TV Characters We Need Back In Our Lives: 2016 Edition

A great songwriter once summarized the way we feel when our favorite TV shows come back on the air after a summer hiatus:

What ever happened to predictability
The milk man, the paper boy evening TV?
You miss your old familiar friends

But miss them no longer – they’re waiting just around the bend: the best returning TV characters of Fall 2016:

Rebecca Bunch from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

We considered including Greg Serrano and Paula Proctor in this list, but ultimately we had to give it up for this great show’s leading lady. It’s not just that Rachel Bloom is a writer/creator/actress/singer/comedian/all around fantastic human. It’s also that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend hinges on the audience suspending disbelief – it’s a musical comedy after all – AND identifying with a protagonist who sounds pretty questionable on paper, what with moving cross-country to chase her camp boyfriend from 2005. Rebecca, though flawed, has to be relatable, professionally competent, and get the audience in her corner. Against the odds, you believe that Rebecca has her head in the wrong place and her heart in the right one, that she’s out of touch with reality yet the smartest person in the room.

Jessica Huang from Fresh Off The Boat

Roughly half of Jessica’s lines from Fresh Off The Boat remind me of all of the 90s moms I knew during my childhood. The rest are cut straight from my internal monologue. Jessica is exacting and confident, at turns assimilating her family into American culture and criticizing it. Jessica is a rare TV parent: neither the tough mom nor the fun mom, she is a welcome break from the smiling-while-head-shaking moms from paper towel commercials and CBS sitcoms. Just watch her getting obsessed with Melrose Place and imagining intrigues in her neighborhood, or tackling her school-aged son with a giant stuffed bunny to teach him not to date rape, or spouting off about prosperity perms and tell me she isn’t the most endearing and “aggressive yet elegant” sitcom mom there is.

As an aside, we love actress Constance Wu every bit as much as we love Jessica, and if you don’t yet, you should too.

Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers

It’s impossible to pick just one favorite Belcher, but I’m doing just that and it’s Tina. I have a comedic soft spot for characters who have no reason to be confident but are anyway, and that’s Tina. Plus it’s just fun to watch her and thank your lucky stars that you’re not in that horrible junior high not really a kid/not really a teenager stage any more.

Liza Miller from Younger

To paraphrase Death Cab for Cutie (we were 19 in 2006, ok?), we would follow Sutton Foster into the dark – or to TV Land. Yes, the channel where your dad watches Newhart has original programming now, and Younger is really good – kind of like a TV version of goldfish crackers, where you can consume it for a half hour and the time kind of just disappears. Liza is a 40-year-old restarting her career and passing as a 26-year-old in order to do it, which is plausible because Sutton Foster has a portrait in her attic that ages in her stead. Plus Hilary Duff is in it too, and you know we loved us some Lizzie McGuire.

Rogelio De La Vega from Jane the Virgin

I binge watched both seasons of Jane the Virgin this summer and totally got hooked, largely in part to the great writing, the outstanding acting, and the character that is Rogelio De La Vega. I’ve never seen a fake actor so egotistical yet so lovable at the same time, and I think that’s credit to Jamie Camil, who plays the Telenovela star. He has a way of saying Rogelio’s lines that make you almost sympathetic to him, before you realize what he’s actually saying – and what he’s saying is usually the most ridiculous. #RogelioMyBrogelio

Porsha from Empire

I had a few complaints about the second season of Empire, and one of them is that there wasn’t enough Porsha on the show. As Cookie’s assistant she should probably be by her side more, yet not as much as I wanted. She’s hilarious, always has good comebacks, and is the perfect complement to Cookie’s sassiness. Also, she’s an amazing rapper IRL.

Coliver from How To Get Away With Murder

I KNOW I’m not the only person who ships this couple, mainly because there are many Tumblr blogs and gifsets dedicated to this hot, sweet duo. Connor and Oliver are maybe my fave romantic couple on HTGAWM because they just care for each other so much. Connor may be more broody about his feelings while Oliver is more outright, but there’s no doubt they’re meant to be. And I’m just the creep who reblogs their romantic moments on the Internet, it’s fine.

Betty DiMello from Masters of Sex

Annaleigh Ashford. Annaleigh Ashford!!!! I’ve always admired her talents from after since she’s a Broadway staple, but her acting skills are stellar in this show as a prostitute turned experiment volunteer turned receptionist turned closest confidant. It’s been quite the arc for Betty and Annaleigh as well, and I still think she should be nominated for more awards.

Captain Ray Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Captain Holt has grown on me so much over the years, and in the best way he can, he’s opened up to the Nine-Nine slowly but surely too. Andrew Braugher does such a spectacular job showing emotion in an emotionless character, and I can’t wait to see what happens next for him and Jake come season four.

