Friday, 30 December 2011

Dan's Most Anticipated TV Shows of early-2012

Friday, 30 December 2011
Who cares about what was good or disappointing about television in 2011? That's all in the past now, so let's move on. 2012! A shiny new year, full of old favourites and exciting newcomers. Below I pick my 11 Most Anticipated TV Shows of the new year period (Jan/Feb), so be sure to keep an eye out for the following on your screens:

11. Mad Dogs
(Sky1, 19 Jan) I'm in two minds about this show's return. I really loved half of series 1's four episodes, but felt the story tailed off sharply and didn't end well. Even worse, I didn't expect and still don't understand why Mad Dogs is coming back, because the story didn't seem to demand it. So I'm intrigued to see what they have planned in this second year, and if some lessons will have been learned from before. If nothing else, the great cast (John Simm, Philip Glenister, Marc Warren, Max Beesley) should be worth watching as the four childhood friends having a terrible time in paradise.

10. Smash
(NBC, 6 Feb) As Glee gets more ridiculous and repetitive, drowning in its own self-righteous silliness and celebrity cameos, will this brand new musical drama steal some of its thunder? I doubt it, because Smash is a very different beast, but maybe there are some disillusioned Glee fans who are craving something more substantial and dramatic. This song-and-dance drama, about the making of a Broadway show based on Marilyn Monroe's life, should be worth a few hours of your precious time.

9. Eternal Law
(ITV1, 5 Jan) A brand new fantasy drama from the writers behind Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes, which is reason enough to be excited. (Unfortunately they also did renowned flop Bonekickers, so there are no guarantees.) Eternal Law concerns two heavenly angels, Zak and Tom, who are working as lawyers in modern-day York and use their abilities to influence the community around them in a positive way. Will this be a mawkish Highway To Heaven-style courtroom drama? I have no idea, but it should be worth finding out.

8. Luck
(HBO, 29 Jan) A drama written by David Milch (Deadwood), with a pilot directed by Michael Mann (Heat), starring Dustin Hoffman in his first TV role. Those facts alone guarantee many people will be tuning into this horse racing drama, but it remains to be seen if this equine underworld and its granite-faced characters will charm viewers into going the distance. But can you really refuse anything that co-stars Nick Nolte, Ian Hart, Dennis Farina and Michael Gambon?

7. Justified
(FX, 17 Jan) The third season of Justified will hopefully build on the brilliant second, now the writers have found a great balance between telling standalone stories while keeping an eye on an larger story arc. Great performances from Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, who are joined this year by the beautiful Carla Gugino as a U.S Marshall Assistant Director (an actress who's no stranger to the work of author Elmore Leonard, having starred in Karen Sisco).

6. Being Human
(BBC Three, TBA) This will be a difficult series of the supernatural drama, given the departure of Aidan Turner (as tortured vampire Mitchell) and the knowledge that Russell Tovey's werewolf George is also leaving. Creator Toby Whithouse has his work cutout introducing a more urbane vampire to the group dynamic (played by Irishman Damien Moloney), and it remains to be seen if fans will accept the coming changes. Might it be best to end the show and let fans embrace the fluffier US remake? Maybe, but I'm very interested to see if Being Human can keep its audience as 66% of the original cast leave for pastures new.

5. Touch
(Fox, 25 Jan) It's Kiefer Sutherland's return to TV after 24, in a brand new sci-fi mystery series from the creator of Heroes. The setup is very simple: Sutherland plays the father of an autistic/mute boy who is able to predict various disasters, which he then has to prevent. It doesn't sound very original, but you can't deny the potential for some exciting case-of-the-week stories as father and son save the day together. The test here will be finding ways to stop the formula becoming too irritating. At least it's only been given a half-season order, so it stands a better chance of not outstaying its welcome.

4. The River
(ABC, 7 Feb) Horror is the big thing on television right now, following the success of True Blood and American Horror Story (we'll forget the unjust failure of the brilliant Harper's Island). What makes The River so anticipated is its unique-for-television format: a documentary-style affair similar to The Blair Witch Project, about the search for a famous explorer who goes missing in the Amazon. Six months later, the man's family go on a search to uncover what happened to him, joined by a documentary filmmaker, and discover supernatural goings-on. From the director of Paranormal Activity and a writer of Millennium, The River has the potential to be something really gripping.

3. Alcatraz
(Fox , 16 Jan) The latest project from JJ Abrams' Bad Robot production company, Alcatraz could go either way. The concept sounds great for a movie (prisoners from "The Rock" all go missing one night in the past, only to reappear in the modern-day), but can a TV series sustain that idea and keep audiences interested? It's hard to see how the writers will keep this rolling for years (can't they just interrogate their first recaptured fugitive for answers?), but I'm willing to give anything with Abrams' name attached the benefit of the doubt. Even if he's not actually very hands-on with these shows, day to day.

2. Spartacus: Vengeance
(Starz, 27 Jan) The first true sequel to Spartacus: Blood & Sand, after last year's brilliant prequel, Vengeance sees the show painting on a much bigger canvas. The budget is bigger, meaning the show can take the gladiators beyond the confines of the Capua arena and their training camp, out into the wider world. The big uncertainty is if Liam McIntyre will prove to be a fitting replacement for the late Andy Whitfield in the title role, but I see no reason to be concerned from the trailers. He looks very similar (which helps) and appears to have the same kind of charisma. Expect more ultra-violence, sex, politics, tragedy, nudity, double-crosses, gore, swearing, death and mutilation. I can't think of many shows that are so relentlessly fun and entertaining.

1. Sherlock
(BBC One, 1 Jan) The long-awaited return of the BBC's Sherlock Holmes update, with Benedict Cumberbatch back as the world's greatest sleuth and Martin Freeman as amiable colleague Dr Watson. It's been 18-months since series 1's cliffhanger, and what's exciting about series 2 is that co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have chosen to adapt Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous stories: the one with Irene Adler ("A Scandal In Bohemia"), the one with a beast prowling the moors ("The Hound Of The Baskervilles"), and the one where Sherlock confronts his arch-nemesis Moriarty ("The Final Problem"). With three of the best stories to hand, if Sherlock maintains its sense of visual style, wit and inventiveness, I think we already have a very early contender for Best TV Show of 2012...