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20 HBO Original Programs to Be Excited About in 2020 — ‘The Outsider,’ ‘Perry Mason,’ and More

New originals from filmmakers Luca Guadagnino and Derek Cianfrance — plus new seasons of "Westworld" and "Euphoria" — highlight a pivotal year for HBO.

HBO 2020 Preview "Lovecraft Country," "Perry Mason," "The Undoing"

“Lovecraft Country,” “Perry Mason,” and “The Undoing”

HBO / Shutterstock

“The Third Day”

The Third Day HBO

Jude Law in “The Third Day”

HBO

Release Date: TBA (delayed)
Cast: Jude Law, Katherine Waterston, Paddy Considine, Emily Watson, Naomie Harris, John Dagleish
Writer: Dennis Kelly
Directors: Marc Munden and Philippa Lowthorpe

A limited series told in “two distinct halves,” the first three episodes (titled “Summer”) focus on Sam (Jude Law) and his discovery of a mysterious island off the British coast. Sam slowly learns that those who live there are fiercely devoted to their customs, and he must accept their traditions if he hopes to learn more about the secret locale. The latter block of episodes (titled “Winter”) shifts to Helen (Naomie Harris), an outsider who arrives at the island seeking answers — and instead starts an intense battle that will decide the islanders’ fates. Marc Munden directs Sam’s story while Philippa Lowthorpe handles Helen’s; Dennis Kelly is the sole writer, and the series also will air on Sky One in the U.K.

“We Are Who We Are”

"We Are Who We Are" HBO Series

“We Are Who We Are”

HBO

Release Date: TBA
Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Kid Cudi, Alice Braga, Jack Dylan Grazer, Spence Moore II, Jordan Kristine Seamon, Faith Alabi, Corey Knight, Tom Mercier, Francesca Scorsese, Ben Taylor, and Sebastiano Pigazzi
Writers: Luca Guadagnino, Paolo Giordano, and Francesca Manieri
Director: Luca Guadagnino

Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name,” “Suspiria”) turns his attention to television with this eight-episode limited series about American teenagers living on a U.S. military base in Italy. Not much is known about the plot, including who each cast member is playing, but we can say that two of the kids, Fraser Wilson and Caitlin Harper, become close until Fraser’s youthful development leads to questions about his identity. Eventually, he develops romantic feelings toward an older soldier, and the teenage drama examines friendship, love, and overall confusion — only in this little slice of America in Italy. “We Are Who We Are” is Guadagnino’s first foray into television as a writer and a director, but his growing following of indie film fans should be excited to see familiar themes (young love, romancing an older partner, etc.) all set in beautiful Italian locales. (Follow the show’s Instagram account for a sneak peek at the setting.)

“Succession” Season 3

Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook in "Succession" Season 2

Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook in “Succession”

Zach Dilgard/HBO

Release Date: TBA (delayed)
Cast: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen, Kieran Culkin, J Smith-Cameron, Nicholas Braun, Hiam Abbass
Writer: Jesse Armstrong
Directors: TBA

Like all great TV programs, the end of “Succession” Season 2 was both wildly satisfying and absolutely infuriating — the former because it capped off a brilliant sophomore effort, and the latter because viewers couldn’t immediately watch Season 3. The stage has been set for a years-in-the-making smackdown between the Roy family patriarch Logan (Brian Cox) and his one-time successor Kendall (Jeremy Strong), as their long-running cold war ended with the son’s very public betrayal of his father. Lines have been drawn, sides have been chosen, and the fragile ties holding the family media empire together look forever broken. Kendall and Greg (Nicholas Braun) square off against Logan and Shiv (Sarah Snook), with Tom caught in the middle of an unordered Tomelette. Please, HBO: Do whatever you can to get this season out ASAP.

“Lovecraft Country”

Lovecraft Country HBO cast

“Lovecraft Country”

HBO

Release Date: August 2020
Cast: Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Wunmi Mosaku, Aunjanue Ellis, Michael Kenneth Williams, Abbey Lee, Courtney B. Vance, Tony Goldwyn
Writer: Misha Green (showrunner)
Directors: Yann Demange, Daniel Sackheim

Produced by elite Hollywood creatives Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, the long-awaited “Lovecraft Country” was finally confirmed for release in 2020 by HBO and we could not be more excited. The adaptation of Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel follows Atticus Black (Jonathan Majors), along with his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), as they travel through 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father. Ruff’s book blends historical fiction with paperback horror (specifically from H.P. Lovecraft stories), combining timely commentary with timeless monsters — and both are depicted with an apt amount of sheer terror. It’s hard to imagine a pair of producers better suited for such a story than Peele and Abrams, but having “Underground’s” co-creator Misha Green on as showrunner only amps up the anticipation. Put this one on the calendar, folks (as soon as we get an exact date).

