(Photo by FX)
Fall TV is upon us, and there is so much coming your way this month! Check out 13 shows you should catch up on over the long Labor Day weekend and beyond.
Why you should watch it: To get ready for the next chapter in the Sons of Anarchy saga. There’s a lot riding on Mayans M.C. — and there’s a lot to look forward to when it premieres September 4. The new series follows Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD Pardo), who’s newly released from prison and now a new prospect in the titular biker gang. Fans of Sons of Anarchy know well enough what’s in store for them with this much-anticipated spin-off: a character-driven, tightly woven, violent (at times even grisly) drama. The new series also stars Edward James Olmos, Clayton Cardenas, and Sarah Bolger.
Commitment: Approx. 66 hours
Why you should watch it: You don’t become one of the longest-running live-action comedies of all time by sitting on your laurels and getting lazy about the laughs. It’s Always Sunny lays them on thick and fearlessly week to week for 12-going-on-13 seasons strong. That’s a lot to binge — so get to it! Season 13 premieres September 5.
Commitment: Approx. 50 hours
Why you should watch it: While Iron Fist was admittedly not as well received as its Marvel-on-Netflix counterparts, if you’re a fan of the universe, it’s definitely worth tuning in to orient yourself in the world of Marvel’s The Defenders, which also includes Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), and Luke Cage (Mike Colter), who also recently had a second season in which Danny Rand appears. We recommend at least binging Iron Fist season 1 and The Defenders before the former’s September 7 season 2 premiere. Here’s hoping Danny Rand’s new solo outing learned from its missteps the first round.
Commitment: Approx. 48 hours for the three seasons
Why you should watch it: By transporting us to a gritty world of sex, drugs, and an American Dream that’s foreign to most audiences today, The Deuce further proves Simon’s talent for creating series that are absolutely singular and authentic. Plus with talent like Gyllenhaal and Franco attached, it certainly ranks within prestige TV’s must-watch club. Season 2 premieres September 9.
Commitment: Approx. 8.5 hours
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. (Soak up this performance while you can — Rossum recently indicated on Facebook that this season might be her last.) 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 9 premieres Sept. 9.
Commitment: Approx. 89 hours
Why you should watch it: Now going for eight seasons strong and a favorite of critics and audiences alike, this anthological series never ceases to spook. And with returning favorites like Jessica Lange (who won two Emmys for her work on previous seasons) and Ryan Murphy mainstay Sarah Paulson, among many others (Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, and Emma Roberts), Apocalypse is shaping up to be its best outing yet.
Commitment: Approx. 70 hours
Why you should watch it: It’s not often that an alcoholic horse and a fictionalized Hollywood full of as many flawed humans as talking animals teaches you about yourself, but this one does — trust us! While it’s an acquired taste for any viewer, there’s reason BoJack’s blend of pitch-black humor and weighty human circumstance has gained such a cult following over the last four seasons. Catch up before season 5 premieres September 15.
Where to watch it: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 24 hours
Why you should watch it: There’s no doubt that television has been attracting some top-tier talent to the small screen over the last few years, and a series like 9-1-1 — with an ensemble including Angela Bassett, Connie Britton, and Peter Krause paired with a producer like Ryan Murphy — is that trend seen at its very best. Fun, over-the-top escapism abounds in this drama series, but never at the expense of its heart.
Commitment: Approx. 7 hours
Why you should watch it: Young Sheldon provides something that we haven’t seen before: a reinterpretation of a beloved multi-camera sitcom character as a single-camera, family-friendly, and heartwarming dramedy. Better yet, because this is a prologue series to Jim Parson’s Sheldon, our protagonist’s mother, Mary, is played by Zoe Perry, the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who stars as the same character on The Big Bang Theory! It’s a small-screen first. Season 2 premieres September 24.
Commitment: Approx. 8 hours
Why you should watch it: Will we ever live in a world where there’s too much Marvel? So long as the universe’s crop of series are of the caliber of The Gifted, we’re inclined to say no. Just like the very best releases from the X-Men franchise, this series is heavy on the action, while also packing an emotional punch — and it even delves into political territory, dramatizing prejudices against the “other,” anti-establishment activist movements, extremists groups, and more. Season 2 premieres September 25.
Commitment: Approx. 9.5 hours
Why you should watch it: There’s something inherently appealing about a marriage of the fish-out-of-water and opposites-attract formulas, and the effort holds up for this latest small-screen reboot. With Scott added to the mix, we’re in for even more fun this season. Catch up before season 3 premieres September 25.
