We live in an age of “too much” television, which means an offering of a plethora of exciting new dramas — especially of the genre variety — every single year. Some of it is fits inside the more traditional network boxes mainstays like The Big Five television networks. Some of it is coming via classy premium cable divisions. And some of it isn’t even on TV at all, so quickly and efficiently is Netflix (and, to a lesser extent, Amazon and Hulu) making some of the best “television” out there.
Full disclosure: though I watch and am interested in a lot of TV, I have a genre leaning. For the most part, I am not interested in watching shows about rich people being evil or shows populated only by dudes. This is a list compiled of shows made by showrunners and writers who have proven themselves before, programs that seem to be doing something different from what else the vast TV landscape has to offer, and shows I have caught a sneak peek at (and can, therefore, vouch for) during Comic Cons or set visits over the past year. But, as always, quality is in large part informed by subjective taste.
With that in mind, here are 10 new television series well worth checking out in 2016.
The Shannara Chronicles (MTV, currently airing on Tuesdays)
Given the pop culture monolith that is Game of Thrones, it’s kind of surprising there haven’t been more attempts at high fantasy. Enter MTV. The youth-geared network has pulled out all of the stops — most notably filming the first two 10-episode seasons in one fell swoop in New Zealand, aka Middle Earth — for The Shannara Chronicles, based on the Shannara book series by Terry Brooks. This show looks gorgeous.
The first two episodes premiered this week to good reviews. This show is definitely doubling down on the fantasy, throwing viewers into an endangered kingdom populated by elves, trolls, druids, and humans. But it’s kind of nice to have another high fantasy drama on TV, one with less penchant for killing off its main characters than Game of Thrones.Also, Arrow‘sManu Bennett is there.
Colony (USA, January 14th)
Carlton Cuse’s latest foray into genre television comes via USA and has a somewhat novel (to TV right now) premiere. Colonytells the story of a near-future Los Angeles during an alien military occupation, and one family’s struggle to determine how far they will go to protect their family vs. work towards liberation.
The show stars Josh Holloway (Lost) and Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead, Prison Break) as the parents of two children within the occupied zone, but has been hailed as an ensemble drama. Inspired by the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II, it all feels very much like the third season of Battlestar Galactica— or, you know, actual occupations very much currently in existence in the real world.
If you want to check out the pilot of Colonyfor yourself, USA has made the episode available on its website.
Legends of Tomorrow (The CW, January 21st)
If you pay any attention to superhero television, then you probably already know all about Legends of Tomorrow,the latest addition to the Greg Berlanti The Flash/Arrow/Supergirlsuperhero TV universe. The former two shows have done a pretty good job of introducing most of the characters who will populate this show about a ragtag group of heroes and villains traveling across time to stop supervillain Vandal Savage from destroying, um, everything.
With a cast of characters that includes Brandon Routh’s Atom, Victor Garber’s Martin Stein (one half of Firestorm), and Caity Lotz’ Canary, it’s hard not to be excited about this midseason show — especially because we’ve been promised more crossover appearances from some of our favorite The Flashand Arrow cast members. Will the sheer ambition of this show buckle under its own weight? It’s too soon to tell, but, either way, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
The Magicians (Syfy, January 25th)
The trailer for this magical drama is a little hokey, but the Lev Grossman book trilogy it’s based on is pretty great. Often referred to as “Harry Potter for adults” (a phrase I take some issue with as you can totally read Harry Potter as an adult), it tells the story of Quentin Coldwater, a young man who discovers he has magic and starts attending a college to learn how to wield it.
There aren’t a lot of TV shows based around college-aged characters — let alone genre TV shows based around college-aged characters — so this excites me. Given that it is also based on such rich source material, I have high hopes for the evolution of this show. Regardless, however, I have a general policy of supporting most of Syfy’s endeavours into actual science fiction programming. Anything to keep them from going back to that dark period of scifi-tangential competition programs.
Containment (The CW, TBA)
Containmenthasn’t gotten a lot of press compared to other CW midseason launches like Legends of Tomorrow.It hasn’t even gotten a premiere date, actually. But it is still one of my most anticipated shows of 2016. Based on a Belgian series called Cordonand created by The Vampire Diariesexecutive producer Julie Plec, Containmenttells the story of a viral outbreak in Atlanta and the resulting quarantine zone. Families are separated. Loyalties are tested. A lot fo characters are probably going to die before this is over.
I was lucky enough to catch the pilot for the show at San Diego Comic Con and it casts an ambitious, character-driven net. I am giving this show extra points for actually being set in the place it is filmed: Atlanta. And for pulling together a diverse cast that represents the local — and American — population better than most shows on TV.
Hunters (Syfy, April)
Huntersis a show I might have skipped (or at least waited to hear word-of-Internet about before watching) if not for New York Comic Con. The panel with the creative team behind this show about aliens living among us was my favorite of the event. Producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) and showrunner Natalie Chaidez (12 Monkeys, The Sarah Connor Chronicles) are talented content creators with which to trust this adaptation of Whitley Strieber’s bestselling Alien Hunternovel.
The cast includes Julian McMahon and star-on-the-rise Britne Oldford (you may recognize her from her turn as Peek-a-Boo on The Flash). Behind the scenes of the Australian film set, it boasts special effects supervisor Justin Dix, who has worked on projects like The Babadook and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.With this team, Hunters has the potential to be a thought-provoking, competently-crafted exploration of life in the era of terrorism.
11.22.63 (Hulu, February 15th)
Based on the Stephen King novel about a high school English teacher (played here by James Franco) who goes back in time to try to stop the JFK assassination, this show looks stylish and will hopefully be less frustrating than Under the Dome, the other King novel recently adapted into a series. Personally, I don’t think there are nearly enough straight-up time travel fables on TV, so I’m categorizing this one under “must see.” We’ll see about the Franco factor.
Westworld (HBO, TBA)
Are you ready to spend some time at an adult-themed amusement park of the future? HBO is developing Michael Crichton’s film Westworld into its very own TV show. Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, and Ed Harris will lead the all-star cast, with husband-and-wife team Jonathan Nolan (co-screenwriter of The Dark Knight, Interstellar) and Lisa Joy (writer for Burn Notice, Pushing Daisies) creating the show presumably still about amusement park robots who malfunction and start killing visitors. If this TV series is half as weird and genre-mashing as the 1973 Yul Brenner cult classic, it will be well worth the watch.
Second Chance (Fox, January 13th)
Previously titled both “The Frankenstein Code” and “Lookingglass,” Fox has apparently finally settled on Second Chance as a name for this show about Jimmy Pritchard, an ex-sheriff who is murdered as an elderly man, then given a new lease on life as a younger, hotter version of himself. Of course, there are strings attached. The experiment is conducted by two genius tech billionaire twins with motives of their own — motives that might not be conducive to Jimmy’s attempts to be a better father (and grandfather) than he was the first time around.
Based on Frankenstein,the show gets a surprising amount thematically right about the Mary Shelley novel. I caught the pilot during a set visit back in October, and it was better than I expected. It reminded me a lot of turn-of-the-millenium CBS drama Now and Again.If that was you cup of tea, give Second Chance a try.
Underground (WGN, March 9th)
WGN is quickly becoming one of the best places to go for original drama programming. Manhattanis one of the most underrated shows on TV, and with additions to the 2016 schedule like Underground,a show about the underground railroad that actually puts multiple characters of color at the forefront of the story, WGN seems poised to build on that burgeoning reputation. This show made a splash at New York Comic Con, with a cast and creative team thoroughly created to the vision of a more diverse television landscape. Because, seriously, how has there not already been a show about the underground railroad?