“Run”

Run HBO Series Merritt Wever Domhnall Gleeson Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson in “Run”

HBO

Release Date: Available now
Cast: Merritt Wever, Domhnall Gleeson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Writer: Vicky Jones
Director: Kate Dennis

Executive produced by and co-starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Run” also brings together two actors we always want to see more of: Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson. The comedic thriller tracks Ruby (Wever), a woman stuck in a boring life who gets a text inviting her to honor a promise made in her youth that would reunite her with her oldest flame (Gleeson). She takes the opportunity for reinvention and away they go — little else is known about the project, but the talent involved is more than enough to elevate “Run” to the top of our “most-anticipated TV titles” list.

“Industry”

Lena Dunham30th Annual Friendly House Awards Luncheon, Arrivals, The Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles, USA - 26 Oct 2019

Lena Dunham at the 2019 Friendly House Awards Luncheon

Stewart Cook/Variety/Shutterstock

Release Date: TBA
Cast: Conor MacNeill, Marisa Abela, Priyanga Burford, David Jonsson, Harry Lawtey, Ken Leung, Sinna Mogul, Sagar Radia, Nabhaan Rizwan, Derek Riddell, Ben Lloyd-Hughes
Writers: Mickey Down and Konrad Kay
Directors: Lena Dunham, Tinge Krishnan

Following her already forgotten follow-up to “Girls” — the one-and-done comedy series “Camping” — Lena Dunham returns to HBO yet again for “Industry,” this time as the pilot director and series executive producer. The eight-episode first season created by Mickey Down and Konrad Kay tells the story of young graduates competing for their first full-time jobs at a top investment bank in London. With only a handful of positions available, the boundaries between colleague, friend, lover, and enemy soon crossover and disappear as they become immersed in a company culture defined by sex, drugs, and ego. Shot in Cardiff, Wales, Dunham’s latest project marks her first directing gig since “Girls” ended.

“Betty”

Crystal Moselle2018 IFP Gotham Awards - Arrivals, New York, USA - 26 Nov 2018

Crystal Moselle at the 2018 IFP Gotham Awards

Andy Kropa/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Release Date: Available now
Cast: Dede Lovelace, Ajani Russell, Moonbear, Nina Moran, Rachelle Vinberg, Kabrina Adams, Kayland Jordan, Aaron Dalla Villa, Judah Lang
Writers: Crystal Moselle, Lesley Arfin, Patricia Breen
Directors: Crystal Moselle,

Inspired by Moselle’s 2018 Sundance film “Skate Kitchen,” “Betty” focuses on a diverse group of young female skateboarders as they navigate a sports world dominated by men. The cast and director reflect the same tightknit bond in yet another male-dominated industry: entertainment. Moselle and cast members Dede Lovelace, Rachelle Vinberg, Nina Moran, Moonbear and Ajani Russell all worked together in “Skate Kitchen,” then collaborated again in a short film titled “That One Day,” both before shooting their first TV series in New York City.

“The Many Saints of Newark”

Michael Gandolfini'The Many Saints of Newark' on set filming, New York, USA - 06 May 2019

Michael Gandolfini on the set of “The Many Saints of Newark”

Shutterstock

Release Date: Delayed (in theaters)
Cast: Alessandro Nivola, Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, Michael Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, John Magaro, Leslie Odom Jr., Joey Diaz
Writers: David Chase and Lawrence Konner
Director: Alan Tayler

OK, yes, this isn’t an HBO project per se, in that it’s being given a theatrical release by New Line, but David Chase’s hotly anticipated “Sopranos” prequel — starring James Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini as a young Tony Soprano — is still produced by HBO Films and still one of the company’s most intriguing 2020 titles. The ending to Chase’s landmark HBO series remains controversial to this day, and while “The Many Saints of Newark” won’t offer answers beyond the famous cut-to-black, it will shed some light on Tony’s early life through his (limited) interactions with his mentor, Dickie Moltisanti (played by Alessandro Nivola). Set against the 1967 race riot in Newark, New Jersey, the historical backdrop and timing suggest the film will tackle racial relations between Italian Americans and African Americans during a particularly heated time in America. There had to be a good reason for Chase to come back to a story he ended and ended proudly, so expect to hear more about the topicality, relevance, and plot details in the coming months.

“Watchmen” Season 2?

Don’t count on it — not in 2020, anyway.

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