2023 was the year television writers — and actors — went on a prolonged strike against Hollywood producers, demanding a fairer share of profits derived from streaming entertainment. From 2 May to 27 September, writers across America put their pencils down in protest, which impacted television plans massively: shows were meted out carefully across 2023 and saved up for 2024, production schedules were halted, many promising shows that had not yet established fandoms were axed, and there is (somewhat) littler TV on the landscape today.
Now, with the machine back up and swinging — and the writers better paid — we have more to look forward to. Here are the shows I’m most excited about:
A behind-the-scenes satire about the making of a blockbuster doesn’t sound exciting or novel. Except this particular production is being made by Armando Iannucci — whose fiercely foul foulmouthed The Thick Of It makes the beloved The West Wing look as naïve as Enid Blyton — and he knows just how to attack people in power. With Veep and the brilliant The Death Of Stalin, Iannucci demonstrated how ineptitude and skulduggery can go hand in hand, and Hollywood may be perfect for the satirist’s unsparing gaze.
The iconic cigarette-smoking detective Sam Spade is ready for another go-around with this series that starts after the events of the 1930 novel The Maltese Falcon. Humphrey Bogart famously played Spade in the 1941 classic The Maltese Falcon, and Clive Owen steps into those (gum) shoes to tackle a murder mystery set in the South of France. This may be a shameless attempt to cash-in on newly freed up Intellectual Property, but there is significant potential here, especially if Owen brings some of the slipperiness he had once brought to The Croupier to the table. Play it again, Spade.
The greatest English-language actress alive Cate Blanchett stars in Disclaimer, an adaptation of the novel by the same name about a TV journalist faced with the possibility of being scooped by a new book, which may give away her deepest secret to a voyeuristic world. Not only is Blanchett headlining the series, but it’s been directed by auteur Alfonso Cuarón and will feature Lesley Manville, Sacha Baron Cohen and Academy Award winner Kevin Kline.
When Jodie Foster plays a detective, memorable things happen. The Silence Of The Lambs heroine is back on the beat and trying to unravel a dark and snowy Alaskan noir. Alongside her stars actual boxing champion Kali Reis, making for an intriguing — and certainly unpredictable — combination. Early writing on the series suggests a majorly scary and supernatural adventure. The binge is afoot.
Originally scheduled for 2023, this Kate Winslet-starrer features the actress as a chancellor presiding over a fictitious Central European autocracy. We catch up with Madame Chancellor, however, at a time when she is faltering, and the entire edifice is threatening to crumble. I’m particularly excited because the writing team includes novelist Gary Shteyngart, writer of Super Sad True Love Story, and the solid supporting cast includes the always exciting Hugh Grant as the leader of the opposition.
The great Park Chan-wook — director of such modern classics as The Handmaiden, Decision To Leave and Oldboy, an action film so iconic that it is still being imitated by films like Animal — comes to American television with this adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Hoa Xuange stars as a spy —half-Vietnamese, half-French — exiled in the US after the Vietnam War. The trailer is dynamite, with Robert Downey Jr scorching the screen particularly hard in what looks to be a truly dark comedy.
Does the world need yet another adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley? One would assume not, but this strikingly black-and-white version stars ‘hot priest’ Andrew Scott as the chameleonic con artist Tom Ripley, alongside Dakota Fanning and Johnny Flynn. It’s hard to mistake this dark, sleekly re-polished version for the unforgettable 1999 film starring Matt Damon or for the deeply sexy Purple Noon with the one and only Alain Delon, but as cover versions go, this new one promises — at the very least — to be jazzy.
I first learned that Coco Chanel slept with Nazis from a Bill Burr comedy routine, but more of a light will be shined on the fashion icon’s Reich-ing in this series where she’ll be played by the ever-luminous Juliette Binoche. The show isn’t actually about Coco, however, but her fashion rival Christian Dior, played by Ben Mendelsohn. John Malkovich, Emily Mortimer, Maisie Williams and Claes Bang round up the cast in what might just turn out to be the fashion industry’s answer to The Crown.
The compelling Tobias Menzies (Game Of Thrones, Catastrophe, Outlander) plays the lead in Manhunt, a series about the search for the killer of Abraham Lincoln. Menzies plays Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and this show — based on a nonfiction book of the same name — is about how he hunts down the now-infamous John Wilkes Booth, the man who gave the theatre a truly bad name.
Many a fan-favourite series will return to the air in 2024 — including The Bear, The Last Of Us and Arcane — but this forward-looking list, focussing only on brand new shows, must bow toward HBO’s longest running series. Larry David’s superlative comedy will finally be leaving us alone after its 12th and final season, unless of course David changes his mind and gives us more of his cantankerous and misanthropic alter-ego. Now that would be pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Avinash Arun’s Three Of Us — a delicate, poetic meditation on dementia and the nature of nostalgia — is one of the best Hindi features of 2023, and the film starring Shefali Shah, Swanand Kirkire and a fantastic Jaideep Ahlawat is streaming now on Netflix. It’s beautiful.