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The 10 Most Anticipated Cable Dramas of 2015

By Brian Byrd | Guides | May 29, 2014 | Comments ()


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Imagine that each year, broadcast and cable executives back a dump truck filled with festering garbage bags onto their audiences’ shores. They then point to the piles and announce that somewhere inside these reeking mounds are a few sacks filled with cash, not trash. You’re welcome to the money, but there’s no way to distinguish between the two without opening each bag and covering yourself in filth.

That’s pilot season. Most of the content is garbage. It’s our job at Pajiba to find the prizes. We take that responsibility seriously.

Dustin already ran down the most promising network series of the 2014-15 season. Those shows arrive in your home free of charge, which is why one can be titled Black-ish without anyone really raising an eyebrow. Personally, I’d prefer Brackish, a coming-of-age-comedy set in a tidal estuary where freshwater meets its saltier cousin. Donal Logue would star as Gordon “Old” Bay, a grizzled yet charming crabber with a heart as big as a box of chicken necks. But I digress.

I’m here to cover the cable side. Specifically, cable dramas. We performed this exercise last year, and while I don’t want to pat myself on the back of my own horn, my prognostications proved pretty prescient - just three of the 10 selections didn’t make it to series. Way to go, Buda Bridge. You dick. So you can digest this year’s list secure in the knowledge that I’m only lying to you 30 percent of the time. At most. Politicians would personally punt a dozen grandmothers into steaming tar pits to have that type of track record with their constituents. Anyone dwelling on trivialities like “accuracy” will be sent the following form letter:

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We’re playing by the same rules as last year: in order to make the cut a series must be at the pilot stage or picked up for a full order, not merely gestating in the development pipeline. There’s a difference between outlets optioning a property (“Yeah, man, I may be able to help you move”) and commissioning a pilot (“I’ll show up to help contingent on free pizza and craft beer”).

Onto the gems:

Quarry (Cinemax)

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Why you should care: I’m all for historical fiction, but the logline for “Quarry” - a Marine sniper coming home from Vietnam in 1973 finds himself shunned by those he loves and demonized by the public - sounds absolutely ridiculous. These men and women defeated Hitler, freed the slaves, and repelled the Redcoats from our shores. I highly doubt they returned to an angry populace. Historical liberties aside, the series follows the title character (played by Logan Marshall-Green) as he tries to cope with his increasing disillusionment all while being recruited by a cabal of contract killers. “Rectify” screenwriters Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller - a pair who know a little something about men trying to rebuild their lives after traumatic experiences - wrote the script. The awesome John Hillcoat (The Proposition, Lawless) directed the pilot, which also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Stellan Skarsgard, and Jamie Hector.

Chances it gets picked up: 80 percent. Cinemax has only “Banshee,” “Strikeback,” and the new Clive Owen/Steven Soderbergh series “The Knick” on their drama schedule for 2014-15, and “Strikeback” is on a six-month hiatus while Sullivan Stapleton recovers from an injury. The former softcore specialist wants to grow its original content library, and “Quarry” fits nicely with the brand.

Criminal Justice (HBO)

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Why you should care: “Criminal Justice” has endured a turbulent 12 months. James Gandolfini was scheduled to begin filming this seven-part miniseries - a remake of Peter Moffat’s 2008 BBC drama - when he returned from vacation in Rome last June. When the former “Sopranos” star died suddenly it appeared as though the series was finished. Enter Robert DeNiro. The screen legend signed on to fill the Gandolfini role…until he pulled out last month for scheduling reasons. Now it’s John Turturro in the lead role of Jack Stone, an ambulance-chasing New York City attorney who gets in over his head when he takes on the case of a Pakistani accused of murdering a girl. Richard Price (he wrote lots of books you should read) penned the story. Look, any material that’s strong enough to attract hitters like Gandolfini, DeNiro, and Turturro is going to make this list.

Chances it gets picked up: 100 percent. HBO committed to all seven episodes. No airdate yet, though.

