The swings are getting more expensive and more frequent as media titans continue to place their bets on franchises and A-list stars and creators in order to survive and thrive in the streaming wars.
Perhaps most emblematic of the current state of the TV industry is Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings, which, when it was announced in late 2017, was already labeled as the small screen’s most expensive series in history. With recent reports pegging the production a $465 million — before the marketing blitz! — and a nearly five-year road to the screen, it’s a fair question to ponder if the big-budget approach is the right one to cut through and win the streaming wars (whatever that means). LOTR — which somehow still doesn’t have Peter Jackson’s blessing — is but one of three shows that are years in the making, big-budget plays competing to bump Game of Thrones off of genre TV’s Iron Throne. Will Halo, which has already burned through two showrunners and is on its third platform or Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon come first? And can any possibly deliver on the sky-high expectations that warrant the cost?
That’s but one of the central TV narratives to follow as the calendar turns to 2022, which brings with it the arrivals of scores of high-profile scripted dramas and comedies that were bumped out of 2021 by the pandemic. Inventing Anna — the buzzy first series Shonda Rhimes has written since Scandal — may top that list, which also includes Peacock’s dramatic Bel-Air and Apple’s sprawling Pachinko. And speaking of mega-producers, Netflix is buzzing that Ryan Murphy can deliver a Bridgerton-level breakout in Monster.
This is a challenging list to make. Every network and streamer is launching new franchises, rebooting beloved movies and TV shows and casting A-list stars while chasing the hottest IP and book titles. It’s also important to spread the wealth as not every team is playing with the same payroll. So that means we try to offer slots from the free-spending Netflix to broadcast and cable networks alike. Oh, and the show has to be a brand-new scripted series, so established hits like Succession and Ted Lasso aren’t included.
So without further ado, here’s the 22 most anticipated new scripted series expected* to arrive in 2022. (Presented in alphabetical order, premiere dates included when available.)
*We’re still in a pandemic, there are no guarantees.
1. A League of Their Own (Amazon)
Batter up! Creators Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson met with scores of surviving members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as well as the beloved feature film’s late director Penny Marshall and its stars and hope their series coexists with the 1992 movie. Starring Jacobson (Broad City), Chanté Adams (Bad Hair) and D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place), the comedic series is less about the story of the league and more about a generation of women navigating issues including racism and sexuality. Feels timely.
2. Bel-Air (Peacock, Feb. 13)
Peacock is looking for a broad breakout hit and hopes it has just that in this dramatic reboot of the 1990s Will Smith favorite The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This show was on last year’s most anticipated list but was delayed amid creative challenges that prompted the departures of not one but two showrunners. Inspired by Morgan Cooper’s viral dramatic reboot, newcomer (Jabari Banks) plays the West Philly to Bel-Air transfer that the (third) showrunners say will “peel back the layers of these characters and themes in a way that you simply couldn’t do 30 years ago in the half-hour sitcom format.” So, All American?
3. The First Lady (Showtime)
Following the return of Dexter and the debut of breakout Yellowjackets, Showtime continues to ramp up with plans for an exciting 2022. This seasonal anthology reframes American leadership as told by the first ladies, with Viola Davis playing Michelle Obama, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt. Created by author Aaron Cooley (Four Seats: A Thriller of the Supreme Court), Davis also exec produces the series that looks at some of history’s world-changing decisions that were hidden from view. We vote yes.
4. Gaslit (Starz)
Some shows make this list because they’re based on big IP or hail from proven showrunners. Others make it because of their undeniable star power. Gaslit falls into the latter bucket. Julia Roberts and Sean Penn star in this modern take on Watergate which, similar to The First Lady, puts its focus on untold stories and forgotten characters. Roberts plays a socialite who is the first person to publicly sound the alarm about the president’s involvement in Watergate who happens to be married to Nixon’s attorney general (Penn). Based on the popular Slate podcast Slow Burn, the cast also boasts GLOW’s Betty Gilpin — who has two shows on this list — as well as Dan Stevens and Shea Wigham. Gaslit is one of two shows coming next year focusing on Watergate, joining HBO’s The White House Plumbers with Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux as the duo who planned the Watergate burglary that brought down Nixon. While Plumbers boasts an equally impressive cast and creator (Veep’s David Mandel), it’s interesting to see a Watergate story told through a female lens. Plus, this list can’t be all HBO and Netflix shows.
