We hope everyone enjoyed their holiday break, because TV is about to come back in a big way. We’re in the midst of a Peak TV era that shows no signs of slowing down, which means that 2020 will see the premiere or return of an astonishing number of shows (over 500, in fact). To help make that feel a little more manageable, the Paste TV Editors and contributors have compiled a list of the shows that we are the most excited for — our 20 for 2020. Some are new, some are old, all have us ready to jump into this new TV year.
The list is organized by premiere date, with those that are still pending at the end (as To Be Announced). One thing that’s not on the list is Election Night 2020 but … we figure you are already well aware of that one.
Premieres: January 16
Television has always produced sleeper hits—critically adored shows that, if they ever find more than a niche audience, don’t manage to do so until after they’re canceled—but even so, Australian comedian Josh Thomas’ debut series, the semi-autobiographical cringe comedy Please Like Me, was something special. (Not for nothing does it pop up again and again when critics are asked to trawl their professional memories for the cream of the television crop.) All of this is to say, don’t be surprised if you start seeing Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, Thomas’ first big post-Please Like Me project, at the top of a lot of critics’ Most Anticipated lists. Featuring Thomas as Nicholas, and awkward-but-gung-ho twentysomething who steps in as legal guardian to his teenaged American sisters after their father’s early death, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay promises to deliver all the cringey joy and pain of growing up and building a family that was central to Please Like Me, just with the addition of the tenderness of teen girlhood, bolstered by the reach of a young adult-centric network like Freeform. Given PLM’s sleeper status, we can’t say we see Everything’s Gonna Be Okay becoming a massive mainstream hit, but whatever it takes to get Josh Thomas’ warm, funny visions back on our screens, we will gladly take.
Oh, and for those interested: All four seasons of Please Like Me are now available to American audiences on Hulu. —Alexis Gunderson
Network: Apple TV+
Premieres: January 17
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, following their Academy Award nomination for The Big Sick, executive produce this anthology series featuring real-life immigration stories, with each half-hour episode, as described by Apple, featuring tales that are “funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring, and surprising.” (Alan Yang, who co-created Netflix’s Master of None, is also an executive producer.) The nature of the premise lends itself nicely to becoming a platform for underexposed talent and inclusive voices, and right now, at a time when it’s easy to be cynical about America as a place, Little America might offer a realistic, yet still optimistic, look at life in this country for those whose stories don’t often get told. —Liz Shannon Miller
Premieres: February 7
Last year saw three different works from horror author Joe Hill get adapted for the screen: His novel NOS4A2 was developed into an AMC series, and two short stories (“In the Tall Grass” and “By the Silver Waters of Lake Champlain”) became a Netflix movie and a segment on Creepshow respectively. Now his long-running comic series with artist Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key, is the latest project from Carlton Cuse (Lost), Meredith Averill (The Haunting of Hill House) and Aron Eli Coleite (Daybreak) for Netflix. Like NOS4A2 and Haunting of Hill House, the series blends family drama with horror and fantasy elements in an engaging and satisfying way. The story follows the Locke family as they return to their recently murdered father’s ancestral New England mansion, which happens to house magical keys that led to his death. As the Locke children unravel the mystery, the stakes grow as they settle into their new town. —Josh Jackson
Premieres: February 9
The seventh season of Homeland ended way back on April 29, 2018. In TV years that makes in ancient. Think of all the shows (not to mention networks and streaming platforms) that have premiered in the ensuing two years. There were times when the eighth season’s premiere date kept getting pushed back that I thought a final season was a ruse, a fabled season that would never actually materialize. But it is here. Finally. Every time Carrie (Claire Danes) thinks she’s out, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) pulls her back in. This time, even though she’s recuperating from months in a Russian prison, Saul convinces her to go with him to Afghanistan, bringing the show full circle. Get ready to ugly cry as Homeland takes its final bow.—Amy Amatangelo
Premieres: February 14
The long-gestating television adaptation of author Nick Hornby’s bitter break-up song of a novel finally hits Hulu on, fittingly, Valentine’s Day. (The first episode is even directed by Jesse Peretz, the former musician who directed the 2018 film adaptation of Hornby’s Juliet, Naked). And, while there is some Hollywood insider drama in that Jeffrey Reiner—one of the people named in The Hollywood Reporter’s expose on why Ruth Wilson left The Affair—is an executive producer, the adaptation does justice to the source material.