Public Morals (TNT)

Why you should care: What up Edward Burns, you ageless, never-quite-made-it-big goombah? It’s nice to see you again, even if it is on TNT. While The Dynamite (is that an accepted nickname for TNT?) doesn’t have the best track record with prestige dramas, this 60s-era po-leece drama from Burns at least has potential buried underneath the horrific accents and cop clichés. Burns is Terry Muldoon (what a 60s cop name!), an officer in LA’s Public Morals Division, which I assume regulates blasphemy usage and flagrant breastfeeding. Actually, according to the press release this is a place where “cops walk the line between morality and criminality as the temptations that come from dealing with all kinds of vice threaten to get the better of them.” Whatever. Known gator menace/fellow accent abuser Michael Rappaport shows up as Burns’ partner and Katrina Bowden gets non-pay-cable naked in the trailer. I’m in.

Chances it gets picked up: 100 percent. It airs sometime in 2015.

Westworld (HBO)

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Why you should care: Quick quiz. Winner gets nothing. Ready? Which is greater: the number of shows produced by J.J. Abrams, or the number of podcasts Joanna Robinson appears on each month? I don’t know the answer, but Abrams must be feeling the heat because he’s trying to bring yet another series to the small screen. This one is a remake of “Westworld,” the 1973 Yul Brenner classic based off the novel by Michael Crichton. No cast announced yet, but Jonathan Nolan (Christopher Nolan’s more famous sibling) will direct the pilot. If you believe as I do that “Westworld” is one of the few sci-fi classics that could actually benefit from a reinvention, these are the two guys you want infusing it with new life.

Chances it gets picked up: 30 percent. The pilot deal was announced before Abrams secured the Star Wars franchise. Selfishly, that takes precedence.

The Bastard Executioner (FX)

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Why you should care: Ever watch “Game of Thrones” and think, “What this show needs is more Kurt Sutter? WISH GRANTED! According to Deadline, Sutter’s “The Bastard Executioner” tells the story of “a knight in King Edward III’s charge who is broken by the ravages of war and vows to lay down his sword. But when violence finds him again he is forced to pick up the bloodiest sword of all.” And wash it. It’s a reverse gender roles drama. Filming won’t begin until “Sons of Anarchy” wraps production on its seventh season, so don’t expect casting news or a formal go/no-go announcement for a while…although Sutter did tell Larry King that he plans to cast some “Sons” actors in key roles.

Chances it gets picked up: Sutter served as EP on “The Shield” ran “Sons” successfully for seven years. He has cache at FX. 75 percent.

Billions (Showtime)

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Why you should care: HBO’s recent decision to pass on David Milch’s “The Money” - a drama about wealth and corruption among the super elite that still I hope lands elsewhere - may prove to be Showtime’s gain. “Billions,” from New York Times financial columnist and “Too Big to Fail” author Andrew Ross Sorkin, centers on the “collision and collusion between an aggressive U.S. attorney in New York and some of the richest hedge fund billionaires in the country.” Writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Rounders, the underrated Runaway Jury) wrote the pilot with Sorkin and will act as executive producers. The televised adaptation of “Too Big to Fail” was fantastic. If Sorkin can make non-fiction that engaging, imagine what he can do with fewer restrictions.

Chances it gets picked up: 90 percent. “Vatican” notwithstanding, Showtime tends to nurture its own (six of the eight pilots network president David Nevins has ordered since taking over have made it to series), and “Billions’” themes would pair nicely with “Homeland” on Sunday nights.

High Moon (SyFy)

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Why you should care: Even with 900 channels all starving for content, sci-fi still feels like an underexplored genre. Thank goodness for SyFy, the only network on television whose name doubles as its mission statement. Based on the novel “The Lotus Caves” by John Christopher, “High Moon” explores what happens when a Moon colony (h/t Newt Gingrich) harvesting lunar resources discovers a new form of life. Intriguing, right? Here’s where it gets really dope - Bryan Fuller (“Hannibal”) is the EP. Is that not enough? Are you not entertained? Fine, here’s your cherry: the screenwriter’s name is Jim Danger Gray. DANGER IS HIS MIDDLE F*CKING NAME SHEEPLE! /fips table

Chances it gets picked up: So far, this is the only property SyFy exercised a pilot option on for 2014-15. That alone puts its odds at 90 percent.

