Although “Big Mouth” Season 3 (October, Netflix) ultimately delivers enough good episodes that I give it a soft recommend, it is a clear step back from its first two seasons. In the worst episodes, the writers get so caught up in their timely messages about sexual identity, dress codes and objectification of women that they forget to make those episodes funny.
With Season 2 (April), which recently wrapped its free-to-all run on YouTube Premium, “Cobra Kai” has secured its spot as the best continuation of a 1980s premise (a surprisingly robust genre lately). The safe, cheesy and sometimes flat-out bad (but yes, we loved it anyway) filmmaking of the “Karate Kid” trilogy has given way to a confident, funny, epic and ultimately heart-wrenching TV series.
The eight-episode Hulu series “Looking for Alaska” shatters the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope while also being one of the best MPDG stories ever told. Walking a delicate tightrope from start to finish, showrunner Josh Schwartz (“The O.C.,” “Gossip Girl”) – who writes or co-writes five of the eight episodes – gives us the teen male perspective of Miles “Pudge” Halter (Charlie Plummer). Through his eyes, Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth) is beautiful, quirky and mysterious. Yet — without sacrificing those ethereal qualities that Pudge might be projecting onto his first love/lust — “Looking for Alaska” also makes Alaska into a fully realized person.
Similar to what The CW did with “Riverdale” a few years ago, “Nancy Drew” (Wednesdays, CW) has been updated for modern times, and out of the gates, it’s refreshingly less silly than what “Riverdale” turned into. The mix isn’t precisely what I look for: It’s much more contemporary than it is a throwback, and it has a supernatural element that cuts into Nancy’s meat-and-potatoes clue gathering. But it’s not bad, and I can imagine enough people will like this version of Nancy that it could define the sleuth for this generation.
Batwoman” (Sundays, CW) is the 17th current show produced by Greg Berlanti – that’s not a joke for the sake of exaggeration, he really does produce 17 shows that are currently on the air – and it’s as straight down the middle as all the others. Bruce Wayne’s cousin, Kate Kane/Batwoman (Ruby Rose), arrives as a slickly packaged superhero, perfectly filling out her suit – tailored by Luke Fox (son of Lucius, I imagine) – and ready to kick butt alongside The CW’s other DC superheroes (This is series No. 6).
Adramedy starring Brittany Snow and produced by Jason Katims should be at the top of my list of must-see fall shows, but the preview for “Almost Family” (Wednesdays, Fox) looked somewhere between weird and bad. The pilot episode of this series based on the Australian show “Sisters” (and probably with less input from Katims than his past shows, like “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood”) turns out to be surprisingly not terrible. But it lacks a great hook or winning formula, which explains why the makers of the trailer had a hard time cutting together something that’s easy to define.
In this age of easily accessible TV, there’s no such thing as timeslot battles anymore, but for the sake of fun, let’s pit “The Unicorn” (CBS) against “Perfect Harmony” (NBC). The half-hour sitcoms air at the same time on Thursdays.
When TV scholars look back years from now at trends in storytelling structure, I suspect “Unbelievable” (Netflix) will be seen as a pivotal show. The approach of releasing whole seasons at once was pioneered by Netflix several years ago, but most shows still operate as if they are airing weekly in hour-long segments. “Unbelievable” is a rare show that totally embraces the fact that all eight of its episodes will be immediately available.
Evil” (Thursdays, CBS) can be added to the grand collection of post-“X-Files” shows, so I have a soft spot for it. But this is an era when “The X-Files” itself gives us new episodes every few years, so I don’t need to be so lenient as when I reviewed “X-Files” Lite shows from the dark years of 2003-15. Katja Herbers, as Kristen, and Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”), as David, are excellent as the skeptic and believer, and there are nice touches such as Kristen’s home under the train tracks that she shares with her four young daughters. But the possession-of-the-week story is weak, and if this is the one creators Robert and Michelle King (“The Good Wife”) chose for the pilot, it doesn’t bode well for the series.
The pilot episode of “Emergence” (Tuesdays, ABC) is a crisply crafted hour of TV that would set the stage for an excellent series in an alternate universe where there weren’t already dozens of recent series about the emergence of the next stage of human evolution. Still, it’s remarkable how gripping and likable this hour is. Creators Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas also helmed “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” a couple years ago – that ultimately grew into a lovable series, even though it was much sloppier out of the gates than this one.