First, in 2016, the TV business will go back, way back. The X-Files will return to Fox on Jan. 24, in the most anticipated network revival in years.
It's only six episodes, this return engagement for Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) as investigators of unsolved FBI cases that feature unexplained phenomena. Fox has been coy about the storyline and content, but the promos suggest a downed UFO and an alien critter being the focus.
Also, creator Chris Carter has made it clear that Mulder and Scully are not a couple in the miniseries, as was suggested they were in one of the X-Files movies. The task of the miniseries will be to transcend the geek factor, the nostalgia factor and to make new drama that's genuinely compelling.
HBO has two high-profile new dramas that could go sideways or delight.
First, there's Vinyl (starts Feb. 14), a high-octane music-industry story that originated with an idea by Mick Jagger, with Martin Scorsese on board to executive produce. It features Bobby Cannavale as record label honcho Richie Finestra, a man desperate to save his label by finding the next big thing.
It's 1970s New York City and there's punk, New Wave and a whole lot of fringe acts ready for the limelight. With the notable exception of Fox's Empire, music-industry dramas tend to disappoint, because it's very costly to use existing music and rather hard to cook up compelling music on the fly for a TV series. Expect more about drugs and sex, and less about rock 'n' roll.
Westworld (date TBA) is officially described as "a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin," and it has sci-fi geeks going ga-ga with anticipation.
Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy it's an expansion of themes and from the 1973 film of the same name from Michael Crichton. The gist is this – a genius (Anthony Hopkins) has created a sort-of theme park world populated by androids where the paying public can live out all manner of fantasies, innocent or debauched. Then, a computer virus causes the androids to rebel.
It looks stunning from the trailers available – gorgeous and spooky. Apart from Hopkins, it stars James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris. The series is already notorious in the industry, thanks to an unusual agreement that "background actors" were required to sign. They had to acknowledge that there would be a lot of sex going on when footage was finished, edited and CGIed for HBO.
Locally, CBC brings back several Canadian series and, in new content, has two Brit dramas and a no-brainer reality series, all coming early.
A new version of Jekyll and Hyde (starts Jan. 11) is mainly about Robert Jekyll (Tom Bateman), a nice doctor who recognizes that he has inherited the curse of his grandfather, and trouble ensues. It got great notices when it aired in Britain.
Also from over there is Midwinter of the Spirit (Jan. 6) about single mom and Church of England priest Merrily Watkins (Anna Maxwell Martin) who is appointed to the position of exorcist, no less. And of course, trouble ensues. Apparently it has more genuine horror than you'd expect.
Hello Goodbye (Jan. 8) brings us "touching stories from people in Canada's busiest airport: Toronto Pearson International Airport," and we know in advance it will be stories of "love, family, friendships, immigration, grief, and joy," as CBC says it will.
There's the promise of originality and fun in Letterkenny, the first original series for CraveTV (Feb. 7), derived from the hit Web series about country boys in Letterkenny, Ont.
It stars creator Jared Keeso (of Bravo/CTV's 19-2) and co-writer Nathan Dales as regular fellas beset by the town's many hosers, who are neatly divided into three groups: Hicks, Skids and Hockey Players.
The material available in advance is hilarious, a deadpan riff on the kind of humour that made Trailer Park Boys so utterly unique.