The coming year is shaping up to be a big one for the small screen. Big-name stars like John Cena, Julia Roberts, and Jeff Bridges will be headlining series. Big-name creators like Shonda Rhimes, James Gunn, and Lord & Miller will have new shows. Blockbuster franchises like Star Wars and the MCU should have multiple new entries, along with prequels to Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. And great shows like Atlanta and Better Call Saul will be returning from long absences. We don’t know yet exactly when many of these will be premiering, but, to borrow the name of one of 2022’s freshman debuts, it may be time to get super pumped.
Peacemaker (HBO Max, Jan. 13)
This series is not just a spinoff from the big-screen The Suicide Squad featuring the return of John Cena as the dim but deadly title character: Most of its episodes are written and/or directed by The Suicide Squad maestro James Gunn. As Peacemaker and friends old (Steve Agee and Jennifer Holland from the movie) and new (Danielle Brooks, Robert Patrick, Freddie Stroma) get mixed up in a conspiracy plot threatening the entire U.S. government, expect plenty of raunchy jokes and tasty soundtrack cuts.
The Gilded Age (HBO, Jan. 24)
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes expands his period gaze across the pond for a story set amid an economic boom in New York City circa 1882, with The Leftovers alum Carrie Coon headlining a killer cast that also includes Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski. If it’s not exactly Downton Abbey: The Big Apple, it may be close.
The Afterparty (Apple TV+, Jan. 24)
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller mostly work in movies, where they’ve been responsible for The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, and much more. But the Clone High alums occasionally return to the small screen (see also: The Last Man on Earth), as they will with this Miller-created genre hybrid, set at a high-school reunion. Each episode is told from a different POV, sampling from a cast of characters played by a comedy murderers’ row including Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Ben Schwartz, Ilana Glazer, John Early, Dave Franco, and more.
Pam & Tommy (Hulu, Feb. 2)
Lily James and Sebastian Stan are unrecognizable as themselves, looking uncannily like star-crossed Nineties lovers Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee in this darkly comic miniseries about the stolen sex tape that turned Baywatch star Anderson from famous to infamous. Seth Rogen and Nick Offerman co-star as the men responsible for making the sex tape an international sensation, while director Craig Gillespie has past experience dramatizing tabloid-friendly stories with his work on I, Tonya.
Inventing Anna (Netflix, Feb. 11)
Bridgerton was the first show Shonda Rhimes produced under her massive Netflix deal, but Inventing Anna is the first one she’s created for the streaming giant — and the first show she’s created, period, since Scandal a decade earlier. This one stars Ozark Emmy winner Julia Garner as real-life fraudster Anna Delvey. Rhimes’ stamp can be found even on the shows other people write for her, but there’s an appreciable difference when something is her idea from the start.
Bel-Air (Peacock, Feb. 13)
You can’t swing a dead cat around your television these days without hitting some kind of reboot or revival, but this take on Will Smith’s classic Nineties sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is at least trying something very different. Inspired by a 2019 fan-made trailer, the series turns a sitcom premise into fodder for a gritty drama, with newcomer Jabari Banks as Philly transplant Will, Adrian Holmes and Cassandra Freeman as wealthy Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv, and Olly Sholotan as Will’s cousin Carlton. Fresh Prince got serious on occasion, but can the idea sustain a full-time drama? Whether this works or not, no chance it’ll be dull.
Law & Order (NBC, Feb. 24)
In May of 2010, NBC canceled the original Law & Order, which was still a reliable ratings performer but increasingly expensive to produce. In the decade since, Law & Order: SVU has kept on chugging along (it also spawned an Organized Crime spinoff last year), while L&O creator Dick Wolf has launched additional franchises at NBC (the Chicago shows) and CBS (F.B.I.). In hindsight, NBC would have been better off just keeping the mother ship around all this time. The mistake is finally corrected with a revival bringing back Anthony Anderson from L&O‘s final seasons, working with new cast members like Jeffrey Donovan, Hugh Dancy, Camryn Manheim, and maybe another familiar face or two (Sam Waterston?) if the negotiations work out. DUN-DUN!