5. Halo (Paramount+)
Expected to arrive in the first half of 2022, Halo is based on the best-selling video game franchise and stars Pablo Schreiber as the Spartan super soldier Master Chief. The drama was first announced back in 2014 when it was poised to bring Xbox into the scripted TV space. The big-budget show ultimately landed at Showtime, which picked up Halo to series in 2018 and tapped Kyle Killen (Awake) as showrunner. Since then, Halo has already parted ways with its original director and added a co-showrunner (Steven Kane), with both showrunners having exited Halo after production on season one wrapped. Ultimately, ViacomCBS made the decision to move Halo to its streamer, Paramount+, as the platform — like Amazon and Peacock — looks for its big, broad breakout.
6. House of the Dragon (HBO)
More than two years after Game of Thrones ended with a tweetstorm of disappointment, HBO returns to the world of Westeros with this prequel that has the weight of the entire franchise resting on its shoulders. Dragon is set 300 years before the events of the flagship series and revolves around the Targaryen family. Ryan Condal (Colony) and Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones) serve as showrunners, with creator George R.R. Martin exec producing. The show is one of six GoT-related prequels in the works as HBO looks to turn its arguably most important show into a sprawling franchise. Matt Smith stars as Prince Daemon Targaryen, Emma D’Arcy plays Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Steve Toussaint is Lord Corlys Velaryon (aka the Sea Snake), Olivia Cooke takes on the part of Alicent Hightower and Rhys Ifans portrays Otto Hightower. No pressure.
7. Inventing Anna (Netflix, Feb. 11)
Inventing Anna marks the first series that Shonda Rhimes has written, created and showrun since ABC’s Scandal helped turn the prolific producer and her Shondaland banner into a brand. The con-woman drama starring Julia Garner (Ozark) was the first project that the Grey’s Anatomy creator set at Netflix after she landed the rights to the New York magazine story “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People” following a massive bidding war. While Bridgerton was a surprise (and instant) breakout, Netflix is McDreaming of viewers and awards for Anna given the level of Rhimes’ involvement. The cast includes Anna Chlumsky, Shondaland favorites Katie Lowes, Jeff Perry and Anna Deavere Smith.
8. Interview With the Vampire (AMC)
The basic cable network is ready to sink its teeth into Anne Rice’s beloved vampire world, with Interview the first of what is already becoming a multiple-show franchise. Game of Thrones breakout Jacob Anderson stars as Louis, who is seduced into the world of the undead by the amoral vampire Lestat (Sam Reid). Rolin Jones (Perry Mason) serves as showrunner, with GoT’s Alan Taylor helming the first two episodes. Vampire marks the culmination of a years-long development process that started in 2017 and saw the author’s iconic works jump from Hulu, Paramount TV Studios and Anonymous Content. With Better Call Saul, Killing Eve and the flagship Walking Dead all ending in 2022, AMC hopes Rice-verse becomes its newest franchise and, at the very least, honors Rice.
9. Law & Order (NBC, Feb. 24)
This is the only show on this list that hasn’t shot a single frame yet as the revival of Dick Wolf’s flagship procedural is still being cast. The legal drama that ignited a franchise and wave of others returns for what’s being billed as its 21st season with returning players including Anthony Anderson and Sam Waterston (who both have one-year deals). New faces joining the franchise include Hugh Dancy, Jeffrey Donovan and Camryn Manheim. Following its linear premiere on NBC, episodes of the iconic series will be available on Peacock (and Hulu) in a move that — could ultimately help drive interest to NBCUniversal’s struggling streamer.
