We’ve moved. Our new home is over at THEPLAYLIST.NET. Please update your bookmarks and come on over to our new digs. Thanks for following us all these years, now follow us to our new house.
Somehow, we’re still getting think pieces on whether or not the movies are superior from TV, presumably from writers who haven’t yet worked out that you’re allowed to watch both. Ultimately, the movies can scratch itches that TV can’t, and vice versa, and the two mediums can quite happily co-exist, even as the lines between them blur a little.
We’ve already run down the 100 movies we’re most excited about in the coming year, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t shine a light on the small screen. Alongside all your returning favorites—”Girls,” “Game Of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” “Boardwalk Empire” et al.—here’s just as much to be amped about on TV, from network sitcoms to dark premium cable dramas. So, for a little taste of what to expect in the coming year, below you’ll find our 20 most anticipated shows of 2014. Let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments section (and more Most Anticipated 2014 coverage here).
20. “Wayward Pines”
Synopsis: A Secret Service agent heads to the mysterious Wayward Pines, Indiana to find two missing federal agents, only to find that something is very, very wrong with the picturesque town.
What You Need To Know: The new thing on network TV is the limited-episode even series, which can run straight-through without having to go on hiatus, and have brief enough production schedules that they can capture big names who can then spend the rest of the year on movies (“The Following” and the new “24” semi-reboot are made along this model, as is NBC‘s “Hannibal“). Filmmakers are clearly attracted by this idea, and the latest to come to the small-screen is M. Night Shyamalan, who’s behind this new series based on a novel by Blake Crouch, and written by Chad Hodge (“The Playboy Club“). Shyamalan executive produced and directed the pilot (excitingly, “Sound Of My Voice” helmer Zal Batmanglij worked on two other episodes), and he’s assembled a legitimately movie-quality cast for this series: Matt Dillon plays the Secret Service agent lead, with Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Carla Gugino, Shannyn Sossamon, Juliette Lewis and Toby Jones joining him.
Why It’s Anticipated: Remember a time when a new M. Night Shyamalan joint was greeted with anticipation, rather than trepidation? Us neither, but there was such a time, before “Lady In The Water” and “The Happening,” when Shyamalan was an exciting new voice in genre filmmaking, and we’re always hopeful that he could find his way back there. This seems like so obviously “Twin Peaks“-aping (perhaps with a lashing of “The Prisoner” too) that we’re a little cautious, but the cast alone (and the presence of Batmanglij) is enough to ensure that we’ll be tuning in for at least the first episode. And let’s face it, it really can’t be much worse than “Under The Dome,” can it?
Airdate: Likely to be held for the summer where “Under The Dome” found success for CBS, but could land sooner if Fox start wielding the ax on any of their existing dramas.
Synopsis: An ex-con is asked to protect a young girl with mysterious powers, who’s being sought by at least one sinister organization.
What You Need To Know: Holding the J.J. Abrams-produced “Believe” as a mid-series replacement might be the smartest thing that NBC has done in years. It always had an intriguing premise, but it might have got lost among the throng of new fall premieres. Now, the network can bill the show as being from the man behind “Gravity,” because it was co-created (along with “The Forgotten” writer Mark Friedman) by Alfonso Cuarón, who also directed the pilot. Relative newcomers Jake McLaughlin (“Warrior‘) and Johnny Sequoyah take the lead roles, with the more familliar Delroy Lindo, Sienna Guillory, Kyle MacLachlan, Jamie Chung and Marianne Jean-Baptiste in support.
Why It’s Anticipated: Honestly, if all we knew about the show was that it was an Alfonso Cuarón/J.J. Abrams collaboration, it’d likely be much higher up the list. As it is, the premise, while it has potential, seems a little bland, we haven’t been grabbed by the leads in the footage we’ve seen so far, and two changes of showrunner indicates behind-the-scenes troubles. But the supporting cast is very strong, Abrams has a good track record with TV for the most part, and of course, this is a chance to see what Cuarón can do on the small screen, which in and of itself is worth the price of admission. Trailers have suggested he’s kept his style intact (an in-car shot that nods to “Children Of Men“), so you wouldn’t be remiss to suggest that if nothing else, we’ll get the best-directed pilot of the year.
Airdate: NBC haven’t announced a date, though it’s widely expected that they’ll roll it out after the Winter Olympics. When exactly they do so will dictate how much faith they have in the show: if they stick it on Thursday nights, or on Friday before “Hannibal,” don’t expect it to go more than a season.
18. “Silicon Valley”
Synopsis: A dark comedy about a group of young guys in the Bay Area tech quarter who turn down millions of dollars for their new technology to establish their own start-up instead.