Galyntine (AMC)

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Why you should care: Remember when AMC was going to become the new HBO? A “Killing” here and a “Low Winter Sun” there, and the once-rising juggernaut is suddenly scrambling to establish a franchise that attracts fans who care about something other than zombie-kill bukkake. Their best shot is “Galyntine,” a “Revolution” rip-off that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world after a disaster creates a new society that avoids technology. Humanity survived, but our evolutionary path may now have a few more dark alleys. Yes, it’s a familiar premise, but the 13-episode cable season should trim story fat and allow the world to build slowly. That approach worked well for “Rubicon,” so why not try again with this?

Chances it gets picked up: AMC needs a hit other than “Walking Dead,” and the network already passed on another series it ordered to pilot (“Line of Sight”). This and “Knifeman” are the last remaining hopes for 2014-15. 90 percent.

Narcos (Netflix)

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Why you should care: A 10-hour series about Pablo Escobar directed by the man behind Elite Squad and Elite Squad 2 (the latter is on Netflix; add it to your queue right now). KATT WILLIAMS PIMP STRUT DOT GIF! The Netflix model doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? Sure, go ahead and pretend like you hate when all the episodes release simultaneously. It’s fine. Just know you’ll be holed up in your living room the weekend this debuts, uncontrollably devouring huge chunks at a time. YOU’RE NO BETTER THAN THE FIENDS ONSCREEN! Also, how has no meathead come up with a sugar-infused protein snack called Escobars yet? Do I have to do everything myself?

Chances it gets picked up: 100 percent. All 10 episodes drop in early 2015.

Hoke (FX)

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Why you should care: Any time you have a chance to watch Paul Giamatti star in “a story of mid-life crisis and murder that features the hardboiled and possibly insane homicide detective Hoke Moseley in pre-chic Miami circa the early 1980s,” just do it. “Hoke,” based on a series of novels by a notable crime writer Charles Willeford, will draw “Justified” comparisons not simply because FX is involved. Scott Frank, who wrote the pilot and will act as showrunner should FX opt for a full series order, handled script duties for the two best Elmore Leonard film adaptations to date: Get Shorty and Out of Sight.

Chances it gets picked up: This is a tough one. FX has a crowded development pipeline, but with “Sons of Anarchy” and “Justified” signing off in the next 12 months, John Landgraf is going to need content to fill out the schedule sooner rather than later. 50 percent.

Brian Byrd can be found rooting through garbage. Follow him on Twitter.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Ricky, Bubbles & Julian

    Bastard Executioner, with this tidbit: plans to cast some “Sons” actors in key rolesmeans that he fully intends to cast katey sagal in a ridiculous role and each episode she will be featured more and more until she totally ruins every single scene she is in. it coulda been good, but with katey withholding sex from sutter unless he writes her into 44 different plot lines, i see this as being a nails on a chalkboard screecher

  • Quatermain

    'The Bastard Executioner' looks interesting, but the rest of them kinda fail to blow my skirt up.

    "Their best shot is “Galyntine,” a “Revolution” rip-off that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world after a disaster creates a new society that avoids technology." David Weber also wrote a novel off of that theme. It's worth checking out, if you have the time. Although be warned: Weber does tend to verbosity and in true Weber fashion it's about 250 pages longer than it really needs to be.

  • Linzer

    They spelled Galyntine wrong. Either way, Leslie Knope will be thrilled.

  • RilesSD

    Hopefully something has changed, but High Moon was unfortunately passed on. It's hidden in this piece: http://www.deadline.com/2014/0...

    "...Bryan Fuller’s High Moon, is not going forward."

  • WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT ACCURACY?!?!

    Dammit. I checked these against two different sites. So you're saying my 90 percent prediction is off? Good catch.

  • RilesSD

    Just slightly off. It took me about 20 minutes of searching just to find that mention, so can't fault you for that.

  • dizzylucy

    I'm generally willing to give anything on FX and HBO a try, especially FX seems to be acquiring very good shows in recent years.

    I have the opposite reaction to TNT. That network, along with USA, must have some sort of show generating machine, where every few months out pops a slight variation of a cop/legal/medical show with a vague, boring title.

