james debate
james debate

Sunday 12 January 2020

Happy New Year to all and welcome back to The Ephemeric. I hope you are all well rested and well fatted from your holidays, but now 2020 is upon us it's time to get down to business. A new year can only mean one thing, it's time to break out The Hot List and see what's coming up next.

So here it is, your ultimate guide to the year ahead, The Ephemeric's 2020 Hot List. In this first entry we will be looking at the most exciting things happening in the world of television over the next 12 months, with a particular eye cast over the brand new shows hitting your screens in 2020.

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The new golden age of television is in full swing and shows no signs of abating. The era of mainstream premium networks and subscription models has yielded an industry with the funding and creative resources to produce content on a scale rarely seen before. Increasingly the world's great auteurs are choosing to tell their stories in the form of a ten hour series rather than a two to three hour movie, and the talent has followed.

2019 represented a new high point of this era. We saw the entry into the market of two major new players in Apple and Disney, and the coming year looks like it could be even bigger. Indeed there is such a huge array of high quality content available these days that it is honestly becoming a bit overwhelming to keep track of everything. My intention is that The Hot List can help in that regard, giving you at least an overview of some of the most interesting work to come in the year ahead.

So without further ado here are the top 15 essential television shows, both new and returning, that will hit the airwaves in 2020:

15. The Eddy - Netflix (New TV Show)

the eddy la la land damian chazelle jazz netflix tv show 2020 best most anticipatedSeemingly a perennial feature of the Hot List. Netflix's The Eddy marks the first venture into television from Damian Chazelle, the Academy Award winning writer/director of WhiplashLa La Land, and First Man. This is a series that plays very much to Chazelle's talents. A musical drama set in a Parisian jazz club. The series will feature original music from Glen Ballard, Grammy award winning producer of albums such as Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, and Michael Jackson's Thriller.

We have been hearing about this one for a while now, but this winter we finally received some concrete information in the form of a cast list and the first production photos. The Eddy will star Moonlight's AndrĂ© Holland, along with Joanna Kulig (fans of foreign films will recognise her from Cold War) and Melissa George.

For the last two years, this has been one of the Hot List's most anticipated series, and the only reason it finds itself so low in the ranking this year is that, after two years of delays, I'm taking with a pinch of salt any suggestion that it will finally see release in 2020. I am an optimist though, and now that we have an actual cast, synopsis, and set photos I am confident that the Eddy will arrive sooner rather than later.

Start Date: TBA 2020

14. The Morning Show - Apple+

the morning show apple tv apple+ plus season 2 carrell anniston witherspoon 2020 most anticipated tvApple+ had a storming debut last year and maybe the most impressive of their initial lineup has been The Morning Show.

Easily the most considered and thoughtful of the media's attempts so far to adapt the #MeToo movement into a scripted drama. The Morning Show is not afraid to challenge the limits of the movement and address multiple perspectives.

Steve Carrell is the disgraced former host of the titular morning news show, while former co-host Jennifer Anniston is left to pick up the pieces alongside Carrell's replacement Reese Witherspoon. The supporting cast impresses as much as its stars, with Mark Duplass, Jack Davenport, Nestor Carbonell and particularly Billy Crudup all very strong.

Season 2 will release this year and promises more of the same office drama and ruthless politicking. Catch up on the first season if you have not done so, and then spend 2020 looking forward to its return.

Start Date: November 2020

13. The Haunting of Bly Manor - Netflix 

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Whether or not you consider this a "new show" depends very much on your definitions. The Haunting of Bly Manor is, essentially, the second season of Netflix's excellent ghost story The Haunting of Hill House. The stories will (probably) be unconnected but the cast and crew and, most importantly, the spirit, remain the same.

This, of course, is the product of showrunner Mike Flanagan, a man who is becoming one of horror's hot properties with the likes of Ouija, Oculus and most recently Dr. Sleep under his belt. This season, as the name suggests, will be based on the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw, set in Bly Manor.

Ghost stories are ten-a-penny. What made the first season so excellent was its high production and attention to detail. Subtle touches like statues moving between camera cuts, and barely perceptible ghostly figures in the background of shots lent a special air of creepiness that exceeds most of the genre. But Hill House impressed for more than just its scares; it was a genuinely impressive bit of filmmaking and writing, with one episode in particular filmed in almost a single continuous shot.

Start Date: September 2020

12. This is Going to Hurt - BBC (New TV Show)

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The name Adam Kay means a lot of different things to different people. To some, he is a former doctor and graduate of my alma mater Imperial College. To others of a certain age, he is one half of The Amateur Transplants, a musical comedy duo that brought us such classics as London Underground and The Drugs Song (Kay would probably rather we not remember some of his other, most disturbing songs like "Never let a Woman Drive" to the tune of the Sheila's Wheels jingle, and "Rohypnol" to the tune of Blondie's Maria).

