The first months of the year are generally a dead zone for new movies, so while there are plenty of interesting films coming out throughout 2020, your best bet for quality entertainment this winter (assuming you're not into, like, live music or books or museums) will come on television (or streaming services, which are the new networks).
Scroll down to read our list of the most anticipated TV shows coming in the first half of the year, plus a quick overview of shows coming later in the year.
Schitt's Creek (Season Six, Pop, Jan. 7th, coming to Netflix later in the year) The nicest show on TV is coming back for one final season, and it's as zany, heartfelt, and gently funny as fans have come to expect. The whole season seems to be leading up to the marriage of David and Patrick, but it's also about the emancipation of Stevie Budd. And Johnny's ambitions for the motel. And Alexis' attempts to start a new career. And of course, Moira's relationship with her beloved wigs.
The Good Place (Season Four, NBC, Jan. 9th) Over the last four years, The Good Place has become one of the best—and most surprising—comedies on TV, blending together blissfully silly recurring gags, existential humor, and surprisingly sincere ethical debates. It will bow out with four final weeks of episodes throughout January, culminating in a 90-minute finale on January 30th (which includes two episodes plus a post-show special hosted by Seth Meyers).
Sex Education (Season Two, Netflix, Jan. 17th) If you're going to watch just one sweetly raunchy show about sex-positive British teens falling in and out of love triangles, make it this one! (If you're going to watch two, but don't really care for the love triangles, add in Derry Girls, which hopefully will come back this year too.) Sex Education revolves around Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), the socially-awkward son of a sex therapist (played to perfection by Gillian Anderson) who starts a "sex clinic" in his school with his crush Maeve (Emma Mackey) to help his classmates deal with their own sexual hangups. It's got a lot of heart, a lot of empathy for the kids and their various issues, and some unexpected performances—I'm really fond of Ncuti Gatwa's performance as Otis' gay best friend Eric, and Tanya Reynolds's Lily Iglehart, who writes alien erotica. And in season two, which ups both the raunch (a potential chlamydia outbreak) and the sweetness, the standouts are Kedar Williams-Stirling, who goes through some growing pains as swimming jock Jackson, and Aimee Lou Wood as Aimee Gibbs, who deals with the fallout from an incident on a bus.
Little America (Season One, AppleTV+, Jan. 17th) There's been a lot of disappointing anthology TV shows recently (see: The Romanoffs, Modern Love), but maybe Little America can break the trend. Each episode will look at "the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring and unexpected lives of immigrants in America, at a time when their stories are more relevant than ever." Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick co-writer Emily V. Gordon, and The Office writer Lee Eisenberg are among the executive producers and writers on the project.
Avenue 5 (Season One, HBO, Jan. 19th) Armando Iannucci, the mastermind behind (the first four seasons of) Veep and The Thick Of It, returns to television with the dark comedy Avenue 5, which is set on an interplanetary cruise ship where things go very wrong very quickly (think Aniara, but with dry British humor). Hugh Laurie stars as the captain of the ship, Josh Gad plays its billionaire owner, and there are memorable supporting turns from Suzy Nakamura, Rebecca Front, Nikki Amuka-Bird, and the brilliant Zach Woods, who steals every scene he is in.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (Season Ten, HBO, Jan. 19th) "Flowers, balloons, Larry David, what could be better?!" Most of the main cast of Curb is back, including Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Richard Lewis and JB Smoove, along with recurring side characters Ted Danson (who is now Cheryl's boyfriend), Richard Kind and Richard Lewis. Guest stars this season includes Kaitlin Olson, Jon Hamm (playing Jon Hamm!), Jane Krakowski, Laverne Cox, Fred Armisen, Isla Fisher, and more. And based on the trailer, which features conversations about shorts etiquette, Newton's Law of Sweats, the Big Johnson community, and the importance of impressing people with lies, it looks like prime David.
Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens (Season One, Comedy Central, Jan. 22nd) Awkwafina (whose real name is Nora, and who is really from Queens—oh wait, I get it!) has been on a hell of a career arc in recent years, with standout comedic turns in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s Eight giving way to her award-winning dramatic performance in The Farewell. She'll get back to her comedy roots with this sitcom, which is very loosely based on her (pre-fame) life; B.D. Wong plays her father, Lori Tan Chinn plays her grandmother, and new SNL castmember Bowen Yang plays her cousin.
