Thursday, 21 January 2016
Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2016 Hot List. We hope you enjoyed our first entry in this year's Hot List covering the essential new films in 2016. This week we will be turning our attention to the year's line-up of television shows, in particular the brand new series starting in the next 12 months.
2015 has served as another reminder that television is increasingly becoming the medium of choice for complex storytelling. The year gone by has seen some of the best visual drama in years with the continuation of House of Cards and Fargo and the addition of the phenomenally successful Mr. Robot. In 2016 we can look forward to yet more of the Hollywood A-list getting in on the act, including one of the industry's most celebrated directors.
In the meantime, Amazon has had it's first bona fide hit in Man in the High Castle, staking a claim for the first time as a true competitor to Netflix. With Hulu also set to move deeper into original programming, the online streaming landscape is starting to take on the multi-faceted appearance of early television. It remains to be seen just what the final form of all this will be.
In spite of this progress, we're starting to see some of the ongoing threats that the medium will face in the years ahead. From antagonistic ISPs to onerous copyright laws, the consumer interest continues to be held back by the archaic remnants of the industry old boys' club. History tells us that these elements will eventually lose out to the march of technology, but for now sadly it looks as though this game of political football will continue.
Nevertheless, we continue to be positive that there is much to be excited about in the current era of television; the quality of programming has progressed by leaps and bounds, while the technology is finally on the verge of bringing the medium into the 21st Century. The year ahead looks to be a continuation of this. So without further ado here are the top 10 essential television shows, both new and returning, that will hit the airwaves in 2016:
10. Archer - FX
Arguably the wittiest show on television right now, Archer is that rare TV show that's big on belly laughs and chock full of references and subtext for more sophisticated humour. Now entering its seventh season, the series shows no sign of slowing down.
Very little is yet known about the plot for the upcoming year, but showrunners have confirmed that the spy agency "ISIS" is being written out of the show for obvious reasons. With last season's plotline seeing the main cast cut ties with the CIA it will be interesting to see what new setting they come up with.
Regardless, the show's trademark wit and satirical humour remain. The new season starts in March.
Release Date: March 2016
9. Billions - Showtime (New TV Show)
The first of our new series to keep an eye on in the coming year. The timely Billions looks into the morally suspect world of hedge funds and financial crime.
The cast is excellent, featuring the well worn TV talents of Damian Lewis as our corrupt hedge fund manager, alongside the always excellent Paul Giamatti as the District Attorney investigating him.
Showtime and Lewis have excellent prior history with Homeland, and we're pretty excited to see that combination flourish again. Billions debuts in late January.
Release Date: January 2016
8. American Gods - Starz (New TV Show)
Now this one is promising. American Gods is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by the inimitable Neil Gaiman (author of, Stardust, Coraline, among others), and produced by Bryan Fuller, a man with an enviable track record of smart, wonderful television.
The plot is classic Gaiman weirdness: gods are real and live among humans, and a conflict is shaping up between the old gods of mythology and the new gods of money and technology. Otherwise precious little is known about the show, no news on cast, and it's only just been announced to being picked up by the Starz network. Still, with this production team and source material, we are very hopeful.
Fuller has gone on record as saying that he expects this show to debut late 2016. We aren't so certain but we'll go along with that. Don't be surprised if this shows up on the 2017 list though.
Release Date: Fall 2016
7. The X-Files - Fox
In one of the biggest surprise moves of recent TV history, The X-Files is making a comeback, albeit a short one in the form of a six episode miniseries.
The main duo of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson return, along with the usual supporting cast. It will be interesting to see how the conspiracy-laden mythos of the series slots into the modern setting, after all a lot has changed since the show's heyday in the 90s. Indeed according to X-Files mythology the world was supposed to end in 2012. Presumably they've come up with a good explanation for why it has not!
Nevertheless, The X-Files was hugely influential on popular culture during its original run, so any return is a cause for excitement. The new miniseries starts at the end of January.
