With pandemic challenges still a reality, a new TV season aims to entertain

There’s no debating that last year’s fall television season was unlike any that had come before, thanks to the first global pandemic of our collective lifetime. Now that hopes have been dashed that we’ll be getting back to “normal”—whatever that even means anymore—anytime soon, we can expect TV to be further influenced and impacted by the ever-changing circumstances, as COVID Original has been supplanted by the Delta variant, with Lambda waiting in the wings and who knows what after that.

Despite the challenges of filming in a pandemic, broadcast networks, cable channels and streaming services have a lot of content to unveil, with a whole bunch of it coming our way within the next few months.

When it comes to trends, reboots continue to be popular, with fall delivering a new version of The Wonder Years and the return of Dexter, joining such recent revivals as Gossip Girl and iCarly. Meanwhile, others currently in the works include Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That..., a new Frasier and How I Met Your Father, among others.

Another trend that shows no sign of abating is the spinoff, and it’s safe to say that CBS is the worst offender. In fact, the Tiffany Network has pretty much thrown in the towel when it comes to developing fresh and innovative new shows, instead preferring to rehash and regurgitate favourites from the past, with new fall offerings including an exhumed CSI, a Hawaiian version of NCIS and yet another FBI.

Here are a few of our top picks for the season ahead...

1. Scenes From a Marriage

Marriage1HBO/CraveSTARRING: Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, Nicole Beharie, Corey Stoll, Tovah Feldshuh

This five-part remake of Ingmar Bergman’s acclaimed Swedish series focuses on spouses Mira (Chastain) and Jonathan (Isaac), with the former feeling unfulfilled by her marriage as the latter does everything in his power to keep their relationship intact. Treading the same ground as the 1973 original, this update explores such themes as love, hatred, desire, monogamy and more.

PREMIERE: Sunday, September 12th on HBO Canada

2. Dr. Death

Dr Death1ShowcaseSTARRING: Joshua Jackson, Christian Slater, Alec Baldwin, Anna Sophia Robb

This true-crime drama tells the terrifying tale of Dr. Christopher Duntsch (Jackson). Young, charismatic and seemingly brilliant, this rising star in the Dallas medical community was in the midst of building a flourishing neurosurgery practice when patients began entering his operating room for complex but routine spinal surgeries and left permanently maimed, and occasionally dead. As more and more victims piled up, two fellow physicians—neurosurgeon Robert Henderson (Baldwin) and vascular surgeon Randall Kirby (Slater)—worked to expose the truth, while Dallas prosecutor Michelle Shughart (Robb) set out to bring him to justice.

PREMIERES: Sunday, September 12th on Showcase

3. Strays

Strays1CBCSTARRING: Nicole Power, Kevin Vidal, Tony Nappo, Tina Jung, Frank Cox-O’Connell, Nikki Duval, Emily Piggford

One of two forthcoming comedies being spun off from Kim’s Convenience centres on Shannon Ross (Power), who leaves Toronto and her old gig as manager of Handy Car Rental for a fresh start in Hamilton, running an animal shelter. Here, she reconnects with family and quips it up with a whole new staff, including her overeager animal care manager (Cox-O’Connell), a maintenance guy (Nappo) with a somewhat off-putting sense of humour, and her own cousin (Duval), whose all-round apathy stands in stark contrast to Shannon’s relentlessly upbeat approach to life.

PREMIERES: Tuesday, September 14th on CBC

4. Family Law

Family1GlobalSTARRING: Jewel Staite, Victor Garber, Genelle Williams, Zach Smadu, Luke Camilleri, Eden Summer Gilmore, Brett Kelly, Brenden Sunderland

In this Vancouver-set dramedy, an attorney (Staite), whose alcoholism has driven her to the brink of personal and professional ruin, is ordered as part of her probation to work at the law firm of her estranged father (Garber). In addition to dad, her new co-workers include a half-sister (Williams) and half-brother (Smadu) she’s never actually met; but now, she’ll have the opportunity to get to know/ resent/compete with them. Ironically, as family law specialists, the Svensson clan spend every day lending their services to dysfunctional families—even though they themselves are something less than functional.

PREMIERES: Thursday, September 16th on Global

5. The North Water

North1Super ChannelSTARRING: Colin Farrell, Jack O’Connell, Stephen Graham, Sam Spruell, Roland Møller, Peter Mullan, Philip Hill-Pearson

It’s intrigue on the high seas in this gritty miniseries, which takes us back to the 1850s, to the confines of a British whaling ship bound for the Arctic. Here, a young ex-army surgeon (O’Connell) trying to outrun an ugly past signs on as the ship’s doctor, and soon clashes with a psychopathic harpooner (Farrell), who’s willing to carve up more than just whales and seals. After the “true purpose” of their expedition is revealed, what ensues is a bloody struggle for survival in an almost-unsurvivable corner of the world. Based on the 2016 novel by Ian McGuire, all five episodes are written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Andrew Haigh (45 Years).

