The 1950s was considered to be the “Golden Age of Television” with television series such as I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, and Dragnet. In the 21st century, with the proliferation of streaming services, l believe that we are in a new era of television. For lovers of science fiction, fantasy, gaming, and anime, now is our time. It seems as if each of the major streaming services (such as Apple+, Disney+, Netflix, HBO Max, and Prime Video) is trying to outdo each other in presenting great mind-expanding series on their services. With so many new and quite exceptional series, fans may find it difficult to choose which ones to watch. Here are my current favorites. This is not a comprehensive list, as I only mention the series that I am currently watching, or plan to watch in the near future.
The Last Us on HBO Max has created a tremendous amount of buzz, and it deserves it. The series stars Pedro Pascal (Joel Miller), Bella Ramsey (Ellie Williams), Gabriel Luna (Tommy Miller), and Anna Torv (Theresa ‘Tess’ Servopoulos) and is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a global pandemic has infected humans with a fungus that has zombified them. The Last of Us centers around Joel’s efforts to take Ellie to a group of surviving humans who might be able to develop a cure. Along the way, they meet both good and bad humans, as well as infected humans who are now mindless zombies looking to spread the infection.
The acting, writing, direction, and production values in the first eight episodes aired as of this writing have been extraordinary. In the first episode alone, the human tragedy brought tears to the eyes of many viewers. By the third episode, the drama was all-encompassing, yet it continued to explore the impact of the infection on human civilization. But the episode also reminded viewers that even in the middle of this apocalypse, there can still be moments of humor and compassion.
However, the horror of this world will always return with devastating consequences. The guest stars who only appear for one or two episodes are extraordinary in the pathos (horror) that they bring to the series. Fans of the genre will recognize fan-favorite stars from series such as Fringe, True Blood, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Craig Mazin has done a phenomenal job writing, directing, and producing this series. It is must-see television. Have tissues handy, you will need them.
On Prime Video, Carnival Row concludes its series run with its second and final season. The series stars Orland Bloom (Rycroft Philostrate), Cara Delevingne (Vignette Stonemoss), Arty Froushan (Jonah Breakspear), David Gyasi (Agreus Astrayon), Tamzin Merchant (Imogen Spurnrose), Karla Crome (Tourmaline Larouand), Caroline Ford (Sophie Longerbane). At its heart, Carnival Row is a love story (actually several love stories) set in Victorian times against a backdrop of massive social upheaval between the lower class, mostly the Fae, and the upper class of humans.
The characters in this series are fully written without the need for caricatures to move the story forward. As the story unfolds, there are organic revelations about secrets that have been kept, sacrifices made, and the unfortunate horror that mankind never seems to escape. The world of humans and fairies is fully realized with practical and visual effects that immerse viewers in their gritty environment. I believe that Prime Video chose wisely not to drop all the episodes at once. It is a dense tale full of sound and fury that should be savored, not binged.
On Paramount +, I am watching the final season of Picard, starring Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard), Michelle Hurd (Raffi Musiker), Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker), Gates McFadden (Doctor Beverly Crusher), Ed Speleers (Jack Crusher), Michael Dorn (Worf), LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge) and Amanda Plummer (Vadic). I have seen the first six episodes and I can report that each one builds upon the previous by building toward what I hope will be a proper denouement for the series.
This final season sees the return of many of the original crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as some of their offspring. There are several mysteries that need to be unraveled before the final send-off of one fandom’s favorite captains. The season’s terrifying villain, personified in Vadic, represents one of the great Federation enemies from the Star Trek universe. I am hoping that this final season does the franchise justice and gives Picard, both the captain and the series, the proper farewell that they deserve.
The third season of The Mandalorian on Disney+ remains another of my go-to favorites to watch. The series stars Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian), Carl Weathers (Greef Karga), Emily Swallow (Armorer), and Grogu (Grogu). What is fascinating about The Mandalorian is that it takes the background from the mythos of bounty hunters called Mandalorians and has made it into a successful and enjoyable series. Of course, it does not hurt to include a loveable, young Yoda-like character whom the titular character protects. Between The Mandalorian and The Last of Us, Pedro Pascal is making a stellar career of taking care of orphaned adolescents.
Returning Series This Year
I am really forward to the return of the following series in 2023: Shadow and Bone (Netflix), Foundation (Apple TV+), Halo (Paramount+), the final episodes of Manifest (Netflix), Loki (Disney+), The Witcher (Netflix), and Resident Alien (SYFY). Some of these series do not yet have a return date as of the publishing of this article but they are expected to return in 2023. Watch this blog’s Next Week in TV articles for the latest updates on these incredible series.
New Series This Year
I am even more excited about the new series which are expected to premiere in 2023: Gen V (Prime Video) and Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion (Disney+).
Gen V takes viewers back to the universe of The Boys and centers around a university run by Vought International for the training of the next generation of supes. Gen V stars Jaz Sinclair (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Derek Luh (Shining Vale), Asa Germann, Shelley Conn (Bridgerton), Sean Patrick Thomas (Save the Last Dance), Marco Pigossi (Invisible City), Chance Perdomo (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Maddie Phillips (Supernatural), and Patrick Schwarzenegger (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse). This series promises to be as irreverent as The Boys.
Secret Invasion stars Samuel L. Jackson returning as Nick Fury. Fury has been absent from Earth, taking a well-deserved vacation. However, unfortunately for Earth, a group of rebel Skrulls has taken this opportunity to infiltrate Earth and take control of key industries and governments. The series also stars Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Ben Mendelsohn (Talos), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Rebel Skrull leader Gravik), and Olivia Colman (Special Agent Sonya Falsworth).
These new and returning series promise to make this year another special one for lovers of science fiction and fantasy. I like to refer to this era of television as “The Vibranium Age of Television.”