Release Date: January 2016
6. House of Cards - Netflix
It's still one of the best shows on TV (or Netflix anyway), and the best political TV show since the West Wing. Now House of Cards is back for a fourth season.
Kevin Spacey and the usual cast return. There had been much speculation as to whether this season would even happen, but House of Cards has become a flagship of sorts, not only for this new wave of high quality, A-list drama, but for television streaming as a whole. It speaks volumes that the talent on this project are so keen to keep working on the show, they realise that they're involved in something special.
Once again all thirteen episodes will be released simultaneously, in March.
Release Date: March 2016
5. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 - Webseries
Speaking of iconic shows from the 1990s, and if The X-Files is no longer above this one in the list then let's pretend it is so that sentence makes sense, here's another making a comeback: Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
The award winning cult classic MST3K was one of those shows that you either never heard of, or you've heard of it and pity those who haven't. The premise is simple: they put on a really bad sci-fi or horror movie, and make fun of it the entire time. The result was something that was far funnier than it had any right to be, especially if you're the type who enjoys watching these cheesy movies and laughing at them.
So imagine the joy of fans everywhere this past November when series creator Joel Hodgson launched a Kickstarter to bring the show back as an online webseries. Initially asking for $2 million, they raised $5.8 million, becoming the most crowdfunded television series of all time. Now we wait. The new episodes are expected to start filming in January, with the first available for viewing in the summer.
Release Date: Summer 2016
4. Vinyl - HBO (New TV Show)
We're extremely excited about this one. The legendary Martin Scorsese directs/produces Vinyl, a new show about the seedier side of 1970s rock and roll. It's other producers include none other than Mick Jagger and Terrence Winter, who created the hit show Boardwalk Empire.
HBO have a pretty exceptional record for good TV drama, and with a cast starring the underrated Bobby Cannavale, and including the likes of Olivia Wilde, Ray Roman and Andrew Dice Clay, Vinyl looks to have the talent to add to the long track record of success.
Originally mooted for a 2015 release, Vinyl ultimately had a last minute rescheduling to February 2016. This could be one of the real highlights of this year's TV.
3. Fargo - FX
Far too often you get a hit new TV show with a great debut season, which then goes on to suffer from second-season syndrome and lose the magic. Fargo is not an example of this. Fargo's second season was every bit as much a triumph as the first.
Unsurprisingly, the televised adaptation of the classic Coen Brothers film has been confirmed for a third season. Few details have arisen as of yet, no cast has been announced. All we know is that it will return to the present day setting of the first season.
If the first two seasons are anything to go by, whatever they come up with will be brilliant. A start date has yet to be announced, but we look forward to it.
Release Date: TBA 2016
2. Westworld - HBO (New TV Show)
Westworld is a remake of the old 1973 sci-fi western film written and directed by legendary author Michael Crichton.
This new adaptation will be scripted by Jonathan Nolan, quite the hot property in Hollywood now after writing the scripts for most of his brother Chris' films, as well as his own hit TV show Person of Interest. It's being developed by HBO, a network renowned for its high quality, with another big name JJ Abrams attached as producer. Meanwhile the impressive cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, and a number of other recognisable faces.
There's a lot of talent attached and a lot of buzz hyping this as one of the big television events of 2016.
Release Date: TBA 2016
1. Mr. Robot - USA
But the TV show we are most excited about seeing in 2016 is the winner of the coveted 2015 Debbie Award for best TV Show, Mr. Robot.
Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Mr Robot's first season was a critically acclaimed triumph, and won unanimous plaudits from fans and pundits alike.
Unsurprisingly, a second season is due to come out in 2016. It remains to be seen in what direction they intend to take the series, or who among the original cast may return, but showrunner Sam Esmail recently took to Twitter to promise "big twists" in the year ahead. If you haven't started watching this yet, you should be, and you have until season 2 starts to get caught up!
Release Date: TBA 2016
So there you have it folks: 2016 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new music of the year!