We’ve already broke down all the goodness headed your way from Netflix in 2016, so now it’s time to turn our eyes toward the distinguished competition: Amazon and Hulu. Unfortunately, neither entity has been nearly as forthcoming when it comes to nailing down premiere dates for their 2016 lineup, but based on what did well in 2015 and what earned pickups from Amazon’s recent pilot seasons, it’s not hard to extrapolate what Amazon and Hulu’s 2016 will look like. And it starts with one of my favorite pilots in a long time…
1) Mad Dogs (Amazon Prime, Jan. 22)
TV vet Shawn Ryan (The Shield) headed up this Amazon remake of the British series of the same name, co-exec producing along with original series creator Cris Cole. Mad Dogs follows a group of middle-aged buddies who travel to Belize at the invitation of a mega-successful friend, only to soon find themselves entangled in a clusterfuck of deception, betrayal, and murder. The pilot was easily my favorite of Amazon’s fourth pilot season last year, thanks to a cracking-good script and a cast—including Michael Imperioli, Billy Zane, Steve Zahn, Romany Malco, and Ben Chaplin—that pulls off both the shocking and the silly moments well. The pilot episode leaves the friends in a seriously tight bind with no obvious way out, so I can’t wait to see where Mad Dogs twists and turns from there.
2) 11/22/63 (Hulu, Feb. 15)
Hulu unleashes its highest profile original project yet next month with this adaptation of Stephen King’s 2011 novel, which was executive produced by J.J. Abrams sometime in between helping relaunch the Star Wars universe and sneaking a possible Cloverfield sequel into the immediate future. James Franco stars as Jake Epping, a young teacher who discovers a portal into the past in the back of a diner… but it only leads to 1958. Jake soon embarks on an ambitious expedition hoping to change the world for the better by preventing one of its great tragedies: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. But since the portal only goes to 1958, Jake is going to have to get comfortable in the past before that fateful day rolls around, and the time-space continuum itself may not be happy about his meddling.
3) The New Yorker Presents (Amazon Prime, Feb. 16)
Amazon’s new docu-series The New Yorker Presents will serve up sketches, documentary segments, cartoons, and other content in keeping with the spirit of the award-winning magazine that inspired it. The New Yorker Presents will also deviate from the standard Amazon/Netflix model, rolling out one episode per week rather than posting the whole season all at once. The pilot episode, which rolled out as part of Amazon’s fourth pilot season last year, features “a doc from Oscar winner Jonathan Demme based on Rachel Aviv’s article ‘A Very Valuable Reputation,’ writer Ariel Levy interviewing artist Marina Abramovic, a sketch from Simon Rich and Alan Cumming, poetry read by Andrew Garfield, and cartoons by Emily Flake.”
4) Bosch: Season 2 (Amazon Prime, March 11)
Based on Michael Connelly’s novels, Bosch stars former Lost-ie Titus Welliver as LAPD detective Harry Bosch. Taking his name from 15th century painter Hieronymous Bosch—best known for his renditions of hell—Harry is the son of a murdered prostitute, bounced through a series of orphanages and foster homes throughout his childhood. That dark past played a major role throughout the first season, which saw Harry investigating the decades-old death of a young boy and chasing a serial murderer. Season 2 will loosely adapt three more of Connelly’s books: Trunk Music, The Drop, and The Last Coyote. Star Trek: Voyager’s Jeri Ryan will also join the cast in what Deadline described as a “noirish” role. I can see her giving good femme fatale.
5) Catastrophe: Season 2 (Amazon Prime, April 8)
Amazon nabbed exclusive U.S. rights to this British sitcom hit, which made its American debut on the streaming net last summer. Created by co-stars Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, the “anti-rom-com” Catastrophe finds American dude Rob hooking up with Irish lass Sharon while he’s on a business trip, only to have their weeklong fling entangle them a bit longer after she winds up pregnant. They decide to “do the right thing” and get hitched, which of course presents as many problems as it solves, if not more. Season 2 skips ahead several years, with the couple now expecting a second child together.
