The fall season packs in the holidays, and holidays mean travel. It can be both comforting and humdrum to be back in your hometown, trimming the tree and stuffing the turkey to the sound of the news blaring on Mom and Dad’s living room TV.
But what to watch? This fall’s TV plate is brimming with entrees and sides, from hearty doses of beautiful California cuisine with chef Samin Nosrat to bite-sized snacks of ghoulish treats on Halloween Wars. There are also family sitcoms galore to warm you and your loved ones on those chilly fall nights. So whether you’ve been stranded in the airport for six hours during an epic snowstorm or you’re idly swiping on the app du jour in your hometown, check out these fall series that will make you binge hard—just like Grandma’s famous sweet potato pie.
What to Binge on Self-Care Sunday
Sideswiped (YouTube), debuted July 25, 2018
Sunday, Sunday. A poll showed that 81 percent of Americans get the Sunday night blues. If you’re one of them, pop on a face mask, sink deep into some bath bubbles, and treat yourself to this hilarious YouTube original (with your laptop safely propped up on your bathroom counter, naturally). Olivia Maple — played by the delightfully hapless Carly Craig — is a 35-year-old insurance executive who hasn’t dated since her last heartbreaking breakup … two years ago. On her 35th birthday, she finds herself at a bar with her (mostly) happily married younger sister Jayne (Chelsea Frei) and hot widowed mom Mary (Rosanna Arquette). After too many tequila shots and an epic swiping session, Olivia wakes up to 252 new Tinder matches — and resolves to go out with every single one. You’ll guffaw out loud at Olivia’s comical dates during this Sunday therapy session.
What to Binge While Waiting for the Trick-or-Treaters
Halloween Wars (Food Network), 9/30
Need to burn a few minutes between each adorable group of trick-or-treaters? This Food Network original awes and oohs with gory sugary hitchhikers, succulent pumpkin skeletons, and ooey-gooey cake zombies. Halloween Wars bewitches with a spirited competition between teams of culinary experts (with cake sculptors, sugar artists, and pumpkin carvers on each team) who have five hours to create massive sculptures on themes like “Zombies vs. Vampires,” “Monster Party,” and “Hitchhiker’s Worst Nightmare.” The lighthearted yet fierce competition brings out the best — and the ghoulish — in each of the contestants, who create fantastical Tim Burton-esque landscapes out of devourable sweets.
What to Binge When the Suburbs Are Closing In on You
Forever (Prime Video), 9/14
Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen’s meditation on suburban monotony … er, rather, monogamy, has been hailed as one of the best new debuts this fall. With promised twists and turns in the boring life of a couple that’s amiably complacent in their social lives, jobs, and especially their marriage, this Southern California Sunday joyride slowly cruises toward death while asking if we need more than “good enough.” Watch when you feel one more day at Mom and Dad’s cul-de-sac to nowhere is closing in on you.
What to Binge Drinking Eggnog by a Roaring Fireplace
Maniac (Netflix), 9/21
Wrap yourself up in a Pendleton blanket and fire up the hearth to enlighten yourself with this epic dark comedy series from cult director Cary Joji Fukanaga of True Detective fame. With its curiously disaffected sets, chilling plot, and existential questions, this series is best invested in by the light of a roaring fireplace with your sweetest honey. Starring Emma Stone as Annie Landsberg and Jonah Hill as Owen Milgrim, this series follows participants in a curious pharmaceutical trial that promises to be the panacea for all ills. When the panacea turns out to be what Annie calls “multi-reality brain magic,” Annie and Jonah find themselves traversing realities in order to reunite across the perfect multiverse Dr. Mantleray has trapped them inside. Based on a Norwegian series of the same name, Maniac poses Brave New World questions of whether somatic success or wide-awake reality is better — and indeed, what is real, when so much of our world is virtual?
