By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 9, 2014 at 3:08PM
Synopsis: A woman who escapes from a doomsday cult tries to start over in New York City.
What You Need To Know: It's already a year since "30 Rock" ended its run, and we still miss it an awful lot. But fortunately, Tina Fey hasn't been slack, with three new series in the works, including a workplace comedy at NBC and a college-set sitcom at Fox, but the one moving forward the fastest is "Tooken," another NBC sitcom that the network are so high on that they've ordered it straight to series. Created by Fey and fellow "30 Rock" writer/producers Robert Carlock, it's conceived as a vehicle for "The Office" and “Bridesmaids" star Ellie Kemper, who'll take the lead role. No other casting is in place yet, but this is sure to be on the air regardless.
Why It's Anticipated: "30 Rock" had its slow patches, but for the most part, it was a true classic of the sitcom form, remaining uproariously funny and inventive up until its final moments, so whatever Fey and Carlock did next, we were going to be interested. That it's this show, which has the amazing premise of essentially being a sitcom version of "Martha Marcy May Marlene," makes us even more excited. It also helps that it has Kemper in the lead role: the actress has been hugely winning on screen so far, and something like this would seem to fit in beautifully with her already-established naif-persona. Fey likely won't be involved in the day-to-day as much as she was with "30 Rock" (she might guest star at some point, but won't be a regular on the show), but even so, there's no pure sitcom that we're looking forward to more.
Airdate: Given the already-shown vote of confidence, this will likely be part of NBC's fall schedule.
Synopsis: An American PR expert is hired to help improve the image of the London police force.
What You Need To Know: Having conquered the movies and the bloody Olympics, "Slumdog Millionaire" Oscar-winner Danny Boyle is heading to the small-screen. This U.K. comedy-drama for Channel 4, casts a satirical eye on the (rightly) often-derided Metropolitan Police force in London, with "Peep Show" and "Fresh Meat" writers Sam Armstrong and Jesse Bain, penning scripts and Boyle directing the entire run of the series. The awesome Brit Marling takes the lead role of the American PR executive, while ace names like James Nesbitt, Paterson Joseph, Bertie Carvel, Ella Smith, Cavan Clerkin, Jill Halfpenny, Adam Deacon, Jonny Sweet and Daniel Kaluuya make up some of the rest of the cast.
Why It's Anticipated: Given that he has his pick of movie projects, you imagine that Danny Boyle would need something special to lure him to TV comedy, and "Babylon" looks like something special. Between them, writers Armstrong and Bain have been behind much of the best British comedy of the last few years—not just "Peep Show" and "Fresh Meat," but also "The Thick Of It," "Four Lions," "Veep" and more, and the chance to see them turn their attentions to the U.K. police is borderline irresistible, not least with Boyle at the helm. And the cast is great: not just bigger names like Marling and Nesbitt, but also rising talents like Carvel, Sweet, Deacon and Kaluuya.
Airdate: Channel 4 are said to be airing the pilot soon, with the full series to follow later in the year. No news on who's picking it up for the U.S, but Hulu and BBC America are likely candidates.
3. "The Red Road"
Synopsis: After a sudden tragedy involving his wife, a sheriff makes a pact with a member of an unrecognized Native American tribe that has the potential to only make things worse.
What You Need To Know: Between "Top Of The Lake" and "Rectify," the Sundance Channel has had a strong start with their original dramas. And 2014 looks no different with "The Red Road." Written by "Prisoners" scribe Aaron Guzikowski, and overseen by "Friday Night Lights" veteran Bridget Carpenter, it looks to provide meaty roles for "The Ring" star Martin Henderson," "Game of Thrones" dude Jason Momoa and "August: Osage County" MVP Julianne Nicholson in this pitch-black crime drama. And most excitingly of all, for us, Playlist favorite James Gray directed the first episode of the series.