10. Lord of the Rings (Amazon, Sept. 2)
It’s real and it’s arriving in September, nearly five years after Amazon first landed global rights to the franchise in a deal worth north of $250 million. The first season of the fantasy drama from showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay(Star Trek 4) came in at around $465 million, an eye-popping tally that doesn’t even account for the upcoming marketing and promotion costs. To say expectations are high for TV’s first possible $1 billion show is an understatement as the retail giant continues to search for its must-watch breakout. As for the creative, Amazon’s LOTR is set in Middle-earth and explores new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’sThe Fellowship of the Ring. The 39-person cast (yes, really) includes Nazanin Boniadi, Joseph Mawle, Cynthia Addai-Robinson and Augustus Prew.
11. Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (Netflix)
As prolific as Ryan Murphy has already been for Netflix, he’s yet to deliver the big commercial hit (think Glee) for the streaming giant. Sources say execs at the streamer have high expectations for Monster to be just that as the limited series and his Glee collaborator Ian Brennan chronicle the story of one of the country’s most notorious serial killers. Murphy go-to Evan Peters stars as Dahmer in the drama that is told from the POV of the killer’s victims while also examining the ways in which authorities bungled the case. Richard Jenkins and Penelope Ann Miller play Dahmer’s parents in a cast that also boasts Niecy Nash. While Netflix has yet to officially confirm the series exists, sources note it’s expected to launch in 2022.
12. Ms. Marvel (Disney+)
Marvel’s 2022 TV slate is still coming into focus, with at least four new series joining the Disney+ roster. First up is expected to be Ms. Marvel, which features newcomer Iman Vellani as the teenage superhero Kamala Khan, the character that broke ground in 2014 as Marvel’s first Muslim character to lead her own comic book. Bisha K. Ali (Loki) serves as head writer on the series, which will be joined by Moon Knight, She-Hulk and Secret Invasion in the coming year on the streamer.
13. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+)
The six-episode Star Wars offshoot features the returns of Ewan McGregor as the Jedi master and Hayden Christensen reprising his role as Vader. Name a more iconic duo. We’ll wait.
14. The Old Man (FX)
Jeff Bridges returns to series regular television in this FX series about an “old man” who, decades after absconding from the CIA, now lives off the grid. When an assassin arrives to take him out, the former operative must reconcile his past in order to ensure his future. Jon Steinberg (Jericho) and Robert Levine (Black Sails) adapted the best-seller by Thomas Perry. FX, which will continue to bow new originals on its Hulu hub, also has a 2022 roster that features the Sex Pistols series, Under the Banner of Heaven and Fleishman Is in Trouble, but The Dude trumps them all. (As for FX’s highly anticipated takes on Alien and Shogun, both are expected in 2023.)
15. Pam & Tommy (Hulu)
This eight-episode limited series tracks the relationship between Pam Anderson (Lily James) and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan). The duo married less than a week after meeting in 1995, becoming an instant tabloid sensation with their famed sex tape the centerpiece of the series from writers Rob Siegel and DV DeVincentis and director Craig Gillespie. Neither Anderson nor Lee is involved in Pam & Tommy, which is exec produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. James, for whom Pam & Tommy is expected to be a breakout role, leads a cast that also includes Rogen, Nick Offerman, Andrew Dice Clay and Taylor Schilling. The casting is clearly spot-on but the big question will be if Pam & Tommy has something to say or if it’s further exploitation its already exploited subjects.
16. Pachinko (Apple)
Another repeat from last year’s list, we’re still high on this big-budget Apple adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s best-selling novel that begins with a forbidden love and crescendos into a sweeping saga that journeys from Korea to Japan and America to tell the story of war and peace, love and loss, triumph and reckoning. The series will be told in three languages (Korean, Japanese and English) and was produced across multiple continents. With that kind of production value — including during the pandemic — and Apple’s wallet behind it, we can’t wait to see what’s rumored to be a stunning series. Lee Min-ho (Boys Over Flowers), Jin Ha (Devs), Anna Sawai (Fast & Furious 9), Minha Kim (After Spring), Soji Arai (Cobra Kai) and Kaho Minami (Angel Dust) star.
