1. TV shows are back! (throughout the year)
You name it, and there’s a new season of it this spring or fall. Excited for more Mad Men? We’re betting that’s back in March again. How about Girls and Enlightened? They’re back in a matter of weeks! Dexter wraps up what will hopefully be its final season next fall, and around the same time, Homeland attempts to prove whether it’s going to follow the nuanced character study of season one or the insane thriller of season two. Justified and Archer? Yep, those are new, too! And that’s not to mention all the network shows that took shorter breaks over the holidays, like Parks And Recreation and Parenthood and Happy Endings and New Girl and The Good Wife. Hope springs eternal for the TV fan, but fortunately, it looks like 2013 will give us plenty of reason to hope.
2. 56 Up (January 4)
Every seven years, British director Michael Apted returns to visit the subjects of a 1964 TV project called 7 Up, and talks with them about what’s happened in their lives and how they’ve changed during the interval. The original project seemed to focus on learning whether in England, social class was destiny. The project brought together 7-year-olds from a variety of backgrounds and asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. Then it tracked how those goals changed, and how much opportunity the subjects had to fulfill them. But at this point, the Up series feels more like a class reunion, as Apted finds out which of the now-56-year-old participants are willing to speak with him this year—most of them are on-and-off-again uncomfortable with the scrutiny—and viewers get to find out how their lives have progressed. Each new installment in the most ambitious documentary series ever filmed is an event, and it’s exciting to see it coming around again.
3. The Carrie Diaries (January 14)
Hey, stop laughing at us. The pilot for this is surprisingly entertaining and well put-together, even though it’s a completely unnecessary Sex And The City prequel! Now, will the CW series be able to follow from that in an interesting way? Given the level of closure in the pilot (and some of the weirdness that would be necessary to make this a series), we’re going to say that, no, it probably won’t. But hey, you can hang out for an hour or so with AnnaSophia Robb as a younger Carrie Bradshaw, right? RIGHT?!
4. Newsreaders (January 17)
Adult Swim’s alternate TV universe adds a journalism department with this news-magazine spoof, spun off from Mather Zickel’s Childrens Hospital appearances as deadpan journalist Louis La Fonda. Expanding beyond in-depth profiles of the Childrens Hospital cast (and that never-ending conversation with Private Practice star Kate Walsh), Zickel and a crew of venerable fake reporters will tell the fake stories of fake people played by the likes of Lizzy Caplan, Dave Foley, Jane Seymour, Tom Lennon, and for an added dash of fake-news credibility, Dan Rather. In concept, it’s more or less Daily Show Correspondents: The Series (and a writing credit for now-former correspondent Wyatt Cenac lends credence to that impression), but The Daily Show is still beholden to its mandate to inform. Newsreaders has no such responsibility, and is free to entertain with such reckless (and straight-faced-yet-silly) speculation as “Manatees: Man, what a tease?”
5. The Last Stand (January 18)
The proper, above-the-title return of the slightly withered Arnold Schwarzenegger to action cinema, following a few winking extended cameos in the Expendables films, may be enough reason to get excited. But the release of Schwarzenegger’s late-game return to form, which casts him as an LAPD cop who takes a posting in a sleepy border town where he squares off against drug-runners, also marks the English-language film debut of director Kim Ji-woon. With films like A Tale Of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, and I Saw The Devil, Kim has distinguished himself among the herd of South Korean genre directors (and there’s plenty of stiff competition). Forgot Schwarzenegger’s comeback. This could be Kim’s breakout.
6. The Fringe finale (January 18)
For more than four years, Fox found space on its schedule for the science-fiction series Fringe, which began as a freaky procedural, then evolved into an epic saga involving alternate universes and millennia-spanning clashes between different evolutions of humankind. The show has shed viewers year to year—and has made some bold storytelling choices that not all fans liked—but it’s held on to enough of an audience that it’s getting to end on its own terms, with a two-part finale that won’t have the baggage of the big revelations that have weighed down other high-profile science-fiction shows. Fringe has always been a show about how one strange family represents the best and worst of humanity, so people who’ve stuck with Fringe since September 2008 can look forward to an emotional finish, and a chance to say goodbye to some of the most memorable and loveable characters the genre has produced.
7. The Following (January 21)
The big headline on this Fox midseason show is that it’s the first time Kevin Bacon has starred in a TV series, but there’s so much more going on than that. First of all, there’s Kevin Williamson bringing his scary Scream aesthetic to the small screen, scaring audiences more with lighting and music than with blood and gore (though there’s more of the latter two than expected for a broadcast series). Then there’s the show’s conceit: It isn’t that world-weary former FBI agent Bacon is chasing yet again after his white whale, serial killer James Purefoy; it’s the obsessive “following” that the charming psychopath has been able to recruit all over the country, able to execute his style of murder while he sits in a jail cell. The intrigue of the show will be Bacon leaning on Purefoy to try to find and stop these followers, and the cat-and-mouse game the longtime nemeses will play in this chase.
