Rejoice TV nerds: The time has come. After yet another year of incredible impatience (well done, by the way), the new fall TV season (September to December) is finally upon us. Now comes the bigger challenge: Sifting through all the noise and finding the perfect show to binge on. But not to worry, we've compiled a list of the most exciting shows of the new season.

    There are already too many shows being produced these days. Sure, it's the new golden age but there are literally hundreds of programmes vying for your attention.

    We're all aware of Priyanka Chopra's Quantico. Only a year after Nimrat Kaur gave a great performance in the worst season of Homeland, Chopra is taking it a step further. She's starring in her own show about a group of young agents in the FBI's Quantico facility, complete with soap-opera level drama and an iffy American accent.

    For the purpose of this preview, we're mostly ignoring regular network television because we all know that golden age has bypassed networks and that they're producing mostly rubbish (we're looking at you Gotham). We also won't be including any returning series (now we're looking at you X-Files). It's all about the fresh stuff here.

    Cable and streaming on the other hand is showing no signs of slowing down. And that's where the best storytelling is happening and where the best talent is headed. So here goes.


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    Narcos
    The puply, violent and extremely entertaining story of the world's most infamous drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, a man who used to earn a reported $60 million a day at his peak and the cops tasked to track him down. More than anything else, what this show will do is make your entire life's ambition to get yelled at by the great Wagner Moura. Want even better news? The show's already streaming on Netflix.

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    Moonbeam City

    Sample the cast: Rob Lowe, Elizabeth Banks, Kate Mara and Will Forte. Now sample the setting: A 1980's cop show with neon pink visuals and a synth-infused score. Oh, and did we mention it's a cartoon? The show premieres on Comedy Central on September 16.

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    Into the Badlands
    Remember that really cool martial arts show that you were binge-watching all those years ago? That's right, neither do we. Why didn't anyone think of this before? The show's loosely based on the Chinese tale The Journey to the West, about the epic journey undertaken by a warrior and a young boy across a violent feudal land. It's another attempt by AMC to luck out in the post Breaking Bad/Mad Men age. It premieres on November 15.

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    Scream Queens
    This holds sentimental value, especially with the great Wes Craven's death still fresh in our minds. Although it's another in Ryan Murphy's (Glee, American Horror Story) never ending output, the cast kind of sells it. Emma Roberts, Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin and the original scream queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis. You can safely chalk this down in the guilty pleasure category and contemplate whether Neve Campbell making a cameo is asking for too much. Look out for a September 22nd debut on Fox.

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    Flesh and Bone
    From ex-Breaking Bad alum Moira Walley-Beckett and visionary Aussie director David Michod (Animal Kingdom) comes an exciting miniseries set in the world of professional ballet. "Like Black Swan?" we hear you ask. Well, yes. Even the trailers look eerily similar to that great Darren Aronofsky movie. But ask yourself this: Is that really a bad thing? The show premieres on Starz on November 8.

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    Fargo
    We're going to cheat a bit here. Yes, we know this is technically a returning show and we promised not to include any of them here. But it's also an anthology, featuring a young Lou Solverson played by Patrick Wilson. Yes, we know how True Detective season 2 panned out. But while that show's overly grim tone killed it, this looks like a return to the darkly humourous universe we've come to love. FX has set a premiere date of October 12.

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    Hand of God
    Ron Perlman stars as a corrupt judge who, after suffering a breakdown starts thinking that God is compelling him onto a path of vigilante justice. Think Preacher meets Judge Dredd. With a pilot directed by World War Z's Marc Forster, this looks like another great entry in the Amazon Studios roster. All episodes premiere on September 4.

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    Red Oaks
    Another Amazon Studios show. This one boasts the incredible behind-the-scenes team of director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) Gregory Jacobs (Magic Mike XXL) and Steven Soderbergh (who's changing the game with his Clive Owen-starrer The Knick). Craig Roberts (Submarine) plays a tennis player who takes a temp job at the high-end Red Oaks Country Club in the 1980's. Amazon's other dramedies Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle were both brilliant, and this looks like it will live up to that high benchmark. All episodes stream on October 12.

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    The Bastard Executioner
    Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) returns with his new show. But this time there aren't any hairy bikers. There are however, lots of hairy medieval guys. On the surface this looks like a cheap cash-in on the Game of Thrones wave. But Sutter is running the show and it's set intriguingly during the Welsh rebellion. Oh, and Ed Sheeran has a recurring role. FX will premiere all the episodes on September 15.