But to most, he is the author of the medical memoir This is Going to Hurt, detailing some of the horror stories from Kay's time as a doctor. The best seller is now being adapted to TV by the BBC.

If some of his material can be considered in bad taste, there is no denying that Adam Kay is a witty man. His writing is blistering, incisive, and hilarious, and if that translates well to the screen then this will be a very worthwhile series.

Start Date: TBA 2020

11. Run - HBO (New TV Show)

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Next up we have Run, the new HBO series from Vicky Jones, longtime theatre and screen collaborator of rising star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the latter of whom also co-produces and co-stars.

Waller-Bridge is joined in the cast by Domhnall Gleeson and Merritt Weever as Ruby, a woman living a humdrum existence, gets a text inviting her to fulfill a youthful pact promising true love and self-reinvention by stepping out of her life to take a journey with her oldest flame.

HBO is on a great run at the moment, as is Waller-Bridge. Pundits are betting on this new marriage between the two becoming one of television's next big things.

Start Date: TBA 2020

10. Space Force - Netflix (New TV Show)

space force netflix steve carrell john malkovich ben schwartz 2020 best most anticipatedIt's a series with a title that writes itself. As soon as Donald Trump announced the much derided Space Force, you knew someone was going to make a film or series by that name. That person turned out to be Greg Daniels, one of the key creatives behind the US version of The Office, as well as Parks and Recreation (and going back further, The Simpsons).

The new Netflix series is essentially a workplace comedy in the style of The Office focused on the group of people tasked with forming Trump's titular Space Force. Daniels is collaborating with Steve Carrell (who also stars) in the writers' room. Carrell is joined in the cast by John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, and Diana Silvers (of last year's excellent Booksmart).

Space Force will debut on Netflix this summer.

Start Date: Summer 2020

9. Foundation - Apple+ (New TV Show)

foundation apple 2020 most anticipated tvApple's adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation had been billed as the main tentpole of the company's new push into original content. Perhaps predictably for such a massive and expensive project, delays followed, and the release is now (hopefully) expected for some time in late 2020.

The seminal, epoch-spanning book series has long been mooted for some form of adaptation, but has generally been considered either unworkable or too large-scale to depict on screen. Apple apparently feel the technology is now there, and are prepared to throw a significant budget into bankrolling this ambitious new series.

The project will be handled by David Ellison's Skydance production company, while Ellison will be joined as executive producer by a line-up of prominent names including David Goyer, Josh Friedman, and Asimov's daughter Robyn. Beyond that, much is still shrouded in mystery, needless to say this is going to be a major event when it gets here.

Start Date: Late 2020

8. Amazing Stories - Apple+ (New TV Show)

2020 most anticipated tv steven speilberg amazing stories apple plusAnother from Apple+, this time a reboot of Steven Spielberg's old 1985 series Amazing Stories.

The original was an anthology series in the style of a Black Mirror or Twilight Zone, only less focused on sci-fi and more on general storytelling and world-building of all genres. The remit of this new series is to "transport the audience to worlds of wonder through the lens of today’s most imaginative filmmakers, directors and writers".

Short form storytelling has a rich history on television, and yet at the moment you only really see it in the sci-fi and horror genres (Amazon's excellent Modern Love being a recent exception). If Apple can pull this off, and with their budget and a name like Spielberg you would bet on them doing so, then this could be a very worthy addition.

Start Date: TBA 2020

7. Curb Your Enthusiasm - HBO

curb your enthusiasm seinfeld larry david season 10 2020 most anticipated tv televisionHe's back. For thirty years now, the funniest shows on television have been from Larry David, whether through Seinfeld in the 90s, or Curb Your Enthusiasm since then.

Nowadays Curb seems to be on "whenever Larry feels like making one" mode. Well in 2020 Larry feels like making one, and Curb returns for an impressive 10th season this January.

Season 10 will see a return of all the usual cast and crew, and no doubt a plethora of guest stars and celebrities either playing themselves or humorous parodies. I mean come on, it's Curb, do we really need to know anything else? It will be great.

Start Date: January 2020

6. American Crime Story: Impeachment - FX 

american crime story oj simpson versace impeachment clinton lewinsky trump 2020 most anticipated tvIn terms of awards, American Crime Story has certainly been the most successful of Ryan Murphy's various vehicles. The first two seasons, covering the OJ Simpson trial and the murder of Gianni Versace respectively, were critical and commercial successes. Next, ACS is turning its camera on the impeachment (not the current one!) and subsequent Senate trial of President Bill Clinton.

