by Deborah Harter Williams
2013 was the year of binge streaming. In the past twelve months we crested the hill and coasted into time shifting, streaming, binge-watching and mobile viewing as day-to-day options for the masses. Not only can we see the latest and preview the upcoming but we can go back in time and revisit series from other eras – whether on TVLand or via Hulu, Amazon et al.
Video offerings are now readily available from around the world, an international smorgasbord of programming, there for the taking. Consider, if you have not discovered her already, the glamorous and fabulous Phyrne Fisher from the Australian Broadcasting Company (the other ABC). We found it online with Swedish sub-titles, which made for an odd multi-cultural mélange. Take the grand tour with haunting Scandinavian productions (Wallender/the original version of The Bridge), a soupcon of something French (Returned) and the ever-popular British contributions (Dr. Who/Sherlock/Downton Abbey).
2013 was also the year of Netflix – back from embarrassment and plunging stock price and into the success of House of Cards. Oh boy, now everyone wants to produce television. Amazon got into the act by introducing two new series – Alpha House: Republican congressmen sharing lodgings, from Gary Trudeau and Betas – Life at a Silicon Valley start-up. (Could there be a show called Gamma in the works.)
A host of new gizmos with strange sounding names propose to make it easier to pull programming out of the ether and watch it wherever we want– Roku, ChromeCast, SlingBox. Even the networks have caught on and are making it less cumbersome to access their programming online.
So rev up your gadget of choice and get ready for 2014.
Here are a few trends to look for.
There will be pirates –
A prequel to Treasure Island called Black Sails from Starz premiers January 25 and later in the year John Malkovich will be Blackbeard on NBC’s Crossbones.
And period pieces – trips into the past that offer a respite from cell phone waving characters.
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander visits both the 18th century and the post-war 20th in this dramatization of the well-loved time travel adventures of Claire Randall who finds herself swept from 1945 back to Scotland in 1743. Not yet scheduled. Starz 16 episodes.
AMC will present Turn, a revolutionary war drama. It’s adapted from the book Washington’s Spies in which a group of childhood friends form a spy ring in 1778.
A short trip to the near past takes us to the 1980s with Halt & Catch Fire.The name refers to a mythical computer programming instruction to shut down a central processing unit by telling it literally to “halt and catch fire”.
The show follows the development of personal computing through the eyes of “a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy”. Lee Pace, the likeable pie man of Pushing Daisies, stars. AMC. 10 episodes
People with mental gifts and challenges –
Intelligence, Josh Holloway (Lost) is an intelligence agent with a super-computer microchip in his brain. Marg Helgenberger (CSI) runs the government unit that directs his missions. Lance Reddick (Fringe) also stars. The story is based on the book (good to see so many book-based programs viva la authors!) Phoenix Island by John Dixon, which will also be coming out in January. Premiere: Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at 9 p.m. CBS moves to regular time slot on Mondays 10 p.m. on January 13.
Mind Games centers on the relationship between brothers, one a bipolar genius in human psychology, and the other a slick ex-con. They solve problems for their clients by mixing the science of human motivation with manipulation. The Mentalist meets Lie to Me?
The Black Box, from ABC, will go further into the mind from two directions with Elizabeth Black, a famed neuroscientist, as the lead character and Vanessa Redgrave as her psychiatrist.
And paranormal adventures –
You can count on the JJ Abrams team. Believe, created with writer/producer/director Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) is about a young girl with remarkable gifts and a man sprung from prison to protect her from the evil factions that are hunting her. NBC Sunday nights – 9 p.m. February.
Later in the year will be Wayward Pines based on the books of Black Crouch. Fox bills this as “a new mind-bending event thriller evocative of the classic cult hit Twin Peaks.” 10 episodes.
Fox has coined the phrase “Event Series” to describe something longer than a mini-series but shorter than a traditional series. This looks like a tactic that many producers are using and mirrors the example of foreign series. For viewers this means that there will always be a new “season” coming up soon. Get new batteries for the remote, it’s going to be a busy year.
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