8. The Americans (January 30)
The second season of Homeland caused great consternation around water coolers both real and virtual, so perhaps it’s time for another spy series with a rehabilitated female lead from a ’90s teen drama? Only this one will be about the Cold War, maybe? And focus on the Soviets? FX’s The Americans has built up a great deal of buzz, both for featuring Keri Russell—Felicity herself!—in a decidedly atypical role and for offering just the latest hooky cable-drama premise that will inevitably run out of steam somewhere in season two or three. This one—two Soviet secret agents pretend to be American citizens in the Ronald Reagan ’80s—offers an idea that should be fun for at least a while, as well as some of the “They don’t know what’s going to hit them” kick that drives Mad Men.
9-12. New Comedy Central series from Andy Daly, Nick Kroll, Amy Schumer, and Anthony Jeselnik (January-summer)
In a bid to swallow up all the funny people, Comedy Central went a little crazy in 2012 and ordered series from some of the funniest comics working today. Nick Kroll’s Kroll Show (January 16) is a sketch show built around filmed segments, using some of the characters he has created over the past few years. The Jeselnik Offensive (February 19) tees up Anthony Jeselnik’s skill as a twisted commentator using the week’s news and pop culture as fodder for him and a panel of two guests. Amy Schumer follows a couple months later with Inside Amy Schumer (April 30), which addresses issues from denial to threesomes through scripted vignettes, stand-up, and man-on-the-street interviews. Tig Notaro is one of the show’s writers, so it seems like a pretty safe bet. (Schumer is also doing a stand-up tour leading up to the series’ debut.) Finally, Andy Daly is one of the funniest people on the planet, and in Review With Forrest MacNeil, he plays a TV host who tries and reviews anything his audience suggests, from murder to stealing. Considering his delightfully dark album, 9 Sweaters, and his many appearances on Comedy Bang! Bang!, this should play to his strengths. It doesn’t yet have a première date, but it will air in the summer.
13. House Of Cards (February 1)
Before Arrested Development debuts and makes everyone go crazy, Netflix will makes its first big splash in series TV with this drama, produced by Kevin Spacey and David Fincher. Spacey and Robin Wright star as a congressman and his wife who will stop at nothing to get ahead in the greed-fueled, back-scratching, ruthless world of Washington, DC politics. The trailer Netflix put out for the show is so tantalizing, it almost has a flavor: Spacey hamming it up with a Southern accent, sliming his way into a Cabinet position however he can; Wright with her steely glare as his calculating wife; and a supporting cast that includes Kate Mara and Corey Stoll. Mix with Fincher’s relentlessly dark worldview, and it’s a political potboiler that will make Scandal look like the cartoon it is.
14. Frightened Rabbit’s Pedestrian Verse (February 5)
The Scottish sad-sacks in Frightened Rabbit are coming off a spectacular pair of albums in The Midnight Organ Fight and The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, and there’s no reason to think Pedestrian Verse will be any less downcast or fantastic than those two. In fact, there’s a pretty good reason to think it’ll be great: “State Hospital,” which was released in 2012 on an EP, will provide an anchor for the band’s fourth album, and it’s one of the strongest songs the Rabbits have ever put to tape.
15. Karen Russell’s Vampires In The Lemon Grove (February 12)
It’s hard not to see the Pulitzer-committee decision not to award a prize for fiction in 2012 as anything but a slap in the face to the monumental works by Denis Johnson, David Foster Wallace, and Karen Russell—in the latter case, her highly acclaimed debut novel, Swamplandia! Although she didn’t take that prize, she isn’t hurting from a lack of accolades. Her forthcoming second collection of short stories includes two Best American Short Stories selections—the title story in 2008 and “The Seagull Army Descends On Strong Beach, 1979” in 2010—and a third, “Proving Up,” won the 2012 National Magazine Award for Fiction. That’s a mighty reputable pedigree for a collection.
16. Zero Hour (February 14)
To be fair, we’re largely anticipating ABC’s new drama Zero Hour as a prime example of TV so bad that it becomes sort of endearing, like Happy Town or The Cape. Anthony Edwards stars as a man whose (much younger) wife is kidnapped, so he has to track down the people who did it, and of course it turns out she’s part of a global conspiracy that seems to focus exclusively on clock stores. It’s from Paul Scheuring, the man behind Prison Break, so there’s every expectation that this might be epically dumb TV. We’re just hoping the season finale concludes with Edwards frowning toward the camera and saying, “The villain is… the villain is clocks!”
17. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ Push The Sky Away (February 19)
Upon arrival in February, Push The Sky Away will be the first proper Bad Seeds release in five years. In the time between it and 2008’s great Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, the band has seen lineup changes, including the departure of founding member Mick Harvey, which promoted Warren Ellis to the spot of Cave’s chief musical collaborator. It’s also seen Cave expand (or spread himself thin) as a bit of a Renaissance man: novelist, screenwriter, Grinderman, etc. With the Grinderman records (and, in places, his most recent novel) Cave has proved to some wincing skeptics that he has a sense of humor. But let’s hope this Bad Seeds record is serious business, less concerned with smug middle-aged swagger and more focused on Cave, one of the best working songwriters (if not the best), performing at the peak of his talents, instead of at their limits.
