At exactly 10:15 p.m. EST on Sunday night, Breaking Bad concluded its five-year, five season run on AMC. Already, critics and fans are grieving at the end of what many consider to be television’s Golden era. With Walter White retired, and Mad Men’s Don Draper shortly following (well, sort of), space is getting rather tight near the grave sites of The Sopranos, The Wire, Friday Night Lights, The Shield, et al.
Of course, magic continues to float about the small screen. Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Luther, Girls, The Bridge, Louie, and the surprising Hannibal offer up enough creative thrills to keep us glued to the couch . There’s just an alarming amount of “meh” out there, and the future isn’t looking so bright.
In the last few weeks, various networks have announced their plans to resuscitate franchises like American Psycho, Reality Bites, Man on Fire, and 12 Monkeys. Meanwhile, AMC has begun developing spin-offs for The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, blatant Top Chef knock-offs remain legal, and smart network comedies are sprinting closer to extinction by the season.
What’s remarkable is that there’s a wealth of wonderful properties (and several fascinating personalities) just waiting to be mined. So, to quell the collective post-Breaking Bad angst, here are 10 stories—and persons—that we think might make for terrific television.
10. Geek Love
Katherine Dunn’s 1989 novel about a twisted family-run freak show has been stuck in its proverbial cage for far too long. Dark, macabre, and perplexing, the book offers a rich, multi-layered story of betrayal and mystery amongst two siblings that can easily be expanded over three, maybe four, seasons. HBO tapped into this culture with the tragically-canceled Carnivale, but Geek Love works off a more grounded mythos and a sharper scope that should leave audiences mystified rather than confused.
Perfect for: AMC. If they’re looking to retain viewers after The Walking Dead, this would be an easy stroll for zombie-lovers.
9. He Got Game
If it worked for Peter Berg’s Friday Night Lights, why couldn’t the same formula be applied to Spike Lee’s underrated 1998 hoops flick. The film, which starred Denzel Washington as a convicted felon reaching out to his basketball wizard of a son (a young Ray Allen), served as both a touching story and a telling portrait of the NBA. In an era of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony, the league’s resurgence of superstars just begs to be capitalized.
Perfect for: FX. Network television won’t be able to do justice to its themes. Instead, it should fit snug next to The Bridge or Sons of Anarchy.
If NBC’s Revolution can survive two seasons, Brian Wood’s acclaimed comic series should find an audience with little to no struggle. It’s a complicated story, sure, but the pitch is simple: What if America experienced a second civil war? Over 72 issues, Wood detailed this bleak, not-so-distant future, where Manhattan serves as a demilitarized zone between the United States government and the secessionist Free States of America. Bundling post-9/11 fears with the imagination of a smarter John Carpenter, the series became a wild success with readers.
Perfect for: Fox. It would require a hefty budget, but hey, the network had the courage (and wallet) to roll out dinosaurs on a weekly basis not too long ago (see: Terra Nova).
7. A Tavi Gevinson show
The Rookie editor and child prodigy has recently made her way into film, co-starring alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini in Enough Said. Her presence in television, however, has been relegated to appearances on talk shows and fashion galas. That being said, Gevinson’s uncanny lifestyle as a startling young entrepreneur in fashion, film, and new media could be something of an eye opener for teens and adults alike. A role model even. She only needs the perfect eye to capture her; fellow Twitter pal Lena Dunham, perhaps?
Perfect for: HBO. Use Girls as a lead-in and, voila, there’s an hour’s worth of television to leave fathers sweating nervously everywhere.
6. Miami Vice
Okay, okay, hear me out. Yes, it’s just another dead franchise rolling around the backlot, but it’s one that could actually work. There’s a lot happening in Miami these days, both culturally and politically. If the series returned with the creative fire it championed in the ‘80s, fans both new and old might give it a chance. Advice? Rope in the original cast alongside new leads, avoid the hammy nostalgia, and keep it unforgiving and gritty like Michael Mann’s 2006 film adaptation. Think: a Southland-meets-Rescue Me sort of vibe.