  • MrMcRugburn

    I have nothing vested in the series Quarry, however I'd like you to be aware that returning Vietnam veterans were often maligned and treated poorly by the public. To our great shame they were, in many well documented instances, taunted as baby-killers and spit on.

  • Guest

    .

  • Shouldn't have to wait until 2015 for that one. Just turn your TV to AMC this Sunday at 10 pm. Or you watch it right now by clicking here: http://amctv.tumblr.com/

  • Marc Greene

    Do we have info on when we can expect Better Call Saul?

  • pajiba

    November/December 2014

  • Enrique del Castillo

    "Look, any material that’s strong enough to attract hitters like Gandolfini, DeNiro, and Turturro is going to make this list."

    You are right, I'm gonna watch Transformers and Meet the Fockers this weekend, I should have given them a chance.

    I know I'm being a dick, but at this point those names don't generate the same interest as they would have years ago.

  • I knew this was coming because I made the same joke in my head when I wrote the line. Then I thought about it. Getting established film actors to "step down" into television isn't as easy as it sounds in a post True Detective world. To have three great actors want this role says there's something about Criminal Justice worth watching.

  • SugarSmak

    I found Paul Giamatti on Tinder. I swiped right. Apparently, he did not. Dammit, man.

  • Dumily

    What?

  • John W

    Thanks for all the info, hope I have enough slots in my DVR.

    Jim Danger Gray. All I can think of is "something, something danger zone..."

  • Quatermain
  • el_mediocre

    Thanks Brian, I'm tired of defending Out of Sight to people. That movie is great.

  • emmalita

    Out of Sight is a fantastic movie.

  • el_mediocre

    I like to think that Lopez immediately quit acting and public life after that movie. Or Antz. Yeah, let's go with Antz.

  • Sean

    That is a good way to think.

  • Dumily

    Damnit, Brian, do not trick me with a "John Dies at the End" header photo if you just want to talk about Giamatti. He's been in a million movies. Pick a photo from one that doesn't needlessly get my hopes up.

  • emmalita

    Wait! Do you really think hostility towards returning Vietnam Vets is a historical liberty or are you being sarcastic? Because that really happened. The hostility towards the war itself easily spilled over on to the returning vets. http://www.vietvet.org/bitter....

  • My bad. I thought the joke was obvious when I insinuated that Vietnam vets killed Hitler and won the Revolutionary war, but in retrospect it's kinda muddy. I absolutely understand the pressures they faced coming home. Sorry if that wasn't crystal clear.

  • Thanks for clearing that up. It sadly distracted me from the rest of the article. All I could envision was someone thinking that Vietnam vets facing hardships coming home was a historical liberty.

  • emmalita

    Thanks for clarifying. I really wasn't sure, though it seemed likely there was a joke I was missing.

  • BWeaves

    We really really really need a Sarcasm Font (TM).

  • emmalita

    We really do. What's sad is I've heard so many people say stupid things, thought they were joking, and then been mortified to learn they were serious. It may have made me overly sensitive.

  • Lord Inferno

    The humor here tends to dance the line a lot. Right before it hurtles itself headfirst over the edge, screaming, with it's junk hanging out.

    At least it used to anyway. Sarcasm Font™ would help.

  • logan

    Or maybe everyone could, to quote the great "Stripes":
    Lighten up, Francis.

  • Lord Inferno

    We can dream.

  • elsie_the_first

    Are you sure the historical liberty isn't this part: "defeated Hitler, freed the slaves, and repelled the Redcoats from our shores"?

  • emmalita

    No, I'm not.

  • elsie_the_first

    We'll, just having retread the description, I'm not really sure either. It sounds like satire which is odd since the other descriptions are pretty straight forward.

  • JL Verde

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T...

    I haven't read up enough to make a decision, but apparently a sociologist did so. . .

  • emmalita

    I'm sure there was exaggeration, particularly the being spat upon, but there was also very real hostility towards returning vets. My father was fortunate enough to be sent to Japan and not Vietnam, but he got plenty of sideways glances and cold shoulders when his class mates, many who were in college to avoid the draft, found out he was in college courtesy the GI Bill. His friends who did go to Vietnam had worse experiences. Don't forget that Vietnam was the first time a lot of people were seeing war on television, and the publicity around the My Lei massacres roused a lot of hostility.

