisons). But somehow, there’s a viewers’ pleasure to being in on a well-kept secret. Join the club before season 5 returns November 29.
Commitment: Approx. 36 hours