The return of Will & Grace and Curb Your Enthusiasm would be enough to get us excited about TV this fall, but add to it new installments of everything from The Walking Dead to This Is Us, and we may not find any reason to leave the house till winter! Click through this slideshow to get the latest scoop on your favorite returning series.
‘Outlander’ (Starz, Sept. 10 at 8 p.m.)
This Season’s Theme: Executive producer Maril Davis thinks that Voyager, the title of the book that serves as the basis for Season 3, couldn’t be more apt. “It’s all about Claire and Jamie and their 20-year journey to get back together, and about trying to move on [while separated] and build lives. It’s all about the journey to find your best self when part of you is missing.”
Where We Left Off: Assuming he wouldn’t survive the bloody battle of Culloden, Jamie (Sam Heughan) sent a pregnant Claire (Caitrionia Balfe) through the stones, where she reunited with her original husband, Frank. He agreed to raise the child as his own if she put her Highlands honey behind her.
Coming Up: An epic last stand between enemies reveals Jamie’s fate, which he considers worse than death. “We never see Culloden in the books, which was disappointing,” Davis says. “We have been talking about it for two seasons, so we knew it had to be in there even though it was a huge undertaking — 10 days of very intricately choreographed movements.” Meanwhile, Claire attempts a do-over with Frank in America, gives birth, and tries to overcome her grief by becoming a doctor.
A Case for Frank: Balfe knows Jamie is Claire’s soulmate, but she has a soft spot for Frank. “People love to pick sides and vilify Frank, but he never did anything wrong to her. He was a good husband and the center of her world. She was the one thrown through time, [who had] this experience that changed how she felt. The tragedy is that they’re both good people. They both make overtures, but the timing’s never right. They’re two people who have love and respect for each other, but [it’s a] compromised marriage.” — Carrie Bell
‘The Good Place’ (NBC, Sept. 20 at 10 p.m.)
This Season’s Theme: Seeing “The Good Place” through the eyes of afterlife architect Michael (Ted Danson) now that we know it’s actually the bad place, where Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto), and Tahani (Jameela Jamil) are meant to torture one another. “We thought to ourselves, ‘Let’s treat him like an indie film director who’s trying to make his masterpiece movie with a very limited budget and an unwilling crew,'” creator Mike Schur says. “He’s scrambling to try to keep his crazy experiment afloat, so you’re seeing the chaos that’s happening behind the scenes, which is really fun.”
Where We Left Off: Eleanor received the note (“Find Chidi”) she wrote to herself before Michael wiped everyone’s memories and rebooted the neighborhood.
Coming Up: Like Eleanor, who met her version 2.0 soulmate (a hot mailman from New Jersey) in the Season 1 finale, the others have new companions as well. Plus, familiar faces return. “Since we’re in Michael’s point of view, we get to know some of the local resident demons a little better,” Schur says. “So the people who you saw on the fringes last year — you get to see more of them this year.”
A New Obsession: All the frozen yogurt shops in the neighborhood have been replaced by pizza places. “I continue to grind my personal ax about Hawaiian pizza, because all of the pizza places serve almost exclusively Hawaiian pizza, which to me is not only the worst pizza,” Schur says, “but I think the worst food that’s ever been invented.” — Mandi Bierly
(Photo by: Vivian Zink/NBC)
‘Kevin Can Wait’ (CBS, Sept. 25 at 9 p.m.)
This Season’s Theme: “It’s about a single father raising a family, which is a good drive for us,” says executive producer and series star Kevin James of the retooled CBS comedy, in which his character is now a widower.
Where We Left Off: James’s TV wife, Donna (Erinn Hayes), quit her job as a school nurse, while Kevin (James) came out of retirement to team up with his old police partner Vanessa Cellucci (Leah Remini) for a special case.
What to Expect: A creative reset will put the focus on Kevin’s life as a single dad as the show picks up “about a year” after the death of his wife. Some new characters will be introduced as Kevin heads back to work at the security company run by Vanessa (Remini is now a series regular). The show will have “a new yet familiar feel,” James promises.
That’s What (Famous) Friends Are For: Last season’s guest star roster included Harry Connick Jr., Adam Sandler, and Billy Joel. Can James top himself this year? “We’re always working on that,” says the star. “Believe me, I’m cashing in all my chips. We had a lot of fun with Adam Sandler and all those guys, and this year I’m hoping to continue that trend. It’s fun, and if it organically fits into the show, then it’s even more fun.” — Victoria Leigh Miller
(Photo: Jeff Neumann/CBS)
‘This Is Us’ (NBC, Sept. 26 at 9 p.m.)
