Fall TV Guide for Humanists

We humanists can appreciate good quality television. Check out a few new shows and season openers that address humanist issues or feature humanist actors. 

Television in 2013 is seeing something of a turnover. Breaking Bad has ended, as has Dexter; Mad Men is preparing its final season; original internet series like those on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are changing the way people consume their favorite entertainment; and many networks are looking differently at their shows and trying to decide if it’s time to mix things up creatively, like the announcement of a spin-off for The Walking Dead, a new Doctor Who, and a slew of new cop shows “with a twist.”

With all this uncertainty, we at Humanist Network News thought it might be helpful to guide you through the best shows to look for this fall. And, while we’re at it, we thought we’d take the opportunity to highlight some series that would be of special interest to humanist viewers who might be looking for something a little outside the norm.

Masters of Sex – This provocative new drama starring Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Midnight in Paris) and Lizzy Caplan (True Blood, Party Down) takes a look at the true story of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who pioneered scientific research into human sexuality in the 1950s. Think Kinsey meets Mad Men. The show is very well acted, and despite a great deal of nudity and adult themes, the show allows us to see the human body as these two brilliant researchers once did: As territory that deserves to be explored for the benefit of our understanding, rather than something dirty of which we should be ashamed.

Derek – Ricky Gervais might be the most outspoken and famous atheist comedian in the world, with a reputation for provocation and controversy. So it’s a little bit surprising that his latest series, a Netflix original, is not only genuinely sweet, but uplifting as well. Derek tells the story of an elderly care facility staffed by, among others, Derek, a mentally challenged caretaker, and his friends and fellow employees. In other hands, the series might devolve into an offensive excuse to poke fun at the disabled and the elderly, but instead, the show presents sweet, likeable characters who find strength in one another and try to live their lives with decency and a sense of fun.

Almost Human – From acclaimed executive producer J.J. Abrams comes this transhumanist cop drama about a near-future police force that is aided by androids, and one cop (Karl Urban, Star Trek, Dredd) whose new partner is more machine than man. The show doesn’t premiere until early November, but expectations are high—with Abrams’ forays into film making millions and the devoted following he gained from his years on Lost, the filmmaker has earned his credentials as one of the foremost stars behind modern science-fiction.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Marvel Studio’s already-massive franchise collection has gotten another title to go along with its mighty Avengers. In this hour-long action series, the team that assembled the heroes of Marvel’s movies gets their own time to shine, as S.H.I.E.L.D., a top-secret spy agency, deals with superpowered villains and world-threatening plots. Helmed by humanist Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, The Avengers) and his trusty friends, the show’s packed with witty writing and strong humanistic overtones.

Homeland – The return of Showtime’s hit spy thriller comes after one of the most shocking season finales in television history. Picking up the pieces from where they left off, the premium channel is hoping that the award-winning power of their lead actors (including recent Emmy winner Claire Danes) will be enough to keep people sucked in for another season of undercover intrigue. The premiere immediately tackles issues of mental health and the moral dilemmas of killing in the name of national security, two topics which will surely appeal to humanist viewers.

What TV shows are you most looking forward to this fall? Let us know in the comments below.