Looking for an updated list? Check out IndieWire’s Most Anticipated TV Series of 2017 right here (or by clicking the gallery link above.)
The Thinkpiece Year of 2015 saw more than one essay by a TV critic, reporter or recap artiste complaining that there’s just too damn much to watch, and we’ve reached #peakTV. And mostly our reaction was probably the same as yours: oh quit whining, you’ve got the second best job in the world (after movie reviewer, naturally). But the tide is certainly swelling and we’ve perhaps a little more sympathy for that point of view having worked on this list. Yes, after running our mammoth 100 Most Anticipated Movies of 2016 feature, followed by our Most Anticipated 2016 Movies We’ve Already Seen, here we are looking ahead to the year in TV, and it’s a bit like standing perfectly dry on the shore admiring an oncoming tsunami.
There’s an absolute welter of small-screen riches coming at us in the next twelve months. We’ve waded on in and picked out 25 new titles from those hundreds of shows that we are particularly excited about, just to hopefully give you guys a couple of lifesavers to cling to, before the wave hits.
25. “Big Little Lies”
Synopsis: Three mothers with kids at kindergarten become friends, a friendship that will end… in murder.
What You Need To Know: So far, prestige-y TV drama has mostly leant towards being quite male-driven. “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Wire” — most of the most highly praised shows of the modern era had memorable female characters, but were unmistakably dude-centric. That’s starting to shift, with shows like “UnReal,” but could “Big Little Lies” be the one that helps actually change the culture a but, and do for Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon what “True Detective” did for Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson? The stars were initially adapting this adaptation of Australian author Liane Moriarty as a movie before shifting it to become a HBO series, adapted by “Ally McBeal” creator David E. Kelley, and now “Dallas Buyers Club” director Jean-Marc Vallée has been brought on to direct all seven episodes, Cary Fukunaga-style. Production starts soon, and it’s now cast up, with Shailene Woodley signed on for the third lead, and Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, Laura Dern, James Tupper and Zoë Kravitz in support.
Release Date: Production gets underway in January: with Vallée helming all of it, getting it done in time for a 2016 airing might be a little tricky, even if a hole in the schedule opens, but we think it’s doable. We reckon an “Olive Kitteridge”-style slot in the fall makes the most sense.
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Synopsis: A woman tries to make a fresh start after a divorce.
What You Need To Know: Fans of bleak, testosterone-y “True Detective”-style HBO drama might run for the hills at the news that Sarah Jessica Parker is returning to the network, twelve years after “Sex And The City” wrapped up. But for one thing, they’re forgetting that before it was tainted by the terrible movies, that show was a groundbreaking and often terrific comedy. And there’s reason to believe that “Divorce,” starring and produced by Parker, could be something special. The cast is strong: Thomas Haden Church plays her ex-husband, Molly Shannon her best friend, and Talia Balsam, Robert Forster, Tracy Letts and Jemaine Clement all have roles. But the reason we’re really amped is that it’s created by the great Sharon Horgan, the Irish actress/writer who was behind both “Pulling” and the currently ongoing, absolutely brilliant “Catastrophe.” If “Divorce” can be half as raw, funny and charming about splitting up as “Catastrophe” is about getting together, we’ll be there every week.
Airdate: Not yet announced, but with “Girls,” “Togetherness,” “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” taking up HBO comedy slots until the summer, it could be paired with “Ballers,” but the fall seems more likely.
23. “Shots Fired”
Synopsis: An investigator and a special prosecutor investigate a series of racially charged shootings in a Tennessee town.
What You Need To Know: Aside from the occasional blip — “American Crime,” for instance — network TV mostly shies away from hot-button issues or bold ambition in their shows, but with ratings continuing to plummet, that’s starting to change, and Fox’s “Shots Fired” is the kind of show that even a big cable network would deem risky. Created, and set to be in part directed by, the great Gina Prince-Bythewood, writer-director of “Love & Basketball” and the wonderful, woefully underseen “Beyond The Lights,” it’s a highly topical thriller engaging with the issues that have reached a peak in the last few years involving violence towards African-Americans at the hands of police. “Ferguson: The TV Show,” essentially, and few filmmakers have shown such capacity for nuanced and whip-smart looks at racial issues identity in a commercial way as Prince-Bythewood. It’s already picked up to series by Fox, and has found a lead in the shape of the director’s “Love & Basketball” lead Sanaa Lathan.
Airdate: Network schedules are nebulous, but with the show being commissioned last month and being described as an “event series,” we imagine it’ll arrive in the summer.
Synopsis: Two cousins make their way up Atlanta’s rap scene.
What You Need To Know: In one of those strange “Capote”-ish coincidences (or perhaps not, given the success of “Empire”), two of the biggest cable networks are each premiering a comedy show set in the music world in Atlanta. HBO’s effort is “Brothers In Atlanta,” created by and starring comics Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin, directed by Tim Story and co-starring Maya Rudolph and Jaden Smith, but we’re a little more excited, sight unseen, on FX’s “Atlanta.” The show’s created by youthful polymath Donald Glover, who’s had about four different careers before hitting 30: going from “30 Rock” writer to “Community” star to star rapper as Childish Gambino to movie actor in “The Martian” and “Magic Mike XXL.” His show, in which he also plays the lead alongside Tyree Henry, should draw on all those skills, and is clearly a very personal project for an actor who’s long deserved a showcase like this. Speaking of, his right-hand-man in the show is played by the awesome Keith Stanfield, who’s broken out in things like “Short Term 12” and “Selma,” and should play beautifully off Glover. And it should get authenticity and flair from director Hiro Murai, who’s made his name in the music video world helming clips not just for Glover, but also for Earl Sweatshirt, Flying Lotus, Shabazz Palaces and Queens Of The Stone Age.
Airdate: FX picked this up to series in October: our guess is it’ll probably arrive in the summer at some point.
21. “The Crown”
Synopsis: Epic historical drama following the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
What You Need To Know: With “Downton Abbey” wrapping up, costume drama fans are in the market for a new obsession, and it might be here in the shape of Netflix’s “The Crown.” Ambitiously setting out to tell the entire life of Britain’s longest-running (and still going…) monarch, it comes from the pen of Peter Morgan, who’s had enormous success with this subject matter with the Oscar-nominated “The Queen” (and again on Broadway with “The Audience”). There are more awards-friendly names behind the camera too: “Billy Elliot” helmer Stephen Daldry directed the pilot, and Stephen Frears has done an episode or two as well. The cast, as you might imagine, is superb: Claire Foy, so good in “Wolf Hall,” has the lead role, “Doctor Who” veteran Matt Smith is future husband Philip Mountbatten, John Lithgow is Winston Churchill, Jared Harris is George VI, and plenty more British drama luminaries are involved as well. But will it be “Downton Abbey”-style pandering, or will have it a little more bite?
Airdate: Production was underway last summer: we expect it’ll hit Netflix late spring for Emmy qualification.