    I should add that I think dodging that particular draft was reasonable.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    It was also during a sort of flux period with the treatment of PTSD. So they were getting hostility at home and sometimes no care/sometimes just drugs.
    My cousins' reception as they came home in no way resembled the way my grandfather was received when he came home. I don't think any of the cousins were accosted physically, but one woman did shriek "MURDERER!" at my cousin when he was in uniform at a bus depot.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I have the same question.

  • Happyish. :(

  • Maydays

    Truth. I was so looking forward to it.

  • Nick

    I wonder how many of these have female lead

  • None. Trust me, I looked. I was hyperconscious of the fact that females were drastically underrepresented here. This is worth addressing, though, because it speaks to a larger issue.

    - Ryan Murphy has an HBO pilot called Open with Aisha Tyler, but I don't care for Ryan Murphy so I didn't include it

    - Both 2015 FX pilots are listed in this guide.

    - AMC commissioned three pilots (all male driven), passed on one, and ordered the other two (Knifeman and Galyntine)

    - Cinemax's other 2015 pilot is about male gangsters

    - Netflix has a bunch of series commitments (the four Marvel properties and a few currently untitled dramas) but none with female leads (yet)

    - Billions is the only Showtime series currently ordered to pilot for next year

    - TNT passed on both female-driven pilots (Agent X and Guilt By Association)

    - A few of the ones listed here (Billions, Galyntine, Westworld) aren't cast and have the potential to put a woman front and center.

    I want female-driven dramas as much as anyone. This is a real problem. But I'm not the one making the option calls at these networks.

  • Restaurant Quality Lemonade

    TNT has a show called Proof produced by Kyra Sedgwick upcoming, the lead is Jennifer Beals. http://tvline.com/2014/05/07/j...

  • Sean

    Netflix's Marvel series include Jessica Jones. About a screw up ex-superhero. So, there will be one female lead. http://marvel.wikia.com/Jessic...

  • pajiba

    Most of these shows haven't been cast yet, and most of the pictures are of the showrunners. How many cable dramas have female showrunners? I mean, look around at HBO, AMC, FX and Showtime. Can you name a female showrunner in drama? Besides Veena Sud ('The Killing'?) How many female LEADS are on the dramas on those networks? This is not a Brian problem; this is a cable drama problem, right?

  • Nick

    Totally agree. I never meant to insult Brian at all.

  • emmalita

    My complaint was in no way directed at Brian. It is entirely directed at the studios.

  • Bananapanda

    I like to pretend that Gina Torres is the co-lead on Suits with Gabriel Macht b/c I hate the Mike Ross character so much.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I never meant to imply it was anything other than an industry problem. If I'm going to blame Brian for something that isn't his fault, it will be something cheeky and fun and inappropriate.

  • logan

    I cant speak for Nick but i am just screwing around.

  • logan

    Well it is a Brian the misogynist Byrd article so....

  • logan

    Note it's a MALE child he references.

  • I laughed

  • lowercase_ryan

    #NotOneWoman

  • emmalita

    I'm guessing none of them.

  • Dumily

    But you should see how well they're handling the catering.

  • emmalita

    But I said I wanted them to cater to my taste in well-done drama, not well-done steaks!

  • NateMan

    You have a taste for well-done steaks?! Well, I am DONE with you.

  • emmalita

    I'm a VEGETARIAN, Nate! I like my steak so rare it's still chewing it's cud!

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Vegetarian? No wonder the menfolk don't let you speak! Silly woman, masticating flesh is one of the ways you show your dominance.

  • Parsnip

    I second that.

  • NateMan

    As a lover of a steak cooked to perfection (in other words, seared on the outside and cool in the middle) I'm more comfortable with you not eating it at all than I would be to have you be one of those barbarians who cooks it to death.

  • Dumily

    Oh, I see the problem here. You were supposed to submit your request to your husband/ father/ brother/ male caretaker who would then forward your request to the appropriate person. The way you did it, of course they were going to misunderstand you.

  • logan

    male caretaker? is that the guy that tries to get Lindsay Lohan to rehab on time?

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