It's nice to look forward to things to mitigate the irritations of life — or so I tell myself. With that in mind, the year ending is not only a good time to look back on the best of the recent past, but to catalog what there is to hope for in the months to come. And so I offer this personal list of the 2013 movies and TV shows that look exciting to me, with a few qualifiers. 1) The first half of the year is much more set than the second; I'm sure there are plenty of people already prognosticating about next year's Oscar race, but I'm not one of them, so I haven't included any awards-bait movies. 2) I listed new TV shows only, not ones that will be returning — we know that Breaking Bad and the like will be back, and yes, that will be a highlight. 3) These are in loose chronological order, but some of the dates aren't set yet. 4) Please don't blame me if the shows with good pilots crash and burn immediately like Smash did.
OK? Let us go, then!
"The Carrie Diaries"
CW, Jan. 14, at 8 p.m.
As a Sex and the City fan, I met every step of the development process of The Carrie Diaries with rolled eyes — couldn't they leave well enough alone? How could a series based on these SATC prequel books — which also should have left well enough alone — be anything other than terrible? Then, after the network upfronts in May, when The Carrie Diaries was officially picked up, the CW sent out its pilots and I watched it, full of dread. What can I say? I liked it! Quite a bit, in fact. I liked AnnaSophia Robb, who has the impossible-seeming task of playing young Carrie; I didn't cringe at the '80s setting. I look forward to seeing more. It's nice to be surprised.
"The Following" and "Hannibal"
Fox, Jan. 21, at 9 p.m.; NBC, spring TBA
I'll be curious to see how these two serial-killer dramas perform in the ratings. America's continuous dark mood is surely responsible for their origins, but whether people actually tune in is another matter. I found The Following pilot to be enjoyably frightening; I'll watch Kevin Bacon in anything, and I'm also a fan of its creator, Kevin Williamson. It is truly scary and gory, though, so there will be a portion of the audience who will say no to it right away. As for the Hannibal prequel, reimagined by Bryan Fuller, it has not been sent out to journalists yet, nor has the date for it been set yet, but all the casting — GILLIAN ANDERSON! — seems pretty terrific.
FX, Jan. 30, at 10 p.m.
I wrote about the pilot of FX's 1981-set Cold War spy thriller here. I pretty much loved it, especially the two lead actors, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. I'm curious about how it will unfold.
The Kid Franchises: "Beautiful Creatures," "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," "Ender's Game," and "Catching Fire"
In the post–Harry Potter and Twilight world, books that have been blockbusters among the tween/teen set are all potential film franchises. I'm sure there are those who decry this trend, but you won't find any of that naysaying here. Bring it on! In fact, thank god the Twilight books were adapted into movies with a feminist interpretation of the Bella character — the movies can't erase the retrograde representations of sex and love from the books, but they do add a layer to them. Next year, we will see film versions of Cassandra Clare's massive The Mortal Instruments series, kicking off with the first book, City of Bones (Aug. 23); Beautiful Creatures, the novel of which is by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, will be released on Feb. 13; and the long-awaited adaptation of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game will come out on Nov. 1. Last but not least, the second of The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, has a release date of Nov. 21. I'm excited about all of these — The Mortal Instruments books in particular are trashy fun, and I confess to being an age-inappropriate addict of all of them (and, um, the prequels too).
"Oz the Great and Powerful"
There are a number of good reasons to look forward to Oz the Great and Powerful, especially when you see the cast list: James Franco is Oz, Michelle Williams is Glinda, and Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz are in featured roles. It also looks fantastic in the trailer. But the reason I know I will love it is that I have liked every movie Sam Raimi has ever directed. Yes, even Drag Me to Hell.
A&E, spring TBA
A contemporary retelling of Norman Bates' story pre-Psycho is just a freaky idea, but the pilot worked for me, and I want to see more. With Vera Farmiga as Norma and Freddie Highmore (not quite all grown up, even at age 20, but he plays a convincing gangly teen) as Norman, we see the doomed Bates duo moving to a seaside motel to get a fresh start. Norman appears to be a sweet kid with hints of dark leanings that are exacerbated by his overly protective, inappropriately attached mom. Nothing good will come of any of this as we know, but the show sets up a big enough world that it's not just a two-person Oedipal mess. Farmiga is icily awesome, as always. And every time Norman's high school story gets a little too Dawson's Creek, he says the word "mother" and you snap right out of it. It's from executive producers Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights) and Carlton Cuse of Lost fame. Oh, and the motel/house set is perfect.
"Top of the Lake"
Sundance Channel, March 18, at 9 p.m.
A seven-part mystery by Jane Campion reuniting the Piano auteur with Holly Hunter? Yes, please. Elisabeth Moss plays a young detective investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl who was five months pregnant and was last seen standing in a frozen lake; Hunter plays a character described in the press notes as a "guru at a local women's camp" (no, I don't know what that means — that's OK, though). This Sundance miniseries is a coproduction with BBC Two and UKTV in Australia and New Zealand, and is actually premiering at the Sundance Film Festival as a six-hour film. I will be skipping that. But I'm unduly excited about Top of the Lake nonetheless.
"Star Trek Into Darkness"
Damn, this movie looks good. I found J.J. Abrams' first Star Trek reboot to be superior, so there's no reason I won't enjoy this one too. Plus, Benedict Cumberbatch is the bad guy. Get here, May 17.
"Behind the Candelabra"
HBO, spring TBA
Oh, my gayness. I am freaking out with excitement about Behind the Candelabra, the made-for-HBO movie about Liberace and his young lover, Scott Thorson. Michael Douglas as Liberace, Matt Damon as Thorson, directed by Steven Soderbergh: This will be like Liz & Dick for the gays, but actually good. Dying. Dying of anticipation.
"Ray Donovan" and "Masters of Sex"
Showtime, TBA 2013 (one summer, one fall, is my best guess)
These two dramas from Showtime look big and ambitious: The former stars Liev Schrieber as a Hollywood fixer, and the latter is a fictionalized version of the story of Masters (Michael Sheen) and Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), the 1950s sexologists. Masters of Sex is probably more my taste since I'm a little tired of antihero-centric television, but every time I say that, I'm forced to make room for more.
There's always one successful movie of the summer that does not come from a massively known quantity, and my bet for this year is R.I.P.D. It's based on a comic book, yes — Rest in Peace Department by Peter M. Lenkov, published by Dark Horse — but that's not the most well-known source material (sorry, nerds!). Costarring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as ghost cops, R.I.P.D. is directed by Robert Schwentke, who did the creepy, underrated Flightplan with Jodie Foster, and written by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay (disclosure: They are friends of mine!). My fingers are crossed for a Ghostbusters for the 21st century.
"Man of Steel"
As opposed to the Star Trek franchise, which makes me feel we're all in good hands, the Superman reinvention makes me so nervous: I am not a fan of director Zack Snyder's work. And David S. Goyer, the screenwriter, is hit-or-miss for me. The trailer, however, looks pretty fantastic, and I love the cast (especially Henry Cavill as Clark, Michael Shannon as General Zod — he will really bring the crazy — and Diane Lane as Martha Kent). So I'm confused. Obviously, the solution will be to see the film.
There will be a segment of hardcore film fans who will hate this movie no matter what and who have decried the very idea of an American remake of Park Chan-wook's 2003 South Korean masterpiece from the beginning. I'm not one of them, but if Spike Lee's interpretation — starring Josh Brolin as an executive freed after years of mysterious confinement who sets out to find who stole his life — turns out to be terrible, I will pretend I was. I think it's going to be good, though.