By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com October 1, 2013 at 1:31PM
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?
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.
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...