2020 TV Preview - Rolling Stone
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25 Most Anticipated TV Shows of 2020

The era of Peak TV rolls into the next decade with sci-fi thrillers, long-awaited adaptations, superhero spin-offs, inspired remakes, and more

Phillip Caruso/Hulu;Trae Patton/CBS Interactive; Comedy Central

Welcome to 2020! Hopefully you found an additional set of eyeballs under the tree last month, or perhaps a microchip that can automatically download 100 hours of television direct to your brain-hole. For those of us who got nothing but another pair of wool socks, it’s time to scan the ever-growing list of shows set to debut in the coming year and flag those we absolutely don’t want to miss. This list easily could’ve contained 50-plus titles, but we decided to be extra-ruthless — and to include only brand-new series (some appearing on brand-new streaming networks), no returners. Here are the 25 fresh-out-of-the-oven TV shows we’re most looking forward to watching in 2020. To those that didn’t make the cut and the sleepers we have yet to even hear about, we say: Bring it on.

AJ AND THE QUEEN

Beth Dubber/Netflix

‘AJ and the Queen’ (Netflix, Jan. 10)

The inimitable RuPaul is out of drag as much as he’s in it for this dramedy, his first true starring role as an actor. The series follows Robert, a celebrated drag performer known as Ruby onstage, who’s saved up a nest egg so he can open his own club — only to have a two-faced boyfriend run off with the cash. To pick himself up by his Lucite heels, Robert schedules a cross-country tour of Ruby performances to recoup his savings. The only hitch? A 10-year-old noodge named AJ insists on accompanying him. Ru’s charisma in costume is sure to be on full display here, as ever; but it’s the softer side of the man born RuPaul Andre Charles that we’re most eager to see. —Maria Fontoura

HBO

‘The Outsider’ (HBO, Jan. 12)

Yes, it’s a police procedural, but it’s also Stephen King (adapting his 2018 novel of the same name along with co-writer Richard Price, who last penned HBO’s spellbinding The Night Of), so you know shit gets weird in this star-studded supernatural thriller. Bloodline’s Ben Mendelsohn and Harriet powerhouse Cynthia Erivo play police detective Ralph Anderson and private eye Holly Gibney, respectively, who team up to investigate the brutal rape and murder of a young boy. A local little league coach and dad of two (Jason Bateman, who also directs) is arrested, but when evidence simultaneously places him both far from and near the scene of the crime, a mysterious and even more sinister story begins to unfold. —MF

Apple+

‘Little America’ (Apple TV+, Jan. 17)

Before he went and got absurdly ripped to star in a Marvel movie, Kumail Nanjiani and wife Emily V. Gordon (who previously co-wrote the Oscar-nominated The Big Sick) teamed with Good Boys and The Office writer Lee Eisenberg for this anthology series that tells stories of immigrants living across America. If it’s got anywhere near the heart and humor of the couple’s debut film, it could be Apple’s strongest TV offering to date. —Alan Sepinwall

Alex Bailey/HBO

‘Avenue 5’ (HBO, Jan. 19)

Armando Ianucci created Veep, but left the Emmy-winning comedy two seasons before its end. So it’s been a while since his specific brand of profane satire has been on HBO. Now, he’s back with this sci-fi comedy, set 40 years in the future and starring Hugh Laurie as the captain of a space cruise-ship that encounters disaster on a trip back to Earth. All manner of humanity trapped indefinitely in a small space sounds like perfect territory for Ianucci to work his magic. —AS

Comedy Central

‘Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens’ (Comedy Central, Jan. 22)

She had scene-stealing turns in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s Eight, and may very well be nominated for an Oscar for her lead role in The Farewell. Now, Awkwafina is aiming to take over the small screen with this Broad City-ish single-camera sitcom about a young woman who still lives with her dad (B.D. Wong) and immigrant grandmother (Lori Tan Chinn from Orange Is the New Black). In real life, of course, the actor born Nora Lum did just that — and if her hilariously frank raps and web-TV talk show are any indication, she won’t hold back any of the cringeworthy details. —AS

Pictured (l-r): Evan Evagora as Elnor; Alison Pill as Dr. Jurati; Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard; of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Trae Patton/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Trae Patton/CBS

‘Star Trek: Picard’ (CBS All Access, Jan. 23)

Make it so! Two decades since his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis (and more than 25 years since the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale), Patrick Stewart returns to his most famous role as an aging Jean-Luc Picard comes out of retirement. To sweeten the deal, familiar friends will appear by his side including Data, Will Riker, Deanna Troi, and even Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager. —AS