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    Wicked City
    This is the sole network programme on the list so it must be extra special. It's set in '80s LA on the Sunset Strip featuring two LAPD cops on the hunt for a romantically-linked serial killer couple. Think Dexter meets that great Brad Pitt movie Kalifornia. There's something really enticing about a good old-fashioned noir drama. The show will premiere on ABC on October 27.

    The author tweets @NaaharRohan

Ride the second wave

You know those red eyes from the flash of a digital camera? Well, sometimes they appear white, which is not a good thing — it means light is being abnormally reflected. Alefia Merchant will tell you that parents who found this white reflection, or reflex, in photos went on to find their child had an eye cancer called retinoblastoma.

Using this knowledge, Merchant, a third-year medical student, now in Canada, developed a test to detect not just cancers but many eye problems in children. She used a simple digital camera that can be used by health workers, instead of expensive ophthalmologic equipment that needs specialists. When Merchant tested the camera in the remote rural areas of eastern Karnataka’s Pavagada — once notorious for wolves that made off with children — she found rural health workers could perform and interpret the technique.

“We are clear that we are not inventing a new product, but we are inventing a new process by which we can use simple technology to help get information on the health of a child’s eye,” Merchant told me.

A former graphic designer who likes rock climbing and dancing the tango, Merchant is one of an elite group of under-35 innovators chosen by Technology Review, a magazine on innovation founded in 1899 and published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Over the last two days in Bangalore, I’ve listened as excited young men and women with varying research interests, backgrounds and accents presented their work at TR35, the third annual edition of the event in India, the first country to have it outside the US.  

Last week in New Delhi I visited another national showcase of innovation, older and earthier. The brainchild of one man, Anil Gupta, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, the National Innovation Network provides a national stage to farmers, handymen, students and anyone else with an idea that makes life easier, cheaper and better. So, from Delhi’s Vasant Valley school, I met three schoolgirls who had created a bicycle-driven street sweeper. I tried to talk — but failed, since he spoke only Gujarati — to a wizened farmer who proudly displayed the seeds he had developed.

Whether globally networked or locally isolated, the common thread to these innovations is that their ideas are largely inspired by India’s vast array of unsolved problems. For instance, Aishwarya Rattan, a TR35 awardee and researcher at Microsoft India, explained how her team developed a pen that writes on paper and can simultaneously generate digital records. India has 6 million self-help groups, encompassing 86 million women who use their collective power to get loans, run businesses or government social security programmes like shops for subsidised food. These are decentralised, autonomous institutions, ideal for rural India, but their barely legible, often incomplete, financial records end up with banks, which are professionally audited. In tests, Rattan’s system cut errors by half and time by a third. Not only does it process, against a database, what is written, but it also reads out to illiterate women, in their language, what has been entered.

So here is the problem with this explosion of innovation: very little is likely to be used under India’s current system. How does India ensure the scaling up of innovation from grassroots, from start-ups, from multinational research laboratories, some of them using India’s best brains? How can these innovations be tested, verified and deployed for public applications and needs?

If the government is serious about using Indian talent to solve Indian problems, it must appoint an innovation tsar. The prime minister does have an advisor on innovations, Sam Pitroda, who in a previous 1980s avatar mainstreamed the telecommunications revolution. His ambit is now grossly inadequate. The innovation tsar must work full-time, seek out and vet bright ideas, and connect organisations and innovators with implementing government agencies or interested companies. Today, too many innovators endure old, obstructionist India. Even those in premier research institutions up the innovation ladder aren’t spared.

Chetan Chitnis explained how difficult it was to get permission for clinical trials of a promising malaria vaccine at his global research laboratory, the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi. Chitnis, the principal leader of the malaria group at ICGEB, told me how a month’s dealing in the US with one state organisation, becomes about 18 months in India, between four government departments, with much we-have-not-got-the-file kind of responses.

The innovation tsar must be authorised to cut through such roadblocks and ensure that those who need it most — the 500-odd million at the bottom of India’s pyramid — can benefit from India’s revolution of innovation. 

Merchant’s guide, Dr Ashwin Mallipatna, a paediatric eye surgeon at Narayana Nethralaya, a privately run centre of public healthcare innovation, explained how the white-reflex test should ideally become a part of the government health system. “That is something we want to do,” he said.

In a recent book, Jet Age, American writer Sam Verhovek reminds the reader how the aircraft synonymous with the commercial jet age is the Boeing 707. Yet, the first jetliner was the British de Havilland Comet, which after three explosive crashes never regained its first-mover advantage. Boeing waited and learned from the Comet’s mistakes, and its innovations truly launched the age of the commercial jet. Vast, dark parts of this country, similarly, have no technology legacies. They wait for their own jet age. India’s innovators are ready to provide the technologies; India only needs to put its second-mover advantage to good use.

 

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