Sometimes we hear about ideas for new series and we’re intrigued by the story description, but more often than not, it’s a name that catches our ear. Sean Bean, Billie Piper, Christopher Eccleston, Lee Pace, John Hurt, Iggy mothereffin’ Pop…Spader. Guess what? They’re all headed your way.
1. Showtime’s Penny Dreadful (2014)
Created and written by John Logan (Skyfall, The Last Samurai, Gladiator), executive produced (and at least one episode directed) by Sam Mendes, starring Timothy Dalton, Billie Piper, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory, Simon Russell Beale, Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Danny Sapani, Reeve Carney and Harry Treadaway. This “psychosexual horror series” features scary literary characters (Dorian Gray, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster…) meeting up in Victorian London—presumably for neither book club, nor good. Bring on the whackadoodie gore.
2. HBO’s The Leftovers (2013)
Based on Tom Perrotta’s novel, produced and written by Damon Lindelof; pilot directed by Peter Berg (Battleship, Collateral, Friday Night Lights), starring Christopher Eccleston, Michael Gaston, Amy Brenneman, Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, Emily Mead. A “rapture-like event” disappears people around the world; this leftover group of people in a small town try to figure out what happened and deal with the after-effects. Hmm, why does this sound so familiar? Who’s done something like this before? Why would HBO bring this on themselves—for that matter, why would we? Don’t even say it, believe me—I KNOW. But even with you-know-who (who at least has a remarkable sense of humor about Lost; not sure about Prometheus) at the helm, the cast is intriguing, no? We could go into it knowing full well nothing will ever be resolved; just hope for good acting and random nudity (thanks HBO!)? So…soft porn? All in?
3. ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (October 10, 2013)
Written and produced by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (Tron: Legacy, Lost), starring John Lithgow, Naveen Andrews, Emma Rigby, Iggy Pop and Paul Reubens, Michael Socha and Keith David. Iggy Frickin’ Pop as the Caterpillar (voice)—THAT IS ALL. Okay, it’s not all, but on top of Lithgow and Andrews…and David voicing the Cheshire Cat, and Reubens, the White Rabbit? I died. I’m dead. I have to watch this.
4. Showtime’s Trending Down (2013)
Written and produced by Shalom Auslander, directed by John Cameron Mitchell (unknown episodes, Girls, Shortbus, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), starring Philip Seymour-Hoffman, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans and Yolanda Ross. Hoffman as an adman failing to cope as his agency is taken over; Ifans plays his boss. Honestly, what more do you need to know? Showtime calls it “…a blistering attack on our youth-obsessed culture and a darkly comic examination of what it means to matter. Or matter not.” We know we’ll watch it for the boys.
5. NBC’s The Blacklist (September 23, 2013—Just started, it’s not too late)
Executive produced and written by Jon Bokenkamp (Taking Lives, The Call), pilot directed by Joe Carnahan (The Grey, The A-Team, Narc), starring James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Harry Lennix and Robert Knepper. Come on now, this is all about Spader. Any show the man does is must see—even if the plot points can be seen a mile off (and they can). Our boy James is at his best playing the smart bad boy—NBC has wisely given him free reign. The icing on the cake is Dollhouse/24 man, Lennix, pretty boy (Homeland’s Mike) Klattenhoff, and an upcoming stint by another favorite bad boy: Robert Knepper. What more could a girl ask for?
6. AMC’s Halt & Catch Fire (2014)
Created and written by Christopher Cantwell (Vicariously) and Christopher C. Rogers,
directed by Juan José Campanella (House, Law & Order: SVU), starring Lee Pace, David Wilson Barnes, Kerry Bishé. Lee Pace as a computer nerd? Oh yes. Pace stars as an engineer and prodigy ushering in the 1980s PC boom. And a quick wiki read revealed “Halt and Catch Fire” is an old-tyme humorous IBM testing instruction that refers to problematic code that had a computer repeatedly executing an action that caused wires to get hot—even smoke. Catchy and hot…not unlike our Mr. Pace.
