MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And finally today, it might seem like the pandemic changed everything about how Americans watch TV. We binge. We stream. We cut the cord. You get the idea. But one thing that has not changed is that in the fall, we still get a lot of new TV shows to watch. And this fall, there are a lot of highly anticipated shows to choose from. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans is with us now to help us figure out what to watch.
Hi, Eric. Thanks for joining us.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Sure.
MARTIN: So you and several other critics at NPR have a big fall TV preview publishing online this month. So thank you for letting us jump the line and get a little preview of your preview.
DEGGANS: Oh, certainly.
MARTIN: But first, wasn't last year's TV fall season cut short by the pandemic, if I'm remembering that correctly? Has anything changed?
DEGGANS: Yeah, for sure. I mean, COVID is still an issue. Last year, it stopped broadcasters from making new shows. And it forced everybody to figure out how to work more from home. Even the streamers had filmed stuff that they had to figure out how to edit together from home during lockdown. But, you know, broadcast TV has recovered. They found a new normal. We're going to be seeing lots of new shows from them in September. And the streaming services have figured it out, too. They had their problems with COVID-related shortages earlier this year. But they've worked that out. So we're going to be seeing a lot of stuff from them. In short, we are going to see a lot of new TV in the next two or three months.
MARTIN: So let's talk about some of the big shows you say we should not miss in September. The first one is this new series about Clinton and Lewinsky, "Impeachment: American Crime Story," which is so interesting to me because at the time, my recollection was that people were like, enough. I have heard enough...
MARTIN: ...About this. So tell us about it.
DEGGANS: Well, this is sort of the stock and trade of the "American Crime Story" anthology series at FX, which has previously tackled O.J. Simpson's murder trial, the murder of Gianni Versace. They tell you things that maybe you didn't know about these publicized cases or get you to see them in a different way. And they do that with this, "Impeachment." This is the first big series of the month. So we got Edie Falco playing Hillary Clinton. We've got an amazing Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp. And we've got this clip with Clive Owen as Clinton and Beanie Feldstein as Lewinsky. Now, Clinton is mad after getting an angry letter from Lewinsky. Let's check out their interaction.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "IMPEACHMENT: AMERICAN CRIME STORY")
CLIVE OWEN: (As Bill Clinton) It is illegal to threaten the president of United States.
BEANIE FELDSTEIN: (As Monica Lewinsky) I wasn't threatening.
OWEN: (As Bill Clinton) I told you things I haven't barred to anyone. Do you think what I need in my day is a nasty letter that conveys nothing but disrespect and ingratitude?
FELDSTEIN: (As Monica Lewinsky) What exactly am I supposed to be grateful for?
OWEN: (As Bill Clinton) Lower your voice.
FELDSTEIN: (As Monica Lewinsky) You promised you would bring me back, and then you barely even called me.
OWEN: (As Bill Clinton) Monica, I was running for president.
FELDSTEIN: (As Monica Lewinsky) That does nothing to explain why you lied to my face.
DEGGANS: So I love how Owen plays Clinton's accent kind of in an understated way so he doesn't become a cartoon. But this piece is mostly about the women who are involved, especially Tripp, who Paulson plays as this terrible person and tragic figure, and Lewinsky, who doesn't come off completely well, even though she served as an executive producer on the show.
Now, every show that I picked to talk about today highlights a trend that I'm seeing in TV, too. And this one is about women reclaiming their stories about exploitation and retelling them at a time when, thanks to the #MeToo movement, we understand a little bit more about how sexual harassment works and exploitation works.
MARTIN: Wow, that sounds really interesting. So your second show is "The Wonder Years" reboot. We've seen a lot of classic TV shows redone for the kind of current era. So tell me a bit more about this one. Does this one work?
DEGGANS: Yes, it does, I think. And one of the things that's interesting for me to watch is how the broadcast networks especially have been trying hard to be more diverse. And in this case, ABC developed a new version of the old show, which aired in 1988, starring Fred Savage. This time, it features a 12-year-old Black boy growing up in Alabama in 1968. And that change allows the show to look at how growing up Black at that time had some universal experiences that maybe everybody can relate to but was also very specific. So we got this clip of the kid talking to his parents about why his Little League coach says he needs a new baseball glove.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE WONDER YEARS")
ELISHA WILLIAMS: (As Dean Williams) Coach Long said I needed a bigger glove.
SAYCON SENGBLOH: (As Lillian Williams) He's just looking out for Dean.
DULE HILL: (As Bill Williams) Right. Right. Is that why he made you team mom - looking out for Dean - or because he's sweet on you?
SENGBLOH: (As Lillian Williams) Stop it. He just did it because we work together.
WILLIAMS: (As Dean Williams) Why would Coach be sweet on mama?
DULE HILL AND SAYCON SENGBLOH: (As Bill and Lillian Williams) Stay out of grown folks' business.
DON CHEADLE: (As Narrator) Stay out of grown folks' business was usually code for something about money, sex or the funny way Dad's studio smelled after a rehearsal.
DEGGANS: So stay out of grown folks' business. How many times did we hear that growing up, right? So I've only seen the pilot. But Dule Hill from "The West Wing" and "Psych" plays the father. And Don Cheadle is the grown-up narrator voice for 12-year-old Dean. I really love this so far.
MARTIN: And so, Eric, your last show is a TV version of a science fiction classic called "Foundation." You were telling us that all of these shows represent some kind of a trend that you're seeing. So tell us about the show. And what does it show us about where TV is going?
DEGGANS: Sure. Well, one of the things we've seen is that genre shows about science fiction and superheroes are becoming a much bigger thing, especially in streaming. And author Isaac Asimov, who created the "Foundation" series, was a legend in science fiction. And arguably, his greatest work was the "Foundation" series. It's about this mathematician who figures out a way to predict that this huge galactic empire is facing ruin. And he has a way to reduce the chaos. And he puts together this plan that takes decades to unfold. And Apple TV somehow pulled together a series based on these books that was co-created by David S. Goyer, who, you know, fans will know has written these big comic book movies like "Batman Begins" and "Man Of Steel."
It's got a lot of new material. And it's got these eye-popping special effects, thanks to Apple TV's huge, you know, wallet. But at its heart, it's this story of how a people, when they become divorced from knowledge and belief in the scientific process, can see their society fall to ruin. And, you know, given some of the stuff we're going through now with the pandemic, it seems to hit a little close to home.
MARTIN: It sure does. That was NPR TV critic Eric Deggans on just a few of the new shows to watch for in the new fall season. Eric, thank you so much.
DEGGANS: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF KASSA OVERALL AND THEO CROKER SONG, "DO YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.