Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Photo: Jeff Daly/FX), The X-Files (Photo: Shane Harvey/Fox), and 2 Dope Queens (Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images for Vulture Festival)

The A.V. Club tells you what to watch in 2018

The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Photo: Jeff Daly/FX), The X-Files (Photo: Shane Harvey/Fox), and 2 Dope Queens (Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images for Vulture Festival)

You can turn off your TV—or whatever device you’re using to watch TV these days—but TV is always on, as evidenced by the number of new and returning series that have already premiered in the early days of 2018. Here’s what The A.V. Club is looking forward to in the new year, from eagerly awaited second helpings and unexpected returns to promising new arrivals and tearful departures.

The X-Files, season 11 (Fox, Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET)

You’re allowed a helping of skepticism following The X-Files’ 10th season, a creatively disappointing endeavor whose ratings success nonetheless promised that Chris Carter and company would get another chance to give their groundbreaking science-fiction series the follow-up it deserved. That, plus the irritating cliffhanger that stranded FBI Special Agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) beneath the beam of a UFO, the resolution of which in the season-11 premiere may prove to be a greater test of faith for the diehards. But despair not: The four episodes that follow provide ample evidence for believing in The X-Files once more, aided by some narrative slyness that creates a stronger spark between the alien-conspiracy bookends and the monster-of-the-week installments playing out between them. (It can’t hurt that there’s more real estate to play around in: Season 11 will run 10 episodes to last season’s six.) Familiar faces like Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens), and at least one of The Lone Gunmen factor into Mulder and Scully’s search for their long-lost son, William, but they’ll be missing one significant player if the show returns for a 12th season: Anderson has indicated that this will be her last season of The X-Files. At least her farewell tour is getting off on the right foot. [Erik Adams]

The Chi (Showtime, Sundays at 10 p.m. ET)

Chicago’s South Side finally gets its due courtesy of Lena Waithe’s The Chi, an hour-long drama that explores all of the elements that make up life in the redlined region (which is woefully underserved by the city’s actual Red Line train service). Waithe’s sweeping approach is bound to earn comparisons to The Wire even before Sonja Sohn, who plays a grieving mother, appears on screen. The multiple storylines sprawl out to touch on police corruption, a devastated infrastructure, and the insidious drug trade. But more than any other Second City showrunner, Waithe knows the area’s residents are more than statistics. Dope director Rick Famuyiwa helms the pilot, which is a bold introduction to a previously unseen world. The first half of the series might be too ambitious for its own good, but that just means the payoff could make this one of the best new series of the year. [Danette Chavez]

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman (Netflix, January 12)

The fact that David Letterman’s retirement coincided with the rise of Donald Trump—a “big and doughy” lump of a target he’d mocked roundly for decades, including right to his face—has been lamented by many, not least of them Letterman himself. In a series of candid interviews last year, Letterman reminded viewers of how much his wry, caustic wit has been missed—even if the current crop of late-night hosts are all direct descendants—even if he hasn’t exactly missed being chained to a studio. His new hour-long Netflix series solves both problems: It consists of pre-taped field segments taped out in the wild, as well as in-depth interviews, only some of which will be recorded in front of an audience, with guests that are rumored to include Barack Obama and Malala Yousafzai. If that roster is any indication, or Letterman’s recent, repeated insistence that he only wants to make work that can help people, or even his Gandalfian beard, his new series will be a tad more serious-minded than we’ve seen from the guy who gave us Stupid Human Tricks. But it will still mark a welcome return from America’s most beloved wiseass, right when we need it the most. [Sean O’Neal]

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (Amazon, January 12)

Right about now, many of you are likely finishing up the new season of Black Mirror and wishing there were more programs like it out there—and that might have been the exact pitch that got Amazon to sign up for this show. Somehow, between Outlander and his new space-race drama for Apple, Battlestar Galactica writer-producer Ron D. Moore found time to create this new anthology series based on the writings of Philip K. Dick. Besides Moore, what excites us is the murderers’ row of talent that came together both behind and in front of the screen to bring these sci-fi tales to life: Directors like Alan Taylor and Dee Rees, writers such as Matthew Graham (and Moore himself), and starring folks like Bryan Cranston, Steve Buscemi, Holliday Grainger, Liam Cunningham, and more. Bleak, technologically warped futures may feel a bit on the nose in 2018, but there’s a reason the power of Dick’s storytelling has never really fallen out of style for decades at this point. His stories reflect unusual truths back at us, all while delivering potent narratives and idiosyncratic characters, the better to remind of what a strange world we already inhabit. [Alex McLevy]

