While not exactly news to anyone, 2017 was a bumper year in terms of shows, events, reboots, miniseries, maxi-series and just about any form of TV you could imagine (because with some 500 scripted series out there, someone already has). More was more. The less got trampled. The big got bigger. The pay networks and streaming services fought for shelf space and mind space, reasoning that the future belongs to those willing to commit every last resource — or dollar — in the present. Netflix drove the conversation and the paranoia. The world’s dominant online retailer, Amazon, was in the unaccustomed position of playing catch-up. HBO was in the unsettling position of imagining life post-“Game of Thrones.”
Meanwhile, the major commercial TV networks had to reluctantly scrap that word “major,” and prop themselves up on the sidelines to become spectators like everyone else.
It was all exhilarating, and also not a little exhausting.
Partly for that reason, consider 2018 a bit of a breather year. An uncertainty hangs over the immediate future, if not quite a pallor. There are reasons beyond a hangover.
With the disappearance of the 21st Century Fox studio into the amoebic embrace of Disney, the world has quickly realized that the impending battle for the future is no longer between Amazon and Netflix, but between Disney and everyone else.
Disney will launch its streaming service in 2019, which will be priced below Netflix and chock full of the vast Disney and Fox studio libraries. But that’s just the library: What new series will Disney dream up in the interim, forcing us to avert our gaze from Netflix? Meanwhile, Amazon will launch a new franchise based on “The Lord of the Rings,” most likely in 2019, too.
The whole point here is the obvious one: Let’s all enjoy the relative peace and quiet of 2018, because 2019 will make 2017 look like the warm-up act.
Here’s my list of 10 major programming developments for 2018.
AMERICAN IDOL The new “AI” launches on ABC March 11, with one familiar face (Ryan Seacrest) and three new judges (Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie). The questions ask themselves here, but “Idol” on any network has still got to be momentous, or at least mini-momentous.
ROSEANNE This March 27 revival arrives two decades after we last saw the Connors. The cast is almost all back for this one, including Johnny Galecki for one episode. Speaking of questions, didn’t Dan (John Goodman) die at the end of the original’s run? This revival will simply pretend that never happened.
THE CHI This Showtime series is up almost before you can say happy new year — it launches Jan. 7 — but should start off the year with a bang. It’s a coming-of-age story set in the South Side of Chicago, and was created by “Master of None” breakout (and Emmy winner) Lena Waithe.
BLUE PLANET II “Blue Planet” was one of the great glories of the small screen, so how could we not be excited to the point of overwhelmed with the arrival of “II” seventeen years later? Specifically on Jan. 20, on BBC America, AMC, IFC, WEtv and SundanceTV.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE BLUES “SNL” is television’s most important program in some ways, but it all felt a little tired this past fall, as if in the throes of a post-election-year slump. Can “SNL” get back into a groove? Can it at least be funny again?
THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE This FX miniseries beginning Jan. 17 is the second (the first was 2016’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson”) installment of Ryan Murphy’s vastly (and justifiably praised) “American Crime” franchise. More praise forthcoming?
BIG LITTLE LIES / SHARP OBJECTS HBO viewers have these two to look forward to: The former, a ’17 breakout, will have a second season, although the 2018 airdate has not yet been set. The latter, which has been in development since ’14 will finally arrive over the summer. This eight-parter, based on the Gillian Flynn novel, also boasts a stellar cast (including Amy Adams).
THE HANDMAID’S TALE The first season was a cultural (and Emmy) blockbuster that almost seemed to fictionally frame one of the biggest stories of 2017. Can the second, which starts streaming in April (exact date TBD) repeat for Hulu?
THE LOOMING TOWER Here’s another potential Hulu blockbuster, arriving Feb. 28: It’s based on the Lawrence Wright Pulitzer Prize winner about al-Qaida and features an all-star cast, including Jeff Daniels.
GAME OF THRONES AND TRUE DETECTIVE We leave off with a question or two. Will “GoT” return in 2018, as some expect, to wrap one of the most successful runs in TV history? Another question: Will the third season of “TD,” this one starring Mahershala Ali and with episodes directed by Jeremy Saulnier, finally arrive in 2018? The possible answer to both is yes, but the current answer is that we don’t know. “GoT” seems more likely to arrive in ’19, although production has begun. A “TD” return in ’18 seems a little more likely, but HBO may be holding back its big guns to meet the Disney threat head-on.
Once again, remember: 2019 will be a year to remember, while 2018 will be (hopefully) a year to relax.