Why It's Anticipated: Like we said, the Sundance Channel has specialized so far in a certain kind of low-key crime drama that probably isn't as attention-grabbing as the sort of thing that you'd get on HBO or Showtime, and "The Red Road" looks to fit nicely into that niche—it's not high concept or blessed with a slick period setting, but it looks like it'll be positively stuffed with drama. The pairing of Guzikowski and Gray feels like it's made in heaven, and while we'll need to see more of Henderson and Momoa in action to be totally confident in them, we're down for anything that Nicholson is in after her performances in “Boardwalk Empire” and “Masters Of Sex”. Plus that first trailer for the show was very promising indeed.
Airdate: Premieres on Thursday, February 27th at 9 p.m.
2. "The Knick"
Synopsis: The lives of the doctors and nurses at New York's Knickerbocker Hospital in the early 20th century.
What You Need To Know: When Steven Soderbergh announced he was retiring from film directing, we weren’t sure if it would stick completely, but we thought he’d at least be taking a little time away from the camera. Instead, barely a few months after his "final" film “Behind the Candelabra" screened at Cannes, he was shooting again, directing all ten episodes of “The Knick,” backed by HBO subsidiary Cinemax. We weren't expecting his TV debut to be a medical drama, let alone a period one, but that's what we've been given. The show is penned by "Big Miracle" writer Jack Amiel and Clive Owen leads the series, with Juliet Rylance and Michael Angarano backing him up.
Why It's Anticipated: Um... Steven Soderbergh? It's probably right that, if this was a show from anyone else, we wouldn't be especially pumped, even with Clive Owen (a terrific actor who's had a bad run of late, and deserves better). But Soderbergh had a remarkably strong end to his directing career with "Side Effects" and "Behind the Candelabra," and it's enormously exciting to see him directing a whole ten-part series, especially given that the last time we saw him working on this kind of epic scale, we got "Che." Lord knows what Cinemax audiences will make of it, but we're very excited indeed, especially after the brief glimpses of footage we’ve seen.
Airdate: Soderbergh wrapped up the shoot late last year, so this could arrive as soon as the summer, though the fall may be more likely.
1. "True Detective"
Synopsis: Two cops try to track down a serial killer in Louisiana, a case that spans decades and leads both of them to darker places than they ever could have imagined.
What You Need To Know: HBO's first big drama of 2014 might sound a little generic on the surface, but the talent involved is anything but: the whole series has been directed by one of the most promising filmmakers around, “Sin Nombre” and “Jane Eyre” helmer Cary Fukunaga, and stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the lead roles, with Michelle Monaghan and Kevin Dunn in the supporting cast. Written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, it's conceived as an anthology series: any second season will have a different director and cast of characters.
Why It's Anticipated: "True Detective" was always a killer proposition on paper—one of our favorite new directors, an exciting new voice as a writer, and McConaughey and Harrelson coming off some of the best work of their careers. Plus, the trailers have been more and more thrilling as each new one has arrived. And with the show set to premiere, it's become clear that this is going to live up to the potential: reviews have been pretty astounding, suggesting that we're getting the first great TV series of 2014. We can't wait to find out how it is for ourselves.
Airdate: Starts this Sunday, January 12th, at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Honorable Mentions: Obviously, some of the things we're most looking forward to are returning series including: "Community," which has come back on top form, "Parks and Recreation," "New Girl," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "The Good Wife," "Bob's Burgers," "Scandal," "Sleepy Hollow," "American Horror Story." "Girls" returns this Sunday night, and "The Americans," "House Of Cards," “Hannibal," "Orphan Black," "Utopia" and "Archer" (the latter of which is undergoing a serious shake-up in the new season) are all set to return in the very near future, while "Justified" just came for a fifth season as strong as it's ever been.
