Blossoms Shanghai (directed by Wong Kar-wai)
This is one of the rare projects that moved over from my most anticipated films to television shows over the last two years. Wong Kar-wai hasn’t directed anything since 2013’s The Grandmaster and is returning with this series based on a novel set in 1990s Shanghai. The story follows a mysterious self-made millionaire, Mr. Bao, and his path from rags to riches. In his life are four women that play crucial roles at different points, and it is those relationships that will be the focus of the narrative. This is also a way for Wong to showcase the city he was born in, and I expect the plot will take some more complicated detours than the premise presents. Wong’s In the Mood for Love is one of the best films ever made, so he always has my attention when a new project rolls out.
Irma Vep (HBO Max, directed by Olivier Assayas)
Olivier Assayas takes his 1996 indie vampire flick, Irma Vep, and turns it into a long-form serial. A24 is the production company behind the project, which is always getting help from the producer’s behind HBO’s Euphoria. The original film starred Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung as a version of herself. She’s cast in a movie about vampires only to find herself turned into one. Alicia Vikander is set to star in the title role. Details about how close the series will be to the film haven’t been revealed yet, but I think we can speculate it will be a story about a woman being turned into a vampire and dealing with that transformation, likely with some crime elements from the original movie.
Bel Ami (directed by Paul Verhoeven)
Paul Verhoeven will be helming a mini-series adaptation of Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant. The novel, set in the 1880s, is about Parisian journalists at a major newspaper. It follows Georges Duroy’s journey from returning from service in the foreign legion in Algeria, getting a job as a clerk at the paper, working as a journalist, and becoming the editor of the publication. Along the way, Georges develops many friendships and rivalries. There’s lots of melodrama and sexual intrigue as well. Verhoeven’s post-Hollywood career has been very interesting, and I am looking forward to seeing what he brings to this project.
The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime, created by Barry Jenkins)
This one looks fantastic, as you can see from the video teaser. Barry Jenkins makes his first series, which adapts Colson Whitehead’s novel of the same name. The story is about Cora, a young woman escaping slavery in antebellum Georgia. She has heard of the Underground Railroad and starts looking for signs of it and comes across a literal underground train system run by black engineers and conductors. Jenkins is working once again with composer Nicholas Britell who has given us such beautiful scores to accompany this director’s films. There’s no set release date, but I know filming concluded in September. I’m hoping we get this in the first half of 2021 because I am ready for it.
Tokyo Vice (HBO Max, directed by Michael Mann)
Michael Man is responsible for Miami Vice, but this series has no relation other than that title. The series is based on a non-fiction book by journalist Jake Adelstein where he chronicled the deep corruption in Tokyo, Japan’s vice squad. Ansel Elgort stars as Jake with Ken Watanabe as the older detective who is Jake’s guide through vice and the city. The fantastic Rinko Kikuchi is Jake’s supervisor at his paper. With all of Mann’s work, there will likely be a balance between style and substance. I wouldn’t mind something indulgent if it’s interesting to look at, but I hope there’s some meat on the bones. Having just seen Heat for the first time last year and already being a fan of his previous films Manhunter and Collateral, I have high hopes.
The Curse (Showtime, created by Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie)
Nathan Fielder and the Safdie Brothers (Good Time, Uncut Gems) collaborated to develop this comedy series about a newly married couple starring in an HGTV reality series. They are trying to conceive a child, but this pesky supernatural curse keeps getting in the way. Details are sparse, but this combination of creators has me fascinated already. I think there is some potential for this to be the year’s big breakout show, walking that line between comedy and something darker. Emma Stone has been cast in the female lead role, and I can’t wait to see who else joins the cast.
I’m a Virgo (Amazon Prime, directed by Boots Riley)
I wanted to love Sorry to Bother You, but something about it just didn’t click for me. However, I love the film’s ideology, and I follow Boots Riley on Twitter because of his very socialist ideas. This series is a coming of age story about a 13-foot tall Black man in Oakland, California. Much like his film, I expect this is taking place in a heightened reality, a blend of comedy and social/political satire. I think in a longer form where Riley can develop his ideas more, I might enjoy it more.