Commitment: Approx. 30 hours
Why you should watch it: Nothing short of a phenomenon upon its premiere in 2015, Empire is classic Lee Daniels: engrossingly soapy, slightly camp, meticulously performed, and endlessly entertaining. Taraji P. Henson does some of the best work of her career as the scene-stealing and wig-snatching Cookie Lyon. She alone is worth the watch, but it helps that she has an excellent ensemble at her back, led by Howard who acts as the very best foil to her scheming. Season 5 premieres September 26.
Commitment: Approx. 48 hours
Why you should watch it: The Good Place is certainly among the best network comedies of recent memory. An always-charming Bell and TV royalty Danson play off of each other in a way that — what the fork!? — simply works. We can’t wait to see the good places they take us come season 3’s September 27 premiere.
Commitment: Approx. 9 hours
If you’re casting a television series about a judge who suffers a breakdown and thinks he’s receiving messages from God that put him on a path of vigilante justice, you need a guy with both gravitas and imposing menace — and fortunately Amazon’s new Hand of God series, debuting this week, found a leading man with both of those qualities in Ron Perlman, occasional Hellboy and character actor supreme. Whether he’s appeared au naturel or under makeup, worked live action or voiced animated characters, Perlman’s distinctive talent has been entertaining audiences for 30 years, and he’s assembled an eclectic filmography along the way. It’s about time we honored Mr. Perlman with the Total Recall treatment, wouldn’t you say?
A latex-covered Perlman got his big break in this award-winning adaptation of the 1911 novel, about a Neanderthal war for fire — and the dangerous quest undertaken by a small band of tribesmen who are forced to find another source after their clan’s fire is stolen by a rival tribe. An hour and 40 minutes of grunted dialogue and dirty caveman sex obviously isn’t what most filmgoers have in mind when they head out for a night at the cineplex, but Quest for Fire managed to perform relatively well at the box office, and became something of an early ‘80s cult favorite — as well as a hit with critics like Janet Maslin of the New York Times, who said it was “more than just a hugely enterprising science lesson, although it certainly is that. It’s also a touching, funny and suspenseful drama about prehumans.”
Going under heavy makeup for Quest for Fire helped Perlman launch his career, so perhaps it’s fitting that things didn’t truly take off for him until he put on prosthetics again — this time for Beauty and the Beast, an unlikely-seeming hit drama that aired for three seasons on CBS between 1987-’90. A modern retelling of the oft-adapted fable, this Beauty posited our hero as a member of a secret community below New York City whose disfigurement masks a noble warrior’s heart — as evidenced when he rescues a lawyer (Linda Hamilton) from a brutal attack, saving her life and starting one of the era’s most swoonworthy TV love affairs. The show burned bright but fast — ratings started fading in the second season, and Hamilton’s departure the following year cemented its fate in the third and final batch of episodes — but it earned Perlman a Golden Globe and a whole new lease on his professional life.
Perlman started his continuing association with Guillermo del Toro in this 1993 horror movie, about the gruesome series of events that unfolds after an old man (Federico Luppi) discovers an ancient scarab that injects him with a mysterious substance — one which restores his youthful vitality, but leaves him with a thirst for blood. Perlman stars in a supporting role as the ironically named Angel de la Guardia, a hoodlum sent on a quest by his elderly uncle, who craves the scarab’s restorative powers; the path of violence he carves in pursuit of his goal sets in motion some of Cronos’ most memorably horrific sequences. It barely registered a blip on the U.S. box office, but Cronos was an instant hit with critics; as an appreciative Ken Hanke wrote for the Asheville Mountain Xpress, it is “one of the most intelligent — and strangely moving — horror films ever made.”
Perlman’s work with Guillermo del Toro has placed him within some pretty remarkable cinematic worlds, but his sojourn into Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s City of Lost Children might be the most visually striking of them all: a dense, whirring dystopia where an evil scientist (Daniel Emilfork) steals the dreams of kidnapped children. Their only hope is One (Perlman), a circus strongman whose younger brother is among the lost — and for whom he’ll set out on an arduous journey to rescue. Rife with sights that will haunt the viewer long after the credits roll, City won praise from critics like Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle, who recommended it as “a dark phantasmagoria so visually amazing and provocative — yet dense and confusing — that viewers may need to see it more than once to take it all in.”
Witty equal-opportunity political humor has become something of a lost art on the big screen over the last decade or so, but thing’s weren’t always this way. For proof, simply look to 1995’s The Last Supper, an ensemble indie comedy about a group of young liberals (including Cameron Diaz, Ron Eldard, and Annabeth Gish) who begin poisoning conservative dinner guests as part of a misguided campaign to save the world. While the murder victims aren’t terribly sympathetic, their murderers aren’t especially likable either — so by the time they cross paths with a Limbaugh-esque conservative pundit (played by Perlman), loyalties to either ideological extreme have been tested. “In today’s divisive political climate, where compromise is a dirty word,” observed Leslie Rigoulot of Film Scouts, “The Last Supper raises not only timely questions but moral dilemmas as well.”
