With scripted TV rising and rising, it can be tough to pinpoint shows to watch. Random channels like NatGeo have entered the prestige game and tech companies further complicate the streaming market. But luckily, we’re here to fill you in on just what we’re most excited for. From Netflix stalwarts to TV star reunions, we’ve got our top picks for what you should be watching on your screens this year.
The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Pat: Maybe it’s due to the year off, or maybe it’s because of the somewhat shaky season last year, but Game of Thrones takes a backseat to a franchise that I’d never thought I’d see in a TV list.
The Mandalorian breaks new ground as the first Star Wars live-action TV series. While we still know very little about it, what we do know has me excited. First, it’s helmed by Jon Favreau (director of Iron Man, The Jungle Book, Elf), who has proven himself over the years to be very capable of coming into franchises and handling them with care. We have an exciting list of directors including Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones), and Bryce Dallas Howard among others. Then, you have a stacked cast with Pedro Pascal (a Game of Thrones favorite) as the titular character, supported by Giancarlo Esposito, Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, and Nick Nolte. So far we’ve got a bunch of talent lining up to make this something special.
Outside of just the people bringing the show to life, there’s a lot to anticipate as far as look, feel, and just how and where this fits into the Star Wars universe. So far, there is only a thin plot synopsis to sink our teeth into:
After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.
The Mandalorian looks to be filling some of the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, albeit from a much further, more removed point of view. And that’s okay with me. I’m looking forward to distancing myself from the main storyline a bit after last year’s extremely disappointing The Last Jedi. A dustier, crustier, more “gray area” side of the galaxy is something that sounds ripe for exploration. If the costume and prop design from the few photos we’ve seen thus far are any indication, it looks as though that familiar Star Wars aesthetic is perfectly replicated here – no worries about it looking anything like the prequel trilogy.
The only thing that gives me pause is that it’s coming exclusively on Disney+, Disney’s new streaming service and that it might be too family friendly. Star Wars has never leaned into anything too adult, but I’m hoping that we get a chance to explore some new parts of the galaxy and some more mature themes along with it. I’m not looking for super gritty violence or anything like that, but some more morally ambiguous and layered characters would be awesome and lend to the medium much better than they would to a film. In addition, the recent reveal of what looks to be IG-88 has me wondering if we’re going to have a lot of shoehorned references in here. A few are okay – enjoyable even – but I hope they don’t overdo it and give the show a chance to be its own thing.
Even if you’re feeling the Star Wars fatigue, there’s no arguing the talent behind this series, and I personally can’t wait to see another corner of the galaxy far, far away.
Honorable Mentions: Game of Thrones; Watchmen; Stranger Things: Season 3
Stranger Things: Season 3 (Netflix)
Chandler: July 4th, 2019! Thankfully the Season 3 release date of Stranger Things feels like it’s coming sooner than later.
The entire series has hit Netflix like a tsunami of ’80s nostalgia with references to the eerie storytelling of our favorite Stephen King novels. The performances have been stellar from the young cast and it’s incredibly compelling to see how well the characters play off each other.
Admittedly, Season 2 wasn’t as surprising as Season 1 and there were some lackluster moments. Lest we all forget the widely panned side story of Episode 7. Overall, Stranger Things itself didn’t lose any momentum and there were plenty of nail-biting scenes. Who wasn’t on the edge of their seat when Bob Newby (played by our favorite Goonie, Sean Astin) was being chased down by the demo-dogs? If Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer know how to get one thing right, it is to get us hooked on a character and put them in the most intense fight or flight scenario possible.
The next season looks to keep the ball rolling and introduce another time jump. Speaking to Variety, executive producer Shawn Levy opened up about the third season’s setting in 1985.
“Season 3 is set in the summer, so right out of the gate that’s a big difference. The first two seasons were very much school-based,” Levy confirmed.
