Biggest TV News of 2016
From unexpected hits like the retro-focused Stranger Things and the ever mysterious Westworld, to the return of firm favorites like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, the television landscape in 2016 was filled with big news and interesting revelations, As 2016 comes to a close, join us as we look back at some of the biggest news and events to happen on your small screen during the last 12 months.
January: X-Files returns, Netflix spends big
January saw the return of one of the most beloved TV franchises of all time. 15 years after the end of last series, The X-Files season 10 kicked off in suitably spooky style and offered fans a familiar mix of paranormal investigation and complex conspiracy theorizing. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson returned to the roles that made them famous, and even if reviews were a little mixed, it proved to be the most watched season of the show ever broadcast.
Netflix continued its move into original programming with trailers for its two biggest shows to date. Baz Luhrmann’s hip-hop drama The Get-Down and the epic historical production The Crown were both produced on massive budgets, and proved that the streaming giant intended to compete with not just the traditional TV networks, but Hollywood movie studios too.
In terms of Netflix’s superhero output, the company released a new teaser for Daredevil season 2, and also teased the release date for Luke Cage, the third collaboration with Marvel. Luke Cage star Mike Colter also hinted at the flavor of the show, and how it would be more “musical” than Daredevil or Jessica Jones.
January also featured the announcement of a revival of classic '80s cartoon Voltron. Titled Voltron: Legendary Defender, the rebooted show was a result of a deal between Netflix and DreamWorks Animation, and season one would premiere in June. The same deal also resulted in a new animated show from Pacific Rim director Guillermo Del Toro called Trollhunters.
February: Legion cast announced, Westworld delayed
February saw some casting news about the upcoming X-Men spinoff Legion. The show was first announced in October the previous year, and this month it was confirmed that Dan Stevens, Aubrey Plaza, and Jean Smart would all feature. All three are familiar TV faces--Plaza is best known for her role on Parks and Recreation, while Stevens featured in three seasons of Downton Abbey. Smart appeared most recently in the acclaimed second season of FX's Fargo. The show is being overseen by Fargo showrunner Dan Hawley, and is set to premiere on FX in earlier 2017.
There was bad news for those awaiting the JJ Abrams-produced show Westworld. It was reported that the late completion of scripts and delayed delivery of episodes had led HBO to pause production to allow the writers to catch up with the schedule. “As we got closer to the final episodes, we realized we needed to take a break from shooting to catch up on writing,” showrunner Jonathan Nolan said. At the time it was rumored that the delays could push the show back to 2017, although as we now know it made it to air in October 2016 to massive acclaim.
There was more news about another eagerly-anticipated cult show--Twin Peaks. There had been very little confirmed news about the third season of the show during its production in 2015, but casting news began to emerge throughout 2016, including the reveal that Naomi Watts and Tom Sizemore had joined the cast, alongside the likes of Laura Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Amanda Seyfried, and a whole host of returning cast members. The full cast list wasn’t revealed until April, but this was enough to get many fans excited.
March: Punisher debuts in Daredevil, Preacher dated
March featured plenty of promotional activity for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, which would premiere in April. There were new images, behind-the-scenes footage, plus the traditional speculation on what the new season might involve. In particular, Ian McShane hinted that he might be responsible for the return of seemingly-dead fan favorite Jon Snow when he said “I bring back this much-loved character who everybody thinks is dead." As it turns out, McShane was talking about Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, but it didn’t stop fans theorizing on what it meant for the upcoming season.
The second season of Daredevil hit Netflix this month, and introduced two iconic Marvel characters--The Punisher and Elektra. Jon Bernthal was quickly acclaimed for the best on-screen portrayal of the vigilante antihero Frank Castle yet, setting the wheels in motion for the standalone Punisher show that is due in 2017. As is always the case with Netflix, we have no real idea about how many people actually watched Daredevil, but the fact that season 3 has been commissioned implies that it remained as popular as the first season.
Another cult comic book heading to screens was Preacher, and March saw confirmation of its May premiere date. The show starred Dominic Cooper as a smalltown preacher who is possessed by a supernatural creature and controlled by opposing forces of both good and evil. It was developed for AMC by Seth Rogen and his regular filmmaking partner Evan Goldberg--solid reviews and decent audiences meant that the channel has renewed it for a second season.
