Thanks to what can only be described as the “Netflix effect,” networks and cable providers have been forced to examine their content and in turn elevate their storytelling. The result is not only beneficial for creators and actors who are always seeking out challenging material, but we the viewers no longer have to settle for stock procedurals set in the world of law enforcement or the medical profession and in turn have much better TV shows to watch.
2017 promises to be no different. Netflix themselves have promised an extra 1000 hours of originals. Other creators like HBO, Showtime, FX, Amazon and Hulu are lessening the streaming services domination of watercolor fodder by examining worlds and characters who are equally if not more daring.
With more new TV shows than ever before, we’ve sifted through all of entertainment this year and delivered what we think should definitely be on your viewing radar.
Premiered: January 10 on FX
The reviews have already started to stream in after the Tom Hardy-led Taboo debuted last week on FX. While they are decidedly mixed, the gathering of talent on this project – Ridley Scott and Steven Knight (who partnered with Hardy on Peaky Blinders) – makes this eight-episode miniseries a must watch for us.
Hardy plays James Keziah Delaney – an unhinged adventurer – who returns from Africa seeking vengeance after he discovers his father was poisoned in an attempt to secure an important piece of land for the Crown.
Cut from a similar cloth as The Bastard Executioner – one of the fews missteps from FX – Taboo represents a Dickensian spirit and features a stellar ensemble cast featuring Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones) Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire) and Michael Kelly (House of Cards).
Premiered: January 13 on Amazon
Any time you can get Bryan Cranston back on television, consider me in for the party. Not only does the Breaking Bad alum take a villainous turn as, Vince, but he also wrote the first episode and developed the pilot.
Sneaky Pete finds veteran character actor, Giovanni Ribisi, assuming the role of Marius – a smooth-talking con man – who upon being released from prison assumes the role of his cellmate, Pete, who has spent the better part of his sentence talking about his idyllic time spent in Connecticut.
In turn, this new “Pete” descends upon an unsuspecting elderly couple and proclaims that he is their long lost grandson.
In their review of the pilot, Variety said the show, “Sneaky Pete has the fun of a heist movie and the sensibility of crime drama.”
The Young Pope
Premiered: January 15 on HBO
Admit it, if you heard the name, “The Young Pope,” without context, chances are, you might ask if he as a hot new mixtape dropping. Rather, it is what HBO hopes is the next big heritage drama for the network and steps inside the inner sanctum of the highest religious post in the world.
Two time Academy Award nominee, Jude Law, assumes the titular role of Lenny Berardo – the mysterious fictional Pope Pius XIII and former Archbishop of New York – who becomes the first American pope in history despite being so young.
It soon becomes clear that the College of Cardinals installed Belardo into the Pontiff’s chair because they think he will be easy to manipulate.
As with any good drama, they were completely wrong, and he becomes mad with power.
The Hollywood Reporter called Law’s character “the complete opposite of the current Pope Francis,” and instead is “ironic and pedantic…melancholy and ruthless.”
Premieres: January 20 on Netflix
As we stated in our initial assessment, Netflix’s new fur trade drama, Frontier, seems to be an expansion of the motifs and brutality that was explored by Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro González Iñárritu in The Revenant.
Starring Game of Thrones alumnus and future Aquaman, Jason Mamoa, as as Declan Harp – a part-Irish, part-Native American outlaw – who experiences the bloody realities of the 18th century Canadian fur trade, Frontier will be told from multiple perspectives in order to illustrate both the Native tribes and European point of view.
Premieres: February 2 on NBC
The last thing we need on television is more super heroes, right? NBC is looking to explore that phenomenon in a rather inventive way with their upcoming comedy, Powerless, which follows the lives of those working at company in a world where superheroes and villains are running rampant and regular people become collateral damage when cities are destroyed.
Equal parts ACME from Bugs Bunny cartoons as it is a congregation of minds like Q from James Bond, the show marks the first comedy turn for the DC Universe which already includes The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, Supergirl, Preacher and Lucifer.
