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February 22, 2017

13 TV Series To Binge-Watch In 2017

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

From nefarious Counts and Norse Gods to darker renditions of our favourite comics and children’s books

1. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

What it’s about: Based on the best-selling novels by Daniel Handler, the show follows the exploits of Count Olaf, who in a bizarre turn of events, becomes guardian to three young children after their parents tragically die in a fire. His dastardly schemes to usurp their inheritances, sees him don an endless array of disguises.

Who’s in it: Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf and Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket.

Why we’re excited: Although rife with all manners of peril—from kidnapping to murder—this suburban gothic tale is suffused with sharp humor and literary wit. Neil Patrick Harris as the nefarious Count Olaf  is simple delightful and makes you wonder how he ever played the lovable womaniser on How I Met Your Mother.

2. The Young Pope

What it’s about: The series follows the fictional Cardinal Lenny Belardo as he assumes the papal duties of Pius XIII, the first American Pope in the Church’s history. Elected by the College of Cardinals who presume he will be easier to supervise than his predecessor, the youthful pontiff proves to be decidedly more conservative and headstrong than expected.

Who’s in it: Jude Law as Cardinal Lenny Belardo and Diane Keaton as Sister Mary.

Why we’re excited: Even though the first season has already been wrapped up, we’re looking forward to seeing how the Pope addresses his personal doubts about the Creator while assertively working towards reshaping the Vatican into his image of what a religious institution should be.

3. Emerald City

What it’s about: An edgier rendition of Wizard of Oz, the series follows the journey of Dorothy Gale who sets out to find the Wizard after being transported from Kansas to the Land of Oz by a tornado, unaware that she is about to fulfill a prophecy that will change everyone’s lives forever. 

Who’s in it: Adria Arjona as Dorothy Gale and Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Lucas.

Why we’re excited: Having watched a couple episodes of the series, we are in awe of the visual effects, each episode replete with lights, colors and magical elements that are pleasing to the eye.

4. Taboo

What it’s about: The series is an eerie depiction of a man with a checkered past, who left for Africa in 1804 and spent much of that time presumed dead. He resurfaces for his father’s funeral, and quickly learns that his old man rubbed many people the wrong way, as he finds himself in a face-off against the most powerful trading firm of the time, the East India Company.

Who’s in it: Tom Hardy as James Delaney.

Why we’re excited: The series, set in ancient London, builds up a brilliant sense of foreboding with its portrayal of cavernous history museums. It’s also interesting to see Tom Hardy reprise his crazed character from The Revenant as he takes the meaning of enmity to a whole new level.

5. Riverdale

What it’s about: Everyone’s favourite comic series Archie, makes its entry into the television realm as a cross between Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries. It is a subversive take on the protagonist and his friends exploring small town life with a menacing darkness bubbling beneath their hometown’s seemingly innocent facade.

Who’s in it: K.J. Apa as Archie Andrews, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge and Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones.

Why we’re excited:  Many idiosyncrasies of our favourite characters have gone right out of the window. Jughead is no longer the hamburger-eating goofball, but a cynical outsider and an ominous narrator. Archie and Miss Grundy (who is really an attractive music coach) have some sort of forbidden romance going on which makes us want to gouge our eyes out while helplessly continuing to watch the series because our curiosity has the better of us.

6. Z – The Beginning of Everything

What it’s about: A biography based on Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, this series explores the life of the talented Southern belle who becomes an icon of the flamboyant Jazz Age in the 20s. Set before the time she meets the unpublished writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, it moves through their passionate and turbulent love affair — after all, they were the celebrity couple of their time.

Who’s in it: Christina Ricci as Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald and David Hoflin as F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Why we’re excited: In a very Gatsby-esque manner, the series travels through the wild parties, the alcoholism, adultery and struggle with broken dreams that characterises the couple’s later years. We’re also waiting to see how Zelda dives into the life of an artist determined to establish her own identity in the wake of a world-famous husband. And of course, a few of Fitzgerald’s timeless quotes thrown in for good measure.

7. Big Little Lies

What it’s about: When single mom Jane arrives in the quiet Australian town where neighbours Madeline and Celeste have been living harmoniously for years, she is naturally taken under their sympathetic wing. However, Jane’s cryptic little son gives all residents the jitters as they suddenly have to deal with a mysterious death that shakes the foundations of the otherwise peaceful town.

Who’s in it: An all-star cast comprising Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright, Reese Witherspoon as Madeline Mackenzie, Shailene Woodley as Jane Chapman, Zoe Kravitz as Bonnie Carlson, Alexander Skarsgård as Perry Wright and Adam Scott as Ed Mackenzie.

