Is this the most insane television season for science fiction and fantasy fans ever? There are tons of new genre shows. But also, a surprisingly high percentage feel like they could be superb. Including killer comic-book shows, futuristic cop action, and supernatural sexiness. Here's our complete guide to fall TV.
Shows marked with a * are brand new series. Everything else is a returning show.
Dragons: Defenders of Berk (Sept. 10, Cartoon Network)
The show is "raising the game" by changing its title from "riders" to "defenders," and the first trailer for season two showcases a lot of conflict. There's also speculation that this season will do a lot to bridge the five-year gap between the movies, the second of which arrives in 2014. (Note that this premiere date has appeared a number of places online, but appears to be based on the twitter of one of the show's directors. In any case, the show is definitely back this fall.)
Avatar: The Legend of Korra (Sept. 13, Nickelodeon)
We're exploring the spirit world, and seeing more of the world outside Republic City. And we're going to meet the first ever Avatar!
Nova (Sept. 11, PBS)
PBS' great science series is back for another year of fantastic discoveries. First up: On the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, Nova takes a look at the feat of engineering behind OneWorldTradeCenter, the "supertower" where the old WorldTradeCenter once stood.
Haven (Sept. 13, Syfy)
The third season of this Stephen King-based show ended with a huge cliffhanger: Audrey sacrificed herself to save the town. But she didn't stop the supernatural Troubles from afflicting the townspeople — and judging from the trailer we exclusively premiered at Comic-Con, Audrey is back but she's not Audrey any more. And there's a mysterious visitor in the town, who may have an agenda of his own.
Sleepy Hollow (Sept. 16, Fox) *
And now, the first new show of the fall season. Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman have both jumped forward in time to 2013, and it's up to Crane to bust some non-existent heads. This is one of our favorite pilots of the new season, because it completely embraces the absurdity of the Headless Horseman in the present day. And we can already tell that the relationship between Ichabod and his new friend, the tough cop Abbie, is going to be Elementary-esque in the best possible way.
The Neighbors (Sept. 20, ABC)
The sitcom about wacky aliens living next to an average American family in the suburbs is back for a second season. The alien Bird-Kersees have been progressively getting more adventurous about exploring human society, so you can expect a lot more "three-eyed-fish out of water" humor this time around. And hopefully more cameos by people like George Takei and Mark Hamill.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Sept. 24, ABC) *
This is probably the most eagerly anticipated new show of the fall season, of any genre. For those of you who've been living under a rock, this is the television tie-in to Marvel's ultra-successful movie series, including The Avengers, and it focuses on the top-secret organization S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson, who apparently died in The Avengers, is alive again and leading a team of agents who Don't Play Well With Others, to deal with the superpowered threats that threaten ordinary people. The pilot was fun but lightweight, but we fully expect Joss Whedon's new show to pick up steam.
Person of Interest (Sept. 24, CBS)
And while we're celebrating the show that follows up The Avengers, how about the show that more or less explicitly builds on questions raised in The Dark Knight? Jonathan Nolan's TV show about pervasive surveillance feels way more relevant than ever, thanks to the NSA. And the new season seems primed to explore questions about artificial intelligence to a much greater degree. Expect the morally compromised hacker Root (Amy Acker) and the tough spy Shaw (Sarah Shahi) to play bigger roles this season. We cannot wait.
Revolution (Sept. 25, NBC)
The first season of this show about a world where all technology stops working was frustrating, to say the least. We wanted to love these characters and invest in their world, but the post-apocalyptic angst never became compelling. Now, creator Eric Kripke has recognized what went wrong and promises a brand new start, and the good news is he's recruited his former Supernatural colleague Ben Edlund (aka the creator of The Tick, Jaynestown, "Smile Time" and Bad Horse) to work on the show. So there's plenty of reason for hope.
South Park (Sept. 25, Comedy Central)
This show has cut the number of episodes per season from two blocks of 7 each to a single 10-episode block, which hopefully will keep the show fresh and still funny, as it launches its 17th (!) season. As Matt Parker put it, this is like a rock band scaling back its output slightly: "Now instead of putting out two albums a year, we are only going to do one, which is more manageable and ensures that it will be something we are proud of."
