If the recent fall season taught us anything about the status of broadcast television, it’s that there’s a growing concern over the lack of originality across all genres. Networks covet the hits of their rivals, which leads to a unique twist on a very familiar story. Cue: a rush towards cable TV. The response? “You like comic book movies? We all have comic book-based TV shows.”
However, now it’s time to let midseason (and creativity) shine! No longer relegated to shows which networks hope to quietly dump, midseason television has elevated itself to become the home for niche television experiments, as a way for broadcast television to compete against Netflix. With an uninterrupted episode roll out in the weeks ahead, you won’t have to worry about when your favorite new show will be coming back from it’s second hiatus. Check out the winter premieres for the month of January and February.
Description: Once upon a time, the dashing hero, Galavant (Joshua Sasse), lost the love of his life, Madalena (Mallory Jansen), to the evil King Richard (Timothy Omundson). Now, our fallen hero is ready to take revenge and restore his “happily ever after.” But it won’t be without a few twists and turns along the way.
What to Know: “Team Tangled” – writer Dan Fogelman (Tangled, Cars, Crazy, Stupid Love), composer Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) and Lyricist Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid, Tangled) – reunite for a super-produced comedy musical event, and ABC has no idea what to do with it. A TV experiment, of sorts, now airing back-to-back on Sunday evening for 4 weeks total. Part Monty Python, part Mel Brooks; this is the creative minds behind some your favorite Disney films deciding to have a bit of fun on the small screen.
Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC)
Description: It’s 1946 and peace has dealt Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a serious blow as she finds herself marginalized when the men return home from fighting abroad. Working for the covert SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), Peggy finds herself stuck doing administrative work when she would rather be back out in the field, putting her vast skills into play and taking down the bad guys. But she is also trying to navigate life as a single woman in America, in the wake of losing the love of her life, Steve Rogers – aka Captain America. When old acquaintance Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger) finds himself being framed for unleashing his deadliest weapons to anyone willing to pony up the cash, he contacts Peggy — the only person he can trust — to track down those responsible, dispose of the weapons and clear his name. He empowers his butler, Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), to be at her beck and call when needed to help assist her as she investigates and tracks down those responsible for releasing these weapons of mass destruction. If caught going on these secret missions for Stark, Peggy could be targeted as a traitor and spend the rest of her days in prison – or worse.
What to Know: Marvel power duo Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, writers of Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Solider, and the upcoming Phase III film Captain America: Civil War, head to the small screen with a new adventure inspired by their terrific Marvel One-Short of the same name. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now hold until March, while your favorite supporting characters from Cap’s forgotten past – as well as a few new faces – return for an 8-episode event. Don’t be surprised if there’s also a bit of backstory which plays in to The Avengers: Age of Ultron; it’s all connected, after all. (Also: catch up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., if you already haven’t.)
Description: Hip-hop artist and CEO of Empire Entertainment, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), has always ruled unchallenged, but a medical diagnosis predicts he will be incapacitated in three years, which prompts the sharks to circle. Without further damaging his family, he must decide which of his three sons will take over. His favorite, young Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), is a gifted musician but values fame over hard work. Middle son, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), is talented and shy but gay — embarrassing to Lyon. The oldest, Andre (Byers), is business-minded but lacks charisma. The reappearance of Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), his ex-wife, complicates things; she says he owes her for taking the fall for the drug-running that financed his early career.
What to Know: Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious) reunites with The Butler writer Danny Strong (Game Change, Recount), for a musical drama which, as with Sons of Anarchy, is very much inspired by one of Shakespeare’s iconic familial tales. Add Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow, The Butler), Tarji P. Henson (Think Like a Man), and a reoccurring role for Gabourey Sidibe as Howard’s assistant? Now this is quickly becoming a very exciting show to follow. One question: Fox?
Description: An earnest PR executive who attempts to modernize London’s law enforcement culture, only to discover her certainties shattered and herself undermined in the murky realpolitik of contemporary policing. London’s police force – the oldest in the world – is in need of a public image revamp. And Chief Constable Richard Miller (James Nesbitt) has found just the woman to do it – Liz Garvey (Brit Marling). She’s an American visionary from the world of new media parachuted in to revolutionize the force’s PR department. In an age of rolling news, smart phones and an information-hungry public, Liz preaches transparency and honesty.
What to Know: This is an all-star import dramady from the UK, created by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumbdog Millionaire) and the writing duo behind the beloved British comedy Peep Show, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain. Sci-fi darling Bri Marling (Another Earth, Sound of My Voice) puts down her pen and joins Golden Globe Award-nominated James Nesbit (Jekyll, The Missing) in a quirky comedy very much inspired by Armstrong and Bain’s former writing gig on The Thicke of It, which is what HBO’s award-winning Veep is based off of. (Don’t expect Veep, however.)
