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End Of The Golden Age? 12 Shows Hoping To Be The Next 'Breaking Bad'

by Oliver Lyttelton
October 1, 2013 1:31 PM
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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-”SopranosEdie 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.

“The Knick”
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.

“The Leftovers”
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.

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  • Stephen | August 6, 2014 8:04 AMReply

    Suprised no one has mentioned Hannibal - show is fantastic, especially the second season.

  • Malachi | February 10, 2014 7:46 PMReply

    I definitely want to start watching True Detective. It's been having amazing reviews, like Breaking Bad reviews, not comparing it to Breaking Bad, just saying. But I don't have HBO, so maybe I may spend my money on it, and buy it on iTunes. I don't usually take chances like that and buy things that I haven't seen already, but I'm gonna buy episode one and see if I like it.

  • Anton | February 9, 2014 5:36 AMReply

    You are talking nonsense boardwalk empire has been the best show on tv for years and that included breaking bad

    I watched both but breakin bad took more than a season to get into it and i didnt know why i went back to watching it during season 2 glad i did it was amazing but as for boardwalk empire every season have been brilliant and although its hard to compare both boardwalk empire runs away with it

  • Malachi | February 10, 2014 7:42 PM

    Wow, you're so wrong. EVERY season of Breaking Bad is phenomenal. Boardwalk Empire is mediocre.

  • James | October 22, 2013 10:02 AMReply

    I could watch Breaking Bad to death.

  • JIM | October 11, 2013 2:14 PMReply

    Couldn't be more wrong about Boardwalk Empire.

  • ARR | October 5, 2013 5:48 PMReply

    What about "The Man in the High Castle" ? And didn't AMC option Dan Simmons AMAZING horror/period piece "The Terror"?

  • Chris | October 4, 2013 11:40 AMReply

    What about Wayward Pines?

  • Crowhead | October 4, 2013 6:52 AMReply

    No mention of Justified

  • stevenstevo | October 4, 2013 1:12 AMReply

    Great article, definitely a subject I think about a lot. I think I must be a cynic because I think we are doomed. We got lucky with The Wire and Breaking Bad and a few others, and there will simply never be another show as good as those. Even the same networks and showrunners will not be able to replicate their past successes.

    Actually, just typing that makes me realize it is ridiculous.

    One other thing I wonder about is perhaps one (and not the only one) formula for creating a successful show is the same formula that has proven effective for all of eternity: spend lots of money producing the good/service (or show, film, etc.). Case in point: House of Cards, the first season of which I believe cost north of $100 million to produce. Fortunately, on the flipside, advances in technology will only continue to lower the cost of production in the film, tv, and music industries, hopefully ultimately removing the gap between those that fund art and those that create it.

  • Nick | October 2, 2013 9:24 AMReply

    Other than Fargo, Mob City, and True Detective, do any of these series have tentative premiere dates?

  • bill | October 2, 2013 3:49 AMReply

    The winners here will be...

    The HBO rock drama. Lead is a star in the making. Touches on punk and hip hop roots with HBO's debaucherous freedom. Rock music's so dead it's ripe material just like mobster stories were circa Sopranos.

    Mike Judge's Silicon Valley. Mike Judge uncensored.

    Line of Sight. Huge appetite for a heady conspiracy series. Post 9/11 X-Files. AMC's secret weapon.

  • bohmer | October 1, 2013 9:07 PMReply

    What Game of Thrones spin-off?

  • Tjls | October 1, 2013 8:05 PMReply

    Boardwalk Empire has becoming more impressive since its debut back in 2010.
    it should be mentioned because of the star studded talented cast and complicated drama,which were intriguing and compelling.
    not forge to mention,FX latest drama "The Bridge" also had much potential regarding the provoking premise and interesting character.
    its deeply emotion and sometimes provoking,yet it was very underrated judging by the ratings.regardless any of that factors,it also surprisingly stylish and atmospheric.
    the cinematography was brilliantly executed with many wide shot conveying the mexico border in which given a sense of realism and absorbing background.
    Showtime Homeland was another example of promosing "great tv series" along with "Downtown Abbey".those tv series should be mentioned.

  • CB | October 1, 2013 6:45 PMReply

    Nicolas Winding Refn's Barberella show is also very, very promising.

  • Sagi | October 1, 2013 5:23 PMReply

    Boardwalk empire is the best TV show airing now that breaking bad has end. I don't understand why you are not giving it the credit it deserve.

  • Jason | October 1, 2013 3:22 PMReply

    One potential series I'm really looking forward to is CRASH AND BURN on FX: "It is written by Jeffrey Lieber (NECESSARY ROUGHNESS) and loosely inspired by the non-fiction book THE FULL BURN by Kevin Conley. CRASH AND BURN tells the story of Doc Dixon, a man trying to survive as a Stuntman during the anything goes world of pre-computer-generation, post Vietnam San Fernando Valley, California. He’s trying to save his family, hold together his union, and live to see 50… all with the understanding that if his work doesn’t kill him… the weekends probably will."

    Speaking of FX, zero mention of THE AMERICANS?

  • BEF | October 1, 2013 2:38 PMReply

    Fargo is in North Dakota. But I see why you'd be confused, what with the daytrips to the big Twin Cities since it's so close to the Minnesota border, don'tchaknow?

  • swell | October 1, 2013 2:06 PMReply

    Are you kidding with that headline? You spoil it in a headline in large print just one story below this one...

  • TL | October 1, 2013 2:04 PMReply

    I would disagree about BOARDWALK EMPIRE - the show really came into its own last season in terms of character and sorytelling, including Bobby Canavale's amazing turn. I would also mention GIRLS' brave look at sexuality, mental issues and STDs - a new and relevant voice in televsion.

    Let's hope we get more stories about Difficult Women for a change - and more Difficult Characters of Color or Difficult LGBT Characters.

  • Dick whitman | October 1, 2013 1:52 PMReply

    I've got a feeling that most of the new 'antihero' shows are going to fail. We've seen Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey, Walt White and Don Draper. Even Dexter Morgan had his moments.
    If I was a showrunner, I'd probably try something different. How about a heroic protagonist vs. ruthless villain for a change?

    If you do another "antihero family man" -show, you'll eventually be compared to Sopranos, Shield, Mad Men or Breaking Bad and it's going to be hard to stand out in that company.

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