TV: 14 Shows That Should be on Your Radar (And Soon, Your DVR)
See what we're looking forward to watching on television in 2014
1. Penny Dreadful
This horror drama posits that Victorian London was one helluva town, in which characters from classic novels like Frankenstein and Dracula crossed paths with each other — and with an American sharpshooter (Josh Hartnett) and a mysterious woman (Eva Green) battling her own demons. Creator John Logan (Skyfall) says he drew inspiration from ’40s monster mash-up movies, though his take has a premium-cable bent: “It’s highly erotic, very bloody.” Still, there’s a humanity to the horror. “It’s about building a family,” says Logan. “Admittedly, the creepiest family you can imagine.” —Tim Stack
2. Star Wars: Rebels
Fall, Disney XD
These are the stormtroopers you’re looking for. Disney XD’s animated series, the newest entry in the Star Wars saga, takes fans back to the 1977 film that started it all. Rebels will embrace the more grounded look and feel of the saga’s first film for a Rebel Alliance origin story that’s set between Episodes III and IV. Exec producer Simon Kinberg even mined original-trilogy artist Ralph McQuarrie’s previously unused concept art for aliens, planets, and vehicles to help populate the show. “We wanted to have that hand-made quality of the original films,” he says. Expect a mix of familiar characters and new ones — such as the Inquisitor, a villain who’s tasked with killing the remaining Jedi. Says Kinberg, “He’s able to tap into people’s emotional weaknesses as much as their physical weaknesses.” Impressive! Most impressive… —James Hibberd
It’s boom time for fantasy dramas — if you’re Game of Thrones. For Starz, however, post-Spartacus efforts Camelot (2011), Da Vinci’s Demons (2013), and The White Queen (2014) have struggled to gain a foothold with fans. Now the network is storming the castle gates again with Outlander. Based on Diana Gabaldon’s beloved time-travel romance-novel series, the drama brings Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ron Moore back to TV. Moore tells us why we’ll love this game of kilts.
It’s got a simple hook… No need to memorize the genealogies of 73 characters here. Married 1940s battlefield nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) is transported to 18th-century Scotland, where she falls in love with a hunky warrior (Sam Heughan) — and that’s it! Moore can even do a five-word pitch: “It’s a triangle in time.”
…And a compelling heroine. Claire’s medical skills prove valuable as she navigates wartime intrigue. “She’s not running around making dopey comments about the 20th century and looking for telephones,” Moore says.
It’s not afraid to play dirty. “We’re not trying to reinvent the 18th century and make it cool for modern audiences,” Moore says. “There’s a temptation to make period pieces look like a costume drama, where everything is clean and beautiful. We’re going for a rougher, grittier feeling.” So for starters, these Scots have actual Scottish accents.
Millions already love the story. Like Thrones, Outlander has a series of popular novels to draw from, including a new one on the way in June. “The general scheme is one season, one book,” Moore says. “Thrones has opened the door for fantasy, but we don’t think of them as competition,” he says. “They won that corner of the world; we want to find our own space.” Preferably one jam-packed with millions of fans. —James Hibberd
The historical thriller explores the origins of tradecraft during the Revolutionary War, with Jamie Bell playing a farmer who helps establish America’s first spy ring. “Until that point, spies were scouts who crawled over a hill and literally spied down,” explains exec producer Craig Silverstein, who based the story on the Alexander Rose book Washington’s Spies. He adds that Turn will focus more on the strife between neighbors and families than on battles with the redcoats: “We’re told that it was a very David-and-Goliath tale. In reality, many people living here believed this uprising was a criminal movement. It was more like a divorce.” But we got to keep Delaware, so it was totally worth it. —James Hibberd
5. Wayward Pines