Description: Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey) are struggling to rekindle the spark in their relationship, which has puttered out from the stresses of marriage and children. When Brett’s friend Alex (Steve Zissis) and Michelle’s sister, Tina (Amanda Peet), move in with them, the foursome engage in a tragically comedic struggle to follow their personal dreams, while still remaining good friends, siblings and spouses to each other.
What to Know: created by Mark and Jay Duplass, who may very-well be the hardest working brothers in show business right now, and for good reason. With films like Safety Not Guaranteed, Cyrus, The Puffy Chair,Jeff, Who Lives at Home under their belts – and while Mark has been starring in The League on FX for 6 years – the brothers have more than proven their ability to constantly knock out fun and original indie films at a shocking pace. What happens what these honed sensibilities head to the so-called holy land of HBO? We’re about to found out!
Man Seeking Woman (FXX)
Description: A sweet and surreal look at the life-and-death stakes of dating, Man Seeking Woman follows naïve twenty-something “Josh Greenberg” (Jay Baruchel, How to Train Your Dragon) on his unrelenting quest for love. Josh soldiers through one-night stands, painful break-ups, a blind date with a troll, time travel, sex aliens, many deaths and a Japanese penis monster named Tanaka on his fantastical journey to find love. Starring alongside Baruchel are Eric Andre (The Eric Andre Show) as “Mike,” Josh’s confident and daring best friend; Britt Lower (Unforgettable) as “Liz,” Josh’s intimidating older sister; and Maya Erskine (Betas) as “Maggie,” the ex-girlfriend Josh can never quite forget.
What to Know: Based on Simon Rich’s book “The Last Girlfriend on Earth”, the former SNL writer teams with the director of Portlandia, Jonathan Krisel, in what we’re told may be the first show FXX doesn’t cancel. With Eric Andre (The Eric Andre Show; Community) serving as co-star to Baruchel, it’s very possible that the fledgling network has found its new hit comedy. (Though the track record of canceling shows – most recently The League – doesn’t leave much room hope.)
12 Monkeys (Syfy)
Description: A time traveler (Aaron Stanford) from a decimated future is in a high-stakes race against the clock. Utilizing a dangerous and untested method of time travel, he journeys from 2043 to the present day on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will all but annihilate the human race.
What to Know: Terry Matalas and Travis Ficket created an exciting new, original new sci-fi series for Universal, which the studio then slapped their owned-franchise title 12 Monkeys on. Since then the show has been known as a reimagining of Terry Gilliam’s iconic film. (Now you know the rest of the story.) Fortunately, it doesn’t change the fact that Matalas and Ficket are fueling this clever shell game with the intent of creating their own world, and most viewers won’t even notice the patch job. The name change is more a sign of the times we’re in now, than anything else; something which Syfy’s return to true sci-fi programming will hopefully resolve.
The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central)
Description: The Nightly Show will provide viewers with Larry Wilmore’s distinct point of view and comedic take on current events and pop culture. Hosted by Wilmore, the series will feature a diverse panel of voices, providing a perspective largely missing in the late night television landscape.
What to Know: Created by Jon Stewart and originally known as The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore before being retitled, this is Comedy Central’s attempt at replacing Steven Colbert, who left to replace Dave Letterman as host of The Late Show later this year. Just 10 years ago Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn was canceled for being open and honest about race and politics. There are new, comedian-friendly executives at Comedy Central now; but even they have to walk that corporate line. Luckily, Comedy Central doesn’t mess with Jon Stewart, ever.
Description: The offbeat crime follows Detective Everett Backstrom (Rainn Wilson), an unhealthy, offensive, irascible – albeit brilliant – detective who sees the worst in everyone, and he’s usually right.
What to Know: Creator Hart Hanson, who is best known for his underrated juggernaut Bones, returns with Rainn Wilson, who himself is coming off of the juggernaut The Office. These two both have something to prove to the world with their next project, and they’re using Leif G.W. Persson’s book series to do just that. Backstrom is 100% unapologetic for its cynical soul and harsh tone, and audiences will likely love it or hate it because of it. After years of watching Hanson dodge a neverending flurry of fanatical messages on Twitter, there’s something refreshing about seeing him, as well as Wilson, finally having a platform to… not always have to be nice, even if it is in a fictional environment.