What You Need To Know: It’s almost weird that the tech world hasn’t provided the source material of more TV shows so far, but it’s time has come in 2014, with two shows on our top 20 set among that world, the first being “Silicon Valley,” the return to television of “Beavis & Butthead” and “King Of The Hill” creator Mike Judge. Presumably fed up of making funny movies that no one went to see, like “Office Space” and “Idiocracy,” Judge set up this show with “Blades Of Glory” writers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky and directed the pilot. The cast is stacked with every vaguely nerdy alt-comedy favorite out there, including Thomas Middleditch (“The Wolf Of Wall Street“), Kumail Nanjiani (“The Five-Year Engagement“), Martin Starr (“Knocked Up“), T.J. Miller (“Get Him To The Greek“), Josh Brener (“The Internship“), Amanda Crew (“jOBS“), Lindsey Broad (“21 Jump Street“) and Angela Trimbur (“The Kings Of Summer“).
Why It’s Anticipated: The first live-action show from Judge would always be worth paying attention to, but especially when it hews so closely to the sweet-spot of “Office Space,” his best work to date. This seems to be in some ways a television sequel, fifteen years on (doesn’t that make you feel old…), cross-spliced with Douglas Coupland‘s “Microserfs” and “The Social Network,” and that alone makes it worth tuning in. But the cast is also cracking, potentially reclaiming TV nerdery from “The Big Bang Theory,” and HBO certainly seem to be confident in it, ordering a full series last year.
Airdate: None given yet, but if you were to put money on the network pairing it with “Veep” after “Game of Thrones” in April, once “Girls” ends its run, you could feel fairly secure in that bet.
17. “The Strain”
Synopsis: A high concept thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Eph, his team, and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers, wage war for the fate of humanity itself.
What You Need To Know: Guillermo del Toro’s first major delve into television waters, this is based on the trilogy of novels that the “Pacific Rim” helmer co-authored with “The Town” scribe Chuck Hogan, depicting a vampire apocalypse and those who fight against it. Del Toro directed the pilot, with “Lost” co-showrunner Carlton Cuse also on board, and FX picked the series up in November. “House of Cards” standout Corey Stoll has the lead role, with Mia Maestro, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde and Sean Astin also among the cast, while John Hurt took a key part in the pilot, but couldn’t commit to the series, ultimately being replaced by “Game of Thrones” and “Harry Potter” actor David Bradley.
Why It’s Anticipated: With the enormous success of “The Walking Dead,” it’s about time we had some TV vampires that were genuinely scary again, rather than the moon-eyed romantics of “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries.” “The Strain” certainly promises to deliver that, not least because it’s Guillermo del Toro as the man in charge: from “Cronos” to “Blade II,” he’s managed to give the bloodsucker genre eerie new spins. The books are reasonably well-regarded, but we imagine they’d work better as TV than as prose, and Carlton Cuse is an old pro at this sort of thing, so is a good person to be in charge. The cast, even without Hurt, seems promising too, especially with Stoll, who was star-makingly good in “House of Cards,” leading the series.
Release Date: It will air staring in July on FX, possibly as a partner to “The Bridge” on Wednesday nights, or perhaps more likely on Sundays, where genre fare like “The Walking Dead” has been killing it.
Synopsis: The self-exiled son of a Middle Eastern dictator returns home for the first time in twenty years, accompanied by his American family, and soon finds himself drawn into the turbulent politics of the nation.
What You Need To Know: News headlines of at least the last decade remain dominated by the Middle East, but TV’s been mostly reluctant to engage with the region, outside of terrorism-themed dramas like “24” or “Homeland.” But this new FX drama, which comes from producer Howard Gordon, behind both of those shows, and writer Gideon Raff, the creator of the Israeli series “Prisoners Of War” that inspired “Homeland,” promises to be much more interesting, with its tale of a Westernized prodigal son returning back to an Iraq/Libya-type dictatorship nation with his all-American family. FX have been really high on the show, winning out in a fierce bidding war for the pitch, and initially setting Oscar-winner Ang Lee to direct the pilot (Lee had to drop out for scheduling reasons, and “Harry Potter” helmer David Yates stepped in instead). U.K. actor Adam Rayner takes the lead role, with Jennifer Finnegan (“The Bold And The Beautiful“), Ashraf Barhom (“The Kingdom“), Moran Atias (“Crash“), Fares Fares (“Zero Dark Thirty“), Noah Silver (“The Borgias“) and Justin Kirk (“Angels In America“) also among the cast.
Why It’s Anticipated: One of the most thrilling things about TV is the chance to be thrust into an immersive new world, and a drama set in a Middle Eastern dictatorship certainly seems to tick that box in a new way: there’s an immediate appeal to the culture-clash drama set up by the premise. It’s not the starriest cast, but there’s a lot of potential here, not least in a showcase for the great Israeli Arab actor Barhom, who was so good in “Paradise Now” and “The Kingdom.” And while Yates isn’t as instantly compelling a name as Ang Lee, he always did a sterling job on the Potter films, and more importantly, started his career with world-class U.K. TV drama like “State of Play.“
Airdate: Aiming for the summer, most likely as a partner to “The Bridge,” or as a double-header of new drama with “The Strain” on Sundays.