Super Pumped (Showtime, Feb. 27)
Billions creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien launch a new anthology series focusing on businesses that have affected the culture. First up: the rise and fall of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), in a season that wlll co-star Kyle Chandler, Elisabeth Shue, Hank Azaria, Kerry Bishé, and Uma Thurman.
Atlanta Season 3 (FX, Mar. 24)
Due to both Donald Glover’s busy schedule and Covid, it’s been four years since we saw Glover’s Earn, Brian Tyree Henry’s Paper Boi, and LaKeith Stanfield’s Darius board a plane for Paper Boi’s European tour. But Glover and company finally got to produce a third and fourth season — covering both that Euro trip and the guys’ return to Atlanta — and we’ll be seeing one, if not both, in 2022. However much we get of the idiosyncratic and brilliant hip-hop dramedy will be rewarding enough.
The Lord of the Rings (Amazon Prime Video, Sept. 2)
Amazon spent a quarter of a billion dollars just to acquire the rights to make a show set in J.R.R. Tolkein’s iconic fantasy universe — and then another reported $100-150 million to produce the first season. Not much is known about the story, save that it’s set long before the events of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with relative newcomers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay as creator-showrunners. Will Amazon have the next Game of Thrones on its hands, or an extraordinarily expensive disappointment?
The Crown Season 5 (Netflix, November)
Season Five of the reigning Emmy winner for best drama again jumps into the future, bringing with it a new set of actors to play the royals in the Nineties: Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth, Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip, Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret, Dominic West as Prince Charles, and Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana. The Claire Foy-Olivia Colman transition worked out smashingly, and these choices all seem on paper like great ones.
A League of Their Own (Amazon Prime Video, TBD)
Penny Marshall’s 1992 masterpiece about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was already adapted for television once before, in a straightforward, quickly forgotten 1993 remake with Carey Lowell in the Geena Davis role. This new version is a much looser take, with Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson (who also co-created it) as the catcher, Nick Offerman as the cantankerous manager, and an approach that promises to explore race and sexuality in ways Marshall couldn’t in an early-Nineties studio movie.
Better Call Saul Season 6 (AMC, TBD)
The pandemic has delayed the Breaking Bad prequel’s return to make it two years since we last saw Jimmy McGill, Kim Wexler and friends, and the final season will be split into two chunks to air at different points in 2022. The parent show had one of the greatest final seasons of any TV drama ever. Given how excellent Saul has turned out to be, we’ve got a feeling these concluding episodes could equal that feat.
Halo (Paramount+, TBD)
The TV business has been trying to adapt the popular video game — about a future conflict between human soldiers and aliens — for much of the past decade. At one point, Steven Spielberg was set to produce it. For a while, it was meant to air on Showtime. Kyle Killen (Awake) and Steven Kane (The Last Ship) ultimately developed this Paramount+ version, but Killen left before it even went into production, and Kane left after Season One was completed. That level of development hell is often a sign of a show that doesn’t work, but tumultuous beginnings can occasionally lead to something special, like Lost.
House of the Dragon (HBO, TBD)
Will there be an appetite for more Game of Thrones content so soon after the fantasy epic’s widely-reviled finale? Working in favor of House of the Dragon is that it has a different creative team — including George R.R. Martin himself as co-creator, rather than as an occasional writer like he was on Thrones — and is set 200 years before the events of the parent show. Its focus: the mad, incestuous House Targaryen, brought to life by a cast that includes Matt Smith from The Crown, once again playing a member of a dysfunctional royal family.
Julia (HBO Max, TBD)
Happy Valley star Sarah Lancashire adopts a more high-pitched voice to play iconic TV chef Julia Child in this drama series. David Hyde Pierce co-stars as Julia’s government-official husband Paul, along with Bebe Neuwirth (Frasier reunion!), Isabella Rossellini, and Fran Kranz.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Showtime, TBD)
The last time Showtime premiered a series based on a pre-existing title that had featured David Bowie, it replaced the legendary singer with a giant tea kettle. (No, we are not making this up: Twin Peaks: The Return was really weird.) Now, the pay-cabler is doing it again using a project Bowie’s a bit better known for. This remake of his 1976 sci-fi film about an alien learning to pose as a human being, from the Clarice team of Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet, features Chiwetel Ejiofor as said alien. Which raises the impossible question, we suppose, of whether Chiwetel Ejiofor can out-act a giant tea kettle.
