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The 20 Most Anticipated TV Shows Of 2014

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 9, 2014 at 3:08PM

Somehow, we're still getting think pieces on whether or not the movies are superior from TV, presumably from writers who haven't yet worked out that you're allowed to watch both. Ultimately, the movies can scratch itches that TV can't, and vice versa, and the two mediums can quite happily co-exist, even as the lines between them blur a little.
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20 Most Anticipated TV Shows Of 2014

Somehow, we're still getting think pieces on whether or not the movies are superior from TV, presumably from writers who haven't yet worked out that you're allowed to watch both. Ultimately, the movies can scratch itches that TV can't, and vice versa, and the two mediums can quite happily co-exist, even as the lines between them blur a little.

We've already run down the 100 movies we're most excited about in the coming year, but we'd be remiss if we didn't shine a light on the small screen. Alongside all your returning favorites—"Girls," "Game Of Thrones," "Mad Men," "Boardwalk Empire" et al.—here's just as much to be amped about on TV, from network sitcoms to dark premium cable dramas. So, for a little taste of what to expect in the coming year, below you'll find our 20 most anticipated shows of 2014. Let us know what you're most looking forward to in the comments section (and more Most Anticipated 2014 coverage here).

M. Night Shyamalan

20. "Wayward Pines"
Synopsis: A Secret Service agent heads to the mysterious Wayward Pines, Indiana to find two missing federal agents, only to find that something is very, very wrong with the picturesque town.
What You Need To Know: The new thing on network TV is the limited-episode even series, which can run straight-through without having to go on hiatus, and have brief enough production schedules that they can capture big names who can then spend the rest of the year on movies ("The Following" and the new "24" semi-reboot are made along this model, as is NBC's "Hannibal"). Filmmakers are clearly attracted by this idea, and the latest to come to the small-screen is M. Night Shyamalan, who's behind this new series based on a novel by Blake Crouch, and written by Chad Hodge ("The Playboy Club"). Shyamalan executive produced and directed the pilot (excitingly, "Sound Of My Voice" helmer Zal Batmanglij worked on two other episodes), and he's assembled a legitimately movie-quality cast for this series: Matt Dillon plays the Secret Service agent lead, with Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Carla Gugino, Shannyn Sossamon, Juliette Lewis and Toby Jones joining him.
Why It's Anticipated: Remember a time when a new M. Night Shyamalan joint was greeted with anticipation, rather than trepidation? Us neither, but there was such a time, before "Lady In The Water" and "The Happening," when Shyamalan was an exciting new voice in genre filmmaking, and we're always hopeful that he could find his way back there. This seems like so obviously "Twin Peaks"-aping (perhaps with a lashing of "The Prisoner" too) that we're a little cautious, but the cast alone (and the presence of Batmanglij) is enough to ensure that we'll be tuning in for at least the first episode. And let's face it, it really can't be much worse than "Under The Dome," can it?
Airdate: Likely to be held for the summer where "Under The Dome" found success for CBS, but could land sooner if Fox start wielding the ax on any of their existing dramas.

Believe

19. "Believe"
Synopsis: An ex-con is asked to protect a young girl with mysterious powers, who's being sought by at least one sinister organization.
What You Need To Know: Holding the J.J. Abrams-produced "Believe" as a mid-series replacement might be the smartest thing that NBC has done in years. It always had an intriguing premise, but it might have got lost among the throng of new fall premieres. Now, the network can bill the show as being from the man behind "Gravity," because it was co-created (along with "The Forgotten" writer Mark Friedman) by Alfonso Cuarón, who also directed the pilot. Relative newcomers Jake McLaughlin ("Warrior') and Johnny Sequoyah take the lead roles, with the more familliar Delroy Lindo, Sienna Guillory, Kyle MacLachlan, Jamie Chung and Marianne Jean-Baptiste in support.
Why It's Anticipated: Honestly, if all we knew about the show was that it was an Alfonso Cuarón/J.J. Abrams collaboration, it'd likely be much higher up the list. As it is, the premise, while it has potential, seems a little bland, we haven't been grabbed by the leads in the footage we've seen so far, and two changes of showrunner indicates behind-the-scenes troubles. But the supporting cast is very strong, Abrams has a good track record with TV for the most part, and of course, this is a chance to see what Cuarón can do on the small screen, which in and of itself is worth the price of admission. Trailers have suggested he's kept his style intact (an in-car shot that nods to "Children Of Men"), so you wouldn't be remiss to suggest that if nothing else, we'll get the best-directed pilot of the year.
Airdate: NBC haven't announced a date, though it's widely expected that they'll roll it out after the Winter Olympics. When exactly they do so will dictate how much faith they have in the show: if they stick it on Thursday nights, or on Friday before "Hannibal," don't expect it to go more than a season.