There was also a first look at a much-anticipated addition to The Walking Dead. Fans of the comic book on which the show is based had been awaiting the arrival of the bat-wielding villain Negan for some time, and a short teaser finally revealed Watchmen star Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the role. Of course, Morgan only appeared briefly at the end of April’s season six finale--audiences would have to wait until October to get the full Negan.
April: Game of Thrones, new Doctor Who companion
April was all about Game of Thrones. Season six of HBO’s fantasy epic arrived in record-breaking style, with its premiere episode pulling in 10.7 million viewers, which was an all-time record for the show. Interestingly, the on-air figure actually showed a drop in viewers, but the increasing popularity of streaming and repeat services such as HBO Go and HBO Now showed how important all forms of viewing platforms are to broadcasters in 2016.
The Walking Dead finished its latest season with a controversial cliffhanger, in which Negan killed a key--but unnamed--character. Such was the fan outcry over the fact that producers refused to reveal the identity of Negan’s victim that showrunner Scott Gimple was forced to defend the decision. "I think we've done enough on the show and we've delivered a story that people have enjoyed and I guess asking people to give us the benefit of the doubt that it is all part of a plan and is all part of a story,” he said. "I truly hope that people see [episode] 701 and they feel that it justifies the way we decided to tell the story."
The full cast list for Twin Peaks season 3 was also announced. As expected, a large number of actors from the first two seasons will be returning, such as Sherilyn Fenn, David Duchovny, Miguel Ferrer, Dana Ashbrook, Everett McGill, and Sheryl Lee. There were quite a few famous names visiting the mystery-shrouded Washington town for the first time, too, including Robert Forster, Tim Roth, Ashley Judd, Michael Cera, Laura Dern, Monica Bellucci, Ernie Hudson, and James Belushi. And in keeping with David Lynch's tradition of casting musicians in his films, the new season will also feature the likes of Trent Reznor, Eddie Vedder, Sky Ferreira, and Sharon Van Etten.
Finally fans of long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who got an introduction to the Timelord’s latest assistant. Pearl Mackie replaces Jenna Coleman, and featured alongside star Peter Capaldi in a special teaser. Her character won’t actually appear in the show until 2017 when the next season premieres, which will also be Stephen Moffat’s final season as showrunner.
May: Agent Carter axed, Star Trek: Discovery
There was bad news this month for fans of the Marvel show Agent Carter. After weeks of speculation, the show was cancelled by ABC--the second season premiered in January to underwhelming figures, pulling in just 3.2 million viewers, less than half of what season one's first episode managed. Another potential show, Marvel's Most Wanted, didn’t even get that far--it reached the pilot stage but the network decided not to order a full series. The show was set to focus on special agents Mockingbird and Lance Hunter, who are regular characters on Agents of SHIELD. Agents of SHIELD was renewed for a fourth season in March.
The shooting date and location for the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery was revealed. It was reported that production on the latest small screen version of the classic sci-fi franchise would kick off in Toronto in the fall. No further information about the show was known as this point, although the showrunners had been announced as Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote the first two movies in the current movie reboot series, and Hannibal producer Bryan Fuller. Fuller would later leave the project.
June: Game of Thrones news, Lost in Space confirmed
Following much uncertainty about HBO’s star-studded reimaging of the classic sci-fi movie Westworld, confirmation arrived in June that the show would indeed hit screens in October 2016. In addition, an exciting new trailer arrived that promised an intriguing mix of dark sci-fi mystery and Western action.
Another HBO show, Game of Thrones, finished its latest season this month. Joint-showrunner David Benioff had previously confirmed that the show would conclude after two more shorter seasons. “It's not just trying not to outstay your welcome,” he said. “We're trying to tell one cohesive story with a beginning, middle, and end. We wanted to make something where, if people watched it end-to-end, it would make sense as one continuous story. We're definitely heading into the end game now."
Another classic TV show getting the reboot treatment is Lost In Space. It was reported that Netflix had ordered a 10 episode first season to screen in 2018. The new version of the ‘60s favorite will once again focus on the adventures of the Robinson family, who are stranded in space light years from home. Neil Marshall, director of cult films such as The Descent, Doomsday, and several episodes of Game of Thrones, is to produce as well as helm several episodes.