This new spin switches up the genders and casts Zoe Kravitz as the moody, music-obsessed record store owner, Rob. While that casting may seem to be a little on the nose (mom, Lisa Bonet, was in the 2000 John Cusack-starring film adaptation; dad, Lenny Kravitz, actually is a musician), Kravitz plays the character with enough edgy-but-damaged cool girl joie de vivre that you understand why she does some totally stupid things in the name of getting over her ex. Add in talent like On Becoming A God in Central Florida’s Da’Vine Joy Randolph as record store employee Cherise—a version of the character that became Jack Black’s break-out role in the film—and Peaky Blinders’ Kingsley Ben-Adir as the aforementioned ex causing all this emotional damage, and you have your anti-Valentine’s Day binge watch. Oh, and Questlove serves as executive music producer. —Whitney Friedlander
Premieres: February 16
Though I have had my issues with Outlander in the past, it still remains a show I truly look forward to each season. And, even though the events of the series have moved the action from Scotland to colonial America (though still, in fact, filmed in Scotland), it remains one of the coziest series on television. The new season will see new adventures for the Fraser clan, but the show is truly at its best when it focuses on the warmth between Claire and Jamie and the family they have forged and fought to hold together across time and space. I dinna kin where things will go next (Will Claire change history to protect her family? Will Bri and Roger return to modern times? Will Murtagh escape the death sentence against him?), but I truly can’t wait to find out! —Allison Keene
Premieres: March 1
Jason Segel stars in an AMC series that might on the surface sound like the first act of a horror film: A man living a quiet, dull life gets dragged into a mysterious game being played on the streets of Pittsburgh. But instead, it’s an opportunity for him to discover that there’s more beauty and wonder in the world than he’s ever imagined. Segel also wrote and directed the pilot for the series, which is actually based on a real alternate reality game which originated in San Francisco in 2008, and the cast includes big names like Richard E. Grant, Andre Benjamin and Sally Field, as well as potential breakout star Eve Lindley. While the premise might be hard for some to grasp (unless, I suppose, you’re a big fan of the David Fincher movie The Game), Dispatches From Elsewhere has a lot of sweet character-focused potential. —Liz Shannon Miller
Premieres: March 18
Everyone who thought that the non-Nicole Kidman scenes of Big Little Lies were lacking in depth should now consider Little Fires Everywhere, creator Liz Tigelaar’s eight-episode adaptation of author Celeste Ng’s 2017 best-seller.
Yes, there’s still Reese Witherspoon knowing what we expect from her and Tracy Flicking up the joint (this time, she stars as Elena Richardson, a suburban mother of four with white liberal guilt mostly caused by the fact that deep down, she’s really a conservative). But this time, she’s paired opposite Kerry Washington as Mia Warren, her new tenant and a single mother who manages to peel back the layers of everyone else’s drama while still keeping her (and her daughter’s) secrets hidden. While this adds a layer of race relations that wasn’t obvious in the book, the show also adds in some nostalgia for the late-Gen Xers by keeping the 1990s setting and casting Joshua Jackson as Elena’s husband, Bill. Little Fires lures you into what you think is a sudsy drama until—just like the book—you find that this story has so much more going on. —Whitney Friedlander
Premieres: March (Date TBA)
Everyone loves a good comeback story. And what can be better than the triumphant return of One Day at a Time for a fourth season after being unceremoniously cancelled by Netflix? The big difference in the move is the show will be released on a weekly basis instead of all at once. And there will be commercials. But no matter. I’ll take Lydia (the incomparable Rita Moreno), Penelope (Justina Machado), Elena (Isabella Gomez), Alex (Marcel Ruiz) and Schneider (Todd Grinnell) any way I can get them. No show is both simultaneously topical and forward thinking while offering the comforts of traditional comedic beats. I can’t wait to watch One Day at a Time dale once more.—Amy Amatangelo
A distinctly feminist witchy wave hit pop culture in late 2018, with Charmed, Legacies and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina all premiering within weeks of one another. While all three of those series wield their relative witchiness to confront and/or subvert various elements of the toxic patriarchal structures (that have brought us things like Gamergate, #MeToo, and the looming death of Roe v. Wade), Freeform’s upcoming Motherland: Fort Salem promises to do them all one better, imagining a wholly alternate present in which the descendants of Salem’s witches (real, in this timeline) have spent centuries volunteering their patriotic services as America’s first line of military defense. The degree of difficulty in successfully executing a pitch like this is high, but between Pretty Little Liars, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger and Siren, Freeform has a (mostly) solid record of approaching knotty, allegorical storytelling with both nuance and care, so we are happy to remain cautiously hopeful. Because if Motherland can pull it off, it may be the exact show we need for what promises to be a pummelingly brutal American year. —Alexis Gunderson