PREMIERES: Sunday, September 19th on Super Channel Fuse

6. Our Kind of People

People1CTVSTARRING: Yaya DaCosta, Morris Chestnut

The latest from Lee Daniels (Empire), this soapy drama is set in the aspirational world of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard—a historical stronghold where the rich and powerful Black elite have come to vacation for more than five decades. DaCosta stars as Angela Vaughn, a strong-willed single mother who sets out to reclaim her family’s name and make an impact with her revolutionary hair-care line that highlights the innate, natural beauty of Black women. However, she soon discovers a sinister secret about her own mother’s past that will turn her world upside down and shake up the whole community forever.

PREMIERES: Tuesday, September 21st on CTV & Fox

7. The Wonder Years

Wonder1CTVSTARRING: Elisha “EJ” Williams, Dulé Hill, Saycon Sengbloh, Laura Kariuki, Julian Lerner, Amari O’Neil, Milan Ray, Don Cheadle

Inspired by the beloved dramedy that ran from 1988 until 1993, this new iteration tells the story of the African-American Williams family during the turbulent late 1960s, as experienced through the eyes of 12-year-old Dean (Williams). Recalled through the prism of his adult years (Cheadle provides narration as adult Dean), his hopeful and humorous recollections of his past spotlight the ups and downs of growing up in a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama, and the friendship, laughter and lessons learned along the way.

PREMIERES: Wednesday, September 22nd on CTV & ABC

8. NCIS: Hawai'i

NCIS1CBSSTARRING: Vanessa Lachey, Alex Tarrant, Noah Mills, Yasmine Al-Bustami, Jason Antoon, Tori Anderson, Kian Talan

The latest spinoff of NCIS (the third, for anyone counting) follows Jane Tennant (Lachey), the first female Special Agent in Charge of NCIS Pearl Harbor in Hawai’i, a tenacious woman who’s “thrived and risen through the ranks by equal parts confidence and strategy in a system that has pushed back on her every step of the way.” Leading a crack team of specialists, Tennant investigates high-stakes crimes involving U.S. military personnel, national security and, of course, “the sun-drenched island paradise itself.”

PREMIERES: Monday, September 20th on Global & CBS

9. CSI: Vegas

CSI1CBSSTARRING: William Petersen, Jorja Fox, Wallace Langham, Paula Newsome, Matt Lauria, Mandeep Dhillon, Mel Rodriguez

Described as a “sequel” to procedural crime mega-hit CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, this followup begins with an existential threat that could bring down the entire Crime Lab and release thousands of convicted killers back onto the streets of Las Vegas. To ensure this doesn’t happen, the current team of investigators—led by Maxine Roby (Newsome)—must enlist the help of their predecessors: Gil Grissom (Petersen), Sara Sidle (Fox) and David Hodges (Langham). This combined force will deploy the latest forensic techniques to do what they do best by following the evidence in order to preserve and serve justice in Sin City.

PREMIERES: Wednesday, October 6th on CBS

10. I Know What You Did Last Summer

I Know1Amazon PrimeSTARRING: Madison Iseman, Brianne Tju, Ezekiel Goodman, Bill Heck, Brooke Bloom, Ashley Moore

An eight-episode reimagining of the 1997 teen slasher flick finds another bunch of kids (this one led by Jumanji alum Iseman) who get into a deadly car accident while partying it up after graduation. Panicking, they cover up their misdeed and just try to move on with their lives. But one year later, they find themselves stalked by a mysterious fiend who seems to know... well, see title. As they scramble to figure out who’s hunting them, it becomes clear they’re not the only ones in this small town with a deep, dark secret.

PREMIERES: Friday, October 15th on Amazon Prime Video

11. Queens

Queens1CTVSTARRING: Brandy, Eve, Naturi Naughton, Nadine Velazquez, Pepi Sonuga, Taylor Sele

Recent months have already given us one series about a ’90s girl group who reunite in their 40s—the Tina Fey-produced Girls5eva. Now, a show from Scandal alum Zahir McGhee offers a more dramatic take on that same premise, centring on the disparate members of Nasty B****es (Naughton, Velazquez and real-life pop stars Eve and Brandy), who broke up in headline-grabbing fashion 20 years ago. But they’re finally ready to salvage their career and, more importantly, their friendship. Alas, that comeback trail is a bumpy one, due to both the fickle nature of showbiz and their own complicated personal lives—which now include sputtering marriages, parenting dilemmas and other such grown-up concerns.

PREMIERES: Tuesday, October 19th on CTV & ABC