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17 HBO Original Programs to Be Excited About in 2021

"Scenes From a Marriage," "The White Lotus," and the long-awaited return of "Succession" highlight HBO's last year before the dragons fly home.

HBO 2021 Preview New Shows "The Nevers," "The Mare of Easttown," and "Scenes From a Marriage"

“The Nevers,” “The Mare of Easttown,” and “Scenes From a Marriage”

HBO / MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

After a year filled with production delays and shutdowns, Hollywood has persevered, and HBO — still the premiere destination for prestigious new shows and returning favorites — has a full slate of confirmed 2021 TV releases in the offing. Though the pandemic is still causing mayhem when it comes to any kind of long-term scheduling, some series have managed to wrap, others are in the middle of shooting, and still more have a plan to finish in time for audiences to appreciate them this very year.

Below, IndieWire has compiled a list of upcoming programs either already scheduled or fully expected to premiere this year, so you can rest assured in what’s coming. In the list below, learn all about HBO’s 2021 dramas, comedies, limited series, and more, from plot descriptions and cast lists to production timelines and possible premiere dates.

To be clear, this is a 2021 preview for HBO, not HBO Max. Yes, many viewers will be watching both brands’ programs via the same service, but so long as the big wigs at WarnerMedia are making a distinction between the two content creators, so will we.

So go ahead: Get excited to discover epic new dramas like “The Nevers,” and rediscover returning gems like “Succession.” “House of the Dragon” may not hit until 2022, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied until then. The Hollywood machine churns ahead. Let’s appreciate what we can.

“Tiger”

Genre: Documentary (two parts)
Release Date:
January 10, 2021
Executive Producers: Alex Gibney, Stacey Offman, Richard Perello, Sam Pollard, Armen Keteyian, and Jeff Benedict
Directors: Matthew Heineman and Matthew Hamachek

Relying on the 2018 biography by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, “Tiger” is a two-part, four-hour examination of the rise, fall, and return of Tiger Woods — meaning, it’s got all the cute footage of a baby Tiger whacking golf balls as well as all the tawdry coverage of his infidelity, arrest, and more very adult mistakes. Matthew Heineman (“Cartel Land”) is joined by his longtime editor Matthew Hamachek in the director’s chair for interviews with family friends and scandalous acquaintances, as the duo unearths plenty of never-before-seen footage for the most intimate look at the global golf icon yet.

“The Lady and the Dale”

Genre: Documentary Series
Release Date:
Confirmed for 2021
Executive Producers: Mark and Jay Duplass, Mel Eslyn, Andre Gaines, Allen Bain, Nick Cammilleri, Alana Carithers and Zackary Drucker

Like a cross between “The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley” and “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, HBO’s Duplass brothers-produced docuseries travels back to the ’70s to see how Elizabeth Carmichael duped the world into thinking she’d solved the auto industry’s oil problem. Carmichael founded the 20th Century Motor Car Corporation in order to produce her fuel-efficient, three-wheeled car, The Dale, which was said to get up to 70 miles per gallon thanks to the weight saved by having one less wheel. As if that wasn’t reason enough to be suspicious, Carmichael also claimed the car couldn’t be tipped over, was made with special aerospace plastic, and would cost less than $2,000 (or, adjusted for inflation, roughly $13K). The story only gets crazier from there, so I’ll let the experts tell it: “The Lady and the Dale” is expected in early 2021 on HBO.

“Beartown”

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date:
Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Ulf Stenberg, Aliette Opheim, Tobias Zilliacus, Miriam Ingrid, Oliver Dufaker
Writers: Anders Weidemann, Antonia Pyk, and Linn Gottfridsson
Director: Peter Grönlund

A Swedish import, “Beartown” focuses on a small town obsessed with their junior ice-hockey team. Good enough to have a shot at a national title, the skaters feel the pressure from parents and the rest of the town to produce on the ice — and that leads to trouble elsewhere. “Beartown” deals head on with sexual assault and sports, tackling how a community is drawn to look the other way — at the victim’s expense — and the lasting repercussions of raising children with misplaced priorities.

