The temperature is struggling to climb above freezing. The people of Madison slowly submerge their skin beneath a shell of thermal layering. This sounds like the perfect time of the year to postpone those New Year’s resolutions and exercise your thumbs by flipping through TV channels. With the new year, the major television players are putting out new content and targeting large audiences too slow from the holiday feasts to change the channel. Here’s what is coming to a living room near you in 2017.
“A Series Of Unfortunate Events” (Netflix)
Adapted from the much-loved children’s books by Lemony Snicket, “A Series Of Unfortunate Events” has gained quite the fan club before it even hit the streaming screen. After the spectacular flop of the movie adaptation starring Jim Carrey, fans have a lot to celebrate with this new take on the series. Netflix took no shortcuts, and the medium of television suits the morose tale much better than in movie form.
Patrick Warburton plays Lemony Snicket, the charmingly dreary narrator of the series. Warburton does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the books, giving life to the narrator in Snicket and bringing the pizzazz that makes this tale so memorable. Neil Patrick Harris plays Count Olaf, the strange, tattooed villain of the tale. Harris slips into the roll naturally by bringing this deranged yet lovably strange mastermind to life.
One of the things that are instantly enjoyable about the series is its use of color. The muted pastels pop and jar against the dreary grey backgrounds. The style is almost Wes Anderson-esque and works well with the mood of the show.
For those hardcore fans that live and breathe the stuff though, Netflix chose to make a couple of interesting choices as far as the plot of the series goes. The secret society that is vaguely hinted at—and only revealed much later—in the books is an integral and up-front piece of the plot, playing a much larger role in this TV universe.
Tom Hardy stars in this dark period drama from FX. The channel has been on the up and up for good content, giving viewers excellent shows like “Wilfred,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Fargo.” “Taboo” centers around James Delaney (Hardy), who is thought to be dead before appearing at his father’s funeral. Rumors swirl about this mysterious man and what he has done all those years he previously spent in Africa—most of it ghastly and unspeakable. Jonathan Pryce plays Sir Stuart Strange, an executive for the East India Trading Company, not straying far from his role as Weatherby Swann in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” who wants the land that Delaney has inherited from his dead father.
“Taboo” has been heavily advertised without giving away much of anything, which is rare for TV. The dark, grimy feel of the show feels right at home on FX’s lineup and fits well with the marketed audience. However, many more questions are raised than answered in the first episode as Delaney travels through London. The atrocious things that Delaney has done in his past are hinted at and then discussed off-screen, leaving something to be desired in the character’s development. Overall, the episode feels a little too mysterious for a premiere, with the show relying perhaps a little too much on the audience’s interest. Hardy plays a convincing outcast/psychopath/demon/shaman though, and the acting and idea is strong throughout. I think that “Taboo” will be a great show to follow this season.
FX isn’t satisfied there, though. Later in the spring, “Legion” will premiere on FX. This show follows a man who has been impounded for schizophrenia for his entire life, but after transferring to a new doctor, he learns that he has superpowers. I am not as excited for this show because, between “The OA” on Netflix and all of the superpower-themed television that has come out lately, it feels stale. It seems like one show took a chance and did that mantra well, and now every network is scrambling to throw their attempt into the market hoping that it sticks.
“24: Legacy” (Fox)
Another highly anticipated show this season is “24: Legacy,” premiering after the Super Bowl on Fox. “24” was a cash cow for Fox and has a cult following as a great TV show. Yet, just because Fox couldn’t come up with anything new doesn’t mean digging up bodies of old shows and putting a new face on a cash corpse will make it great. “24: Legacy” seems like a show that is going to have the privilege of underwhelming millions of viewers at once, then sputter and limp on for another five seasons just because it has network viewership.
As more and more streaming services are producing original content, and with channels like AMC and FX also producing fantastic shows, network television is lagging behind. Those channels usually have much more room to experiment and be edgy without offending an audience. With network television having such a high viewership, they are more constrained and therefore have to be more conscious of their content. While this does provide a challenge, this does not excuse the lack of quality content that I feel the networks have been providing viewers lately.
So, put away those gym shorts and crank up the furnace. 2017 has provided all the content you could ever need to procrastinate working on that beach bod. Summer is a long way off, and being up on the shows everyone is talking about is more fun anyway, right? Happy viewing.