High Fidelity -- "Top Five Heartbreaks" - Episode 101 -- After a first date gone wrong with Clyde, a “nice guy,” record store owner Rob Brooks recounts her Top Five Heartbreaks and a recent emotional run in with her past.   Robyn (Zoë Kravitz), shown. (Photo by: Phillip Caruso/Hulu)

Phillip Caruso/Hulu

‘High Fidelity’ (Hulu, Feb. 14)

Top five TV shows adapted from books that were previously turned into movies: 1) M*A*S*H; 2) Friday Night Lights; 3) Watchmen; 4) Hannibal; 5)… High Fidelity? This new spin on the Nick Hornby book (and 2000 John Cusack movie) about a romantically self-destructive (and list-obsessed) record shop owner has pretty big shoes to fill. But with the fun twist of Zoë Kravitz — whose mom Lisa Bonet was in the big-screen adaptation — playing the lead role, we like its chances to crack that fifth spot. —AS

Amazon Studios

‘Hunters’ (Amazon Prime, Feb. 21)

It’s the 1970s, and a secret network of Nazis has infiltrated American society, even the highest levels of government, in order to continue their mission to exterminate all non-Aryan races and seize power. That the premise feels plausible in 2020 is a deeply sad statement on our times. Luckily, this 10-episode series sets up a world where we’ll get to watch a rag-tag band of Nazi-killers — led by a soft-spoken, Yiddish-spouting Al Pacino — take ’em down. And with Jordan Peele’s production company at the helm, expect healthy doses of flash and wit to leaven what could otherwise be heavy proceedings. —MF

Jason Segel as Peter, Eve Lindley as Simone - Dispatches from Elsewhere _ Season 1 - Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Zach Dilgard/AMC

‘Dispatches From Elsewhere’ (AMC, March 1)

Jason Segel steps into the fantasy/sci-fi world for this anthology series — which kicks off with a two-night premiere — that follows four adventure-starved people who are pulled into an alternate reality seemingly governed by a mysterious entity called the Jejune Institute. Segel, who created the show, co-stars (as another sad-sack Peter, in a callback to his Forgetting Sarah Marshall puppeteer) alongside Eve Lindley, André Benjamin (a.k.a. 3000), and Sally Field, with Richard E. Grant as a menacing Jejune overlord. —MF

Still of Jonica “Jojo” T. Gibbs as Hattie from BET's "Twenties" episode 102. (Photo: Michael Kubeisy/BET)

Michael Kubeisy/BET

‘Twenties’ (BET, March 4)

Emmy-winning Master of None alum Lena Waithe adds to her television portfolio (see also Showtime’s The Chi and BET’s Boomerang sequel series) with this dramedy about three young friends (Jonica T. Gibbs, Christina Elmore, Gabrielle Graham) navigating life, love, and the vagaries of the entertainment industry. Waithe based the show loosely on her own experiences as a Hollywood neophyte, and has said the network has been relatively hands-off during its creation. Translation: It could be her most personal (and, if the trailer is any indication, funniest) work yet.  —AS

Michele K. Short/HBO

‘The Plot Against America’ (HBO, March 16)

For his first act after The Deuce, David Simon tackles Philip Roth’s alternate-history novel where Charles Lindbergh beats Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the presidency in 1940, and America becomes an isolationist, anti-Semitic nightmare. The miniseries’ cast includes Ben Cole as Lindbergh, plus Winona Ryder (who worked with Simon in Show Me a Hero), John Turturro, and Zoe Kazan. Simon has said that the timing of the project is a coincidence, but the story’s parallels to present-day America should be nothing short of chilling.  —AS

Little Fires Everywhere -- Based on Celeste Ngís 2017 bestseller, Little Fires Everywhere follows the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and an enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. The story explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, the ferocious pull of motherhood ñ and the danger in believing that following the rules can avert disaster. Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon), shown. (Photo by: Erin Simkin/Hulu)

Erin Simkin/Hulu

‘Little Fires Everywhere’ (Hulu, March 18)

Reese Witherspoon continues her ascension to Tinseltown superproducer with another TV adaptation of a bestselling novel — this time, Celeste Ng’s 2017 tale of privilege and provocation in Nineties Shaker Heights, Ohio. Witherspoon plays (another) picture-perfect matriarch Elena Richardson; co-producer Kerry Washington co-stars as Mia, a single mother who moves to town with her daughter, Pearl, and upends the status quo with her unconventional lifestyle. If Big Little Lies was any indication, watching these Hollywood heavyweights do battle in a world of toxic suburban malaise will be a blast. —MF