18. Robyn Hitchcock’s Love From London (March 5)
Armed with another batch of loveably eccentric tunes about love, death, and fish and/or insects (we’re guessing), singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock is prepped to release his latest album for Yep Roc Records. Produced and engineered by Paul Noble, Love From London finds the British artist continuing to work with cellist/vocalist Jenny Adejayan, who also appeared on his 2009 album, Goodnight Oslo, but the tone of this effort seems a bit heavier than his previous outing. In announcing the album, Hitchcock said that Love From London “celebrates life in a culture imperiled by economic and environmental collapse,” adding, “We are surfing on the momentum of chaos. If a consensus on global warming comes from the people, then the media, the politicians, and the corporations will have to adapt to it.” Well, just as long as it’s catchy.
19. Oz The Great And Powerful (March 8)
In the last 40-odd years, attempts to update the magic of the L. Frank Baum books and the classic MGM musical based on them have provided some memorable fiction and a couple of hit Broadway musicals, but they’ve also resulted in a rotten TV miniseries with Zooey Deschanel and a couple of the least-loved movies of all time: Walter Murch’s commercial and critical disaster (and underground cult favorite) Return To Oz, and the movie version of The Wiz. Will this Sam Raimi film break the curse? Some people who bet against Raimi in the past now walk around wearing barrels with rope suspenders.
20. Low’s The Invisible Way (March 19)
It’s easy to take incredibly consistent bands for granted, especially when they’ve been around for two decades. Low, the Minnesota trio featuring husband-and-wife team Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, is celebrating the beginning of its third decade in style, with a 10th album. The Invisible Way shakes up the formula slightly, with help from producer Jeff Tweedy, who was in familiar environs—the Wilco loft—for the recording. That pairing should create something particularly special, so it’s a good time to start paying attention—either again, or for the first time.
21. Bioshock Infinite (March 26)
Bioshock was one of the best games to come out of the first decade of the 21st century; the canny mixture of brilliant production design, Objectivist satire, and involving, self-questioning gameplay made it hard to forget. Bioshock 2 was a credible follow up, but the real sequel fans have been hoping for is Bioshock Infinite. The game, which is neither a direct sequel nor a prequel to the original, replaces Randian philosophy with American exceptionalism, and Bioshock’s claustrophobic underwater world with a city in the sky, but the mechanics will be familiar to anyone used to flinging fire out of one hand and shooting tommy-guns with the other. The game was first announced back in 2010, and has suffered a host of delays since, but the latest release date looks (hopefully) solid, and the presence of designer Ken Levine behind the scenes all but guarantees that the end result will be worth the wait.
22. The Lords Of Salem (April 26)
Rob Zombie is one of the most exciting, frustrating genre filmmakers working today. He’s a horror specialist capable of creating astonishing, unforgettable images and a rich, tingling sense of dread, but his movies are so gummed-up with excessive, unfocused sadism that they can become grueling to sit through. The trailer for The Lords Of Salem has been out a while now, and it confirms that his new movie has the sense of dread and astonishing images in spades. Maybe he can take full flight now that he’s made a movie that isn’t about either his beloved Firefly family or shoehorning his visions into John Carpenter’s mold.
23. Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 (April 30)
After much teasing on his Twitter feed, horror author Joe Hill finally spilled the beans in late 2012 regarding his next novel, NOS4A2. Granted, that title is a pretty terrible play on “Nosferatu,” but it’s okay to give Hill a pass; with a track record like Heart-Shaped Box and Horns—not to mention scads of chilling short stories and his excellent comic-book series Locke & Key—there’s every reason to believe NOS4A2 will live up to expectations. The vaguely Clive Barker-ish synopsis already sounds tantalizing: the story of a psychic woman, a mysterious man with access to a supernatural world, and generations-spanning revenge.
24. New Black Sabbath album (April TBD)
Like some shambling monstrosity from a Black Sabbath song, Black Sabbath has mutated often throughout its 43-year existence. But the original lineup announced in 2012 that it would be reconvening for a new studio album—including Ozzy Osbourne, who declined the band’s 2006 reunion, which instead featured the late Ronnie James Dio and played under the name Heaven & Hell. Unfortunately, founding drummer Bill Ward has already backed out due to contractual disputes, but it’ll still be the first Osbourne-led Sabbath disc since 1978’s Never Say Die!, and with comeback king Rick Rubin at the helm, it promises to be majestically heavy. Or at least not totally embarrassing. That is, assuming it happens; this was on last year’s list, too.
