The middle of the TV season—aka the start of the new year—usually signals the closest thing television has to a midlife crisis. Sometimes it tries to reconnect with college friends. Sometimes it just tries something new and edgy. It can be a time of rejuvenation, or a desperate grab at relevance. But in the Age…
Sex Education(Jan. 11, Netflix)
Pay-cable and streaming networks have never been shy about sex comedies—HBO’sDream Onstarted way back in 1990—but in the wake ofBig Mouth‘s critical (and, critically, animated) success, adolescence is the new adulthood. On Netflix’s newest series, Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game) plays a British teen who’s having the usualFreaks and Geeks-level difficulties with his pubescence: Cowed by his sex therapist mother’s chosen profession (Jean, played by the always delightful Gillian Anderson), he’s completely paralyzed by the idea of sex. The real knicker-twist comes when his high-school crush (Emma Mackey) presses him into service to be a sex therapist for his classmates. Oedipalooza! As filthy as you’d expect, and as empathetic as you’d hope.—Peter Rubin
True Detective(Jan. 13, HBO)
Let’s be honest, there’s only one surefire reason to watch this: Mahershala Ali. After all the good will thatTrue Detectiveearned in its first mind-binding, time-is-a-flat-circle-and-Matthew-McConaughey-is-crazy-af first season, Season 2 pretty much completely blew it with its meandering plot and inability to understand how big California is. Considering series creator Nick Pizzolatto is back for this third chapter, there’s a 50/50 shot the story will be good this time around, but the addition of Ali—who now has an Oscar (forMoonlight) and a Golden Globe (forGreen Book) to his name—means that, at the very least, it will be impeccably acted. This time around, the HBO anthology series seems to be doing away with the weird occult stuff and local-government backroom dealing of the previous seasons to focus on Detective Wayne Hays (Ali) and his inability to shake the case of two children who go missing in 1980. Considering reviewers are already calling the latest chapter “faintly pretentious, manageably ridiculous, and dull” our hopes aren’t that high, but at least we’ll have Mahershala.—Angela Watercutter
Valley of the Boom(Jan. 13, Nat Geo)
The past few years have brought shows that delve into the early days of Silicon Valley (Halt and Catch Fire), and shows that delve into thecurrentdays of Silicon Valley (uh,Silicon Valley), but we haven’t yet seen a scripted show that delves into the hottest, haughtiest days of the tech revolution: the IPO-crazy ’90s. Now, though, thanks to Nat Geo, the digital contractions that birthed WIRED itself are the subject of a six-episode “docudrama” that concentrates on a handful of dotcom-bubblers (TheGlobe.com, Pixelon, and Netscape). Real-life talking heads provide interstitial commentary, but the bulk of the show falls to a cast of professionals (Steve Zahn as Pixelon’s founder and Bradley Whitford as Netscape CEO James Barksdale are the boldest names in the cast). Early reviews after a Tribeca Film Festival screening last year were decidedly mixed, but having had a front-row seat to the modern internet’s infancy, we’re curious enough to log on. (See, kids, we used to have to….)—P.R.