Taran Killam from Saturday Night Live

I’m in complete denial Taran isn’t coming back for the upcoming season, so we’re just going to pretend he’ll be back.

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How to Cope with TV Haituses

Ah, December. The time for friends and family get together to celebrate the holidays watch the winter finales of their favorite shows. This time of year is already stressful with buying gifts, forced holiday parties, and spending too much time with family members you may not care for. But on top of that, TV fans have to gear up for a winter of no new episodes until the next year.

To help you cope with your addictions, I (myself an addict) have compiled a list of shows you should watch during the next few weeks (or months in some cases) until your faves come back on air. For example, last year, I watched all seven seasons of The West Wing in about 26 days. I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but hey, it helped distract me from the cliffhanger of Nashville. I’m only here to help, y’all.

Happy watching!

If you like:

Scandal

You might like:

The West Wing

Speaking of The West Wing… All 7 seasons are on Netflix, so you have no excuse (unless you don’t have Netflix). Scandal is probably the most difficult show to ween yourself off of, especially if you’re a #Gladiator who live tweets and doesn’t miss a single episode. Not to mention, it doesn’t come back until February 27th! So if you enjoy the political side of Scandal, excellent writing, the invention of the ‘walk and talk’ and most importantly, the never sarcastic Josh Malina/David Rosen, who plays Will Bailey from season 3 on, you’ll certainly enjoy this Emmy-winning series that went off the air seven years ago. Warning: there’s certainly not as much sex on this show – but there’s Rob Lowe and a ‘Will they- Won’t they’ situation between Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) and his assistant Donna Moss (Janel Maloney).

If you like:

Parks and Recreation

You might like:

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

BROOKLYN-NINE-NINE-CAST-570

One name: Mike Schur. If you don’t know who he is and you’re a fan of Parks and Rec and/or The Office, you can revoke your fan privileges right now. Mike used to be a writer on The Office (and also played Dwight’s weird cousin Mose), but left the show to create Parks with Office creator Greg Daniels. Mike decided his one amazing show on NBC wasn’t enough, so he and Dan Goor, also from Parks, created Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The show is hilarious and has the same kind of ensemble quality that both Parks and The Office had. In addition, you can’t go wrong with Andy Samberg as a quirky cop. And don’t forget the fact that both the show and Andy just got nominated for Golden Globes? Congrats Mike Schur.

If you like:

Modern Family

You might like:

Trophy Wife

I’ve talked about my love for Trophy Wife before, and it certainly has not waned since then. This show just keeps getting better and better. A non-traditional family with traditional support and love for each other is exactly the type of foundation Modern Family was built on, and this show is just a different take on it. Make sure you watch the Christmas episode – probably the best of the season so far.

If you like:

Grey’s Anatomy

You might like:

Chicago Fire

Common workplace? Check. Major problem (medical mystery/kid stuck in a burning building)? Check. Hot guys? Check. Lesbians? Check. On-again, off-again/love triangles? Check. Did I mention hot guys? Check. I mean, what are you waiting for?

If you like:

Mad Men

You might like:

Masters of Sex

Okay, this is kind of not following my previous template since Mad Men hasn’t been on since the spring and is coming back in March, but it’s the closest thing to Masters of Sex. This Showtime series just wrapped its first season, and only got better as the season went on. Just like Mad Men, it’s a period drama set in the 1950s centered on (real people) Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), who were pioneering researchers of human sexuality. Clearly, there’s plenty of sex and nudity happening on this show. But unlike Mad Men where affairs run rampant, the sex mainly happens in the context of their research. Of course both Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan do an amazing job, but the supporting characters like Beau Bridges and his wife Allison Janney (Allison Janney! From The West Wing!!!) are just as outstanding. It’s only 12 episodes you guys!

If you like:

Homeland

You might like:

Homeland Season 1 & 2

No (major?) spoilers if you haven’t seen the season three finale yet, but UGHHH. It will be interesting to see where they go from here. That being said, season three was like a roller coaster and you had no idea where it was going, how it was going to end, or if you even liked it, but you still rode it anyways. If you liked season three, you should probably watch the first two seasons again to remind you how good the show used to be.

A Fall TV Guide To Non-Crappy Shows

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, I’m not talking about Christmas, it’s the glorious return of television after the fall hiatus! While our favorite shows are returning, lest we forget there is a whole new crop of shows just dying to be kept alive by network execs.

In television history, this time of year determines who will have a job at the end of the season and who will not. Some are bad, some are great, some are bad but go on for multiple seasons (Two and a Half Men), some are great but only live on for half a season (RIP Ben and Kate).