Star Trek: Picard (Season One, CBS All Access, Jan. 23rd) Hopefully I can finally figure out how to access CBS All Access by this date, because Patrick Stewart is returning to his iconic role of Jean-Luc Picard for the latest Star Trek offering on TV. Picard is coming out of retirement 20 years after his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis, and he's bringing some familiar faces with him, including Data (Brent Spiner), Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Hugh the Borg (Jonathan Del Arco) and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) from Star Trek: Voyager. Just don't expect The Next Generation part two: “I think what we’re trying to say is important,” Stewart told Variety this week. “The world of Next Generation doesn’t exist anymore. It’s different. Nothing is really safe. Nothing is really secure.”
BoJack Horseman (Season Six Part Two, Netflix, Jan. 31st) In the first half of the final season, most of the characters, including Princess Carolyn, Diane, Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter, struggled with getting what they thought they wanted, while BoJack made the biggest leap of them all post-rehab, traveling the country making amends and forging a new life for himself as a teacher. And then in the final episode, everything seemed to come crashing down again. In part two, we'll see what happens when BoJack really has to face up to his mistakes.
Briarpatch (Season One, USA, Feb 6th) This pulpy new anthology series, created by sometime television critic Andy Greenwald and executive produced by Mr. Robot whiz Sam Esmail, is based on the Ross Thomas novel of the same name. It stars Rosario Dawson as Allegra Dill, "a dogged investigator who returns to her border-town home in San Bonifacio, Texas. What begins as a search for her sister's killer turns into an all-consuming fight to bring the corrupt town to its knees." Variety called it "a show worth looking forward to avidly, one that has the potential to, once again, establish USA as a place for serious fare."
High Maintenance (Season Four, HBO, Feb. 7th) For the last couple years, High Maintenance has thrived under-the-radar as one of the most intimate, empathetic programs on TV. It's a Gothamist favorite, a wide-reaching portrait of living in NYC today that is successful because it is familiar without being rote—as if you set up a camera in your own cramped apartment then passed it to your neighbor. The first two episodes of the new season which we've viewed, which include The Guy adopting a dog and an extended look at the life of a singing telegram, are up there with the best of their HBO episodes.
Homeland (Season Eight, Showtime, Feb. 9th) You may have forgotten about Showtime's long-running international espionage thriller about how too much exposure to free jazz causes otherwise brilliant CIA investigators to constantly go off their anti-psychotic medications. But it's coming back for one final season, sure to be filled with dubious Middle East politics and Claire Danes' truly unmatched crying face. Hopefully this will be the season they'll finally let Mandy Patinkin sing.
Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet (AppleTV+, Feb. 9th) Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and a bunch of the writers from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia are behind this new comedy, in which McElhenney stars as an egotistical video game developer. It looks a bit like Silicon Valley set in the gaming world, which seems like a great premise. It also stars F. Murray Abraham, Danny Pudi, Charlotte Nicadao, David Hornsby, and Ashly Burch.
High Fidelity (Miniseries, Hulu, Feb 14th) In this remake/reboot/adaptation hybrid of the novel/movie High Fidelity, everything is topsy-turvy: the action moves from London/Chicago to Brooklyn, and the main character is a woman now. Also, literally everyone is hotter. Keeping with the basic premise of the originals, Zoe Kravitz stars as Rob, a Crown Heights record store owner who decides to revisit five important exes in her attempts at fixing her messy love life.
The Good Lord Bird (Miniseries, Showtime, Feb. 16th) Ethan Hawke plays abolitionist John Brown in this adaptation of James McBride’s novel. According to the logline, "The series is told from the point of view of Onion (Joshua Johnson-Lionel), a fictional enslaved boy, who is part of John Brown's (Hawke) motley crew of abolitionist soldiers during the time of Bleeding Kansas, eventually participating in the famous 1859 raid on the Army depot at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia." It also stars Daveed Diggs as Frederick Douglass and Wyatt Russell as U.S. Army Officer J.E.B. Stuart.
Hunters (Season One, Amazon, Feb. 21st) The exciting new series, which was executive produced by Jordan Peele and stars Al Pacino, follows "a diverse band of Nazi Hunters living in 1977 New York City. The Hunters, as they’re known, have discovered that hundreds of high ranking Nazi officials are living among us and conspiring to create a Fourth Reich in the U.S. The eclectic team of Hunters will set out on a bloody quest to bring the Nazis to justice and thwart their new genocidal plans."
