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While many of us may have had the same relationship with 2016 that Biff Tannen does with manure, now we’ve all got a fresh start. Which, let’s face it, may still be terrible, but at least we can intersperse our violent laugh-crying with tons of quality streaming entertainment in 2017.
The three main streaming services are kicking off the new year proper, showcasing their continued commitment to original content with both new and returning series. Whether you’re in the mood for a dark and whimsical foray into childhood tragedy, a glamorous look at one of the figures who defined the Jazz Age, or just Jason Momoa throwing goddamn tomahawks everywhere, January’s streaming lineup has you set.
Here are five streaming originals you can’t miss in January 2017.
1) Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix, Jan. 13)
First up is Netflix’s much-anticipated adaptation of Daniel Handler’s beloved children’s books, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Written under the pen name of Lemony Snicket, the Unfortunate Events in question involve the ill-fated Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. After the deaths of their parents, they’re sent to live with a distant relation named Count Olaf. He soon proves to be of nefarious intent, more interested in snagging their inheritance than comforting them in their grief. And things only go downhill from there…
Executive produced and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family), Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events features a delightful cast including Joan Cusack, Alfre Woodard, Catherine O’Hara, Aasif Mandvi, Don Johnson, Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, and Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket himself, who serves as the woeful tale’s narrator. Even better, the show was scripted by Handler, so if stands a good shot of doing the material more justice than the 2004 film. Unfortunate Events looks packed full of mystery, adventure, misfortune, dark humor, and amusing facial hair. All eight episodes premiere on Friday, Jan. 13, adapting the first four of Handler’s books.
2) Sneaky Pete (Amazon Prime, Jan. 13)
A new crime drama series from Graham Yost (Justified) and David Shore (House) would be exciting enough, but Amazon’s Sneaky Pete also boasts the return to series television of one Bryan Cranston. Having followed his Emmy-winning turn in Breaking Bad with several years of movies and voice work, Cranston is once again on the wrong side of the law in Sneaky Pete. He plays a gangster named Vince, one that Giovanni Ribisi’s con man Marius would very much like to stay the hell away from. To that effect, Marius assumes the identity of his former prison cellmate, Pete. Unfortunately, this new identity proves to create nearly as many problems as his original one…
Yost and Shore are proven TV veterans, so anything with their names on it is worth a look-see. Sneaky Pete also looks to have the potential to be a high-tension blast, with Marius/Pete having to constantly maintain his precarious lie while scrambling to find enough money to pay off Cranston’s Vince and thus save his brother. It should be a hoot to watch Cranston back in baddie mode, but playing a very different shade of criminal than Walter White. The presence of Margo Martindale is also a huge selling point; she was amazing in Yost’s Justified. If you want to sample the show, you don’t have to wait: the pilot is currently available to Amazon Prime customers.
3) Frontier (Netflix, Jan. 20)
If you’re in the mood for something a bit more brutal, Netflix’s Frontier might be just the thing. Co-created by Brad Peyton (San Andreas), Frontier was a co-production of Netflix and Discovery Channel Canada. It stars Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa as Declan Harp, an 18th Century half-Irish, half-Native American hunter and trapper who becomes a thorn in the side of the Hudson’s Bay Company as he threatens their iron grip on the local fur trade. The series mixes backstabbing politics with literal backstabbing, and a good amount of hatchet work. Check out the trailer.
There are plenty who will tune in solely for the eye candy of a fur-clad Momoa (my wife, for one), but early reviews of its Canadian run have been good, with the Globe and Mail calling it an “action-packed, uncomplicated and very entertaining yarn about the cutthroats who created this country by plundering it, when they weren’t busy killing each other.” Sounds like a good time. Even better, it’s already been renewed for a second season. Frontier’s six-episode first season will hit Netflix Instant on Friday, Jan. 20. (If you’re craving more Momoa, check out his Sundance TV drama Red Road on Netflix.)
4) The Path: Season 2 (Hulu, Jan. 25)
Cranston isn’t the only Breaking Bad veteran unveiling a noteworthy show this month. Aaron Paul will return in the second season of Hulu’s critically acclaimed drama The Path in late January, alongside fellow castmates Hugh Dancy and Michelle Monaghan. The Path was created by playwright/screenwriter Jessica Goldberg (Parenthood) and explores the lives of several people involved with or affected by a mysterious cult known as Meyerism.
The first season followed Paul’s Eddie as he began questioning his belief in, and loyalty to, Meyerism. That put him at odds with his wife, Sarah (Monaghan), a second-generation Meyerist. Dancy plays Calvin “Cal” Roberts, a powerful figure within the movement who’s trying to leverage even more power after the death of the group’s founder. Rockmund Dunbar also stars as an FBI detective suspicious of the cult’s motives and practices. Season 2 looks to add even more twists, not to mention some creepy visual imagery that we’re not sure how to interpret. You can binge season one on Hulu now, and season 2 will debut on Jan. 25.
5) Z: The Beginning of Everything (Amazon Prime, Jan. 27)
Along with her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby), Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald helped define the so-called Jazz Age. She was herself a brilliant writer, as well as a beloved socialite whom her husband dubbed “the first American Flapper.” Zelda was a colorful, troubled, talented soul whose relationship with F. Scott was often turbulent. Sounds like the perfect ingredients for a TV show, no? Actor/director Tim Blake Nelson clearly agrees, as he’s giving us Z: The Beginning of Everything, a new Amazon original series that stars Christina Ricci as Zelda and tracks her life and relationship with F. Scott through all its hills and valleys.
David Hoflin stars as F. Scott, who is a soldier and unpublished writer when he first meets Zelda in Montgomery, Alabama. David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck) plays Zelda’s disapproving father. You can read our review of Z: The Beginning of Everything, from when its pilot debuted last year, right here. It has some issues, but not enough to keep us from wanting to see where the show goes with its first full season, which premieres on Jan. 27.
David Wharton is a journalist and film critic with over 15 years of experience. His reviews for the Daily Dot focus on original movies and series produced by streaming entertainment services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. He lives in Texas, where he works as the online editor of DSNews.com