Yesterday we took a look at all the strange shows coming to broadcast television, this despite their seemingly inferior quality. Today we’re going to check in with all the cable channels – those networks that have quietly taken over the television landscape in the past decade and a half with the golden age of Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Saul Goodman and the gang from Paddy’s Pub.
We’ll see more blood, guts and glory (and pathos)than we know how to handle, but rest assured, the golden age is not done yet. We’ll see computer geniuses and struggling rappers. We’ll see disappointed women and incredibly strong women, which is great in general.
More importantly this is still the golden age of television, and these channels are leading the way. What new must-see shows are joining the pantheon? Take a look:
Westworld (Oct 2)
Easily one of my most anticipated of this season’s upcoming shows, Westworld adapts Michael Crichton’s 1970 novel of the same name, which in turn had once been adapted for film in 1970 (you may have heard my review on this recent podcast). The original starred James Brolin and Richard Benjamin as guests to a futuristic yet realistic park that features robots indulging fantasies of “Westworld”, “Medieval World”, and “Roman World”. Things take a turn when the robots are corrupted by a virus. Now the intensity has been ramped up, with controversial violence and sexual situations involving an all-star cast of Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Jimmi Simpson, Tessa Thompson and James Marsden. As I’m interested in the story to begin with, especially since it’ll involve fantastical western elements, a lot is riding on this for me. Heck, a ton is riding on this for HBO, as they’re about to close shop on Game of Thrones. We’ll see if they can keep this machine running.
Divorce (Oct 9)
Seems like 2016 is the year everyone returns to their television home, doesn’t it? Sarah Jessica Parker is even getting in on it, coming back to HBO for a show that showcases a family on the brink of divorce – headlined by Parker, Thomas Haden Church as her husband, Molly Shannon as her high-strung friend and Talia Balsam as another friend. Sounds to me like a 2010s HBO version of Mad About You, and the worst part about it is that it’s directed by Jesse Peretz, who brought the world the worst film of all time, 2007’s The Ex. Never mind.
Insecure (Oct 9)
Larry Wilmore won’t be looking for work long – he’s producing this diverse new comedy based on Issa Rae’s web-series Awkward Black Girl. Rae seeks to showcase the life of the contemporary black girl, especially one who has trouble navigating the dating scene. It’s been called the answer to Girls, and I could not be more excited – it sounds a ton funnier.
The Young Pope (TBA)
This mini-series is a kind of what-if that sees Jude Law (Larry Belardo) become the first American pope in history – Pope Pius XIII. James Cromwell plays his mentor Cardinal Spencer, and Diane Keaton is a nun who has also mentored Belardo his entire life. I’ve mentioned before that I watch everything Law does, but this also feels timely – given the massive popularity the current pope engenders, and it sounds right up HBO’s typical mini-series alley. It’s also notably directed by director du jour Paolo Sorrentino.
High Maintenance (Sept 16)
Another upcoming HBO comedy based on a popular web series, it follows marijuana dealer Ben Sinclair and the quirky New York clients he supports. I’ve heard good things about the original version, so I’ll give this a chance. If it’s as good as Weeds, we’re in for a treat.
There are no new programs scheduled for the fall, though there are a few due in winter.
Returning Notable Shows:
Shameless (Oct 2) – the rough and tumble lives of the Gallaghers continues to be documented in the seventh season.
Homeland (Jan 15)- with Brody long gone, we’ll see Claire Danes’ cry face continue to affect many foreign powers, while Mandy Patinkin’s Sol will dourly observe from afar.
Masters of Sex (Sept 11) – the chronicles of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson’s quest to revolutionize sexual science has made it to its fourth season.
The Affair (Nov 20) – Another show about sex, though this time it’s pretty people cheating on each other in the Hamptons. Someone they’ve extended their affair through three full seasons.
Billions (Feb 19) – Damian Lewis stuck with Showtime to star in this financial drama also highlighting as many Paul Giamatti screaming scenes as possible.
Starz also has nothing new, though American Gods is set to premiere in early 2017, and I’m heavily stoked for that.
Returning Notable Shows:
Ash vs Evil Dead (Oct 2) – It’s remarkable that they spent decades attempting to recapture the glory of Ash and the Evil Dead films by writing sequel films or reboots, only to find the spark in reviving the franchise as an episodic show with a much older Bruce Campbell in the forefront again. I’m going through the first season right now, and it’s a gory riot. Tune in in time for Halloween!
Much like Showtime, nothing new will come to AMC until mid-season.
Returning Notable Shows:
The Walking Dead (Oct 23): Someone this plodding drama slower than its own antagonists and as misguided as Angela made it to seven seasons. I chalk that up to the meme generation and Carol’s unending charisma. Lennie James popping back in as Morgan helped too, I’m sure.
Halt and Catch Fire (Aug 21): Yes, I apparently missed one – but this third season of the genesis of the internet world is lighting up AMC’s weekly. I’ve always meant to get into this, but haven’t.
Better Things (Sept 8)
I’ve always believed Pamela Adlon has been one of the most unsung actresses in Hollywood, and clearly her collaborations with Louis CK are finally paying off – she’s gotten her own TV show on the same network that made CK huge. FX’s comedy output has had a golden track record, so nothing worries me about this, except I’ll still want more Adlon once it’s over.
Atlanta (Sept 6)
Donald Glover was easily my favorite part of Community, and I’ll chalk that up to Harmon’s writing mixed with his charisma. Glover expanded on that charisma though by transitioning from stand-up comedy to brilliantly incisive rap as that genre’s resident blerd. He’s now created his own TV show based on some aspects of that story – his character and his cousin (newcomer Brian Henry) work to get their rap careers off the ground in Atlanta. It’s also been touched upon a bit within his music, so fans will want to get into this.