25. Arrested Development season four (TBD spring)
For years after Arrested Development’s cancellation, the cry rang out across the Internet, directed at anyone with the money or clout to greenlight a movie version of the short-lived sitcom: “S.O.B.s!” (“Save our Bluths!”—there has got to be a better way to say that.) In fall 2011, those cries were finally answered, as creator Mitch Hurwitz teased a fourth season of the show, that teasing incited a Boy Fight/bidding war between Netflix and Hulu, and Netflix announced the imminent arrival of a fourth season of the series Fox couldn’t give away in 2006. And then: That all-too-familiar-to-fans silence, at least when it came to plot details and character updates for the 10 (now 12 to 15) episodes to come. Oh, there were casting announcements (Terry Crews! Isla Fisher! Carl Weathers!) to be made, but even the fourth season’s première date remains a mystery. And so the fans sit patiently waiting, Michael Bluth style, hoping Netflix doesn’t pull some “Happy Trails Pard’ner!” switcheroo and deny them everything they’ve always wanted.
26. Community holiday episodes (TBD spring)
After being stuck with a late-October première date, then dropped from NBC’s schedule indefinitely, and now pushed to February 7, the fourth season of Community was doomed before it began. Add to that Chevy Chase’s departure and a première that parodies Hunger Games more than 10 months after the film was released, and the whole thing looks a little like a disaster. But if there’s any silver lining in all the chaos, it’s knowing that come spring, Greendale and its fans will get a second chance to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, thanks to the show’s usually excellent, albeit anachronistic, holiday episodes. The episodes won’t get lost in the early-winter glut of cheer, instead hitting the dreary months of February and March. If the series can overcome the loss of Dan Harmon and reach the highs of its past holiday episodes, it’ll be the perfect burst of joy in the middle of the grimmest months. And if they fail, well, it’s not like that many people will be watching anyway.
27-28. Ray Donovan and Masters Of Sex (TBD spring)
Showtime has been carving a more interesting path in recent years than that time it got stuck in a long series of sitcoms about women from the suburbs who hid incredible secrets. (And hey, some of those shows were good!) Extended previews of both the network’s new drama series, the Hollywood fixer tale Ray Donovan and the sex-ed period piece Masters Of Sex, suggest that the network just might continue riding the high from Shameless and Homeland and not get bogged down by Showtime-itis, where a potentially good series is undone by quirk and an insistence on running until every last plot horse has been flogged. But hey, even if these shows suck, Liev Schreiber, Michael Sheen, and Lizzy Caplan will be on TV screens every week.
29. Save Me (TBD spring)
NBC is riding high after the fall season, which saw it land atop the Nielsen ratings for the 18-to-49-year-old demographic for the first time in almost a decade. Most of that stems from The Voice, but part of it is a result of the network’s willingness to come up with comedies that aim for common denominators slightly lower than the ones that brought the network a spate of critically acclaimed, abysmally rated comedies. So naturally, the network is following all that up with an Anne Heche star vehicle that’s… essentially a brighter, happier remake of HBO’s little-watched Enlightened? There’s little to no indication of how Save Me—about a woman who comes to believe she’s talking to God—got on the air, since it’s much, much quirkier than any of NBC’s other new shows, and it fits with precisely nothing on the network’s schedule. But the pilot has its moments, and there are hints this is a show with something to say, provided it isn’t swept away by a series about a talking car.
30. Iron Man 3 (May 3)
With the big, shiny promise of The Avengers come and gone, the Iron Man film franchise will be the first to try and regain its solo feet, but that shouldn’t be too hard: These movies have been the strongest in the Marvel Comics line. And while franchise director Jon Favreau stepping aside for other work would normally be a dire development, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang writer-director Shane Black is replacing him, so there’s every reason to believe the latest film will maintain the fast pace and tight banter of the previous two. Also a bonus: Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. And on top of that, the first trailer promises a lot of grimness to go with the whiz-bang.
31. The Last Of Us (May 7)
After completing the Uncharted trilogy, developer Naughty Dog announced this new post-apocalyptic game at the end of 2011. Much as with Bioshock Infinite, players control a male protagonist (Joel) who works with an AI-controlled female protagonist (Ellie). But the similarities end there. The Last Of Us takes place in a world in which a parasitic fungus has killed millions, overtaken cities and towns, and forced the military to impose martial law. As Joel, you must find Ellie (for story reasons not yet revealed) and maximize limited resources in order to evade the military, non-infected scavengers, and the “Infected.” Popular culture’s appetite for zombie-laced entertainment has yet to be slaked, so look for this title and its “dynamic stealth”-based gameplay to be a hot commodity come spring.
32. Star Trek: Into Darkness (May 17)
The 2009 Star Trek reboot was one of the happiest surprises of J.J. Abrams’ career, and some of the projects he’s been involved in since then would have only been improved by the presence of Zachary Quinto with pointy ears. All the regulars from the pretty-great cast of the first one are back, and with Benedict Cumberbatch as the bad guy, the only challenge may be deciding who to root for. There used to be a common agreement among fans that every even-numbered Trek movie was a good one, and this is technically the 12th, so it’s already been scientifically determined that this is gonna rock. Just don’t spoil it by revisiting the (even-numbered) one with the whale.