“Mare of Easttown”

The Mare of Easttown HBO Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet in “The Mare of Easttown”

Courtesy of HBO

Genre: Limited Series
Release Date:
Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Kate Winslet, Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, Angourie Rice, Evan Peters, Cailee Spaeny, David Denman, John Douglas Thompson, Patrick Murney, Ben Miles, James McArdle, Sosie Bacon, Joe Tippett, Neal Huff
Writers: Brad Ingelsby
Directors: Craig Zobel and Gavin O’Connor

In her first producing effort, as well as her first role as a police detective, Kate Winslet stars as Mare Sheehan, a Pennsylvania cop investigating a local murder as her own life falls apart. “Mare of Easttown” is not, however, the first time Winslet has carried an HBO original series; her debut came with Todd Haynes’ 2011 adaptation of “Mildred Pierce,” which won Winslet an Emmy (and a Golden Globe) while garnering 21 total nominations from the TV Academy and four more wins. To say expectations are high for her return would be an understatement. While there’s no repeating the past, Winslet has proven time and time again that she’s capable of surprising us, even when we’re already wowed.

“Oslo”

Genre: Film
Release Date:
In production. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Salim Dau, Waleed Zuaiter, Jeff Wilbusch, Igal Naor, Dov Glickman, Rotem Keinan, Itzik Cohen, Tobias Zilliacus, Sasson Gabai
Writer: J.T. Rogers
Director: Bartlett Sher

“Oslo,” originally a Tony Award-winning play by J.T. Rogers, tells the true story of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, which were engineered by the Norwegian couple Mona Juul (played by Ruth Wilson in the new film) and Terje Rød-Larsen (Andrew Scott). Through secret back-channel talks and near-silent heroics, the two brought together the Israeli Prime Minister and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman to help broker peace. The play originally clocked in around three hours, while winning the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play and Best Featured Actor in a Play (for Michael Aronov). How Rogers translates his stage success to screen will be exciting in its own right, though I’d have to imagine most viewers will be tuning in to see what Wilson and Scott, two tremendous talents, can do with the material.

“The White Lotus”

Genre: Limited Series
Release Date:
In production. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Fred Hechinger, Jake Lacy, Brittany O’Grady, Natasha Rothwell, Sydney Sweeney, Steve Zahn, Molly Shannon, Jon Gries, Jolene Purdy, Kekoa Kekumano, Lukas Gage
Writer: Mike White
Director: Mike White

It’s been nearly eight years since “Enlightened” was taken from us eight years too soon, and while the pain remains, there is hope: no, not a revival — at least, not yet — but creator Mike White is returning to HBO with a limited series set an exclusive tropical resort. Connie Britton, Alexandra Daddario, Jennifer Coolidge, and more are all on board to take part in a social satire written, directed, and created by White. Further details remain scant, but what else do you need to know? I mean, really. I’m offended you even asked.

“The Nevers”

The Nevers HBO 2021 series

“The Nevers”

Courtesy of HBO

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date:
Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Laura Donnelly, Ann Skelly, Olivia Williams, James Norton, Tom Riley, Rochelle
Neil, Eleanor Tomlinson, Amy Manson, Pip Torrens, Denis O’Hare, Zackary Momoh, Elizabeth
Berrington, Kiran Sawar, Nick Frost, Ben Chaplin
Executive Producers: Joss Whedon, Bernadette Caulfield, Ilene S. Landress, Doug Petrie, Jane Espenson
Directors: Joss Whedon, among others

Just over a month ago, the most exciting aspect of “The Nevers” was Joss Whedon’s creative return. The “Firefly” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator had been toying around in the MCU since “Dollhouse” ended in 2010, and when his HBO original series was first announced, he described it as “the most ambitious narrative I’ve created.” Set in the 19th century, “The Nevers” centers around a group of “Touched” people who are suddenly bestowed with special abilities. Led by Amelia True (Laura Donnelly) and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), they use their new powers to fight on behalf of history’s overlooked members, as the powers that be seek to maintain their dominance. All of this will still come to fruition when the 10-episode first season premieres in 2021, but Whedon announced his departure from the show in November after production had wrapped. What that means for the show’s future (as well as Whedon’s) is still unclear, but there are far more questions surrounding “The Nevers” now than there were two months ago.

“In Treatment”

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date:
Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Uzo Aduba, Anthony Ramos
Executive Producers: Stephen Levinson, Mark Wahlberg, Hagai Levi, Jennifer Schuur, Joshua Allen, and Melissa Bernstein
Directors: TBA

After a decade off the air, HBO’s Emmy-winning doctor-patient drama is set to return for a fourth season, this time starring Uzo Aduba in the therapist’s chair. Who’s on the couch has yet to be announced, as has the exact format of this reimagining: Will we be getting five episodes a week? New patients every season? Will Gabriel Byrne, the original star, be returning in some capacity? All of these details remain under wraps, but the inventive and compelling original combined with the always enticing Aduba give us plenty to anticipate for Season 4.

