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New to view in 2017 - A TV preview

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Some upcoming television debut offerings

It wasn't so long ago that that the fall television lineups were the be-all and end-all of new TV. Shows that made their debuts in January were considered little more than filler, with the term 'midseason replacement' often being used in a derogatory fashion.

However, as the ways in which we consume television have changed, so too have our attitudes regarding when shows join their respective lineups. Instead of an afterthought, the “Second Season” has become a viable entity in its own right, with all sorts of interesting offerings arriving on your screen of choice.

Broadcast networks, premium and basic cable outlets, streaming services - everybody has something for the viewer looking for something new to consume this winter. If nothing else, it seems likely that all tastes - highbrow, lowbrow and everything in-between - will be addressed.

Please note that some of these programs have already premiered, but you have plenty of time to catch up – and there are a whole lot more that have yet to arrive. Have a look at some of the intriguing options that are en route.

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Super Duper

Riverdale (CW; premiere date Jan. 26)

I’m borderline embarrassed at how eagerly I’m anticipating this show. “Riverdale” is a gritty take on the universe of Archie Comics, a sort of noir take on Archie Andrews and the gang. Yes yes yes – Archie isn’t a superhero. But he is as comic-booky as any of these other cape-wearing do-gooders. And the truth is that there’s a surprising amount of possibility inherent to reshaping this particular world. It’s almost certainly going to degenerate into a sort of Shonda-lite teen melodrama, but I’m holding out hope that the CW superverse/“Dawson’s Creek” bona fides of executive producer Greg Berlanti will lead to some campy, ridiculous fun.

Powerless (NBC; premiere date Feb. 2)

I’ve always been fascinated by the regular people living in a superhero world. How does day-to-day life change when there are caped gods flying among us? “Powerless” attempts to answer that question; set in the DC Universe, it’s the story of Wayne Security (yes, that Wayne), a small outfit devoted to helping citizens deal with the massive collateral damage inherent to a city rife with superfights. This could be a fascinating tangential take on superhero stories. It could also be little more than a one-joke premise. In the end, I think it’s going to come down to how the cast – led by Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi and Vanessa Hudgens – comes together.

Legion (FX; premiere date Feb. 8)

From the look of things, this has a real shot at being the best superhero show yet (non-Netflix division). It’s connected to the X-Men universe and features a young man institutionalized for schizophrenia who might just be the most powerful mutant in the world. The X-Men have long been one of the comic book world’s most sprawling ensembles; this show is a chance to bring some of the lesser-known X-players into the mix. All the ingredients appear to be in place – including Noah Hawley, the guy behind FX’s excellent “Fargo,” and a cast led by Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart, Aubrey Plaza and Maine’s own Katie Aselton – for a successful foray into small-screen superheroism.

Iron Fist (Netflix; premiere date March 17)

This show has one of the latest premieres of this entire preview, but I couldn’t let it go unmentioned. This is the fourth and final of Netflix’s ambitious “street level” Marvel shows to debut; basically, billionaire/mystical kung fu guy Danny Rand (Finn Jones) fights crime as Iron Fist. The standard of excellence for these shows is high; there’s no reason to expect that “Iron Fist” will fail to clear the bar. The only worry is that, since this is the last one before the massive “Defenders” team-up show scheduled for later this year, it might be a bit overly devoted to overarching storylines rather than its own narrative. Still, I’m guessing Netflix has it all under control.

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Was The Book Better?

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix; premiere date Jan. 13)

The wildly popular “Unfortunate Events” books from Lemony Snicket struggled to make the media transition in its previous effort; the Jim Carrey-starring movie got a ho-hum reception at best. But it looks like Netflix has put right what once went wrong, converting the books into a series structured so that each book is rendered in two episodes. The only smarter move they made was getting Neil Patrick Harris to play the creepier-than-creepy Count Olaf. By all accounts, the show perfectly captures the bleak whimsy of the source material. Throw in some talented kids and a great collection of supporting talent and this one looks like another win for Netflix.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu; premiere date April 26)

I’m betting that this is going to be one of those shows that has people talking – particularly if they manage to bring the thoughtful, chilling clarity of Margaret Atwood’s novel to the screen in an effective fashion. “The Handmaid’s Tale” follows Offred (Elisabeth Moss) through a near-future totalitarian society where birthrates have plunged and women are property of the state. It’s a dark and compelling story, one whose on-screen realization will likely resonate with audiences. It all boils down to how the novel translates to television. Hulu has done good work with literary adaptations like this in the past; here’s hoping they keep it up with this one.

American Gods (Starz; premiere date in April)

Speaking as someone who flat-out adored Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” upon first reading it, I had some serious misgivings when I heard that it was being adapted into a TV show. I had even more when it encountered some struggles along the way. But now, with Bryan Fuller on board to bring his fantastic pulpiness to the proceedings, I’m feeling optimistic. The cast looks dynamite – Ian McShane as the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday has me particularly excited – and this story of the new gods waging war against the old might just turn out to be even better than I could possibly have hoped.

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Everything Old Is New Again

Taken (NBC; premiere date Feb. 27)

We’ve all seen “Taken.” Most of us have probably done a variation on the Liam Neeson “special set of skills” speech. So I sort-of get why NBC is taking a swing. This series is allegedly a prequel, one that follows Bryan Mills (Clive Standen) in his earlier secret spy years where he spends his time rescuing the kidnapped children of other people and returns them to their parents. It’s all well and good, but the truth is that it hardly matters how good or not-good this show is in a vacuum. All we’re going to be able to focus on is how not-Liam Neeson the guy playing Young Liam Neeson is.