Mike Judge

18. "Silicon Valley"
Synopsis: A dark comedy about a group of young guys in the Bay Area tech quarter who turn down millions of dollars for their new technology to establish their own start-up instead.
What You Need To Know: It's almost weird that the tech world hasn't provided the source material of more TV shows so far, but it's time has come in 2014, with two shows on our top 20 set among that world, the first being "Silicon Valley," the return to television of "Beavis & Butthead" and "King Of The Hill" creator Mike Judge. Presumably fed up of making funny movies that no one went to see, like "Office Space" and "Idiocracy," Judge set up this show with "Blades Of Glory" writers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky and directed the pilot. The cast is stacked with every vaguely nerdy alt-comedy favorite out there, including Thomas Middleditch ("The Wolf Of Wall Street"), Kumail Nanjiani ("The Five-Year Engagement"), Martin Starr ("Knocked Up"), T.J. Miller ("Get Him To The Greek"), Josh Brener ("The Internship"), Amanda Crew ("jOBS"), Lindsey Broad ("21 Jump Street") and Angela Trimbur ("The Kings Of Summer").
Why It's Anticipated: The first live-action show from Judge would always be worth paying attention to, but especially when it hews so closely to the sweet-spot of "Office Space," his best work to date. This seems to be in some ways a television sequel, fifteen years on (doesn't that make you feel old...), cross-spliced with Douglas Coupland's "Microserfs" and "The Social Network," and that alone makes it worth tuning in. But the cast is also cracking, potentially reclaiming TV nerdery from "The Big Bang Theory," and HBO certainly seem to be confident in it, ordering a full series last year.
Airdate: None given yet, but if you were to put money on the network pairing it with "Veep" after "Game of Thrones" in April, once "Girls" ends its run, you could feel fairly secure in that bet.

The Strain

17. "The Strain"
Synopsis: A high concept thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Eph, his team, and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers, wage war for the fate of humanity itself.
What You Need To Know: Guillermo del Toro’s first major delve into television waters, this is based on the trilogy of novels that the “Pacific Rim” helmer co-authored with “The Town” scribe Chuck Hogan, depicting a vampire apocalypse and those who fight against it. Del Toro directed the pilot, with “Lost” co-showrunner Carlton Cuse also on board, and FX picked the series up in November. “House of Cards” standout Corey Stoll has the lead role, with Mia Maestro, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde and Sean Astin also among the cast, while John Hurt took a key part in the pilot, but couldn't commit to the series, ultimately being replaced by "Game of Thrones" and "Harry Potter" actor David Bradley.
Why It's Anticipated: With the enormous success of "The Walking Dead," it's about time we had some TV vampires that were genuinely scary again, rather than the moon-eyed romantics of "True Blood" and "The Vampire Diaries." "The Strain" certainly promises to deliver that, not least because it's Guillermo del Toro as the man in charge: from "Cronos" to "Blade II," he's managed to give the bloodsucker genre eerie new spins. The books are reasonably well-regarded, but we imagine they'd work better as TV than as prose, and Carlton Cuse is an old pro at this sort of thing, so is a good person to be in charge. The cast, even without Hurt, seems promising too, especially with Stoll, who was star-makingly good in "House of Cards," leading the series.
Release Date: It will air staring in July on FX, possibly as a partner to "The Bridge" on Wednesday nights, or perhaps more likely on Sundays, where genre fare like "The Walking Dead" has been killing it.

Tyrant

16. "Tyrant"
Synopsis: The self-exiled son of a Middle Eastern dictator returns home for the first time in twenty years, accompanied by his American family, and soon finds himself drawn into the turbulent politics of the nation.
What You Need To Know: News headlines of at least the last decade remain dominated by the Middle East, but TV's been mostly reluctant to engage with the region, outside of terrorism-themed dramas like "24" or "Homeland." But this new FX drama, which comes from producer Howard Gordon, behind both of those shows, and writer Gideon Raff, the creator of the Israeli series "Prisoners Of War" that inspired "Homeland," promises to be much more interesting, with its tale of a Westernized prodigal son returning back to an Iraq/Libya-type dictatorship nation with his all-American family. FX have been really high on the show, winning out in a fierce bidding war for the pitch, and initially setting Oscar-winner Ang Lee to direct the pilot (Lee had to drop out for scheduling reasons, and "Harry Potter" helmer David Yates stepped in instead). U.K. actor Adam Rayner takes the lead role, with Jennifer Finnegan ("The Bold And The Beautiful"), Ashraf Barhom ("The Kingdom"), Moran Atias ("Crash"), Fares Fares ("Zero Dark Thirty"), Noah Silver ("The Borgias") and Justin Kirk ("Angels In America") also among the cast.
Why It's Anticipated: One of the most thrilling things about TV is the chance to be thrust into an immersive new world, and a drama set in a Middle Eastern dictatorship certainly seems to tick that box in a new way: there's an immediate appeal to the culture-clash drama set up by the premise. It's not the starriest cast, but there's a lot of potential here, not least in a showcase for the great Israeli Arab actor Barhom, who was so good in "Paradise Now" and "The Kingdom." And while Yates isn't as instantly compelling a name as Ang Lee, he always did a sterling job on the Potter films, and more importantly, started his career with world-class U.K. TV drama like "State of Play."
Airdate: Aiming for the summer, most likely as a partner to "The Bridge," or as a double-header of new drama with "The Strain" on Sundays.

This article is related to: Features, Most Anticipated 2014, Television, True Detective, The Knick, The Red Road, Babylon, Tina Fey, Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell, Turn, Togetherness, Olive Kitteridge, Halt and Catch Fire, Broadchurch, Penny Dreadful, Believe, Wayward Pines, Looking, Tyrant, The Strain, Silicon Valley


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