July: Iron Fist first peek, Netflix superhero deals
San Diego Comic-Con took place this month, and as ever there were a number of teaser and previews of upcoming shows. Fans were given a first look at the upcoming Marvel Netflix show Iron Fist, which will be the fourth collaboration between the companies and is set for release in early 2017. There was also a full trailer for Luke Cage and a brief promo for The Defenders, which will see Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones team-up together. It was also confirmed that Daredevil will get a third season, although it is unknown when this will screen.
Fans of The CW’s DC superhero output will be able to watch shows such as Supergirl, The Flash, and Arrow on Netflix a lot quicker, with the news of a deal between the two companies. The new arrangement ensures that the network's output will arrive on the service within eight days of season finales. Other popular shows include The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, and Jane the Virgin.
Another win for Netflix subscribers--those outside of North America at least--was the announcement that the upcoming Star Trek Discovery would also be heading to the streaming service. Netflix struck a deal with CBS Studios to screen the show outside of the US and Canada, streaming in 188 territories within 24 hours of every new episode premiering in the US in 2017. American viewers will able to watch the first episode on the CBS network channel, with all subsequent episodes screening initially on the company's All Access digital subscription service.
There was some casting news about The Walking Dead, too, with the confirmation of some key characters from the comic book becoming major players in the next season. As well as Negan, fans of the comic book could look forward to seeing more of kung-fu-kicking good guy Jesus, Negan's enforcer Dwight, the ambiguous leader of the Hilltop Community Gregory, plus the debut of the tiger-keeping self-styled monarch King Ezekiel.
August: Jack Ryan heads to Amazon, Runaways gets a pilot
After months of speculation about delays and rumors of behind-the-scenes production problems, HBO’s sci-fi drama Westworld was finally given a premiere date. The show was set to hit the subscription channel on October 2, with a star-studded cast that included Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Wright. There was also a mysterious, violent new trailer for the show.
August also saw the announcement that author Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst Jack Ryan would be heading to the small screen. A new 10-part series centered on the character was greenlit by Amazon, with The Office star John Krasinski in the role previously played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine on the big screen. Krasinski revealed that show would have a cinematic quality to it: "The line between film and TV has blurred so much over the years," he said. "I think Jack Ryan is a product of that blurring so much that I think that they're not even really considering it a TV show, they're calling it a movie that's being told in 10 parts. It's gonna feel like a movie but you're gonna watch it every week.” There is currently no title or premiere date for the show.
Another show heading to a streaming service is Runaways, a teen superhero tale based on the 2003 Marvel comic book. Hulu ordered a pilot for a potential series, overseen by Gossip Girl creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. Runaways was at one stage being considered as a Marvel movie, with Iron Man 3 writer Drew Pierce hired by the studio to write a script. "We were really close to being made, and then this movie started to happen called The Avengers," Pearce said. "It pulled focus from the unheard-of brand Runaways, and it really did kind of consume the Marvel Cinematic Universe."
It was of no great surprise given that showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss had been speaking about it for months, but HBO finally confirmed that season 8 of Game of Thrones would be the last one. But there was a glimmer of hope for fans of the hit fantasy show--HBO programming chief Casey Bloys revealed that he had spoken to Benioff and Weiss about a potential spinoff show, although he admitted there were currently "no concrete plans" for one.
September: Stranger Things, Dark Tower series confirmed
Stranger Things was one of 2016’s biggest surprises. The Netflix series combined a number of '80s horror and sci-fi movie influences, and was both a nostalgic homage and a genuinely thrilling mystery. Unsurprisingly it has been commissioned for a second season, and September brought some news about what to expect when it premieres in 2017. While plot details were under wraps, producer Shawn Levy has told fans they can expect "next-level" and "crazy" sequences, as well as payoffs for some of the storylines from season 1. "We must service these characters who are now beloved, who are known to the audience," he said.
Ghost Rider has long been one of Marvel’s coolest characters, but has been somewhat ill-served by the two woeful Nicolas Cage-starring movies in which he has featured. The ABC show Agents of SHIELD attempted to rectify by making the character a key part of its fourth season, which premiered in September. Played by Gabriel Luna , this version of Ghost Rider is Robbie Reyes, who has been his alter ego since 2014, as opposed to Johnny Blaze, the 'classic' Ghost Rider.
There was also the news that Stephen King’s classic fantasy series The Dark Tower would be heading to TV as well as theaters. A movie version of the story is set for release in 2017, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, but an accompanying TV show is also in development. It was reported that producers Sony has committed to a full 10-13 episode run of a Dark Tower show, which will be an adaptation of 1997's Wizard and Glass, the fourth book in King's epic series. It is set to start shooting in 2017 for an intended 2018 broadcast.
