Summer just keeps on getting hotter, thanks to the laissez-faire attitude of both corporations and consumers to carbon emissions (or, for you climate skeptics out there, thanks to some kind of mummy’s curse). But while you and I lounge in the sun and jump into lakes in our pants, other people – better-paid people – are in darkened rooms, poring over hours of raw footage which through painstaking editing become something which is coherent to the human eye.
In the spirit of being as ruthless and exacting as they are, the following are the most hotly anticipated of their creations. My suggested list of the least hotly anticipated upcoming shows was deemed ‘too depressing’ by all.
Sharp Objects (July 8)
After the hit that was the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, it was inevitable that Flynn’s back catalogue would start pricking up producers’ ears. However, to Flynn’s credit, Sharp Objects is hardly a cash-in, as plans for some form of screen adaptation of the property have been swirling around since 2008 – well before Gone Girl was even published, let alone hit the cinemas and got splashed across every front page going.
Sharp Objects deals with similarly heavy subject matter, focusing on Camille, a journalist with a troubled past and a history of self-harm, being sent back to her hometown to cover a string of particularly lurid murders. It’s perhaps an old cliché when your protagonist goes looking for (X) and finds themselves, but here it’s more than appropriate. Everyone seems to have something to hide or some issue to deal with, so in that strange way of gothic fiction, Camille ends up fitting right in.
HBO’s whipped up a solid cast, with the incredibly highly paid Amy Adams as Camille herself, backed up by well-regarded faces such as Patricia Clarkson (The Green Mile) and Chris Messina (Argo). Behind the camera, it’s co-written (alongside Flynn) and executive produced by Marti Noxon, the acceptable behind-the-scenes face of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, of the multi-Emmy-winning Big Little Lies.
The Outpost (July 10)
In my wild speculation about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings spin-off series earlier this month, I was heavy on the point that, with Game of Thrones nearing the end of its run – and its domination of the TV medium – everyone will be looking to feast upon the same spoils. The CW are evidently hoping to beat Amazon to the punch with The Outpost, which takes us to a world of sectarian turmoil and supernatural powers.
While the cast are all relative unknowns, the series was created by Arrowstorm’s Jason Faller and Kynan Griffin, and produced by Dean Devlin and Jonathan Glassner, both of whom were behind a different iteration of the Stargate franchise. The story follows Talon – Jessica Green, one of the non-Bruce Campbell cast members of Ash vs. Evil Dead – as she seeks revenge after her family are murdered by a roving pack of bad dudes.
Wellington Paranormal (July 11)
In its way, vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows was only tangentially to do with vampires – obviously the subject came up a lot, but the key to it was the inimitable kiwi charm of director and star Taika Waititi. You may disagree, but the guys who turned him loose on Thor: Ragnarok on the strength of that charm certainly didn’t. Similarly, instead of a direct sequel to What We Do In The Shadows, the plan was to continue the franchise with We’re Wolves, which would focus on the werewolves who showed up briefly in the original (they and the vampires absolutely hated each other).
This TV spinoff – which has also been rattling around in the pipeline pretty much since the film came out – takes a similar tack, following the hapless Wellington police department who found themselves bumbling around in the vampires’ wake. And while a petty rivalry between vampire and werewolf clans seems like plenty for an ordinary police department to deal with, now it turns out Wellington was built on a ley line or a Maori graveyard or something, since they’ve the whole gamut of horror-flick monstrosities running around getting into mischief.
A COPS pisstake with workaday gumshoes set up against a fantastical Hammer Horror rogues gallery is a strong enough concept on the face of it (which perhaps explains why Will Smith’s Bright, which was by-the-numbers at best, did so well). Inject Waititi’s infectious je ne sais quoi – not to forget the input of former Conchord Jemain Clement, who’s also been involved since the start – and you’ve got a winning formula on your hands.
Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits & Monsters (July 11)
Rolling on a similar tone as the previous entry is the prolific comedian’s new offering – an anthology series where the lines between fantasy and reality become dangerously blurred. Each story borrows all the props and aesthetics of a different genre, ranging from sci-fi to rom-com, but each has a darkly humorous core.
The anthology series can seem like a daunting bar to hurdle, with monuments like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents… having left a long shadow on the media (and particularly on stuff like The Simpsons’ halloween specials). Even now, having a heavyweight like Goldthwait or Guillermo del Toro attached seems to be more-or-less obligatory. However, Goldthwait seems to have struck the right tone – the blend of humour and shocks is reminiscent of Inside No. 9, which is by no means a bad thing.
Goldthwait has recruited a fine ensemble cast for this project, including Michael Ian Black, Bridget Everett, Dave Foley, Seth Green, Melissa Joan Hart, David Koechner, Danny Pudi – and with an entirely new narrative every week, there’s plenty of room for each to really get their teeth into their roles.
The Disappearance (July 12)
A Canadian miniseries which now makes the leap to American television after rave reviews in its homeland, this drama centres on – with shades of the incredibly popular Stranger Things – the disappearance of a ten-year-old boy. This time around, though, there’s nothing so simple as a weird parallel world filled with monsters. Instead, his distraught family must reckon with any number of their own neuroses and dark secrets.
Promisingly, the series has limited itself to six episodes, which precludes the open-endedness that often plagues mysteries. Even Stranger Things, as good as it was, seemed incredibly wary of offering any serious answers to what was going on. Given that it’s sticking to the realistic – and, indeed, the British-style brevity of the episode count – a better comparison might be Netflix’s recent series Harlan Coben’s Safe, which had Michael ‘Dexter’ C. Hall taking the lead, and also had as its inciting incident the disappearance of a child.
The Disappearance stars Peter Coyote (ET: The Extraterrestrial), Camille Sullivan (Rookie Blue), and Aden Young (Rectify), and is directed by Peter Stebbings, who appeared in The Borgias, Bates Motel, and Crossbones before finding more success behind the camera, serving as director for episodes of Orphan Black, Saving Hope, and Killjoys.