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10. "Olive Kitteridge"
Synopsis: The story of a high-school math teacher, and those in her life, in and around the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine.
What You Need To Know: It's a sign of the uneven playing field out there that Lisa Chodolenko's last film, "The Kids Are All Right," was an Oscar nominee four years ago, and it's taken her all that time since to get a new project set up. In fact, she's had to go to HBO to get something made, in this case, a reteam with old collaborator Frances McDormand, for this adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. McDormand (who starred in the director's "Laurel Canyon") optioned the book even before its publication, and produces the adaptation, a five-part miniseries on HBO (with Tom Hanks' Playtone Pictures) as well as taking the lead role. And a cracking cast has been assembled too, including: Richard Jenkins, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Gallagher Jr., Zoe Kazan, Martha Wainwright and Brady Corbet. Oh, and Bill Goddamn Murray.
Why It's Anticipated: Cholodenko is a great filmmaker that doesn't work enough, and HBO should fit her like a glove (in fact, she directed an excellent episode of "Enlightened" as a warm up for this). The chance to give her the broad canvas that Todd Haynes had on "Mildred Pierce" is an exciting one, let alone with source material that's as acclaimed as this. It's clearly a role of a lifetime for McDormand, who's made it a real passion project, and her turn alone should be worth the tuning in, but with ever-reliable names like Murray, Jenkins and DeWitt involved? Just try and keep us away.
Airdate: "Mildred Pierce" began airing at the end of March 2011, so don't be surprised if this is aiming for the same date, if it’s ready in time (it started filming in September, but was still going in November, so that deadline may be too tight).
Synopsis: A woman moves in with her sister and her sister's husband, along with their unemployed, aging actor friend.
What You Need To Know: The migration of filmmakers from the big to the small screen continues apace, and the latest to make the jump (after recurring acting roles on "The Mindy Project" and Mark's regular gig on "The League") are the Duplass Brothers, the men behind "The Puffy Chair," "Baghead," "Cyrus" and "Jeff Who Lives At Home," who've written and directed (in their usual improvisational style, presumably) this eight-part comedy season for HBO. Amanda Peet takes the lead role, with the great Melanie Lynskey as her sister, Duplass (Mark) as the husband, and the brothers' regular collaborator Steve Zissis as the actor roommate (Ken Marino is also in the cast).
Why It's Anticipated: We're big fans of the Duplasses and their general vibe, and the chance to get four hours worth of material from them once a year is promising. The premise seems to play to their strengths, and will hopefully comment on a society where rulebook of co-habitation is continually evolving. Details are still pretty thin on this right now, but we're excited.
Airdate: Production is only just getting underway now, so we probably won't see until the fall—maybe replacing "Eastbound & Down" and "Hello Ladies" (unless the latter gets an unexpected renewal).
Synopsis: In Bemidiji, Minnesota, Deputy Molly Solverson has a crime to investigate in this series loosely inspired by the events of the Coen Brothers' classic.
What You Need To Know: The Coen brothers have been flirting with TV for a while (they had a Fox comedy detective series called "Harve Karbo" in development a few years back), but they finally come to the small screen, in a way, with this adaptation of one of their most beloved films, the 1996 Oscar-winner "Fargo." There was an attempt to directly translate the movie to the screen not long after release, starring a pre-"Sopranos" Edie Falco, but this is another kick at the bucket, with the show sharing the DNA but not the plot or characters of the film. Joel and Ethan are executive producing, but the FX series is penned by Noah Hawley ("The Unusuals," a short-lived 2009 cop series starring Jeremy Renner), who'll take on showrunning duties. And the cast is killer, with relative unknown Allison Tolman leading the likes of Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Bob Odenkirk, Kate Walsh, Joey King and Oliver Platt.