We’ve moved. Our new home is over at THEPLAYLIST.NET. Please update your bookmarks and come on over to our new digs. Thanks for following us all these years, now follow us to our new house.
Synopsis: The lives and loves of a group of young gay men in San Francisco.
What You Need To Know: Since “Queer As Folk” ended nine years ago, it’s been hard to find a drama series that takes gay life in America seriously (there was “The L Word,” but that never really took anything seriously…), but HBO are stepping up with this new half-hour comedy-drama, billed by some as the male, non-heterosexual answer to “Girls” (a comparison no doubt aided by the fact that the two shows are airing together). It’s been written by relative newcomer Michael Lannan (who’s worked as an assistant producer on “Sons Of Anarchy” and “Rubicon,” and collaborated with James Franco on “Cruising” homage “Interior. Leather Bar“), adapted from his short film “Lorimer,” with Lannan sharing a co-creator credit with director Andrew Haigh (“Weekend“), who has helmed the pilot here. “Glee” and “Frozen” star Jonathan Groff takes the lead role, along with Australian actor Murray Bartlett and newcomer Frankie J. Alvarez, while Scott Bakula and U.K. stars Russell Tovey (“Him & Her,” “Being Human“) and O.T. Fagbenle (“Doctor Who“) will have recurring parts.
Why It’s Anticipated: There’s definitely been a gap in the market for a show like this, and it’ll be interesting if airing on HBO will help the series cross over to a mainstream audience in a way that “Queer As Folk” never quite managed. Having Haigh on board certainly helps: the Criterion-approved “Weekend” was one of the best films of 2011, a gorgeous, beautifully-acted “Before Sunrise“-style romance that broke out of the niche some tried to put it in. Haigh directed the bulk of the episodes, but there’s some top talent stepping in for the ones he didn’t: both “Half Nelson” co-director Ryan Fleck and “Drinking Buddies“‘ filmmaker Joe Swanberg helmed episodes as well. Trailers have been very promising to date, and if nothing else, it should look gorgeous; the great DoP Reed Morano (“Frozen River,” “Kill Your Darlings“) shot the whole series.
Airdate: The eight-part first season begins airing at 10:30 after “True Detective” and “Girls” on HBO on Sunday, January 19th.
14. “Penny Dreadful”
Synopsis: A number of horror’s most famous creations, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Dracula, cross paths in Victorian London.
What You Need To Know: Horror is big on TV right now, thanks to “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story,” and the next big show could be this Showtime project, which has some huge names involved. From the duo behind billion-dollar Bond flick “Skyfall,” Sam Mendes and John Logan, and with a pilot directed by “The Impossible” and “The Orphanage” helmer Juan Antonio Bayona (after Mendes pulled out of directing due to stage commitments), this is a psychosexual horror set in Victorian London that seems to be a boobs and blood-friendly take on something like “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” with Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll & Hyde, Dorian Gray and other out-of-copyright favorites crossing paths. The cast is toplined by Josh Hartnett and Eva Green, with Billie Piper, Rory Kinnear, Harry Treadaway, Timothy Dalton, Helen McCrory and Simon Russell Beale among the supporting players.
Why It’s Anticipated: The potential is obviously here for this to be a campy mess like “True Blood” or “American Horror Story,” but in theory this should be something classier. John Logan has been careful to emphasize the literary roots of his idea here, taking the characters back to their origins, and Bayona and Mendes make for a fairly prestigious pair. There’s something innately appealing about watching these characters cross paths, especially when played by actors of this caliber (and uh, Josh Hartnett): the chance to see people like Kinnear, Treadaway, Dalton and McCrory chew the scenery should be near-irresistible.
Airdate: Filming of the eight-part series commenced in October—our guess is that Showtime will make this their replacement for “Dexter” in the summer, but it could end up airing much sooner than that.
Synopsis; A local police detective and an out-of-towner are paired after a young boy is found murdered in a small town.
What You Need To Know: Last year in the U.K. saw “Broadchurch” become a water-cooler thriller hit like the country hadn’t seen for years, gripping an entire nation for months as guesses flew as to who was the culprit of the central murder case. With the show also proving a success on BBC America, it’s no wonder that Fox snapped up the rights to the series for a remake. Original creator Chris Chibnall returned to pen the pilot, but “Homicide” and “In Treatment” writer Anya Epstein is serving as showrunner along with her husband, “Capote” and “Foxcatcher” writer Dan Futterman. And the cast is pretty remarkable: David Tennant reprises his ailing copper from “Broadchurch” (though with an American accent), with “Breaking Bad” star Anna Gunn taking over from Olivia Colman as his co-investigator, while Michael Peña, Nick Nolte, Jacki Weaver and Josh Hamilton are among the impressive names assembled as the townspeople. James Strong, who helmed much of the original, including the first episode, will perform the same duty here.