William Gray/SHOWTIME

‘The Good Lord Bird’ (Showtime, Spring 2020)

Historical drama wouldn’t automatically seem to be a specialty of Blumhouse founder Jason Blum (architect of the film franchises Paranormal Activity and The Purge, among others) — until, that is, you consider that our nation’s history of slavery is one of the most monstrous horror stories ever, real or fictional. In this eight-episode miniseries, Ethan Hawke plays abolitionist John Brown, whose raids and attempts at initiating a slave revolt helped start the Civil War, while Daveed Diggs plays Frederick Douglass, and Joshua Caleb Johnson plays Onion, the young slave who serves as our point of entry into this terrible world. —AS

Bryan Cranston'Network' play opening night, After Party, New York, USA - 06 Dec 2018

Paul Zimmerman/Shutterstock

‘Your Honor’ (Showtime, Summer 2020)

Remember when Bryan Cranston briefly appeared in the Oscars’ opening number last year and everyone acted like it was the second coming? (Sadly, it wasn’t; the Oscars telecast still sucked.) Finally, the beloved actor is returning to television for real, not with an all-too-brief cameo but with a whole new series. In this legal thriller set in New Orleans, Cranston plays a judge whose son is involved in a hit-and-run, setting off a chain of bad decisions. With The Good Wife honchos Robert and Michelle King executive-producing (along with Cranston), and Peter Moffat, whose British series Criminal Justice was the basis for HBO’s The Night Of, showrunning, the five-time Emmy winner may want to clear more room on his mantel. —MF

NETFLIX

‘#blackexcellence’ (Netflix, 2020)

In 2018, Black-ish creator Kenya Bariss left ABC to sign a blockbuster $100 million deal with Netflix. Finally, his first show under that new umbrella is here. Blackexcellence will reportedly mine much of the same territory as Black-ish — family life, parenting (Bariss has six kids), and the black experience in America — and Bariss will step in front of the camera to star alongside co-producer Rashida Jones. Bariss reportedly had creative differences with ABC about some more politically-charged episodes of his flagship sitcom; in his new home, expect him to have free rein to be as daring as he wants to be. —MF

Mark Ruffalo'Dark Waters' film premiere, Arrivals, New York, USA - 12 Nov 2019

Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock

‘I Know This Much Is True’ (HBO, 2020)

Twenty-two years after its publication, Wally Lamb’s wildly successful novel is being adapted for the small screen. The six-episode limited series features a stacked cast, from Mark Ruffalo as twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey to Melissa Leo as their mother, Kathryn Hahn as Dominick’s ex-wife, Juliette Lewis as a student he hires as an assistant, and Rosie O’Donnell as a social worker guiding the care of schizophrenic Thomas. Derek Cianfrance — who loves nothing more than a moody, melancholy family tragedy (see The Place Beyond the Pines, Blue Valentine) — helms all six episodes. Done right, it should be a tearjerker. —MF

Michael Kenneth Williams27th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards, Press Room, New York, USA - 27 Nov 2017

Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock

‘Lovecraft Country’ (HBO, 2020)

As the title indicates with its nod to author H.P. Lovecraft, fantasy, horror, and sci-fi spookiness are on order for this drama. (A producing team of Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams seals the deal.) Our protagonist is Atticus Black — played by Jonathan Majors, who stunned in last year’s breakout indie The Last Black Man in San Francisco — a Korean war vet embarking on a road trip through Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (the always-terrific Michael Kenneth Williams). Along the way, Atticus, his friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and his uncle Montrose (Courtney B. Vance) must fight off evils real (virulent racism), surreal (forest-dwelling monsters), and everything in between. —MF

MRS. AMERICA -- Pictured: Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly. CR: Sabrina Lantos/FX

Sabrina Lantos/FX

‘Mrs. America’ (FX, 2020)

With the fight to finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (first proposed in 1923) newly revived in our state legislatures, this series examines the 1970s conservative movement to squash it, led by constitutional lawyer Phyllis Schlafly. Look for two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett to bring her icy best to the role, as the story tracks Schlafly and her disciples’ battle with prominent feminists of the day, from Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) to Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), Betty Freidan (Tracey Ullman), and more. Adding to the project’s female-friendly bona fides, the first two episodes will be helmed by Captain Marvel co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. —MF

Merrick Morton/HBO

‘Perry Mason’ (HBO, 2020)