Corporate (Comedy Central, January 17)

In the universe-mastering, profit-gobbling tradition of Omni Consumer Products and Weyland-Yutani comes Hampton DeVille, the type of dystopian mega-conglomerate that makes Amazon look like a mom-and-pop operation. Specifically, it looks like someone set the maliciously sunny branding of Better Off Ted’s Veridian Dynamics loose within the florescent-bleached, asymmetrically framed hallways of Mr. Robot’s E Corp. Which is to say Hampton DeVille is a properly grim, satirical reflection of our current cultural and economic moment, seen in Corporate through the bleary eyes of two junior-executives-in-training: Ladder-climbing Jake (Jake Weisman) and clinging-to-the-last-shreds-of-his-soul Matt (Matt Ingebretson). They’re drones in a swarm buzzing with sycophants, all-star supporting players like Aparna Nancherla and Baron Vaughn, and a CEO played by a devilish Lance Reddick, all building a hive of deadpan and non sequitur that’s stranger and more cutthroat than the average comedy of workplace drudgery. And it’s all brought to you by Hampton DeVille, which would like to take a moment to remind you of its slogan: “We Make Everything.” [Erik Adams]

The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX, January 17)

How did Ryan Murphy and the American Crime Story team ever think they could follow up The People V. O.J. Simpson with anything other than The Assassination Of Gianni Versace? So much of what made O.J. 2016’s show of the year is on display here: a headline-grabbing tragedy, true-crime-lit source material, an indictment of prejudiced law enforcement, an award-winning actor whose performance lifts a public figure out of her eternal state of media caricature. And The Assassination Of Gianni Versace aims to do all of this on a more sustainable scale than Katrina—once planned as American Crime Story’s second installment, now slated to be its third. If anything, Tom Rob Smith’s adaptation of Maureen Orth’s Vulgar Favors is even more human-sized than The People V. O.J. Simpson, telling the tales of two men—fashion designer Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramírez) and serial killer Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss)—on parallel tracks of fame and notoriety, their individual struggles with personal ambitions and demons ultimately meeting in catastrophe on the steps of Versace’s South Beach villa. Criss’ chilly, chameleonic work as Cunanan is the best of his career; in her poignant portrayal of Donatella Versace, Penélope Cruz gives Ramírez’s character both a foil and a confidant, and gives Emmy voters reason to pay attention. [Erik Adams]

The Alienist (TNT, January 22)

This TNT adaptation has a lot going for it: Cary Fukunaga as executive producer; Black Mirror alum Jakob Verbruggen as EP and director; Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans, and Daniel Brühl in the cast; and the full confidence of the network, if the huge promotional push is any indication. But The Alienist also has some unique challenges, namely, its title—few people who haven’t read Caleb Carr’s book or 19th-century psychology texts know what an alienist is—and several underwhelming interpretations in the past. But under Fukunaga’s stewardship, The Alienist enlivens even the stodgiest mental health discussions; the one-time True Detective showrunner has created something as thrilling as David Fincher’s Mindhunter. Fanning, who’s made the move from child actor to more dramatic fare, is a standout, showing Peggy Carter’s poise in staring down danger and the patriarchy. And if it keeps up the momentum, The Alienist could prove as successful a reimagining of an “unfilmable” text as Starz’s American Gods. [Danette Chavez]

One Day At A Time (Netflix, January 26)

This reboot from Norman Lear, Gloria Calderon Kellet, and Mike Royce charmed Netflix viewers in its first outing with its smart blend of emotion and comedy. And just like Lydia (Rita Moreno) during her morning salsa routine, One Day At A Time hasn’t lost a step. Season two will see everyone in the multigenerational family doing some growing up, whether it’s Alex (Marcel Ruiz) dealing with racism and xenophobia, newly-out Elena (Isabella Gómez) scouting job and relationship opportunities, or Penelope (Justina Machado, as radiant as ever) dealing with the heartbreak of divorce. The new episodes continue to skimp on the schmaltz, so expect the same joyous balance of the political and the personal, with a couple of family dance breaks—yes, including Schneider (Todd Grinnell), whose new iteration has learned to keep his hands to himself—in between. [Danette Chavez]

