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It’s a fact — Indiewire contributor James Franco has a number of talents. But it took until 2016 for us to learn that one of them included…traveling in time? Okay, that’s a joke. But there’s no denying that Franco is a key anchor to this J.J. Abrams-produced series (based on the Stephen King novel) about a high school English teacher who gets a once in a lifetime chance to travel to the year 1960 — to, ultimately, stop the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Can he do it? What are the consequences for changing the timeline? Does he look great in a 1960s suit and hat? We know for sure that the answer to one of those questions is yes. But we aren’t saying which.
We’ve been waiting for Donald Glover to create his own TV series for years. Most fans know him either from “Community” or as the rapper Childish Gambino, but Glover also penned a number of (great) episodes of “30 Rock.” He’s clearly a charismatic lead — he’s also starring in “Atlanta” — with a strong voice, making him a potentially perfect person to run a show. And his completely-his show sounds pretty great to boot. Focusing on Earnest “Earn” Marks, “Atlanta” follows a loner who returns to his home town of Atlanta after failing to achieve his artistic ambitions. Upon arriving, he learns one of his friends has become the hottest rap sensation in the city, and he has to learn how to deal with such a big swing of events in a relatively short period of time. “Atlanta” promises to be a funny, real look at life just outside of celebrity, making the series just as unique as its setting.
We’re all upset that “Louie” won’t be coming back in 2016, but C.K. is more than making up for it by producing two of the most highly-anticipated series of the year. First up was “Baskets” with Zach Galifianakis, which would be on this list if it weren’t about to premiere in just a few days. But later we’re going to get “Better Things,” which might, yes, be better. Co-created by Pamela Adlon and starring the talented co-star of “Louie” and “Californication,” “Better Things” follows a working mother of three who’s trying to break out as an actor all while trying to raise her kids all by herself. The official synopsis reads, “Her life is funny to watch, but you wouldn’t live it (except sometimes).” We can’t wait to see for ourselves.
We don’t have statistics about the number of shows which have undergone dramatic creative retooling after their announcement and been successful, versus the number of shows which experienced a similar process and ended up failing. But the latter seem to outnumber the former, which makes shows like “The Catch” feel like an underdog pick. But a clip screened at the TCAs featured a stylish approach to the material that only serves to highllght a great cast, including Mireille Enos and Peter Krause, and betting on Shondaland is never a bad bet. Even if some course corrections were required at some point.
Sarah Jessica Parker is coming back to HBO, and that’s still not the most exciting aspect of “Divorce.” Molly Shannon is in it, too! As are Tracy Letts and Thomas Hayden Church! But no, the A+ cast is not why everyone should make sure to tune in for HBO’s upcoming comedy, because Sharon Horgan is the creator! Yes, that Sharon Horgan, who co-created the amazing, grounded and hilarious Amazon series “Catastrophe.” Anyone familiar with that show is already sold, so for the rest of you still somehow on the fence, don’t take for granted that this is a show focusing on an adult woman living in the real world and presented with authenticity — not as some sitcom mom about a mom who’s the mom of another mom. Oh, and Parker is always incredible. So get on board or GTFO, haters.
“The Get Down”
Netflix has a ton of new shows coming down the pipeline this year, which is why we’ve already made a list of 15 you should be getting excited about. There’s a lot of great stuff a’coming, to be sure, but if we were to put one at the very top of our list, “The Get Down” might be it. Not just because of its creative pedigree (Baz Luhrman! Making a TV show! About 70s soul music!) but really, this sizzle reel, you guys. It’s alive and beautiful and funkadelic on a level that TV has only rarely ever achieved before. Watch the above, and tell us you’re not down.
“The Girlfriend Experience”
Frankly, at this point, there’s nothing we’re not anticipating from Steven Soderbergh. Between his innovative and immersive direction on “The Knick” and the addictive glee infused into Amazon’s “Red Oaks” (where he was an executive producer), the retired film director has taken to TV with instinctual verve. Next up is the Starz series “The Girlfriend Experience,” which is not so much an adaptation as a reinvention — as Soderbergh explained, the new series’ mandate is “take the title and start over.” Starring Riley Keough and Kate Lyn Sheil, “The Girlfriend Experience” also has two new showrunners — Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan — steering the ship for Soderbergh. But the hard-working filmmaker has proven he’s got an eye for great projects — and puts his unique (and valued) stamp on everything he touches.
“The Night Manager”
Tom Hiddleston. Hugh Laurie. John LaCarre adapted for the modern geopolitical landscape. If none of those things mean anything to you, then maybe it’s not for you? But if you’re into the idea of a knotty spy drama with an all-star cast, then AMC has your back here. We’re just getting a miniseries here, but even that, with this cast, feels like a gift.
