What it is: From creator David Simon (The Wire), The Deuce deep dives into 1970s Times Square — more specifically, the men and women dabbling in sex work to make a living. It’s a true ensemble piece, but Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as a prostitute named Candy and James Franco stars as identical twin brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino.
Why you should watch it: By transporting us to a gritty world of sex, drugs, and an American Dream that’s foreign to most audiences today, The Deuce further proves Simon’s talent for creating series that are absolutely singular and authentic. Plus with talent like Gyllenhaal and Franco attached, it certainly ranks within prestige TV’s must-watch club. Season 2 premieres September 9.
Commitment: Approx. 8.5 hours
What it is: This comedy series has been around for so long that it’s hard to define it without giving away eight seasons of spoilers. But at its core, it’s an hour-long dysfunctional family comedy-drama about six children (led by Emmy Rossum as Fiona) who were forced to grow up too fast while under the watch of their single, alcoholic father, Frank (William H. Macy).
Why you should watch it: It’s tricky to strike the balance between broad comedy and aching drama, but it’s a skill that Shameless has perfected since its 2011 debut. Credit where it’s due: Rossum is an absolutely fearless knockout who bests herself season to season. (Soak up this performance while you can — Rossum recently indicated on Facebook that this season might be her last.) It’s an excellent ensemble, and you can’t help but love the Gallagher family (even when they don’t make it easy), but watching the actress and Oscar-nominee Macy go toe-to-toe as the central headstrong daughter and father just gets better with age. Season 9 premieres Sept. 9.
Commitment: Approx. 89 hours
AMERICAN HORROR STORY
What it is: You don’t have to watch every season of American Horror Story to catch up for season 8, but as the series’ first crossover season — this time of Murder House (season 1) and Coven (season 3) — we’d recommend binging those and piecing together just how these witches may be caught up with the spawn of Satan and more.
Why you should watch it: Now going for eight seasons strong and a favorite of critics and audiences alike, this anthological series never ceases to spook. And with returning favorites like Jessica Lange (who won two Emmys for her work on previous seasons) and Ryan Murphy mainstay Sarah Paulson, among many others. Apocalypse is shaping up to be its best outing yet.
Commitment: Approx. 70 hours