james debate
james debate

Thursday 4 January 2024

Happy New Year to all and welcome back to The Ephemeric. No rest for the weary blogger. It seems like just days ago I finished writing up the Debbie Awards and already it's straight back to the grind with the first installment of The Hot List, this week focusing on the most exciting new TV series set to drop in 2024. 

So here it is, your ultimate guide to the year ahead, The Ephemeric's 2024 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 2024.

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At a time of relative cultural abundance, with many industries finally playing catch up in the wake of the great disruptions of the last few years, 2023 ended up being a strangely bland year for television. Much of this can be attributed to the various strike actions in 2023, which ran from May until the end of September and resulted in many of the year's most anticipated releases being delayed or bumped into 2024. Make no mistake, there was still plenty of quality to be found, with high quality returning series such as The Bear, Ted Lasso and For All Mankind, and exciting debuts for series including The Last of Us, Shrinking and Daisy Jones & the Six. But it's fair to say it was a fairly front-loaded year, with the period from early summer onwards fairly "mid" by the standards of recent years.

By contrast, 2024 is looking to be a bumper year for television, with many of these delayed productions now back on track and set for release in what may be one of the most overstuffed television lineups in a long time. Whittling this long list down to just 15 proved to be a genuine challenge, but this final list should have something for everyone. 

So without further ado here are the top 15 essential television shows, both new and returning, that will hit the airwaves and their web-equivalent in 2024:

15. The Regime - HBO (New TV Show)

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We will start off with some good old fashioned political satire, in HBO's The Regime

Directed by the great Stephen Frears, best known for The Queen and High Fidelity, but with a long and accomplished CV to his name. This series depicts the final year within the palace of a crumbling authoritarian regime, and from the looks of the trailer will stick to a decidedly comedic satirical style, focusing on the inherent absurdity prevalent in such forms of government. 

The cast is led by Kate Winslet and includes some big names such as Hugh Grant and Matthias Schoenaerts. The Regime is scheduled for release in March.

Start Date: March 2024

14. Shogun - Hulu/Disney+/FX (New TV Show)

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Based on the 1975 novel of the same name by James Clavell, Shogun is a historical drama set in feudal Japan.

Starring Cosmo Jarvis and Kiroyuki Sanada, Shogun is a fictionalised version of real history, telling the story of an English sailor shipwrecked in Japan, who would go on to become a samurai and become embroiled in the political conflicts between a powerful Daimyo and his rivals.

As someone with an interest in history, I'm always pleased to see new work in this genre, particularly that relate to under-represented chapters in our history. World War 2, the American Revolution and the Royal Courts of England are all very well covered, it's nice to get a look at other moments in our world's fascinating lore.

Start Date: February 2024

13. The Last of Us - HBO

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To say that videogame adaptations have a poor reputation, probably harshly in this day and age, would be an understatement. As such, few were expecting much from HBO's adaptation of The Last of Us. It ended up being arguably the surprise hit of 2023.

Where many videogame adaptations fail by adhering too closely to the source material, or by attempting to pander to the perceived demographics of the source games, The Last of Us succeeded by focusing first and foremost on being a good TV series. It will be interesting to see what the showrunners make of the material's second chapter, which was generally not as well received by the gaming community.

Season 2 entered production in late 2023, so it is not expect that we will see this for some time, but a late 2024 release is still on the cards.

Start Date: Late 2024

12. Curb Your Enthusiasm - HBO 

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The end of an era? Curb Your Enthusiasm is the vehicle of comedian Larry David, stand up comedian and co-creator of Seinfeld. 

Since its debut in 2000, Curb has developed a legendary reputation as a comedy series, with its acerbic wit and lack of filter depicting a fictionalised version of the comedian's life. Curb succeeds by its focus on the mundane trivialities of life and taking them to their absurd extreme.

Curb also has a reputation as a somewhat sporadically produced series - despite it's debut 24 years ago, it's now just entering its twelfth season. So, while this new season is being billed as the series finale, we've heard this before. It's only final until Larry decides to come back.

Start Date: February 2024

11. Squid Game - Netflix

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Well, it has to be on here somewhere. Netflix's biggest ever series, Squid Game is confirmed to be coming back for a sequel. 

