By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist October 1, 2013 at 1:31PM
What Is It? Inspired by the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winning masterpiece of Minnesota crime, and with Joel and Ethan’s seal of approval in the shape of an executive producer credit, this ten-part FX series isn’t directly linked to the movie (unlike a 1997 pilot that starred a pre-”Sopranos” Edie Falco as the character originated by Frances McDormand). Instead, creator Noah Hawley (behind short-lived ABC series “The Unusuals” and “My Generation”) has created a new plotline set in and around the Minnesota town, with Billy Bob Thornton and “The Hobbit” star Martin Freeman already signed up. The show will premiere next spring.
Chances Of Being The Next "Breaking Bad": Middling. Like we said, chances are that the next show to really capture the public imagination will be something very different, and likely not connected to a previous property. While “Fargo” is beloved, and certainly seems to promise the kind of mix of dry humor and ultraviolence that Vince Gilligan’s show delivered, there’s no guarantee that it’ll work on the small screen (the Coens’ involvement, and the cast it’s attracted, bodes well, Hawley’s track record less so). Furthermore, word is that the show is planned as a limited, rather than ongoing series. That doesn’t mean that further seasons are unfeasible (look at “American Horror Story,” for instance), but it does mean that it’s tougher for the show to build momentum in the way that was so crucial for BB over the years.
“Halt & Catch Fire”
What Is It? With their nest-eggs “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” on the way out, and other launches like “Rubicon,” “Hell On Wheels” and “Low Winter Sun” failing to follow the success of “The Walking Dead,” AMC are going big in 2014, with at least three brand-new series launching. One of the most promising is “Halt & Catch Fire,” set in the so-called Silicon Prairie, Texas’ answer to Silicon Valley, in the 1980s. Newcomer creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers have assembled a highly promising cast, with Lee Pace (“The Hobbit,” “Lincoln”), Scoot McNairy (“Argo,” “Killing Them Softly”), Kerry Bishe (“Argo”) and Mackenzie Davis (“Breathe In”) as the leads, whose computing start-up sets out to take on the big dogs. If you needed more reason to tune in, Juan Jose Campanella, director of the Oscar-winning “The Secret In Your Eyes,” helmed the pilot.
Chances Of Being The Next Breaking Bad: Unlikely to be the next “Breaking Bad,” but the next “Mad Men” seems more viable—a period-set workplace drama that’s likely to delve into the personal lives of its characters as much as their professional ones. In fact, our biggest concern is that this might be one of those knock-offs we were talking about, as if executives went “give us 'Mad Men,' but with microchips!” But if it ploughs out its own furrow (or, even better, turns out a small-screen version of Andrew Bujalski’s “Computer Chess”), then count us in.
What Is It? 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 ‘final’ film “Behind The Candelabra" screened at Cannes, he was shooting again: he’s directing all ten episodes of “The Knick,” backed by HBO subsidiary Cinemax. The show is, of all things, a period medical drama, set at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital at the start of the 20th century, and stars Clive Owen, with Juliet Rylance and Michael Angarano among the supporting cast.
Chances Of Being The Next "Breaking Bad": Not huge, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good show in and of itself. On paper, it’s not all that promising: it’s not like television is bereft of medical dramas, writer Jack Amiel’s previous credits (including “Big Miracle” and “The Prince & Me”) are of questionable quality, and Cinemax’s previous shows, “Banshee” and “Strike Back,” weren’t exactly high art. But a period hospital drama is at least a different spin and we assume that there must be something in the script that’s grabbed Soderbergh’s attention away from Twitter novellas and whatever else he’s up to. Him and Owen—a strong actor who needs the right role and the right director to really shine—are also a promising combination. We’d be surprised if this became the next big cult hit, but we’re looking forward to it all the same.
What Is It? The return of “Lost” mastermind Damon Lindelof to television, this adapts the 2011 novel by Tom Perotta, whose books previously made it to the big screen to great success as “Election” and “Little Children.” It’s another post-apocalyptic tale, but with a sort of twist; it’s set in a world shortly after The Rapture has taken place, focusing on those that God didn’t choose to raise to heaven. Justin Theroux leads a solid and starry ensemble that also includes Liv Tyler, Christopher Eccleston and Ann Dowd, and HBO just picked the show up for a ten-episode first season.
Chances Of Being The Next "Breaking Bad": Hard to say. After the “Lost” finale, “Prometheus” and “Star Trek Into Darkness,” Lindelof’s name is mud among some sectors of the fanboy community, but we shouldn’t forget that he also shepherded six seasons of hugely entertaining, often brilliant television. So his return to the small screen should be reason to celebrate on its own. With HBO backing the project and source material from the excellent Perotta, there’s ample reason for optimism here. Don’t go expect something super genre-y, though; the novel is more gentle satire than genre exercise, and we wonder if that might hold it back from becoming a phenomenon. Still, for us, the biggest danger would be if it follows the path of this summer’s “Under The Dome,” and moves the plot forward at a snail’s pace in order to extend the novel into multiple seasons.