“All the Way” – Saturday, May 21
Creators: Jay Roach (director), Robert Schenkkan (writer)
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anthony Mackie, Melissa Leo, Frank Langella
HBO’s last original film before the end of Emmys eligibility is a huge awards swing, telling the story of some very specific months in Lyndon B. Johnson’s term as president. A louder-than-life figure who Bryan Cranston originally played in the stage version of Schenkkan’s play, Johnson inherited his office in 1963, and in the following months found himself fighting a massive battle to pass a major civil rights bill while serving in the shadow of the assassinated John F. Kennedy. The all-star cast, including Anthony Mackie as Martin Luther King Jr., is fantastic, but Cranston owns every second of screen time he gets, and the result is a fascinating portrait of one of the 20th century’s most complicated politicians.
“Chef’s Table” Season 2 – Friday, May 27
Creator: David Gelb
Chefs: Alex Atala (Brazil), Ana Ros (Slovenia), Dominique Crenn (United States), Enrique Olvera (Mexico), Gagan Anand (Thailand), Grant Achatz (United States)
Netflix was so happy with the reception for “Chef’s Table” Season 1 — which chronicled the culinary passions and practices of some of the world’s best chefs — they greenlit three more seasons instead of just one. Later in 2016, we’ll get a “French Installment” to follow up this sequel season, and in 2017 we’ll get a fourth edition featuring trips to South Korea and Russia. The beauty teased in the above trailer seems right in line with the stunning visuals produced by last year’s excellent crop of filmmakers, indicating we could be in for more than our eyes — or stomachs — can stand this year.
“The Dresser” – Monday, May 30
Creator: Richard Eyre (screenplay), Ronald Harwood (stage play)
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Emily Watson
Believe it or not, Starz has never released an original TV movie before. That’s all changing with “The Dresser,” an adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s play focusing on a small regional theater company as they try to stage a production of “King Lear” during World War II. Bombs are falling, but the show must go on — with or without its star, “Sir” (played by Anthony Hopkins), who’s nowhere to be seen. It’s up to his “Dresser” (Ian McKellen) to keep things on track, no matter what happens. The landmark film for Starz also celebrates the first time these two legends have shared a screen together, and marks Anthony Hopkins’ first scripted role on the small screen since guest-starring in the BBC anthology series “Screen Two” in 1993. Welcome to the Golden Age, Sir Anthony.
“Roots” – Monday, May 30
Executive producers: William Packer, Mark Wolper, LeVar Burton
Stars: Forest Whitaker, Anna Paquin, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Anika Noni Rose, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Chad L. Coleman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Matthew Goode
There’s no denying that the original 1977 miniseries, starring Levar Burton and Ben Vereen, went beyond a television event. It was a cultural touchstone for decades. But given this new and glorious age of television, a more modern version of Alex Haley’s classic novel feels appropriate, and the cast is stacked with award-winning talent. It’ll take an awful lot to have the same kind of impact on American culture that the original “Roots” did, all those years ago. But History is throwing enormous weight (and money) behind this one, so it could make some real noise.
“Morgan Spurlock Inside Man” – Thursday, June 2
Creator/Star: Morgan Spurlock
The “Super Sized” documentary filmmaker is entering the fourth season of his CNN adventures exploring topics ranging from cannabis to Bitcoin. This year, Morgan Spurlock is taking on (according to CNN) “toxins, gambling, the space industry, disruptors, gaming, and crime scene investigations.” If you prefer documentaries with a participatory component, this should sate that urge.
“The American West” – Saturday, June 11Creator: John Wirth with executive producer Robert Redford
Stars: Interviews with James Caan, Burt Reynolds, Kiefer Sutherland, Ed Harris, Tom Selleck, Mark Harmon and Robert Redford
This eight-episode event series aims to transport audiences back to the Wild West, specifically between 1865 and 1890, by focusing on little-known stories of legendary real-world figures like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. But in true AMC fashion, the series will also incorporate interviews with some of the silver screen’s most prominent western stars. From Tom Selleck to Robert Redford, “The American West” is steeped with every facet a genre fan could hope for, making it one of the more exciting projects of the summer.
“O.J.: Made in America” – Saturday, June 11
Director: Ezra Edelman
Network: ESPN, ABC
A 10-hour documentary series on O.J. Simpson may seem like an unnecessary indulgence after watching “The People v. O.J. Simpson” earlier this year, but Ezra Edelman’s examination of the events leading up to the murder as well as the aftermath of it are as fascinating, expertly constructed and absolutely vital to today’s audiences as the FX anthology series. Don’t believe me? Well, know this: After being commissioned as an ESPN “30 for 30” film, “O.J. Made In America” got the bump up to ABC for its first two hours. Oh, and let’s not forget it premiered at Sundance and later aired in full at the Tribeca Film Festival. This one can’t be missed.
“Ride with Norman Reedus” – Sunday, June 12
Creator: I mean, Norman Reedus, right?