After the brilliant Saved by the Bell revival, I am much more open to some of the original programming coming out of Peacock. This is a reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a drama, which sounds like a crazy idea, but I think it could actually work. Inspired by the short film by Morgan Cooper that worked as a proof of concept, the show follows the same concept of Will coming to Los Angeles to live with his aunt & uncle’s family. The original series had plenty of dramatic moments, but I hope they still maintain a sense of humor. It’s still important that this isn’t a show devoid of lighter moments, and I assume it will have that. Can’t wait to see what it’s like when they finally release it on Peacock.
Girls5eva (Peacock, created by Tina Fey & Robert Carlock)
I have never been steered wrong by Fey & Carlock from 30 Rock to Kimmy Schmidt. While both shows didn’t hit every episode out of the park, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of their style of comedy, and they are great shows to revisit. Showrunner Meredith Scardino is the mind behind this series about a girl group from the 1990s who were one-hit wonders. They are reunited now at one last attempt to become stars. Singer Sara Bareilles is apparently in the lead role with some really great supporting cast members. I am very much on board to give the first episode a chance and see how the series feels. I’m expecting some decent fast-paced comedies.
Of all these shows, this the one we know the most about as it’s set to debut on January 15. Wanda Maximoff of the Avengers returns in this series, which sees her somehow resurrecting her lover, The Vision, who died in Infinity War. The trailers have been very intriguing, with the two appearing to be stuck in an alternate reality styled after American sitcoms. There are also images of a SHIELD presence outside the area where I’m guessing this reality-bending event is happening. I am ready for something in the MCU to get weird and different after the cookie-cutter take of most films. Here’s hoping for something that gives us an incredible story and allows them to have some great character development.
The Falcon and Winter Soldier (Disney+)
This series is set to debut on March 19, and follows the title characters are they deal with the legacy of Captain America. In the wake of Endgame, Steve Rogers is retired, and The Falcon has been given the shield. However, the U.S. government has created its own new super-soldier, USAgent. Simultaneously, a terrorist group known as the Flag-Smashers is wreaking havoc, apparently led by Helmut Zemo, the antagonist from Captain America: Civil War. Like most Disney+/Marvel shows, I assume this is just a mini-series, and I’m interested in seeing what the production values are and how good the action looks.
Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki, though not the one we know of. The MCU’s primary Loki died in Infinity War; this is the Loki from the alternate timeline that escapes with the cosmic cube. He ends up creating chaos in time and space, drawing the ire of the Time Variance Authority and hunted by Mobius (Owen Wilson). It looks like he will be popping up in various periods and possibly building out the back history of the MCU? I have heard rumors that Richard E. Grant shows up as the classic Loki from Marvel Comics, so I hope this is also one of many new projects playing in the Multiverse.
The Lord of the Rings (Amazon Prime)
It’s been almost 20 years since Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film series concluded, and there was a lot cut to make those stories digestible. With this series, it appears we will get a much more expanded take on the story, incorporating more of Tolkien’s ideas. Filming has been happening in New Zealand since last year after years of pre-production. Instead of jumping right into the books’ events, the backstory given in exposition through the books has been dramatized to start. Apparently, the show’s focus will begin with a young Aragorn as he loses his place as the king and becomes a ranger. I assume Gandalf and other familiar faces will pop up along the way. I have to say after The Hobbit movies, I’m not terribly excited, but I am going to give this a chance with the hopes they have some great storytelling.
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
I love the chemistry between Steve Martin and Martin Short, and they will be teaming again for this comedy series where they and Selena Gomez become embroiled in a murder mystery. They are neighbors in the same apartment building who share an interest in true crime. A real crime goes down in the building, and they believe they can solve it better than the police. I think this has the potential to be a fun, well-directed light comedy with some slightly dark elements. I’m curious to see how Martin and Short playoff of Gomez; I expect they will do wonderfully.
Station Eleven (HBO Max, created by Patrick Somerville and Hiro Murai)
What drew my attention first was Hiro Murai directing; he’s the person behind Atlanta’s unique look. This is a timely one based on a novel about a flu-like epidemic that has wiped out almost all of human life on the planet. The story follows a group of traveling musicians and actors in this post-apocalyptic landscape trying to keep their craft alive. While you have this sizeable global drama, there are the interpersonal stories and conflicts of these people. Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire) has been cast in the lead role. I think this could be another fantastic breakout show of the year because of Murai, and I’m excited.