fb-pixel
MATTHEW GILBERT/BUZZSAW

10 reasons to get excited about TV in 2020

John Turturro stars in "The Plot Against America," an HBO adaptation of Philip Roth's novel from David Simon and Ed Burns.
John Turturro stars in "The Plot Against America," an HBO adaptation of Philip Roth's novel from David Simon and Ed Burns.Michele K. Short/HBO

All right, all right, enough of the year-end and decade-end lists and analyses. Here’s a list of 10 things to look forward to on TV this year.

‘MRS. AMERICA’ It’s not just the cast that’s got me in a state of high anticipation, although, you know, I’m all about any limited series led by Cate Blanchett. It’s also the topic, which, sadly, is still relevant. Set during the 1970s, “Mrs. America” will follow the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and the backlash led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly (Blanchett). Rose Byrne plays Gloria Steinem, Uzo Aduba plays Shirley Chisholm, Margo Martindale plays Bella Abzug, and Tracey Ullman plays Betty Friedan. It will be released as part of “FX on Hulu,” the cable channel’s new streaming deal. (Hulu, spring)

Advertisement



HOUSE OF MURPHY TV’s super-productive producer Ryan Murphy has three new series this year, and each one has my interest piqued. “Hollywood” is about young people trying to make it in the movies in the 1940s. The cast includes Patti LuPone, Holland Taylor, Jim Parsons, Dylan McDermott, Maude Apatow, and Darren Criss, who was excellent in Murphy’s Versace miniseries. “Impeachment: American Crime Story” revolves around the Clinton administration and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Lewinsky is one of the producers of the extremely timely story, which will star Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, and Beanie Feldstein as Lewinsky. And “Ratched” tells the origin story of the nurse from Ken Kesey’s novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Paulson stars as the tyrannical character that won Louise Fletcher an Oscar back in 1975. (Netflix’s “Hollywood,” May; FX’s “Impeachment,” Sept. 27; Netflix’s “Ratched,” later in 2020)

‘THE GOOD LORD BIRD’ Lord this one could be good. It’s an eight-episode adaptation of the National Book Award-winning novel by James McBride (who, by the way, was a Globe staffer in the early 1980s). The “Good Lord Bird” story follows a 12-year-old male slave who, in the 1850s Kansas Territory, winds up traveling with John Brown and his abolitionist soldiers. Brown, who is played by the show’s creator, Ethan Hawke, thinks the slave, known as “Onion,” is a girl. The cast also includes Orlando Jones, Joshua Caleb Johnson, David Morse, Wyatt Russell, Steve Zahn, and Daveed Diggs as Frederick Douglass. (Showtime, Feb. 16)

Advertisement



A PAIR OF FARE THE WELLS “Homeland,” “Modern Family,” we knew ye too long. We loved ye for a few seasons, until ye lost yer initial appeal, trading in yer excellence to suit yer network’s needs. I am eager to see these two series bite the dust this spring. They are prime examples of once-excellent shows that stretched themselves too thin across too many seasons, more for financial than creative reasons. “Homeland,” with its big questions about terrorism and mental illness, eventually became a classed-up version of “24” at best, and it will end after season 8. And “Modern Family” leaned further and further into repetitive shtick; it leaves after season 11. More is not always more. (“Homeland” leaves Showtime on April 26, “Modern Family” leaves ABC on May 18.)

‘NURSE JACKIE’ FOREVER Two of my favorite actresses, Edie Falco and Merritt Wever, were a great team on one of my favorite series, “Nurse Jackie.” So I’m thrilled both will be in new series this year. Wever’s show sounds better. Called “Run,” it’s a comedic thriller starring Wever and Domhnall Gleeson as a former teen couple who take a journey together. Bonus: Phoebe Waller-Bridge executive produces and appears in the show. Falco’s “Tommy” is from writer-producer Paul Attanasio, whose credits include the movies “Quiz Show” and “Donnie Brasco” and the TV series “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “House.” That’s the good news. The bad news is that “Tommy” is a network crime drama, which will likely inhibit its potential. Falco will play the first female chief of police for the LAPD. (HBO’s “Run,” later in 2020; CBS’s “Tommy,” Feb. 6)

Advertisement



AT LONG LAST ‘FARGO’ Has it been gone too long? You betcha. Noah Hawley’s superfine anthology series returns after more than two years with season 4, which will be set among black and Italian crime families in 1950s Kansas City. The cast is jacked: Chris Rock, Timothy Olyphant, Uzo Aduba, Jason Schwartzman, Ben Whishaw, Jessie Buckley, Glynn Turman, Jack Huston, and singer-songwriter Andrew Bird. (FX, spring)

‘THE PLOT’ FOR MORE SIMON Television masters David Simon and Ed Burns (“The Wire,” “The Corner”) adapt the novel “The Plot Against America” by Philip Roth and . . . OK, I could just stop right there. But I’ll add that the six-episode miniseries is an alternate American history in which the members of a working-class New Jersey family watch aviator hero and xenophobe Charles Lindbergh become president in 1940. Cue anti-Semitism, fascism, and other scourges. So there’s relevance, as well as two of my favorite actors: Zoe Kazan and John Turturro. (HBO, March 16)

Advertisement



PACINO ON THE HUNT How’s this for a scary phrase? The Fourth Reich. This Jordan Peele-produced series, called “Hunters,” features Al Pacino in his first regular TV role, as well as a story line that sounds provocative. Set in 1977 New York, it’s about Nazi hunters who learn that high-ranking Nazis are hiding out in the United States and planning to create a Fourth Reich here. Along with Pacino, the cast includes Logan Lerman, Jeannie Berlin, Dylan Baker, Carol Kane, Lena Olin, Josh Radnor, and James Le Gros. (Amazon, later in 2020)

CAPTAIN AMERICA This one’s a local-palooza: written here, filmed here, and starring an actor from here. It’s an eight-episode miniseries adaptation of the 2012 novel “Defending Jacob” by Boston author (and former assistant district attorney) William Landay about a father dealing with the fact that his teenage son is a murder suspect. Chris Evans, who also executive produces, will star, with Michelle Dockery, Jaeden Martell, Cherry Jones, Pablo Schreiber, Leighton Meester, and Paul Wesley. (Apple TV+, later in 2020)

RETURNING GIANTS A few TV VIPs are coming back this year. Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” will star in a 10-episode limited series from “Good Wife” creators Robert and Michelle King. Called “Your Honor,” it has Cranston’s New Orleans judge dealing with his own son’s involvement in a hit-and-run. Steve Carell is coming back to TV comedy (he’s currently in the drama “The Morning Show”) and reuniting with “Office” creator Greg Daniels for a half-hour show called “Space Force.” Yup, it’s based on President Trump’s idea, as it gives us a workplace comedy about those tasked with creating the force. And Amy Schumer is back, this time with a scripted comedy called “Love, Beth” that she wrote, directed, and stars in. What’s it about? Apparently, it’s top secret. (Showtime’s “Your Honor,” Netflix’s “Space Force,” and Hulu’s “Love, Beth,” all later in 2020)

Advertisement




Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.