james debate
james debate

Friday 15 January 2021

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 2021 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 2021 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 2021.

best anticipated new tv television shows 2021 hot list ephemeric
As far as the entertainment industry goes, television is one medium that has been left relatively intact during the pandemic era. It makes sense. After all, with everybody spending a lot more time at home, there's likely to be a much higher demand for television content and in particular the various home-streaming services. Indeed that's what we have seen, with Netflix, Disney and others reporting astonishing growth in subscriptions over the past year. 

Instead, the challenge has been in the production of new content. Acting out scenes generally requires a lack of social distancing, to say nothing of the various off-camera realms of production that typically are performed in teams. It has no doubt been a unique challenge for many production companies, one which has led, if not to a cessation, then to a much lower pace of production. As a result, many series that we were expecting to see in 2020 ended up being pushed to 2021, and even now it is far from certain when exactly we will see many of the year's most anticipated shows. 

Nevertheless, they are coming and here we have for you a list of the best of the best, the ones that everyone will be talking about in 2021 (pandemic willing). So without further ado here are the top 15 essential television shows, both new and returning, that will hit the airwaves in 2021:

15. Inventing Anna - Netflix (New TV Show)

inventing anna netflix tv show 2021 best most anticipatedEveryone loves a good conman story, and in Netflix's new series Inventing Anna, they have got a good one in store. Inspired by real events, this is the story of Anna Sorokin, a Russian fraudster who, for years, had infiltrated some of the most exclusive social circles of New York posing as a German heiress.

This is the first production to come of the much ballyhooed new exclusive deal between Netflix and Shonda Rhimes, best known as the creative mind behind Grey's Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal. Dawn of an exciting new era? We shall see. Julia Garner stars, with a cast also featuring Anna Chlumsky, Katie Lowes and Laverne Cox.

Production began in earnest back at the start of 2020 and despite a pandemic-related delay, we are now expecting to see this launch on Netflix towards the middle of the year.

Start Date: Summer 2021

14. The Sandman - Netflix (New TV Show)

the sandman netflix gaiman 2021 most anticipated tvAnother notable coup for Netflix, this is the long-mooted adaptation of Neil Gaiman's graphic novel The Sandman. As with most Gaiman works, the plot is such that it would be difficult to describe it in any meaningful way with the amount of space I have available. Suffice it to say, this is going to be every bit as weird and wonderful as you would expect from the man who wrote Coraline, Stardust, American Gods, Good Omens, among others.

The Sandman has endured something of a tortured production history, beginning life as a Goyer film that had been intended to star Joseph Gordon Levitt way back in 2013. That production ultimately stalled and eventually gave way to the new miniseries with which we have ended up. 

Filming began at the tail end of last year and Gaiman has insisted we will see this at some point in 2021. But otherwise we know surprisingly little about this production, who it will star or what it will look like. Nevertheless, it is enough to intrigue.

Start Date: TBA 2021

13. Daisy Jones & The Six - Amazon (New TV Show)

2021 most anticipated tv amazon daisy jones six novel reece witherspoonThis is the adaptation of the Debbie Award winning novel Daisy Jones & The Six, a miniseries that has been in production basically ever since Taylor Jenkins Reid's novel first dropped. Snapped up by Reece Witherspoon's production company, the series was first pitched as potentially making its way to HBO, it has since ended up finding a home on Amazon.

This is of course story of the titular Daisy Jones and her fictionalised 1970s rockband, allegedly based loosely on the history of Fleetwood Mac. The novel was written in the format of a documentary film, but it is expected that the series will be a more traditional drama, albeit with an Office/Parks and Rec confessional mockumentary style.

The cast may be mostly unknown, but in its lead they have some bona fide musical credentials in Riley Keough, grandchild of none other than the king Elvis Presley himself. She is joined in the cast by Sam Claflin, who you might recognise from the recent Pirates of the Caribbean films. Release data is still TBA,but this is one of the most exciting series in production. We will watch its production closely.