6) Casual: Season 2 (Hulu, 2016)
Hulu’s hit original comedy Casual comes from good stock: It was created by Jason Reitman, the bloke who directed Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air, and Young Adult. The show stars Michaela Watkins as Valerie, a recently divorced mom now living with her swinging bachelor of a brother (Tommy Dewey) and her teenage daughter (Tara Lynne Barr). Valerie now finds herself navigating not only single parenting, but the treacherous trenches of the modern dating world. Hulu renewed the show for a season season only a few weeks after it premiered this past October, so it’s likely it will return in late 2016.
7) Deadbeat: Season 3 (Hulu, 2016)
Tyler Labine has earned my undying loyalty simply for helping Tucker and Dale vs. Evil be a thing that exists in the world, so I’m mildly irritated that this Hulu original has flown utterly below my radar for two seasons already. Labine plays Kevin, a slacker (naturally) who can talk to ghosts (supernaturally), often enlisting the help of his dealer/best friend “Roofie” (Brandon T. Johnson) to help the troubled undead find their great reward—or at least move on and stop bugging him while he’s trying to get high. The past two seasons both aired in April, and the show’s third season was confirmed last May, so expect more Deadbeat this spring. In the meantime, check out this ’80s-tastic trailer:
8) Difficult People: Season 2 (Hulu, 2016)
In addition to Casual, Difficult People was the other Hulu original comedy generating solid buzz last year. Created by author/podcaster Julie Klausner, Difficult People stars Klausner and Billy on the Street’s Billy Eichner as as pair of cynical, self-absorbed comedians struggling to make it in New York City. The show premiered this past August on Hulu, and swiftly earned a second-season pickup after earning solid critical praise (it’s currently rated 85 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). If you’ve got a fondness for comedies anchored by hilariously unlikable characters, Difficult People shouldn’t be difficult for you to get into, and it will almost certainly be back in mid-2016.
9) Good Girls Revolt (Amazon Prime, 2016)
One of the greenlit shows from this past fall’s crop of new Amazon pilots, Good Girls Revolt is a 1970s newsroom drama that follows a group of female News of the Week researchers battling against entrenched sexism in their drive for equality in the workplace. Created by former journalist Dana Calvo, Good Girls Revolt was inspired by Lynn Povich’s book of the same name, which chronicled the real-life class action sexual discrimination lawsuit against Newsweek that helped change the face of the American workplace. If you’ve been suffering Mad Men withdrawals since last spring, Good Girls Revolt could be just the thing. Amazon has been averaging about a year’s turnaround time between pilot pickup and release, so Good Girls Revolt should be on track for a late 2016 release.
10) Hand of God: Season 2 (Amazon Prime, 2016)
Ron Perlman shook off the ghost of Sons of Anarchy’s Clay Morrow with this new Amazon series, in which he plays a corrupt judge who—depending on your point of view—either goes slightly crazy or receives a directive from God himself. After his son attempts suicide, Judge Pernell Harris believes that God has commanded him to find the man who raped his son’s wife and bring him to justice… and not in a “due process” kind of way. He enlists the help of a violent zealot (Garret Dillahunt) and sets out on a path of vigilantism that would put a smile on the Punisher’s face. Amazon renewed Hand of God this past September, shortly after its August premiere, so a late summer return is likely.
11) Highston (Amazon Prime, 2016)
The second pickup from Amazon’s fall 2015 pilot season, Highston is a charming comedy about Highston Liggetts (Lewis Pullman), a happy, friendly 19-year-old who has tons of celebrity friends. Unfortunately, they’re all in his head. The pilot has his well-meaning parents deciding whether or not it’s time to institutionalize their son, which leads to Highston staging a bold escape with the help of Shaquille O’Neal and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The show’s dynamite supporting cast also includes Chris Parnell and Mary Lynn Rajskub as Highston’s parents, and it should be great fun to watch the revolving door of celebs filling Highston’s headspace as the series progresses. Amazon picked it up in December, so it may or may not make it under the wire to a 2016 premiere date, but it’s not like it’s got an enormous post-production schedule or special effects to finish up, so a quick turnaround is certainly possible.
