(This has been updated.)
Each new TV season seems to stir optimism.
It’s sort of like each first date or job interview, only without the breath-freshener.
We expect the best; each season could bring the next “Seinfeld or “ER” or “West Wing.” Even when we get the next “Dweebs” or “Hello, Larry” or “My Mother the Car,” we’re hopeful.
But what about the season that starts this month, amid writers’ and actors’ strikes? The streaming and premium-cable networks, working far in advance, are still OK, but what does regular TV have to offer?
A little. There are shows (including “The Irrational,” shown here) that started filming before the strikes …. And ones that have already aired overseas …. And reality and game shows – lots of them.
This list looks at dramas on the networks that the majority of viewers can get – six broadcast ones and a couple basic-cable ones (FX and AMC) that still do big-time drama series. Separate stories will view comedies, game-and-reality shows and what’s coming on broadcast and premium cable. The list is chronological; “new” shows are ones new to U.S. viewers:
— “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon.” For 13 years, Dixon has been escaping from and/or killing bad humans and worse zombies. Now he washes up in France, wants to be on his own, but ends up with a mission. AMC, 9 p.m. Sundays, starting Sept. 10.
— “The Swarm.” Bouncing around the globe – from Peru to Canada to Scotland – we see that something is wrong in the water. Whales are missing or dying or becoming aggressive. This is an eight-part tale that unfolds slowly, but has likable characters – especially Leonie Benesch (a German movie star) and Joshua Odjick (an Indigenous Canadian) as young researchers – she on Shetland Island, he on Vancouver Island. (CW, 9 p.m. Tuesdays, Sept. 12)
— “American Horror Story: Delicate.” As a young actress prepares for her first baby, she meets a creepy woman and scary prospects. Emma Roberts, Cara Delevingne, Matt Czuchry and an ominous Kim Kardashian star. (FX, 10 p.m. Wednesdays, Sept. 20).
— “The Irrational.” Having barely survived a deadly explosion, a professor became an expert on human behavior. He knows the quirks of criminals, police and witnesses. Jesse L. Martin (formerly of “Law & Order” and “The Flash”) stars. Oddly, the show has a great opener, a poor second episode and a fairly good third one. We’ll stick with it. (NBC, 10 p.m. Mondays, Sept. 25)
— “Found.” The world seems to obsess on a few missing people – mostly ones who are cute and Caucasian – while ignoring the others. Now Gabi (Shanola Hampton), a former victim, tries to help the rest. It’s a great concept, poorly rendered, with an overwrought approach. Early on, we see Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Gabi’s former captor. The final minute of the opener has a hideous twist that is meant to be a surprise – except NBC has told about it in its ads. (NBC, 10 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 3).
— “The Spencer Sisters.” Darby is a cop whose pleasant life – job, romance, home – crumbles in one day. She reluctantly visits her mom, a self-obsessed mystery writer; soon, they’re a detective duo. This sounds contrived, but it works well thanks to clever writing, a bright look and an ideal cast. Stacey Farber, who’s busy on Canadian TV, is Darby; Lea Thompson, still famous from the “Back to the Future” films, is her mom. CW, 9 p.m. Wednesdays, Oct. 4.
— “Sullivan’s Crossing.” Like “Spencer Sisters,” this finds a woman returning home after her big-city life implodes. In this case, she’s a doctor and her family has a Nova Scotia campground. Morgan Kohan stars, with Scott Patterson (“Gilmore Girls”) as her dad and Chad Michael Murphy (“One Tree Hill”) as a love interest. CW, 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Oct. 4.
— “Fargo.” For the fifth time, here’s a separate mini-series under the “Fargo” title. This one is set in 2019 Minnesota and North Dakota, where a seemingly ordinary housewife (Juno Temple) is hiding her past and is sought by a relentless lawman (Jon Hamm). FX, 10 p.m. Tuesdays, Nov. 21.
