Network upfronts are fun. They’re also largely forgettable and meaningless. Most shows will stink. The one or two you may learn to tolerate will inevitably suffer from low ratings and be cancelled while you’re switching the laundry around during commercials.
But cable dramas, like male presidents, are just superior to the alternative. Instead of immaturely calling me names, feminazis, how about you disprove my assertion by naming one major accomplishment spearheaded by female president. Uh-huh. WE LET LAURA ROSLIN RUN THINGS FOR A FEW MONTHS AND SHE NEARLY ERADICATED THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE! OWN THAT!
Networks can hype their doomed dramas all they like. With few exceptions, the cable offerings will soak up all the important eyeballs, attract Internet buzz and garner critical adulation. So it would be nice to know what heavy hitters HBO, FX, Netflix, AMC and other prestige content providers have in store for the upcoming calendar year. Wait what this exact information is collected below in a humorous, easy-to-read format? “Goddamn, thanks Brian Byrd! I’m naming my next two kids after you!” said the Pope.
Annual disclaimer: in order to make the cut a series must be at the pilot stage or picked up for a full series order, not just languishing in the development pipeline. I set it up this way because I want to. DON’T QUESTION ME YOU’RE NOT MY REAL DAD, CHESTER! Also, forecasting pilot pickups and premiere dates is an inexact science. Many of the shows on last year’s list — The Bastard Executioner, Quarry, Westworld, Billions — earned full series orders but will almost certainly debut in 2016. I’d apologize, but I don’t really consider this a mistake. If anything I was too prescient.
Here’s what else is (probably) coming in 2016:
The Devil You Know (HBO)
Sigh…Weeds and Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan is back with yet another series about women’s struggles to stay afloat with both hands bound behind their backs. Only it’s not a metaphor this time. The Devil You Know is provocative period drama focusing on the infamous trials that captivated a small New England town during the 17th century. Which trials? Witch trials. Eddie Izzard and Dr. Who’s Karen Gillan lead the massive cast,
witch which also includes Nadia Alexander, Ismenia Mendes, Ever Carradine, Damien Molony, Julian Rhind Tutt, Matthew James Thomas, Barfnarious Twint, Nigel Lindsay, Ewen Bremner, Walrus McGillicutty, Hannah Nordberg, Naian Gonzalez Norvind, Zawe Ashton, Neptwanda Finch, Will Pullen, Kate Nash, Seana Kofoed, Mary Mouser, Beanie Feldst. Like you read all that. Probably didn’t even notice three of the names are complete fabrications.
Chances it gets picked up to series: Proven big-name showrunner and fascinating subject matter, but HBO has enough properties in their development pipeline to fill the Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse. 50 percent.
Tom Hardy stars as James Keziah Delaney, a rugged 19th century adventurer who returns from Africa rich, pissed off and looking to start a shipping war with the East India Trading Company. Anything else you really need to know other when to park your ass in front of the television? For the three of you who still need convincing, Eastern Promises screenwriter Peaky Blinders (PEAKAY BLOINDERS!) creator Stephen Knight wrote all eight episodes, and Ridley Scott is onboard as a producer. Like any of this matters. I could have told you the series is funded by ISIS and executive produced by Bill Cosby. You were in after the first three words.
Chances it gets picked up to series: What do you think? 100 percent.
The Get Down (Netflix)
The OA (Netflix)
Every pilot on this list is here because of its potential. The OA is perhaps the most extreme example because we know absolutely nothing about this new Netflix series other than the creative team and when it premieres. But when the star is Brit Marling and the director is Zaj Batmanglij, potential is more than enough to merit inclusion. The duo’s previous collaborations — the cult drama The Sound of My Voice and the eco-terrorist thriller, The East — prove the pair knows how to tell affecting, engrossing stories. The subject is just a formality.
Chances it gets picked up to series: 100 percent. Netflix took it straight to series.
