Fall TV is always full of talk about top 10 lists, best new shows with big stars, returning shows with new stars, diversity, stacking, and which ratings matter. Nearly two months into the new season, you probably have your own hot list. But one element often overlooked yet key in determining a show’s stature and success is voice. Hit shows don’t necessarily have strong, original voice. Great shows always do. The new fall TV season offers a handful of shows that are defined by strong, original voices that are not only worth listening to, they’re worth watching. (Most of those mentioned here are already available with Xfinity On Demand and worth checking out if you aren’t already hooked.) Here’s a look:
Issa Rae, Internet sensation and bestselling author (The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl), adapted her life to the new HBO series Insecure, a half-hour comedy about her and her best friend that explores issues of race, femininity, beauty, and friendship. Her voice is bold, original, and of the moment, starting with episode 1’s opening scene in which Rae finds her actual voice being questioned for not sounding black enough. And that, in short, is the show. “It’s just, like, what does it mean when you don’t fit into this definition of being black? “ she says. “What does it mean when you don’t fit into the specific categories? And how do you you continue?” HBO.
Better Things on FX is a half hour of hyper real melancholy with a twist of whatever-doesn’t-kill-you-is-worth-laughing-at starring the brilliant actress Pamela Aldon as a fictionalized version of herself: a single, divorced mother confronting the constant struggles of raising three daughters and figuring out her own life. “I feel like everything is funny in life, in my life, and there is a lot of funny in the darkness,” says Aldon, who shares creating and writing credits with Louis C.K., who mines ground – and tone – similar to his own Emmy-winning series, only from a female point of view. FX.
Nicole Byer is loud, profane, shocking, and terribly funny in that way that causes you to wonder, “OMG, how could she?” Yet she does, repeatedly, and the UCB late night regular (every Sunday, at 11 pm, in Hollywood) does it in full view of the world on MTV’s new semi-autobiographical Loosely Exactly Nicole. Warning: It’s filthy – but, as Byer laughingly told us, “I wanted it to be even filthier.” Within the racy jokes, though, is an endearing comedy with a right now take about friends, roommates, relationships, and career. MTV.
Also Notable: Queen Sugar: Ava DuVernay turns in a film-like premiere so strong it’s commercial-free, OWN; Atlanta: Per Deadline, Donald Glover’s series “has a distinctly original voice in a TV universe that too often can be full of echoes,” adding, it’s “a place you need to go.” FX; Search Party: an oddball, off-beat existential coming of age story cast as a compelling millennial-flavored mystery, coming Nov. 21, TBS.