— ALSO: “The Chosen” continues, at 8 p.m. Sundays on CW This crowd-funded series, tracing Jesus’ life through the people nearby, continues through Christmas Eve.
RETURNING SERIES THAT HAVE NEW EPISODES
— “Professor T.” It’s the second season for this story about a criminology professor who’s strong on observation and weak on people skills. Each story is self-contained, but there’s also an arc this year: Troubled by childhood memories and a distant mom, he’s finally trying therapy. Also, police secrets set up a terrific season-finale on Oct. 8. PBS, 8 p.m. Sundays, started Sept. 3.
— “Unforgotten.” The fourth season ended with the death of the lead detective. This one started with her replacement (Sinead Keenan) arriving less than an hour after she learned her husband is a cheater. She fumbled the case, but her top assistant (Sanjeev Bhaskar) persisted. It’s a strong story that takes the entire six-week season to unfold. PBS, 9 p.m. Sundays, started Sept. 3.
— “Van der Valk.” Like most TV crimesolvers, Van der Valk is a solemn soul. His former girlfriend, a doctor, says she wants to be friends; he insists he doesn’t do friendship. What he does is solve crimes amid the beauty of Amsterdam. Each story spreads over two weeks, with the opener involving the death of a guy popular in “free-running” circles. PBS, 10 p.m. Sundays, started Sept. 3.
— “Quantum Leap.” This started filming its second season before the strike. Again, Ben time-travels into other people’s lives, while his lab colleagues try to help. NBC, 9 p.m. Wednesdays, Oct. 4.
— “Magnum P.I.,” When CBS canceled the show, NBC ordered 20 new episodes. It aired the first 10 on Sundays last year (after football season) and expected to do the same with the other 10. Instead, they get earlier duty, to fill a strike void. That starts with a big one; it has two hit men, plus major moments for the Magnum-Higgins relationship and for TC – who was left with no feelins in his legs, after a gunshot wound. NBC, 10 p.m. Wednesdays, Oct. 4.
— “Transplant.” After years of treating Syrian rebels under battlefield conditions, Dr. Bashir Hamed fled to Canada with his 12-year-old sister. He finally got a hospital job after rescuing Jed, the emergency department chief. But now Jed is gone and a new chief is arriving. One colleague (Theo) has been in a fierce helicopter crash; another (the intense Mags) is trying a new research job and possibly a romance with Bash. There’s a lot going on here; the result is erratic, but worth watching, filled with interesting characters. NBC, 10 p.m. Thursdays, Oct. 5.
— “SEAL Team.” After four seasons on CBS, this was nudged over to the streaming world. Its fifth season had four episodes on CBS and 10 on Paramount+; its sixth had 10. Now it revisits its original network, starting with the fifth year. CBS, 10 p.m. Thursdays, Nov. 2.
— ALSO: On Oct. 15, PBS will fill Sundays with three more dramas, each starting its second season. “Hotel Portofino” (a soap/drama set in pre-war Italy, at a hotel for British vacationers) is at 8 … “World on Fire” (a young Englishman and his wife, a member of the Polish resistance, on the run) is at 9 … And the mystery series “Annika” is at 10.
SERIES THAT RETURN VIA RERUNS
— “Yellowstone.” Kevin Costner’s modern-day western has already been a huge ratings hit on the Paramount Network (which has rerun it often) and is on Paramount+. Now it reruns from the beginning. CBS, 8 and 9 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 17.
— “NCIS.” CBS, Mondays. On Sept. 25 – two days after the show’s 20th anniversary – it will air from 8-11 p.m. After that, it sticks to 10 p.m.
— “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 10 p.m., Fridays. This will pick from all 13 seasons.
— “Chicago” shows, NBC, 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Oct 4. The three shows will share one hour.
— “Law & Order” shows, NBC, 8 p.m. Thursdays, Oct. 5. It’s the same idea, with shows sharing an hour.