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.
(Photo by CBS)
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
(Photo by Showtime)
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
(Photo by Netflix)
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
(Photo by TBS)
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
Even with over 20 new shows premiering in September (not to mention all the existing series returning with new seasons), we can’t blame you for wanting to binge whole seasons of tried-and-true TV. This month, we’ve pulled together a collection of shows for your bingeing pleasure, including some off-the-radar series, and a few biggies that you need to start right now if you want to catch up before they come back!
What it is: A disparate group of people attempts to survive the zombie apocalypse; existential malaise and bloody mayhem ensues.
Why you should watch it: We’re not gonna lie: The Walking Dead has its share of dead patches and dull characters. But the basic setup is so compelling — how would you respond if the whole world went to hell? — that you’re likely to press on regardless. Plus, when it comes to creative zombie slaughter, this show can’t be beat — you get the feeling that every stabbing, every shooting, every beheading has been lovingly conceived and executed by some of the finest craftspeople in the business. Season six premieres on October 11, so you’d better start catching up now!
Commitment: 69 hours.
What it is: American Horror Story is the show that kick-started the recent anthology trend, with shows like Fargo and American Crime picking up the cue. Each season of AHS is its own horror-themed storyline (a haunted house, a demonic asylum, a home-school for young witches, a carnival freak show, and finally, this year, a terrifying hotel), often using the same cast members in different roles.
Why you should watch it: Audiences who scare easily are terrified by it. The rest of us eat it up. The shocks keep coming; if you don’t like one twist, you know there will soon be another jaw-dropper around the corner! And the most intriguing new(ish) development is the unraveling of inter-season stories that are connected with each other (most evident so far in season four). Season five premieres on FX on Saturday, Oct. 7.
Where to watch: All four seasons are available on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, and on DVD and Blu-ray. The first three seasons are also available on Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix.
Commitment: 55 hours.
What it is: Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) is a criminal defense attorney and professor teaching law students how to defend the accused, while tangling them up in a real-life murder mystery of their own.
Why you should watch it: Viola Davis’ Emmy-nominated performance, mixed with the twisty drama stylings of Shondaland Productions (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) will deliver a barrage of riveting mystery right into your lap. A darker tone than Grey’s and Scandal, HTGAWM has surprised audiences with its unrelenting, austere tone, permeated with intense character drama. With the premiere of its second season coming up on September 24, you should have enough time to run through season one before things heat up again.
Commitment: 10.5 hours.
What it is: Bob and Linda Belcher run a restaurant with the help of children Tina, Gene, and Louise. Between the funeral home next door, a relentless health inspector, the children’s misadventures, and Bob‘s unreliable business strategies, the restaurant is always struggling to stay open.
Why you should watch it: Bob’s Burgers is a funny animated sitcom full of satirical and absurd situations that works both as a family and a workplace comedy. All the main characters have strong and quirky personalities, and you will quickly find yourself picking favorites. Even though the show received mixed reviews when it came out in 2011, it won critics’ praise over the time, and currently has two seasons at 100% on the Tomatometer. Season six premieres on September 27.
Commitment: 33 hours.
What it is: A man is framed by an organization known as “The Company” and sentenced to death for murdering the brother of the Vice President of the United States. His own brother then devises an elaborate plan to have himself thrown into the same prison in order to break them both out.
Why you should watch it: The show was nominated for several awards when it first premiered in 2005, including a Golden Globe for Best Television Series Drama, and is now enjoying a second life thanks to its popularity on Netflix. No matter how outrageous the plot in Prison Break, you can’t help but root for the siblings as they fight for their freedom in and out of prison over four seasons. Plus, Fox recently announced a forthcoming reboot, so now is the perfect time to lock yourself up with Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell.
Commitment: 56 hours.
What it is: A Chicago-set ensemble comedy about five guys (Mark Duplass, Stephen Rannazzisi, Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, and Jon Lajoie) and one gal (Katie Aselton) whose obsession with fantasy football begets hilarious trash-talk, outrageous deceit, and harebrained schemes.
Why you should watch it: In a lot of ways, The League is a throwback to ’90s network sitcoms about wacky friends — only it’s been updated with the raunchiness of an FX comedy. Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm alum Jeff Schaffer created The League along with his wife, Jackie Marcus Schaffer, so you can expect intricately woven — and often absurdly conceived — plots with heavily improvised interplay skewering pop culture, friendship, parenting, sex, religion, drugs, and, of course, insane football fandom.
Commitment: 27 hours.
What it is: Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a bipolar CIA agent, works overtime to prevent a terrorist attacks on American soil.
Why you should watch it: If ever there was a series that consistently left you with your mouth agape in shock at the end — and sometimes, even in the middle — of each episode, this is it. Homeland is often unbearably tense, not just because of its national security plotlines, but also because of the personalities (and often opaque motives) of its characters, who are played with aplomb by Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, and Rupert Friend. If you really put your mind to it, you might be able to get caught up before season five premieres on October 4.
Commitment: 48 hours.
What it is: Difficult People is a new comedy on Hulu, executive produced by Amy Poehler. Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner star as struggling performers in New York who hate just about everyone, except each other.
Why you should watch it: Critics say the show succeeds in making the unlikable likable with mean-spirited, unhappy characters who can’t help but amuse. A talented supporting cast and an impressive array of guest spots and cameos keep the laughs up and the cringes to a minimum. Plus, Difficult People is Certified Fresh at 85 percent on the Tomatometer, and it’s airing right now.
Where to watch: Difficult People is available exclusively on Hulu.
Commitment: 2.5 hours currently (new episodes are available on Wednesdays), so not difficult at all.
What it is: Robert Taylor is gruff and gritty as Sheriff Walt Longmire, a complicated hero who dutifully fights the bad guys in big sky Wyoming, following the tradition of screen cowboys John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
Why you should watch it: Blending case-of-the-week with a slow-burning multi-season arc, Longmire is the strong, silent type, thanks to fine acting from its leads — Taylor, whose character is coming to grips with his wife’s death; Katee Sackhoff as the mysterious deputy sheriff Vic Moretti; and Lou Diamond Phillips as Walt’s good friend Henry Standing Bear. Axed by A&E after three seasons (and a humdinger of a cliffhanger), Longmire will return for a fourth season on Netflix on Thursday, September 10.
Commitment: 25 hours.
What it is: Supernatural is a fantasy horror show on The CW that follows the Winchester brothers (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) as they battle vampires, werewolves, demons, ghosts and other monsters from the supernatural world.
Why you should watch it: The series enjoys an obsessive cult following, and the show seems to keep picking up speed like a 1967 Impala. Nine of its 10 seasons (all the ones that have a score) are Fresh on the Tomatometer, which is a credit to its consistency. Season 11 premieres on October 7, so if you binge like a bat out of hell, you might be able to catch up.
Where to watch: Seasons one through 10 are available on Amazon, Google Play, Hulu, Netflix, PlayStation, Vudu, and Xbox. Seasons one through nine are available in a DVD or Blu-ray box set, and season ten is on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Commitment: Hopefully watching 215 hours of demon-hunting doesn’t scare you away.