The 19 Netflix original series to be excited about in 2019

Netflix is trying to kill us with kindness — or is it content? — in 2019, with an avalanche of new originals


Ben Travers
December 31, 2018 7:15PM (UTC)
This article originally appeared on IndieWire.
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After the holidays, the last thing anyone needs is more stuff, and after a record-setting 2018, the last thing anyone needs is more TV — except, you know, of course we do. Supply is only trying to meet demand, and most TV viewers are looking for fresh content through the most popular and plentiful streaming service out there: Netflix.

And Netflix is not about to disappoint. Priming for another year of seemingly unending content — including moviesstand-up specialsinteractive series, kids’ shows, reality TV, docuseries, and more — the Netflix original series docket is far from neglected. Below, IndieWire has gathered a list of new shows primed to hit the service in 2019, and this annual preview may be even more enticing than last year’s.

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Read more IndieWire: ‘Black Mirror’ Season 5 Still on the Way and With More Optimistic Episodes

“Carmen Sandiego”

Release Date: January 18, 2019
Length: 20 half-hour episodes

The real Carmen Sandiego was too tricky to pin down, so Netflix had to draw its own map to the elusive woman in red — literally. An animated educational comedy from producer and showrunner Duance Capizzi (“Jackie Chan Adventures,” “Transformers Prime”), “Carmen Sandiego” is described (in Netflix’s officially summary) as “a modern day Robin Hood” who travels the globe (duh) and steals from the criminal organization V.I.L.E. to give back to its victims. Technically, Carmen (voiced by Gina Rodriguez) is a criminal in the eyes of most law enforcement agencies, but her rogue escapades are so grand it’s hard for her pursuers not to be impressed. Aside from the big episode order from a bullish Netflix, the voice cast is worth getting excited about — in addition to Rodriguez, Finn Wolfhard and Miley Cyrus round out the voice actors.

“Black Earth Rising”

Release Date: January 25, 2019
Length: Eight hourlong episodes

Following up his Emmy-nominated 2014 series “The Honourable Woman,” Hugo Blick is telling another female-led contemporary thriller. Michaela Coel stars as Kate Ashby, a legal investigator in London whose difficult past comes back to haunt her when her adoptive mother takes on a case prosecuting an African militia leader. Though now she works for an American barrister named Michael Ennis (John Goodman), Kate was born in Rwanda and orphaned by the genocide. She wants answers about what happened to her birth family, and the new case might offer some insight. A co-production with BBC Two, “Black Earth Rising” already aired across the pond, earning strong early reviews from British critics.

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“Russian Doll”       

Release Date: February 1, 2019
Length: Eight half-hour episodes

Produced by Amy Poehler, Leslye Headland, and Natasha Lyonne, “Russian Doll” is a new Netflix comedy about a young woman named Nadia (Lyonne) who goes to a “seemingly inescapable” NYC party as the guest of honor. The series tracks her escapades over one wild night and includes co-stars Greta Lee, Yul Vazquez, Chloë Sevigny, Brendan Sexton III, and Lyonne’s “Orange Is the New Black” co-star Dascha Polanco. Best of all, the first season, produced by Universal Television and Poehler’s Paper Kite Productions, is written and directed entirely by women. (Headland, Lyonne, and Jamie Babbit directed all eight episodes.) So if you’re a fan of Emmy-nominee Lyonne, “Russian Doll” is your chance to get to know her artistry as a performer, writer, director, and producer. Hard to say no to that.

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“The Umbrella Academy”

Release Date: February 15, 2019
Length: 10 hourlong episodes

Based on the comic book series created and written by Gerard Way, “The Umbrella Academy” is Netflix’s YA superhero replacement for all those canceled Marvel shows. On a seemingly random day in 1989, 43 powerful babies are born to 43 disconnected women who didn’t appear to be pregnant 24 hours prior. Of those infants, seven are adopted by a billionaire who thinks these choice children can save the world. Flash forward to today and only six remain, the dad’s dead, and the estranged family has to work together to figure out why and how he died — plus help prevent the tiny little issue of an impending global apocalypse. Starring Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, Mary J. Blige, and Robert Sheehan, showrunner and EP Steven Blackman’s drama has gotten a lot of early hype. Now, much like those special kids, it just has to live up to expectations.

