Today we’ll wrap things up with a look at the television programs coming to our screen in 2018. Anthologies continue to grow in popularity and the caliber of creator and actor on the small screen is almost outshining cinema.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (January 12th, Amazon)
It’s pretty obvious one of the key reasons Electric Dreams was developed was due to the success of Black Mirror. Though the two shows are not analogs, they both deal in the realm of speculative, human-centered science fiction. Electric Dreams looks to have some more overtly large scale science fiction one-offs as opposed to Black Mirror’s traditionally grounded approach. There are some talented names attached this project, but with any anthology there are bound to be some episodes that are better in quality than others. My hope is that we come away with at least a couple stories that have an impact and raise some interesting questions.
Somebody Feed Phil (January 12th, Netflix)
I was a big fan of Phil Rosenthal’s PBS food travel series I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, catching second run on Netflix. I was genuinely surprised to see Netflix drop this announcement a couple weeks ago that they had brought him in to do a new version of the show. Phil has a very open, positive nature about him and genuine interesting in other people and their cultures. His style of presenting is in deep contrast to Anthony Bourdain (who I also love) and that can be refreshing. Phil is not a “badass”, he is just a guy who likes food and people. Sometimes that is all you need.
Baskets Season 3 (January 23rd, FX)
Baskets seems to be this quiet gem on FX, I don’t know anyone in my own life who watches it other than myself and my wife. Though maybe everyone is keeping their Baskets love a secret? Well you should be loud and proud about this show because it is a beautiful, funny, heartbreaking piece of tv. This season has the matriarch Christine Baskets as the owner of Chip’s former rodeo and ready to restart the crumbled area. It appears the Louie Anderson as Christine will be getting an even more expanded role which has me very excited. While I love Zach Galifianakis and the tone he brings to the show, Anderson has created such a layered character in Christine, someone who can be loveable and then become very acerbic and distant.
Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block (February 7th, Syfy)
I loved last season’s take on the No-End House stories, and this season once again shifts the tone and style to tell a story that I think will be amazing. Butcher’s Block will tell the story of Alice, a girl who moves to a new city and hears rumors of bizarre staircases that go to nowhere and they she should stay away from them. These staircases appear to be connected to something that is killing the residents of the low income neighborhoods of her new home. Arkasha Stevenson will be directing and I will have a review of her film turned web series Pineapple coming at the start of February. Looking forward to what is said to be a giallo inspired six episode run.
Roseanne (March 27th, ABC)
Roseanne is a show that grew on me the older I got. At the time it started in 1988, I wasn’t mature enough to understand how awful the landscape of television sitcoms had become. Looking back, Roseanne is one of the most honest shows about the lower middle class in America. Was it a perfect show? Hell no! But it was unlike and remains unlike much of anything else that’s been on television. Will Roseanne let some of the odd, political ideas she’s spouted on Twitter creep into the show. Dunno. My hope is that this revival is something shocking, surprising, and not a bland retread.
Sharp Objects (June, HBO)
I was blown away with how much better the Gone Girl film was. This was due in part to the masterful scriptwriting of the novel’s author Gillian Flynn. This adaptation of her first book will star Amy Adams as reporting with mental health issues returning to her hometown to cover the murder of two young girls. Patricia Clarkson will play Adams’ mother. The show is said to have a very Southern Gothic feel, so hoping shades of what made True Detective Season 1 so atmospheric and murky. Flynn is deeply involved and seem very enthusiastic about this project. Hoping this is a stepping stone to she and David Fincher’s adaptation of the cancelled British series Utopia, finally?
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (TBD, Netflix)
Continuing the trend of television anthologies, The Coen Brothers have let little slip about this western series. It will star James Franco, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly, Stephen Root, and Tim Blake Nelson as the titular Buster Scruggs. I’m expecting something very episodic with Scruggs as a connective tissue through the whole production. It will be the Coens first television work and should have all fans of film excited.
Barry (TBD, HBO)
Bill Hader, formerly of SNL and more recently of Documentary Now!, stars as an ex-Marine working as a low rent hitman in the Midwest who wants to join the L.A. theater scene. Yeah. Hard to buy Hader first, as an ex-Marine and second, as a hitman, but maybe he will pull it off. It is an odd premise but intriguing , but what it really has going for it is that Alec Berg is the co-creator. Berg was a writer on Seinfeld and has writing and directed numerous episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I hoping that the high concept of the show is just an entry point into some genuinely funny comedy.
Castle Rock (TBD, Hulu)
This might be my most anticipated of all these shows because of the potential for it to be amazing. JJ Abrams is producing this series that attempts to take various themes, characters, settings, and elements from Stephen King’s novels and short stories and create a serialized horror series. Set in Castle Rock, Maine, lawyer Henry Deaver returns to his hometown to represent an inmate of the Shawshank Prison who has a bizarre legal problem. How the elements of King’s work are woven into the series will be crucial, anything too nostalgia-winking will ruin the atmosphere so a subtle hand is needed in this instance. Andre Holland, Sissy Spacek, Jean Levy, Terry O’Quinn, and Bill Skarsgard (as the inmate, not Pennywise) are set to star.
Kidding (TBD, Showtime)
Michel Gondry comes to television reunited with Jim Carrey. The last time they worked together we got Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so this is something to be excited about. Carrey will play the star of Mr. Pickles, a hugely successful children’s television series who is suddenly hit with monumental issues with his family. The series will be 10-parts and I fully expect to see Gondry’s trademark dreamlike style infused throughout.
Maniac (TBD, Netflix)
Based on a Norwegian series, Maniac tells the story of two patients in a mental asylum and the fantasy worlds they inhabit. There are two big factors going for this series. First, it reunited Jonah Hill and Emma Stone, who I feel were the best part of Superbad. They have great chemistry together so it should be fun seeing them play off of each other. The second factor is that the whole series is directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective Season 1). I read Fukunaga’s original script for IT and that was such a better film than the one we got in 2017. I can’t wait to see his take on this comedy-drama.
The Romanoffs (TBD, Amazon)
I can’t think of many premises more strange than this one. Mad Men creator, Matthew Weiner has created this anthology series about people who believe they are descended from the Romanov royal family of Russia. The series spans the globe and the character never meet or cross over with each other in anyway. John Slattery, Christina Hendricks, Diane Lane, and more are set to star. Very interesting to see what exactly this show will be like.
Veep Season 7 (TBD, HBO)
This seventh season will be the final one for this pitch perfect satire of modern American politics. Veep’s creator Armando Iannucci set out to make a U.S. take on his classic British series The Thick of It and did just that. Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is one of the best written female characters on television. She is a woman in her mid-fifties who is duplicitous, self-centered, and hilarious, yet also presented as incredibly sexy figure. She is unlike any other female character I have seen on television. Veep has always been like an Aaron Sorkin project, but better written, funnier, and more on the nose about politics in the States.
Watchmen (TBD, HBO)
There will be a number of people that decry HBO making this series. As a comic book reader since my youth, and as a fan of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons series, I just don’t care about this artificial idea of “holiness” when it comes to a property. They let Zack Snyder make a mockery of this story in his god awful feature film, and I know this will be much better. Helmed by Damon Lindelof, who has just come off of The Leftovers, a three season television masterpiece that has been criminally slighted and overlooked, I expect Watchmen to do what that series did. Lindelof used the novel behind The Leftovers as a jumping off point to tell stories in that world. In the end, he far exceeded the novel and created something that will stand as one of the most powerfully affecting pieces of television to come around in a long time. I am incredibly excited to see what he does with Watchmen.