We’re halfway through 2014, and let’s be honest: there haven’t been a lot of great, break-out new series, save for January’s True Detective. I love The Leftovers, but it’s premiere ratings were middling, AMC’s new fare hasn’t struck a nerve, FX’s Tyrant is not getting a ton of buzz, and Showtime’s Penny Dreadful will never become a Zeitgeistian hit. Fargo was amazing, but ratings were only so-so, and it hasn’t even been renewed for a second season yet. We need another Game of Thrones, another Breaking Bad and another Walking Dead. Save for True Detective, and maybe The Strain later this month, the biggest hits in 2014 were mostly the biggest hits in 2013.
So, maybe it’s time to look ahead to next year and at the new crop of new cable dramas (and one comedy) for the next, huge break-out hit. Here are 10 possibilities, and the ten shows I’m most excited about in 2015.
10. Ballers — The half-hour comedy series, honestly, sounds like Entourage set in the pro sports world, but I can’t resist the cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the lead, a retired football player, in a sitcom that will explore the lives of a group of former and current football players. Rob Corddry will co-star in the series, produced by Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, with a pilot directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, The Leftovers) and written by Stephen Levinson (Entourage).
9. Roadies — This is a personal preference, if only because one of my favorite all-time directors, Cameron Crowe, is coming to television (Showtime) to explore what he knows best: the life of touring musicians and their groupies. That’s essentially what the semi-autobiographical Almost Famous was. Along with producer J.J. Abrams, Crowe is turning that concept into a weekly series. What’s not to be excited about?
8. The Walking Dead Spin-Off — We still don’t know that much about The Walking Dead spin-off, except that it’s not actually a spin-off, it’s a companion series. Here’s everything we do know so far.
7. Marvel’s Daredevil — Agents of SHIELD hasn’t exactly crushed it for ABC, but the next small-screen adaptation in the Marvel world (after this winter’s Peggy Carter series) has a decent showrunner in Michael DeKnight (Sparactus) and a strong cast in lead (Charlie Cox), love interest (Rosario Dawson), and villain (Vincent D’Onofrio, who will play Kingpin). There will be a certain Marvel slickness, and certainly some formula, but if the 10 episodes of Daredevil can be as good as the best 5 episodes of Agents of SHIELD, it should do just fine for Netflix.
6. MaddAddam — The post-apocalyptic series based on Margaret Atwood’s book trilogy is being brought to HBO by Darren Aronofsky. I’ll let Robo Panda do the honors in describing the book series:
The MaddAddam trilogy takes place in the mid-21st century, following the lives of the remaining survivors — some human and some genetically engineered — of a viral pandemic started intentionally by titular character Crake (née Glenn) in the first part of the trilogy in an attempt to wipe out everyone but his genetically-engineered tribe of “Crakers”.
Since it’s HBO, we fully expect them to include the mating rituals of the Crakers, in which the men wave their erect blue penises around and a female chooses several of her favorites for a week-long orgy. Oryx & Crake was weird, you guys.
Aronofsky, Atwood, blue penises, and HBO could hardly be a better combination.
5. Utopia — I’m basing our anticipation level for Utopia on the fact that it’s a hugely popular series in the UK, it’s being adapted by HBO, and it’s David Fincher who is bringing it. He will write and direct the pilot episode, and Gillian Flynn (the author of Gone Girl, which Fincher is directing for release in theaters later this year) is writing the series. I’ve actually seen the British series, and it’s phenomenal. The story revolves around the die-hard fans of an iconic, underground graphic novel who are suddenly launched into their own pop-culture thriller when they learn that the author has secretly written a sequel. Unfortunately, the new manuscript is much more than just a book and those on the hunt for it suddenly find themselves in a game of shifting loyalties, conspiracy and shocking twists as the true meaning of the book is slowly revealed. It’s a series that will launch a million conspiracy theories.
4. Preacher — AMC has boned a lot of its more recent efforts, but the only thing they might be able to depend on as much as Better Call Saul is another television series based on a popular graphic novel. It’s another project that many have tried to turn into a movie and/or television series, and it was Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who apparently cracked the code. It’s one of the greatest adult comic books ever, it’s Rogen and Goldberg’s favorite comic ever. They’ve spent seven years developing the damn thing. Casting will be key, but there’s certainly an incredibly high anticipation level, especially for AMC which desperately needs a new hit that’s not piggybacking off an old one.
3. Better Call Saul — In the Breaking Bad spin-off, we have a known quantity, the best showrunner in the business, and one of the best characters in recent television history. AMC pretty much can’t miss with Saul, which will premiere in early 2015 in the post-The Walking Dead slot. The shifting timeline, which would allow them to bring back Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul (maybe even regularly) makes it even more exciting.
2. American Gods — Just announced yesterday, Starz is finally developing that long-awaited, much anticipated series based on Neil Gaiman’s Hugo award winning novel. The project floated around at HBO for years, with Tom Hanks’ production company behind it (and the promise of $40 million per season), but they couldn’t quite figure out how to bring it to the small screen. Let’s hope that FremantleMedia, which took over the rights, knows how to do it: They certainly have the right guy to write and direct the pilot, in Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), and the concept is awesome. It will portray a war between the old gods of biblical and mythological roots and a new group of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. Michael Green (Kings, Heroes) will run the series. A lot will come down to who Starz can cast as the lead, Shadow. I like Karl Urban. I’ve seen others suggest Dwayne Johnson.
1. Untitled Marty Scorsese/ Mick Jagger Drama — I think we can assume, since principal casting has already mostly finished, that the Untitled Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger produced series will launch on HBO in 2015 (probably in Boardwalk’s fall slot), and it sounds terrific. In fact, rumor has it that this is the reason that Boardwalk Empire is wrapping up this season, so that showrunner Terence Winter can move on to running this new show. It is set in 1970s New York and explores the drug-and sex-fueled music business as punk and disco were breaking out, all through the eyes of record executive Richie Finestra, who is trying to resurrect his label and find the next new sound. In addition to Scorsese and Mick Jagger as producers and Winter running the show, check out the cast: Richie Finestro will be played by Bobby Cannavale, his best friend will be played by Ray Romano, Olivia Wilde will play Finestro’s wife, and these guys will all have roles, too: June Temple, Max Casella, Jack Quaid, Andrew “Dice” Clay, and James Jagger.
American Gods and Preacher may be more exciting on paper, and Better Call Saul and The Walking Dead spin-off may have all the name recognition, but nothing gets me more exciting than a Scorsese/Winter joint with Bobby Cannavale. That’s got Emmy written all over it for the next five years.