2016 Watch List: Television

2016 just got started, and even though the fall season is largely a mystery, there's still a lot to look forward to in the way of good TV.  Possibly even too much, which is why I tried to narrow this down to the seven best series--and three honorable mentions--coming to the screen this year.

Legends of Tomorrow – Sounding like a mix between the best elements of “Doctor Who” and the Justice League, Legends of Tomorrow is the third series from the CW’s DC television universe, taking up a spot on Thursday following Tuesday’s Flash and Wednesday’s Arrow. Featuring characters from both Arrow and Flash alongside Dr. Who alum Arthur Darvill as the master of time travel Rip Hunter, Legends of Tomorrow follows a ragtag team’s attempt to stop Vandal Savage, an immortal who seeks to conquer the world…and in the future, may already have.

Everything from the trailers to the interviews I’ve spotted have given me the indication that this is essentially what long-time fans of DC Comics have been looking for from the films, with what appears to be major, big budget action without all the excess gravitas that seems to make the movies so glum. Though the series is a mid-season replacement, I’m hoping this gets more to it because the show has so much potential for future seasons: with all of DC’s past and present available, they can feature everyone from the World War 2 heroes the Justice Society to the Legion of Super-Heroes a thousand years in the future. And that’s before we get to all the fun that Flash can get into by having some of its characters visit the future. I’m hoping for the smashiest of smash hits, and a long future for this one.

The first episode of Legends of Tomorrow airs on the CW on Thursday, January 21st.

 Luke Cage - Jessica Jones’ coolest character gets a series of his own, as the unbreakable man becomes the third in a series of Marvel characters on Netflix. Set months after Jessica Jones, the Netflix series will feature Luke Cage in Harlem, trying to make ends meet without drawing attention to himself until that whole pesky “I’m a decent guy with superpowers” thing forces him to start helping people. Essentially, it’s training mode for the Defenders launch in 2017.

In a perfect world, this show leads into Iron Fist’s perfectly, and becomes “Heroes for Hire” after they finish with the first season of both their shows. It’s already got Misty Knight, why not go all the way?

Daredevil -  The immense success of the first season of this show not only got it a second season, but got it to come out before the other half of Marvel’s planned Netflix Original series could air. Utilizing the binge watch format inherent to Netflix, Daredevil season one was able to both show the capabilities of superheroes in darker settings and the strength of their natural habitat: the serial format. This season, Matt Murdock’s life becomes much more complicated, as former girlfriend-turned-assassin Elektra and murderous vigilante Punisher both come on the scene.   Caught between these two talented killers, it's probably a good idea Matt upgraded to a bulletproof suit at the end of the last season.

Daredevil season two airs on Netflix March 18th.

Iron Fist - The most “iffy” of Marvel’s Netflix series, Iron Fist is the fourth and final solo hero series before “The Defenders” airs in 2017. Iron Fist has had talks about everything from possibly not existing anymore to casting someone of a different ethnicity to combat the problematic “Mighty Whitey” trope, but thus far all that’s known about the series is the hiring of showrunner Scott Buck (Dexter). For those unaware, Iron Fist is about martial artist Danny Rand—a young boy whose father takes him to the mythical city of K’un Lun where he excels under the training of teacher Lei Kung the Thunderer, and eventually gains the power of the Iron Fist by defeating a dragon.

I’m more excited about Iron Fist than I am about any other singular property, as writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction built an amazing lore around this character in their 2006 Immortal Iron Fist series that's just begging to be made into a modern martial arts classic. Unfortunately, absolutely nothing is known about this series yet and it may be some time before we learn anything new—including whether a 2016 release date is still possible.

Archer -  Television’s most hilarious and referential series finds its way back with a seventh season this year. It should have been on already, but apparently after FX moved it to their sister channel to air it alongside the studio’s new animated series Cassius and Clay…which it subsequently canceled, it seems the series has run into some snags.

Now normally, I don’t find myself sitting on the edge of my seat plot-wise when it comes to a comedic series, but there’s a first time for everything. The last season ended with the team failing a mission and being blackballed from ever working in the spycraft world again, and since the team is already very much done dealing drugs, I'm a tad lost. Archer’s covered everything from killer cyborgs to child-rearing, so I'm not even sure what’s left, and wondering whether or not the season can manage to snag an eighth season from FX or go out with a bang this season.

The Get Down - This series crept up on me, but it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d fall for. Set in the 1970’s, The Get Down seeks to encapsulate the tone of New York during one of its most violent periods of civil unrest...and one of its most creative eras. One where disco was king of music, but soon transferred its throne and crown to hip-hop. The Get Down merges so many parts of history that I love, with its heavy focus on pre-2000’s culture and the transformative power of music, that I can't help being excited. The sizzle trailer has a few cheesy bits in a “urban version of Grease” kinda way, but I’m hoping that’s because the scenes are being presented with zero context because there’s so much cool shit that can be mined from a concept like this if it catches on.

Vinyl - The flipside of The Get Down, you can’t help wondering if HBO and Netflix aren’t intentionally going head-to-head by airing both these series in the same year. Also set in 1970’s era New York, Vinyl takes a comparatively different approach to the same subject—looking at things from the eyes of a failing record label president.

Vinyl airs on HBO February 14th.

Honorable Mentions:

JLA:  The only “cartoon” on this list aside from Archer. This is filed under honorable mention for a couple reasons.  For one, there's little proof that it exists--the image above is one of the most solid leads we have, featuring silhouettes of Superman, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Firestorm, and more.     Tentatively titled “Justice League Action”, a rep from CN was quoted as saying it probably wouldn’t appear until the Fall of this year. Still, a new Justice League cartoon is cause to rejoice…

….If they are still willing to make action cartoons, and don’t create another Teen Titans Go!, only starring the World’s Greatest Superheroes. It’s pretty much a lock for greatness if it’s an actual action animated television series, though.

Street Fighter: Resurrection: In honor of Street Fighter V’s debut next month, the creators of the groundbreaking Assassin’s Fist series have decided to do a five episode mini-series that takes place before the start of SF V, set around Charlie Nash and his reintroduction to the Street Fighter universe after his revival. This gets an honorable mention because I’m not entirely certain it fits under the “television” category, as it’s only meant to be five episodes long and may watch better as a movie. Either way, I expect great things and hope they can also get out The World Warrior based around the Street Fighter story this year as well.

Transformers: Combiner Wars: Brought up a San Diego Comic Con last year, Transformers: Combiner Wars is a cartoon series meant to be a more “adult” take on the Robots in Disguise that ties into Hasbro’s massive “Combiner Wars” initiative that has so far spawned a comic book crossover and a video game from Platinum. Supposedly made by the good folks over at Machinima, this lands in the honorable mention category because the lack of information between July and January leads me to believe this is a series that will be pushed back to 2017, if it gets made at all.


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