Yes, September is the technical start of the TV season, but for the past several years, the best TV has usually aired in the first half of the year. January through June tends to bring a bumper crop of great stuff and intriguing new shows, and this year is no exception. There are several dozen new shows we're interested in seeing in the months to come, but these are the 11 upcoming shows we're most excited about. We've seen at least one episode of all of them, and we came away from that experience ready for so much more.
This new drama is the cream of this winter's crop, setting a weird murder mystery amid the frozen wastes of the Arctic in a city named Fortitude. The show blends the beautiful landscapes and stunning vistas of FX's Fargo with the twisted storytelling and small-town secrets of Twin Peaks, and it marks the arrival of little-watched cable network Pivot, which picked up this series from the British broadcaster Sky. It's also got a cast to die for, headed up by Stanley Tucci, in his first lead role for television (even if he doesn't appear at all in the show's first hour). Oh, and have we mentioned the polar bears? Because there are polar bears. Debuts Thursday, January 29, at 10 p.m. Eastern on Pivot.
Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
ABC has made a name for itself as the home of warm and funny family comedies, and this new offering from Nahnatchka Khan (late of Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23) turns Eddie Huang's memoir of the same name into one part Wonder Years-style reminisce on mid-1990s Orlando, Florida, and one part oddball family story. It's also the first US sitcom to boast an entirely Asian-American cast since 1994's All-American Girl. Though the show is a coming of age story, the best reasons to tune in are Randall Park and Constance Wu as the parents of young Eddie, both of whom are intent on making sure their sons have the best, most American life possible, usually to hilarious ends. Debuts Wednesday, February 4, at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Eastern on ABC, before moving to its regular timeslot on Tuesday, February 10, at 8 p.m. Eastern.
HBO's documentary series is the latest from Andrew Jarecki, the director of the terrific film Capturing the Friedmans. It follows the strange, sordid story of Robert Durst, a member of a prominent and wealthy New York family, who found deaths and disappearances following him at every turn — leading plenty to suspect he was responsible for said deaths and disappearances. Durst himself has finally spoken to Jarecki for this project, and it's almost as if the great documentarian Errol Morris (director of films like The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War) had made his own version of the popular podcast Serial. This one's addicting. Debuts Sunday, February 8, at 8 p.m. Eastern on HBO.
Better Call Saul (AMC)
Is this Breaking Bad prequel perfect? No. It moves a little slowly and has plenty of prequel problems — especially since every time its protagonist (the terrific Bob Odenkirk) is in mortal danger, we necessarily know nothing too terrible will happen to him, lest he not survive to the time when Breaking Bad is set. But this is also a sly, funny little drama that acts as the thematic flipside of its parent show. If that series was about a man who appeared to be good realizing just how bad he truly was, then Better Call Saul is about a man who appears to be a total jerk realizing that he's got something of a soul. Plus, it's a legal drama about the kinds of low-rent court cases that rarely pop up on TV, which makes it all the more fun. Debuts Sunday, February 8, at 10 p.m. Eastern on AMC, before moving to its regular timeslot on Monday, February 9, at 10 p.m. Eastern.
The Last Man on Earth (Fox)
It's extremely rare to come across a TV comedy that truly feels new, even in this boom of comedies inspired by the world of indie film. But this new series from sole credited star Will Forte and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the minds behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street) feels legitimately like nothing else on TV. Forte plays, well, look at the title, and Lord and Miller find all sorts of ways to make his lonely existence amusing. To say anything beyond that would be to spoil the show — and some of its best jokes — but this is a great example of a big, broadcast network using its larger budgets to do something truly different. Debuts Sunday, March 1, at 9 pm Eastern on Fox, before moving to its regular timeslot at 9:30 pm Eastern on Sunday, March 8.
American Crime (ABC)
The pilot for this is tough to watch, but packed with great ideas and performances. Tracing the story of one crime across several families of different races and economic backgrounds, American Crime, created by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, is the kind of sprawling story that the broadcast networks have largely given up to cable. But here's ABC, planting the show at the end of its Shonda Rhimes-dominated Thursday night, in hopes of starting conversations. The show doesn't quite meet all of its ambitions in the pilot, but it's still impressive to see a show trying to tackle this many interesting topics and succeeding more often than failing. Debuts Thursday, March 5, at 10 p.m. Eastern on ABC.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
The newest show from 30 Rock creator Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, who served as the showrunner for much of that show's run, this comedy occasionally has far too much going on to be entirely successful. But it's also got more than enough terrific jokes to suggest great things are ahead once it gets everything pulled together — and those first few episodes of 30 Rock were pretty rough too. Following Ellie Kemper (The Office) as a woman who only recently escaped from a doomsday cult and moved to the big city, the series takes place in Fey and Carlock's typical, cartoonish spin on New York. And as with all Netflix series, you won't have to wait and see if it gets any better. You can watch all 13 episodes the day it launches. Debuts Friday, March 6, on Netflix.
iZombie (The CW)
Yes, zombies are everywhere, but you've never seen them quite like this. Veronica Mars' creator Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, his lieutenant on that teen private eye series, have offered up another quirky take on the detective genre with a young, female protagonist. But this time, our hero was zombified a few months back and can only stay more or less presentable if she consumes a brain every now and then. To accomplish this feat, she gets a job in the morgue, then realizes the brains she eats give her brief glimpses of the lives of the dead — glimpses that might help her solve murders. Loosely based on the comic of the same name, iZombie is just weird enough to feel refreshing, and it's blessed with Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright's usual gift for snappy banter. Debuts Tuesday, March 17, at 9 p.m. Eastern on The CW.
Wolf Hall (PBS)
Adapting both the book of the same title and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel, this BBC miniseries takes its sweet time getting going but pays off ample rewards once it isolates its two main characters in the same place. As Thomas Cromwell, Mark Rylance is terrific at playing a man just trying to survive in a world that doesn't guarantee his survival. And as King Henry VIII, Damian Lewis is haughty, impetuous, and more than a little vain. Mantel's books are so good that we're betting this eventually matches up to them. But even if it doesn't quite get there, being 50 percent as good as Mantel's work will still be very good indeed. Debuts Sunday, April 5, at 9 p.m. Eastern on PBS.
The Comedians (FX)
Billy Crystal makes his return to television playing himself in this adaptation of a Swedish series. Also starring Josh Gad (who also plays himself), the show tracks what happens when a comedy legend decides to make a TV sketch comedy show with a young up-and-comer. The show blends insider show-business jokes with broad sketch comedy, but what makes it worth watching are the sadder moments, when Crystal and Gad reflect on the turns their careers have taken that brought them to this point. It's more interesting than funny at this point, but at least it's really interesting. Debuts Thursday, April 9, at 10 pm Eastern on FX.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (BBC America)
Susanna Clarke's novel, on which this miniseries was based, was in active conversation with the early 19th century British novels it was inspired by, and it offered a particularly subtle, if cutting, critique of the roles of women within that society. So it only makes sense that the TV adaptation seems to be in active conversation with British miniseries adaptations of those novels. And did we mention that this is about two magicians restoring magic to England at the height of the Napoleonic wars? Clarke's book is good enough to merit a tremendous TV adaptation, and this one looks to be on the right course. Debuts later in the year on BBC America.
- Editor Brad Plumer
- Copy Editor Kelsey McKinney
- Developer Yuri Victor
- Image courtesy of Pivot