Longtime Murphy collaborator Sarah Paulson returns to the cast, along with Beanie Feldstein and Annaleigh Ashford. Clive Owen will play President Clinton.

On the surface, the subject matter marks something of a departure for the series. But ACS has always been about shining a light on the political and cultural context of the crimes depicted, and with that in mind an impeachment could well prove to be the perfect subject.

Start Date: September 2020

5. Fargo - FX 

fargo fx season 4 2020 best televisionNoah Hawley is the man of the minute. Having achieved in Fargo by far the best example of a movie-to-TV adaptation being done well, and following that up with his excellent interpretation of Marvel's Legion, he now finds himself riding high on the Hollywood it-list when it comes to showrunners.

Hawley is a busy man, recently tapped to helm the much anticipated adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and with 2019 having marked his feature film debut. Hawley is now also being tapped to direct the next film in the Star Trek franchise. But amid the hype, Hawley has found time to return to the series that made him a star.

Few details of Fargo's fourth season are known at this time, but it will feature a cast icluding Chris Rock, Ben Whishaw, and Jason Schwartzman and have a 1950s setting in Kansas City, Missouri. Seasons one through three were all excellent, we eagerly await the next chapter in this anthology.

Start Date: April 2020

4. Stranger Things - Netflix 

stranger things best tv show television 2020 season 4And of course you can't have a Hot List without a new season of Stranger Things. Netflix's mega hit remains one of the best things on television, and I know I'm not the only one who can't wait to see where season four takes us.

Little is known about the new season. The last season left us on something of an ambiguous note, with certain central characters potentially gone, and the ongoing status of Stranger Things' main villain left uncertain. And what of Eleven's sibling and the ambiguous fate of her "papa"?

While there are clear plot-threads to follow going forward, no one really knows what direction the Duffer Brothers will take this. Whatever the case, the strength of the writing and production thus far gives us no reason for concern, and we expect great things when this releases.

Start Date: TBA 2020

3. Hollywood - Netflix (New TV Show)

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Ryan Murphy is a busy guy these days. The creator of Glee, American Horror Story, American Crime Story, and The Politician seems to have a knack of spinning TV gold at the moment, so it is only fitting that his next series Hollywood would celebrate the golden age of tinseltown.

A love letter to the 1940s film industry, with a cast featuring Darren Criss, Patti LuPone, Jim Parsons and Jeremy Pope. The series will apparently aim for the same upbeat tone of Glee.

Hollywood is set to debut on Netflix this May.

Start Date: May 2020

2. Russian Doll - Netflix

russian doll natasha lyonne netflix tv show 2020 best most anticipated Netflix's remarkable Natasha Lyonne vehicle Russian Doll will return for the second of what is expected to be three seasons.

For all the impressive content Netflix put out in 2019, this high concept project was surely the most surprising success story. To take a concept that sounds like a forgotten episode of the Outer Limits and turn it into an entire series that is not only coherent but wildly engaging is no small feat of writing, and Lyonne's compelling performance has rightly earned the actress a ticket across the awards circuit this year.

But television is full of these lightning in a bottle moments that start strong but fizzle out or find they have nowhere to go, particularly with this type of genre. It will be interesting to see what direction they take the series, but if it's as good as the first, it will be well worth watching.

Start Date: TBA 2020

1. Star Trek: Picard - CBS (New TV Show)

new cbs star trek next generation tng picard patrick stewart discovery 2020 most anticipated tvIt's certainly an interesting time to be a Star Trek fan. After years in the wilderness, CBS suddenly seem set on milking the franchise for all it's worth with two current series ongoing, and the expected release of at least four more in the next two years.

By far and away the headline item of this lineup is Star Trek: Picard, a new series which sees the return of Patrick Stewart's iconic Captain Picard, formerly of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. The series will see Stewart team up with familiar faces of Trek series' past (that I won't spoil here), and a whole new assortment of characters featuring actors Alison Pill, Isa Briones, and Michelle Hurd.

Bringing back such a beloved character after nearly thirty years is a bold move that naturally has longtime fans excited, but it is the concept that intrigues the most. This is a much older Picard, now long past his adventuring days. The setting presents intriguing possibilities as to the narrative direction this series will take. This has the potential to be something quite unlike anything we've seen from the franchise before. Star Trek: Picard debuts at the end of January.

Start Date: January 2020

So there you have it folks: 2020 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new videogames of the year!

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