12) The Man in the High Castle: Season 2 (Amazon Prime, 2016)
This adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s legendary alternate history novel was one of Amazon’s most ambitious and high-profile projects yet, and it was the most-watched pilot to come out of Amazon’s pilot season program thus far. Given that, it was pretty much a shoo-in for renewal, and Amazon made it official in December. Executive produced by Ridley Scott and created by X-Files veteran Frank Spotnitz, The Man in the High Castle imagines a world where the Axis powers defeated the Allies in World War II, leaving the formerly United States divided between Germany and Japan. Set in 1962, the series follows a large cast to explore different pieces of this dark timeline and hinges upon a series of mysterious newsreels that depict an alternate reality—one in which Germany and Japan were defeated by the Allies. Expect The Man in the High Castle to return in the fall.
13) One Mississippi (Amazon Prime, 2016)
Comedian Tig Notaro already gave us one of our favorite streaming programs of 2015 in her Netflix documentary Tig, which chronicled her fight against cancer and her legendary set at Largo shortly after receiving her diagnosis. Now she’s given us something to look forward to in 2016. Based on Notaro’s real life, One Mississippi finds the comedian returning to her childhood home to deal with the death of her much-loved mother. Notaro navigates dysfunctional family dynamics, grief, and her own failing health as she tries to put her mother’s affairs in order. The show sounds bleak as hell from that description, and it often is, but it’s undercut by a gallows humor that finds the absurdity in even the most painful and tragic of moments. Louis C.K. executive produced the pilot, which Notaro co-wrote with Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult).
14) Patriot (Amazon Prime, 2016)
Amazon’s thriller/comedy/satire Patriot is hard to describe, but that’s only appropriate since it came from the mind of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty screenwriter Steve Conrad. It stars Michael Dorman as a U.S. intelligence officer assigned a most Bond-like task: nip Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the bud before they get a bomb. Unfortunately, the way he’s ordered to go about this is anything but glamorous. He’s dropped into a deep cover as a worker at an industrial piping firm… in Milwaukee. The rest of the pilot is just as ridiculous and counterintuitive as this plan, but in a good way, whipping back and forth between dark humor and more serious thriller elements. It’s weird as hell, but there’s not really anything else like it right now.
15) Red Oaks: Season 2 (Amazon Prime, 2016)
Amazon’s coming-of-age series was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2015, starring Craig Roberts as David, a young tennis player working at a prestigious New Jersey country club during summer break away from college in 1985. It combines two of my favorite guilty pleasures—the 1980s and teen coming-of-age flicks—so I was a sucker for everything Red Oaks was selling. It didn’t hurt that the pilot was directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Eastbound & Down) and that the cast includes both Paul Reiser, Richard Kind, and Jennifer Grey, but Red Oaks as a whole is just endlessly funny and charming. Season 1 unspooled this past October, so season 2 should be dropping sometime in fall 2016.
16) Z: The Beginning of Everything (Amazon Prime, 2016)
Of all of Amazon’s 2015 pickups, this one was the most surprising to me, simply because I was completely underwhelmed by the pilot. On paper, it sounds great to this former English major: a look at the early life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, future muse to F. Scott Fitzgerald and one of the defining personalities of the Jazz Age. Christina Ricci plays Zelda, Gavin Stenhouse plays the young, unpublished F. Scott, and the series was created by Tim Blake Nelson, based on a novel by Therese Anne Fowler. Amazon picked it up for a full first season in December, so expect to see more from Z in 2016.
Illustration by Max Fleishman