Training Day (CBS; premiere date Feb. 2)

A large part of what made the movie “Training Day” so exceptional – aside from the powerful performances from its two leads – was the sense of visceral urgency it was able to convey. There won’t be any of that in CBS’s adaptation of the film; a TV season isn’t built for that. So they’ve swapped the races of the leads – now we’ve got an older dirty cop who is white (Bill Paxton) mentoring a young black trainee (Justin Cromwell), only the trainee is actually undercover investigating the above-the-law behavior of his new partner. This show might surprise me, but I have trouble believing that it’s actually going to work.

Twin Peaks (Showtime; premiere date May 21)

If you’re of a certain age, you likely still remember the pop culture phenomenon that was “Twin Peaks,” the brilliant David Lynch show from the early 1990s. Anyone who liked that show loved it; many of those same people are eagerly anticipating what Lynch’s return to the Pacific Northwest might yield. Details have been scarce, but we do know that many of the original cast members are involved to some extent or another and there will be a ton of guest stars, but everyone is being pretty tight-lipped about the story itself. Doesn’t matter – you can bet you’ll be getting the television equivalent of a slice of cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.

24: Legacy (Fox; premiere date Feb. 5)

I think we all knew that it was just a matter of time before “24” got the reboot treatment. There’s no Jack Bauer this time; our new focus is a decorated war hero named Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins) who is targeted by terrorists seeking battlefield information only Carter possesses. From there, we can likely expect the usual rabbit hole of conspiracy. The standard questions like “What will he do?” and “Who can he trust?” and “When does he go to the bathroom?” will apply, but Fox is savvy enough to know how this all works. It’ll be more digital readout-punctuated action excitement and fans of the original will likely be plenty satisfied.

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Stream On

Sneaky Pete (Amazon; premiere date Jan. 13)

This is another one that looks to be just rife with potential. A con man (played by Giovanni Ribisi) just out of prison finds himself the target of a criminal he once did wrong. His solution? Assume the identity of his former cellmate and ingratiate himself with that man’s family (one assumes that certain logistical questions are addressed early on). Bryan Cranston co-created the show, whose intriguing concept is amplified by a talented supporting cast led by the always-awesome Margo Martindale. Cranston will also guest on the show, but it looks like this might be the vehicle that really allows the quirky, underrated Ribisi to shine.

Frontier (Netflix; premiere date Jan. 20)

This one looks like it might be a bit of an acquired taste, a show that, when people like it, they REALLY like it. Everyone’s favorite Khal Drogo Jason Momoa stars as a part-Irish/part-Native trader/warrior who is determined to combat the Hudson Bay Company’s domination of the fur trade in 18th century Canada. The perhaps dry-sounding conceit is being rendered by way of some pretty intense action and brutal violence, with Momoa hacking and slashing and stabbing his way through his colonialist enemies. As long as it strikes the right balance between the meaningfulness of its message and the quality of its delivery, “Frontier” has plenty of potential.

Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix; premiere date Feb. 3)

The latest offering from weirdo sitcom outlier Victor Fresco (who brought us “Better Off Ted” and “Andy Richter Controls the Universe”) brings together Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as a pair of realtors who experience a change that sends, and I quote, “both their lives down a road of death and destruction … but in a good way.” What do you even say to that? I’ll be honest – I know next to nothing about this show, but that description (along with the talented leads) sure makes it seem like something that will prove to be worth checking out. “Santa Clarita” will likely prove bizarre, surreal and surprisingly heartfelt.

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It’s Not TV…

The Young Pope (HBO; premiere date Jan. 15)

The general reaction to this show has been one of being unsure just how to feel about it. Jude Law stars as Lenny Belardo, the first American Pope. Created, written and directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, it’s an eight-episode miniseries that follows Belardo as he attempts to reinvigorate and reform the Catholic Church. It’s got some heavy hitters in the supporting cast behind Law, with talents like Diane Keaton and James Cromwell. It was warmly received in its overseas release; it’ll be interesting to see how American audiences react. In any case, it’s an interesting concept – time will tell if it is one that has any real staying power.

Big Little Lies (HBO; premiere date Feb. 19)

In all honesty, I haven’t heard a ton about this show. Nor am I familiar with the source material, Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel of the same name. However, after looking at the talent assembled to make this show happen, you’d be hard-pressed to not at least give it a chance. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley star, with other names like Laura Dern and Adam Scott and Alexander Skarsgard thrown into the mix. Oh, and the guy running the show just happens to be TV legend David E. Kelley. Expect this comedy-drama to take full advantage of the varied talents of this cast packed with heavy hitters.

Crashing (HBO; premiere date Feb. 19)

You never know what you’re going to get when a comedian creates a starring vehicle for him or herself. It’s a crapshoot to be sure, but sometimes – say, when you’ve got Judd Apatow executive producing a project from Pete Holmes – you get a better feeling than others. “Crashing” springs from the sad sitcom school, a semi-autobiographical show about a comedian who moves out and starts couch-surfing after discovering that his wife has been having an affair. Plenty of big comedy names will make appearances – folks like Sarah Silverman and T.J. Miller – and there will likely be a surprising mix of humor and pathos from the talented Holmes.

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 January 2017 13:43

1 comment

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