Why It’s Anticipated: It had its flaws (way too much slow-motion, the traditional saggy middle), but the original “Broadchurch” was for the most part an atmospheric and beautifully acted show that, unusually for this type of one-case procedural, managed to reach a satisfying wrap-up. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t room for improvement, with the excellent Epstein and Futterman in charge, and award-winning names like Gunn, Nolte, Weaver and Peña in the cast, there’s every reason to think that this could end up surpassing the original, though we hope it has the stones to do its own thing, rather than simply Xeroxing the U.K. version (though fans of the original should be pleased to learn that a sequel series, with Colman and Tennant both returning, will arrive this year too).
Airdate: Starts filming on Vancouver Island this month, though is apparently being held for next season, so expect it in the fall, unless Fox decide to go with it in the summer months.
12. “The Leftovers”
Synopsis: A drama focusing on those in a suburban community left behind after The Rapture summons most of humanity up to heaven (or did it?…)
What You Need To Know: The return of “Lost” mastermind Damon Lindelof to television, this adapts the 2011 novel by Tom Perotta, whose books previously made it to the big screen to great success as “Election” and “Little Children.” It’s another post-apocalyptic tale, which have proved popular of late with “The Walking Dead” and “Under The Dome,” but with a fascinating twist. Justin Theroux leads a solid and starry ensemble that also includes Liv Tyler, Christopher Eccleston, Amy Brenneman, Michael Gaston and Ann Dowd, and after a pilot directed by “Lone Survivor” and “Friday Night Lights” helmer Peter Berg, HBO picked it up to a ten-episode full series which will land later in the year.
Why It’s Anticipated: The end-of-the-world has been reaching sitcoms-about-white-people-in-coffee-shops-during-the-1990s level of saturation on TV of late, but we’re hopeful that “The Leftovers” can be something different. For one, it’s unlikely to be a pure genre piece: the literary subject matter from the excellent Perotta promises something more satirical and provocative. We’re sure there’ll be a mystery, and early footage promises some action, but it seems more likely that this’ll be more of a character piece than, say, “Revolution.” And for all the shit he catches on the Internet, Lindelof did a stellar job for much of the run of “Lost,” and this seems very much in his wheelhouse. Berg normally does a good job on TV too, and the cast is very strong. In other words, we’ve got a better feeling about this than most new HBO shows in the last few years.
Airdate: Picked up to series in September, so in theory, this could be ready to air by the summer. Perhaps alongside the final season of “True Blood“?
11. “Halt & Catch Fire”
Synopsis: A look at the personal computing boom in Texas’ so-called Silicon Prarie in the 1980s, seen through the eyes of a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy.
What You Need To Know: Remember how we said that 2014 brought two series set in the tech world? After “Silicon Valley,” this is the other one. With their nest-eggs “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” coming to an end, and other launches like “Rubicon,” “Hell On Wheels” and “Low Winter Sun” failing to follow the success of “The Walking Dead,” AMC are going big in 2014, and “Halt & Catch Fire” is one of their greatest hopes. Newcomer creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers have assembled a highly promising cast, with Lee Pace (“The Hobbit,” “Lincoln”), Scoot McNairy (“Argo,” “Killing Them Softly”), Kerry Bishe (“Argo”) and Mackenzie Davis (“Breathe In”) as the leads, whose computing start-up sets out to take on the big dogs. Juan Jose Campanella, director of the Oscar-winning “The Secret In Your Eyes,” helmed the pilot.
Why It’s Anticipated: We’ve still got two years of “Mad Men” to go (one season, split into two), but AMC seem to be positioning this as a potential successor: another period workplace drama sure to delve into the personal lives of its characters as much as their professional ones. So long as it doesn’t come across as “Mad Men” with microchips, we’re certainly intrigued. And while Cantwell and Rogers might be unknown quantities, there must be something here for the network to take a chance on a show that seems so uncommercial on the surface. Campanella should bring a lashing of style to the first episode, and the central quartet of Pace, McNairy, Bishe and Davis are among our favorite breakout performers of the last few years. Could this do for 1980s slacker wear what Jon Hamm did for 1960s suits and smoking?
Airdate: Debuting it alongside “Mad Men” in the spring would be the obvious move, but it risks unflattering comparisons. It might be smarter to hold it for the summer to fill that old “Breaking Bad” slot.
We’ve moved. Our new home is over at THEPLAYLIST.NET. Please update your bookmarks and come on over to our new digs. Thanks for following us all these years, now follow us to our new house.
10. “Olive Kitteridge”
Synopsis: The story of a high-school math teacher, and those in her life, in and around the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine.