Personally, I like this direction and am looking forward to a nice change of pace with the change of seasons. Obviously we can expect there won’t be any smooth sailing for our favorite characters and their 4th of July celebrations will probably be impacted by the evil forces trying to terrorize the town of Hawkins. Fall is over and winter has arrived, but I’m already looking forward to summer!
Honorable Mentions: Game of Thrones; The Mandalorian; Watchmen
Untitled Reese Witherspoon/Jennifer Aniston Apple TV Series
Austin: This was truly the toughest pick of all anticipated options, considering we disallowed ourselves from all picking Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to be excited about in the coming year of television, from HBO stalwarts to streaming staples. But, weirdly enough, despite my strong disdain for the growing number of streaming services, I’m most excited for a show coming from noted entertainment behemoth: Apple. That’s right, Apple is now in the TV game. While they haven’t come out and said how this show will be delivered, whether they create their own specific streaming service, sell it to someone else, put it on the Apple Store, etc., we will be getting a show featuring the return to TV from one of TV’s most iconic actresses and her sister from that same show. OK, her sister is also well known for, like, a billion other things (I’m sorry Reese, you’re the greatest), but let’s keep it in the Friends reference family here.
Not much has come out about the show, other than it is a drama (there figures to be some comedy mixed in), centered around morning news/talk show hosts. It will also feature Steve Carell (another iconic return to TV), Billy Crudup, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. That is a STACKED cast for Apple’s first outing, and bringing in two of the most memorable and well-known TV actors of the past 30 years is something to be commended and thrilled for.
There is room for concern, as the original showrunner was ousted and a new one brought in. Kerry Ehrin, known for working on Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, and Bates Motel, is starting with a brand new script. The former showrunner was much more pointed in his political background, so it seems the series is headed for a more lighthearted, or at least friendly, realm. It could easily turn into a poor mishmash of dramedy, but I’m holding out hope it turns into a delightful mix of biting commentary and hilarious inside look at a world not much explored.
Honorable Mentions: True Detective; Game of Thrones (let’s be honest, this is really #1 for everyone); The Loudest Voice in the Room; Lovecraft Country; The Case Against Adnan Syed (shoutout Serial S1); Living With Yourself; Veep; Watchmen; Stranger Things
Andy: From Damon Lindelof, the writer and creator of Lost and The Leftovers (two of my favorite shows of all time), comes a retelling of the popular graphic novel Watchmen. The criminally underrated Watchmen movie by Zack Snyder wasn’t too long ago, so when this was announced I was a little confused, but the more I thought about it, the more I think TV is a better format for this sort of story. Lindelof knows how to handle huge ensemble casts, so developing this large cast of anti-heroes should be something he can handle with ease.
We don’t know much about the story or direction this series will take, but we do know that each episode will be an hour long, it’s technically dubbed a “revamp” of the story, and Lindelof has likened this take to the Fargo TV series on FX which became “Its own thing” compared to the movie.
“Based on the Alan Moore graphic novel, Watchmen is set in an alternate history where ‘superheroes’ are treated as outlaws. And while Lindelof (The Leftovers) plans to embrace the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel, the series will also attempt to break new ground of its own.”
Watchmen is already accumulating a great cast with Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and more, and I can’t wait to see the first teaser for this dark superhero drama.
Honorable Mentions: Game of Thrones; The Mandalorian; Stranger Things; Lovecraft Country
Smithers @ TheChumpcast: I’d be remiss to completely omit a comic book franchise from my list. I’ve always defended Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s batshit-crazy graphic novel, even sans giant squid monster. The Watchmen television show has found an amicable partner in HBO that will allow it to fully explore the depravity of a twisted universe hosting an alternate historical timeline. Many fans (present company included) feel that a longer-form series will allow for a deeper dive into the wonderfully sinful universe that Moore originally conceived.
Damon Lindelof is the perfect developer for this project. Having wrapped The Leftovers just prior to taking this project, HBO knows what they’re getting out of this marriage. Lindelof will be taking an established universe and developing new stories, and I can’t wait to see the ensuing brainchild. Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias? It’s almost unfair.