Squid Game is, of course, the crown jewel of westernised South Korean culture. A series about desperate people engaging in a series of games where the prize for winning is a life changing amount of money, and the penalty for losing is death. The social commentary is incisive enough, but it's the panache with which it is told that most elevates Squid Game from just another exploitation story to something truly global.

In fact, the only reason this is as low as it is on this list is because of how doubtful it is to evene release in 2024. No release date has yet been announced, but with the teaser dropping over a year ago at this point, there is every hope that it may be finished in the not too distant future. Absolutely nothing is known about this series for now, but it's safe to say that when it finally drops, it will be big. 

Start Date: TBD 2024

10. Death and Other Details - Hulu (New TV Show)

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Hulu's new series, Death and Other Details is a delightfully schlocky murder mystery crafted in the same vein as the likes of Only Murders in the Building and Knives Out.

Set on a luxury cruise, amid the glamour of the global elite. Mandy Patinkin plays a curmudgeonly but brilliant detective tasked with solving this locked-door murder mystery, when the only suspect, played by Violett Beane, protests her innocence.

An homage to Agatha Christie, this series should be a good, fun time when it releases later this month.

Start Date: January 2024

9. Severance - AppleTV+ 

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The original content coming out of AppleTV+ has been remarkable in recent years, propelling them almost instantly to the top tier of streaming networks. 

Severance was a real surprise package in 2022, a quirky, humorous, pitch black satire of corporate exploitation. Anchored by strong performances and whip-smart writing, the first season ended on the mother of all cliffhangers, making a follow up not only essential, but a mere formality with the success of its debut. 

Initially due for release in 2023, season 2 was ultimately delayed by the strikes. With production now resumed, filming has wrapped and we are expecting a release some time in 2024.

Start Date: TBA 2024

8. The Way BBC (New TV Show)

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Next we have a tasty new BBC political drama, The Way

Penned by James Graham, perhaps Britain's best political playwright. With a cast that features Michael Sheen, Paul Rhys, Luke Evans and Callum Scott Howells, The Way focuses on a family caught in the middle of a civil uprising in an industrial town.

Said to be darkly humorous in its depiction. There is no doubt that, with a writer of this calibre, The Way will be something very much worth watching when it releases later in 2024.

Start Date: TBA 2024

7. Manhunt - AppleTV+ (New TV Show)

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AppleTV+'s latest series, Manhunt, is a historical drama based on the James L. Swanson novel, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer.

Set after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Manhunt focuses on his friend and Cabinet member Edwin Stanton. A desperate manhunt ensues for the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, which gradually takes its toll on Stanton's mental health. 

The cast features Tobias Menzies, Anthony Boyle and Patton Oswalt, with creatives who have previously worked on genre shows such as Fargo, Mindhunter and Dahmer. It's clear this series is in the best of hands, and I can't wait to see it when it releases in March.

Start Date: March 2024

6. Disclaimer - AppleTV+ (New TV Show)

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A new thriller and the latest addition to AppleTV+'s increasingly impressive line up of original content, Disclaimer is based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Renée Knight.

The story follows Catherine Ravenscroft, played here by the great Cate Blanchett, a famed TV journalist who discovers that she is a prominent character in a novel that reveals a secret she has long tried to keep hidden. Blanchett is joined by an impressive cast that includes Kevin KlineLesley ManvilleSacha Baron Cohen in his latest dramatic turn, and HoYeon Jung in her first major role since her breakout performance in Squid Game

Perhaps most exciting is the attachment of Alfonso Cuarón, the Academy Award winning director of GravityRomaChildren of Men, and, surprisingly, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as showrunner.

Release date is still TBD, but expected for release in 2024. 

Start Date: TBD 2024

5. Fallout - Amazon (New TV Show)

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Yes, this is really happening. Amazon have ordered a TV series based on the celebrated videogame franchise Fallout.

For those not in the know, Fallout is a series of mostly RPG videogames, set in a post-apocalyptic world heavily stylised by the retrofuturism of midcentury America. It's a largely lighthearted affair that plays as a clever satire of post-war American exceptionalism and the unbridled optimism of the atomic age. It also happens to be one of my favourite series.

