By Peg Aloi
Yeah yeah, I know; there is way too much on television right now. How to find something you’ll really like? How to avoid the cramps in your hands from pressing the Amazon firestick or remote scrolling through the various streaming services and their endless, algorithm-derived recommendations? You hear friends talking about how amazing or incredible some show is but you end up forgetting which dark detective story set in London or which quirky series about dating they were talking about.
There’s no accounting for taste. But if you want to hear what I, a smart, savvy viewer who likes high-quality entertainment is looking forward to this year, check out some of these new shows as well as continuing series. I’ll be reviewing some of them in this column, too, so keep an eye out! As always, would love to hear your comments or recommendations.
True Detective, Season Three
Following an incendiary debut season, this crime thriller series, written and (mostly) directed by Nic Pizzolato, had a lukewarm reception for its second season. One reason: the stunning performances of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey were hard to beat. The second go-around starred Vince Vaughan (really?) and Colin Farrell (who is always great, but why Vaughan?) and was pretty well booed by viewers and critics alike. The third time up promises a return to top shelf acting, with the excellent Mahershala Ali (Oscar winner for Moonlight) and Stephen Dorff (Sofia Coppolla’s Somewhere) starring. Rumor has it that an occult-based crime is in the mix also, a predictable element in Pizzolato’s dark-tinged narratives. (January 13, HBO)
Set during the years leading up to the 1987 stock market crash, this series stars Don Cheadle as an ambitious, charismatic investment guru whose fast lifestyle leads him into legal and personal mayhem. Golden Globe winner Regina Hall also stars. What has been available so far looks fantastic, stylish and hard hitting — reminiscent of The Wolf of Wall Street but with better music. (January 20, Showtime)
I Am The Night
Director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) helms this period crime drama miniseries starring Chris Pine as a journalist investigating the Black Dahlia murder from 1947; he meets a young woman who may have known the killer and is hiding secrets she’d rather keep. This looks to be a vibrant take on a rather gruesome true story. (January, TNT)
Amy Poehler (SNL, Parks and Recreation) is co-creator of this quirky comedy, starring Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) as a woman caught in a time warp on her birthday. Nepotism alert: a young friend of mine is working on this show so YOu BETTER WATCH IT.(February 1, Netflix)
Steve Buscemi is God and Daniel Radcliffe plays a sweet, bumbling angel. What more do you need to know? Nothing, really. Except maybe that The Almighty is having a bit of an identity crisis, likes to drink beer, and misses the good old days when people sacrificed a ram or two in his name. An irreverent comedy that also looks pretty intense. (February 12, TBS)
The Umbrella Academy
This adaptation of a popular comic book stars Ellen Page (Juno) as one in a group of unusual children being raised by an eccentric millionaire who is grooming them to save the world. In my book, Page has already saved the world numerous times just by being a fantastic actress, so I’ll be tuning in to this one for sure. (February 1, Netflix)
NOT the musical. This Masterpiece Theatre adaptation stars Olivia Colman (Golden Globe winner for The Favourite) and Dominic West (An Education) in Victor Hugo’s epic story of what life was like for downtrodden peasants on the mean streets of Paris in the 18th century. (April 14, BBC & PBS)
Game of Thrones
This is the FINAL SEASON of this HBO phenomenon and, as you may know, not even people who’ve read the books know how this one will end. Be ready for people around you to be talking of little else (well, your geeky friends, anyway), so you may as well get in on it. Will winter ever end? (April, HBO)
Topical Thoughts: Recently, President Trump displayed a bizarre poster of himself during a cabinet meeting (yeah, it’s already weird, but wait) that was based on the Game of Thrones “Winter is Coming” meme. Instead, it proclaimed “The Wall is Coming.” Ha ha, the joke’s on him — walls don’t work so well in Game of Thrones.
Tellingly, two shows that directly mirror the current political zeitgeist, HBO’s Veep (starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a Vice President who finds herself serving as President) and Showtime’s Homeland (starring Clare Danes as a Homeland Security official) enter their final season this spring. Viewers are pumped for the conclusions of these two excellent series. But could it be that their end points might be prophetic? — Signaling the downfall of the Reality TV show helmed by our current Psychopath-in-Chief? Intimations of mortality for the insanity emanating from the White House on a daily basis? Stay tuned.
Peg Aloi is a former film critic for The Boston Phoenix. She taught film and TV studies for ten years at Emerson College. Her reviews also appear regularly online for The Orlando Weekly, Crooked Marquee, and Diabolique. Her long-running media blog “The Witching Hour” can be found at at themediawitch.com.