A.P. Bio (NBC, February 1)

Following in the footsteps of Kaitlin Olson and The Mick—but without the set of tracks leading back to Paddy’s—Glenn Howerton ventures forth from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, playing a former philosophy professor, Jack Griffin, whose plunge from the ivory tower ends in a high school classroom in Toledo, Ohio. In a cliché-shirking opening address for the ages, he informs his newfound students that he has no intention to form lasting bonds with them or even teach them the titular subject matter, and the caustically funny show follows suit, molding itself around Jack’s plan to get revenge on his nemesis and swipe his cushy Stanford job. It’d all smack of a broadcast-network attempt to do Vice Principals if it weren’t for the absurdist stylings of creator Mike O’Brien, the fellow faculty members with whom Jack’s treading water (who include Patton Oswalt, Jean Villepique, and Niecy Nash), and the Advanced Placement dorks who are genuinely there to learn. Instead, it’s a promising branching-out for a comedic talent who spent the last 12 years hanging around the same dingy bar. [Erik Adams]

2 Dope Queens (HBO, February 2)

Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson have been poised to take over the comedy world for a couple of years now, and that conquest continues apace with the debut of four hour-long 2 Dope Queens specials on HBO. Based on the duo’s popular podcast, each episode of 2 Dope Queens will feature Williams and Robinson discussing life, love, and Keanu with celebrity guests like Uzo Aduba, Tituss Burgess, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Williams’ old Daily Show boss Jon Stewart, before welcoming a series of stand-up comedians hand-picked by the 2 Dope Queens crew. Tig Notaro directs all four themed episodes, which include “New York,” “Hair,” “Black Nerds (a.k.a. Blerds),” and, last but not least, “Hot Peen.” Yaas, Khaleesi. [Katie Rife]

UnREAL, season three (Lifetime, February 26)

UnREAL’s first season hit with a blast of originality, using its reality-TV setting to examine the politics of a show like The Bachelor (barely veiled as Everlasting). Given the female-heavy show UnREAL mimics, much of the heart and drama appropriately comes from the complicated relationship between crafty producer Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and her shameless showrunner boss, Quinn (Constance Zimmer). Despite a few missteps, plot-wise, season two was even bolder than the first, which gives us every reason to expect another epic battle of wills in season three. The stage has been set for Rachel to execute a coup and take over the show, but there’s also plenty of external threats that could force Quinn and Rachel to team up—including the intriguing new Bachelorette who’s too smart to manipulate. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

Good Girls (NBC, February 26) 

Continuing the welcome trend toward more female-focused efforts, this new NBC series features three excellent actors long overdue for lead roles: Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Mae Whitman (Parenthood), and Retta (Parks And Rec). The three play energetically off of each other as suburban moms who are all at the end of their respective ropes: Beth (Hendricks) has an adulterous husband (Matthew Lillard) who lost all their money; Annie (Whitman) is a grocery store clerk who’s about to lose custody of her son; and Ruby (Retta) has a sick child that needs an expensive medication. Their communal desperation leads them to take matters into their own hands and start a crime spree, which—to no one’s surprise—gets them in even deeper over their heads. Showrunner Jenna Bans is a Grey’s Anatomy vet whose first show, The Family, was a convoluted but somewhat entertaining mess; her sophomore effort may fare better thanks to the considerable charm of these three badass leads. [Gwen Ihnat]

Atlanta, season two (FX, March 1)

Donald Glover and his two Emmys (Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
Donald Glover and his two Emmys (Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Like its fellow members of the class of 2016, American Crime Story and Westworld, Atlanta took a gap year in 2017. Those 365 days still had plenty in store for Atlanta creator and star Donald Glover, though, busy as he was hopping aboard the Millennium Falcon, making Emmy history, popping up in Spider-Man: Homecoming, being crowned Lion King, writing Saturday Night Live sketches for Chance The Rapper, and re-teaming up with his brother and Atlanta collaborator Stephen to sell an animated Deadpool series to FXX. And all the while he’s been dropping tantalizing hints about how the second tour around Earn Marks’ hometown might take shape, hoping for “a way better show, and more cohesive,” and telling Billboard,

“I don’t want to give people the slow drip of the same thing. That’s what people pay for now: ‘Just give me that thing over and over again.’” He grins. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think you want that.’”