A goofy Steve Zahn comedy with a minuscule budget and a box office tally that wasn’t much bigger, Happy, Texas gave Perlman the opportunity to steal scenes in another supporting role: Marshal Nalhober, a straight-shooting cop in hot pursuit of three escaped prisoners (Zahn, Jeremy Northam, and M.C. Gainey) posing as the organizers of a local beauty pageant. Eminently quotable and buoyed by a smart, rootsy soundtrack, Happy provoked appreciative guffaws from critics like Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times, who called it “a hoot, a hilarious comedy that’s smart and caring, yet sexy and ingenious enough that it just might stir up some of that elusive Full Monty-style box-office appeal.”
Perlman went back under the makeup — and reunited with his Cronos and Blade II director, Guillermo del Toro — for 2004’s Hellboy, an adaptation of the popular Dark Horse Comics title. Grossing under $60 million in the U.S., it was something of a disappointment at the box office, but Perlman and Del Toro were a natural fit for the franchise; four years after the first Hellboy, Perlman teamed up again with Guillermo del Toro for another round of supernatural fun — and while the original Hellboy earned mostly positive reviews, the sequel was an even bigger critical winner. A gleeful blend of popcorn thrills and uniquely del Toro visual splendor, Hellboy II: The Golden Army reunited the original cast for an epic battle between the forces of good and an irate elven king (Luke Goss) who wants to reignite the long-dormant war between elves and humans. While it was overshadowed at the box office by The Dark Knight and Iron Man, it still earned over $160 million — and earned the admiration of critics like Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who called it “the biggest, richest, most imaginative superhero movie of the summer.”
A sort of cross between An Inconvenient Truth and The Thing, this wintry thriller found writer/director Larry Fessenden returning to the themes of isolation he explored in Wendigo, while adding an ecologically conscious twist: at a remote ANWR drilling base, a team of workers (led by Perlman) starts dying off, casualties of “sour gas” released as a side effect of global warming — or are they under attack from vengeful spirits of the Earth? Though it screened in extremely limited release, The Last Winter received more than a few positive reviews from critics, including Aaron Hillis of Premiere Magazine, who called it “A richly drawn, ambitious character piece both socially relevant and genuinely suspenseful” before concluding, “This is filmmaking both gorgeous and deeply unsettling.”
Perlman and his Last Winter director, Larry Fessenden, re-teamed for this 2008 black comedy — only this time, they were both on the same side of the camera. Helmed by Glenn McQuaid (who also worked behind the scenes on The Last Winter), I Sell the Dead recounts the story of a pair of Irish grave robbers (played by Fessenden and Dominic Monaghan), as told to a jailhouse priest (Perlman). A bizarre mashup of 19th-century period thriller and zombie/alien comic gore, Dead had a blink-and-you-missed it theatrical run, playing on only two screens, but even some of the critics who couldn’t recommend it found the film impossible to dislike — such as Ty Burr of the Boston Globe, who mused, “If it’s not actually a good movie, on some level you have to admire the chutzpah of a film set in 1850s Ireland but shot on Staten Island.”
Perlman stayed busy on television in the years after Beauty and the Beast, consistently booking voice work and episodic guest spots on shows even as his film roles continued to pile up — and putting him in a uniquely enviable position as the small screen’s new golden age made the prospect of snagging a regular series gig increasingly appealing to a widening circle of Hollywood vets. It paid fresh dividends with Sons of Anarchy, the 2008-’14 FX hit that spun circles of tightly woven (and increasingly dark) drama out of the inner lives of a California motorcycle gang whose second-generation vice-president (Charlie Hunnam) finds himself increasingly at odds with the gang’s morally ambiguous leader (Perlman). Consistently critically acclaimed, Sons set ratings records for the network — and offered Perlman an opportunity to prove he could help anchor a series without a lion-shaped prosthetic covering his face.
Finally, here’s one of Mr. Perlman’s first television appearances — the role of Dr. Bernie Marx on a 1979 episode of the daytime serial Ryan’s Hope:
Better Call Saul ends its first season this month, so now you can watch every episode in one 10-hour binge (and then wait forever like the rest of us for season two). And there’s still time to catch up on comedies Louie and Silicon Valley, before they come back this month. For those of you curious about joining the Clone Club, now is the time to binge the first two seasons of Orphan Black in time for Apr. 18. These, and other recommendations are below to satisfy any binge-watching tastes this month!
What it is: Before he was Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, Albuquerque’s shadiest (and funniest) lawyer was Jimmy McGill.
