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

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
October 1, 2013 1:31 PM
20 Comments
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“Mob City”
What Is It? The return of “Shawshank Redemption” helmer Frank Darabont to television after his ousting from “The Walking Dead," “Mob City” (previously known as “L.A. Noir” and “Lost Angels”) is a period crime show set in post-war Los Angeles, as an ex-marine-turned-cop (Jon Bernthal) becomes caught in the battle between L.A.P.D. chief William H. Parker (Neal McDonoghue) and mobsters Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke) and Bugsy Siegel (Edward Burns). Airing on TNT starting in December.
Chances Of Being The Next "Breaking Bad": Fairly decent. Darabont’s never been a big box-office draw in theaters, but “The Walking Dead” is one of the biggest shows of the last few years, and despite his brief tenure there (and the questionable quality of the show), its success suggests that Darabont knows how to connect with a wide audience. And while the show does just sound like a TV version of “Gangster Squad,” and we all know how that turned out, this feels like something that Darabont could pull off. Trailers have also been been promising so far. While the casting isn’t that starry (bar Simon Pegg, who guests in the pilot), there’s some strong actors involved, not least Bernthal, whose Jon-Hamm-as-a-boxer presence is popping up in movies like “Wolf Of Wall Street” and “Fury” in the near future. That said, TNT aren’t exactly known as the home of quality drama. Can they step up here, or will this just be another procedural time-filler?

“Penny Dreadful”
What Is It? From the duo behind billion-dollar Bond flick “Skyfall,Sam Mendes and John Logan, and with a pilot directed by “The Impossible” and “The Orphanage” helmer Juan Antonio Bayona, this is a psychosexual horror set in Victorian London that seems to be a boobs and blood-friendly take on something like “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” with Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll & Hyde, Dorian Gray and other out-of-copyright favorites crossing paths. The cast is toplined by Josh Hartnett and Eva Green, with Billie Piper, Rory Kinnear, Harry Treadaway, Timothy Dalton, Helen McCrory and Simon Russell Beale among the supporting players.
Chances Of Being the Next "Breaking Bad": With “True Blood” wrapping up next year, this seems to be have a better chance of slipping into that niche, to be honest. With a big budget and big names it’s likely to be one of the most high-profile launches of next year, and has a good likelihood of being a ratings blockbuster. The premise could either turn out to be indecent amounts of fun, or a campy mess and we’re not sure that Logan’s scripting in the past gives us enough faith that it’ll be the former. Still, the cast are mostly heavyweights (we’ll tune in just to see Timothy Dalton play some kind of Allan Quartermain surrogate), and if they can find out a way to make Josh Hartnett compelling as a lead, they can probably do anything.

“Quarry”
What Is It? Cinemax’s other major project in development (though not, like “The Knick,” yet picked up to series, unlike most on this list), this adapts a series of period crime novels by “Road To Perdition” writer Max Allan Collins, about a Vietnam vet, Max Quarry, who returns from war to become a hitman. “Prometheus” star Logan Marshall-Green has the lead role, with very strong support from Stellan Skarsgard, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jamie Hector, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Noah Taylor, among others.
Chances Of Being The Next "Breaking Bad": Reasonable. Collins’ novels have a cult following, and traffic in the same kind of gut-punch plot twists that made “Breaking Bad” the big deal that it’s been. This kind of 70s-set hitman thriller seems like it could be reasonably fresh territory, on TV at least, and the pilot’s in solid hands, with the writers of the excellent “Rectify,” and “The Proposition” and “Lawless” director John Hillcoat helming. Marshall-Green feels a little too pretty-boy on paper for the part, but we’re open to him, and those backing him up are fairly awesome. Again, the biggest problems may be getting past Cinemax’s reputation as a home for softcore pornography rather than quality drama, but it is at least shifting, and let’s not forget that only a few years ago AMC wasn’t exactly associated with original programming either. 

“The Red Road”
What Is It? An original series on the Sundance Channel, “The Red Road” is a six-parter from writer Aaron Guzikowski, who’s just had a major big-screen success with “Prisoners.” The show focuses on a cop dealing with two communities—his home town and the Native American community in the mountains nearby—whose job becomes personal after a tragedy involving his wife. “Friday Night Lights” vet Bridget Carpenter will be showrunner, Playlist favorite James Gray directs the first episode and the cast includes Martin Henderson, Jason Momoa, Julianne Nicholson and Tom Sizemore.
Chances Of Being The Next "Breaking Bad": Not too bad, we reckon. The Sundance Channel have had a very good start to their venture into original programming (quality-wise, anyway), with “Top Of The Lake” and “Rectify,” and there’s no reason to think that’s going to change here, especially with the killer combination of Gray and “Prisoners” writer Guzikowski. Perhaps more than any other show on this list, this looks, from a distance, most like it’s in the “Breaking Bad” type of wheelhouse. What’s more questionable is whether it can break out to a wide audience—Sundance’s ratings are minimal compared to most other cable networks. Then again, Netflix played a major part in the success of “Breaking Bad,” and with a deal similar to the one that the network struck for “Top Of The Lake,” where the show appeared on the streaming service almost as soon as it finished airing, this one could end up building an audience over time. That's assuming it’s good, of course. We’re excited about the talent behind the camera but slightly less so about that in front of—Nicholson stole the show on “Boardwalk Empire,” but much of the rest of the cast seem a little bland. Then again, who knew that Bryan Cranston had it in him a few years back...

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20 Comments

  • 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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