To me, fall has always felt like a season of new beginnings—from first days of school to season premieres of favorite television shows. The long hiatuses are finally over, and we can finally reconnect with our favorite stories and characters as if they were friends from school we’d missed during summer break. And there’s always the hope that a new show will come in to steal your heart just like a cute new kid walking in to your homeroom on the first day of class.
This is now my fifth of breaking down my list of must-watch season and series premieres to share with all of you, and it has continued to bring me joy year after year. This is NGN’s longest running feature, and I think it’s had staying power because it’s filled with the one thing that has kept this site going since the beginning: excitement. It’s been fun to see how this list has changed (and grown!) over the years, with shows that are now some of my favorites showing up as pilots I wanted to check out back when I first started this list. This year—with many of my favorite shows saying their goodbyes in the last couple of years and others not starting until the winter—I have a large number of new pilots I want to watch, and I’m hopeful that at least one of those will join the ranks of Nashville, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and black-ish as shows that started as possibilities on this list and have since stuck around on it for years.
To kick off our fifth TV season at NGN, here are the shows I’ll be watching this year, along with their season or series premiere dates. This doesn’t include reality TV shows like Dancing with the Stars or variety shows like Saturday Night Live. New pilots I’ll be checking out will be highlighted in pink. And don’t forget to share what you’ll be watching this season in the comments!
Jane the Virgin (9 p.m. on The CW)
This show was one of my TV happy places last season. It always felt like coming home when I spent an hour with the Villanueva family. No matter what kind of crazy drama was happening, I always found myself laughing, crying, and often doing both in the same hour. After the intense cliffhanger that ended last season’s finale, I’ve been waiting all summer to see what’s next for Jane, Michael, Petra, and the rest of this amazing cast of characters.
Season Premiere October 17
Conviction (10 p.m. on ABC)
Part of me wants to be angry with this show, since the day it was announced was the day I knew Agent Carter was a goner, but once I saw the trailer, it was love at first sight. Shows featuring complex female characters who learn to let themselves care and become a part of something bigger than themselves are my ultimate weakness, and that’s exactly what this show seems to be about. Add in the fact that its supporting cast includes Merrin Dungey (who I’ve been a fan of for more than a decade) and it stars one of my favorite actors on television (Hayley Atwell), and there is no doubt that this is one of the new shows I’m most looking forward to adding to my viewing schedule.
Series Premiere October 3
Timeless (10 p.m. on NBC)
I have a soft spot for time travel, and the trailer for this show hooked me immediately by including World War II-era scenes, which has always been one of my favorite historical periods. This show seems like it could strike a great balance between action, drama, science fiction, and romance, and that is a winning combination in my book. Also, if the success of this show means the excellent Abigail Spencer won’t show up on Suits anymore to ruin my Donna/Harvery shipper dreams, then that’s even more of a reason to watch it.
Series Premiere October 3
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (8 p.m. on FOX)
This is my most-anticipated season premiere of 2016. Brooklyn Nine-Nine somehow manages to keep getting better, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I’m excited to see how Jake and Captain Holt will handle their time in the Witness Protection Program, and I’m even more excited to see how the 99 gets on without them back in New York. With Maya Rudolph, Jim O’Heir, and Rhea Perlman guest starring this season, the excitement I had at the end of last season has only continued to grow.
Season Premiere September 20
The Flash (8 p.m. on The CW)
Despite a subpar sophomore season and a cliffhanger that left me more frustrated than excited, I’m heading into Season Three with cautious optimism. And that is all because of the talents of this show’s excellent cast. With Grant Gustin and Jesse L. Martin leading the way, I know there still will be plenty of moments that will tug at my heartstrings and keep me coming back each week. It also doesn’t hurt that Wally West quickly became one of my favorite characters on television last season, and I’m eager to spend more time with him.
