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The Top Five of Fall 2019 According to Mike Hughes
September 14, 2019  | By Mike Hughes

: TV Worth Watching will be bringing you highlights of the Fall 2019 television season over the next few weeks through a series of "Top Five" lists (returning or new programs) from our contributors. Mike Hughes has our next list...

Sure, there are plenty of returning shows to get excited about.

Two great comedies are starting their final seasons – ABC's Modern Family on Sept. 25, and NBC's The Good Place on Sept. 26. Then there's This Is Us (Sept. 24 on NBC), The Crown Nov. 17 on Netflix), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Dec. 9 on Amazon) and a whole bunch more.

But the fall is when we get excited about new shows – at least some of them. Here are my five picks:

1. Country Music (right), PBS, Sept. 15. Here is Ken Burns at his peak, with great stories to tell and the right people to tell them – Dayton Duncan (writing the narration) and Nashville's master storytellers. The early parts depend on second-hand accounts; they go back to 1927, when great talent was hidden in the hills and hollers. As the story continues (ending in 1996), we get sharp comments and recollections, especially from Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash, and the late Merle Haggard.

2. Modern Love (top), Amazon Prime, Oct. 18. Once again, Amazon shows the joys of an anthology – a series that can deliver a full story in each episode. It did that with movie-length tales in The Romanoffs; now it has sprightly half-hours – each taken from a true, first-person story written for a New York Times column. So far, three have been available and two of them are great – a lively tale with Cristin Milioti, a deeply moving one with Anne Hathaway (top). The other is merely fairly good; anthologies are like that.

3. Perfect Harmony, NBC, Sept. 26. Arthur Cochran (Bradley Whitford, left) is ready to end it all. Widowed and bitter, he's a former Princeton prof with nothing to live for – until he hears choir music flowing from a little church. This isn't good music, mind you; it's bad enough to give him something to insult and maybe rescue. What follows is a marvelous mixture of warmth and snark. Arthur's dark view of life is perfectly contrasted by the small-town, small-church warmth of Anna Camp and mountainous newcomer Geno Segers.

4. Back to Life, Showtime, Oct. 6. Every series doesn't have to run for a zillion episodes, you know. In just six half-hours, this British gem delivers drama, comedy and a complete story. After 18 years in prison, Miri (Daisy Haggard, who created the show) returns to her little hometown, where even her parents fear her. We don't learn, at first, what she was convicted of, and don't learn until the final minutes what really happened. The parents' sub-plot is so-so, but this remains a sometimes-funny drama that holds us to the surprising finish.

5. Stumptown, ABC, Sept. 25. Dex (Cobie Smulders, left) is ex-military, scraping by as a private eye. She has a good heart – as shown when she's with her brother, who has Down syndrome – but she won't let anyone see it. Someday soon, the tough-as-nails female may become a cliche; for now, however, Stumptown does it beautifully. I'll give it the final spot here, edging out two comedies – the wonderfully weird Dollface (Hulu, Nov. 15) and the charmingly understated Bob (Hearts) Abishola (CBS, Sept. 23). 

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