What You Need To Know: It’s a sign of the uneven playing field out there that Lisa Chodolenko‘s last film, “The Kids Are All Right,” was an Oscar nominee four years ago, and it’s taken her all that time since to get a new project set up. In fact, she’s had to go to HBO to get something made, in this case, a reteam with old collaborator Frances McDormand, for this adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. McDormand (who starred in the director’s “Laurel Canyon“) optioned the book even before its publication, and produces the adaptation, a five-part miniseries on HBO (with Tom Hanks‘ Playtone Pictures) as well as taking the lead role. And a cracking cast has been assembled too, including: Richard Jenkins, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Gallagher Jr., Zoe Kazan, Martha Wainwright and Brady Corbet. Oh, and Bill Goddamn Murray.
Why It’s Anticipated: Cholodenko is a great filmmaker that doesn’t work enough, and HBO should fit her like a glove (in fact, she directed an excellent episode of “Enlightened” as a warm up for this). The chance to give her the broad canvas that Todd Haynes had on “Mildred Pierce” is an exciting one, let alone with source material that’s as acclaimed as this. It’s clearly a role of a lifetime for McDormand, who’s made it a real passion project, and her turn alone should be worth the tuning in, but with ever-reliable names like Murray, Jenkins and DeWitt involved? Just try and keep us away.
Airdate: “Mildred Pierce” began airing at the end of March 2011, so don’t be surprised if this is aiming for the same date, if it’s ready in time (it started filming in September, but was still going in November, so that deadline may be too tight).
Synopsis: A woman moves in with her sister and her sister’s husband, along with their unemployed, aging actor friend.
What You Need To Know: The migration of filmmakers from the big to the small screen continues apace, and the latest to make the jump (after recurring acting roles on “The Mindy Project” and Mark’s regular gig on “The League“) are the Duplass Brothers, the men behind “The Puffy Chair,” “Baghead,” “Cyrus” and “Jeff Who Lives At Home,” who’ve written and directed (in their usual improvisational style, presumably) this eight-part comedy season for HBO. Amanda Peet takes the lead role, with the great Melanie Lynskey as her sister, Duplass (Mark) as the husband, and the brothers’ regular collaborator Steve Zissis as the actor roommate (Ken Marino is also in the cast).
Why It’s Anticipated: We’re big fans of the Duplasses and their general vibe, and the chance to get four hours worth of material from them once a year is promising. The premise seems to play to their strengths, and will hopefully comment on a society where rulebook of co-habitation is continually evolving. Details are still pretty thin on this right now, but we’re excited.
Airdate: Production is only just getting underway now, so we probably won’t see until the fall—maybe replacing “Eastbound & Down” and “Hello Ladies” (unless the latter gets an unexpected renewal).
Synopsis: In Bemidiji, Minnesota, Deputy Molly Solverson has a crime to investigate in this series loosely inspired by the events of the Coen Brothers‘ classic.
What You Need To Know: The Coen brothers have been flirting with TV for a while (they had a Fox comedy detective series called “Harve Karbo” in development a few years back), but they finally come to the small screen, in a way, with this adaptation of one of their most beloved films, the 1996 Oscar-winner “Fargo.” There was an attempt to directly translate the movie to the screen not long after release, starring a pre-“Sopranos” Edie Falco, but this is another kick at the bucket, with the show sharing the DNA but not the plot or characters of the film. Joel and Ethan are executive producing, but the FX series is penned by Noah Hawley (“The Unusuals,” a short-lived 2009 cop series starring Jeremy Renner), who’ll take on showrunning duties. And the cast is killer, with relative unknown Allison Tolman leading the likes of Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Bob Odenkirk, Kate Walsh, Joey King and Oliver Platt.
Why It’s Anticipated: We’d watch a TV series based on almost any Coen brothers movie (well, maybe not “The Ladykillers“), but “Fargo” seems particularly well-suited to the small screen, especially with a version that takes the benefits of the original without slavishly copying it. We can’t vouch for Hawley (though we recall hearing some good things about “The Unusuals” before it was cancelled), but that the Coen brothers are on board seems to suggest that he knows what he’s doing. And the actors seem like a collection who’d be particularly well-suited to this sort of thing—in fact, we’re particularly excited to see Billy Bob Thornton back in Coenland, given that his performance in “The Man Who Wasn’t There” is probably the best of his career.
Airdate: FX are targeting the spring—look for it to arrive once “Justified” or “The Americans” wrap up their seasons in April or May.
Synopsis: In 1778, a New York farmer joins a group of friends to set up the Culper Ring, America’s first spy ring who help to turn the tide in the battle for Independence from the British.