33-34. Stephen King’s Joyland (June 4) and Doctor Sleep (September 24)
Stephen King has been on a solid run lately: Between his time-travel opus 11/22/63 in 2011 and his brief return to the world of the Dark Tower, The Wind Through The Keyhole, in 2012, he’s as prolific as ever, and more importantly, turning out some terrific, exciting work. 2013 will tell whether the streak continues, as King looks to release two new novels within six months of each other. Joyland, a paperback published under the Hard Case Crime imprint (King’s novel The Colorado Kid was one of the publisher’s first books), is about a young man spending the summer working at an amusement park and finding mysteries, presumably unsettling ones; Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining, follows an adult Danny Torrance as he faces off against a group of psychic vampires. Both could be brilliant; either could be terrible. But King has earned some more-than-cautious optimism.
35. Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (June 7)
Fans of Joss Whedon’s TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse (as well as the Avengers movie) will be the target audience for his thrown-together take on William Shakespeare, shot quickly in black and white in Whedon’s sunny Southern California home. The movie is a faithful, though abridged, production of Much Ado About Nothing, enacted by a cast of Whedon regulars and youngsters who aren’t, overall, the strongest Shakesperean actors ever assembled. But as Whedonites who caught the film at the Toronto Film Festival this past fall will attest, it’s fun to watch the likes of Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Nathan Fillion, Tom Lenk, Alexis Denisof, and (especially) Amy Acker work through a story about the woe that ensues when a visiting rogue besmirches a young lady’s reputation. The pleasure they take in playing these roles fits Shakespeare’s theme about the various parts people play in romance.
36. Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (June 18)
The wait for the follow-up to 2006’s Anansi Boys—Neil Gaiman’s last solo novel for adults—has seemed interminable to his cult-like legion of fans. Luckily, Gaiman seems to be happy to indulge his followers lately: He’s also writing a new prequel miniseries installment of the comic book that made him famous, Sandman. His new novel, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, doesn’t seem to tie directly into any of his existing work, but the premise is hardcore, undiluted Gaiman: He describes it as “a novel of childhood and memory. It’s a story of magic, about the power of stories and how we face the darkness inside each of us. It’s about fear, and love, and death, and families.”
37. Christopher Priest’s The Adjacent (June 20)
Although best known for The Prestige, the novel that inspired the film of the same name, British author Christopher Priest has long been one of the most singular and restless voices in science fiction and fantasy. He began writing his upcoming novel, The Adjacent, before starting his most recent one, the stunning The Islanders—but then he moved it to the back burner, so he could write the stage play of The Prestige. Priest has spilled few details so far about The Adjacent, other than, “It’s the longest, most complicated book I have written. Nothing whatever I can say about it now would make sense, to me or anyone else.” Coming from Priest, that can only mean a head-spinning tale of the highest order.
38. Monsters University (June 21)
If there’s one thing Pixar isn’t used to, it’s a creative cold streak. Brave wasn’t unsuccessful, it just wasn’t the return to form that was expected from a feature showcasing the studio’s first female protagonist. Pixar created one of the best sequels ever in Toy Story 2, but its 100-percent positive streak ended in flames with the infuriating, Larry The Cable Guy-centric Cars 2. Pete Docter’s first film since Up is a long-gestating prequel to the miraculously imaginative Monsters, Inc., reuniting the stellar voice cast for the story of how Mike and Sulley started as rivals in a college fraternity and eventually became friends. Though the familiar story may raise some eyebrows, Docter more than deserves another chance to dig around in this world for something unexpected.
39. World War Z (June 21)
The long-awaited adaptation of Max Brooks’ bestselling zombie-apocalypse novel sustained numerous rewrites, financial difficulties, and reports of a troubled shoot, but it proved as hard to kill as, well, a zombie, and it’s finally set to see the light of day. The first trailer has fans of the novel livid about the liberties taken in bringing the book to screen, but when doesn’t that happen? The same trailer offers a glimpse of the ambitious scope and some serious action scenes that suggest every penny of its $125-million-plus budget will be up there on the screen, making it the most epic zombie movie ever made. Those weird, army-ant-style zombies might offend purists, but at the very least, they’re bringing a new twist to a genre that desperately needs it.
40. Pacific Rim (July 12)
Guillermo Del Toro spends so much time these days producing films, consulting on films, mentoring promising young directors, and getting attached to projects he then has to leave (like The Hobbit) that the prospect of a new Del Toro-directed film often seems like a snipe: something the entertainment industry makes up to find out who’s gullible enough to chase it. Pacific Rim is the first film Del Toro has directed since 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and the trailer looks extremely promising, at least for people who enjoy summer spectaculars and the prospect of giant monsters fighting giant remote-controlled mecha warriors. The trailer makes it look more than a little like Cloverfield Except With A Gigantic Budget, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that; it also looks a little like Transformers Except Directed By Someone Who Isn’t A Crazy Asshat, which sounds like a summer-movie ideal. The only potential reason for caution: Screenwriter Travis Beacham was one of the writers behind Clash Of The Titans. Which may explain Idris Elba in the trailer bellowing, “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!” in his best Zeus-releasing-the-Kraken voice.