Once Upon a Time (Sept. 29, ABC)
This year, Once is going to be splitting its storytelling between the town of Storybrooke and the world of Neverland, where the gang has gone on a quest to rescue Henry from the clutches of the one and only Peter Pan. The show's creators promise that Peter Pan will be a scary, imposing character. And we'll be meeting Ariel, the Little Mermaid! Basically, more Disney fairytale characters than you can shake your remote control at. Oh, and the Evil Queen is getting a love interest.
Animation Domination (Sept. 29, FOX)
Fox's block of animated shows is back for yet another go-around, including The Simpsons, The Family Guy and American Dad. Between these shows, there's usually enough weird science fictional craziness to go around.
The Vampire Diaries (Oct. 3, The CW)
When we left the gang in MysticFalls, Stefan was totally copying Angel's fate from the end of Angel season three: locked in a box dumped in the bottom of a large body of water. And his evil doppelganger, the immortal Silas, was all set to take his place. Meanwhile, Elena and Caroline are going to college, which means one thing: sorority rush parties! And Jeremy has to explain how he's back from the dead, while Bonnie is still trying to hide the fact of her own death. Basically, another day in MysticFalls.
The Originals (Oct. 3, The CW) *
And meanwhile, the Vampire Diaries spin-off also debuts on the same night, before moving to its regular timeslot on Tuesdays. Basically, the family of Original vampires — Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah — are going to New Orleans, where Klaus' old protégé Marcel has set himself up as the vampire king. Klaus wants to dethrone Marcel (and can't just kill him because reasons), and meanwhile the werewolf Hayley is having Klaus' baby. The series premiere will just be the previously aired "backdoor pilot" episode of TVD, with some new Elijah material sprinkled in.
Witches of East End (Oct. 6, Lifetime) *
Julia Ormond stars in this adaptation of the book series by Melissa de la Cruz. Ormond plays Joanna, a witch who is raising two daughters, who are unaware that they've inherited their mother's witch powers. And the twist is that Joanna is cursed to keep giving birth to the same two daughters, over and over. The daughters keep dying, and then the mom becomes pregnant all over again. A sort of "OBGYN Groundhog Day," as Deadline puts it.
Beauty and the Beast (Oct. 7, The CW)
This show about the Incredible Hulk in love with a female cop is back for a second season, and this time around Vincent and Catherine are being pushed apart more than ever. Vincent is going to be forced to question whether he's a man or a beast. And meanwhile, we're going to learn more about Catherine's family background, including the secrets of her mom's mysterious murder.
Arrow (Oct. 9, The CW)
This superhero show honestly blew us away in its first season, making us believe superheroes could be awesome on television. And season two is apparently going to be the story of Ollie's actual rise to heroism, in the wake of his devastating failure at the end of season one. But the real headline about season two is that the show is introducing Barry Allen, the police scientist who is destined to become the super-speedy Flash and get his own spin-off show. Yes, we'll have a coherent DC universe on television before we get one in the movies.
The Tomorrow People (Oct. 9, The CW) *
The classic British TV show is being reinvented for American TV, featuring the combined creative input of the Vampire Diaries' Julie Plec and Arrow's Greg Berlanti. Stephen is a troubled teenager who seems to be hearing voices and sleepwalking into embarrassing situations — like turning up in bed with his neighbors. But it turns out that his apparent mental illness is actually his telepathic superpowers manifesting, and he's part of a group of super-teens who are being hunted by a secret organization. The pilot was pretty fun, and wholeheartedly embraced the CW-ish teen angst inherent in the premise.
American Horror Story: Coven (Oct. 9, FX)
This bizarre horror show is back for a third season, which once again is completely different than the first two years. This time around, we're following a coven of witches, and Jessica Lange is playing the main character instead of just a supporting character. Joining the cast are Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett, playing a serial killer and a scary voodoo priestess respectively. So basically, three of the most amazing actors alive are going to be playing off each other. Let's hope for something a bit more satisfying than last year's Asylum storyline.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Oct. 10, ABC) *
Vampire Diaries isn't the only supernatural show getting a spinoff — we're also getting a companion show to Once Upon a Time, focusing on the Lewis Carroll mythos. And we're doing a version of that Buffy episode where Buffy is being told the whole "Slayer" thing is just her mental illness — Alice is in an institution, being told that Wonderland is just her imaginary place, created by her psychosis. And Lost's Naveen Andrews will be playing Jafar, the villain from Aladdin. The good news: Wonderland looks amazing. And there will be no "filler episodes."