In his first big series role after The Americans, Matthew Rhys plays TV’s most successful defense attorney, who (as played in the Fifties and Sixties by Raymond Burr) won every case every week for nine seasons. The Rhys version (co-starring Tatiana Maslany, John Lithgow, and Shea Whigham) instead will be a period piece set in 1930s Hollywood that largely foregoes courtroom triumphs to explore Mason’s early days as a lowly P.I. —AS

Sarah Paulson arrives for FX's American Horror Story 100th Episode Celebration at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA, 26 October 2019. American Horror Story: 1984, the ninth installment of the award-winning anthology series, currently airs on FX in the US.FX's American Horror Story 100th Episode Celebration in Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA - 26 Oct 2019

NINA PROMMER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstoc

‘Ratched’ (Netflix, 2020)

The villain of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (and Milos Forman’s Oscars-sweeping 1975 adaptation starring Jack Nicholson) gets her own “origin story” with this series, which reunites producer Ryan Murphy and his favorite muse, Sarah Paulson. Taking on the role that earned Louise Fletcher a Best Actress nod, Paulson will portray Nurse Ratched, the sadistic psych ward tyrant who rules over her patients with a cruel hand. Now, we’ll get to see what made her a picture of evil in hospital whites. —MF

Nancy Carell, Steve Carell. Nancy Carell, left, and Steve Carell arrive at the world premiere of "Vice", at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, CalifWorld Premiere of "Vice", Beverly Hills, USA - 11 Dec 2018

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

‘Space Force’ (Netflix, 2020)

Yes, Steve Carell has been a semi-regular on The Morning Show for a few months now. But that show’s underwhelming execution has us considering this series his true return to the small screen. Re-teamed with Greg Daniels, who adapted The Office for American TV — and co-created King of the Hill and Parks and Recreation, and wrote many of the best Simpsons episodes — Carrell should be back in the pocket in this workplace comedy based on President Trump’s proposed (and preposterous) new division of our armed forces. —AS

Marvel Studios/Disney (2)

‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ (Disney+, 2020)

Remember how all the Marvel TV shows were supposed to be closely tied to the Marvel movies? That never really happened, but now that the company’s film and TV divisions are united under executive Kevin Feige, things are about to get much more connected. Case in point: this new series in which Captain America’s two ex-partners, Anthony Mackie’s Sam and Sebastian Shaw’s Bucky, team up in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame. With both actors reprising their big-screen roles, satisfaction is (almost) guaranteed. —AS

Jeff Bridges'Jimmy Kimmel Live' TV Show, Los Angeles, USA - 14 Oct 2019

Shutterstock

‘The Old Man’ (FX, 2020)

As a kid, Jeff Bridges guest-starred a few times on his father Lloyd’s drama Sea Hunt. Sixty years later, he’s finally leading his first series, aged up enough to star in one with a title like The Old Man. Here, the Oscar winner plays a retired CIA spy who’s been living off the grid, until violent circumstances force him back into public view. Welcome to TV, Dude. —AS

Nicole Kidman53rd Annual CMA Awards, Arrivals, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, USA - 13 Nov 2019

Matt Baron/Shutterstock

‘The Undoing’ (HBO, 2020)

Since the Nineties, almost everything TV writer David E. Kelley (or Mr. Michelle Pfeiffer if you prefer) has touched has turned to gold — or at least gold-plated, in the form of 11 Emmys on 30 nominations. Could this limited series be his twelfth? An adaptation of the 2014 Jean Hanff Korelitz novel You Should Have Known, the limited series centers on Nicole Kidman’s Grace Sachs, a therapist and self-help author whose seemingly perfect life unravels when her pediatric oncologist husband (Hugh Grant) disappears. Not enough of a draw? There’s also a murder, hoity-toity Manahattanites, and Donald Sutherland as Grace’s patrician father-in-law — a juicy setup for a gripping six hours of television. —MF

Y -- CR: Macall Polay/FX

Macall Polay/FX

‘Y’ (FX, 2020)

Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s classic comic book epic Y: The Last Man, is set in a world where all the men on Earth die at once but one — would-be escape artist Yorick Brown. The television adaptation has been in development hell for years, including the departure of original showrunners Michael Green and Aida Mashaka Croal. But it’s finally coming this year, with Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as Yorick, and a supporting cast that includes Diane Lane, Imogen Poots, and Lashana Lynch. After all the drama, Vaughan has called this series “the version that fans deserve.” Here’s hoping he’s right.  —AS

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