It's Childish Gambino, drop it like the NASDAQ (Matthias Clamer/FX)

It’s Childish Gambino; drop it like the NASDAQ. (Matthias Clamer/FX)

Attacking Fall TV is like trying to attack Restaurant Week; it is a nearly insurmountable task. There are literally hundreds of new scripted TV shows beaming into your home across platforms every year. What if you pick the wrong one? What if you invest in something that is not culturally significant? What if you get hooked on a show that the discarded by the pop culture community at large nearly instantly? That kind of pressure is too much for one consumer to handle.

Please allow me to simplify the process for you. I’ve assembled the Fall TV season like a beautiful full Italian meal. Each course consists of the standouts — aesthetically, culturally, thematically, and experientially — from different categories of television. Some will grab the pop culture convo by the lapels and some won’t, but that’s fine. Not every part of the meal needs send your taste buds into free-fall. Some TV shows you tell your friends about and some just clear the way for the next course.

Watching TV, just like going to a restaurant, is not about eating as much as you can as fast as you can. It’s about pairing the right things together to craft together an enjoyable experience. I spent 95 percent of my free time thinking about this stuff. It’s a dream job for me, so let me take this off your plate. Consider me your TV sommelier.*

*Yes I know a sommelier pairs wine with food. Yes, I know this is set up with food metaphors. The reason being the names of courses are much more digestible for this type of piece and TV sommelier sounds way better than TV nutritionist.

Antipasto

aka Catch Up On These

The antipasto is a heavy starter. It is usually cold and lighter than the first course. Examples of foods eaten are salumi, cheeses, sandwich-like foods, vegetables, cold salmon or prawn cocktails; more elaborate dishes are occasionally prepared.

Black Mirror

If you love TV start here. If you love any type of visual entertainment, start here. “Black Mirror” — possibly the finest of the UK TV exports — is the “Twilight Zone” for the digital age. It is haunting, beautifully filmed, horrifying in the best way possible, and only six episodes long. After a culture enrapturing run across the pond, “Black Mirror” lands in the US on Netflix for season three to demolish everything else.  This preview of Season Two of “Black Mirror” paints a much more compelling picture of what you’re about to obsess over.

“Black Mirror” is not an easy watch, but it is worth it. If every gory, indulgent, decadent moment of “American Horror Story” is an extravagant bachelor/bachelorette party, then “Black Mirror” is the next day, and not the fun recap of piecing-the-night-together-with-pals over breakfast. It is the cold realization that comes when you have a moment to yourself as you come to terms with what you did and prepare to swim in a lake of repercussions. This is an experience.

Halt and Catch Fire

I have watched zero minutes of “Halt and Catch Fire,” and assume that when I start I will kick myself for having waited. The good news? This applies to virtually everyone because no one watches this show. Now in its third season on AMC, “Halt and Catch Fire” already have the green light from their TV bosses of to tell the story they want. AMC owns “Halt and Catch Fire” from head to toe — a rare instance for television. While it’s rating are minuscule now, when TV flips the switch and goes completely a la carte, owning your own content is going to be important.  It took the US years to discover and appreciate “The Wire,” and while “Halt and Catch Fire” probably isn’t as pivotal as arguably the greatest show ever produced, its value is in its future bingeability. Having said that, I will probably wait until the whole thing is done and watch it as it was intended — ravenously over one weekend in a future winter.

Rectify

Ditto to the above with a slight disclaimer. I’ve watched a few episodes and marveled at how aesthetically pleasing this show is to look at. Have not completed it, will eventually regret that, and know that it is on Netflix currently. This fourth and final season, which debuts on SundanceTV this October, will hopefully hold the door open for more beautiful, hard-to-find TV.

Primo Piatto

aka The New Crop of Week-to-Week TV for Fall 2016

A primo is the first course. It consists of hot food and is usually heavier than the antipasto, but lighter than the second course. Non-meat dishes are the staple of any primo: examples are risotto, gnocchi, polenta, pasta, or lasagna.

Atlanta

I’m calling it right now: the show of the season. “Atlanta,” Donald Glover’s first television project since leaving “Community,” is a semi-autobiographical story about two cousins wading into the waters of the ATL rap scene as a way to improve the lives of their families. It is hard not to be immediately hooked by the premise of this show if you are familiar with any of Glover’s previous work in TV or music. While his work on “30 Rock” (as a writer) and “Community” (the breakout star in a cast of breakout stars and Chevy Chase) was stellar, Glover was definitely acting — and I mean that in a good way. He was playing a role as actors are wont to do.

His other successful career — in music as Childish Gambino — is where the vast majority of my interest in Glover as a performer stems. He is extraordinarily creative as Gambino, and “Atlanta” looks to be the bridging of one creative outlet to another. For everything that Louie CK was able to express through his FX show “Louie,” I would expect Glover to blaze a similar but wholly different path with “Atlanta.” FX has established itself as the go-to network for creators to create. Where we’ve come to expect poignant and deeply comedic drama from CK, I am willing to bet season one of “Atlanta” will be merely the scratching of the surface for Glover.  From the trailer alone you can tell we’re seeing something special.  The passion woven into the DNA of this project jumps off the screen; a quality even in today’s ‘too much good TV’ landscape is very rare.  With “Atlanta” we’re watching a star be born in real-time.

The Good Place

This one gets an automatic look for pedigree alone. From creator Mike Schur — one of the guys behind “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and what will probably be my favorite episode of the third season of “Black Mirror” — comes “The Good Place,” a fantasy comedy about mistaken identity in the afterlife. A premise where no network comedy has tread before from the creator of two landmark sitcoms which stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson — two actors who have chosen their projects incredibly well throughout their career. You kind of have to take a look at this one, right?

Super high concept comedies typically don’t do well on network TV, but just like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” before it, eventually, this won’t have anything to do with the ‘workplace’ and will have everything to do with the interactions between characters. Given the time to evolve this could be a rare non-Dick Wolf hit for NBC, but we’ll see. While NBC tells me not to get attached to any new show without the word “Chicago” in the title, my gut tells me not to bet against Veronica Mars or Mayday Malone.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

This looks incredibly British. If that’s your bag, you’re in for a treat. To comparison between a few UK properties that US audiences already love, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” looks like it could be what Sherlock would look like if created by the team behind “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.”  TV-Hipster-DVR-season-pass-can’t-miss-must-tweet-entertainment at it’s finest. To paraphrase a line from Jalen Rose, keep gettin’ them checks, Frodo.

Keep your eyes open for the next few courses — Secundo aka new premium cable shows, Contorno aka the best streaming shows of the season, Dolce & Digestivo aka the movie-to-TV adaptations, and The Doggie Bag aka the leftovers, but not “The Leftovers” the TV show, which I think is back in 2017.

Blog Author: 
Padraic O'Connor
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