The Walking Dead (Oct. 13, AMC)
This show is back, with another new showrunner — and producer Greg Nicotero is directing the season opener, promising more insane zombie action than this show has ever given us before. The Governor is still out there, more dangerous than ever — and he'll reappear when we least expect him. Plus there's a brand new, as-yet-unspecified "threat" that's more deadly than zombies and can't be reasoned with at all. (Some kind of disease outbreak? We'll find out soon!)
Supernatural (Oct. 15, The CW)
This show ended its eighth season with a crazy cliffhanger, with tons of angels crashing to Earth and the Winchester brothers having failed to close the gates of Hell. So basically, this next year is going to be all-out war between Earthbound angels and the still-invading demon army. Meanwhile, Castiel is coping with being fully human for the first time ever, and the King of Hell, Crowley, is probably going to be somewhat different in the wake of his "healing." Plus Bobby is... back from the dead? Basically, a whole lot of crazy.
Grimm (Oct. 25, NBC)
So now Nick's a zombie? How is that going to work? Nick is going to be a bit of a monster this coming season, and he'll be hunted instead of being the hunter. Meanwhile, this new season is going to show us the difficult lead-up to the wedding of two Wesen creatures, Monroe and Rosalee. Also this season: We'll see some new creators, including gators in the sewer, and mermaids.
Dracula (Oct. 25, NBC) *
And on the same night as Grimm, NBC debuts its brand new supernatural show, about Bram Stoker's iconic vampire in his early days. The main selling point: The Tudors' Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing a sexier version of Dracula than we've seen in a while. Dracula comes to Victorian London and poses as an American businessman, who wants to bring science to 19th-century society. But really, he's seeking revenge — and then he falls in love with a woman who may be the reincarnation of his dead wife. Basically, lots of blood, sex and insanity.
Steven Universe (No airdate, Cartoon Network)
Rebecca Sugar was a huge part of transforming Adventure Time from a quirky weirdfest into one of the best shows on television, with her brilliant songs and strong focus on building up the side characters like Ice King and Marceline. And now she has her own show, about the youngest member of a superhero team, who still wants to help save the universe in his own way. We can't wait for this show.
Ravenswood (No airdate, ABC Family) *
It's the supernatural spinoff to ABC Family's soap opera Pretty Little Liars, airing after PLL's Halloween episode. The town of Ravenswood has suffered from a supernatural curse for generations, and now the curse is ready to strike again. Caleb from Liars stumbles into this town and gets caught up in all the supernatural shenanigans.
Almost Human (Nov. 4, FOX) *
Karl Urban — Judge Dredd and Dr. McCoy himself — stars in this new show about a human cop who's paired with an android partner. Yes, it sounds like a remake of Mann and Machine or that Ernest Borgnine show at first blush. But the show's pilot is actually pretty thrilling, and there's a lot more to the premise, like the fact that the android partner isn't an ordinary android. Mostly, Karl Urban just brings so much scowling intense goodness to this role that you're sucked in. This is the first new show from J.H. Wyman, former showrunner of Fringe, and it has a lot of the same feel.
Doctor Who (Nov. 23, BBC America)
The long-awaited 50th anniversary special reunites the two most recent versions of the alien time traveler, Matt Smith and David Tennant — plus a previously unknown version, played by John Hurt. The footage we saw at Comic-Con was intense and funny and promised to rip the hinges off the mythos that the show has created since it returned in 2005. But mostly, we just want lots and lots of Tennant-Smith banter.
Atlantis (Nov. 23, BBC America) *
And on the same day as Doctor Who celebrates its birthday, BBC America launches a brand new show, from Misfits creator Howard Overman. It's a brand new take on Greek mythology that promises to be a lot smarter than the Percy Jackson movies. Young Jason (Jack Donnelly) arrives in the magical city of Atlantis and meets Hercules, Medusa, Pythagoras... and a whole lot of gods and goddesses. Basically, "from the creator of Misfits" is all you really need to know.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (Nov. 23, The Hub)
This time around: Pinkie Pie gets a musical episode, in which somebody gives her a run for her money on the party-planning front. Pinkie Pie's sister visits Ponyville, Rarity gets her own episode, and there are tons more musical numbers. Also, a special TV movie about the ponies visiting the world of humans, Equestria Girls, airs on Sept. 1.)
Robot Chicken (No airdate, Adult Swim)
This show will be back sometime this fall, with more pop culture spoofs including an episode focusing entirely on DC Comics supervillains.