Start Date: TBA 2021

12. Station Eleven - HBO Max (New TV Show)

station eleven hbo max 2021 most anticipated tv showsSomewhat topical. Station Eleven is the adaptation of the 2014 Emily St. John Mandel novel of the same name, quite presciently depicting the aftermath of a flu pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. A little too topical perhaps? Don't worry, this is supposed to be the uplifting and optimistic type of post-apocalypse. If anything it will come as reassuring.

Patrick Somerville is attached as show-runner, best known for his work as writer on The Bridge, The Leftovers and Maniac. The cast will feature Mackenzie Davis, who you might recognise from Black Mirror, The Martian and Blade Runner 2049, alongside Himesh Patel, best known for his role in Eastenders and the recent Richard Curtis movie Yesterday.

Station Eleven will appear on HBO Max, a service that hopefully will one day appear in the UK. I'm expecting this to drop in the latter half of 2021.

Start Date: TBA 2021

11. The Orville - Hulu

the orville hulu family guy seth macfarlane 2021 most anticipated tv
The Orville had a great first two seasons in 2017 and 2018, finally giving fans that proper spiritual sequel to Star Trek that they had so badly been craving. It's been a rough two years since then, however. A transfer from Fox to Hulu would have been difficult under any circumstances, let alone in the middle of a pandemic that ultimately delayed production further. Production did finally resume at the end of 2020, and it is expected that we will finally see the third season this year.

Imaginative and timely with its moral-driven plotlines, Orville sees Seth MacFarlane move out of his comfort zone and into a less slapstick genre, one which showcases his talents as a writer. In an era when anything even vaguely sci-fi feels the need to be ├╝ber grim-dark or full of over the top action, it's nice to see a series that's more about provoking thought than a visceral reaction.

If season 3 can maintain the consistency and quality of its storytelling, then we could have the makings of a very strong science fiction franchise here.

Start Date: Late 2021

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

adam kay this is going to hurt bbc amateur transplants london underground 2021 most anticipated tv showsThe 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: Spring 2021

9. Dexter - Showtime

dexter showtime reboot return comeback 2021 most anticipated tvHere's one I did not see coming. Four great seasons and another four not so great, Dexter was a decent series back during its original run on Showtime, which ended some seven years ago. This surprise ninth season provides an opportunity to revisit these characters and hopefully to undo the catastrophically awful original series finale.

Michael C Hall reprises his role as the titular closet psychopath with a penchant for hunting down and executing criminals in order to (relatively ethically) slake his bloodlust. James Manos Jr, who helmed the series during its original run and will also be known for his work on The Sopranos and The Shield, returns as showrunner.

The revival is expected to pick up where the previous run left off, hopefully providing some much needed closure to fans. We have been told to expect the new series late 2021.

Start Date: Late 2021

8. Halston - Netflix (New TV Show)

2021 most anticipated tv halston netflixThis new Netflix series represents the latest work from the impressively prolific Ryan Murphy, best known for his work with American Horror Story, American Crime Story, Glee, The Politician and Hollywood, among others.

Halston tells the true story of America's first celebrity fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick, tracking his rise and fall in the 1960s. Ewan McGregor will star.

Ryan Murphy is not everyone's cup of tea, but his work is usually pretty entertaining and worth watching. His frenetic, oversaturated style would seem to be a good fit for the glamorous world of fashion in particular. An exact release date has not yet been confirmed, but production is complete and we have been told to expect this at some point during 2021.

Start Date: TBA 2021

7. Stranger Things - Netflix 

stranger things best tv show television 2021 season 4And of course you can't have a Hot List without a new season of Stranger ThingsNetflix'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 in August.

Start Date: August 2021

6. The Boys - Amazon 

the boys amazon season 3 2021 most anticipated tvOne of Amazon's bigger successes in original TV content, The Boys is an adaptation of a little known comic book series satirising the superhero genre by imagining a world where the super-powered have become corrupted by greed and corporate interests. If the first season drew headlines for its violence and raunchiness, season two took the series to a more complex and highly polished level.

The main cast of Karl Urban, Jack QuaidAntony Starr, and Erin Moriarty returns. It's anyone's guess where season three will go from a narrative perspective, although the second season's cliffhanger ending certainly provide a hint of what to expect. It has also been floated that this season will see a depiction of the "herogasm" plotline from the comic series, the name of which should give some clue as to what it entails.