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“Turn Up Charlie”

Release Date: Spring 2019
Length: Eight half-hour episodes

Idris Elba helped create a show about a struggling DJ and perpetual bachelor who becomes a manny to a famous friend’s daughter as one last shot at the good life. OK, let’s break that down because holy cow what a show! Idris Elba — Luther himself, the man who gave the inspirational “Pacific Rim” speech, the would-be future James Bond — is playing a British DJ. That alone is exciting, but he’s also a total playboy! So what’s it take to break down a lothario’s worse tendencies? A cute kid to take care of! With Piper Perabo(!) co-starring and Elba serving as a very invested executive producer, “Turn Up Charlie” sounds like one of the most fascinating new shows of 2019, if not all time — and knowing Elba deejays as a side hustle only elevates our interest in the real-world parallels within this fictionalized show. Bring it to us, now.

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“Our Planet”

Release Date: April 5, 2019
Length: Eight hourlong episodes

Netflix’s answer to “Planet Earth” even has David Attenborough. The popular 92-year-old narrator of the award-winning BBC America series — that, presumably, has been a popular streaming option on Netflix for years now — will guide viewers through eight episodes of never-before-filmed wilderness areas, including the ice caps, oceans, deserts, and forests. It took four years trekking through more than 50 countries to create “Our Planet,” and there will be more silly and stunning species to discover, more outstanding and expansive locales to devour, and all the simply gorgeous nature footage audiences crave. “Planet Earth II” served as a powerful reminder as to why the world’s human population needs to protect its natural resources, and “Our Planet” looks to continue the themes of respect, preservation, and appreciation.

“Tuca & Bertie”

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Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: 10 half-hour episodes

Much of the buzz circling “Tuca & Bertie” — an animated comedy about the friendship between two 30-year-old bird women — will be about the actors voicing said bird women, and rightly so. Tiffany Haddish (Tuca, a cocky, care-free toucan) and Ali Wong (Bertie, an anxious, daydreaming songbird) are so immensely talented, and offer such distinct voices, their addition to Netflix’s animated cannon is already guaranteed to spark a few chuckles. But veteran ani-fans should recognize the equally distinct and equally charming visual stylings above as the work of one Lisa Hanawalt. Hanawalt serves as a producer, production designer, and lead artist on “BoJack Horseman” — one of the most visually lavish TV series ever made. Her work has bridged television already — if you haven’t read “Coyote Doggirl” or listened to the “Baby Geniuses” podcast, get to it — but this is her first gig as creator, meaning there’s plenty more to be excited about than just the voices.

“AJ and the Queen”

Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: 10 hourlong episodes

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Two icons of the queer community are coming together for this hourlong Netflix comedy: RuPaul (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”) stars as Ruby Red, a drag queen on a cross-country road trip, in Michael Patrick King’s (“Sex and the City”) tale of two misfits trying to live large. Who’s the second misfit, you ask? Well, Ruby is traveling with her sidekick AJ (Isabella Gaspersz), a recently orphaned, tough-talking, and scrappy 11-year-old who stows away in her ’90s RV and becomes a key part of her trip. Ruby’s goal is to spread love and acceptance as she scoots from city to city, club to club — and her most effective way of getting that point across is through big, crazy, absolutely killer musical numbers, which she performs in every club (and hopefully every episode). This sounds like exactly the kind of show audiences need in 2019, but no release date has been set — bring it on.

“Living With Yourself”

Release Date: Late 2019
Length: Eight hourlong episodes

What’s better than Paul Rudd in a Netflix series? How about two Paul Rudds in a Netflix series? In “Living With Yourself,” Rudd plays George Elliot, a fellow so down on his luck he tries an experimental new procedure to make him into a better person. But when he comes out of it, George discovers he’s been replaced by a new and improved George. Directed in its entirety by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and created by Timothy Greenberg (“The Daily Show” and “The Detour”), the eight episodes are told from multiple perspectives with intersecting storylines, all raising the question: Do we really want to be better? If being better means double the Rudd, I think we just answered that question for them.

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Read more IndieWire: Is ‘Bird Box’ Netflix’s First Cult Classic?

“Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings”

Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: Eight hourlong episodes

Following the success of “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors” — and, you know, a pretty epic singing career — Netflix is bringing Dolly’s musical storytelling to an episodic format. Told as an anthology series, each of the eight episodes will be based on one of Parton’s songs, showcasing the stories, memories, and inspirations behind her most beloved numbers. But there will be new music scoring each episode, along with more classic hits, and the genres of each entry will span love stories, westerns, and revenge comedies. If you’re a fan of Dolly — or showrunner Patrick Sean Smith (“Greek,” “Chasing Life”) — then “Heartstrings” is going to be right up your alley.

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“Central Park Five”

Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: Five hourlong episodes

From director and writer Ava Duvernay and executive producer Oprah Winfrey, “Central Park Five” tells the true story of five Harlem teenagers’ wrongful conviction. Spanning from the spring of 1989 — when the teens were questioned about Trisha Meili’s rape in Central Park — to their exoneration in 2014, each part of the limited series will focus on one of the kids: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise. Duvernay, who wrote and directed every episode, looks to expose the breakdown of America’s criminal justice system by chronicling every phase of the Central Park Five case, and she’s lined up one helluva cast to tell the story. Vera Farmiga, Niecy Nash, Felicity Huffman, Blair Underwood, Michael K. Williams, Joshua Jackson, Jovan Adepo, Famke Janssen, John Leguizamo, and more are set to make “Central Park Five” an awards centerpiece for the network, and a critical talking point for the country.

“Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City”

Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: 10 hourlong episodes

Ellen Page is going to be all over Netflix in 2019 — the “Umbrella Academy” star (see above) is also a series regular in “Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City,” a limited series inspired by Maupin’s books but following up the 1993 miniseries of the same name. The “next chapter,” as Netflix calls it, will track Mary Ann’s (Laura Linney) return to San Francisco and reunion with her daughter, Shawna (Page) and ex-husband, Brian (Paul Gross). Though she originally left to pursue a career, she’s quickly drawn back into the eccentric lifestyle of her weed-growing former landlady Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis). Linney and Dukakis both starred in the original miniseries, and a number of new and returning cast members will be populating these “Tales,” including Charlie Barnett (as Ben Marshall), Victor Garber (as Sam Garland), Zosia Mamet (as Claire Duncan), and Molly Ringwald in a yet-to-be-announced role.

“Green Eggs and Ham”

Release Date: 2019
Length: 13 half-hour episodes

Netflix has been pretty quiet about its upcoming Dr. Seuss adaptation since making a memorable pick-up announcement in 2015:

We think this will be a hit
Green Eggs and Ham is a perfect fit
for our growing slate of amazing stories
available exclusively in all Netflix territories.
You can stream it on a phone.
You can stream it on your own.
You can stream it on TV.
You can stream it globally.

Originally scheduled for 2018, the official site now says the 13-episode animated kids’ show is coming in 2019 — so if that kind of Seuss-ian language charms you, then the Ellen DeGeneres-produced series is probably going to click. If not, maybe wait ’til we get a first look or a cast list. You never know if it’s going to turn out like “The Lorax” or “Horton Hears a Who.”

Read more IndieWire: ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’: Netflix Created a Tuckersoft Website Where You Can Play One of the Video Games

“Messiah”

Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: 10 hourlong episodes

Nine-time Emmy winner Mark Burnett tries to bring his Biblical storytelling to Netflix in “Messiah,” a drama series about the second coming of the Lord. When a man claiming to be the Messiah appears in the Middle East, he quickly gathers a devout group of followers (/disciples), but it’s unclear if Al Massih (played by Mehdi Dehbi) is who he claims to be — or even a good dude at all. As the official summary reads, “Is he sent from God, or is he a dangerous fraud bent on dismantling the world’s geopolitical order?” Created by Michael Petroni (“The Rite,” “The Book Thief”) and produced by Roma Downey (“The Bible”), “Messiah” is told from multiple points of view, including a young CIA agent (Michelle Monaghan), an Israeli Shin Bet officer (Tomer Sisley), a Palestinian refugee (Fares Landousil), “the media,” a Latino preacher (Melinda Page Hamilton), and her Texan daughter (Stephanie LaVie Owen). With an epic budget to match its big question, “Messiah” looks to bring new followers to Netflix.