“Everyone’s been telling me that I’d like the way the medium is going, how it’s character-based and darker in tone,” explains exec producer M. Night Shyamalan, who’s bringing his signature thrills to the small screen with Wayward Pines. The 10-episode Fox miniseries follows a Secret Service agent (Matt Dillon) who lands in the bucolic (and vaguely creepy) town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, only to discover that things are very much not as they appear. Shyamalan sees the show — populated by fellow film refugees Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, and Terrence Howard — as capturing a Twin Peaks-y vibe, balancing suspense, mystery, eccentric characters, and plenty of quirk. “With scary things, humor goes along nicely and breaks the tension,” says Shyamalan, who directed the pilot. And he promises the central mystery of the town will be resolved by the end of the run. “Oh, we’re going to tell you,” says Shyamalan. “I just want this show to be as significant, memorable, and resonant as it can be.” —Sara Vilkomerson
6. The Leftovers
Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof returns to TV with The Leftovers, an adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s 2011 best-seller about the people who remain on Earth following a Rapture-like event (called the Departure). His pitch to HBO was simple: “If Lost and Friday Night Lights had a baby and then that baby was severely neglected, that would be The Leftovers.” The show — also exec-produced by Perrotta and Peter Berg — will traffic more in relationships than sci-fi phenomena as it tracks a police chief (Justin Theroux) trying to rebuild his community, family, and self. “The traditional way of telling this story is you’re in the immediate aftermath of this event,” says Lindelof. “Dropping into these people’s lives three years later and saying, ‘This is the moment in which they get back to their lives as they were, or they decide that they can’t get back to their lives as they were,’ that’s a much more interesting idea.” We asked Lindelof to walk us through a scene from the first episode. —Dan Snierson
The Homeland Effect
Every network wants a piece of the team behind the Emmy-winning hit — and this year, they’re getting it
Howard Gordon is in big trouble with his better half. Riding high on his success with Homeland, the Emmy-winning exec producer has booked enough projects to keep him bouncing between sets for years. “My wife is really concerned,” admits Gordon. “But I’m still stunned that this is what I do for a living.” Here’s what is on Gordon’s slate in 2014:
7. Legends (TNT, Summer)
Game of Thrones‘ Sean Bean headlines this Jason Bourne-like thriller — based on the novel by Robert Littell — as an agent for the FBI’s Deep Cover Operations division who makes an unsettling discovery. “He’s really good at being other people, but he learns he may not be who he is,” says exec producer Gordon. “The engine for the show is the Mission: Impossible aspects, but it’s about his journey to find [answers].”
8. Tyrant (FX, Summer)
This drama follows Bassam “Barry” Al Fayeed (Adam Rayner), the son of a Middle Eastern dictator who returns with his family to his homeland after 20 years of self-imposed exile in the U.S. What results is a culture clash that throws Barry back into the ugly politics of his youth. “This is an American family that would live next door, but the man happens to be the son of a dictator,” says Gordon, who’ll exec-produce with Homeland collaborator Gideon Raff. “He willfully didn’t want any part of the family business, which caused friction.”
9. 24: Live Another Day (Fox, Spring)
Picking up four years after 24’s finale, the 12-episode reboot will find Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer in London. “He has fled, because America is no longer his home,” teases Gordon, who’ll reunite with fellow 24 vets Evan Katz and Robert Cochran. “There will be a CTU-like organization,” adds Gordon. “There will also be a group of hackers in the vein of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, which Chloe joined.” Yep, Mary Lynn Rajskub is back (as is Kim Raver), and Judy Davis will recur as the widow of a notorious terrorist. —Lynette Rice
Also Coming in 2014
10. Crossbones (NBC, spring)
John Malkovich as Blackbeard? And Luther‘s Neil Cross is exec-producing? We arrrr excited!
11. Girl Meets World (Disney, summer)
Cory and Topanga’s cute tween kid comes of age.
12. Extant (CBS, summer)
Halle Berry stars as an astronaut readjusting to life on Earth on Steven Spielberg’s futuristic thriller.
13. John Oliver (HBO, TBA)
The former Daily Show favorite goes solo.
14. Fargo (FX, spring)
The Coen brothers’ classic is now a 10-episode crime drama starring Billy Bob Thornton.