Scenes From a Marriage

Genre: Limited Series
Release Date:
In production. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain
Writer: Hagai Levi
Director: Hagai Levi

Speaking of “In Treatment,” series creator Hagai Levi (who also co-created Showtime’s “The Affair” and HBO’s “Our Boys”) is taking on Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes From a Marriage,” with two award-winning talents in front of the camera. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain star as the highlighted couple, whose relationship is charted over the course of a decade as it descends from vow renewals to divorce to an illicit reconciliation. Transporting the original Swedish story to America and jumping from the ’70s to present day, “Scenes From a Marriage” will undoubtedly be given a hard look by cinephiles worldwide, but its timeless subject matter and talented team certainly provide the potential for a worthy refashioning of this classic tale.

“Succession” Season 3

"Succession" Season 3 HBO Brian Cox and Hiam Abbass

Brian Cox and Hiam Abbass in “Succession”

Courtesy of HBO

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date:
In production. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck, Nicholas Braun,
Matthew Macfadyen, Peter Friedman, J. Smith Cameron, Dagmara Dominczyk, Justine Lupe,
David Rasche, Fisher Stevens, Hiam Abbass, Arian Moayed
Executive Producers: Jesse Armstrong, Frank Rich, Adam McKay, Kevin Messick, Jane Tranter, Mark Mylod, Tony Roche, Scott Ferguson, Jon Brown

To say the Roy family is now at war feels a tad specious; yes, daddy’s favorite boy Kendall (Emmy winner Jeremy Strong) has ambushed his father, Logan (Emmy nominee Brian Cox) and, despite papa’s obvious pleasure in seeing his son finally muster the courage to move against him, the ensuing battles bode poorly for the surrounding family members, if not the world at large. You see, the Roys are always at war: Whether it’s with each other or those they deign enemies, this Sharkspearean (credit to my colleague Libby Hill for that one) black comedy starkly highlights the hilarious embarrassments and petty desires driving the 1 percent’s quest to enter the .1 percent. Civil war may already be underway, but nothing can truly stop this family from fighting. Long may they squabble.

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” Season 11

Genre: Comedy Series
Release Date: In production. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, J.B. Smoove, Cheryl Hines
Executive Producers: Larry David, Jeff Schaffer

For many of us, Larry David became the early face of COVID isolation: an anxious man stuck in his house, not exactly desperate to escape, but far from comfortable being there. Season 10 wrapped just as the pandemic started to sweep across America, and David’s dinner party misadventures in affluent Los Angeles neighborhoods offered a welcome escape from a time of intense confusion and concern. But no matter the circumstances, the latest “Curb” exemplified some of the series’ best episodes, and there was an immediate appetite for more. Lucky for us, David and his showrunner Jeff Schaffer were just as hungry, and they wrote the full season over the summer before starting production in the fall. Season 11 will take place in a post-COVID world, where Larry, Jeff (Garlin), Susie (Essman), and Cheryl (Hines) all dealt with the pandemic but have started to put it in the rearview mirror. Who had it and what that means for Larry’s (fictional) professional endeavors remain a mystery, but whenever Season 11 is ready, audiences will be eager to see the world through Larry’s eyes once more.

“Los Espookys” Season 2

Genre: Comedy Series
Release Date: Production expected to resume in Q1. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Bernardo Velasco, Ana Fabrega, Julio Torres, Fred Armisen, José Pablo Minor
Executive Producers: Ana Fabrega, Julio Torres, Fred Armisen, Lorne Michaels

It’s been 18 long months since we first met Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco), Andrés (Juilo Torres), and Tati (Ana Fabrega), a group of friends so bonded by their love of horror that they go into business providing practical effects-laden events for paying patrons. Whether it was the levitating exorcism or mystical sea creature sighting, the team never ceased to wow us with their innovation and good humor — and that goes double for the off-camera creators. “Los Espookys” is a riotous good time, and the weirdest comedy this side of “What We Do in the Shadows.” Whatever they’re cooking up for Season 2, it’s best you be there to see it.