Filming is only just getting underway as we speak due to pandemic-related delays, so there is a chance this could slip into 2022, but I am optimistic that it will be ready in time for release by late 2021. 

Start Date: Late 2021

5. Staged - BBC 

staged season 2 lockdown michael sheen david tennant 2021 best televisionThe first of what will likely be many artistic works inspired by the pandemic era, Staged is the delightful creation of writer, director and sometimes actor Simon Evans. Evans plays himself alongside fictionalised versions of Michael Sheen and David Tennant as they seek to put together a theatrical production in spite of the logistical difficulties of lockdown. It's part commentary on the surreal nature of the pandemic era, part satire on celebrity and the creative industry. It's a very simple premise, rendered remarkable by the wit and self-effacing performances of its stars. 

Arriving just in time for another lockdown, season two will go full meta with a fictionalised non-fictional (if that makes sense) version of Sheen and Tennant attempting to adapt the TV show Staged for American audiences following the successful critical reception of the first season. They will be joined by an even greater lineup of celebrity guest stars, including the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, Christoph Waltz, and many others.

Both seasons of Staged are now available on BBC iPlayer.

Start Date: January 2021

4. The Underground Railroad - Amazon (New TV Show)

the underground railroad amazon best tv show television 2021The main headline of Amazon's new original TV content for 2021, The Underground Railroad is a timely adaptation of the novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead

This miniseries, helmed by Barry Jenkins the award winning filmmaker behind Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, depicts an alternate world where the real-world Underground Railroad (a network that worked to free enslaved African-Americans during the 1800s) is an actual underground train system. The plot follows two slaves, Cora and Caesar, as they attempt to escape Georgia and ride the railroad to freedom. Cast includes Thuso Mbedu, Aaron Pierre and Joel Edgerton.

Filming wrapped back in September, meaning that a release in the not-too-distant future is on the cards. I expect this one to drop around the middle of the year.

Start Date: Summer 2021

3. Ted Lasso - AppleTV+

ted lasso season 2 apple appletv+ plus new most anticipated tv 2021The big shock of the television world in 2020. When Apple announced an adaptation of Jason Sudeikis' short-lived and one-note comedy skit Ted Lasso (originally conceived as part of an advertising campaign for NBC's coverage of English football) into a full television series, most people (myself included) were quick to scoff. But somehow, against all logic, this is a far better show than it has any right to be.

The key ingredient was the tapping of Bill Lawrence, best known as the creator of Scrubs as showrunner. He has managed to craft a world that is bursting at the seams with charm and loveable characters. An idealised version of reality that makes for some delightful feel-good television that is sure to please fans of shows like Scrubs and Parks and Recreation.

Apple were so pleased with the first season that Ted Lasso has already been renewed for seasons two and three, with the second expected to land sometime in late 2021.

Start Date: Late 2021

2. WandaVision - Disney+ (New TV Show)

wandavision marvel comics vision scarlett witch disney disney+ tv show 2021 best most anticipated Until now, the television output of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been something of an afterthought, untethered from the continuity of the main series of films and without the same creative direction or resources. That looks set to change with WandaVision, the new series from Disney+ focusing on prominent movie characters Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson). 

Anyone who is up to date with the films will no doubt be wondering how we can have a series featuring these two characters. Much of the plot is still shrouded in mystery, but the trailers released to date make clear that something very odd indeed is afoot. Black and white suburbia, old four camera style with a laugh track. WandaVision appears to be going for some bizarre mishmash of midcentury sitcom and superhero blockbuster and that is part of what makes this so intriguing.

WandaVision will launch on Disney+ in mid January. It may be shrouded in mystery, but we will see soon enough what all the fuss is about.

Start Date: January 2021

1. Foundation - AppleTV+ (New TV Show)

foundation apple 2021 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 Autumn 2021.

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 GoyerJosh Friedman, and Asimov's daughter Robyn. The cast features Jared Harris, Lee Pace and Laura Birn. 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: Autumn 2021

So there you have it folks: 2021 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new videogames of the year!

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