Better Call Saul (Season Five, AMC, Feb. 23rd) It's been almost two years since the end of the superlative season four of Saul, in which Jimmy & Kim's relationship got more complicated, Mike became more enmeshed into Gus Fring's empire, and Jimmy ultimately adopted the legal name of Saul Goodman to practice law in the future. Saul has long since escaped from the shadow of Breaking Bad to become its own thing: a complex and brilliantly-made show about process, denial, elderly care law, and Chicago sunroofs. We can't wait to see how the melding of Jimmy and Saul goes this season.
The Plot Against America (Miniseries, HBO, March 16th) David Simon was working on this adaptation of the Philip Roth novel alongside the final season of The Deuce last year, and with an increase in antisemitic incidents recently, it couldn't be more timely. Like the novel, the show is set in an alternative America in which Franklin D. Roosevelt was defeated in the 1940 presidential election by Charles Lindbergh, and antisemitism becomes more acceptable in American life. The show stars Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan, Morgan Spector and John Turturro, and was co-created and written by fellow The Wire alum Ed Burns.
Little Fires Everywhere (Miniseries, Hulu, March 18th) Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington star in this eight-episode adaptation of the hit 2017 novel by Celeste Ng, which is all about suburban malaise, as well as the class and racial dynamics in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 1990s. If you haven't read the book, it follows "the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and an enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives." The show also stars Rosemarie DeWitt and Joshua Jackson.
Brockmire (Season Four, IFC, March) Hank Azaria has killed it for the last three years in the under-watched but always hilarious Brockmire, playing a hyper-articulate and hyper-profane baseball announcer as he attempted multiple comebacks and dealt with sobriety. Since the cat is out of the bag, we can tell you that this final season takes an incredibly unlikely turn, "jumping ahead to a dystopian, climate-changed 2030 when Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria) — clean-and-sober but still eloquently nasty — is named commissioner of baseball."
Devs (Miniseries, FX on Hulu, March 5th) Alex Garland is the brilliant filmmaker behind Ex-Machina and Annihilation, two of the best sci-fi movies of the 2010s, so we would sign up to watch any project he had in the pipeline based off of that alone. Nick Offerman stars as the head of a mysterious tech company called Amaya, which recruits developers (or devs) for a mysterious new project; Sonoya Mizuno and Karl Glusman play two of those recruits, the former of whom believes the company is behind the disappearance of her boyfriend. “Ex Machina had to do with breakthroughs in AI,” Garland said last fall. “This had to do with breakthroughs in development.”
And here's what's coming later this year... most likely:
For my money, HBO remains the premiere network for great new television, and they have lots of exciting stuff on the horizon: there's a miniseries of Perry Mason, starring Matthew Rhys as the titular hero, Tatiana Masley, and John Lithgow, focusing on the legendary criminal defense lawyer's early days as a P.I. In Lovecraft Country, Atticus Black (Jonathan Majors), his friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and his uncle Montrose (Courtney B. Vance) take a trip through 1950s Jim Crow America while fending off Lovecraftian creatures and searching for his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). Nicole Kidman stars as a successful self-help author whose life unravels when her husband (played by Hugh Grant) disappears in David E. Kelly's miniseries The Undoing, an adaptation of the 2014 Jean Hanff Korelitz novel You Should Have Known. Mark Ruffalo pulls double duty as twins brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey in I Know This Much Is True, a dark miniseries based on the novel of the same name. And most exciting might be Run, a comedy/thriller starring Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson that was created by Vicky Jones and executive produced by Jones' frequent collaborator Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who also has a part in the show).
Also: after taking a year off because Issa Rae was busy with movies and other projects, Insecure will return with season four. Westworld will also return after an extended hiatus with season three (featuring new cast member Aaron Paul); and two of the best shows of 2019, Barry and Succession, will also return for third seasons. And for fans of the TBS series Search Party, some good news: it's been picked up for a belated season three by HBO Max, HBO's new streaming channel set to launch sometime this year (they have a lot of programs in the pipeline, but it's not clear how much of it will be released this year).
Netflix of course has tons more shows that they will ceremonially dump onto their platform in 2020, the most exciting of which is Space Force, in which Steve Carrell re-teams with The Office co-creator Greg Daniels for a workplace comedy based on Trump's idea for a sixth military force. The show also stars John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Diana Silvers and Tawny Newsome. There's a couple of Ryan Murphy shows on the way for them as well, including: the One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest spinoff Ratched, starring Sarah Paulson as the title character, which will follow "Ratched's journey and evolution from nurse to full-fledged monster;" and Hollywood, a 1940s period drama that Murphy has called it a "love letter to the Golden Age of Tinseltown," starring Darren Criss and lots of other Murphy regulars. And another prolific creator, Shonda Rhimes, will unveil her first Netflix production, Bridgerton, based on a series of historical romance novels by bestselling author Julia Quinn.