What to Binge While the Gingerbread Cookies Are Baking
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (Netflix), 10/19
Respected cookbook author Samin Nosrat’s four-part cooking show will teleport the wannabe chef in your stomach to Italy, Mexico, Japan, and Northern California. In Berkeley, host Nosrat will pop by Chez Panisse, her former workplace and the world-famous epicenter of California cuisine. Fittingly, Nosrat is an exceedingly practical, process-oriented cook who taught Michael Pollan to cook and whose book was named one of the best reference cookbooks for learning how to balance the elements of taste. Nosrat believes anyone can learn to cook by tasting and rebalancing these elements daily: salt, a flavor enhancer; fat, a flavor and texture enhancer; acid, a balancer; and heat, a texture determinant.
What to Binge While Wrapping a Mountain of Presents
Homecoming (Prime Video), 11/2
Present-wrapping can be rote, but Julia Roberts, in any role, is not. Based on a hit podcast by Gimlet Media, this drama is a mysterious unveiling of characters obsessed with memory, paranoia, privacy, surveillance, and office politics. Roberts, in her first starring television role, is a caseworker at an agency in the Department of Defense called Homecoming. Her key role seems to be helping her patient Walter (Stephan James), a military veteran, readjust to civilian life. Strangely, when she is questioned about her work four years later, she can’t remember anything. Cloaked in dark, suspenseful sets and moody lighting, the viewer follows a flashlight hunt for clues. As Homecoming unveils each mystery, you’ll wrap up yet another present for a loved one to discover.
What to Binge During Your Airport Snowstorm Delay
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime), 11/18
Stuck at O’Hare with a snowstorm raging? This Ben Stiller-directed eight-episode series will make the hours fly. Based on a true story of an upstate New York prison escape abetted by a lusty employee who seduced not one but both inmates who escaped, the script was constructed from real interrogations of prison employee Tilly Mitchell (skillfully played by a cryptic, self-deceiving Patricia Arquette). You may not be able to escape O’Hare, but your heart can race with Paul Dano and Benicio del Toro’s characters as they sprint miles across fields and forests to evade the Feds and find freedom.
What to Binge While Tindering in Your Hometown
Riverdale (Netflix), 10/10
Never asked out your high school Veronica or Archie? Hop on Tinder while visiting your hometown for the holidays, and while you’re swiping right on your teen crush, relive those salad days with this classic crew. Going into season three, we find Archie in court, framed for a murder that he — of course! — didn’t commit. For sure, Riverdale High’s school president isn’t a murderer, but there’s one on the loose. But Archie, Veronica, Betty, and Jughead are still high schoolers, so a camping trip means plenty of carefree all-American, bikini-clad cannonballs in the river. Still, all is not well in this deceptively sleepy small town, where cults and criminals rise as easily as the dark fog that plagues Riverdale.
What to Binge to Avoid Awkward Family Conversations
The Kids Are Alright (ABC), 10/16
This series’s namesake is the 1965 The Who song, of course, and this series chronicles folks who similarly need to just get away — in this case, a 1970s traditional Irish Catholic couple crammed into a tiny house in a working-class suburb of Los Angeles with eight unruly boys. When eldest son Lawrence decides to quit the Catholic seminary, secretive hijinks and brotherly escapades ensue. With one bathroom for eight boys, rough-and-tumble fights break out, but the enduring love and hilarity of this family will have your own brood chuckling and your parents reminiscing on their childhoods more than your adulthood — or lack thereof.
What to Binge While Browsing Family Photo Albums With Nana and Pop-Pop
This Is Us (NBC), 9/25
The third season of this heartrending family drama returns this fall, with flashbacks of the Pearson family stunned by the aftermath of father Jack’s death, while the three siblings turn 38 in the present day. From Jack’s crucial time in Vietnam (with co-writing by Vietnam vet and expert Tim O’Brien) to Kate and Toby’s young marriage struggling to weather Toby’s depression, the series will dig deep into its emotional roots in season three. As the characters’ vulnerability shines, viewers won’t be able to decide which flawed Big Three sibling they love most — overly selfless Kate, troubled, selfishly charming Kevin, or dedicated, frustrated dad Randall. Your grandparents will love the family message, and your extended fam will be reminded to appreciate what you do have in one another. Family-friendly holiday win!