Created by Jessica Goldberg (“Parenthood”) and executive produced by Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”), “The Path” isn’t exactly what you’d expect from two people who worked on such heartwarming family dramas. The new Hulu drama follows the converts and creators of a new religion as they struggle with their faith, relationships and lives in general. The early previews look incredibly enticing, and the cast — Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan and Hugh Dancy — is absolutely top tier. Moreover, with Scientology a major topic of the day and the line between religion and cult ever blurring, “The Path” could be incredibly relevant. Oh, and Katims hasn’t been involved with a less-than-stellar show since the early aughts. Trust the hot streak, people. Even while you don’t trust a religion with “requisite” donations.
“The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
On paper, the first season of the new anthology series “American Crime Story” sounds like a risky idea at best. Revisiting the well-chronicled story of O.J. Simpson and his infamous trial in a dramatic context could easily be exploitative and crass. Instead, “The People V. O.J. Simpson” is a fascinating and well-timed exploration of the characters we all thought we already knew. Guess what? We didn’t. And even if you did, the perspective provided in the series makes the entire story frighteningly fresh for America’s modern struggles with racism. Don’t bother trying to wrap your mind around how that might look: Watch the first episode on February 2, and you won’t be able to stop.
We’ve seen a ton of comic book adaptations over the last couple of years, most of which tend to aim, pretty deliberately, towards faithfulness to the comics. But here’s AMC’s “Preacher,” which Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have chosen to adapt for AMC with a pretty free hand. The reason for mentioning that is if you care at all about the original comics, you should anticipate some whiplash as characters and storylines in this show are poised to take on wildly different trajectories. But if you can get past that, you might be as pleased as newcomers by the tale of a priest (Dominic Cooper) experiencing a disagreement with God on a cosmic scale, and the friends and enemies he accumulates along the way. The show promises to be rich with not just beautifully blasphemous, raucous action but also head-turning performances, especially Ruth Negga as bad-ass assassin Daisy. Whether or not “Preacher” holds together is an unknown quantity at this point, but it’s got a lot going for it.
Coming off of “Aloha,” it might be hard for audiences to trust Cameron Crowe projects simply because of his name. But if we’re going to forgive and forget, “Roadies” is a great place to start, because of how it brings the writer of “Almost Famous” back to his musical roots. Following the people who actually get the bands on the stage (and make the stage, light the stage, test the instruments, book the venues, etc.), the new Showtime dramedy promises to be a moving mix of romance, moral dilemmas and, of course, music. Though the project went through a few changes over the years — including multiple rewrites, reshoots and recasting Christina Hendricks’ part with Carla Gugino — its focus on a young woman (Imogen Poots) torn between a promising education in filmmaking and life on the road with the band of her dreams is such a direct reference to Crowe’s unique expertise it should benefit from his love, attention and knowledge. Throw in Luke Wilson as the de facto lead, and we’re in.
Tom Hardy in a 19th century period drama for FX and the BBC? Already quite interesting. And then it’s about how maybe the East India Trading Company is (perhaps inaccurately) “was the equivalent of the CIA, the NSA and the biggest, baddest multinational corporation on earth, all rolled into one self-righteous, religiously-motivated monolith.” Period dramas can get a little dry, but this sounds (in a non-sexual way) pretty wet. Production on “Taboo” only started in November of last year, so we probably shouldn’t anticipate a full launch before the fall. But it sounds exciting as hell.
WGN America’s ambitious period drama about a group of slaves making their escape features a stellar cast but more importantly an exciting approach to its concept. Without undercutting the extremely serious nature of its premise, the show comes together in a vein similar to your favorite heist tales: The heist, in this case, just happens to be their own freedom. Featuring “Friday Night Lights’s” Jurnee Smollett-Bell and “Leverage’s” Aldis Hodge, the show also spotlights the talents of Christopher Meloni, Marc Blucas and Mykelti Williamson. But really, what it comes down to is, damn — why haven’t we seen a show about the Underground Railroad before? And isn’t it great to see one now?
Beyond the huge names attached to this show, maybe the best way to approach “Vinyl” as a spiritual successor to “Boardwalk Empire,” given showrunner Terence Winter’s involvement. If “Boardwalk Empire” didn’t float your boat, though, here’s another question: How do you feel about 1970s rock music? No expense has been spared to capture the New York punk and rock scene of the era, as Richie (Bobby Cannavale) tries to keep his record label going in a period of revolution and upheaval.
How long have we been waiting for a glimpse of the high-profile HBO remake of Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi adventure? Well, we first got really excited about its insane cast in August 2014…but beyond a trailer released in August 2015, all we’ve heard since is rumors about some pretty specific sex scenes and just last week, official notice that production on the show has been shut down. We’re still optimistic — between that insane cast, creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy having a solid track record and the fact that sometimes great TV takes time, patience might be a virtue here. But still, we have been promised “Westworld” in 2016 and HBO, we are gonna hold you to that (because we’re just too into it).
By February 22, the 10th season of “The X-Files” (as we appear to be referring to it) will have concluded. But while many members of the press, as of writing, have seen the first half of the season, goddamned if we’re not ready for more. Because let’s be real. The return of “The X-Files” was one of the major reasons to stay alive from 2015 to 2016. And if it’s ultimately a success, maybe we’ll have reason to stay alive a little while longer.
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