Narcos (Friday, Sept. 2, Netflix), season premiere: When last we left the semi-biographical Narcos, Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) had just escaped the Greybar Hotel, with errybody on both sides of the law out to take him down. Given, you know, history, the promo tagline of “Who killed Pablo Escobar?” is somewhat moot (hint—it wasn’t old age), but Narcos is even more terrifyingly tense in Season 2. (After seeing this, it’s even harder to believe that those Entourage twinks actually “made” an Escobar film once upon a time.) It’s also a bit more personal, with Moura revealing the man behind the monster on occasion—since we’re staring down the barrel of Escobar’s ultimate demise this season, it’s a nice, empathetic touch that sets Narcos apart from certain Drug Guy Downfall movies that don’t live up to their posters. (Yes, I’m talking about Scarface—admit it, it sucks.) It’s Labor Day Weekend; you know what to do.
Mary + Jane; Loosely Exactly Nicole (Monday, Sept. 5, MTV) series debuts: On the mellower end of the drug spectrum, here’s MTV’s Mary + Jane, a marijuana-delivery comedy arriving a week ahead of HBO’s similarly-themed High Maintenance. Scout Durwood and Jessica Rothe star as Jordan and Paige (not Mary and Jane—psych!), Los Angeles pals who start a medical-weed concierge service and are, natch, thrust into Whacky Misadventures. M+J sometimes comes across like Broad City recast with Instagram models, but Durwood and Rothe bring the funny when the material clicks. MTV’s other comedy premiere tonight, Loosely Exactly Nicole, likewise, is more hit than miss, and a waaay better showcase for comic Nicole Byer than Fox’s virtually unwatched trainwreck Party Over Here. (Don’t recall it? Lucky you.)
StartUp (Tuesday, Sept. 6, Crackle), series debut: The new drama from Sony streamer Crackle (it’s that orange app you never use on your various viewing devices), StartUp, is Crackle’s most ambitious grab for original-content cred yet: A Miami criminal splits town, leaving a pile of dirty money with his financier son, Nick (Adam Brody), unbeknownst to the FBI agent (Martin Freeman) on dad’s trail. Instead of turning the loot over, Nick hides it by investing it all into a digital currency startup, GenCoin; cat-and-mouse crime intrigue, Haitian mob ties and furious keyboard clacking ensue. Maybe it should have been a two-hour movie instead of a 10-episode series, but StartUp is just flashy enough draw some critical attention to Crackle, aka Jerry Seinfeld’s Rich Dudes in Pricey Cars channel.
Atlanta (Tuesday, Sept. 6, FX), series debut: Finally, a project that will allow me to forgive Donald Glover for abandoning Community for half-assed hip-hop (not a Childish Gambino fan, sorrynotsorry). Like Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, Glover’s Atlanta isn’t what anyone expected, but something more than a comedy (though there are hilarious moments) or a drama (ditto, heavy moments); those vague, dreamy FX promos were perfect, because whatever this is couldn’t possibly be summed up in a 30-second spot. The bones of the story are that Earn (Glover), his rapper cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) and Alfred’s bud Darius (LaKeith Lee Stanfield, the sure-to-be-breakout star of the series) are struggling to move up from abject poverty to slightly less-abject poverty, and the events … just happen. Atlanta unfolds like an indie flick in no hurry to get any Big Moments, which might make it an even harder sell on mainstream cable than Baskets was—but hey, that got a second season, so anything could happen.
From Dusk Till Dawn (Tuesday, Sept. 6, El Rey), season premiere: In other obscure channel news, ever heard of the El Rey Network? Had no idea there was TV series based on a classic Mexi-vampire flick? (Facepalm.) Anyway: From Dusk Till Dawn was Robert Rodriguez’s first original series to debut on El Rey (also his network) in 2014, a blown-out, 10-episode expansion of his 1997 movie, with new Gecko Brothers (D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz), a new-and-somehow-even-hotter Santánico (Eiza Gonzalez), a new scary-ass adversary (Wilmer Valderrama—yes, really), and a new ending that set up further seasons (like Rodriguez was going to cancel his own show). Where FDTD has gone from there is, well, loco; since this column’s increasingly apparent mission is to constantly promote Netflix, go there and catch on Seasons 1 and 2.