Unsurprisingly, given the lack of casting news and the impending premiere date, it was announced that Star Trek: Discovery was being delayed. The long-awaited return of Star Trek to the small screen was meant to debut on CBS in January, but a statement from producers Alex Kurtzman and Bryan Fuller revealed that it would now screen in May. “Star Trek deserves the very best, and these extra few months will help us achieve a vision we can all be proud of,” they said. Of course, by December Fuller himself had quit the production entirely, citing other commitments.
October: Punisher starts filming, Twin Peaks
There was finally some footage released from the hugely-anticipated third season of cult classic Twin Peaks. Admittedly, it was behind-the-scenes on set footage, but to see actors such as Kyle McLachlan and Miguel Ferrer talking about their return to the iconic town was enough. There was also a short teaser of Angelo Badalamnti playing the show’s haunting music, confirming that the veteran composer would also be making a return to David Lynch and Mark Frost’s groundbreaking series.
Marvel confirmed that a Punisher show would premiere in 2017, as production began on the Netflix series and various cast members were announced. Star Jon Bernthal was pictured onset with his Daredevil co-star Deborah Ann Woll--with Iron Fist set for a March release and The Defenders also on the cards for next year, 2017 is set to be a busy year for Netflix’s Marvel universe.
October also saw the release date announced for another hit show--Voltron Legendary Defender--together with a new teaser. The first season of the animated reboot of classic '80s sci-fi show Voltron proved a hit in the summer and the second season is set to hit the streaming service in January.
November: Big Bang Theory spinoff, DC worlds collide
The Big Bang Theory remains the most popular series on TV, and it was reported in November that a spinoff show was in the works. It’s set to focus on the earlier life of Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons, and is described as "Malcolm in the Middle but with a young and potentially teenage version of Sheldon." The Big Bang Theory is currently on its 10th season, and although season 11 is expected, it is yet to be commissioned. The main cast members, including Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, and Simon Helberg are all reportedly negotiating new deals for season 11 and beyond.
Marvel’s The Inhumans was initially announced as a movie release, but this month it was revealed that it is in fact heading to TV. It will be an eight part show premiering in September next year, and the first two episodes will hit IMAX theaters in advance of its TV debut. These opening episodes will be shot entirely with IMAX cameras, while some of the action scenes in the other six will also use the large-format technology. An Inhumans movie was first announced in 2014, but this was before the standalone Spider-Man film and Ant-Man and The Wasp had been added to the studio's lineup. In addition, the story of the genetically created superhero race has already been explored on TV in Agents of SHIELD.
Another Marvel show, The Defenders, started production and photos from the New York set were leaked online. The Defenders will bring together four of the heroes from Netflix’s superhero shows, namely Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Sigourney Weaver will join them in a villainous role--the show is expected in 2017, though no release date has been set yet.
The CW’s superheroes joined forces this month in a week-long crossover event that featured in Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. The shows saw the DC heroes come together to fight an alien race known as The Dominators. The event provided a ratings bump to all four shows, although viewing figures were back to their usual levels the following week.
December: Walking Dead ratings dip, Star Trek Discovery
While The Walking Dead’s return to screens at the end of October drew a massive 17 million viewers, by December figures had dipped dramatically. The show is still drawing a big audience, but 10.58 million viewers for season seven’s mid-season finale was the lowest for any winter finale since 2012. It was down 24 percent from the season 6 mid-season finale last year.
Westworld finished its first season to strong audience figures and critical acclaim, ensuring a second season. We may well not see it until 2018, but joint-showrunner Jonathon Nolan did provide a few details about what fans could expect from season two, explaining that we will learn more about how the show’s robots--known as hosts--survive. “Their construction and their power source is something we're really going to get into during Season 2," he said. "So we'd like to keep that mysterious. They're closer to biological than they are to mechanical, but they don't suffer brain death the same way we do."
Finally, the lead of Star Trek Discovery was finally announced this month. The main character of Lt. Cmdr. Rainsford will be played by Walking Dead star Sonequa Martin-Green. This is the first time in the franchise's history that the lead role will not be a captain. Although sources stated that she will continue to appear on AMC's hit zombie drama, it's worth bearing in mind that its writers frequently kill off main characters.