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New to view: What’s coming to TV in early 2021

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Seen anything good lately?

If you’re among the millions of people out there who have turned to their old friend television to help pass the time during these past months (and yet-to-be-determined future months) of staying home due to the pandemic, you’ve likely churned through A LOT of content. You might have even watched everything new that has piqued your interest.

But wait – there’s more!

Broadcast, cable and streaming outlets haven’t let the current circumstances keep them from keeping the new programming a-flowing. Thus, we offer up our annual New to View – January Edition. Have a look at the list and see some of what’s coming over the next couple of months, listed in chronological order by premiere date.

(Note: As usual, we have steered clear of returning shows. It’s all about the new stuff here. Will all of these shows make it to a second season? No. Heck, some of them may not make it to the end of their first season. Still, it’s nice to see all these fresh starts.)

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Resident Alien (SyFy) Jan. 27

So this is pretty high-concept stuff. The gist is this: an alien (played by the wonderful Alan Tudyk) crashes on Earth while preparing for the destruction of man. He has to wait to be rescued, so he poses as a human and hides among us. In an effort to avoid detection and/or capture, he even embraces his disguise, posing as a doctor and helping to solve crimes. Based on the comic book series from Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, it’ll be interesting to see if something this weird can get traction. Frankly, I have no idea if the show will work, but kudos to SyFy for at least taking a swing.

The Great Escapists (Amazon) Jan. 29

So we generally steer clear of reality shows in this space, but sometimes we find one that we simply can’t resist. Such is the case for “The Great Escapists,” a show with an undeniably solid hook. Basically, we take a pair of TV pop science types – Richard Hammond (of “Top Gear” and “The Grand Tour”) and Tory Bellici (“Mythbusters”) – and literally strand them on an island, leaving them to figure out what they can do with nothing more than their wits and the remains of their “shipwreck.” Is it an excuse for two television nerds to delight in building weird machines and blowing stuff up? Absolutely – and that’s why you’re going to watch.

The Lady & the Dale (HBO) Jan. 31

This show is very different than anything else that we’ll be covering in this preview. The four-episode docuseries revolves around an entrepreneur named Elizabeth Carmichael, who rose to fame in the 1970s behind her company Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation and its crown jewel, the fuel-efficient three-wheeled car called “The Dale.” However, it wasn’t long before some questions began to arise about Carmichael and the truth behind her seeming technological breakthrough. Look – this show is executive produced by the Duplass Brothers, who quite frankly don’t miss; if it’s a story they feel is worth telling, then it is almost certainly a story worth listening to.

Firefly Lane (Netflix) Feb. 3

The streaming services have had pretty good luck with soapy series based on popular books, so it makes sense that Netflix is going back to that well with this adaptation of Kristin Hannah’s 2008 novel. It has the bona fides that you expect from a show like this – two familiar female leads in Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke, a TV veteran showrunner in Maggie Friedman, a bucolic Pacific Northwest setting. It’s the story of the lifelong friendship between Tully and Kate, following them from their teens all the way into their 40s; even as their paths diverge, they remain close. I expect it will all be very well-done and exceedingly familiar.

The Snoopy Show (Apple TV+) Feb. 5

Do you love “Peanuts”? Or are you a monster who hates joy? Those are the options, people – I don’t make the rules. There was a bit of an uproar earlier this year when the folks at Apple TV+ acquired the rights to Charlie Brown and the gang – including the beloved holiday specials. However, we are getting some brand-new content, so all is not lost. “The Snoopy Show” shows up just in time to help celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first appearance of Charles Schultz’s iconic script. As an added bonus, word on the street is that they’ve tried to match the classic Melendez/Mendelson style for the new show.

The Equalizer (CBS) Feb. 7

This right here is a perfect example of what IP content churn really looks like these days. This show began life as a mid-to-late 1980s drama starring Edward Woodward. The show then lent its name (and not much else) to a couple of Denzel Washington action beat-em-ups. And now, in what sure looks like an attempt to bring the two together, we’re back to TV, only this time with none other than Queen Latifah as the star. Honestly, the trailers make this look like pretty standard-issue CBS procedural drama fare, which basically means it will be on the air for the next decade without breaking a sweat. All things being equal, it’s probably worth a shot.

Clarice (CBS) Feb. 11

Looks like CBS is in the reboot business this winter, eh? Here we have another TV show inspired by a movie (“The Silence of the Lambs”) that already inspired several other movies and a TV show. This one will be interesting, because while it features FBI agent Clarice Starling and is set one year after the events of “Silence,” for legal reasons, the show can’t even mention Hannibal Lecter. So – can the show deal with the fact that the most interesting thing about its main character can’t be discussed? It’s possible that they prove capable of navigating these waters, but it’ll be tough to follow up the success of “Hannibal” under network limitations.

The Great North (Fox) Feb. 14

One of the things that I admire about Fox is that they decided to run with their animation block and never look back. Sure, this means that there have been some unfortunate misfires along the way, but it is tough to argue their successes. Specifically, when these shows hit, they HIT. One such hit from recent years is “Bob’s Burgers” – a show that shares some DNA with Fox’s newest cartoon effort. “The Great North” is creatively driven by the Molyneaux Sisters (writers for “BB”) and features a hell of a voice cast, headed up by the consistently great Nick Offerman as the delightfully-named Beef Tobin, an Alaskan single dad.

The Crew (Netflix) Feb. 15

This is one of those shows that I am both a) sure will be terrible, and b) happy that it exists. Kevin James stars (because of course he does) in this streamer about a NASCAR crew chief struggling to deal with the ways in which his new crew are trying to modernize the business. Kevin James doing a “kids these days” show – who would have guessed it? Look, I have to assume that there’s some branding synergy with NASCAR on this. If so, expect the show to wind up being extremely successful; I’m betting we see a whole lot of driver cameos – that’ll certainly land with its target audience. Also? I’m mystified by the fact that this isn’t on CBS.