41. The end of Breaking Bad (summer)
Eight episodes. That’s all that’s left in the story of Walter White, the once-mild-mannered chemistry teacher who turned a cancer diagnosis into an excuse to start a drug empire. Over four and a half seasons, showrunner Vince Gilligan and his writing team have managed to subvert, overturn, and transcend audience expectations. Along with the show’s cast, they’ve created some of the most indelible characters on television: Walter, his tormented wife Skyler, his hapless protégé Jesse, and his trusting brother-in-law Hank. All of them will be leaving TV screens for good this summer, and given how the first half of season five ended a few months ago, the end is bound to be bloody, devastating, and grimly hilarious. We’ll hate to see the show go, but we’ll love to watch it leave.
42. The end of Locke & Key: Omega (summer)
Joe Hill hasn’t had a new novel out since Horns hit shelves in 2010, but he’s kept busy. In addition to the novel NOS4A2 (see above) coming out in April, Hill has been scripting the terrific ongoing horror comic Locke & Key, which finishes its final chapter this summer. The series follows the adventures of the Locke family and their struggles to overcome family tragedy, occasional horrific violence, and a set of magical keys with the power to alter reality in bizarre, mind-bending ways. Hill’s knack for deft characterization and shocking, well-constructed plotting is as strong in comic-book form as it is in prose, and Gabriel Rodriguez’s art manages to squeeze every last scrap of pathos and terror from each panel. Omega, the final miniseries, begins with a villain on the cusp of victory, and the heroes none the wiser. There’s no question that everything’s about to get much worse before it gets better, and Hill and Rodriguez make sure readers sweat every page.
43. Elysium (August 9)
For Americans, South African writer-director Neill Blomkamp pretty much came out of nowhere in 2009 with his film debut, the smart, brutal, low-budget science-fiction mockumentary District 9. The film used actual aliens as metaphors for immigrants, showcasing the cultural and legal divide between haves and have-nots through a discomfiting, creepy adventure. Blomkamp is back with a new science-fiction scenario with similar themes; this time, it’s 2159 and part of the earth’s population lives on a paradisiacal space station, while the rest suffer on a wrecked and abandoned earth below, and try to make it to the station. The plot, which centers on another government official who has his eyes opened by circumstances, sounds similar to District 9, but that film was so well crafted and well thought-through that there’s every reason to give this one the benefit of the doubt.
44. Untitled Joss Whedon S.H.I.E.L.D. series (TBD fall)
After Joss Whedon’s ascent to the top of the Hollywood mountain in the wake of The Avengers’ success, fans of the quirky maker of doomed-to-fail genre TV feared he might leave the medium that first garnered him the intense love of said fandom. Instead, he’s bringing the world that made him famous to the small screen. TV has been crying out for a good series set in a superhero world—without actually being about superheroes—for a while now, and while the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may not be the most exciting setup for a series, Whedon knows his way around an ensemble drama. For this one, he’s assembled a great cast (Clark Gregg! Ming Na!) and great writers. (Jed Whedon! Maurissa Tancharoen!) Maybe ABC won’t pick it up, but that seems incredibly unlikely.
45. The World’s End (October 25)
The latest from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright sounds more than a little like a Neil Gaiman-influenced riff on Wright’s breakout film, Shaun Of The Dead. Like Shaun, The World’s End was co-written by Simon Pegg, who stars as a 40-year-old pushing his friends to re-enact a pub-crawl from their youth, which somehow puts them in a save-the-world scenario as they attempt to reach the eponymous bar. (Which also happens to be the name of a Sandman collection, which is set around a supernatural bar called Worlds’ End.) Details are scant this early out, but Wright’s films are always lively, smart, deeply invested, and just plain fun.
46. Ender’s Game (November 1)
Stuck in development hell seemingly since the mid-’90s, an adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s seminal science-fiction novel Ender’s Game is a property practically guaranteed to disappoint its fans. Director Gavin Hood isn’t exactly the most reliable helmsman for a big-time property at the moment, but landing a cast including Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, and Hailee Steinfeld is a positive sign. A futuristic science-fiction film about kids learning to command a space army against alien invaders may not have mass appeal, but highly devoted fans will scrutinize every frame.
47. The Counselor (November 15)
Whether the words “new Ridley Scott movie” mean anything to you probably hinges on what you thought of Prometheus. But forget Ridley Scott. The real buzz behind The Counselor is Cormac McCarthy, who penned the screenplay (his first). The film follows a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who gets involved in drug trafficking; it’ll be interesting to see how McCarthy’s sensibility translates to the screen, especially given the stark, frequently cinematic quality of his writing.