This Season’s Theme: “Despite Season 1 being jam-packed with big moments, life is long and we have many more stories to tell,” says co-showrunner /exec producer Isaac Aptaker. “We decided to start with the big three turning 37, one year after we met them in the pilot, and they’re again at big junctures in their personal, professional, and romantic lives.”
Where We Left Off: A drunk Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) ruined Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) concert debut, and they decided to separate after a knockout fight. Kate (Chrissy Metz) announced her desire to pursue singing; Kevin (Justin Hartley) left Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) for a big Hollywood break, again, and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) dealt with losing his second dad by deciding that he wanted to adopt.
Coming Up: In addition to the aftermath of all those big declarations, Aptaker promises that the writers “plan on exploring William’s very wonderfully colorful life” before the day Randall tracked him down. Oh, and as for that other burning question: “A big piece of the puzzle of Jack’s death will be answered in the first episode.”
Sly & the Family Pearson: Sylvester Stallone will play himself in at least one episode as Kevin’s co-star in a Ron Howard film. The Oscar winner didn’t need a whole lot of convincing to come aboard after Milo Ventimiglia, who played his son in Rocky Balboa, reached out. Hartley (born only a few years earlier than his character) was excited to work with him. He and Kevin “grew up watching his movies. He was a big part of Kevin’s life,” says the actor. “Turns out he’s everything you want your childhood hero to be if you ever meet them.” — CB
(Photo: Justin Lubin/NBC)
‘Will & Grace’ (NBC, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m.)
This Season’s Theme: Though the revival of the beloved sitcom started with an online “get out the vote” video during the election, the new season won’t be overtly political. But it will “serve as a counterpoint,” says co-creator David Kohan. Adds co-creator Max Mutchnick: “We’re not looking to teach. We will reflect back what’s happening in the world, because these characters are of the moment.”
Where We Left Off: In what was meant to be the series finale, Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) argued and were estranged for many years, until reuniting when their kids meet at college. Earlier this summer, producers confirmed that the revival will proceed as though that finale never happened.
Coming Up: Will and Grace find themselves where they started out — as roommates. “You’ll see what happened to their respective relationships and why they ended up moving in with each other again,” Kohan says. “You’ll find out what happened to Leo [Grace’s husband] and to Vince [Will’s partner].” Jack (Sean Hayes) is still trying to figure out what to do with his life, and hits upon an idea in episode 4 or 5. “His work brings him to the Bronx every day,” Mutchnick teases. Kohan jokingly notes that the Yankees play in the Bronx, but then adds: “It has nothing to do with that.” As for Karen (Megan Mullally), Mutchnick says, “She’s a perfect being, so why change anything about her?”
Line Dancing: “One of the things that was always fun about writing this show is that you knew what the parameters were, where the boundaries of taste were, where something became too lurid or too gross or too sexual or too obvious,” Kohan said. “One of the nice things about his medium is you come right up to that line without crossing it. We like that. We like that tension.” — Kelly Woo
(Photo: Chris Haston/NBC)
‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ (HBO, Oct. 1 at 10 p.m.)
This Season’s Theme: “Season 9 goes to a very unexpected place very quickly, and pays off in an insane way by the finale,” says executive producer Jeff Schaffer of Curb‘s return after a six-year absence. “We’re really happy with the season, and we’re not usually ones to be happy.”
Where We Left Off: The end of Season 8 found Larry (Larry David) being ordered out of New York City by none other than then-mayor Michael Bloomberg for daring to tangle with beloved New Yorker Michael J. Fox. So Larry and Leon (JB Smoove) decamp for Paris, which the French thankfully didn’t view as a declaration of war.
Coming Up: During his exile from the Big Apple, Larry kept himself busy working on a passion project that he’s finally ready to share with the world. Unfortunately, the world greets it with a big “meh.” “He’s sort of surprised that others don’t feel the same way about it,” Schaeffer says. “Larry’s not the kind of guy who takes criticism well, and this is a whole new level for him.” Larry’s also not the kind of guy who deals with life well, and he’s once again both the victim and instigator of all kinds of societal slights. The off-camera Larry, says Schaeffer, has “always got his notebook, and that notebook is getting filled. He’s been hoarding awkward comedy moments like Scrooge McDuck, and now we get to show them to everybody.”
Pretty, pretty, pretty long: Curb will take a cue from Game of Thrones this season and present some super-sized episodes. “The shows are bigger and longer this year,” Schaeffer says. “We’ll go way past the half-hour mark by the end of the season.” — Ethan Alter
‘Once Upon a Time’ (ABC, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m.)
