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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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“The Strain”
What Is It? Guillermo Del Toro’s first major delve into television waters, this is based on the trilogy of novels that the “Pacific Rim” helmer co-authored with “The Town” scribe Chuck Hogan, depicting a vampire apocalypse and those who fight against it. Del Toro directed the pilot, with “Lost” co-showrunner Carlton Cuse also on board, and although FX haven’t yet picked up the series, a writing staff have already been hired and are at work on scripting a first season, which suggests a certain degree of confidence that it’s moving forward. “House Of Cards” standout Corey Stoll has the lead role, with John Hurt, Mia Maestro, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde and Sean Astin also among the cast.
Chances Of Being The Next "Breaking Bad": Again, this is more in that “True Blood” kind of genre territory, though “The Strain” does seem a little more in the “Breaking Bad” mold. What’s perhaps the bigger question is whether audiences used to the sexy vampires of both ‘Blood’ and “Twilight” will adapt to vampires that are less brooding and more biological and disgusting. “Pacific Rim” included, U.S. audiences have been slow to adapt to Del Toro’s world, so it’s interesting to see whether this proves more popular (again, the success of “The Walking Dead” suggests that might be a thumbs up). Still, with Del Toro writing and directing the pilot, and Stoll and Hurt in particular in the cast, we’re certainly optimistic it might work out, even if, from what we’ve heard in the novels, it’s probably closer to trashy fun rather than high art.

“Trending Down”
What Is It? Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman comes to TV in this Showtime pilot (not yet picked up to series, but given the talent involved, likely to be a priority if it’s even halfway good) in a show about ad executive Thom Payne, who specializes in youth culture, only to become a victim of it when he hits middle age and his agency is taken over. “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” and “Rabbit Hole” helmer John Cameron Mitchell directed the pilot, and Kathryn Hahn and Rhys Ifans also star.
Chances Of Being The Next "Breaking Bad": Showtime have made something of a habit of taking big-name movie character actors (Don Cheadle, Liev Schreiber) and building shows around them, and they seem to be trying to replicate the trick here with “Trending Down,” which unlike the other shows on this list, is a half-hour comedy (or at least, comedy drama). The premise sounds fun (if not immediately marketable), and the talent is inarguable, but we could have said the same about both “House Of Lies” or “Ray Donovan” and while the shows have been successful enough for the network, they’ve been somewhat underwhelming creatively. As such, we’d remain a  little cautious of this, even if the PSH/Hahn combination seems totally irresistible on paper.

“True Detective”
What Is It? HBO’s first big drama of 2014, this is a new procedural crime show created by novelist Nic Pizzolato, about a pair of cops trying to find a serial killer in Louisiana. It might sound familiar, but the whole series has been directed by one of our most promising filmmakers, “Sin Nombre” and “Jane Eyre” director Cary Fukunaga, and stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the lead roles, with Michelle Monaghan and Kevin Dunn in the supporting cast.
Chances Of Being The Next Breaking Bad: Solid, with one caveat. We’ve been excited about “True Detective” ever since it was announced with the killer Fukunaga/McConaughey/Harrelson trifecta. It took a little while for the schedules to line up, but filming got underway last year and HBO will bow the 8 part series in January. The early trailers have suggested something atmospheric, dark and sprawling, and not as much like something like “The Killing” or “Broadchurch” as it might sound on paper. The sheer star power should guarantee this a fairly substantial audience. Our gut is that it’ll be closer to something like “Zodiac” than a traditional whodunnit, but nevertheless this could dominate water cooler chatter next year. The bigger question is about longevity: the idea is that future seasons would focus on different characters and cases, with the first season telling a stand-alone case, and McConaughey and Harrelson unlikely to return. As such, it may not build up the momentum that was crucial to “Breaking Bad.” Still, we are counting the days until this is unveiled.

What Is It? Adapted from Alexander Rose’s book “Washington Spies” by “Bones” and “Nikita” writer Craig Silverstein, this is a Revolutionary America-set tale of a New York farmer (Jamie Bell) who helps to set up The Culper Ring, an alliance of spies aiming to free America from the yoke of British rule. “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” helmer Rupert Wyatt directed the pilot and the show was picked up for a full first season by AMC this summer.
Chances Of Being The Next Breaking Bad: Not unfeasible. Aside from HBO’s Emmy-lauded “John Adams,” it’s a while since the American Revolution was depicted on TV, and doing it through the Culper Ring is an undoubtedly exciting premise. Wyatt proved his directing chops for this sort of thing long ago and he’s assembled a solid cast, with Jamie Bell heading up the likes of Angus MacFayden, Kevin McNally (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), JJ Feild (“Captain America”), Heather Lind (“Boardwalk Empire”) and Burn Gorman (“Pacific Rim”). That said, AMC’s last period piece, “Hell On Wheels,” never really built up steam and we have to wonder about the previous credits of creator Craig Silverstein, which are suggestive something escapist rather than substantial. But remember that the same arguably could have been said about Vince Gilligan back in the day so we’re more than open to see how it turns out, even if it remains to be seen if and when mainstream audiences embrace something like this. 

Honorable Mentions: So the short answer to the question posed above is that, while there’s lots of promising and high-profile drama on the way, none immediately look like they’ll be filling the exact void left by “Breaking Bad.” That said, there’s tons more that are a little further off that could step up, that we didn’t quite have the space to include here. HBO have greenlit “Looking,” a series about young gay man in San Francisco, with a pilot directed by Andrew Haigh, who was behind the excellent “Weekend.” “American Horror Story” mastermind Ryan Murphy is working on “Open,” a look at modern sexuality to star Michelle Monaghan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Wes Bentley and Anna Torv.  Robert De Niro just replaced the late James Gandolfini in miniseries “Criminal Justice,” a remake of a British show and most excitingly, “Deadwood” creator David Milch has a new pilot in the works, “The Money,” with Brendan Gleeson and Nathan Lane, looking at a Rupert Murdoch-ish media mogul.

Meanwhile, FX lost Ang Lee as director of Middle East-set drama “Tyrant,” but gained David Yates, with the pilot filming at the moment. We’re also excited about “Hoke,” based on a popular series of detective novels, written by the great Scott Frank and set to star Paul Giamatti. The untitled drama set in the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll from “Boardwalk Empire” duo Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter is also moving forward to the pilot stage, with Bobby Cannavale taking the lead, and “Rounders” writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien hired as showrunners. Also on the dramedy side is “Togetherness,” from the Duplass Brothers, which is already ordered to series, and a new show from “King Of The Hill” and “Office Space” creator Mike Judge, set in Silicon Valley. There's also the Ridley Scott-produced religious thriller “The Vatican,” from “Quiz Show” writer Paul Attanasio and starring Kyle Chandler, Matthew Goode, Bruno Ganz and Anna Frieand the already picked up to pilot “Line Of Sight,” which Jonathan Demme will direct and which stars David Morrissey as an air crash investigator.

What piques your interest the most? What do you think will be your next addictive, watch-it-all-at-once show? Let us know below.

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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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