In addition, Glow will have its fourth and final season this summer; Big Mouth will return with a fourth season, and Stranger Things is also expected to come back with its fourth season; and if we're really lucky, we may even get a second season of Russian Doll.
On Showtime, the biggest new show coming out is Your Honor, which stars Bryan Cranston as “a respected judge whose son is involved in a hit-and-run that leads to a high-stakes game of lies, deceit, and impossible choices.” Who could say no?! And of course, Billions will return for a fifth season sometimes mid-year.
Hulu has lots of excellent returning shows, including second seasons for their trilogy of great original comedies: Shrill (coming January 24th), Golden Globe-winner Ramy, and Pen15. You can also find the Normal People miniseries, based on the hit Sally Rooney book, and Love, Beth, which was created, directed, written, and executive produced by Amy Schumer in her first television project since Inside Amy Schumer.
On FX/FXX, we have Impeachment: American Crime Story, the third season of the ACS anthology series after ones that focused on OJ Simpson and Giovanni Versace. [Note: it was originally scheduled to premiere on Sept. 27th, but FX announced today it has been pushed back until the end of the year.] Sarah Paulson plays Linda Tripp, Beanie Feldstein plays Monica Lewinsky, and Clive Owen plays Bill Clinton. Mrs. America, a miniseries about the Equal Rights Amendment and '70s feminism, also has a star-studded cast: Cate Blanchett plays Phyllis Schlafly, Rose Byrne is Gloria Steinem, Uzo Aduba is Shirley Chisholm, Tracey Ullman is Betty Freidan and Margo Martindale is Bella Abzug. Jeff Bridges will star as a retired CIA officer forced out of hiding in The Old Man. And after years and years of being stuck in development purgatory, we will finally get an adaptation of the epic comic series Y: The Last Man, starring Barry Keoghan as Y, alongside Diane Lane, Lashana Lynch, Imogen Poots, Amber Tamblyn, and Timothy Hutton.
There'll also have the long-awaited fourth season of Fargo, which is set in 1950s Kansas City, and will focus on a clash between two rival criminal organizations. It has a hell of a cast, including Chris Rock, Uzo Aduba, Jack Huston, Jessie Buckley, Jason Schwartzman, Ben Whishaw, and Timothy Olyphant. Also returning is one of my favorite comedies of 2019, What We Do In The Shadows, and one of the most dependably funny shows on TV, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. [Note: FX announced today that Mrs. America will premiere on FX on Hulu on April 15th, What We Do In The Shadows will return to FX on April 15th, and Fargo will return to FX on April 19th.]
Over on Disney+, we are getting a second season of everyone's favorite show The Baby Yoda Hour Featuring The Mandalorian, and two major Marvel shows: The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan as the titular pair along with supporting turns from Daniel Brühl as Zemo, Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter and Wyatt Russell as U.S. Agent; and WandaVision, in which Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch and Vision. They're joined by Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings, Randall Park, and Kathryn Hahn.
And on AppleTV+, you'll get second seasons of The Morning Show and Dickinson, along with one of my most anticipated shows of the year: Central Park, a new animated musical comedy about a "family of caretakers who live and work in Central Park" from Loren Bouchard, creator of Bob’s Burgers. The voice cast includes Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Tituss Burgess, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Daveed Diggs and Kathryn Hahn.
Amazon Prime will have the second season of their summer hit The Boys, which would pair nicely with their upcoming new animated show Invincible, based on the comic book character of the same name by Robert Kirkman. (It has a stacked vocal cast including Steven Yuen, JK Simmons, Sandra Oh, Mark Hamill, Seth Rogen, Gillian Jacobs, Andrew Rannells, Zazie Beetz, Walton Goggins, Jason Mantzoukas and more.) It's unclear whether the second season of Homecoming, which will star Janelle Monáe, is coming this year, but I'd also keep an eye out for Truth Seekers, a comedy-horror series about paranormal investigators which was created by and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
And a few final shows to watch out for: Quiz is an upcoming limited series on AMC about the "extraordinary and sensational true story of how Charles and Diana Ingram attempted an ‘audacious heist’ on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?," starring Michael Sheen, Matthew Macfadyen and Sian Clifford. Rick & Morty is expected to release the rest of season four sometime this year on Adult Swim. And last but definitely not least, Bob's Burgers will keep being the best animated family show on TV on Fox with the rest of season ten and start of season eleven (and, oh yeah, they have a movie coming out, too, for good measure).