Sure, the Snowpiercer movie is a wonderful class study amid a bonkers thrill ride across an apocalyptic snowscape starring The Best Chris™—Chris Evans. And the TV show (which also boasts an excellent cast including Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs) could be a worthy extension of it. But far more fascinating has been the drama behind the scenes, which saw some very contentious showrunner changes and a network change (from TBS to TNT … but what was Turner thinking by initially putting it on their “Very Funny” branded channel in the first place??) Snowpiercer might be great, but what it really needs is to live up to is its real-life melodrama. —Allison Keene
Premieres: September 28
Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp. Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones. Clive Owen as President Bill Clinton. Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky. Sign me up. The series, from executive producer Ryan Murphy, is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. The limited series promises to explore this headline-making time in history much the same way it did with the O.J. Simpson trial and the death of Gianni Versace. But the best part of all is Monica Lewinsky will serve as one of the producers on the series, allowing her to reclaim the narrative so many others have told for her in the last 20 years. —Amy Amatangelo
The first big Marvel rollout on Disney+ will restart the MCU on television, as the advent of Disney’s new subscription service has put an end to (most of) the rest of Marvel’s programming scattered elsewhere across the dial. In a (welcome) inversion, The Russo Brothers have in the past described the film universe that concluded with Avengers: Endgame as being like a TV show, as each movie franchise within it serves as another connected season in the saga. With The Falcon and the Winter Solider, though, we’ll see that televisual side to the MCU films become literal, as two characters from the movies spinoff onto the small screen. With star power (Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie are the co-leads), familiar characters, a compelling narrative, and probably no small amount of money behind it, this series could kick off a big shift in the way we experience the MCU moving forward. —Allison Keene
It will come as a surprise to no one that I am extremely excited for The Continued Adventures of Baby Yoda and His Hot Space Dad, more commonly known as The Mandalorian. The first season was an unexpectedly heartwarming journey across the galaxy with a bounty hunter and a little alien puppet he comes to adopt—or essentially, The Rifleman in space. The star cameos were fun, the action set pieces were excellent, and there was plenty of humor and emotion sprinkled throughout a tale that found ways to reinvigorate old tropes week in and week out. More casual and still more effective than the final chapter of the Star Wars movie triple-trilogy, The Mandalorian became a meme-filled watercooler series that was so much fun to talk about. Mainly Baby Yoda. Bring on Season 2! —Allison Keene
It was fair to wonder how the formula of Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows could really be expanded to fit the dimensions of a half-hour TV sitcom over a longer period, but the first season of WWDITS quickly put any fan concerns to bed. Not only did it supply us with an amiable crew of distinct new vampire roommates (Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Mark Proksch), but it wisely frames its story from the perspective of luckless human familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), a naive doormat who is just beginning to wonder if he’s made a terrible mistake, 10 years into his interminable service as the equivalent of a vampire butler. The final episode’s great revelation—that Guillermo actually has Van Helsing blood flowing through his veins, and seemingly an innate skill in vampire hunting—will clearly serve the series well in Season 2, stoking the familiar’s confliction with his role, his desire to become a vampire, and his genuine affection for Nandor, Laszlo and Nadja. Beyond the dramatic opportunities this revelation opens up, however, it will simply be a joy to return to the hilarious dynamic between actors like Berry and Demetriou, whose relationship was a highlight of the show’s first season, and the stoic deadpan of Proksch as the relentlessly annoying “energy vampire” Colin Robinson. Our last wish: A regularly recurring role for inexperienced “stupid baby vampire” Jenna, as portrayed so charmingly by Beanie Feldstein in Season 1, as she comes into her own as one of the immortals. —Jim Vorel
Network: Amazon Prime Video
Robert Jordan’s epic series sprawls over the course of 14 novels—the last three co-written by Brandon Sanderson from Jordan’s notes after his death. It’s a delightfully imaginative series that was in desperate need of a more merciless editor. Here’s hoping the TV adaptation from Amazon can capture the best of the series with far fewer tugs on braids and better written women characters in general. I’m optimistic. The bones for the next great TV fantasy series are there. Rosamund Pike strikes me as perfect casting for Moraine. On the other hand, showrunner Rafe Judkins and most of the rest of the cast are mostly unproven on a project this big. But with the might of Sony Pictures Television and Amazon Studios behind them, they’ll be given every opportunity to succeed. —Josh Jackson
In a post-Downton Abbey world, we’re all looking for our next period drama fix. Some shows have admirably attempted to fill the Highclere Castle-shaped hole in our lives, but even though dramas like Victoria, The Crown, Harlots, The Spanish Princess, and Gentlemen Jack have all been appealing properties for a variety of reasons, it’s just not the same.