Ms. Marvel (Disney+, TBD)
Marvel’s TV empire keeps expanding with a bunch of new shows set for 2022, including Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac as a vigilante with multiple personalities), She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany as Bruce Banner’s superstrong lawyer cousin), I Am Groot (animated adventures of Baby Groot), and this tale of Muslim-American teenager Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), whose reverence for superheroes (Captain Marvel especially) and newfound shape-shifting powers inspires her to get into the crimefighting game.
The Old Man (Hulu, TBD)
FX ordered this drama, starring Jeff Bridges as a retired spy pulled back into the game when he’s targeted for assassination, back in 2019. But between the pandemic and Bridges’ diagnosis of lymphoma (which has since gone into remission), it’s been delayed to this year. Any chance to watch the Dude at work — plus a cast that also includes John Lithgow, Amy Brenneman, Alia Shawkat, Gbenga Akinnagbe and more — should be worth the wait.
Russian Doll Season 2 (Netflix, TBD)
Russian Doll Season Two? What a concept! Natasha Lyonne returns for another go-around as self-destructive software engineer Nadia, who spent the first season stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop that saw her dying over and over again on her 36th birthday. Will it happen again in this new season (which also brings in Schitt’s Creek alum Annie Murphy), or do Lyonne and friends have something else up their sleeves for a follow-up to one of the very best shows of 2019?
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+, TBD)
The Mandalorian spinoff The Book of Boba Fett will release all but one of its episodes in 2022, and it’s the only Star Wars show we know definitively will be available in the new year. (Even the return of The Mandalorian itself seems shrouded in mystery.) But chances seem high we’ll get the return of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, in a show set on Tatooine in the years between Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope — and somehow, with appearances by Hayden Christensen as the young Darth Vader.
We Own This City (HBO, TBD)
David Simon has long said that he doesn’t want to make another season of The Wire, no matter how fervently fans ask for it. They’ll have to settle for Simon and fellow Wire alum George Pelecanos telling a different story about Baltimore, this one based on reporter Justin Fenton’s book about the rise and fall if the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, starring Jon Bernthal, Josh Charles, and Marlo Stanfield himself, Jamie Hector.
Wednesday (Netflix, TBD)
In the Nineties, director Barry Sonnenfeld was sometimes accused of ripping off the style of Tim Burton. Now, the script has flipped, with Burton directing a comedy-mystery series about Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega), who was of course the most memorable part of Sonnenfeld’s two Addams Family movies. This version is created by the Smallville team of Alfredy Gough and Miles Millar, and smartly casts Catherine Zeta-Jones as Wednesday’s creepy, kooky mother, Morticia. Neat. Sweet. Petite!
White House Plumbers (HBO, TBD) / Gaslit (Starz, TBD)
How do you prefer your star-studded Watergate miniseries? White House Plumbers is based on Egil Krogh’s book, Integrity; is directed by former Veep showrunner David Mandel; and focuses on Nixon fixers E. Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and G. Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux). Gaslit, meanwhile, was inspired by the first season of the Slow Burn podcast; is adapted by Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail; and stars Julia Roberts (who worked with Esmail on Homecoming) as Martha Mitchell, wife of Nixon campaign manager John Mitchell (Sean Penn), Dan Stevens and Betty Gilpin as John and Mo Dean, and Shea Whigham (another Homecoming alum) as Liddy.
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (HBO, TBD)
For a while, this drama about the Los Angeles Lakers teams of the Eighties went by the title Showtime, after the nickname given to Magic Johnson (played here by Quincy Isaiah), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Solomon Hughes), and friends. That was, of course, terribly confusing given how long HBO and Showtime have been pay-cable rivals. Winning Time isn’t that much better — it was also the title of a great ESPN documentary about Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller — but with a cast that also includes John C. Reilly as Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Jason Clarke as general manager Jerry West, Adrien Brody as coach Pat Riley, and Sally Field as Buss family matriarch Jessie, plus a creative team that Succession producer Adam McKay, does the title even matter?