Why It's Anticipated: We'd watch a TV series based on almost any Coen brothers movie (well, maybe not "The Ladykillers"), but "Fargo" seems particularly well-suited to the small screen, especially with a version that takes the benefits of the original without slavishly copying it. We can't vouch for Hawley (though we recall hearing some good things about "The Unusuals" before it was cancelled), but that the Coen brothers are on board seems to suggest that he knows what he's doing. And the actors seem like a collection who'd be particularly well-suited to this sort of thing—in fact, we're particularly excited to see Billy Bob Thornton back in Coenland, given that his performance in "The Man Who Wasn't There" is probably the best of his career.
Airdate: FX are targeting the spring—look for it to arrive once "Justified" or "The Americans" wrap up their seasons in April or May.
Synopsis: In 1778, a New York farmer joins a group of friends to set up the Culper Ring, America's first spy ring who help to turn the tide in the battle for Independence from the British.
What You Need To Know: There's all kinds of spy shows on TV at the moment, but "Turn" promises something quite different: a look at the Culper Ring, the U.S's first spy organization, set up to pass messages about the British occupation of New York to General George Washington, and kept secret for almost 150 years. Adapted from Alexander Rose’s book “Washington Spies” by “Bones” and “Nikita” writer Craig Silverstein, this sees the always-welcome Jamie Bell head up a cast that also includes Angus MacFayden, Kevin McNally (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), J.J. Feild (“Captain America”), Heather Lind (“Boardwalk Empire”) and Burn Gorman (“Pacific Rim”). “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” helmer Rupert Wyatt directed the pilot and the show was picked up for a full first season by AMC this summer.
Why It's Anticipated: Beyond "John Adams," it's been a while since TV mined the fertile territory of the Revolutionary War, and the idea of a cable drama—a spy drama, no less—set in that period is immediately appealing. Again, Silverstein's a bit of an unknown quantity, but AMC have backed smaller names before to huge success (Vince Gilligan, Matthew Weiner et al.) and they've got some serious directorial talent on board with Wyatt. The cast seems appealing too: Bell in particular, but also the likable likes of Feild and Lind as well. Early teasers are promising, so fingers crossed it turns out to be something special.
Airdate: AMC have started airing trailers, so this presumably isn't too far off. It could take over once "The Walking Dead" finishes its season, or it might partner "Mad Men" later in the spring.
6. "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell"
Synopsis: In England in the 19th century, two magicians begin a friendship that soon becomes a rivalry.
What You Need To Know: Susanna Clarke's novel "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" was pretty much an instant classic of the genre on its publication a decade ago, a fascinating, incredibly rich alternate history of Britain that's something like a magical "Barry Lyndon," which won Time's Novel of the Year prize in 2004. Film adaptations were in the works for a while (Christopher Hampton and Julian Fellowes both wrote adaptations for New Line), but it's at the BBC that it'll eventually make it to the screen, with a seven-part miniseries adaptation set to debut later in the year. Written by Peter Harness (who wrote Michael Caine vehicle "Is Anybody There?") and directed by "Doctor Who" and "Sherlock" helmer Toby Haynes, it stars Eddie Marsan and Tony-nominated "Matilda" star Bertie Carvel as the title characters, with Alice Englert, Charlotte Riley, Ariyon Bakare, Marc Warren, Samuel West and Paul Kaye among the other cast members.
Why It's Anticipated: If you've never read Clarke's novel, you really should, even if fantasy isn't normally your thing: it's a gorgeously written and complex piece of work that should translate beautifully to the screen (and it makes much more sense for it to be a seven-hour miniseries than a movie), and the BBC have thrown a lot of money behind the adaptation, which should be one of their most high profile dramas of the year. The cast isn't packed with A-listers, but Marsan is always very welcome, and Carvel, while not a familiar face on screen yet, is a tremendous actor too, and there's lots of promise elsewhere in the cast too. It'll be a tricky adaptation to get right, but hopefully it'll be more than worth it.
Airdate: Filming got underway late last year, so it should reach screens (BBC America in the U.S) later in the year—the summer is most likely.