Quite how they turn this into a TV show, I am not sure. Getting the balance right for a witty comedy-adventure set in a nuclear wasteland will be tricky enough, but such a significant part of the Fallout series lies in player choice and autonomy, that I really wonder how well it will translate to a non-interactive format. 

That said, Fallout has some solid creative talent behind it, with Lisa Joy (Pushing Daisies) and Jonathan Nolan (Person of Interest, as well as co-writer on his brother's films The Dark Knight and Interstellar) attached as showrunners. This, combined with the good track record that Amazon has with sci-fi and other high concept works, has me cautiously optimistic for now.

Start Date: April 2024

4. Masters of the Air - AppleTV+ (New TV Show)

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Cary Fukunaga, a director best known for True DetectiveThe Alienist, and the most recent Bond film No Time To Die, brings us this new war drama, courtesy of AppleTV+.

Masters of the Air tells the true story of the Eighth Air Force of the United States during World War II, backed by the production companies behind Band of Brothers and The Pacific, headed by none other than Steven Spielberg.

With the talent involved, this could well end up being one of Apple's flagship dramas in 2024. Initially slated for a 2023 release, Masters of the Air is one of many productions delayed by last year's strikes. It will finally see release this month.

Start Date: January 2024

3. The Bear - Hulu 

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Arguably the best show on TV right now. Fresh off its historic Debbie Award win, The Bear is returning for a third season in 2024.

For those not acquainted, The Bear focuses on a formerly up and coming young chef, suffering from burnout, who takes over his deceased brother's run-down sandwich shop in downtown Chicago. A drama with elements of comedy, filmed in a realistic, diegetic style that allows the directors to dial up the intensity when needed. The Bear is a magnificent roller coaster of a series that can both stress and delight when needed, making its moments of relief all the more cathartic.

The Bear's new season is said to be in the later stages of production, with filming expected to wrap by the springtime, targeting a June release.

Start Date: June 2024

2. Stranger Things - Netflix

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All good things come to an end. This is the final chapter in what has to be one of the decades defining TV series, Stranger Things.

For many, this is the series that put Netflix's original content department on the map. A glorious homage to the horror and adventure films of the 1980s, which expertly manages to balance its frights with humour, all presented with impeccable style. Stranger Things is a nostalgia trip for anyone who grew up in the 1980s or 1990s, but it is also so much more than that.

So what do the Duffer Brothers have in store for this final series? They are understandably playing their cards close to their chest, but it is safe to say that ST5 will build towards a final, climactic battle with Vecna, revealed in season 4 to be the mastermind behind all the spooky shenanigans that have plagued Hawkins over the years. It's a shame that Stranger Things has to end, but at least its creators will get to end things on their own terms.

Start Date: Late 2024

1. 3 Body Problem - Netflix (New TV Show)

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And finally, our top pick for 2024 goes to another long-gestating project. The oft-tipped, highly anticipated, eye-wateringly expensive adaptation of Liu Cixin's award winning series of novels, Death's End. This series takes its name from the first book in that series, 3 Body Problem.

Put simply, the novel is a masterpiece of science fiction. A deeply intelligent series that draws on mankind's history and contemporary society to depict a hypothetical first contact scenario. Everything about the novel is sublime, from its clever real-world allusions to the tantalisingly slow-paced drip-feed of revelations as we learn more of its central mystery, and its rigid adherence to hard-science and the constraints that puts on many of our most common sci-fi tropes.

After a protracted bidding war (at one point Amazon were allegedly willing to drop $1billion on it), the series has ended up at Netflix, with a cast that includes Benedict Wong, John Bradley, Liam Cunningham, Jonathan Pryce

The one thing that gives me pause is the involvement of Game of Thrones showrunners Benioff & Weiss (some may see this as a good thing). In my view one of the worst scourges of current sci-fi/fantasy TV is the tendency for producers to try and "Game of Thrones-ify" their series. The recent Star Trek series are a great example, Apple's Foundation as well (albeit to a lesser extent). I really hope that doesn't happen here.

After many delays, most recently with the strikes, 3 Body Problem will finally release in March. If they manage to do the novel series justice, then it could well be a landmark series. Fingers crossed.

Start Date: March 2024

So there you have it folks: 2024 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new videogames of the year!

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