The fall season is upon us, and that means that all our favorite shows are returning to end the summer drought. It truly is a special time of year for TV buffs, as we start to rank and prioritize the shows we find most important (because let’s be honest, you can’t watch them all). Among the group of returners we have everything from reboots to time honored classics, along with everything in between. It’s a strong group of shows that exists within what many regard as the Golden Age of Television, giving viewers almost too many options.
Luckily, we’re here to help you figure out the shows that should top your respective lists. Seeing an “everything that’s coming back” type of article can be overwhelming, and that’s what we’re focusing it down to simply the must-watches. You’re of course free to venture out and try some of the newer network offerings, but for the more familiar properties, this is the definitive list.
1. Doctor Who, September 19 on BBC
We’ve had our issues with Doctor Who in the past, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still numbers itself among the top sci-fi series of all time. The first season of Peter Capaldi’s turn as the Doctor had its fair share of speed bumps, but things finished strong with a solid reveal marking the return of his arch-nemesis, the Master. The latest teaser from the new season outlines more of Capaldi’s trademark scowling, and a whole lot of aliens, action, and everything in between.
2. Empire, September 23 on FOX
Empire polished off its first season as the second most watched show on television, hauling in a whopping 17 million viewers for its finale. It returns to the airwaves riding this hype, and you can bet FOX will be doing everything it can to capitalize on this. Season 2 will feature more music, more flash, and of course more Terrence Howard. The tables have turned this season for Lucious Lyon, as he starts the season behind bars, while his ex-wife Cookie takes over the family business. Expect more of the same from Empire, as it looks to improve in its sophomore season with a full order of episodes.
3. Heroes Reborn, September 24 on NBC
Depending on how you define “returning show,” Heroes Reborn could very well be considered a brand new series. That being so, to us it’s more of a reboot, and because of this it makes it on the list. The first season of the original Heroes changed television forever, giving us our first true look at the potential for superheroes on TV before Marvel and DC ever began building their expansive Hollywood universes. Many remember subsequent seasons representing a fall from grace unrivaled by any other show of its time, making Heroes Reborn its chance at redemption. Here’s hoping it manages to recapture the original magic.
4. The Flash, October 6 on The CW
Spinning off from the wildly popular Arrow, The Flash quickly became a commodity in and of itself, featuring a story that completely and utterly indulged in its comic book mythology. The result was a skillfully made and entertaining depiction of the fastest man alive. One of the high points of its inaugural season included the first ever crossover between both shows in the CW’s superhero universe, helping bridge the gap to 2016’s Legends of Tomorrow. Season 2 will feature more speedsters in the original Flash Jay Garrick, as well as Kid Flash, Zoom, and lots more.
5. Arrow, October 7 on The CW
Arrow is the darker yin to the more light-hearted yang of The Flash, acting as the hero more willing to do whatever it takes, no matter how ruthless. The show has gotten considerably lighter-toned as seasons have gone on, with its titular hero having vowed never to kill at the end of Season 1. Seasons 2 and 3 have seen a continued evolution of the Arrow that’s taken him into more of a Flash type of appeal, but that’s not to say it won’t still be the same show we fell in love with years ago. The newest season will feature Neil McDonough as Damien Darhk as the villain, which is enough of a reason to get excited by itself.
6. The Walking Dead, October 11 on AMC
The Walking Dead is a show that’s fluctuated wildly in terms of quality from season to season. Its first episodes were some of the best we’ve ever seen from the zombie/horror genre. Then, it began to drag in its second and and third seasons, before finally returning to form in its most recent two years. It’s since spawned the Fear the Walking Dead spinoff, billed largely as a disappointment from most critics. TWD is a tough act to follow as the most-watched show on TV, and we see no reason why it won’t continue to hold that title once it returns this October.
7. Fargo, October 12 on FX
Based on the 1996 Coen brothers film by the same name, Fargo proved to be more than up to the task as a full TV series. It functions more in a True Detective vein as a crime drama, with each season acting as an anthology with a brand new cast of high-profile actors. In this, it found its own special place on television. The second season’s cast will include the likes of Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson, Nick Offerman, Brad Garrett, and Kieran Culkin. While we’ll miss the likes of Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton, it still promises to build on the potential of its debut season.
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