What You Need To Know: There’s all kinds of spy shows on TV at the moment, but “Turn” promises something quite different: a look at the Culper Ring, the U.S’s first spy organization, set up to pass messages about the British occupation of New York to General George Washington, and kept secret for almost 150 years. Adapted from Alexander Rose’s book “Washington Spies” by “Bones” and “Nikita” writer Craig Silverstein, this sees the always-welcome Jamie Bell head up a cast that also includes Angus MacFayden, Kevin McNally (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), J.J. Feild (“Captain America”), Heather Lind (“Boardwalk Empire”) and Burn Gorman (“Pacific Rim”). “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” helmer Rupert Wyatt directed the pilot and the show was picked up for a full first season by AMC this summer.
Why It’s Anticipated: Beyond “John Adams,” it’s been a while since TV mined the fertile territory of the Revolutionary War, and the idea of a cable drama—a spy drama, no less—set in that period is immediately appealing. Again, Silverstein’s a bit of an unknown quantity, but AMC have backed smaller names before to huge success (Vince Gilligan, Matthew Weiner et al.) and they’ve got some serious directorial talent on board with Wyatt. The cast seems appealing too: Bell in particular, but also the likable likes of Feild and Lind as well. Early teasers are promising, so fingers crossed it turns out to be something special.
Airdate: AMC have started airing trailers, so this presumably isn’t too far off. It could take over once “The Walking Dead” finishes its season, or it might partner “Mad Men” later in the spring.
6. “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell”
Synopsis: In England in the 19th century, two magicians begin a friendship that soon becomes a rivalry.
What You Need To Know: Susanna Clarke‘s novel “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” was pretty much an instant classic of the genre on its publication a decade ago, a fascinating, incredibly rich alternate history of Britain that’s something like a magical “Barry Lyndon,” which won Time’s Novel of the Year prize in 2004. Film adaptations were in the works for a while (Christopher Hampton and Julian Fellowes both wrote adaptations for New Line), but it’s at the BBC that it’ll eventually make it to the screen, with a seven-part miniseries adaptation set to debut later in the year. Written by Peter Harness (who wrote Michael Caine vehicle “Is Anybody There?“) and directed by “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock” helmer Toby Haynes, it stars Eddie Marsan and Tony-nominated “Matilda” star Bertie Carvel as the title characters, with Alice Englert, Charlotte Riley, Ariyon Bakare, Marc Warren, Samuel West and Paul Kaye among the other cast members.
Why It’s Anticipated: If you’ve never read Clarke’s novel, you really should, even if fantasy isn’t normally your thing: it’s a gorgeously written and complex piece of work that should translate beautifully to the screen (and it makes much more sense for it to be a seven-hour miniseries than a movie), and the BBC have thrown a lot of money behind the adaptation, which should be one of their most high profile dramas of the year. The cast isn’t packed with A-listers, but Marsan is always very welcome, and Carvel, while not a familiar face on screen yet, is a tremendous actor too, and there’s lots of promise elsewhere in the cast too. It’ll be a tricky adaptation to get right, but hopefully it’ll be more than worth it.
Airdate: Filming got underway late last year, so it should reach screens (BBC America in the U.S) later in the year—the summer is most likely.
Synopsis: A woman who escapes from a doomsday cult tries to start over in New York City.
What You Need To Know: It’s already a year since “30 Rock” ended its run, and we still miss it an awful lot. But fortunately, Tina Fey hasn’t been slack, with three new series in the works, including a workplace comedy at NBC and a college-set sitcom at Fox, but the one moving forward the fastest is “Tooken,” another NBC sitcom that the network are so high on that they’ve ordered it straight to series. Created by Fey and fellow “30 Rock” writer/producers Robert Carlock, it’s conceived as a vehicle for “The Office” and “Bridesmaids” star Ellie Kemper, who’ll take the lead role. No other casting is in place yet, but this is sure to be on the air regardless.
Why It’s Anticipated: “30 Rock” had its slow patches, but for the most part, it was a true classic of the sitcom form, remaining uproariously funny and inventive up until its final moments, so whatever Fey and Carlock did next, we were going to be interested. That it’s this show, which has the amazing premise of essentially being a sitcom version of “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” makes us even more excited. It also helps that it has Kemper in the lead role: the actress has been hugely winning on screen so far, and something like this would seem to fit in beautifully with her already-established naif-persona. Fey likely won’t be involved in the day-to-day as much as she was with “30 Rock” (she might guest star at some point, but won’t be a regular on the show), but even so, there’s no pure sitcom that we’re looking forward to more.
Airdate: Given the already-shown vote of confidence, this will likely be part of NBC’s fall schedule.
Synopsis: An American PR expert is hired to help improve the image of the London police force.
What You Need To Know: Having conquered the movies and the bloody Olympics, “Slumdog Millionaire” Oscar-winner Danny Boyle is heading to the small-screen. This U.K. comedy-drama for Channel 4, casts a satirical eye on the (rightly) often-derided Metropolitan Police force in London, with “Peep Show” and “Fresh Meat” writers Sam Armstrong and Jesse Bain, penning scripts and Boyle directing the entire run of the series. The awesome Brit Marling takes the lead role of the American PR executive, while ace names like James Nesbitt, Paterson Joseph, Bertie Carvel, Ella Smith, Cavan Clerkin, Jill Halfpenny, Adam Deacon, Jonny Sweet and Daniel Kaluuya make up some of the rest of the cast.