But have no fear. We are here to help guide you to the land of good television. Who knows if these shows will be the last ones standing, but at least you’ll waste your time on good shows instead of the bad ones. Do you have any favorites that are missing from this list?

The Dramas

The Blacklist

Premieres: Monday, September 23rd – NBC – 10pm

Starring: James Spader (Boston Legal, The Office, all around 80s icon), Diego Klattenhoff (Uncle Mike from Homeland, Shane Omen from Mean Girls)

Plot: James Spader plays Red Reddington, one of the FBI’s most wanted. He surprisingly turns himself in and offers to help catch a long-thought-dead terrorist, but he’ll only work with new FBI profiler Liz Keen, played by Megan Boone. This terrorist guy isn’t the only criminal Red can help put behind bars, he has a massive list – a ‘blacklist’ if you will – of other wanted politicians, mobsters, spies and terrorists, but will only help the FBI if Liz continues as his partner.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: Out of all the network shows debuting this fall, The Blacklist tested better than all other 125 NBC drama pilots in the past decade. Better than ER? So this has to be good. Or the pilot, at least.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Premieres: Tuesday, September 24th – ABC – 8pm

Starring: Clark Gregg (duh, Agent Coulson), Ming-Na Wen (ER, the greatest Disney classic Mulan)

Plot: You may remember Agent Coulson from the Marvel superhero movie franchise, and now he’s getting his on show. Coulson puts together a task force to investigate the growing number of people with superpowers, and that’s pretty much it.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: Because it’s supposed to be the biggest new show this season, and you don’t want to be the guy who has nothing to say around the watercooler the following day. Do people still go to watercoolers?

Masters of Sex

Premieres: Sunday, September 29th – Showtime – 10pm

Starring: Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Wesley Snipes on 30 Rock, ex-boyfriend of Rachel McAdams), Lizzy Caplan (Party Down, Cloverfield, ex-costar of Rachel McAdams)

Plot: Set in the 1950s, this drama centers around William Masters (Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Caplan) as they take on the risque study of researching the medical side of sex.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: This is the only non-network show on the list, but it seems too good to leave it off. Shows that push the button are always poised to be good TV, but with a cast like this and the perfect mix of drama and comedy, this is definitely one to look out for come awards season.

The Comedies

Trophy Wife

Premieres: Tuesday, September 24th – ABC – 9:30pm

Starring: Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, often the center of my dreams), Malin Ackerman (Couples Retreat, Rock of Ages), Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, season two resident lawyer on The Newsroom), Michaela Watkins (former SNL cast member)

Plot: Bradley Whitford is on his third wife – the young, reformed party girl Kate (Ackerman). She is thrown into an unconventional family, which includes his first ex-wife Diane (Harden), the hardass doctor with whom he has two teenage kids, and second ex-wife Jackie, a granola/hippie mom with whom he adopted a spunky Asian kid.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: Because Bradley Whitford needs to be on a TV series that is successful again. Also it’s funny. Don’t trust me? (rude) You can watch the pilot on Hulu before it comes on the small screen!

Brooklyn Nine Nine
Premieres: Tuesday, September 17th – FOX- 8:30pm

Starring: Andy Samberg (SNL, Celeste and Jesse Forever, often has Dick in a Box), Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street), Chelsea Peretti (former Parks & Rec writer, stand up comic, Twitter life ruiner)

Plot: A police workplace comedy featuring carefree cop Jake Peralta (Samberg) who has to work under a new no nonsense boss in Captain Ray Holt (Braugher).

Why You Should Give It a Shot: A show created by Parks and Rec mastermind and The Office’s Mose, Michael Schur and another Parks writer Dan Goor, it’s sure to have a few LOL moments. Basically Schur’s TV forte is getting former SNL cast members and making them stars of their own comedies. It helps that he used to write for SNL too.

Super Fun Night
Premieres: Wednesday, October 2nd – ABC – 9:30pm

Starring: Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids, Pitch Perfect, all-around hilarious lady), Liz Lapira (Crazy Stupid Love, Don’t Trust The B-, Traffic Light aka shows only I watched)

Plot: Kimmie Boubier (Wilson) is a junior attorney who has had a standing date every Friday with her best friends for the past 13 years. Their motto is “Always together! Always inside!”, which makes me feel like we’re soulmates. But now because of a cute British co-worker and networking opportunities, Kimmie feels the need to actually go out and meet people for once.

Why You Should Give It a Shot: Rebel Wilson. Executive produced by Conan O’Brien. Theoretically this show should be a hit.