‘House of the Dragon’
OK, so “Game of Thrones” ended with a whimper, rather than a bang, but HBO’s prequel series still has plenty of people geeking out, and will likely still dominate TV talk this year. The show is set 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones” and tells the story of the House Targaryen dynasty — you know, the ones whose reign ultimately ended with a mad king. Oh, and the ones who were able to command dragons. The excellent Paddy Considine will play King Viserys, who is described as a “warm, kind, and decent man,” on the show’s site, which then warns: “but, as we’ve learned from ‘Game of Thrones,’ good men do not necessarily make for great kings.”
‘Lord of the Rings’
Amazon will be running the main challenger to “House of the Dragon” for the title of this year’s most-epic show. Despite the name, the show’s creators are (wisely) not rehashing the ground covered by Peter Jackson’s incredible film trilogy from the early Noughties. Instead, it will cover the Second Age of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, before the events of the movies, just as the evil that will dominate those stories is emerging. With Amazon making a five-series commitment worth a reported minimum of $1 billion, this will be the most expensive series ever made.
Ricky Gervais’ bittersweet comedy-drama returns for a third and final season this week on Netflix. The show — in which Gervais plays Tony, a middle-aged journalist on his local paper struggling to face up to life without his late beloved wife — is its creators best work since “Extras.” Sometimes uproariously funny, often heartbreakingly affecting, it’s a show with a lot of heart and an excellent ensemble cast.
‘Better Call Saul’
When this “Breaking Bad” spinoff — focusing on the life of crooked lawyer Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill prior to the events of that series — first aired, few would have anticipated that it would end up being as acclaimed as its much-lauded parent show. But, as its sixth and final season approaches, “Better Call Saul” has surpassed all expectations in all areas — the writing, acting, direction and cinematography are unfailingly excellent. Bob Odenkirk is spellbinding as the lead character, digging beneath the sleazy exterior to reveal a man for whom you can’t help rooting, even when he’s at his worst.
This period crime drama, set in the aftermath of the First World War, will also wind up this year with its sixth season following the exploits of the titular organized crime gang in Birmingham, England. Gang leader Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy) will face the threat of the UK’s rising fascist movement and the series will reportedly pick up directly from the last scene of season five, which saw Tommy putting a gun to his own head and screaming.
Netflix’s dramatization of the reign of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II enters its fifth season, and it’s time for another change of lead actress as we head into the Nineties. It’s Imelda Staunton’s turn to play the queen, and the always-excellent Leslie Manville will take over from Helena Bonham-Carter as Princess Margaret, while Princess Diana will be played by Elizabeth Debicki.
After the runaway success of its first season, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s tale of a psychopathic female assassin (Jodie Comer in the title role) and her love-hate/kill relationship/obsession with the British intelligence investigator chasing her (played by Sandra Oh) lost some momentum in its second outing. Here’s hoping the fourth and final season, set for release late in February, will be a return to the dizzy heights of the first.
The fourth season of Netflix’s enormously successful Eighties-themed sci-fi horror series will see the teen gang reunited in the small town of Hawkins during spring break following Eleven’s move to California with the Byers family. Not much else has yet been revealed about season four, but we do know, thankfully, that police chief Jim Hopper will be returning, despite the others believing him to be dead.
Donald Glover’s superbly inventive comedy-drama about music manager Earnest Marks (Glover) and rapper Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) is back for a third season, which will, we think (it’s hard to be certain about anything with this show), see the pair — along with Paper Boi’s eccentric best friend Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) — head to Europe for the tour they were about to embark on at the end of season three. Throwing in a fish-out-of-water element to this already often-surreal show should make for irresistible viewing.