7. Showtime’s Masters of Sex (September 29, 2013)
Written by Michelle Ashford and Thomas Maier, directed by Michael Apted (Chasing Mavericks, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Rome), starring
Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan, Teddy Sears, with appearances by Allison Janney, Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges. Sheen and Caplan investigating the human sexual condition. You know you wanna watch.
8. FX’s The Strain (2014)
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, directed by Guillermo del Toro, starring Kevin Durand, Sean Astin, John Hurt, Doug Jones, Cory Stoll, Mía Maestro, Jonathan Hyde, Leslie Hope, Richard Sammel and Francis Capra. Del Toro brings his own tale of a vampiric virus to life; as if his name alone isn’t enough to excite you, look at these actors. It’s the American Horror Story season Ryan Murphy won’t do. Niche filled.
9. NBC’s Dracula (October 25, 2013)
Based on Bram Stoker’s novel, directed by Andy Goddard (Downton Abbey, Torchwood, Law & Order: UK) and Steve Shill (Dexter, Shameless), starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ben Miles, Jessica De Gouw, Thomas Kretschmann and Katie McGrath. Okay, I know: More Vampires. Do we need them? Certainly not. Have we not seen the most beautiful version of Stoker’s creation? We have (Oldman). But still, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is compelling, no? On top of the cast, Dracula is co-produced by Sky Living, and having a British hand up a show’s ass can do nothing but good as far as I’m concerned. Myers’ Vlad has an alter ego whose essence is based in part on Steve Jobs and Elon Musk; he’ll be a sexy entrepreneur (pardon me while I cliche)…with bite.
10. Syfy’s High Moon (2013)
Based on John Christopher’s The Lotus Caves, written by Bryan Fuller and Jim Gray (Hannibal, Torchwood, Pushing Daisies), starring Chris Diamantopoulos, Jake Sandvig, Jonathan Tucker, Dana Davis, Constance Wu, Eric Breker and Kirby Morrow. Set in the future—after we’ve finished destroying Earth’s resources and headed out to mine the Moon’s—“chaos erupts” when alien life is discovered. The usual race between countries (now colonies) to investigate sets the stage for another conflict. Diamantopoulos and Sandvig play brothers on opposite sides (of course); Sandvig is a felon accused of sabotage and espionage and Diamantopoulos, a government man investigating the explosion his brother may or may not have been involved in setting. We already know what Fuller can do with an interesting concept and a couple-o-pretty boys (Hannibal); count me in.
11. TNT’s Legends (2014)
Based on the Robert Littell novel, written by Howard Gordon (Homeland, 24), Mark Bomback (Total Recall, The Wolverine), Jeffrey Nachmanoff (Hostages, The Day After Tomorrow), directed by David Semel (American Horror Story, Homeland), starring Sean Bean, Ali Larter, Steve Harris, Tina Majorino and Amber Valletta. Finally, I can stop my Stark-sobbing…it’s Sean mothereffin’ Bean! (Please don’t die.) Bean plays master of alternate identities and spy, Martin Odum, tasked to the FBI’s Deep Cover Operations. So basically, he’s Jennifer Garner with less wigs and more clothes… The added twist part comes when a mysterious stranger (oh please let it be Ron Rifkin!) gives Martin cause to doubt his own identity. Dun dun dun! Anyway, I was sold at Sean Bean playing a spy. Carry on.
12. Fox’s Us & Them (2014)
Written by James Corden (Gavin & Stacey, Horne & Corden), Ruth Jones (Stella, The Great Outdoors) and David Rosen (I Just Want My Pants Back), directed by Michael Patrick Jann (Subpurgatory, Community), starring Jason Ritter, Alexis Bledel, Jane Kaczmarek and Kurt Fuller. Two of television’s cutest people take on the American version of Gavin & Stacey, and yes, I may watch an American comedy for the first time in years, despite the slightly squicky feeling over the thought that Ritter will have television dated both Lorelei and Rory.
13. FX’s Fargo (2014)
Written by Joel Coen and Noah Hawley (The Unusuals, Bones), directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and Adam Bernstein (Californication, House of Lies), starring Billy Bob Thornton. The Coens are turning their brilliant film into a series, with Thornton as Lorne Malvo, “a rootless, manipulative man who meets a small town insurance salesman and sets him on a path of destruction.” Sold.