Ava DuVernay, “Queen Sugar”
The acclaimed “Selma” and “Middle of Nowhere” director is a storyteller first, and what better medium to delve deep into a story than television? In her first foray on the small screen, DuVernay allied herself with Oprah’s OWN network for “Queen Sugar,” in which she examines the lives of the Bordelon siblings in Louisiana after the passing of their father who leaves them a sugarcane farm.
DuVernay has always been a champion of being the change she wants to see, and her work on “Queen Sugar” is no different. Beginning with adapting a novel from a woman of color, about black siblings, DuVernay also made a point to hire an all-female roster of directors for every episode. She even directed two herself, and the pilot shows that the same appreciation for a gorgeous, almost dreamy palette that “Selma” had, despite some rough subject matter. While the specific directing in the episode isn’t anything notable, how she’s decided to steer the series is.
“Queen Sugar” airs new episodes Wednesdays at 10pm on OWN.
Nicole Holofcener, “One Mississippi”
Holofcener was first drawn to Tig Notaro’s debut TV project when she read about it in the morning paper. “I said aloud, ‘Aw, I wish I was involved in that!'” Holofcener told IndieWire in a recent interview. “And then I got a phone call.”
The director of “Please Give” and “Enough Said” has been a fan of the comedian for a long time and was quickly sold on “One Mississippi” because of three reasons: “good script, good girl [and] good timing.” Notaro and Holofcener connected on a personal level before collaborating, which was crucial for a series inspired by Notaro’s struggles with cancer and the loss of a loved one. Then Holofcener signed up as the showrunning director — handling multiple episodes in the first season — as well as an executive producer.
While this marks Holofcener’s first producer credit on TV, the director has been building an incredible resume on the small screen. “Orange is the New Black,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Togetherness” and “Parks and Recreation” are just a few examples of her recent work, and she also helmed episodes of iconic programs like “Sex and the City” and “Six Feet Under.” Can “One Mississippi” join the ranks of these elite series? With Holofcener’s sterling track record in mind, we wouldn’t bet against it.
“One Mississippi” premieres all six episodes of its first season Friday, September 9 on Amazon Prime.
Joe Swanberg, “Easy”
We don’t know much about Joe Swanberg’s upcoming anthology series for Netflix, beyond the fact that it has a killer cast — including Orlando Bloom, Malin Åkerman, Marc Maron, Elizabeth Reaser, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jake Johnson, Aya Cash, Dave Franco, Hannibal Buress and Emily Ratajkowski. Oh, and shockingly enough for a Swanberg project, it has to do with love, sex and relationships in Chicago.
This isn’t Swanberg’s first swing at serialized content. He also directed three seasons of the web-distributed series “Young American Bodies” from 2006-2009, but the approach sounds like a change from his usual formulas, and we’re intrigued to see how he fits into the Netflix model.
“Easy” premieres all eight episodes of its first season Thursday, September 22 on Netflix.
Neil LaBute, “Van Helsing”
“In the Company of Men.” “Nurse Jackie.” “Van Helsing.” Clearly, Neil LaBute is a creator open to variety in his storytelling, but it’s unlikely many saw the award-winning playwright and director making his showrunning debut on Syfy.
Nevertheless, that’s where we find ourselves, as LaBute has taken control of “Van Helsing,” a gender-swapped take on the classic literary figure most prominently brought to life by Hugh Jackman in the critically reviled 2004 blockbuster. LaBute, wisely, has made a few tweaks. Besides casting Kelly Overton as his titular hero, Vanessa Helsing, he’s also playing around with setting and vampiric tradition.
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world where vampires have taken over, the new “Van Helsing” may seem like a cheap ploy to combine modern entertainment’s hottest horror properties: zombies and vampires. Yet unlike “The Walking Dead,” LaBute is offering a ray of hope for humanity: These vampires can be saved. Plenty more surprises are undoubtedly in store, but color us intrigued by LaBute’s latest experiment.
“Van Helsing” premieres Friday, September 23 at 10pm on Syfy.
Woody Allen, “Crisis in Six Scenes”
Much has been made about Woody Allen’s first TV show. At first, it seemed like one of those ideas that would never come to fruition. Then, as it gained traction, speculation began to shift as to what, exactly, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker would focus on with an extended format. Bits and pieces have surfaced, but Amazon is keeping pretty hush-hush re: a series set to debut in less than a month.
Here’s what we know: “Crisis in Six Scenes” takes place in the U.S. during turbulant times in the ’60s. The story follows a traditional suburban New York couple (Woody Allen and Elaine May), their friend-of-the-family houseguest (John Magaro) and his fiancée (Rachel Brosnahan), who have their conservative beliefs challenged by a young hippie (Miley Cyrus) who’s caught up in the ’60s movement and inspired by radical communist leaders.
We’ve seen a few photos and even a clip, but the six-episode series — likely to be Allen’s last, given his distaste for the production — will be must-see TV when it hits Amazon at the end of September.
“Crisis in Six Scenes” debuts all six episodes of its only season Friday, September 30 on Amazon Prime.
Lenny Abrahamson, “Chance”
Abrahamson’s turn to television isn’t quite as claustrophobic as last year’s “Room,” but the upcoming Hulu drama — starring Hugh Laurie as a forensic psychiatrist — does invoke a certain level of paranoia.
As Dr. Chance (Laurie) tries to help a young woman (Gretchen Mol) suffering from multiple personalities, he finds himself unlocking a whole new side to his personality on the moody streets of San Francisco. Even with a broader stage to work with, Abrahamson still manages to capture a trapped feeling that invokes memories of Hitchcock in the best way. You wouldn’t have expected it, but it turns out that the noir genre is a perfect fit for the director.
“Chance” premieres Wednesday, October 19 on Hulu.
Alex & David Pastor, “Incorporated”
The Spanish brothers are known for creating dystopian futures such as “The Last Days” (“Los Últimos Días”), in which society suffers from a bizarre agoraphobia malady and “Carriers,” where a viral pandemic sweeps the land. The Pastors also wrote the Tarsem Singh-directed “Self/Less,” starring Ben Kingsley as a man who undergoes “shedding,” in order to be transplanted into the body of a younger man (Ryan Reynolds).
That resume makes them ideal for directing the pilot and writing Syfy’s upcoming “Incorporated,” which envisions a seemingly glossy but sterile future run by companies. It’s a world in which bacon is a rare and precious commodity, art is a curiosity, kidnapping is everyday, plastic surgery is casual and privacy is nonexistent. We’re glad to see that thoughtful, innovative genre filmmakers like the Pastors have found a berth on TV.
“Incorporated” premieres Wednesday, November 30 at 10pm on Syfy.