Every network, cable channel and streaming service is desperately searching for the next Game of Thrones—a blockbuster with broad appeal steeped in genre. But since traditional television is dying faster than anyone expected and the market will likely be dominated by as many as seven top-tier streaming services by 2020, it’s more than likely that next smash hit will come from a direct-to-consumer platform.
Of those seven standalone services, there are concrete public details regarding the upcoming library of originals from five: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and Apple. Each is backed by a well-equipped and deep-pocketed conglomerate and each boasts several ambitious home run swings currently in development. Seeing as that might be what defines the streaming wars moving forward, let’s take a look at what those shows are.
Netflix: The Witcher
Stranger Things isn’t going to run forever, and with Netflix increasingly cancelling shows that don’t pop after a few seasons, they’ll soon need a new flagship series. While the market-leading streamer has several high-profile projects in the pipeline, one stands above the rest in terms of scope and ambition.
The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill, is based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s beloved fantasy novels and short stories, which have already inspired a line of incredibly popular video games. The eight-episode series will follow Geralt of Rivia (Cavill), who is “a solitary monster hunter” caught in a “[struggle] to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts.”
The property boasts a significant global fan base and plays in the same fantasy lane that has endeared Thrones to audiences the world over.
“TV budgets are big. They are,” series writer Lauren Hissrich tweeted. “We’ll be using money as wisely as we can, to do as much as we can. (Monsters included—and still very much in hot discussion).”
Netflix is sparing no expense on this one.
Honorable Mentions: Raising Dion, 10 After Midnight, Ratched, Jupiter’s Legacy
Amazon: The Lord of the Rings
Amazon—which is developing a formidable blockbuster TV slate—famously paid $250 million just for the rights to the iconic series and is now preparing to invest $1 billion (!) into the show over five seasons. That easily makes it the most expensive small screen endeavor in history. Given the price tag and the similarities to its own marquee title, we can see why HBO passed.
Amazon ruled out the rumors of a Young Aragorn prequel when it confirmed the long-speculated setting of its LOTR series earlier this month with a simple tweet:
The Second Age is also known as “The Age of Númenor,” which refers to a mythic lost city of men that serves as Tolkien’s rough equivalent to Atlantis. It also marks the rise and fall of the second Dark Lord, Sauron, who was the primary antagonist in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy. It was during this Second Age that Sauron forged the dark Rings of Power and the races of elves, men and dwarves all united against him for the first time. The Second Age spans more than 3,400 years.
Hulu: The Devil in the White City
The Devil in the White City is actually a factual recounting of a real events and is not steeped in fantasy or science-fiction. But as a terrifying and riveting tale of murder at a time of great historical significance for America, it has the potential to really break out. At one point, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio were set to make a big screen adaptation; the pair will now executive produce.
The series is based on the Erik Larson novel The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America. The book follows the true story of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago from the perspective of its designer, Daniel Burnham, and the serial killer who stalked it for victims, H.H. Holmes. The story is gripping from start to finish and catalogues the backstory of one of America’s forgotten mass murderers, set against the nation’s headfirst plunge into the industrial present.
Honorable Mentions: Reprisal, The Great, Little Fires Everywhere
Disney+: The Mandalorian
We were tempted to name one of the Marvel limited series in development here, but given that The Mandalorian is the first-ever live-action series set in the Star Wars universe, we felt it deserved top-billing. It also doesn’t hurt that Disney and Lucasfilm have lined up a murderer’s row of talent both in front of and behind the camera.
The Mandalorian stars the extremely talented Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, Narcos) in the lead role while Jon Favreau (The Lion King, Iron Man) will serve as showrunner. Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi is helming one episode and told Observer he plans to make sure it contains his patented sense of humor…within reason. Other directors include Dave Filoni, Deborah Chow, Rick Famuyiwa and Bryce Dallas Howard. The Mandalorian is among Observer’s most-anticipated new TV series for 2019.
Honorable Mentions: Untitled Rogue One Prequel Series, Loki, The Vision and Scarlet Witch, Untitled Falcon and Winter Soldier Series
Apple: For All Mankind
Apple was tricky to pin down, as there were several intriguing options all shrouded in varying levels of mystery. Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi anthology Amazing Stories is being rebooted with a hefty budget, but could feel like overkill with Netflix’s Black Mirror and Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone revival. Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston’s Untitled Morning Show Drama sparked quite the bidding war, but is more of a traditional adult-skewing drama than a home run swing.
So for now, we’ll go with Ronald D. Moore’s (Battlestar Galactica) For All Mankind, which explores what would have happened had the global space race never ended. The series stars Joel Kinnaman, Michael Dorman and Sarah Jones and recently finished filming, meaning that it could be one of the first shows Apple debuts on its streaming service.
Honorable Mentions: See, Untitled M. Night Shyamalan Thriller Series, Untitled Damien Chazelle Drama