Last month I gave you the lowdown on what was worth watching and skipping in September. Now October has arrived, and with it a truckload of other garbage/gold for you to binge/purge. The trough is open; line forms at the left.
Homeland (Showtime, season 5)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Carrie Matheson is leaving her life of clandestine services behind. Here comes a future of romance, child rearing, and little to no chance of suicide bombers. Cue Pacino voice: But they just keep pulling her back in! Seriously, they’re doing it again. The brilliant spy thriller may have pushed our suspension of disbelief for one season too many. Stars Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, F. Murray Abraham, and Rupert Friend.
The Leftovers (HBO, season 2)
One of last year’s most interesting and morose treats returns for a second helping. A terrific ensemble cast carries this unique wonder as it bounds tenuously between a plot-driven and philosophy-driven story that keeps you wanting more. Stars Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Liv Tyler, and Christopher Eccleston.
The Affair (Showtime, season 2)
This uncomfortable drama was the toast of the critics last year and made Ruth Wilson a household name (almost). I’m not sure I know how much more they can wring from this premise, but the treatment of a single affair as a catalyst for an ongoing multi-season television drama is bold and risky. Stars Ruth Wilson, Dominic West, Josh Jackson, and Maura Tierney.
American Horror Story: Hotel (FX, season 5)
Yes, please. A new installment of the dynamite and groundbreaking horror show is becoming as crucial to autumn as leaves changing colors. This time the creepy action will move to a hotel, which if I’m honest leaves a lot of questions in my mind. Will it be a haunted hotel? Because that’s almost a cop out. I want to see them come up with something really ingenious. Stars Wes Bentley, Evan Peters, Chloe Sevigny, Lady Gaga, Angela Bassett, and Kathy Bates.
Red Oaks (Amazon, season 1)
This Amazon original looks promising as heck, and has been their most warmly received pilot since Transparent. I watched Alpha House, Bosch, and Hand of God from Amazon, and while none of them were excellent, they were all definitely watchable in their own ways. This one takes place in the 80s and is a coming-of-age comedy. Stars Craig Roberts, Paul Reiser, Jennifer Grey, and Richard Kind.
The Walking Dead (AMC,
Is it only season 6? It already feels like season 100. Alright, let’s do it again, zombies. This show reminds me of the Kardiac Kids Cleveland Browns team of 1980. Never count it out; just when you think it’s as boring and unwatchable as a show can be—BOOM. Cannibal fortress. Or something like that. I’m still watching even after at least three separate reviews eviscerating the show. Stars Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, and Melissa McBride.
Fargo (FX, season 2)
One of the best shows of last year was this completely unexpected spin-off of the Coen brothers classic. It wasn’t a sequel or a remake, but a continuing saga in the same universe. A bizarre universe where dupes cross paths with contract killers and magic ensues. I couldn’t be more excited for a sophomore effort from a show. Season 2 will introduce a whole new cast of weirdos and a new story to keep you up at night. Stars Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson, and Nick Offerman.
Manhattan (WGN, season 2)
How is Chicago a big enough market that their local TV channel is carried on everyone’s cable and makes original programming this good? I guess even a modicum of research would probably handily answer that question, but I’m here to talk TV, not stats. This show, about the men who built the atomic bomb, is just plain excellent. Wonderful for fans of history, science, good acting, and particularly Daniel Stern, who is always a pleasure. Stars Michael Chernus, Christopher Denham, and Daniel Stern.
Nathan for You (Comedy Central, season 2)
Nathan Fielder is a slightly creepy and unbalanced individual with a deadpan delivery that is really only suited for telling people they have cancer. Nonetheless, he hosts this charming and completely enjoyable show where he takes his mild manner to small businesses and helps them compete. It’s like that show where Gordon Ramsey screams at restauranteurs, only not horrible and totally hilarious. And without the screaming. Okay, it’s nothing like that. Stars Nathan Fielder.
The Knick (Cinemax, season 2)
Cinemax strangely has a whole bevy of good original shows now, but none are as good as The Knick, about a New York hospital in the early 1900s. It’s got amazing acting, production design, and writing, which is no surprise, as it all comes from Steven Soderbergh, one of America’s most accomplished filmmakers. Unfortunately, being on Cinemax I don’t know anyone else who watches it. Find a friend who has the channel and go to their house. Stars Clive Owen and Michael Angarano.
Hemlock Grove (Netflix, season 3)
Netflix’s only complete miss so far in the original programming department, I have no idea how Grove continues to push on. Ostensibly it’s about werewolves and enchantment and lust, but really it’s just boring. Not Penny Dreadful boring, but close. Still, it has one or two things to like; Famke Janssen is one. I’ll get back to you if I can think of another. Stars Famke Janssen and Landon Liboiron.
Da Vinci’s Demons (Starz,
This show is getting a third season to wrap things up, which seems fair. I had high hopes for it going in, it being a historical fiction tale following the adventures of a decidedly handsome young Leonardo da Vinci. But in between some moments of enjoyment, it was mostly pretty laughable with sprinkles of outright stupidity. There will surely be a Leonardian Aerial Screw helicopter at some point in this final run, and I’ll be checking in from time to time just to see that. Stars Tom Riley, Laura Haddock, and Blake Ritson.
Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz, new)
I can’t even believe we’re finally only three weeks away. The legend, Bruce Campbell, finally reprises his greatest role, Ashley Williams, the one-handed, chainsaw-toting, shotgun-spinning ladies’ man who conquered evil in multiple timelines and in multiple media, and arrives on TV, once again directed by Sam Raimi. Fanboys in their early 30s, a subset of which I know almost nothing, are frothing at the mouth and getting ready to quote the stupidity. And it premieres on a Halloween Saturday night? There is a god. Stars Bruce Campbell.
By Ygal Kaufman