Why It’s Anticipated: Given that he has his pick of movie projects, you imagine that Danny Boyle would need something special to lure him to TV comedy, and “Babylon” looks like something special. Between them, writers Armstrong and Bain have been behind much of the best British comedy of the last few years—not just “Peep Show” and “Fresh Meat,” but also “The Thick Of It,” “Four Lions,” “Veep” and more, and the chance to see them turn their attentions to the U.K. police is borderline irresistible, not least with Boyle at the helm. And the cast is great: not just bigger names like Marling and Nesbitt, but also rising talents like Carvel, Sweet, Deacon and Kaluuya.
Airdate: Channel 4 are said to be airing the pilot soon, with the full series to follow later in the year. No news on who’s picking it up for the U.S, but Hulu and BBC America are likely candidates.
3. “The Red Road”
Synopsis: After a sudden tragedy involving his wife, a sheriff makes a pact with a member of an unrecognized Native American tribe that has the potential to only make things worse.
What You Need To Know: Between “Top Of The Lake” and “Rectify,” the Sundance Channel has had a strong start with their original dramas. And 2014 looks no different with “The Red Road.” Written by “Prisoners” scribe Aaron Guzikowski, and overseen by “Friday Night Lights” veteran Bridget Carpenter, it looks to provide meaty roles for “The Ring” star Martin Henderson,” “Game of Thrones” dude Jason Momoa and “August: Osage County” MVP Julianne Nicholson in this pitch-black crime drama. And most excitingly of all, for us, Playlist favorite James Gray directed the first episode of the series.
Why It’s Anticipated: Like we said, the Sundance Channel has specialized so far in a certain kind of low-key crime drama that probably isn’t as attention-grabbing as the sort of thing that you’d get on HBO or Showtime, and “The Red Road” looks to fit nicely into that niche—it’s not high concept or blessed with a slick period setting, but it looks like it’ll be positively stuffed with drama. The pairing of Guzikowski and Gray feels like it’s made in heaven, and while we’ll need to see more of Henderson and Momoa in action to be totally confident in them, we’re down for anything that Nicholson is in after her performances in “Boardwalk Empire” and “Masters Of Sex”. Plus that first trailer for the show was very promising indeed.
Airdate: Premieres on Thursday, February 27th at 9 p.m.
2. “The Knick”
Synopsis: The lives of the doctors and nurses at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital in the early 20th century.
What You Need To Know: When Steven Soderbergh announced he was retiring from film directing, we weren’t sure if it would stick completely, but we thought he’d at least be taking a little time away from the camera. Instead, barely a few months after his “final” film “Behind the Candelabra” screened at Cannes, he was shooting again, directing all ten episodes of “The Knick,” backed by HBO subsidiary Cinemax. We weren’t expecting his TV debut to be a medical drama, let alone a period one, but that’s what we’ve been given. The show is penned by “Big Miracle” writer Jack Amiel and Clive Owen leads the series, with Juliet Rylance and Michael Angarano backing him up.
Why It’s Anticipated: Um… Steven Soderbergh? It’s probably right that, if this was a show from anyone else, we wouldn’t be especially pumped, even with Clive Owen (a terrific actor who’s had a bad run of late, and deserves better). But Soderbergh had a remarkably strong end to his directing career with “Side Effects” and “Behind the Candelabra,” and it’s enormously exciting to see him directing a whole ten-part series, especially given that the last time we saw him working on this kind of epic scale, we got “Che.” Lord knows what Cinemax audiences will make of it, but we’re very excited indeed, especially after the brief glimpses of footage we’ve seen.
Airdate: Soderbergh wrapped up the shoot late last year, so this could arrive as soon as the summer, though the fall may be more likely.
1. “True Detective”
Synopsis: Two cops try to track down a serial killer in Louisiana, a case that spans decades and leads both of them to darker places than they ever could have imagined.
What You Need To Know: HBO‘s first big drama of 2014 might sound a little generic on the surface, but the talent involved is anything but: the whole series has been directed by one of the most promising filmmakers around, “Sin Nombre” and “Jane Eyre” helmer Cary Fukunaga, and stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the lead roles, with Michelle Monaghan and Kevin Dunn in the supporting cast. Written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, it’s conceived as an anthology series: any second season will have a different director and cast of characters.