Whatever, dude: As long as season two—officially subtitled Atlanta Robbin’ Season—contains at least a modicum of season one’s woozy surreality, or continues to provide weekly spotlights for Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz to show why they’re one of the finest casts on TV, we’re in. Just don’t make us wait so long for season three. [Erik Adams]

Hard Sun (Hulu, March 7)

“A little weird can go a long way,” is how we put our request for more unusual, high-concept television in 2018, and it looks like Hard Sun might be answering the call. A co-production between Hulu and the BBC, the series at first glance looks like just another mismatched cop drama between an upright newbie (Agyness Deyn) and grizzled vet (Jim Sturgess). But creator Neil Cross (the man who gave us Luther and the primary reason for our heightened expectations) throws in a blockbuster-style wrinkle: The two stumble upon secret intel detailing an extinction-level event that might wipe out humanity five years from now. It adds a web of conspiracy and ticking-clock adrenaline to the story, as well as a nice hat tip informing us just how long the show will ideally run. It’s exactly the sort of “little weird” to keep a fresh spin on the otherwise moldering idea of another cop drama. [Alex McLevy]

Jessica Jones, season two (Netflix, March 8)

Jessica Jones wrapped up its first season with Jessica (Krysten Ritter) in a giant, violent showdown against the evil, powerful mind-manipulator Kilgrave (David Tennant), who she managed to outsmart and defeat (but not before putting Luke Cage [Mike Colter] and her sister, Patsy [Rachael Taylor], in grave danger). After being released for Kilgrave’s murder, the former superhero then re-enters her private-investigation office, which is where we presume season two picks up and what it focuses on. The nebulous season-two trailer unfortunately doesn’t tell us much, but promo pictures with the ostensibly-dead Kilgrave are confusing: Flashbacks? Or does he still just exist in her head? Much as that would suck for Jessica, we kind of hope he’s still around, because David Tennant’s over-the-top villainous performance was always a blast to witness. [Gwen Ihnat]

Roseanne, season 10 (ABC, March 27)

The Roseanne revival justifies its existence for one big reason: Undoing what used to be the show’s final season, a sitcom fever dream in which the blue-collar Conners of Lanford, Illinois hit the big time, only for that development—and nearly every detail of the show that came before it—to be revealed as a fiction within a fiction. Longstanding relationships were scrambled, Conner husband Dan (John Goodman) was killed off, and a big mess of last-minute reversals were left behind to be waved away by this nine-episode 10th season. How committed was the production to restoring Roseanne to its former, shabby glory? Nearly all of the principals returned, the original sets were meticulously recreated (down to the contents of the pantry, according to Entertainment Weekly), and they even found a vintage Norm Macdonald for the writers’ room. But as one of the shining moments of Roseanne’s first run proved, you can only get so much enjoyment from living in the past—returning to a TV landscape seriously lacking in working-class characters (even more so once The Middle comes to an end), the show is uniquely positioned to comment on the way things in the United States have changed since 1997. At least some of those changes—the ones wrought by the old series finale—can be forgotten. [Erik Adams]

The Americans, season six (FX, March 28)

Keri Russell, Holly Taylor (Photo: Patrick Harbron/FX)
Keri Russell, Holly Taylor (Photo: Patrick Harbron/FX)

Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields’ Cold War thriller draws to a close following its most divisive season, in which its signature slow burn occasionally burned too slowly, but not without a renewed emphasis on the domestic drama that has always been its brightest and most intense source of combustion. But this time, we know the fast-forward is coming: The final season of The Americans picks up three years after the conclusion of season five, with Paige Jennings (Holly Taylor) splitting her time between college courses and the un-American activities she conducts alongside her mother, Elizabeth (Keri Russell). It’s a proper development for a point in Perestroika when tensions turned increasingly internal; as with every preceding season of The Americans, the end of the war is known, so it’s in all the little battles along the way where the twists and turns reside. And there should be enough mystery there to draw every Philip Jennings who ducked out last season back into the fray. [Erik Adams]

The Handmaid’s Tale, season two (Hulu, April)