There was a time when John Singleton was one of the most respected and in-demand directors in Hollywood. Boyz in the Hood. Poetic Justice. Higher Learning. Rosewood. Then Y2K hit, and the changeover must have corrupted his IMDB profile because there is no other explanation for his strange, swift career left turn. Did you know he directed 2 Fast 2 Furious? Because that shit happened. He followed his foray into vehicular warfare with Four Brothers, a movie that culminates with Mark Wahlberg walking 20 miles across tundra in Boondock Saints cosplay to fistfight Chiwetel Ejiofor, who I’m pretty sure modeled his character after Ghostface Killah. Seriously, watch this nonsense. After 2011’s disastrous Abduction, the last major coordinated effort to make Taylor Lautner happen, Singleton disappeared before surfacing earlier this year to helm an Empire episode. Perhaps television struck a chord with Singleton, because his latest project has all the makings of a career resurgence. Snowfall depicts the beginnings of Los Angeles’ crack epidemic in the 1980s as experienced by a drug dealer, an ex-Mexican wrestler turned gangster, and a prodigal son. As long as it doesn’t end with the gangster challenging the dealer to a wrestling match on a frozen pond for the rights to his empire, the series should be fine.
Chances it gets picked up to series: Justified, Sons of Anarchy, and The Bridge are kaput. Tyrant is probably dead after this season, and even if Fargo returns after this September, a third season is unlikely to debut before 2017. The Bastard Executioner and American Crime Story are the only new dramas ordered to series so far. 75 percent.
A possessed holy man, his psychotic ex-girlfriend, and an Irish vampire (she probably drinks A LOT of blood before breakfast) set out on a journey to literally find God. This isn’t the setup to a truly lame joke; it’s the plot of AMC’s upcoming series Preacher from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Based on the cult Vertigo comic by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, the series follows Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a conflicted preacher in a small Texas town who is able to influence people after he merges with a heavenly creature named Genesis. Rogen insists he’ll keep the dick jokes to a minimum, but recently leaked script pages seem to indicate that the series isn’t an entirely humorless affair. To wit:
Custer: “Hey bro, we’re looking for God. Seen him around God lately?”
Bouncer: “No. Be on Yahweh.”
Chances it gets picked up to series: AMC recently passed on Galyntine, Knifeman and White City, the three pilots it ordered last year. Unless the network plans on greenlighting yet another spinoff, Preacher is a lock. 90 percent.
Remember when the phrase “written, produced and directed by Cameron Crowe” meant something other than a Metacritic score in the 30s? “No,” said everyone born after 1995. The Whimsical Whitewasher takes a break from disappointing moviegoers to set his sights once again on the world of rock and roll. His Showtime pilot Roadies follows the day-to-day life of a successful rock tour from the perspectives of the crew members — Ebony Blackwoman (Christina Hendricks), LeDarius Kaleem (Luke Wilson), Juan Diego Santos-Vasquez (Ron White), Yoo-Sin Chen (Michael Cera), Hiapo Lulua`ina (Lena Dunham) and Wellington Prescott VanMeter IV (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) — who work behind the scenes to make the show a success. No, those character names aren’t real. Hendricks and Wilson will topline the series, though, playing a resourceful production manager and legendary tour manager, respectively.
Chances it gets picked up to series: Almost Famous ensures Crowe can make music-centric projects from now until the sun exhausts its hydrogen. 80 percent.
Speaking of Almost Famous, Outcast stars Patrick Fugit as a young man searching for answers to why he’s been possessed by demons since he was a child. Helping him is an unconventional evangelist and the obligatory Freaky Kid™ who’s battling demons of his own. To be honest, I saw the title for Cinemax’s Robert Kirkman-penned thriller, assumed it was about Atlanta hip-hop group Outkast and just threw it on the list without doing any research. An Almost Famous alum as a tormented soul with a humanity-ending secret is cool, I guess. But his albums pale in comparison to Aquemini. At the very least, Cinemax could have cast Big Boi and Andre 3000 in the lead roles. There’s still time, guys. Maybe pilot director Adam Wingard (the fantastic You’re Next and The Guest) will find a way to right this wrong.
Chances it gets picked up to series: Ten episodes coming your way next year. 100 percent.
Ever watch The Affair and think, “This is swell, but it could use more missing children, top-secret government experiments, frightening supernatural forces and a creepy-ass little girls?” Then Netflix’s Montauk is your huckleberry. The series from Wayward Pines showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer is set in Long Island’s easternmost town and is said to have an 80s mystery feel. I assume that means it revolves around a detective in acid-washed jeans investigating how Reaganomics actually benefits the poor. Spoiler: he never solves the fucking case.
Chances it gets picked up to series: Seems like a story that could be told in eight episodes. Good thing, since Netflix ordered an eight-episode first season.