By now you might have finished reading our massive 100 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017 list. You might even be already through yesterday’s look at the stars of tomorrow with Best Breakthrough Performances. And so, to continue in this forward-looking, optimistic vein (frankly, all of us could use a little hope on the horizon), today we get to unveil our picks for the most exciting projects that we faithfully believe will be hitting our small screens for the first time in 2017. Today is all about our most anticipated new (and in two exceptional cases, sort-of-returning) television shows, and with Peak TV showing no sign of peaking just yet, we’re pretty sure we’ll have enough binge-watching to see us through, or at least distract us from whatever martial-law/nuclear-winter/zombie-cannibal-attack situation arises.
It’s cold comfort, but with great art tending to flourish in times of adversity, and so much great storytelling artistry happening on television right now, 2017 may just prove to be a banner year for TV. Here are the 30 shows we’re most excited for over and above the continuations of our current favorites (which we’ll be listing soon as part of our best of 2016 coverage), with a bevy more in the honorable mentions. Hit play.
30. “Altered Carbon”
Synopsis: 500 years in the future, human personalities can be digitally downloaded and put into new bodies. When a wealthy man dies, destroying his memory of the 48 hours before his demise, he hires a private detective to find out what happens.
What You Need To Know: “Black Mirror” aside, Netflix haven’t really gone into the sci-fi game in a big way, at least in the futuristic sense of the word. But that changes this year, with the adaptation of Richard K. Morgan’s popular novel by James Cameron collaborator and “Shutter Island” screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis. Likely to be in the “Blade Runner”/“Minority Report” vein, it’ll be toplined by “Robocop” star Joel Kinnaman, with “Hamilton” actor Renée Elise Goldsberry and James Purefoy also among the cast. And with Netflix cash behind it, and “Game Of Thrones” director Miguel Sapochnik (who did the superb “Battle Of The Bastards” episode) on board, expect this to be a rare small-screen futurescape with real production value.
Airdate: None yet, probably in the late summer or early fall.
29. “Marvel’s The Inhumans”
Synopsis: The story of a superpowered royal family whose powers are given to them by mysterious mists.
What You Need To Know: So far, for all the Marvel Cinematic Universe-affiliated TV shows (five to date, with three more coming this year), none have had anything close to the critical love or cultural impact of the movies. But ABC are going big and going hard on their latest Marvel show, an adaptation of characters who were once set to head to the big screen before they fell off the Phase Three schedule. Traditionally involving characters including Black Bolt (who is silent because his voice is a weapon), Medusa (who has magic hair) and a giant dog called Lockjaw, it has the potential to be madder than even “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” and the network are going with a similarly ambitious approach: The pilot episodes will debut exclusively in IMAX theaters and be shot on IMAX cameras (with IMAX themselves fully funding the pilot), before continuing on ABC in the fall. The potential’s there for a sort-of MCU “Game Of Thrones,” but with no cast, showrunner or director involved, we’re worried for now that this could be more in the vein of the forgettable-at-best “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Airdate: The pilot will hit theaters on Labor Day weekend, with the show continuing in September.
Synopsis: A financial advisor moves with his wife to the Ozarks in Missouri in order to pay off a money-laundering debt to a drug lord.
What You Need To Know: To begin with, “Breaking Bad” was at best a cult curio, a critic’s favorite with viewing figures closer to “Rectify” than “Game Of Thrones.” But thanks in large part to the show becoming available to binge on Netflix, by its end it was one of the biggest shows in TV, and plenty of others have tried to chase its success since. On the surface at least, “Ozark” looks to be very much in the template of Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece, with an actor best known for comedy starring in a drama about an ordinary man who becomes entangled in cartel-related crime. In this case, it’s Jason Bateman, who also produces and directs the show as well, in the lead role, with Laura Linney as his wife and the very good Julia Garner in support as well, while the script comes from Bill Dubuque, who wrote “The Judge.” And while it all sounds a bit familiar on paper, “Halt & Catch Fire” seemed like a “Mad Men” rip-off and turned into one of the best shows on TV, so we certainly won’t dismiss this yet.