“Betty” Season 2

Betty HBO

“Betty”

Alison Rosa / HBO

Genre: Comedy Series
Release Date: Production completed. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Rachelle Vinberg, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, Kabrina Adams, Ardelia Lovelace
Executive Producers: Lesley Arfin, Crystal Moselle

Crystal Moselle’s adaptation of her own 2018 film “Skate Kitchen” provided one of the most vivid New York experiences available in 2020, as the all-girls skateboarding group navigated recreational life and relationships across the teeming streets of Manhattan. In just six quick episodes, Kurt (Nina Moran), Janay (Dede Lovelace), Ruby (Kabrina Adams), Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), and Indigo (Ajani Russell) showed off enough chemistry, empathy, and athleticism to make for an inviting world in need of greater expansion. In other words, we need more episodes ASAP, so it’s a good thing production on Season 2 is done and ready to roll out in the new year.

“A Black Lady Sketch Show” Season 2

Genre: Comedy Series
Release Date: In production. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, Quinta Brunson
Executive Producers: Robin Thede, Lauren Ashley Smith

One of only three shows nominated for Best Variety Sketch Series at the 2020 Emmys — and the category winner at the 2020 TCA Awards — the debut season of Robin Thede’s HBO comedy made quite an impact right out of the gate. Featuring a hilarious cast helping to maximize sharp writing, HBO wisely pushed sketches with high viral potential via YouTube to widen the show’s audience and make sure as many people as possible could see what Thede & Co. had cooking. Season 2 is set to push things even further, now that the cast has had even more time to feel each other out and the writers have had even more time to pitch ideas. Already among TV’s elite sketch series, there’s no telling how good this show can get.

“Gentleman Jack” Season 2

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date: In production. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Suranne Jones, Sophie Rundle, Katherine Kelly, Sofie Gråbøl, Derek Riddell, Veronica
Clifford, Sylvia Syms, Brendan Patricks, Caspar Phillipson, Polly Maberly, Lucy Black
Executive Producer: Sally Wainwright

Suranne Jones’ breakthrough performance was one of 2019’s early highlights, and while it will be a good two years between seeing the star portray Anne Lister, 19th century landowner and coded diary writer, “Gentleman Jack” Season 2 should be worth the wait. Created, written, and co-directed by Sally Wainwright, the HBO drama series ended its first set of episodes in high style — with a pair of weddings and a key reveal. Season 2 is currently in production, so fans of the revealing period drama should have answers soon enough. And at the very least, they’ll get to see Jones again. (For those uncaring of the context, she can also be seen right now in “Save Me” on Peacock.)

“The Gilded Age”

The Nest Carrie Coon IFC Films

Carrie Coon in “The Nest”

Courtesy of IFC Films

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date:
In production. Expected to wrap in April 2021
Cast: Christine Baranski, Denée Benton, Carrie Coon, Taissa Farmiga, Thomas Cocquerel, Cynthia Nixon, Jack Gilpin, Morgan Spector, Bill Irwin, Audra McDonald
Writers: Julian Fellowes, Sonja Warfield
Director: Michael Engler

The last time Julian Fellowes created and wrote his own ongoing series, the world threw enough awards and attention at it to bring about a lucrative film nine years later. Meanwhile, the last time Carrie Coon appeared in an HBO drama, the world got an all-time great series. Now, with the “The Gilded Age,” everyone is hoping magic can strike twice. Starring Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, and Taissa Farmiga, the hourlong drama series takes place in the boom years of 1880s New York City, as new, old, and no money collide in a changing nation. Though production has been delayed and suspended due to pandemic protections, the series is currently shooting and aiming to finish by spring. That may mean a 2022 release, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed that Fellowes’ — and Coon’s — returns arrive as soon as possible.

“The White House Plumbers”

Genre: Limited Series
Release Date:
Production expected to start in mid-2021; release date TBA
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Justin Theroux
Writers: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck, Frank Rich, and David Mandel
Director: David Mandel

A long shot to premiere in 2021 to be sure, “The White House Plumbers” remains one of the most exciting HBO projects that doesn’t feature one single dragon. Based on the 2009 book “Integrity” by Egil “Bud” Krogh and Matthew Krogh, the five-part limited series from the former “Veep” writers tells the true story behind the Watergate scandal. More specifically, it tracks E. Howard Hunt (played by Woody Harrelson) and G. Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux) as the political operatives tasked by the president to prevent any leaks of confidential intelligence. Obviously, they didn’t do their jobs all that well, as the ensuing scandal toppled the presidency they were hired to protect. Oh, and did I mention this would be Harrelson’s first HBO project since “True Detective,” and Theroux’s first since “The Leftovers”? That should really go without saying, but with Mandel directing all five episodes and two leads capable of exceptional dramatic and comedic performances, “The White House Plumbers” will be must-see TV whenever it premieres.

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