This Season’s Theme: Much like the previous six seasons of OUAT, this “re-quel” (as co-creator Eddy Kitsis dubbed it, meaning “half reboot, half sequel”) is all about “never giving up on what you believe in,” co-creator Adam Horowitz explains.
Where We Left Off: After defeating the Black Fairy, Emma Swan and the denizens of Storybrooke got their “happily ever beginnings.” But in a flash-forward, a young girl named Lucy traveled to Seattle to find an adult Henry — and informed him that he was her father!
Coming Up: In a parallel to Season 1, Lucy (Alison Fernandez) must convince Henry (Andrew J. West) to believe. “We find ourselves in a new town with a new curse and new characters,” Kitsis explains. Also under the curse: Regina (Lana Parrilla), Rumple (Robert Carlyle), and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), who all have new alter egos. “Regina is now a bartender named Roni. And Roni is kind of Regina with the wisdom and experience of the first six seasons of the show,” Kitsis says. “She’s sticking up for the neighborhood against a bully who, we’ll find out, is Lady Tremaine from Cinderella.”
If the Shoe Fits: Speaking of Cinderella, the show has cast Dania Ramirez as a new version of the character — who is also Henry’s true love and Lucy’s mother. As Horowitz notes, “We felt like our twist on the Cinderella story was really relevant to our themes of hopelessness and finding hope.” — KW
(Photo: Jack Rowand/ABC)
‘Riverdale’ (The CW, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m.)
This Season’s Theme: “The big theme is civil war,” teases Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Specifically, the bucolic town’s well-off North side is marshaling its forces against the scuzzy South side, leaving Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) and his Riverdale High pals caught somewhere in the middle.
Where We Left Off: One of the big flashpoints in this brewing battle is the shooting of Fred Andrews (Luke Perry), which capped off the show’s freshman season. The fact that it happened in the formerly safe space of Pop’s Chock’lit Shop has put everyone on edge. “That’s a shock that reverberates throughout the season — this idea that there’s nowhere that’s safe anymore,” Aguirre-Sacasa explains.
Coming Up: Fred’s shooting is also one of the incidents that sends Riverdale into true-crime territory after last season’s Twin Peaks-inspired murder mystery. “We reference everything from The Godfather to When a Stranger Calls,” the showrunner says. “It’s a big crime story set in a small town.” The criminal element is well-represented by Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos), who returns to Riverdale following his prison stint and wastes little time getting back to business as usual with the aid of his partner in crime Hermione (Marisol Nichols), much to the consternation of their daughter, Veronica (Camila Mendes). “Hermione is back to being the Claire Underwood to his Frank Underwood,” Mendes says. “Veronica has completely lost trust in her mother at this point.”
Hashtag Wars: #Bughead may be the Twitter couple of the moment, but Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) are going to get some competition from #Varchie. “Out of the two couples on the show, they’re definitely the more passionate, sexual couple. There’s lots of sex!” Mendes says, laughing. But she’s not about to start a civil war between Riverdale ‘shippers. “I don’t think #Varchie are on the #Bughead level yet. We still have some work to do.” — EA
(Photo: Katie Yu/The CW)
‘The Walking Dead (AMC, Oct. 22 at 9 p.m.)
This Season’s Theme: “We’re in the war,” says TWD executive producer, director, and special effects whiz Greg Nicotero. “Having seen that Rick, Ezekiel, and Maggie have all agreed to join forces and fight Negan, the battle is on.”
Where We Left Off: Rick and the Alexandrians were blindsided when (alleged) new pals Jadis and the Heapsters sold them out to Negan. But Sasha committed suicide and then surprised Negan as a zombified corpse, providing her friends with enough of a diversion to hold the Saviors at bay until Maggie, the Hilltop crew, and Ezekiel and his Kingdom could ride into town.
Coming Up: War means loss, but we find Rick and company in a more optimistic place than they’ve been for awhile. “They have banded together with a common goal, and there’s hope knowing that they are going to fight for their way of life,” Nicotero says. “It really is an opportunity for these groups of people to look forward to [a new] society. That’s a very upbeat, hopeful theme. There will be heartbreak — there always is, because that’s the nature of the show.”
TWD 100: The Season 8 premiere is also the series’ 100th episode, and that milestone will be noted during the premiere. “There’s a lot of great things that we’ve done on The Walking Dead over the years,” Nicotero teases. “We may be paying tribute to many of them in that episode.” And one last thing: “I have a cameo in the [premiere],” says Nicotero, who has appeared as a walker on the show several times before. “That’s all I’m going to say.” — Kimberly Potts
(Photo: Gene Page/AMC)