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What TV Programs To Expect This Fall

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Usually, a couple hundred TV critics would be in LA right now hearing about the new shows coming to the small screen in the fall. This year, the TV summer press tour went virtual, like so many other gatherings. Actors, producers and network executives showed up in panels over videoconference. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans was in virtual attendance, and he's here to tell us about the most interesting programs arriving this fall.

Hey there, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hey.

SHAPIRO: Before we talk about the shows, what was this virtual gathering like after you've attended it in person for so many years?

DEGGANS: Well, it was really odd. I'm used to sort of networking with people, network executives, even other critics. You can't do that. But there were two virtual events. PBS had one in late July, and then this organization called CTAM that represents cable TV channels and streamers had one that started August 3. And we got to see a bunch of different people from a bunch of different shows via video chat, and we could ask questions. And they even gave us credits for food delivery apps like GrubHub so that we could have meals together at the same time.

SHAPIRO: Well, you mentioned PBS and cable and streaming, but you didn't mention the big three networks. Are they in trouble? I mean, are TV producers in trouble generally because production has basically been shut down since March?

DEGGANS: Yeah. I think anybody who has kept an eye on showbiz news knows that there are small efforts being made to restart production, but the networks have mostly stopped. Almost everybody around television has mostly stopped production. And the shadow of the pandemic loomed pretty large over the stuff that we saw in this press tour. Cable channels and streaming services - they still have some new shows in reserve where production was all or mostly completed before the pandemic started. So that's, like, the stuff that we saw.

Some platforms like AMC were bringing over shows from Britain because those shows have already aired. They're already completed. We saw a few things from streaming services that were really interesting. But some shows didn't even have premiere dates 'cause I think these platforms are still trying to figure out when they want to debut stuff, depending on whether or not they might be able to create some new shows to help out.

SHAPIRO: All right. So for the stuff that is coming in the fall, did it feel like they're scraping out the bottom of the barrel...

DEGGANS: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: ...Or is there stuff to look forward to?

DEGGANS: Sometimes it did. And now, I would say I was really impressed, for example, by the presentation from NBC streamer Peacock. They showed off a new series from "The Good Place" creator Mike Schur and "The Office" alum Ed Helms called "Rutherford Falls" that was set in a small town in upstate New York. And it features a lot of Native American characters. And they had - they talked about how they involved a lot of Native American people in the production process, including having a lot of Native American people in the writers room.

The big news I saw at Peacock - they have two new late-night shows. They've got one starring Amber Ruffin, who is somebody that you might have seen on "Late Night With Seth Meyers," and Larry Wilmore, who used to host "The Nightly Show" on Comedy Central. They're both Black performers who are well-known for speaking out really well about social issues on television. And so that's going to add a lot of diversity to late night. I can't wait to see what they come up with.

SHAPIRO: Just based on Emmy nominations, it looks like Netflix and HBO are the two big hitters. Do they have anything exciting coming up in the fall that you are eager to see?

DEGGANS: So the shows that I'm looking forward to - Netflix has a show called "Ratched," which is executive produced by Ryan Murphy.

SHAPIRO: Oh, yeah. Sarah Paulson - right? - playing Nurse Ratched.

DEGGANS: Yeah, Sarah Paulson as Nurse Ratched - tells the origin story of that character from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." Can't wait to see that. Lamorne Morris - now, you may remember him from the cast of the "New Girl." He's starring in this show for Hulu called "Woke," where he plays an African American cartoonist who gets roughed up by the police. And then, because of his PTSD, he starts imagining inanimate objects talking to him the way they do in his cartoons...

SHAPIRO: Wow.

DEGGANS: ...And it makes him much more socially active. He becomes woke. So I can't wait to see that.

SHAPIRO: Sounds wild.

DEGGANS: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

Thanks, Eric.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.