Young Rock (NBC) Feb. 16

Does this television show look like a parody invented by another sitcom in order to show how ridiculous television shows can be? It absolutely does, but we’re in a time and place where Poe’s Law simply no longer applies. It only gets more insane when you hear the premise – basically, the year is 2032 and the Rock is running for president. The show is him reminiscing about his past, with three actors playing the titular Young Rock at various stages of youngness, from school days to the wrestling ring to, well … who the hell even knows? All I can say is that you better check it out, or else you’re a candyass.

Kenan (NBC) Feb. 16

I suppose it was inevitable that Kenan Thompson’s years of strong work on “SNL” would eventually lead to him headlining a sitcom. I just wish the show sounded … better. Kenan plays a widowed father to two daughters, juggling his job as a morning show host with his familial responsibilities. He also has other people in his life – specifically his brother (fellow “SNL” player Chris Redd) and his father-in-law (Don Johnson, because why not?) – inundating him with advice on how to raise the kids. All this while trying to move forward from his departed wife. This reads like bad sitcom pitch Mad Libs, so I’m hoping that Kenan and company are able to elevate the seemingly tired material.

Behind Her Eyes (Netflix) Feb. 17

Would you look at that – another streaming miniseries based on a bestselling novel! “Behind Her Eye” is coming to Netflix, based on the 2017 Sarah Pinborough novel of the same name. It’s the story of a woman, a single mother, whose world begins to spiral out of control when she enters into an affair with her boss. It only gets weirder when she befriends her boss’s wife. It’s your standard deal – a steamy love triangle turns into something far darker when our heroine winds up getting trapped in a web of secrets and revelations, leaving her with no choice – either she pushes forward or she loses everything.

Beartown (HBO Max) Feb. 22

This is a little bit of a different pick for us, but we like to try to get at least one of the many European shows being premiered on these shores into the mix. This one – based on Fredrik Backman’s bestselling novel of the same name – looks particularly intriguing. A Swedish production, it revolves around the titular town – a town that has long languished but currently has some hope, courtesy of the local junior hockey team. The team has a shot at moving forward in the national playoffs, but this means that an undue burden is placed on a number of young men ill-equipped to handle the pressure – pressure that leads to tragedy.

Superman & Lois (CW) Feb. 23

This is the first of three superhero-related shows that we’ll be discussing in this preview. “Superman & Lois” is the latest addition to the CW’s increasingly robust Arrowverse collection of DC Comics-related shows. It’s an interesting decision, focusing on these two characters, but it’s not like we’re without precedent – “The Adventures of Lois and Clark” had a nice network run back in the ‘90s; there’s no reason to think that the reasonable success of that formula won’t work in an era far more predisposed to embracing superheroic entertainments. Whether this one works remains to be seen, but you probably shouldn’t bet against the CW, considering the success they’ve had with these shows thus far.

Punky Brewster (Peacock) Feb. 25

Obviously, this was already in the works, but the folks at Peacock must have been awfully happy to see the positive early returns for their “Saved By the Bell” reboot, considering they knew this one was coming down the pike. Soleil Moon Frye is back as the titular Punky, now all grown up and raising kids of her own. Three of them, in fact. Are they spunky and precocious? Hell yes they are! And is Punky a single mother doing it all? You better believe it! Look, this show promises to be exceptionally dorky, but one can never underestimate the power of nostalgia. I’m just crossing my fingers that we get at least one very special episode a la Cherie in the refrigerator.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+) March 19

Next up on the eagerly anticipated slate of MCU television offerings from Disney+, we get this promising team-up. Basically, we’ve got Captain America’s two besties – Sam Wilson (Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) – coming together to battle evil as a duo. As with all things MCU, details have been pretty scarce with regard to the direction of the project. And considering the unabashed weirdness of “WandaVision,” which just debuted this month, the truth is that there’s no telling what we’re going to get. Still, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan demonstrated a delightfully antagonistic fraternal chemistry in the films – if that holds true, the rest will fall into place.

Invincible (Amazon) March 26

We close things out with our third and final superhero show. This one is a little different, an animated series about the adventures of the titular character, a teenager who must deal with his developing abilities beneath the shadow cast by his father, the world’s mightiest superhero. “Invincible” is based on a character created by Robert Kirkman, the man behind “The Walking Dead” comics, so we know that his stuff CAN translate to the screen. It’s got a killer cast as well – Steven Yeun headlines, with J.K. Simmons, Sandra Oh, Seth Rogen, Mark Hamill and a dozen more notable names. I’ve got pretty high hopes for this one, actually – we’ll see how it plays out.

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Better Late Than Never

This story is running a little later than it has in years past, so I thought it might be fun to close things out with a handful of selections that have already premiered, but recently enough that it would be no problem to get caught up and on board.

There’s the already-mentioned WandaVision on Disney+, a show that is exploring the larger potential of the expanding MCU. The CW has rebooted a classic with Walker; they’ve removed the “Texas Ranger” from the title and Jared Padelicki is no Chuck Norris, but who knows – might be fun. Some compelling dramatic series have already begun as well – Hulu’s The Sister, Apple TV+’s Losing Alice and Bridge and Tunnel from Epix, written and directed by Ed Burns.

Obviously, there’s a ton more that we never got to here, but it just goes to show you – there’s never been a time when audiences had a wider selection available on their screens. So even as we do our best to hunker down and continue to weather the pandemic, we’ll have some new stuff to watch.

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 January 2021 13:47

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