Last week, HBO released a trailer for its show True Detective, premiering in January 2014. The crime drama will star Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as detectives pursuing a serial killer in Louisiana. The first season will run for eight episodes, and the series as a whole will mimic American Horror Story‘s format, refreshing the cast and story each year.
McConaughey seems to be having a moment right now: He’s earned critical acclaim for his performances in Magic Mike last year and Mud earlier this summer; he’ll appear with Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorcese’s Wolf of Wall Street; and there’s already award buzz for his turn as a homophobe who tests HIV-positive in Dallas Buyers Club. The former chick-flick mainstay has fully reinvented himself as a serious movie star, so we’re surprised that he’s showing up on TV now—albeit in a short HBO drama.
McConaughey and Harrelson are far from the the first big Hollywood names to head to TV though. In the last few years, a number of stars delivered straight from the cinema have found varying degrees of success on the small screen, like Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Kevin Bacon (The Killing), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) and Don Cheadle (House of Lies). And they won’t be the last: Yesterday, Fox ordered a pilot about a male strip club starring Jennifer Garner.
But this year is particularly crowded with star-studded pilots.
Whether it’s because movie studios are taking fewer risks on creative films or because television producers are willing to take more risks in order to sustain TV’s golden age or because actors are increasingly attracted to the steadiness of starring in a TV show, this TV season will feature an unprecedented number of film stars. The traditional trajectory has been from TV to film, but maybe these actors will prove the opposite ought to be true.
Robin Williams, The Crazy Ones (CBS)
The movie star whose credits include Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet’s Society and Aladdin got his start on TV on Happy Days and the spin-off, Mork & Mindy. This fall, he’ll play the head of an ad agency. But as the title of the show might suggest, this ad agency won’t look anything like the one in Mad Men.
Kyle Chandler, The Vatican (Showtime)
After winning an Emmy for playing Coach Taylor on NBC’s Friday Night Lights, Chandler played supporting roles in a number of big blockbusters, including Super 8, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. (He will also appear in Wolf of Wall Street.) But he’ll be returning to TV this fall as the progressive archbishop of New York who clashes with the Pope in Showtime’s new drama.
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
Since leaving Saturday Night Live in 2012, Samberg has leant his voice to a number of animated movies and taken supporting roles in not-too-successful comedies. His joint-venture with Adam Sandler, That’s My Boy, was a total flop. He’ll try to redeem himself in a new New York cop comedy.
Seth Green, Dads (Fox)
Though Seth Green has been a staple of comedic television for a long time (Robot Chicken, Family Guy), he’s also found fame on the big screen in the Austin Powers films and The Italian Job. He’s working with Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane on this new show, though it’s already getting bad buzz for tastelessness and being accused of racism.
Anna Faris, Mom (CBS)
Anna Farris has been bouncing around various comedies for the last few years. The highlights on her IMDb profile are The House Bunny and Scary Movie 4. She hasn’t been on TV since she played herself on Entourage. In Mom, she’ll play a newly-sober single mom, costarring with The West Wing‘s Allison Janney (who’s also been busy in Hollywood with supporting roles in movies like Juno and The Way Way Back).
Michael J. Fox, The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)
The Back to the Future star will headline his own show in which he plays a newscaster with Parkinson’s returning to work after having taken time off. In recent years, Fox has spent less time on screen and more time working with the Michael J. Fox foundation to raise awareness about Parkinson’s, though he has made a number of guest appearances on TV shows.
James Spader, The Blacklist (NBC)
James Spader has lined up roles in big hits lately, including Lincoln and the upcoming Avengers movie. But after guesting on The Office, he’ll star in a show of his own in which he plays the world’s most wanted criminal. The trailer has a Silence of the Lambs-like feel in which a female policewoman must work with Spader’s crazed criminal to solve crimes.
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Another Showtime venture will bet on Hollywood star-power. Michael Sheen, best known as playing Robert Frost in Frost/Nixon and Priest in Kingdom of Heaven, will co-star in a show with Lizzy Caplan (Janis from Mean Girls) as the real-life pioneers of the science of human sexuality, William Masters and Virginia Johnson.
Rebel Wilson, Super Fun Night (ABC)
One of the stars of Pitch Perfect (who also had a hilarious supporting role in Bridesmaids) will star in a series about a trio of girls who’ve had a standing quiet date on Friday night for 13 years but decide it’s time to start going out.
Kal Penn, We Are Men (CBS)
The Harold and Kumar star had a long-standing role on House M.D. before he joined the Obama administration as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement. His new show We Are Men will also star Tony Shalhoub of Monk and will follow four male friends after one of them is left at the alter.
Paul Giamatti, Downton Abbey (PBS)
Though Downton Abbey isn’t a new show, we couldn’t help but highlight its newest addition to its all-star cast, Paul Giamatti, who really needs no introduction.