Stars: Norman Reedus, Peter Fonda, Robert Rodriguez
Exactly how this series came about we may never know, but we imagine the conversation between AMC executives went something like this:
“Man, people sure do love Daryl on ‘The Walking Dead.'”
“We didn’t kill him, did we?!?”
“No, no. We’d never do that.”
“Shit, yeah. You’re right. Maybe they will.”
“We need to lock him down. I mean, people will watch him in anything, right?”
“Well, he’d have to stay close to Daryl’s character. I doubt anyone wants to see Daryl in a rom-com.”
“Haha, no. God no. Hmmm.”
An intern knocks on the door and immediately enters.
“Hey guys. Just wanted to let you know Daryl wiped out on his motorcycle and may look extra gimpy in Episode 6.”
[To other executive] “No one will notice.”
“That’s it! Daryl on a motorcycle! That sounds awesome!”
“I’d watch that!”
“Okay, but how can we make it sound like, you know, a real show and not just an actor driving around on his motorcycle?”
“He could ride with other people? Maybe we could get Jack Nicholson or Tom Cruise…”
Both laugh heartily.
“Okay, not them, but we’ll find somebody.”
“Yeah, let’s get this greenlit before friggin’ Kirkman kills him off.”
“I can see it now: ‘Ride with Daryl.'”
“Ooo yeah! Do you think he’ll do it in character, though?”
“In character? Isn’t his name Daryl?”
“Oh. Um. Maybe?”
“We’ll make it work.”
“Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?” – Saturday, June 18
Creator: Amber Coney (writer), James Franco (story) and directed by Melanie Aitkenhead (director)
Stars: James Franco, Tori Spelling, Ivan Sergei, Leila George, Emily Meade, Nick Eversman
Is the only reason that we’re looking forward to Lifetime’s remake of a classic 1996 made-for-TV movie — maybe the classic made-for-TV movie — because it’s being executive produces by James Franco and also stars him? No. No, it is not. There’s also the fact that it’s reuniting original film stars Tori Spelling and Ivan Sergei, and there’s a “same-sex vampire love story.” There’s also that. Will this actually be worth watching, or will it (like last year’s “A Deadly Adoption”) theoretically sound hilarious but actually prove disappointing? Only way to know is to watch.
“Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons” – Wednesday, June 22
Creator: Bill Simmons
Stars: Bill Simmons
Network: HBO NOW
After leaving ESPN and signing a multi-year, multiplatform production deal with HBO, Simmons is bringing his unique brand of long-form writing to a less-than-live discussion focusing on all things pop culture and sports. Each half-hour block of the 20-episode first season will feature an intimate discussion with that week’s guest, commentary on current events from Simmons himself and from-the-field reporting segments. Simmons is also a producer on “After the Thrones,” the first show from his HBO deal that’s been airing since “Game of Thrones” premiered in April.
“The Night Of” – Sunday, July 10
Creator: Richard Price, Steven Zaillian
Stars: John Turturro, Riz Ahmed
A long-gestating adaptation of a BBC miniseries written by Peter Moffat, this new take on the story of a young man who gets swept into the criminal justice system features John Turturro in a role originally meant to be played by James Gandolfini, with Riz Ahmed as the young man in over his head. Written by Richard Price and executive produced/directed by Steve Zaillian, “The Night Of” could be this year’s answer to “Show Me a Hero” — smart, sophisticated and socially relevant.
“Penn & Teller: Fool Us” – Monday, July 11
Creator: Penn Jillette, Teller, Peter Adam Golden, Andrew Golder
Stars: Penn Jillette, Teller, Alyson Hannigan
Network: The CW
Entering its third season with a new host in “How I Met Your Mother” star Alyson Hannigan, the unscripted quasi-game show features world-famous magicians Penn and Teller giving lesser-known practitioners a chance to pull the wool over their eyes. Perform an illusion that Penn and Teller can’t figure out? Get on the main stage in Vegas. Originally a UK series, the CW gave it a new home last year, and the show’s unique approach to celebrating the craft of magic is always enjoyable.
“2016 Rio Olympic Games Opening Ceremony” – Friday, August 5
Creator: Baron Pierre de Coubertin (founder of the International Olympic Committee)
Stars: Athletes! Well, good weather athletes.
The last Summer Olympic Games kicked things off with an opening ceremony directed by none other than Danny Boyle, so the 2016 version has a hard act to follow. Yet indie filmmaking fans should be pleased to hear none other than Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles — of “City of God” and “The Constant Gardener” acclaim — is handling helming duties this time around, and he’s bringing an indie mentality to the show. Citing need for improved sanitation and education in the country, Meirelles vowed to spend less than one-tenth of what London shilled out for their ceremony (more than $100 million). Considering what he’s been able to accomplish with low-budget films, we have no doubt he’ll still put on a show to rival the blockbuster London provided four years prior.