How to Catch Up on Fall TV’s Returning Favorites

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L-R: Bojack Horseman, Riverdale, Mr. Robot Photo: Netflix/CW/USA

We may be smack in the middle of August, and you may still be making your way through Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, but don’t kid yourself: It’s nearly September, which means it’s almost time for fall television.

September and October will, of course, bring the usual onslaught of new shows, as well as old shows made new again (hi, Will & Grace). But it also welcomes back tons of returning series, many of which have likely been taking up space on your “I’ve been meaning to watch that” list. Well, guess what? Now’s the time to finally work your way through that list.

With that in mind, here’s a guide to how you can get caught up on 20 shows before they come back to a network or streaming service in September and October. (What? Twenty binge-watches is totally doable if you take some vacation days. Or, you know, just quit your job.)

You’re the Worst
Network: FXX
Returns: Wednesday, September 6
Which Gives You: Exactly three weeks to catch up on seasons one through three.
Catch Up On: Hulu
To fully catch up with one of the snarkiest, funniest shows on television about damaged and depressed people — which, trust me, is something you should do — you’ll need to watch all 36 episodes from seasons one through three ahead of the season four premiere. But since each one is in the 20- to 25-minute range, that’s pretty doable.

BoJack Horseman
Network: Netflix
Returns: Friday, September 8
Which Gives You: 23 days to watch the first three seasons.
Catch Up On: Netflix
This is another one of the best comedies on television about damaged, severely depressed people, except that most of the people happen to be animated, talking animals. Bingeing the first three seasons before watching the new fourth one also involves zipping through 36 episodes, around 25 minutes a piece. If you’re really crunched for time, you could skip season one, since two and three are stronger. But know that this series thrives on inside jokes and callbacks, some of which may sail over your head if you haven’t watched at least a little of the first season.

Outlander
Network: Starz
Returns: Sunday, September 10
Which Gives You: 25 days to watch seasons one and two.
Catch Up On: Starz on Amazon or Starz On Demand
This romantic epic sweeps back onto screens for its third season at precisely the moment when, post–Game of Thrones season seven, some viewers may be suffering from saga withdrawal. If you haven’t read the Diana Gabaldon novels that inspired the series, you will definitely want to watch the first two seasons, which add up to 29 episodes, or roughly 29 hours of viewing. Please. Like you have anything else to do over Labor Day weekend.

Top of the Lake: China Girl
Network: SundanceTV
Returns: Sunday, September 10
Which Gives You: 25 days to watch the first Top of the Lake.
Catch Up On: Hulu
You don’t have to watch Top of the Lake, the seven-part limited series that acts as a precursor to the forthcoming follow-up, in order to understand what’s happening in China Girl, which focuses on mostly new characters and the solving of a different crime. But it’s certainly worth your time, and will provide helpful context about Robin, the detective played in both by Elisabeth Moss.

The Mindy Project
Network: Hulu (After three seasons on Fox)
Returns: Tuesday, September 12
Which Gives You: 27 days to watch five seasons.
Catch Up On: Hulu
The upcoming sixth season is the last one for The Mindy Project, which means it’s the final opportunity to get caught up in order to watch new episodes in (more or less) real time, as they are released. If you’ve never seen a single minute of Mindy Kaling’s rom-com, though, that means you have a major endeavor ahead of you: 107 episodes, to be precise. Yeah, they’re only a half hour or so, but if you want to save a little time, consult our Vulture recaps to cherry-pick the best episodes from older seasons and fill in any blanks left by installments you decide to skip.

Broad City
Network: Comedy Central
Returns: Wednesday, September 13
Which Gives You: 28 days to watch three season.
Catch Up On: Hulu
Thirty episodes, or less than a 15-hour investment to be up to speed on the exploits of Abbi and Ilana before season four starts? Why, that’s as easy as tracking down and returning a coat that belongs to Kelly Ripa. (Note: The previous sentence will make a lot more sense after you watch season two.)

Better Things
Network: FX
Returns: Thursday, September 14
Which Gives You: 29 days to watch season one.
Catch Up On: Hulu
Pamela Adlon, creator, writer, and frequent director of this observant gem of a series, was recently and deservedly nominated for an Emmy for her performance in its first season. Since the second season is as observant, funny, and well-acted as the first, you’ll want to take the time — less than five hours! It’s nothing! — to watch those initial ten episodes before volume two begins.

The Good Place
Network: NBC
Returns: Wednesday, September 20
Which Gives You: 35 days to watch season one.
Catch Up On: Hulu
Another of the best shows to debut last fall, this Kristen Bell–Ted Danson comedy — in which a woman winds up in a cushy version of the afterlife by mistake — is extremely serialized and brilliantly detailed in its world-building. Translation: Miss an episode and you’ll be really confused. Fortunately, it won’t take long to blaze through all 13 of the first season’s less-than-30-minute chapters before season two begins next month.

Transparent
Network: Amazon
Returns: Friday, September 22
Which Gives You: 37 days to watch the first three seasons.
Catch Up On: Amazon
This perennial Emmy nominee — it’s up for seven this year — takes a trip to Israel in its upcoming fourth season. To get caught up before that journey, stream the 30 previous episodes, which, like many of the options on this list, are only a half hour long, so there’s no good excuse for not crossing this wonderful series off of your “I’ve never seen it” list.