Some extra character arcs aside, Hulu’s gorgeous Handmaid’s Tale adaptation has been so far faithful to Margaret Atwood’s source material. Which is why a second season of the show is so beguiling. Both the book and the first season end at the same point: Offred/June (Elisabeth Moss, national treasure) is taken away from the Waterfords’ home, seemingly escaping the mansion/prison with a bit of outside help. Now we’ll see what Atwood never revealed: how June goes from escapee to recording her story in the past tense. The seeds season one planted will bear fruit in this extended storyline, as both June’s husband, Luke (O-T Fagbenle), and her best friend, Moira (Samira Wiley), escaped to Canada, and June knows her daughter is somewhere nearby, trapped in the protective machine of Gilead. Will season two reach the same indelible highs as season one? Will the storytelling falter without the backbone of Atwood’s prose and plot? [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

Barry (HBO, spring)

From Get Shorty to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood has long had a fascination with the idea of unrepentant criminals infiltrating the world of movie stars. HBO’s Barry continues that tradition with the story of a lonely hitman who finds a new purpose when he tails a mark to L.A. and falls in with the local theater scene. Bill Hader stars as the title character while also making his directorial debut on this half-hour comedy, which promises to give the former SNL star a showcase for all that dramatic range he’s previously uncovered in movies like The Skeleton Twins and episodes of Documentary Now!. Henry Winkler and Stephen Root co-star as Barry’s mentors in, respectively, acting and murdering. The “jaded assassin” trope is as old as mocking desperate movie-star hopefuls, of course, but there’s enough collective talent here—including the stamp of Silicon Valley and Curb Your Enthusiasm producer Alec Berg—to suggest that the show could be an oddball, blackly funny addition to HBO’s comedy roster. [Sean O’Neal]

Sharp Objects (HBO, summer) 

(Photo: Getty Images by Jeff Vespa)
(Photo: Getty Images by Jeff Vespa)

HBO wanted another Big Little Lies, but it didn’t need to order another season of the acclaimed miniseries to get it—the premium-cable outlet already had a second Jean-Marc Vallée-directed whodunit waiting in the wings, with a bestseller pedigree, powerhouse producer, and Academy Award winner all its own. Based on Gillian Flynn’s debut novel and overseen by Marti Noxon, Sharp Objects casts Amy Adams as reporter Camille Preaker, returning to her hometown after a stint in a psychiatric facility, and intent on solving the murders of two young girls. It’s just the type of setup that should suit the strengths of the author who went on to write Gone Girl and the co-creator of UnREAL (and don’t forget Noxon worked on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, too), and the further down the cast list you go, the higher Sharp Objects might jump on your personal to-read list: Patricia Clarkson, Elizabeth Perkins, and Chris Messina all join Adams on screen, with It breakout Sophia Lillis playing Camille in flashbacks. [Erik Adams]

Westworld, season 2 (HBO, TBD)

At once a Western, a supremely post-modern sci-fi, HBO’s next big hope, and the best fictional meditation on games and game design ever created, Westworld kept a lot of balls in the air simultaneously in its first season. And yet it never lost sight of the pulpier possibilities of serial television, with countless cliffhangers and a labyrinthine narrative structure that kept viewers theorizing wildly until the last second. Season one climaxed with a lot of bloodshed and narrative doors kicking wide open—including, let us not forget, a door to motherfucking Samurai World—but the real question on everyone’s mind is: Are they gonna keep doing the old-timey cover-song thing? They gonna try something besides Radiohead, or what? We’ll find out when the show returns sometime this spring. [Clayton Purdom]

The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling (HBO, TBD)

Garry Shandling and Judd Apatow in 2014 (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Garry Shandling and Judd Apatow in 2014 (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The life and wisdom of the late Garry Shandling forms the basis of this HBO documentary served up in two parts by director Judd Apatow, who regards Shandling as his “comedy Buddha.” Shandling was a regular Buddhist too, hence the title of this four-hour film, which will delve into the comedian’s influential work both as a stand-up mining punchlines from neurosis and as the creator and star of two innovative series, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show. Apatow has been teasing interview subjects like Jeff Goldblum and Sacha Baron Cohen, as well as sharing photos of Shandling’s personal journals filled with mantras that capture his philosophical approach to being funny. For Shandling fans or anyone with a similar reverence for comedy, it’s a must-see tribute. [Sean O’Neal]