This Is Not Happening (Comedy Central)
Description: This Is Not Happening is a raucous series featuring long-form storytelling from stand-up comedians. From Moshe Kasher’s run-in with an anti-Semite at an Israeli comedy club to Steve Rannazzisi breaking up a fight between Bobby Lee and Ari Shaffir over Natasha Leggero, these comedians’ incredible stories prove that there is nothing as crazy as the truth.
What to Know: Comedian Ari Shaffiar is well-known for his storyteller shows, and for two seasons on YouTube, Comedy Central’s digital arm has testing out this format on the Internet. Proving to be a fan favorite on Comedy Central’s own YouTube channel, This Is Not Happening is now making it’s leap to television. Take note: When comedians are allow to be themselves on television, watch it. Otherwise you’re simply watching a performance.
Fresh off the Boat (ABC)
Description: It’s 1995 and 11-year-old hip-hop loving Eddie Huang (Hudson Yang) has just moved with his family from Chinatown in Washington D.C. to suburban Orlando. They quickly discover things are very different there. Orlando doesn’t even have a Chinatown — unless you count the Huang house. Eddie’s dad, Louis (Randall Park), has dragged the family to the ‘burbs to pursue his version of the American dream, opening Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse, a struggling western-themed restaurant. Louis thinks that the best way to get customers in the door is to hire a white host to greet them and make them feel comfortable. Eddie’s mom, Jessica (Constance Wu), has agreed to the move, but she finds Orlando a strange place — from the rollerblading stay-at-home moms, to the hospital-like grocery stores, to the fact that the humidity has ruined her hair.
What to Know: Based on chef Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name, Fresh Off the Boat is what happens when a creator fights for his project, in whatever way he can. Huang took to Twitter in order to force ABC to remove the original title Far East Orlando, which likely helped make it a good choice for a midseason placement. Fortunately, if Huang’s fights with ABC were anything like Margaret Cho’s during the production of All American Girl in 1994, then the results should be quite impressive to watch. Hopefully Huang’s series, unlike Cho’s, will last more than a single season.
Description: Alex O’Connor, a young idealistic CIA analyst specializing in Russian affairs, learns a shocking secret and his close-knit, affluent family is about to be split apart when it’s revealed that his parents, Mark (Scott Cohen) and Katya (Hope Davis), are covert Russian spies deactivated decades ago. But today the Kremlin has re-enlisted them into service as they plan a terrorist operation inside the U.S. border that will bring America to its knees.
What to Know: Writer George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau; The Bourne Ultimatum) teams up with Homeland executive producer Avi Nir for a very familiar-sounding drama series. NBC saw what you liked – The Blacklist – and they ordered even more spy fun for you to enjoy. Nir also produces the FX show Tyrant, which itself feels a bit too generic for its own good. If the recipe works, right?
Better Call Saul (AMC)
Description: Set six years before Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) meets Walter White. When we meet him, the man who will become Saul is known as Jimmy McGill, a small-time lawyer searching for his destiny and hustling to make ends meet. Working alongside and often against Jimmy is fixer Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), a beloved character first introduced in Breaking Bad. The new series will track Jimmy’s transformation into a man who puts the criminal in “criminal attorney.”
What to Know: Created by Gilligan, and fueled by Breaking Bad writer and producer Peter Gould. Gould learned from Gilligan, evolved with Gilligan, and helped Gilligan bring his AMC show to a close after 5 season. Now, it’s time to see what the star pupil can do on his own. Fortunately, in this case, “on his own” includes an award-winning cast, returning favorites, and the always-present question: Will Walter White return?
The Odd Couple (CBS)
Description: Matthew Perry stars as sports writer, ladies’ man, and famous curmudgeon, Oscar Madison, in this half-hour comedy based on Neil Simon’s classic, The Odd Couple. Oscar’s life seems almost perfect…sure he’s divorced and his apartment is a mess, but he’s the host of a well-known sports show, and is enjoying his bachelor lifestyle in New York City. That is until his college friend, Felix, shows up at Oscar’s apartment having just been dumped by his wife. Oscar does his best to console his old buddy and get him back on the dating horse, but his attempts uncover just how unresolved his own feelings are about his ex.
What to Know: CBS owns The Odd Couple franchise, so this is why the show exists. That said: Matthew Perry developed this series with Two Guys and a Girl creator Danny Jacobson, who created Mad About You with Paul Reiser. Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!) – who has been quietly accumulating terrific guest spots on pretty much every show – is perhaps the best casting decision that could have been made, and the duos comedic sensibilities seem to logicall fit. After seeing how hard Perry worked on ABC’s short-lived Mr. Sunshine – and knowing CBS’ ability to turn any show in to a hit – this remake is beginning to sound quite exciting.
That’s it for the Winter 2015 TV preview – what will YOU be watching?