Television endured a rocky 2017 as the Harvey Weinstein scandal spread to the small screen. But what does 2018 have in store? Ed Power brings you our must-watch list for the year ahead.
In the 12 months just past television tried to get ahead of the unfolding political situation – but ended up, in many instances, hamstrung by its own inadequacies. So 2017 was both the year of The Handmaid’s Tale – a chilling portrayal of America under the thumb of Evangelical misogyny – but also of the fall of House of Cards and Kevin Spacey (the series is to continue, Spacey’s career not so much).
Looking into 2018, then, predictions are difficult. “Prestige” television will remain a thing with networks vying for a crowded niche at the top of the market (except in Ireland where RTE will continue to flap about in mediocrity). The big void is naturally that left by Game of Thrones, the final season of which has been confirmed as not arriving until 2019.
But there’s good news too. The problematic but ultimately epic Westworld will hopefully go towards filling the Westeros-shaped hole in our viewing. Meanwhile, the streaming services continue their assault on “old television”, with Apple set to add to the competition. It has ordered a two-season drama about a morning TV show, starring and produced by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and is working with Steven Spielberg on a science fiction anthology series. An overpopulated marketplace is about to get even more squeezed.
That’s tough on TV executives but good for the viewing public. Settle in, then, as we present our guide to the top shows to catch in 2018.
BRITANNIA (SKY ATLANTIC, JANUARY 18)
Playwright Jez Butterworth goes all Game Of Thrones with this chronicling of the Roman invasion of Britain. Kelly Reilly plays the headstrong scion of a Celtic tribe doing battle with legionnaires dispatched to the soggy fringes of Europe by Emperor Claudius. Cue: sword fights, nudie bits, and sizzling cod-Shakespeare dialogue. Everything a GoT devotee could wish for, minus the dragons and Liam Cunningham looking perturbed.
YOUNG OFFENDERS (RTÉ2, FEBRUARY 8)
Peter Foott’s 2016 comedy was a surprise smash – and rare example of Irish cinema chronicling an urban experience outside of Dublin. The Cork-set romp now returns as a six-part BBC Three comedy and, having had a peek of the first episode, Hot Press can confirm the adaptation is every bit as madcap and hilarious as its cinematic big sibling. Quite what UK audiences will make of the unexpurgated Northside accents and local lingo is a mystery – but we at HP award the series a hearty ‘D’owtcha Boy’.
ALTERED CARBON (NETFLIX, FEBRUARY 2)
With Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, Netflix has become the leading purveyor of bleak science fiction (by comparison, Channel Four’s Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams was a hollow pastiche). Now the streaming giant turns its attention to the cyberpunk genre with this gritty adaptation of Richard Morgan’s future-shock caper, in which human consciousness can be “re-sleeved” in new bodies. Starring Joel Kinnaman, aka Frank Underwood’s doltish Presidential rival in last season’s House of Cards.
THE ALIENIST (NETFLIX, APRIL 19)
The Caleb Carr novel about a pioneering psychologist solving crimes in Gangs Of New York- era Manhattan read like a mash-up of Sherlock Holmes and There Will Be Blood. An Alan Parker adaptation was nixed, reportedly
because of budget costs. But in this era of affordable CGI, recreating 1880s New York is no longer a coffers drainer and the adaptation, from TNT and to be carried in Ireland by Netflix, is directed by True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga – so will at the very least be visually stunning.
AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE (BBC TWO, TBC)
Ryan Murphy’s reputation as purveyor of glib, shiny distractions lead many to originally underestimate the first season of American Crime Story, which retold, with gripping detail and impressive humanity, the OJ Simpson trial. Now the anthology series turns to the 1997 murder of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cuananan. Penélope Cruz plays Gianni’s sister Donatella, with Édgar Ramírez as the titular fashion icon and Ricky Martin as Gianni’s romantic partner Antonio D’Amico. The Assassination of Gianni Versace will debut on FX in the United States on January 19, with BBC expected to
broadcast shortly afterwards.
WACO (PARAMOUNT, JANUARY 24)
Another reminder that, so far as TV is concerned, the ’90s are the new ’70s. On the heels of Manhunt, Netflix’s retelling of the hunt for the Unabomber, comes this mini series about the disastrous 1993 stand-off between David Koresh’s Branch Davidians sect and the FBI and ATF. It stars Taylor Kitsch as the charismatic Koresh and Michael Shannon as the FBI agent trying to talk him down. Airing at the end of January in the United States, it is expected that Waco will be picked up by a broadcaster in this part of the world.
HOUSE OF CARDS, SEASON SIX (NETFLIX TBC)
Frank Underwood is no more following the implosion of Kevin Spacey’s career. But rather than allow its original hit simply grind to an end, Netflix is bringing the gang back together to complete the story of the dastardly Underwoods rise to power in Washington. So Robin Wright will return as the Lady Macbeth-esque
Claire Underwood – now flying solo without her husband. How will they kill off Frank? That remains to be seen – but you can take it Spacey won’t feature.
TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON THREE (SKY ATLANTIC, TBC)
There are almighty letdowns and then there was season two of HBO’s True Detective. It starred Colin Farrell’s moustache and Vince Vaughn’s wobbly upper lip. Entirely missing was the phantasmagoric weirdness of the Woody Harrelson-Matthew McConaughey starring original run of episodes. For the much-delayed third series, Nic Pizzolatto is back as writer and Oscar winners Mahershala Ali plays an Arkansas detective investing a crime in the Ozarks region.
WESTWORLD, SEASON TWO (SKY ATLANTIC, TBC)
Season one of Westworld was a lugubrious and often deeply predictable delve into what it is to be human in a machine age (news just in: robots have feelings two). But the production values were stunning and the widescreen dystopian storytelling enough to make you overlook the narrative flaws (would people really travel to a simulated Wild West simply to mistreat machine prostitutes?). Evan Rachel Wood, who plays artificial cowgirl Dolores, has confirmed the second season will arrive in early 2018 – so ready your saddles and affix your stetsons.
PRESS (BBC, TO BE CONFIRMED)
Glamour, crackling chemistry, scintillating dialogue – but enough about production weekends at
Hot Press. Doctor Foster writer Mike Bartlett turns his attention to the media with a new series chronicling the goings-on at a busy metropolitan broadsheet. Ben Chaplin ( Apple Tree Yard) will play the editor of a fictional morning newspaper, with Game Of Thrones’ Ellie Kendrick as a junior reporter and David Suchet as a Murdoch-esque media baron.
HOUSE OF CARDS
A LT E R E D C A R B O N
AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE ASSASINATION OF