Deadly Class(Jan. 16, SyFy)
The Russo Brothers’ latest comic adaptation, this one based on an Image series, seems a bit like a pessimist’s Mutant Academy. Instead of schooling young mutants in superheroism, King’s Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts molds misfits (and the children of mobsters and murderers) into elite assassins—and, for a few extra handfuls of grit, it’s all set in a punk, Reagan-ravaged vision of 1980s San Francisco. The series follows King’s Dominion’s newest student, a dejected homeless teen named Marcus recruited from the literal brink of suicide. What follows looks like the world’s scariest high school experience: taking classes in murder from a shockingly ruthless Benedict Wong, falling for girls who can choke you out with their thighs, dodging the wrath of literally homicidal cliques. So if you’re a fan of the well-trodden “orphan goes to a weird school” fantasy trope (and admit it, you probably are) but want something a bit less squeakily saccharine,Deadly Classmight be the show for you.—Emma Grey Ellis
Trigger Warning With Killer Mike(Jan. 18, Netflix)
“Balls to the wall, put your nuts on the table,” implores hip-hop ace Killer Mike in the trailer for his new first-person docu-series. He’s certainly taking that mission statement seriously: The show follows the Grammy-winning Run the Jewels member as he digs deep into problems within the black community, using pointed humor—and probably some much-needed finger-pointing—to ask such questions as: How can I start a religion devoted a black Jesus? What would happen if the Crips got a corporate-minded public-image makeover? And how do you explain “white privilege” to a room full of kids barely out of preschool?Trigger Warninglooks to be just as caustic and comic as its host. Consider yourself warned.—Brian Raftery
Black Monday(Jan. 20, Showtime)
Set during the months preceding the notorious stock market crash of 1987, in a New York City overrun with amoral, cash-hungry wall street traders, co-creator David Caspe’s (Happy Endings) latest brainchild digs into the origins of Black Monday—what, and more specifically who, caused the greatest financial collapse of the twentieth century? One possible answer comes in the form of Wall Street cowboy Maurice “Mo the Maurader” Monroe (Don Cheadle), the unhinged CEO of a small chop-shop trading firm that competes with major players like Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers. A power-drunk shark who lives in excess, Cheadle’s Monroe rides around town in a Lamborghini limo, talks foul to his robot butler, and is almost always buzzed on insane amounts of cocaine. Co-starring Andrew Rannells (Girls,Big Mouth) as a wunderkind MBA grad and Regina Hall (Girls Trip,The Hate U Give) as a hot shot trader, the half-hour dark comedy is all about riding high—until it all comes crashing down. [The first episode is available in full on YouTube.] —Jason Parham
I Am the Night(Jan. 28, TNT)
The first interesting thing about this miniseries is its pedigree: It stars Chris Pine and is directed by hisWonder Womandirector Patty Jenkins. The second interesting thing is that it has, in no short order, a down-on-his-luck reporter (Pine), a mysterious girl with a secret, (possibly) a sex cult, and a plotline that somehow ties in 1960s Los Angeles and the (still creepy) Black Dahlia murder. That does sound a littletooMade for TV, but lest you think this TNT drama will lean too heavily into the schlock, I’d like to point your attention back to the first interesting thing about this show: It comes from people who know how to show you a good time. Prepare for some good pulpy fun.—A.W.
Russian Doll(Feb. 1, Netflix)
Up until today, all most people knew about Netflix’s Amy Poehler-produced, Natasha Lyonne-starring (and -cowritten/-cocreated, along with Leslye Headland) series was that it centered on a woman stuck at a party. Now that the trailer has dropped, the secret is out: Lyonne’s character keeps dying and waking up at said party. As the series goes by, she learns to circumvent an ever-mounting parade of grisly endings, and tries to investigate her way out of the karmic carousel. A little bitSource Codeand alotofGroundhog Daycan’t help but make the premise feel a little warmed over, but preternaturally brassy Lyonne’s comeback has been a joy to watch, and by this point I’d honestly tune in to listen to her talk about what she carries in her bag. It’s TV, so Oscars are out, but maybe a Matryoshka is in the offing?—P.R.
PEN15(Feb. 8, Hulu)
Executive produced by the Lonely Island comedy collective,PEN15stars grown-up actors Maya Erskine (Insecure) and Anna Konkle (Rosewood) as 13-year-olds trying to adjust to middle-school life in the year 2000. Many of their castmates areactual13-year-olds–which must have made for some cross-generational confusion, as the young actors weren’t even alive during Britney’s (and Furby’s) peak era. Hulu will release all ten episodes of the comedy at once, just in case you and the rest of the members of your local PEN15 Club want to get together for a marathon viewing. —B.R.