Why It’s Anticipated: “True Detective” was always a killer proposition on paper—one of our favorite new directors, an exciting new voice as a writer, and McConaughey and Harrelson coming off some of the best work of their careers. Plus, the trailers have been more and more thrilling as each new one has arrived. And with the show set to premiere, it’s become clear that this is going to live up to the potential: reviews have been pretty astounding, suggesting that we’re getting the first great TV series of 2014. We can’t wait to find out how it is for ourselves.
Airdate: Starts this Sunday, January 12th, at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Honorable Mentions: Obviously, some of the things we’re most looking forward to are returning series including: “Community,” which has come back on top form, “Parks and Recreation,” “New Girl,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Good Wife,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Scandal,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “American Horror Story.” “Girls” returns this Sunday night, and “The Americans,” “House Of Cards,” “Hannibal,” “Orphan Black,” “Utopia” and “Archer” (the latter of which is undergoing a serious shake-up in the new season) are all set to return in the very near future, while “Justified” just came for a fifth season as strong as it’s ever been.
And later in the year, we’ll be getting more of “Game Of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” “Rectify,” “Veep,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Homeland,” “Key & Peele,” “Peaky Blinders,” “Masters Of Sex,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Doctor Who” and “Comedy Bang Bang,” plus the long-awaited return, two years on, of “Louie.”
As far as new shows go, there’s plenty that might have made out list if they’d progressed further than pilots, but unfortunately they’re still awaiting the greenlight. “Deadwood” mastermind David Milch turns his hand to big business with HBO‘s “The Money,” starring Brendan Gleeson and Andrea Riseborough, which we dearly hope the network order to series. We’re excited at the potential teaming of Scott Frank and Paul Giamatti for detective series “Hoke” for FX, who also have Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kathryn Hahn starring in “Trending Down.” Ben Affleck is attached to direct Boston crime pilot “The Middle Man” for Fox, while John Hillcoat did “Quarry,” starring Logan Marshall-Green, Stellan Skarsgard and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, for Cinemax. AMC have conspiracy thriller “Line Of Sight” starring David Morrissey on the docket, while Showtime are mulling over “The Affair,” with Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. And Jordan Vogt-Roberts direct promising-sounding comedy “You’re The Worst” for FX, while Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter, creators of “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Wolf Of Wall Street,” are back together for a new HBO drama set in the music industry, starring the great Bobby Cannavale.
And of course, there’s plenty more that is going to series that we didn’t include, either because they were squeezed out, or because we’re not quite sure if they’ll debut in 2014. Top of the list is “Breaking Bad” spin-off “Better Call Saul,” which will hopefully be more “Frasier” than “Joey” whenever it arrives. Fox have ordered “Gotham,” a Batman prequel following the young James Gordon, straight to series, and with “Rome” creator Bruno Heller in charge, we’re optimistic, even if we’ve been burned of late by “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” And the Wachowskis will shoot Netflix sci-fi series “Sense8” later in the year, which should be, at the very least, interesting. Pirates are a new thing this year as well, with the Neil Marshall-directed “Black Seas” and the John Malkovich-starring “Crossbones,” from “Luther” creator Neil Cross.
More imminently, IFC miniseries spoof “Spoils Of Babylon,” with Tobey Maguire, Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell, starts airing tonight, while the new season of “Sherlock” is underway in the U.K., and reaches the U.S. very soon. Greg Kinnear stars in the appealing-looking “Rake” in a few weeks, while Richard Madden toplines the Discovery Channel‘s first original series “Klondike,” and Chloe Sevigny gets her own cop series with A&E‘s dark “Those Who Kill,” co-starring James D’Arcy. “Battlestar Galactica” creator Ronald D. Moore is about to return too, with the “The Thing“-esque “Helix,” while FX will soon debut button-pushing animated series “Chozen,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt comes to TV with variety show “HitRECord,” and “The Returned” gets an American spin with “Resurrection.”
Further off, Robert DeNiro replaces the late James Gandolfini in delayed miniseries “Criminal Justice.” Jack Bauer returns in miniseries “24: Live Another Day,” while Amy Poehler created the cross-cultural comedy “Welcome To Sweden,” with brother Greg. SNL writer John Mulaney could revive the multi-camera sitcom with his much-tipped self-titled show for Fox, co-starring Elliot Gould and Martin Short, while the network also have a big-budget look at Egyptian mythology called “Hieroglyph,” from “Pacific Rim” writer Travis Beacham, and NBC go the event series route with psychology drama “The Black Box,” with Kelly Reilly and Vanessa Redgrave, and Halle Berry comes to TV too with conspiracy thriller “Extant.”
Finally, on the other side of the pond, Dominic Cooper stars as the creator of 007 in “Fleming,” while “The Musketeers” get a “Doctor Who” style revamp for the BBC, who are also adapting J.K. Rowling‘s “The Casual Vacancy.” David Hare and Bill Nighy follow up their spy drama “Page Eight” with “Turks & Caicos,” while Brian Cox also stars in a Cold War espionage thriller with “The Game.” Anything we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments section.