Why we’re excited: If the trailer is anything to go by, the series looks promising enough to fill the Pretty Little Liars Desperate Housewives shaped hole in our hearts. If you’ve skipped those shows entirely, the stellar cast and snide mommy one-liners should be enticing enough to reel you in.

8. Legion

What it’s about: Legion, a protagonist in the Marvel universe, is the story of David Haller, a troubled young man who was diagnosed as schizophrenic when he was young and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals ever since. He shares a startling encounter with Syd Barrett, a new patient, which leaves him to confront the shocking possibility that the voices and visions he’s been hearing and seeing since childhood may just be real.

Who’s in it: Dan Stevens as David Haller, Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd fans, anyone?) and Aubrey Plaza as Lenny Busker.

Why we’re excited: If you thought this was going to be just another superhero series, then you may want to reconsider. Both David and Syd’s superpowers are revealed to come alive in the realm of the mind, which gives rise to a storyline very different from superheros smashing things to bits and pieces. Interestingly, within the comics, David Haller is the son of Professor X and the producers have hinted that they’ll touch on this connection as the series progresses.

9. Powerless

What it’s about: The series is focused on the life of Emily Locke, the new supervisor at a company specialising in products to protect defenseless bystanders from the collateral damage of superhero/supervillain clashes.

Who’s in it: Vanessa Hudgens as Emily Locke, Danny Pudi as Teddy and Alan Tudyk as Van Wayne.

Why we’re excited: This DC Comics series is basically television’s answer to what everyone wonders while watching superhero movies. Who cleans up the mess afterwards? How do regular citizens deals with the aftermath of an epic war? It also has Alan Tudyk as Van Wayne and if you think the surname sounds familiar it is because he is the lesser-known cousin of Bruce Wayne with no interest in running the company, but instead has pinned his hopes on swinging a promotion that will get him to Gotham.

10. Santa Clarita Diet

What it’s about: After 19 years of a jaded marriage, real estate agents Sheila and Joel Hammond experience an abrupt tragedy; when Sheila vomits copiously and appears to die while showing a house. However, she wakes up shortly after, although she is unable to find her pulse. Their neighbour’s son Eric believes that she is essentially a zombie and when her new coworker, Gary, becomes sexually aggressive, she impulsively kills and eats him.

Who’s in it: Drew Barrymore as Sheila Hammond and Timothy Olyphant as Joel Hammond.

Why we’re excited: While there’s no dearth of zombie series and movies, we’re yet to see one that amalgamates comedy and gore seamlessly. It means that in a 28-minute episode, 26 minutes of splitting laughter will give way to a minute of carnage that’ll leave the fainthearted quite dizzy.

11. I Love Dick

What it’s about: Adapted from the lauded eponymous feminist novel, the series is set in a community of intellectuals in Marfa, Texas. It tells the story of a struggling married couple, Chris and Sylvere, and their obsession with a charismatic professor named Dick.

Who’s in it: Kevin Bacon as Dick, Kathryn Hahn as Chris and Griffin Dunne as Sylvere.

Why we’re excited: The confessional book that the series is based on, stirred up quite a storm because it was unabashedly open about Kraus and Sylvere’s marriage and how it revolved around the unnamed Dick, who was easily identifiable as Dick Hebdige, the British writer who was none too pleased about it. It remains to be seen if the delicate nuances of the book have been translated into the series.

12. American Gods

What it’s about: An ex-convict named Shadow gets out of prison on early release and encounters a mysterious man called ‘Wednesday’, who knows more than he lets on about Shadow’s past.

Who’s in it: Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon and Ian McShane as Wednesday star in main leads along with a stellar supporting cast.

Why we’re excited: For starters, the series is an adaption of the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman who gave us compelling stories like Stardust and Anansi Boys. If you’re a fan of mythology, especially Norse Gods, then this series, which forecasts the war between traditional gods of yore and new gods born of society’s fixation with money, technology, media, celebrities and drugs, should definitely be on your list of shows to watch.

13. Mindhunter

What it’s about: Based on the book published in 1995 by John E. Douglas, the show follows the lives of two FBI agents who delve into the minds of former serial killers to correlate their thought process into solving current murder cases.

Who’s in it: Jonathan Groff  as Holden Ford, Holt McCallany as Bill Tench and Anna Torv as Wendy.

Why we’re excited: Produced by David Fincher who has cult movies like Fight Club and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to his credit, we can’t wait to see his eclectic treatment of this crime series. Prepare yourself for a dance with some psychological demons.

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