Why you should watch it: For people who like to watch everything at once, season one will be ready for you to view in its entirety after the finale on AMC, Tuesday, Apr. 7. Essential viewing for Breaking Bad fans, Better Call Saul is also a stand-alone drama, engrossing and darkly comic, with knock-out performances by Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks.
Commitment: 10 hours.
What it is: After seeing “herself” jump in front of a train, a young woman discovers she is a clone and, with the help of the others like her, falls into a conspiratorial whirlwind of mystery and deception.
Why you should watch it: Tatiana Maslany has received attention her performances as each clone, but that’s not the only reason to watch. Suspense, drama, action, and a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor make this one a must-see for fans of varying genres.
Where to watch: Orphan Black returns with its season three premiere on Apr. 18. Seasons one and two are available on Xfinity, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Sony Playstation, Google Play, Xbox Video, and DirecTV. Both seasons are also available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Commitment: 20 hours.
What it is: Kurt Sutter’s hit series from FX follows the exploits of the biker club SAMCRO, and its “president” Jax Teller (Charlie Hannum).
Why you should watch it: Sons of Anarchy rode off into the sunset earlier this year and left a legion of loyal fans and adoring critics in its wake. The Shakespearean themes of this gritty drama give poetic undertones to the violent lives (and deaths) of these characters.
Where to watch: Seasons one through six are streaming on Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. Season seven will debut on Netflix on Apr. 25. Every episode is also available on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, Xbox Video, and Google Play.
Commitment: 85 hours.
What it is: In Mike Judge’s comedy set in Bay Area’s tech universe, Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and his team of socially awkward developers make an app, catching the attention of the area’s billionaire investor.
Why you should watch it: Short and sweet, season one of Silicon Valley is an easy catch-up before season two premieres on Sunday, Apr. 12. The cast, featuring Middleditch, T.J. Miller, and Kumail Nanjiani, perfectly capture the oddball characters who rule the Internet.
Commitment: 4 hours.
What it is: Penny Dreadful creates a frightening variant of Victorian London, where horrific figures from classic literature such as Dr. Frankenstein, the Creature, Dorian Grey co-exist and terrorize the city.
Why you should watch it: The gore is intensified by the element of high drama, earning season one a Certified Fresh Tomatometer score of 78 percent.
Commitment: Eight hours.
What it is: This prequel to Treasure Island chronicles the rise of John Silver (Luke Arnold) and the adventures of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens).
Why you should watch it: The series, which just finished airing season two, takes a deeper look at the politics during the Golden Age of Piracy than the usual swashbuckling and copious use of the phrase, “Arrrrrr!”
Commitment: 20 hours.
What it is: Three gay men ride the turbulent waves of the San Francisco dating scene while maintaining their friendships and careers.
Why you should watch it: Though recently canceled, season two of Looking begins streaming on iTunes on Apr. 20. Its honest depiction of sexual and emotional issues grabbed critics’ attention with season one, which is Certified Fresh at 89 percent, and continued to impress critics and fans (currently petitioning for its revival) throughout its short run.
Where to watch: Seasons one and two are available on HBO Go and iTunes (season two iTunes as of Apr. 20). Season one is also available on Vudu, Google Play, YouTube, X Box Video, and Amazon Instant Video. Season one is available on Blu-ray and DVD (season two is available for pre-order).
Commitment: Nine hours.
What it is: A family drama set in Los Alamos, NM, portrays the development of the Manhattan Project and the invention of the atomic bomb.
Why you should watch it: Manhattan uses the government’s top secrecy to explore drama and intrigue on a family level. It also drives you to root for this band of scientists struggling with the dilemma of creating such a fearsome weapon, and not being able to tell their loved ones about it.
Commitment: 13 hours.
What it is: In this quasi-autobiographical FX series, Louis CK plays himself, a stand-up comedian and single dad living in New York City.
Why you should watch it: Louis CK’s encapsulation of the human experience is at once hilarious and sad and his hometown of The Big Apple is the perfect setting for examining everything wonderful, awful, and downright weird about people.
Where to watch: Seasons one through four are available with a subscription to Amazon Prime and Netflix. All four seasons are also available on Google Play, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, XBox Video, and DVD.
Commitment: 27 hours, and with season five coming to FX on Apr. 9, you better start now!
What it is: FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigate unexplained paranormal phenomena. Mulder wants to believe, but Scully is a skeptic.
Why you should watch it: With the announcement of an X-Files reboot, there’s no time like to present to familiarize yourself with the show — especially if you’re a fan of aliens, conspiracies, unexplained phenomena, or just really good mysteries.
Commitment: 154 hours.
Which of these shows would you recommend to a friend? Let us know in the comments section below!