Airdate: Filming’s underway — we’d guess the summer at some point.
27. “Friends From College”
Synopsis: A group of friends who were at Harvard together must grapple with their lives as they enter their 40s.
What You Need To Know: Not every movie he’s made has completely worked, but from debut “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” through to the flawed but interesting “Neighbors 2,” Nicholas Stoller has made consistently strong comedies with both a filthy mouth and a big heart. So we’re intrigued to see if his move to TV can prove as winning as films like “Get Him To The Greek” and “The Five-Year Engagement,” or his scripts for the Muppet movies. Eight-episode Netflix comedy “Friends From College” (Stoller will helm all eight episodes, and co-created the show with his wife Francesca Delbanco) is apparently a semi-autobiographical bit of work, drawing on his own experience as a Harvard grad, and a cast of comedic and dramatic ringers has been assembled, with Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Annie Parisse, Nat Faxon, Fred Savage, Jae Suh Park and Billy Eichner leading the way. As long as it’s more “Master Of None” than “Love,” consider us on board.
Airdate: Probably the fall.
Synopsis: A therapist begins to develop dangerous and intimate relationships with the people in her patients’ lives.
What You Need To Know: Some big names have been drawn to Netflix shows to date, but mostly behind the scenes with names like the Wachowskis and Baz Luhrmann — in front of the camera, the stars have mostly been drawn from the TV rather than film world, “Grace & Frankie” aside. But the streaming service look to deliver some HBO-style star wattage this year with psychological thriller “Gypsy,” which toplines Naomi Watts and Billy Crudup (with more rising stars like “Nocturnal Animals” star Karl Glusman, “Kingsman” actress Sophie Cookson and “Sing Street” breakout Lucy Boynton in support). It comes from first-time writer Lisa Rubin, who we assume is pretty great if her first script can attract this kind of talent, and “Fifty Shades Of Grey” helmer Sam Taylor-Wood is at the helm of the first couple of episodes.
Airdate: Late summer or early fall.
25. “Big Little Lies”
Synopsis: Three mothers with kids at kindergarten become friends, a friendship that will end…in murder.
What You Need To Know: So far, prestige-y TV drama has mostly leant towards being quite male-driven, with only the occasional “Orange Is The New Black” or “UnReal” breaking up the dude-centric vibe. But could “Big Little Lies” be the one that helps actually change the culture a bit and do for Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon what “True Detective” did for Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson? The two A-listers were initially adapting Australian author Liane Moriarty‘s book as a movie before shifting it to become a HBO series adapted by “Ally McBeal” creator David E. Kelley, and “Dallas Buyers Club” director Jean-Marc Vallée directs every episode, Cary Fukunaga-style. A strong cast joins Kidman and Witherspoon, with Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott and Laura Dern among the notable faces, and the trailer looks promising for sure.
Airdate: February 19th
Synopsis: Drama about the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, following a young dealer, a Mexican wrestler caught in a struggle for power in a crime family, a CIA operative aiming to fund the Contras, and the daughter of a cartel leader.
What You Need To Know: The first African-American filmmaker to win a Best Director Oscar nomination, and still the youngest person ever to achieve the same feat, John Singleton’s had a mixed career since, with some highs early on, and some crashing lows (“2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Abduction”) more recently. But he’s been doing some quiet work in TV in the last few years on things like “Empire” and “American Crime Story,” and could make a comeback in force with two shows in 2017 that he’s co-created: BET cop show “Rebel” and this more ambitious effort, tracking the rise of crack in the 1980s. It sounds like it could be FX’s answer to “Narcos,” but a more street-level, varied approach could definitely be a boon, and though the cast are mostly unknowns (“Breaking Bad” actress Emily Rios, “Into The Woods” star Billy Magnussen and comedian DeRay Davis are the best known faces, alongside newcomer Damson Idris), Singleton long ago proved his eye for talent.