48. Catching Fire (November 22)
Gary Ross’ faithful-almost-to-a-fault adaptation of the first book of blockbuster YA series The Hunger Games was the third-highest-grossing film of 2012, so it stands to reason that the sequel will do well—especially since the second book, Catching Fire, reprises a good chunk of the plot of The Hunger Games. But some things are different this time around, namely new director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), the addition of Philip Seymour Hoffman in a key role, and a shift from the first movie’s forest-bound setting to a different, potentially more cinematic natural environment. Depending on how Catching Fire handles the book’s arresting climax and the addition of two fan-favorite characters, Finnick Odair and Johanna Mason (played by Sam Claflin and Jena Malone, respectively), the second film could easily outpace the first, and set the table for the very different third/fourth installment, the two-part Mockingjay.
49. Missy Elliott, Block Party (TBD)
2012 turned out to be a bit of a tease for Missy Elliott fans anticipating the rapper-producer’s long-gestating follow-up to 2005’s The Cookbook: In spite of the release of a couple of promising online-only singles, “Triple Threat” and “9th Inning,” in September, the album—called Block Party, for now—has been frustratingly elusive, slipping from projected release date to projected release date without sticking to any of them. Elliott has been hyping Block Party in some form or another since 2009, and she’s cycled through a couple of rosters of promised collaborators in that time (though the only one that seems like a lock is her longtime partner Timbaland), so the mystery surrounding the album has been sufficiently built; now it’s time to release the damn thing. Assuming this doesn’t become Elliott’s Detox, it seems reasonable to hope for a full album in 2013: Since ducking out of the industry for a while to get a handle on her Graves’ disease, Elliott has said she has her symptoms under control and is ready for her return to music. So are we.
50. Inside Llewyn Davis (TBD)
Any new Joel and Ethan Coen film is bound to be one of the year’s cinematic events, but what little has been revealed about 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis makes it sound like something really special. The movie is reportedly set in the early-’60s New York folk scene, and is being shot with a retro documentary feel. It also features a lot of original music—much of it recorded live. Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and old Coen favorite John Goodman all star in the film, which shot last year and might be ready in time for Cannes (though it doesn’t have any official release date or U.S. distributor at the moment). The Coens are masters of era pastiche, so the prospect of them exploring Greenwich Village in the Dave Van Ronk/Bob Dylan/Phil Ochs era is thrilling to anticipate.
51. New Arcade Fire album (TBD)
Arcade Fire has nothing left to prove: By following their own muse, the members of the sprawling Canadian band have become arena-rockers—in that they can fill arenas. But their music has remained inspiring and intriguing, though rarely reaching the highs of their debut, 2004’s Funeral. The band’s management has confirmed that it’s working with LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy, though in what capacity—Is he a producer? guest? masseuse?—nobody is ready to admit. The Suburbs was a bit of a letdown, so here’s hoping, with full optimism, that Arcade Fire knocks this one out of the park.
52. Grand Theft Auto V (TBD)
With the first new game in the series since 2008’s Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar Games looks to close out the current console generation with what it promises will be the largest open-world environment in the series’ history. This game moves the action from Liberty City to Los Santos, meaning a return to the world of San Andreas for the first time in nearly a decade. This game is purportedly so big that it will feature three playable protagonists, tripling the number available for an out-of-box release. Each character brings a backstory and expertise level to the proceedings, yielding an interconnected series of missions that sometimes requires players to switch between characters within missions to complete objectives. Writing has always been a hallmark of the series, but it will be interesting to see whether GTA V follows in the more realistic footprints of its immediate predecessor, or looks to recreate the more over-the-top action of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Either way, we can’t wait for a hard release date to finally be announced.
53-54. Comedy specials from Kumail Nanjiani and Pete Holmes (TBD)
Recorded back-to-back in Austin in late 2012, the upcoming hourlong Comedy Central specials from these two excellent comics (who happen to be very good friends) are set to showcase their shared, wide-eyed optimism. Nanjiani is a master at slicing through what others find terrifying—his bit on the street drug “cheese” went viral on This American Life—and mirroring that demented fear in a way that gently mocks. Holmes is giddy with delight at simple things, like magic tricks and the repetition of the phrase, “Get some beers, Pierce!”, and he ramps up his frustration when others don’t take part in these simple joys. Both have made names for themselves on niche-specific podcasts: Nanjiani co-hosts the videogame show The Indoor Kids with his wife, writer-producer Emily Gordon; Holmes hosts You Made It Weird, the source for all things deeply psychologically unsettling, or failing that, all things Pete Holmes. But stand-up is where they can express point-blank hope that the world is a better place than we’ve made it out to be, and the one-two punch of these specials will brighten even the staunchest pessimist.
55. Lev Grossman’s untitled Magician King sequel (TBD)
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and The Magician King were each among the best books of the years they were released. Since those years were 2009 and 2011 and Grossman has confirmed he’s working on a closing chapter to the fantasy trilogy, it seems likely the final book will be out this year, but as of yet, nothing official (beyond a handful of rumors, including a rumored title of The Magicians’ Road) has been released. Here’s hoping the book lives up to the first two chapters in the trilogy and brings the adventures of the morose, abandoned Quentin to a fitting end.