“Quicksand”

Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: TBA hourlong episodes

Netflix’s first Swedish original series is based on the Nordic crime novel of 2016 (written by Malin Persson Giolito) and centers around a mass shooting at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. That’s far from light subject matter, but it’s also far from a foreign subject for American audiences. The new series studies the trial of high school student Maja Norberg, who’s accused of murder, but it’s her private relationship with Sebastian Fagerman as well as protected details of her dysfunctional family life that come to life as the day’s events are broken down. In the Netflix release, head writer Camilla Ahlgren said she wants to tell the story from Maja’s perspective — “her story raises questions about guilt, responsibility, punishment and redemption. It holds a mirror up to our time whilst also serving as both a suspenseful thriller and a moving love story.” That sounds like a crossover hit, if done right.

“Raising Dion”

Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: 10 hourlong episodes

Michael B. Jordan is coming back to TV, y’all! The former star of “Friday Night Lights” and “The Wire” — who has since blown up on the big screen via “Black Panther” and “Creed” — is returning to serialized storytelling in “Raising Dion,” a sci-fi family drama based on Dennis Liu’s short film and comic book of the same name. But don’t get too attached — Jordan plays Mark Reese, a husband and father who dies before the series begins. That leaves Nicole (Alisha Wainwright) to take care of their only son Dion (Ja’Siah Young), which becomes even more difficult when she learns he has multiple, constantly changing, superhero-like abilities. With the help of her husband’s best friend Pat (Jason Ritter), Nicole tries to protect her son by keeping his powers secret. Carol Barbee (“UnREAL,” “Falling Skies”) is producing and showrunning, while Jordan and Liu serve as executive producers, as well. Jordan may not be playing the kid, but as star and producer, he’s coming back to TV with great power, indeed.

“The Politician”

Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: TBA hourlong episodes

After securing Ryan Murphy with a landmark TV contract, Netflix is rolling out their new producing star with “The Politician.” Featuring Murphy favorites like Jessica Lange and Dylan McDermott, the new satirical comedy primarily tracks Payton (Ben Platt), a wealthy Santa Barbara politician who will drive the series. Each season will track a different political race he’s working on, and Season 1 — based on the cast alone — sure sounds like it could be a doozy. Gwyneth Paltrow, January Jones, Zoey Deutch, and Lucy Boynton are all series regulars, and while the exact plot remains under wraps, the names and context certainly provide the potential for a strong kick-off — and money well spent.

“The Green Beret’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse”

Release Date: TBA 2019
Length: Eight hourlong episodes

Executive produced by Matt Damon and Peter Berg, this hourlong comedy series is a hybrid action-comedy tracking Shawn (Shawn Vance, who’s also the co-creator) as he survives a new “contained apocalypse” in each episode. It’s a mix of a survival show — filled with usable survival skills for viewers to employ as needed — as well as a comedy offering smart, but low-brow humor. The show’s other co-creator, Daril Fannin, will also play a part in each episode, but he’ll be changing roles to suit each chosen situation, making for a fun game of “spot the recurring character” for the audience. Honestly, it’s hard to tell this early what to expect from “Green Beret,” but the creativity is a big part of its early charm.

“The Witcher”

Release Date: TBA
Length: Eight hourlong episodes

Henry Cavill can grow whatever kind of facial hair he pleases for “The Witcher” because he’s the gosh darn star of the show. Netflix’s fantasy series, based on the books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and the ensuing video games, follows a monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia (Cavill) who battles creatures from Slavic lore. Along his journey, he’s joined by Yennefer, a powerful sorceress (Anya Chalotra), and a young princess named Ciri (Freya Allen) with a dangerous secret, and all three must learn to get through the world together if they want to survive. Former “Defenders” and “Daredevil” producer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich is running the show, which is already shooting Season 1 in Eastern Europe. They’re moving quickly, which is why “The Witcher” is included on this 2019 Netflix preview, even though it may not drop until 2020. No one can stop Henry Cavill — not with the full power of his facial hair.


Ben Travers

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