This Is Us
Network: NBC
Returns: Tuesday, September 26
Which Gives You: 41 days to watch season one before season two starts.
Catch Up On: Hulu
That flashback-driven family drama that makes everyone cry will soon pick up where it left off last spring. If you missed the first season, all it takes to get up to speed is approximately 13 hours of your life (i.e. the time it takes to watch 18 episodes) and around three boxes of Kleenex.

Great News
Network: NBC
Returns: Thursday, September 28
Which Gives You: 43 days to watch season one before season two starts.
Catch Up On: Hulu
More people need to watch this hilarious sitcom starring Andrea Martin as a mom-intern working at a cable news show and driving her assertive reporter daughter (Briga Heelan) crazy. Please report to the first ten, 22-minute episodes.

The Exorcist
Network: Fox
Returns: Friday, September 29
Which Gives You: Actually, only 14 days to stream season one; it expires on Hulu August 30.
Catch Up On: Hulu
If you’re in the mood for scary TV and, like me, never got around to watching this adaptation of the classic demonic possession tale last fall, this is a prime time to check out season one. But you need to hustle; while season two doesn’t start until the end of September, as noted above, those initial ten episodes expire on Hulu before the end of August. The power of a streaming deadline compels you to watch.

The Simpsons
Network: Fox
Returns: Sunday, October 1
Which Gives You: 46 days to watch (gulp) 28 seasons before the 29th gets underway.
Catch Up On: Simpsons World; Hulu for the most recent season.
Even if you’re one of the, oh, I don’t know, five people in America who has never seen an episode of The Simpsons, you don’t need to watch every one of the previous 618 episodes to understand what’s happening in episode one of season 29. Nevertheless, I include it here because it’s such an audaciously ambitious task. If you commit yourself to completing it and actually accomplish that before the end of September, you certainly deserve the Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Network: HBO
Returns: Sunday, October 1
Which Gives You: 46 days to watch the previous eight seasons before the anticipated ninth begins.
Catch Up On: HBO Go
Even if you watched every Curb Your Enthusiasm when it originally aired, it’s still worth it to go back and revisit some of the earlier seasons — that’s 80 episodes total, not counting the original special that launched the series — before Larry David makes us squirm anew every Sunday night.

Poldark
Network: PBS
Returns: Sunday, October 1
Which Gives You: 46 days to watch the previous two seasons before season three gets underway.
Catch Up On: Amazon Prime
I, too, have been meaning to catch up on this British period drama starring Aidan Turner as the hot redcoat attempting to salvage his family’s copper-mining business, getting caught up in a love triangle, and making viewers swoon in the process. Season three has already aired in the U.K. but comes to PBS in October; before then, you can stream and swoon through the 18 initial episodes on Amazon.

Black-ish
Network: ABC
Returns: Tuesday, October 3
Which Gives You: 48 days to watch three seasons before the fourth one starts.
Catch Up On: Hulu
Have you been sleeping on Black-ish entirely, or simply been negligent about keeping up with more recent episodes? Either way, rectify that immediately by streaming the Emmy-nominated, socially conscious sitcom, a great one to watch with kids in the upper-elementary-school grades and older.

Riverdale
Network: CW
Returns: Wednesday, October 11
Which Gives You: 56 days to watch season one before the second starts.
Catch Up On: Netflix
Death. Tons of pop-culture references. Attractive teens played by actors who aren’t technically teens so you can feel slightly less weird about having TV crushes on them. Yes, the first season of Riverdale gave us so much. Season two will run for 22 episodes, but the first consisted of only 13, which can easily be consumed between now and October.

Mr. Robot
Network: USA
Returns: Wednesday, October 11
Which Gives You: 56 days to watch seasons one and two before the third begins.
Catch Up On: Amazon Prime
If you’re planning to jump into the third season of Mr. Robot, you definitely need to have seen seasons one and two. And if you’ve seen both seasons, you still might need at least a partial refresher, because this show is complicated. Let all 22, not-always-reliably-narrated episodes from the first two seasons be your guide.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Network: CW
Returns: Friday, October 13
Which Gives You: 58 days to watch seasons one and two before the third begins.
Catch Up On: Netflix
To understand all the twists in the relationship between Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) and Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) — which will take a very different turn in season three — watch the first 31 episodes of TV’s best (and only) musical rom-com about a very smart woman with serious psychological issues.

Stranger Things
Network: Netflix
Returns: Friday, October 27
Which Gives You: 72 days to watch season one before the much-hyped second season arrives.
Catch Up On: Netflix
You haven’t watched this yet? Seriously? How is that possible when the Zeitgeist made it a requirement? Look, it’s only eight episodes and you have more than two months to get through them, something you can easily handle in a weekend. Do it so you can be caught up on the conversation in time for season two, and to finally understand why the hell people keep talking about a girl named Barb and some beast called a Demogorgon.

How to Catch Up on Fall TV’s Returning Favorites