Season Premiere October 4
This Is Us (10 p.m. on NBC)
I’d be eager to watch this pilot even without all the buzz surrounding its “shocking” twist. I love character-driven dramas, and this show’s trailer already had me in tears. I love great acting, and this show’s cast features actors I’ve loved for years (Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia) and actors I’ve just started to adore (Sterling K. Brown). Even if this was just a standard “slice of life” drama, I think I’d enjoy it. But I’m even more intrigued knowing something cool is going to happen that I have no clue about yet. (No spoilers, please!)
Series Premiere September 20
Speechless (8:30 p.m. on ABC)
Two words: Minnie Driver. I’m a huge fan of hers, especially when she’s doing comedy. The premise of this show seems wonderfully unique, and I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about the way it allows a character with cerebral palsy to be smart, funny, and defined by more than his disability. Micah Fowler (who actually has cerebral palsy) seems to be part of a strong cast that includes some fully-developed young characters. I generally enjoy ABC’s family comedies, and I think this will be a great addition to the network’s lineup.
Series Premiere September 21
black-ish (9:30 p.m. on ABC)
One of my favorite comedies from last season returns with an episode that was shot on location in Walt Disney World. What’s not to love? I’ve been counting down the days to this season premiere since I first heard what it was going to be about, but even without the promise of Disney World, I’d still be looking forward to this show coming back. Every week last season, I grew to love this show more and more thanks to its incredible cast of child actors, its charismatic main characters (I could talk for days about my love for Bow.), and its funny and fearless storytelling.
Season Premiere September 21
The Good Place (8:30 p.m. on NBC)
With Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, and Mike Schur leading the way, how can this show be anything but excellent? The concept is so unique, but I would probably watch anything with Schur’s name attached to it at this point. He’s the brains and the heart behind two of my all-time favorite TV comedies (Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine), so I have complete faith that this show is going to be another favorite of mine.
One-hour Series Premiere Monday, September 19 at 10 p.m.
Notorious (9 p.m. on ABC)
Every year, I try out one soapy primetime drama, and Notorious seems like the perfect fit. It has a sleek style, main characters with tons of chemistry, and an actor who I will watch in pretty much anything (Piper Perabo). It’s a little more cynical than most shows I gravitate toward, but I think it’s time I tried to rejoin the TGIT fun after losing interest in both Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder last year.
Series Premiere September 22
Pitch (9 p.m. on FOX)
When I first read the description for Pitch, it was like finding a show tailor-made to my interests. It’s about gender and race in the world of sports, told through the lens of the fictional story of the first woman to pitch in the MLB. As a woman who studied to be a sports journalist in college, this is right in my wheelhouse, and it makes me so happy to hear that the early buzz around it is so positive.
Series Premiere September 22
Girl Meets World (8:30 p.m. on Disney Channel)
No show on television moves me as deeply as this one. It’s not just nostalgia for Boy Meets World that gets the tears flowing; it’s the beautiful stories it tells each week about growing up, family, and the power of female friendship. Over the last few months, this has become one of those shows that dominates my thoughts from one episode to the next, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of this beautiful season plays out.
Next Episode Airs September 16
Once Upon a Time (8 p.m. on ABC)
I’m so ready to return to Storybrooke and the stories of its inhabitants, especially after the addition of so many new residents from the Land of Untold Stories in last season’s finale. There’s been a lot of talk during this hiatus about a return to the small-town, personal stories that made the show so unique in Season One, and that would be a lovely change of pace after some excellent but large-scale and plot-heavy seasons. I’m also really looking forward to exploring Savior mythology, Emma’s psyche, Regina’s development, and Killian and Emma’s relationship now that they know what they have is True Love.
Season Premiere September 25
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
Who else has had this marked on their calendar since its official release date was announced? I know it premieres a lot later than the other shows on this list, but no discussion of fall TV shows I’m looking forward to can be complete without mentioning my joy at getting to return to Stars Hollow in November and spend one final, glorious day checking in on all three Gilmore girls during an important year of transition in their lives.
Streaming Begins November 25