Coming Soon To a TV Near You
It’s mid-December, and the annual “Best of” lists are coming out by the dozen to remind you of all the 2014 entertainment that you missed. Good luck catching up when there is a whole new slate of films and televisions shows that are only a few weeks away. Dedicated fans know that new seasons of The Americans, Hannibal, Game of Thrones, Justified and others will be kicking off during the first few months of 2015. But, as you put this year to bed and turn your attention toward the New Year, there are a number of under-the-radar television events heading your way.
My recommendations are being made based on the track records of the talent on both sides of the camera that is involved with these upcoming releases. Much like drafting players as they emerge from college sports, some of these prospects will be a bust. But some of them may very well be “the next big thing”. Here are some suggestions that are worth considering:
1. Bosch (on Amazon Prime): Michael Connelly is the Raymond Chandler of the 21st Century. His novels drip with Los Angeles atmosphere, and he is the master of telling a compelling mystery with layers of thematic subtext. So when Amazon.com announced a series based on Connelly’s homicide detective Hieronymous Bosch, there was cause for crime fans everywhere to celebrate. Connelly recently released his 19th Bosch novel, The Burning Room, so there’s plenty of source material to draw from for future seasons. (I’m patting myself on the back a little over this selection because on June 13, 2013 this site published a column on literary properties we’d like to see on TV, and Harry Bosch was one of my picks.)
When a man and his dog are hiking in the California hills, the canine emerges from the woods with a human leg bone in his mouth. A subsequent search by law enforcement uncovers the rest of the remains belonging to that skeletal leg … as well as the remains of many more bodies. Based primarily on the novel City of Bones, Bosch is a ten-episode series that will be available to stream through Amazon Prime in February 2015. The series stars a perfectly-cast Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch along with a supporting cast that includes Lance Reddick (Fringe, John Wick), Jamie Hector (The Wire), Annie Wersching (24) and Amy Aquino (ER, Being Human). If the pilot is any indication, you should probably take a sick day because you’re not going to stop watching after just an episode or two.
2. Bloodline (on Netflix Instant): “We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing”, the teaser trailer tells us as a luxury boat burns against the night sky and the dark Florida water. Bloodline stars Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights series, Argo), Ben Mendelsohn (Starred Up, Killing Me Softly), Linda Cardellini (Mad Men), Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek. The Rayburn family runs a hotel in the Florida Keys. When the black sheep in the family returns for the 45th anniversary celebration of the family business, he threatens the future for his siblings. The description on Netflix uses phrases like “dark secrets”, “shameful past” and “family loyalty”. Will it be soapy clap-trap like Revenge or the Dallas re-boot? Or does the decidedly ominous trailer and the presence of serious acting talent indicate we have a binge-worthy drama headed our way? Find out in March 2015 when all 13 episodes are released on Netflix Instant. (Did I mention it stars Ben Mendelsohn?) Note: Since the original publication of this column, Netflix has announced that Bloodline will premiere on March 20, 2015.
3. Amazon Prime Pilot Season 2015: Although the next presidential election is over 22 months away, it will soon be time to cast a vote that might actually impact your daily lives in a positive way. Early in the New Year, Amazon will be posting seven new pilots and asking for Prime members and non-Prime members alike to vote and comment on these possible new shows. The pilots that get the highest marks from voters will be commissioned for a full season.
Some of the pilots are notable by pedigree alone. Point of Honor is a Civil War-era drama written by Carlton Cuse (Lost) and directed by Randall Wallace (Braveheart). The Man in the High Castle is based on the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick (source author for Blade Runner, Minority Report) about an alternate post-World War II Earth after an Allied defeat. It’s written by Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files) and directed by David Semel (Heroes). Several comedies will be up for consideration including Cocked, an hour-long dark comedy starring Sam Trammell (Sam Merlot on True Blood) and Jason Lee (My Name is Earl) about a man who left home twenty years ago and is forced to return home to run the family gun business.
So, be sure to check out some Amazon pilots and exercise your constitutional right to be free of bad television.
4. The Expanse (on SyFy): After spending several years on “cutesy” sci-fi and paranormal series like Warehouse 13 and Haven, the SyFy network has pledged to return to their space opera roots in 2015. SyFy execs have expressed their collective desire to give audiences the next Battlestar Galactica. Their first attempt, 12 Monkeys: The Series, debuts on January 16, 2015. But, a far more intriguing sci-fi possibility is still in production.
Based on the popular novels by James S.A. Corey, The Expanse is a thriller set 200 years in the future that follows the search for a missing young woman who somehow plays a part in a vast intergalactic conspiracy. Thomas Jane (Hung, The Punisher) plays Detective Miller, a member of a corporate security force that serves as law enforcement in an asteroid belt strewn from Mars to Jupiter. Miller finds a new sense of purpose in his life when he’s put in charge of the hunt for a missing heiress. The fourth Expanse novel, Cibola Burn, was released in June. If you don’t mind spoilers for your TV watching, you have about 2000 pages to read before the ten-episode series hits SyFy sometime next year.
5. Narcos (on Netflix Instant): Carlos Escobar is proving to be an intriguing historical figure once again. Escobar: Paradise Lost starring Benecio Del Toro as the infamous drug kingpin is scheduled to hit theaters on January 16, 2015. And later next year, Netflix Instant will premiere Narcos, a ten-episode drama based on the crime and corruption behind the Medellin drug cartel. Jose Padilha, director of the foreign crime classics Elite Squad and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within will be behind the camera. The series will reunite him with his Elite Squad leading man Wagner Moura. Narcos will also star everyone’s favorite Red Viper, Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones), as one of the federal agents tasked with apprehending Escobar. The series is currently filming in Colombia, and a precise release date hasn’t been set. So fire up Elite Squad: The Enemy Within on Netflix Instant and see why you should be excited about this new streaming series.
6. Scream Queens: It’s only fitting that a show with this title would star Jamie Lee Curtis, the original Halloween scream queen. Created by Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), Scream Queens will be a horror-comedy-anthology series that focuses on two new female leads each season. (I think someone heard those True Detective sexism arguments and spotted a niche.) Season 1 will star Emma Roberts in addition to Curtis and will be set on a college campus that has been rocked by a series of murders. What exactly is a horror comedy? Are we talking silly spoof comedy like the Scary Movie series? Or could we be in for a series that alternates scares and humor like Dead Snow (2009) or this year’s instant classic Housebound? With a 15-episode inaugural season on tap, I’m betting on the scares- and-laughs formula. If ratings prove sufficient, subsequent seasons will feature different settings and storylines. No premiere date has been set, but with production beginning in the spring, it sounds like Scream Queens will bow in late-2015. Maybe around October 31st?