56. Untitled Double Fine graphic adventure game (TBD)
It was the post that ate Kickstarter. Tim Schaefer and Ron Gilbert, two of the minds behind some of the greatest adventure games of all time, including The Secret Of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, announced that they were hoping to secure funding from prospective fans to make a new adventure game. Their fundraising drive blew past its initial goal, then sauntered off into the millions. Since then, there’s been little word on what the game will be or what it’s even about, but the project missed its first prospective release date of late 2012, thanks to the need to build a new game engine. It seems likely, however, that 2013 will see the release of the game, which shouldn’t be that difficult to program once the engine is in place.
57. Behind The Candelabra (TBD)
This HBO biopic starring Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover Scott Thorson was originally set to go a few years ago, but the production had to be postponed while Douglas was kicking cancer’s ass, which he did, because you don’t know Michael Douglas if you think a little thing like a close brush with mortality is going to take the role of Liberace out of his hands. Is the behind-the-scenes talent—with Steven Soderbergh directing Richard LaGravenese’s adaptation of Thorson’s tell-all book—about as good as it can be? Yes. Does the whole project still sound kind of crazy? Yeah.
58. Untitled Phil Spector biopic (TBD)
This much-whispered-about HBO film, directed and written by David Mamet, starring Al Pacino as Spector and Helen Mirren and Jeffrey Tambor as his lawyers, would set off alarm bells if Pacino’s best screen performance of the last eight or nine years hadn’t been his Dr. Kevorkian in the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack. Here’s hoping that, with the right creative team surrounding him, he’ll rein in his hammier impulses and rise to the occasion to give a serious performance as a pop-culture hero turned murderous, squalid lost soul.
59. Hello Ladies (TBD)
In recent years, Stephen Merchant has spent so much time sitting next to Ricky Gervais and waiting for his next chance to laugh appreciatively at whatever devastatingly vicious thing is about to come out of the Great One’s mouth that it’s easy to forget that he has his own comedy career, and there was a time when he was pretty good at it. So it’s nice that he finally has his own deal with HBO to star in his own comedy series, which, like his stand-up special of the same name, will focus on his character’s frustrating love life. Happily, it does not appear that any of the women he hits on will be played by Ricky Gervais in drag.
60. Amicus (TBD)
Usually the loglines of Richard Kelly movies are interesting enough: A boy must save the world from cataclysm after a jet engine crashed through his bedroom, a mysterious box changes the lives of a boring couple, uh… whatever Southland Tales is about. But the setup for Amicus, Kelly’s latest, seems tamer, yet enticing: Nicolas Cage (enticing) plays a First Amendment scholar (tame) hired to consult on a murder involving a book called Hit Man: A Technical Manual For Independent Contractors that played a key role in a true-crime murder (enticing). Variety announced the project in September, following the unraveling of Kelly’s Corpus Christi. Whether Amicus will see the light of day at all is up in the air. But if it does come together, it’ll be interesting to see what Kelly—a director whose earned his chops in the fucking-with-the-audience department—can do with a more conventional thriller.
61. The Phantom Pain (TBD)
Ever since it was announced at the Spike Video Game Awards, certain quarters of the Internet have been asking, “What the hell is The Phantom Pain?” The general feeling is that it’s a smoke-and-mirrors routine covering up the release of Metal Gear Solid V. Conspiracy theories abound, and will continue to abound, likely until the game is released. Even if The Phantom Pain doesn’t see a release in 2013, just tracking all the theories surrounding the title is something to look forward to in 2013.
62-64. Ghostface Killah/DOOM/Dr. Dre’s Madvillainy 2, Detox, and Swift & Changeable (TBD)
In one of hip-hop’s most annoying new traditions, every year, fans eagerly anticipate the long-awaited releases of Dr. Dre’s follow-up to 2001, a fabled album-length collaboration between simpatico eccentric geniuses DOOM and Ghostface Killah, and a sequel to Madlib and DOOM’s 2004 masterpiece, Madvilllainy. And every year, those albums fail to materialize for mysterious reasons. The endlessly delayed release of Dr. Dre’s Detox has largely been attributed to the producer’s legendary perfectionist tendencies and an eagerness to match the high standards established by his previous solo albums, and now that he’s made a fortune from the sale of his Beats By Dre headphones, he has even less of a financial incentive to make 2013 the year Detox finally sees the light of day. DOOM is much more prolific than Dre—hell, just about everyone is more prolific than Dre—but not when it comes to finally releasing a proper Madvillainy sequel or completing his collaborative album with Ghostface Killah (reportedly titled Swift & Changeable, though heaven knows what it will be called if and when it ever comes out). Will 2013 be the year we finally stop wishing and actually get to hear Detox, Swift & Changeable, and Madvillainy 2? Heaven knows, but don’t be surprised to see this entry appear in next year’s installment of this column as well.
Should we be anticipating these things? Every year, we assemble a list of things we’re looking forward to. Some meet our high expectations. Some don’t. And some don’t come out at all. This year, we put together a Most Anticipated Entertainment 2012 scoresheet, so everyone can see whether our prognostications from one year ago worked out.