17. Peacemaker (HBO Max, Jan. 13)
John Cena reprises his role as Christopher “Peacemaker” Marks in the eight-episode series penned and almost exclusively directed by James Gunn. Danielle Brooks and Robert Patrick co-star. After Marvel successfully launched Disney+ originals like WandaVision and Loki, all eyes are on DC and WarnerMedia to see if they can successfully connect the dots between film and TV as Matt Reeves’ The Batman spinoff, Gotham PD, is likely to follow.
18. Queer as Folk (Peacock)
Described as a reimagining of creator Russell T. Davies’ original groundbreaking British series, the new Queer as Folk moves the series from Showtime’s Pittsburgh-set take to New Orleans and follows a group of friends whose lives are transformed in the aftermath of a tragedy. Stephen Dunn (Little America) exec produces the series, which he’d been developing since 2018 when it was set up at Bravo. Jaclyn Moore (Dear White People) serves as showrunner on the series, which could help fill the void of FX’s groundbreaking Pose. The cast includes Special alum Ryan O’Connell, Jesse James Keitel, Kim Cattrall, Juliette Lewis and Ed Begley Jr.
19. The Sandman (Netflix)
Three years after New Line’s failed attempt to turn Neil Gaiman’s beloved Vertigo graphic novel into a feature film, Netflix shelled out a massive sum to adapt the best-seller into a live-action TV series. That was late June 2019, when sources described The Sandman deal as the most expensive TV series that DC Entertainment had ever done. Wonder Woman screenwriter and Shondaland alum Allan Heinberg serves as showrunner and co-write the series alongside Gaiman. David S. Goyer (Foundation) exec produces the series starring Tom Sturridge, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Jenna Coleman, with Gwendolyn Christie in a can’t-wait-to-see role as Lucifer, ruler of hell. Gaiman’s American Gods imploded after three seasons, four showrunners and a checkmark next to every–single–category–of bad-level of drama. Can Sandman earn a breakout halo for Gaiman and justify the cost? (It’s a valid question given the fates of the streamer’s other recent genre swings.)
20. The Three Women (Showtime)
Lissa Taddeo’s novel ignited a bidding war among 20 networks, streamers and film studios in summer 2019 before landing at Showtime with a rare-for-them series commitment. Casting came together this past summer with Shailene Woodley, Betty Gilpin (GLOW) and DeWanda Wise (She’s Gotta Have It) leading the cast of the drama described as a “haunting portrayal of American female desire.” Taddeo was hands-on with the adaptation, which counts Shameless alum Emmy Rossum and showrunner Laura Eason (The Loudest Voice, House of Cards) as exec producers. (For those excited for the Hot Priest’s return in Ripley, that’s a 2023 title.)
21. Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (HBO)
The can’t-call-it Showtime drama already had our attention given its broad franchise appeal (Mamba Forever) and impressive cast. Only now we may be more interested in the drama that led longtime friends and collaborators Will Ferrell and Winning Time exec producer Adam McKay (HBO’s Succession, Step Brothers) to take a serious time out. The press has been obsessed with McKay’s story that he recast Ferrell with John C. Reilly and will continue to be asked about it. Will it prompt to a response from Ferrell, who first cited “bandwidth” as the reason for the creative split? Either way, we can’t wait for tipoff.
22. Untitled Maya Rudolph comedy (Apple)
These are a few of our favorite things: Maya Rudolph, 30 Rock, Pose breakout Michaela (Mj) Rodriguez, Joel Kim Booster and Natasha Lyonne. Throw them all together, add a killer premise — Rudolph as a woman whose life is upended when her husband leaves her $87 billion — and yeah, we’re into it. Forever duo Alan Yang (Master of None) and Matt Hubbard (30 Rock) created the series, which marks Lyonne’s second as exec producer following Russian Doll.