And later in the year, we'll be getting more of "Game Of Thrones," "Mad Men," "Rectify," "Veep," "Boardwalk Empire," "Homeland," "Key & Peele," "Peaky Blinders," "Masters Of Sex," "Orange Is the New Black," "Doctor Who" and "Comedy Bang Bang," plus the long-awaited return, two years on, of "Louie."
As far as new shows go, there's plenty that might have made out list if they'd progressed further than pilots, but unfortunately they're still awaiting the greenlight. "Deadwood" mastermind David Milch turns his hand to big business with HBO's "The Money," starring Brendan Gleeson and Andrea Riseborough, which we dearly hope the network order to series. We're excited at the potential teaming of Scott Frank and Paul Giamatti for detective series "Hoke" for FX, who also have Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kathryn Hahn starring in "Trending Down." Ben Affleck is attached to direct Boston crime pilot "The Middle Man" for Fox, while John Hillcoat did "Quarry," starring Logan Marshall-Green, Stellan Skarsgard and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, for Cinemax. AMC have conspiracy thriller "Line Of Sight" starring David Morrissey on the docket, while Showtime are mulling over "The Affair," with Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. And Jordan Vogt-Roberts direct promising-sounding comedy "You're The Worst" for FX, while Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter, creators of "Boardwalk Empire" and "The Wolf Of Wall Street," are back together for a new HBO drama set in the music industry, starring the great Bobby Cannavale.
And of course, there's plenty more that is going to series that we didn't include, either because they were squeezed out, or because we're not quite sure if they'll debut in 2014. Top of the list is "Breaking Bad" spin-off "Better Call Saul," which will hopefully be more "Frasier" than "Joey" whenever it arrives. Fox have ordered "Gotham," a Batman prequel following the young James Gordon, straight to series, and with "Rome" creator Bruno Heller in charge, we're optimistic, even if we've been burned of late by "Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." And the Wachowskis will shoot Netflix sci-fi series "Sense8" later in the year, which should be, at the very least, interesting. Pirates are a new thing this year as well, with the Neil Marshall-directed "Black Seas" and the John Malkovich-starring "Crossbones," from "Luther" creator Neil Cross.
More imminently, IFC miniseries spoof "Spoils Of Babylon," with Tobey Maguire, Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell, starts airing tonight, while the new season of "Sherlock" is underway in the U.K., and reaches the U.S. very soon. Greg Kinnear stars in the appealing-looking "Rake" in a few weeks, while Richard Madden toplines the Discovery Channel's first original series "Klondike," and Chloe Sevigny gets her own cop series with A&E's dark "Those Who Kill," co-starring James D'Arcy. "Battlestar Galactica" creator Ronald D. Moore is about to return too, with the "The Thing"-esque "Helix," while FX will soon debut button-pushing animated series "Chozen," Joseph Gordon-Levitt comes to TV with variety show "HitRECord," and "The Returned" gets an American spin with "Resurrection."
Further off, Robert DeNiro replaces the late James Gandolfini in delayed miniseries "Criminal Justice." Jack Bauer returns in miniseries "24: Live Another Day," while Amy Poehler created the cross-cultural comedy "Welcome To Sweden," with brother Greg. SNL writer John Mulaney could revive the multi-camera sitcom with his much-tipped self-titled show for Fox, co-starring Elliot Gould and Martin Short, while the network also have a big-budget look at Egyptian mythology called "Hieroglyph," from "Pacific Rim" writer Travis Beacham, and NBC go the event series route with psychology drama "The Black Box," with Kelly Reilly and Vanessa Redgrave, and Halle Berry comes to TV too with conspiracy thriller "Extant."
Finally, on the other side of the pond, Dominic Cooper stars as the creator of 007 in "Fleming," while "The Musketeers" get a "Doctor Who" style revamp for the BBC, who are also adapting J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy." David Hare and Bill Nighy follow up their spy drama "Page Eight" with "Turks & Caicos," while Brian Cox also stars in a Cold War espionage thriller with "The Game." Anything we've missed? Let us know in the comments section.