Lorena(Feb. 15, Amazon Prime)
It was a news-of-the-weird story that grew into a tabloid legend: In 1993, a young Virgina woman named Lorena Bobbitt used a knife to cut her husband’s penis, which she then threw it into a nearby field. The case was immediately seized upon by the increasingly frenzied 24-hour-media, who turned Lorena into a late-night punchline, and John Bobbitt into a d-list celebrity—even as allegations of years of abuse began to surface. More than a quarter-century later, the docuseriesLorena, executive produced byGet Out’s Jordan Peele, tracks down the key players and witnesses from the time, including a rare on-camera interview with Lorena herself. Expect a bracing look back at an era rife with unscrupulous journos, unsavory opportunists, and all-encompassing top-down sexism. Thank goodness we don’t have to deal withthosenasty forces anymore, right? —B.R.
Umbrella Academy(Feb. 15, Netflix)
This latest Netflix series, based on the comic book series by Gerard Way (yes, the My Chemical Romance singer) and Gabriel Bá, is a little bit X-Men, a little bit Suicide Squad, and hopefully a whole lot of fun. The premise: One day in 1989, 43 unconnected women gave birth despite not having even been pregnant the day before. Seven of the resulting babies are adopted to be turned into heroes—aka The Umbrella Academy—by a rich industrialist hoping to protect the world. However, not all of the children grow up to be so heroic. As the apocalypse looms, they’re called to reunite to try to do some good. Sound familiar? Kinda. Sound like a good weekend binge? That too. Also, it stars Ellen Page. Who doesn’t like Ellen Page?!—A.W.
Desus & Mero(Feb. 21, Showtime)
By now, the Bronx comedy duo’s fandom has gotten so big it’s hard to know exactly where it came from. Desus Nice and The Kid Mero’s individual Twitter accounts? Almost six years’ worth of honing their funniest-dudes-in-the-barbershop act, starting with a Complex video series and wending its way through MTV2 shows to theBodega Boyspodcast? Their Viceland late-night show that was the best thing that network ever aired? No matter how you found them, you can celebrate that they’re bringing their talents to Showtime for what you’d be safe to assume is more of the sacred-cow-slaughtering, alias-laden riffing they’ve honed to a fine edge. Welcome back to TV, Jermaine Avocado Toast and East Tremont Stevie B.—P.R.
The Act(March 20, Hulu)
Still trailerless, Hulu’s latest series is offering the internet two of its favorite things: Dark anthology series and grisly true crime. The show’s first season will center on one of the most chilling true crime stories in recent memory: the life of Gypsy Blanchard, a woman currently serving a decade-long prison sentence for the murder of her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard. Details are still scant, but it will not be a show for the squeamish. Matricide, shocking as it is, is only the last of the horrors of the Blanchards’ world. Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette) suffered from Munchausen by proxy syndrome: She desperately wanted Gypsy (Joey King) to be sick, and was allegedly willing to wreck her daughter’s body to create that illusion. Eventually Gypsy, with the help of an online boyfriend, decided to end her mother’s life, exposing a nightmare that had been hiding in plain sight—sickness disguised as motherly love.—E.G.E.
In the 1970s, filmmaker and choreographer Bob Fosse earned a reputation as sort of pop culture miracle-worker, directing such shockingly vibrant films asCabaretandAll That Jazz, as well as hit stage shows likePippinandChicago(he’s the only performer to ever win an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy all in one year). But Fosse—whose various appetites are best described as “uh-oh”—was also known known for his erratic marriage to actor-dancer Gwen Verdon, who endured years of Fosse’s cheating and unpredictability while trying to maintain her own career. This eight-part miniseries tracks the couple’s decades-consuming relationship, starring Oscar winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea) as Fosse and Verdon, respectively. Based onFosse, Sam Wasson’s swiftly addicting 2014 biography,Fosse/Verdonpromises plenty of song, sweat, sex, and all that jazz you can’t get away with on broadcast television.—B.R.
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