Thanks to every possible water cooler chat-generating prestige cable drama getting packed into the weekend-ending evening, "Must See TV Thursdays" have now been supplanted with "My DVR Is Dying Sundays." And, thanks to football games, constantly futzing with the network schedules, fall is a particularly brutal time to try to take in the best shows, so buckle up because there's plenty to watch before you head back to work on Monday.
The Simpsons (7pm on Fox, premieres September 28)
An unexpected side-effect of FXX's recent "Every Simpsons Ever" marathon seems to have been that those who abandoned the show years ago came to realize that, while it may no longer be the Golden Age of the show, it's still often in very high form. To be sure, there's still plenty of laughs in Springfield.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (7:30pm on Fox, premieres September 28)
The cop comedy from the folks behind Parks and Recreation came onto the scene with an extraordinarily funny pilot, flattened out a bit and then finished extremely strong in its last weeks. Like their civil servant cousins in Pawnee, the Nine-Nine crew is packed with very extremely funny and talented actors. In fact, it's often surprising and amusing that accomplished comic talent Andy Samberg is shown up by the likes of Terry Crews, Andre Braugher and, my personal favorite, the fabulously deadpan Stephanie Beatriz. The second season begins just as strong as the first concluded.
The Good Wife (8pm on CBS, premieres September 21)
The untimely death of Will Gardner, for all its attention, wasn't nearly as fascinating as the launch of Florrick Agos law firm. I can't say I'm that jazzed about the idea of Alicia running for State's Attorney, but Diane jumping ship to join her and Cary in their scrappy start-up, that sounds like gold.
Boardwalk Empire (8pm on HBO, currently airing)
Most of my favorite characters have already met their untimely ends but even I've never really warmed to Nucky Thompson, I'm anxious to see how this final, shortened season plays out. Boardwalk is one of the finest looking shows on television and it's sure to go out in style. I will say, though, the flashbacks to Thompson's childhood are, so far, boring me stiff.
The Newsroom (8pm on HBO, premieres November 9)
This has been far from Sorkin's finest work but in the midst of its frustrations (someone please tell the man to stop writing romance, it's not where his strengths lie), there have always been high points and the second season showed notable improvements over the first. Here's hoping its third and final continues to learn from the show's past mistakes.
Homeland (8pm on Showtime, premieres October 5)
Sadly, screener issues prevented me from watching more than the first 38 minutes of the new season, which was enough to be certain that Carrie is still very much Carrie, warts and all, though not enough to get a decent idea of the new directions the show will be taking in its fourth year. I do really like what little I saw of Corey Stoll. Season three was quite a mess, so hopefully now that they've shed the volatile weight that was Nicholas Brody, the show can remake itself into something that recaptures the power of its incredibly strong first season.
Manhattan (9pm on WGN America, currently airing)
Only the second new series from WGN America, this drama, set amongst the scientists at Los Alamos working to create the atom bomb has been a surprising treat from a network whose only previous show was goofy drama that suggests that maybe there actually were witches in Salem. Complete with an outstanding cast that boasts the likes of John Benjamin Hickey and Olivia Williams, Manhattan is rolling up a very impressive premiere season this fall.
Masters of Sex (9pm on Showtime, currently airing)
There are only two more episodes left of Showtime's brilliant series about William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The mid-season time jump still has me scratching my head a bit, especially since it killed the amazing momentum that show going after delivering some of its strongest episodes ever. Still, this is easily one of the smartest shows on television and one of my absolute favorite things to watch.
The Affair (9pm on Showtime, premieres October 12)
After ABC's dreadful Chicago-set infidelity drama Betrayal, I was certainly not itching to see another series about an extramarital affair, but this series has a lot more going for it than your average Adrian Lyne rip-off. For starters, Dominic West and Ruth Wilson are glorious, even if they've traded in their luscious English accents for American ones. Secondly, The Affair adopts an intriguing True Detective-esque narrative style, where West and Wilson's characters each tell their versions of how their indiscretions played out. Given that both of these stories are told from an interrogation room, we can assume that something went horribly awry along the line, but given how slowly the story is being told, it may be awhile before we actually know what that is. The best part about this storytelling device, is that it actively engages the viewer as we try to suss out which one of the lovers is telling the truth (of course, is likely that both of them are getting it wrong) and why we think that. Do you side with West's Noah purely because his side of the story is the first that we hear or with Wilson's Allison who, unlike her partner, doesn't have a wife and children to protect? This is the type of series that was made for Monday morning conversations with your buddies, as you pick apart everything that transpired and I can't wait to see what kind of think pieces it inspires.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (10pm on HBO, currently airing)
If you haven't been watching The Daily Show alum kill it every Sunday night then you've seriously been missing out. The man has been brilliant on a number of complex issues, while utilizing the freedom that HBO allows to occasionally get a little bit dirty.