Longmire (Thursday, Sept. 10, Netflix), season premiere: Cable net A&E canceled modern-day western Longmire after its third and strongest-yet season in 2014, because the viewership demo was too old. While A&E forged ahead with shrewd new programming like Neighbors With Benefits (canceled after two episodes), Netflix picked up Longmire for a 10-episode Season 4 that continues right where it left off: Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is finally on to the man who had his wife killed, and Deputy Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) is once again on the wrong end of a gun. Think of Longmire as a grizzled cousin to Justified, but with more pathos than clever quips, and binge all four seasons post-haste.
Z Nation (Friday, Sept. 11, Syfy), season premiere: In its debut season a year ago, lo-fi zombie romp Z Nation enjoyed the luxury of airing in a Walking Dead-free zone for a few weeks. This time around, however, spin-off Fear the Walking Dead is eating up all of the viewers and buzz—is there enough demand for all of this chomp drama? It helps that Z Nation doesn’t take itself too seriously in tone (less Dawn of the Dead, more Shawn of the Dead) or budget (an episode of Z Nation probably costs less than Norman Reedus’ hairstylist), but it’s still an iffy affair. The ragtag group of zombie-apocalypse survivors (now led by Kellita Smith, assuming the Rick Grimes badass role nicely) are still en route to California to find a Z-cure, but don’t expect them to cross paths with the Fear the Walking Dead gang in L.A.
Continuum (Friday, Sept. 11, Syfy), season premiere: The creator of Canadian time-travel actioner Continuum had up to 10 seasons in mind to tell his story; the originating network up north said, “Yeah, you’re gonna have to wrap it in four—and you only get six episodes, eh.” Will 2077 cop Kiera (Rachel Nichols) finally be able to stop “terrorist” group Liber8 from altering the future here in the present? And should she? The future Liber8 is attempting to thwart is an ironfisted, if outwardly tolerable, corporate dictatorship and zero-privacy police state. Oh, wait—we’re already there. (Sorry, been listening to that whacky Alex Jones again.)
Dancing With the Stars (Monday, Sept. 14, ABC), season premiere: Sigh. This time around, it’s Nick Carter (ex-Backstreet Boy), Victor Espinoza (jockey), Andy Grammer (mid-level pop singer), Hayes Grier (“social-media celebrity”), Bindi Irwin (daughter of the Crocodile Hunter), Alexa PenaVega (the Spy Kids movies), Carlos PenaVega (married to Alexa), Gary Busey (noted lunatic), etc., etc. Is there a legal threshold for use of the term “Star”?
The Mindy Project (Tuesday, Sept. 15, Hulu), season premiere: Even though streaming service Hulu is sticking with the old-school, week-by-week network TV model for The Mindy Project instead of dropping all of Season 4 at once (was nothing learned from Yahoo!’s fatal mishandling of Community?), at least Mindy Kaling’s Fox-canceled sitcom lives on. I would tell you that the new season opens with an alternate-lives/paths-not-taken tribute to some Gwyneth Paltrow flick called Sliding Doors, but I’ve never seen it and neither have you, so … Welcome back, Mindy!
The Bastard Executioner (Tuesday, Sept. 15, FX), series debut: As he did with Sons of Anarchy, writer/producer Kurt Sutter has cast himself and wife Katey Sagal in his 14th-century period series The Bastard Executioner; whether or not every episode runs more than 90 minutes long remains to be seen. Game of Thrones, Vikings and other dramas have tread this heightened historical ground already—but, unsurprisingly, Sutter’s take is uniquely his own: a bloody, violent, viscerally real world devoid of Thrones’ mystical hoodoo and Vikings’ low-budget cheese. The titular bastard is Wilkin Brattle (Lee Jones), a war-scarred ex-knight of King Edward I’s army who’s called back to serve, but now as an executioner who takes the lives/heads of the highest royalty and the lowest commoners. It’s a sprawling, dense epic Sutter’s trying to pull off here—but they once said “Hamlet on Harleys” couldn’t be done, and look how Sons of Anarchy turned out. The merchandising angles, though, are somewhat more limited; don’t expect Bastard Executioner sword keychain bottle-openers at Hot Topic by Christmas.