A new year and a new list! But while I suspect we’re all more than a bit tapped out on lists of lists on top of lists rehashing the glories and failures of 2014, this list is a bit different, because it’s forward-thinking, driving us to right into the glory of a year so fresh that it’s still wearing its official New Year’s Baby Cloth Diaper ©. This is a list about things to come, a list chronicling the unseen, a list of possibilities.
In short, this is a list of dreams. It’s also – mainly, mostly – a list about entertainment to come, specifically of the small screen variety and particularly the kind that we will seen sooner rather than later. The traditional seasonal system has been shoved aside over the past few years, no longer dictating that autumn is the only time to see a bevy of new television offerings (though I still have many fond memories of flipping through TV Guide’s Fall Preview issue and turning down the corners on shows I couldn’t wait to watch – ah, youth! and also print!), ensuring that even the dead of winter has plenty of new picks for everyone to enjoy. Consider this your new wave Fall Preview, even if you can’t turn down any pages.
1. The Last Man on Earth
The majority of the picks that round out this list hinge entirely on the talent involved, from stars to creators, with less of an emphasis on clever-sounding plots or mind-bending narratives. Television is no longer a place where big names go to die (or at least regroup before making another go at the silver screen), it’s simply another outlet for Hollywood’s best and brightest, like Will Forte, Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Forte stars in Lord and Miller’s first live-action TV outing (he previously appeared in their animated Clone High), as yup, the last name on Earth. Or is he?
Premieres March 1
We all need our Brit Marling fix, and this stylish-sounding send up of modern crime fighting sounds like a fresh fit for her talents. We’d watch her in anything, but it’s just lucky that this one sounds so good.
Premieres January 8
3. Marvel’s Agent Carter
Marvel is always in need of more badass females, and Hayley Atwell’s smart, funny and wise Peggy Carter fits the bill with a bullet (or a well-timed punch, whatever really). Marvel’s other television flagship, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., has often wavered in terms of quality, but the limited nature of Agent Carter (just eight episodes for now) may help it avoid any sense of shagginess or lack of direction. Also, more Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, which is always a treat.
Premieres January 6
4. Better Call Saul
No, a sequel to Breaking Bad does not sound good, especially one that’s apparently hellbent on lacing in more humor than its predecessor, but what can you possibly do? If you’re a fan of the original series, of course you’re going to want to at least check out a fresh, probably very weird vision of life before Heisenberg, especially one that centers on Bob Odenkirk being the world’s best bad lawyer. Personally speaking, I’ve got zero interest in any sort of crossover that sees either Aaron Paul or Bryan Cranston returning for what, laughs?, but I do realize that puts me in the minority. Prove me wrong, Vince Gilligan!
Premieres February 8
The Duplass brothers hit the small screen with a series that sounds like their most major, nuanced work yet. Mark Duplass toplines the cast, as one half of a suddenly unsettled couple (his wife is played by the divine Melanie Lynskey) who are forced to open their home to his shiftless best pal (Steve Zissis) and her wonky sister (the always-funny Amanda Peet). The series doesn’t look to be going for wacky hijinks, but deep, funny, painful truths. Sold.
Premieres January 11
6. The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore
The late night talk show landscape is changing in a big way, and the debut of Wilmore’s new Comedy Central show will help set the course of what the rest of the late night year will look like. Deeply funny and wildly smart, Wilmore should prove to be a worthy successor to Stephen Colbert and a perfect follow-up for Jon Stewart.
Premieres January 19
7. The Late Late Show With James Corden
And before Colbert moves over to CBS, Corden will take up his new spot as an American chat show host (well, the show is American, Corden is still British). Corden himself charmingly referred to the show as a car crash during his Into the Woods rounds, but we think he means that in a good way. Nonetheless, he’s huge star in the UK, and his charm could prove to be a welcome change from Craig Ferguson’s more strange-skewing humor.
Premieres March 23
If the commercials are right, everyone in Empire is turning their work up to eleven, going whole-hog on music industry melodrama and family troubles. I don’t know what any of these people are doing, but I can’t wait to see it happen.
Premieres January 7
Laura Ramsey is consistently charming and also consistently overlooked, but this new VH1 scripted series might finally give her some time to shine. It all sounds a bit Sliding Doors — her character Becca goes back in time to right some wrongs and/or reevaluate her current life, but it all looks light and funny and fluffy. Bonus: eighties New York City.
Premieres January 7
10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Ellie Kemper should have had her own show years ago, but it’s no surprise that the former Office star finally snagged one thanks to Netflix (who grabbed the show from NBC) and comedic big-timers like Robert Carlock and Tina Fey. Kemper stars as the eponymous Kimmy Schmidt, who (apparently) proves her unbreakability by escaping a doomsday cult and embarking on a fresh life in the big city.
Premieres in March
11. Man Seeking Woman
With a throwaway title and dull-sounding premise – dude needs a lady! – it would be very easy to overlook Man Seeking Woman, until you dig just a bit deeper and realize two things: it’s going to be totally weird (in a fun, charming way) and it stars Jay Baruchel. Plenty of sitcoms have explored relationships, but none of them have done it with a lead like Baruchel, a guy who (quite literally, thanks to the show’s off-kilter humor) who wears his heart on his sleeve while looking for new love.
Premieres January 14
12. The Slap
The one is an under-the-wire entry, an NBC miniseries based on an Australian book and subsequent series that just makes the cut thanks to a hysterically strange and intriguing trailer that, yup, I totally just saw for the first time last night. Starring a cast of big names, from Peter Sarsgaard to Thandie Newton, the singularly-minded series explores the repercussions from just one incident: a man slapping a child that just so happens to not belong to him. Consider it the slap heard round the world – or at least this particular friend group. Yow.
Premieres February 12