Maybe nothing ever can be, if we’re honest; but we could get closer than ever before in 2020.
The OG creators behind the Downton phenomenon are (finally!!) heading back to television with a new show that has all the sordid family secrets, scandals and class strife we can stand. Entitled Belgravia, the series’ convoluted plot involves a momentous party just before the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, a child whose true parentage comes to light 25 years later, and an ensuing scandal that rocks the lives of those who live in London’s grandest neighborhoods. Plus, of course, all the lovely costumes, snide remarks and vague class-related pronouncements that are the hallmarks of a Julian Fellowes series.
Period drama staples like Dame Harriet Walter, Philip Glenister, Tamsin Greig and Alice Eve are all part of the six-part limited offering coming to Epix at some point this year. (But not soon enough, if you ask me.) —Lacy Baugher
Where the first, four-episode season of Castlevania was little more than an amuse-bouche to tempt the palate, the arrival of the first full season was a true feast for the senses, and quickly became an achievement we labeled as the best videogame adaptation of all time. Narratively, everything just comes together in Castlevania Season 2 to create a build-up and payoff to the story of Dracula, Alucard, Sypha and Trevor Belmont that is as beautifully rendered and animated as it is emotionally devastating. Episode 7, “For Love,” is a peak for videogame adaptations and gothic animation that we imagine will be difficult for the series to ever replicate, but we can only hope that Season 3 will make every effort to top its majesty. With Dracula dead, we will no doubt be entering some uncharted narrative territory, with the show’s human villains—particularly the forgemaster Isaac, who seems to be starting down a long road of revenge—needing to shoulder the lion’s share of the show’s dramatic impetus. Will those arguably lesser characters be able to carry the series without the incredible sense of gravitas exuded by Graham McTavish as Dracula? Or will the vampire lord find himself resurrected in a new guise, as happens so often in the videogame source material? We’d guess a little bit of both—if Castlevania airs for a few more seasons, Dracula is sure to be reborn. But Season 3 will likely be seeking a new, human-driven identity, and we’re curious to see how the Netflix audience responds. —Jim Vorel
One of Showtime’s most consistently underrated series, the original Penny Dreadful was a Gothic horror delight, serving as a vehicle for the tremendous talents of star Eva Green and bringing a handful of haunting literary characters to life in the real world. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen former Doctor Who companion Billie Piper’s take on this series’ version of the Bride of Frankenstein, please fix your life immediately.) This next installment in the Penny Dreadful saga is apparently more of a companion series than a straight sequel and will mix a 1930s detective story with Mexican myth and folklore.
Game of Thrones vet Natalie Dormer will play a literal shapeshifting hell demon whose job appears to be wearing as many high fashion Goth outfits as possible, and who will come into frequent conflict with her sister Santa Muerte, the Holy Angel of Death. This in and of itself would be reason enough for me to tune in, but apparently the show also plans to tackle larger themes such as displacement, discrimination and gentrification that surrounded the birth of Los Angeles and its establishment as a major metropolitan center. What’s not to love? —Lacy Baugher
Who needs David Fincher anyway? After all the tumult Utopia has faced on its way across the Atlantic from its BBC origins, it’s finally coming to Amazon with Gillian Flynn at the helm. She and her Gone Girl director Fincher were going to make the comic book conspiracy series—during which an underground graphic novel seems to hold all the clues to a vast and sinister plot soon to affect the world—at HBO, but now Flynn’s completely in charge of its Amazon incarnation. With a cast led by an ensemble of comedic character actors going up against John Cusack in his first-ever TV role, the hilarious and bleak show will surely convert any that missed the original show’s addictive blend of Bourne-esque “it goes all the way to the top” antics, geeky awkwardness, and shocking gore. And nobody can blend violence and comedy like Flynn, flexing all her creative muscles in her first showrunner gig.—Jacob Oller
Aside from being the least Googleable show in recent memory, the upcoming FX adaptation of beloved graphic novel Y: The Last Man has an incredible cast (including Diane Lane, Imogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, and that last man himself, Barry Keoghan) and a network known for its creative and strange genre shows. With Eliza Clark (Animal Kingdom) at the helm of Y, taking over from Michael Green and Aida Mashaka Croal, the show’s still got a female leader behind the scenes even after the leadership shuffle. The post-apocalyptic story is even better than its component parts, just by its premise alone: all the men on Earth are wiped out. Except for one. And a monkey. Who runs the world? Girls, by default. That’s exactly the kind of energy I want 2020 to bring.—Jacob Oller
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