Returning Notable Shows:
American Horror Story (Sept 14) – Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology has ridden a roller coaster of quality over the past few years, but I’ve thought it’s at least had good things during each season. Anticipation for this one is the highest it’s ever been, as Murphy has alluded that all previous seasons will be tied together with this one. Rumors abound that the main storyline evokes the lost colony of Roanoke, an early settler colony that went mysteriously missing in the 1590s in the Carolinas. If not that, it’s at least taking place in early America. If The Witch proved anything, it’s that candlelight can be creepy, so here we go.
You’re the Worst (Aug 31) – Yes, this one is also already airing, just this past Wednesday. I’ve alluded to the power this show has over me in the past, so if you haven’t tried it yet, know that it’s the best show on television right now. Give it a shot, what’s the worst that can happen?
Falling Water (Oct 13)
The newest unique output from USA is this strange tale about a group of individuals who discover they’re dreaming within the same dream. The unreliability between reality and dreaming will play on that same type of narrative feeling Mr. Robot currently provides, but perhaps in this ensemble setting it will be more of a godsend than a boon. Will Yun Lee of Witchblade fame will try his hand at another supernatural role, while Lizzie Brochere of American Horror Story: Asylum leads the ensemble.
Good Behavior (Nov 15)
Michelle Dockery jumps from 1930s England to modern-day North Carolina, where she will be the con artist protagonist Letty Dobesh, who is the star of a series of novels by Blake Crouch, the talent behind the Wayward Pines series. This could be the chance for us to see Dockery’s skills outside of being an elite member of English society.
Search Party (Nov 21)
Alia Shawkat (Green Room, Arrested Development) will headline this quirky comedic mystery that finds five 20-somethings who were college acquaintances and friends who discover that one of their classmates has gone missing and decide to find out what happened to her. Wet Hot American Summer’s John Early supports her, so I expect a ton of sass.
People of Earth (Oct 31)
This comedy about a support group for alien abductees sounds intriguing, and could put TBS at the forefront of modern comedy. It’s crazy how these channels are becoming more and more legit as each season passes. Currently Wrecked and The Detour are blowing the channel up, and Rashida Jones’ Angie Tribeca sets the tone for all of them.
Crisis in Six Scenes (Sept 30)
Given that Woody Allen initially regretted signing up for his deal with Amazon, I’m interested in seeing what he’s finally done with his time for the company. This series stars Woody Allen and Elaine May as a couple who enjoys their friends played by Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) and John Magaro (Carol), but then the younger couple takes in a hippie played by Miley Cyrus.
Good Girls Revolt (Oct 28)
Period piece? Check. Women empowerment? Check. Grace Gummer of Mr. Robot playing Nora Ephron? Check. Hunter Parrish of Weeds involved somehow? Check. I’m all set for this news oriented ‘60s dramedy.
Returning Notable Shows:
Red Oaks (Nov 11) – Paul Reiser, Richard Kind and Jennifer Grey all support star Craig Roberts in this amusing send-up of ‘80s comedy tropes, where Roberts works at a tennis club during his summers.
The Man in the High Castle (Dec 16) – I still need to catch up with this, but the world here is a dark one: If the Nazis and Japanese had won World War II, what would North America look like today?
Easy (Sept 22)
Joe Swanberg, king of mumblecore hits like Happy Christmas, LOL and Drinking Buddies is now taking on his first show with this look at love and sex in Chicago, starring Malin Akerman, Jake Johnson, Aya Cash, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Dave Franco and Orlando Bloom. Nice cast, great director. Will it live up to its small hype?
Luke Cage (Sept 30)
The third show in Marvel’s Netflix deal, this will focus on Mike Colter’s reluctant badass Luke Cage, who first appeared in the splendid Jessica Jones. He’ll have his own troubles to deal with up in Harlem, as House of Cards’ Mahershala Ali plays villain Cottonmouth Stokes, a nightclub owner dealing in illegal operations, not unlike Daredevil’s villain Kingpin. If this is anything like those two aforementioned projects, we’re in for another action treat.
Haters Back Off (Oct 14)
This quirky little comedy is the brainchild of Colleen Ballinger, the stand-up comedian behind the hit video series “Miranda Sings”. If this is anything like the otherwise incredibly talented Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite, then we’re in for some trouble.
The Crown (Nov 4)
Anglophiles will want to check this one out – Peter Morgan, the man behind The Queen and The Audience is back again to his favorite subject, Queen Elizabeth II. Here he’ll go through her early days as reigning monarch of England, as depicted by Claire Foy (Crossbones). Her husband Prince Phillip will be played by that very divisive Doctor Who, Matt Smith. Jared Harris (Mad Men) appears as her father, King George VI, Vanessa Kirby (About Time) will play Elizabeth’s sister Margaret, and John Lithgow (Dexter) is going to be that enigmatic figure Winston Churchill. History buffs will have the pitchforks out if this doesn’t go well.
Returning Notable Shows:
The Ranch (Oct 7) – This delightful surprise from last year stars Ashton Kutcher, Sam Elliott and Kutcher’s That 70’s Show friend Danny Masterson as a family of ranchers in Colorado. Deftly switching between sarcastic comedy and touching human drama, this was one of my surprises of 2015. I look forward to seeing where the Bennett family goes from here.
That’s it for fall 2016 in terms of television. Tune back in tomorrow though! We also cover some upcoming show that will be premiering later in the season, but haven’t been scheduled yet – be they mid-season replacements or since cable heeds no typical schedule…