Perfect for: NBC. Bring it back home and what better time than now? CBS struck gold revisiting Hawaii Five-O, and yet Vice was always a better show. Further, the peacock lacks a sexy crime series and the name alone would draw ratings right out the gate.
5. 10,000 Saints
Another one off the bookshelf, Eleanor Henderson’s debut novel yanked the eyes and ears of powerful critics back in 2011, winding up on well-regarded Best Of- lists by year’s end. (Ahem, The New York Times.) Set between 1987 and 2006, the novel centers on the adopted son of a pair of New England hippies, who moves to New York and discovers the East Village’s vibrant straight-edge music scene. It’s a complicated clash between generations and culture that should strike well with a range of demographics, and there’s a hefty timeline that might outweigh any film adaptation.
Perfect for: Showtime. Yes they’ve struggled with dramas in the past, but Queer as Folk, The L Word, and Nurse Jackie argue otherwise.
Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s twisted ‘90s comic series about a supernatural Texas priest nearly made it to the small screen in the mid-aughts. At the time, HBO deemed it too dark and controversial. Of course, things have changed over the last few years and now we’re in an era where pregnant women are stabbed and brains bludgeoned on a weekly basis. It’s due time TV audiences met Jesse Custer.
Perfect for: AMC. Their hands may be full with gore, especially if that Dead spinoff comes to fruition, but with their strong comic-based viewership…it’s really a hole-in-one for them.
3. 100 Bullets
This one’s a little tricky. Earlier this year, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Harvey Award-winning comic series actually came close to being picked up by Showtime. According to writer David S. Goyer, the network “got to the three-yard line” before getting cold feet from this year’s gamut of shootings across the nation. They’re not exactly wrong: The series follows shadowy Agent Graves, who approaches victims in each issue and offers them a chance at revenge. As the title suggests, guns are fired.
Perfect for: Netflix. If Showtime turned it down, it’s going to be a hard sell for other networks. Why not bring it to the same company that hosts some of the most violent horror movies ever to hit the screen?
2. A David Sedaris show
As America’s favorite non-fiction writer, David Sedaris has yet to hit a glass ceiling. He sells out book tours in seconds and his works are more or less summer blockbusters for retailers nationwide. Yet with so much material to draw from, it’s a mystery that he hasn’t already nabbed an Emmy in both Outstanding Writing and Performance. Oh, that’s because he doesn’t have a television show. At this point, all he needs to do is raise his hand and let the bidding war begin. Whatever happens, though, let’s hope he evades Ryan Murphy. There’s a reason we haven’t seen much else on-screen from Augusten Burroughs following 2006’s Running With Scissors.
Perfect for: IFC. Sedaris is a little too light-hearted for FXX and mature for Comedy Central, but alongside Maron, Portlandia, and Comedy Bang Bang? That could be a must-see lineup worth salivating over.
1. The Dark Tower
Where to begin? The series of failed attempts to adapt Stephen King’s sweeping multi-volume epic about gunslinger Roland Deschain have been as tedious as the conflicts within its thousands of pages. First J.J. Abrams had the rights, they then fell onto Ron Howard’s lap. His idea was to create a trilogy of films with an accompanying television series featuring the same cast. In other words, a producer’s worst nightmare. Since then, both Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. have opted out. Last week, however, Howard broke silence on the project with Empire, saying: “The Dark Tower is something that we’re still working on. We’ve all taken a vow of silence about the progress, the headway, what we think our timetable is, because I don’t think I realised how much media interest there was in the title and how much excitement there was.”
Perfect for: HBO. And only HBO. Their work behind Game of Thrones shattered the limits to what television could be and its never-ending scope shares a similar DNA with The Dark Tower’s rare blend of horror, fantasy, action, and drama. Our advice? Lay it all out over seven seasons and avoid the multiplexes, altogether.