Airdate: A retool for the pilot pushed it back a bit, but this will likely arrive in the summer, perhaps in “Tyrant”’s old slot.
23. “When We Rise”
Synopsis: Miniseries showing the history of the gay-rights movement, from the Stonewall riots in 1969 to the present day.
What You Need To Know: When it was greenlit, “When We Rise” probably felt like it was going to be a gentle history lesson. Reteaming Oscar-winning “Milk” writer Dustin Lance Black with the director of that film, Gus Van Sant, this eight-hour miniseries suddenly feels utterly vital at a time when the new administration, partly led by a vice president who believes in conversion therapy, threatens the hard-won LGBT-rights progress that has been slowly achieved in previous decades. That it’ll be airing on network TV — on Disney-owned ABC, no less — makes it feel like it has the potential to actually reach more than those who already know and agree with its message, which is sort of exciting. An early trailer suggests something very much in the “Milk” mold, but with a much wider scope (Van Sant splits the directing duties with Black, “West Wing” veteran Thomas Schlamme and “Pariah” helmer Dee Rees), and the cast is strong, with Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Rachel Griffiths, Carrie Preston, Michael K. Williams, Dylan Walsh, Whoopi Goldberg, Rob Reiner, David Hyde Pierce, Denis O’Hare, Richard Schiff, Mary McCormack and, in a doubly Trump-baiting move, Rosie O’Donnell on board.
Airdate: Nothing firm, but likely in the early summer.
Synopsis: The story of the rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis during the making of “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?”
What You Need To Know: Having helped to bring a new lease on life to the soap, musical and horror genres with “Nip/Tuck,” “Glee” and “American Horror Story,” Ryan Murphy had his greatest critical triumph to date with the multi-Emmy-winning “American Crime Story.” And so, for his next trick, he’s bringing his signature mix of high-camp melodrama and classy performers to Hollywood for what to all intents and purposes seems like a TV equivalent to Karina Longworth’s great podcast “You Must Remember This.” Murphy veteran Jessica Lange teams up with Susan Sarandon to play Crawford and Davis, whose tempestuous relationship lasted decades but peaked in their on-screen pairing in the 1962 horror film around which Murphy’s show revolves, while we’ll also get Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia De Havilland, Alfred Molina as Robert Aldrich, and Stanley Tucci, Judy Davis and, of course, Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates too. It’s the kind of thing that, if Murphy was left to his own devices, could be completely annoying, but as with “American Crime Story,” he’s partly delegating to a showrunner, in this case Whedon-verse vet Tim Minear, which is good news.
Airdate: It’s filming at the minute — it probably won’t be ready for the “American Crime Story” slot, but expect it in the first half of the year.
Synopsis: A low-rent Midwestern hitman and ex-Marine comes to LA for a job and falls in with a group of eager theater-scene hopefuls.
What You Need To Know: Sadly not a TV show in which Bill Hader plays a college-age Barack Obama, here Hader (“Trainwreck,” “Saturday Night Live“) takes the title role, co-writes and directs this half-hour comedy which was picked up to series by HBO. Also featuring comedy stalwarts Henry Winkler and Stephen Root among its cast, the pilot episode marked Hader’s directorial debut, but the behind-the-scenes team is anything but inexperienced. Not only is Hader an ‘SNL’ veteran and also a voice in roughly 98% of animated movies and TV shows, his co-creater Alec Berg was a writer on “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and most recently “Silicon Valley,” which he also exec-produces. It perhaps doesn’t sound like the most original premise — fish-out-of-water/depressed hitman comedy sounds a little like a hybrid of a bunch of other shows and movies — but we’re betting on this team to keep it fresh and funny, and God knows we’re going to need all the laughs we can get.
Airdate: Late 2017.