Premieres: February 8 on FX
Noah Hawley should have earned everybody’s trust by now after turing the Coen Brothers’ Fargo universe into an expansive world inhabited by one morally conflicted character after the other and which contains a sense of cohesion despite continuing to reboot the narrative with each ensuing season.
Despite our superhero malaise, Legion promises to be something different. Tracking the exploits of David Haller – who debuted as a villain in 1985 in the pages of the Marvel Comics universe – he is described as having powers so great that he could birth the apocalypse.
What makes him quite unique, is that he also suffers from dissociative identity disorder which often makes him prone to fits of rage.
Big Little Lies
Premieres: February 19 on HBO
Veteran showrunner, David E. Kelley, dominated the 1990’s and 200o’s with hit after hit including Doogie Houser M.D., Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public and Boston Legal. Despite the esteemed resumé, it’s been nine years since he’s had a critical hit.
His move from network to cable television might break the streak.
Big Little Lies is a miniseries based on the book of the same name by Liane Moriarty that chronicles the exploits of three mothers of first-graders – played by Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley and Nicole Kidman – who slowly see their idyllic lives shattered until someone winds up dead.
If you needed any more encouragement, all seven episodes are directed by Jean-Marc Vallée who directed Dallas Buyers Club.
Premieres: March 17 on Netflix
Iron Fist will complete the quartet of unique crime fighters that Marvel and Netflix have partnered on – joining Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
Containing familiar tropes, the series focuses on Danny Rand who returns to New York City after being presumed dead 15 years earlier. Much in the same way that Bruce Wayne attempted to steer the ship at Wayne Enterprises in Batman Begins, Rand is also determined to reclaim his birthright and family company. However, when an enemy rises in New York, this living weapon is forced to choose between his family’s legacy and his duties as the Iron Fist.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Premieres: April 26 on Hulu
Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel—about a dystopian future in which the U.S. government has been overthrown by a fundamentalist regime and women are subsequently enslaved – seems particularly apropos in today’s political climate after women’s rights continue to be threatened by the potential closure of Planned Parenthood.
Set in the Republic of Gilead, Mad Men alumnus, Elizabeth Moss plays Offred – one of the few remaining fertile women – and narrates the debut trailer, stating, “I had another name, but it’s forbidden now. A lot of things are forbidden now.”
Premieres: April on Starz
Neil Gaiman’s 2001 acclaimed novel, American Gods, has long carried the reputation of being unfilmmable for various reasons – including a sex scene where the lovemaking results in a man being swallowed whole.
Veteran TV director, Bryan Fuller, and writer, Michael Green (writer of the upcoming Blade Runner film), have earned the task/weight of handling the adaptation.
The show will focus on an ex-con named, Shadow Moon, who is granted early release from prison after both his wife and best friend are killed in a car accident. As he grieves, he becomes a bodyguard of sorts for a huckster named Mr. Wednesday (played by Deadwood’s Ian McShane) and the duo takes a road trip across America in a world populated by gods of the old world and the newly-formed ones of the modern age.
Premieres: May 21 on Showtime
For those that have been pining for a definitive conclusion to David Lynch’s cult series, Twin Peaks, Showtime is promising just that with its May revival.
Network head, David Nevins, said of the 18-episode order that, “It’s designed to be a close-ended one-time event,” and will see 3-4 episodes available at the outset before returning to a more traditional weekly delivery.
In terms of what to expect when it comes to plot, Nevins stated, “the core of it is Agent Cooper’s odyssey back to Twin Peaks.”
Matthew Weiner’s Untitled Series
Premieres: TBD on Amazon
Although he is known for his nostalgic flare due to the success of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner’s followup series will be set in the present day and come with a huge financial commitment from Amazon to the tune of $70 million USD for eight-episodes.
While Amazon has already managed two critically praised comedy series in Transparent and Mozart In The Jungle, the service is hoping that Weiner’s sensibilities can make a mark on the dramatic realm in the same way he ushered in a new reputation for AMC.
Little is known about what the show entails other than it’s an anthology set in multiple locations worldwide.