As film studios start peppering theaters with their Oscar contenders, streaming services are delivering their own high season of online content. Netflix, for example, will be releasing two acclaimed features from the 75th Venice International Film Festival, Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, winner of the prestigious Golden Lion Award, and the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, winner of the Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay. But the bread and butter of online platforms is still found in the series format, and the “here and now and all the time” demand of streaming viewership means a bevy of new series each month.
Some old favorites will be coming back, like a new season of House of Cards (sans Spacey) on Netflix and the return of Outlander on Starz. For viewers looking for something entirely fresh and unfamiliar on their screens, though, here are three much-anticipated series premiering this November.
Homecoming (Amazon Prime, November 2nd)
This Gimlet Media original is the showpiece in the latest Hollywood trend of podcast-to-screen adaptations. Some other series that first spoke into the mic before stepping in front of the camera are HBO’s 2 Dope Queens and Amazon’s Lore, but neither of those had the long-awaited buzz of Homecoming, which premiers on Amazon November 2nd. Bringing visuals to this adaptation is television auteur Sam Esmail, the man behind USA Network’s Mr. Robot. Homecoming is propped up by some significant star-power, as well, in the form of Julia Roberts, who is starring in a television series for the first time in her career.
Roberts plays a caseworker at a facility that helps former soldiers in their transition back to civilian life. Fans of Esmail’s work on Mr. Robot, hoping for something dark and twisty, won’t be disappointed as this seemingly wholesome government welfare program gives way to more sinister conspiracies hidden somewhere deep inside the shadowy halls of power. Homecoming looks to be another taut psychological thriller from Esmail that revels in ratcheting up the paranoia and suspense.
My Brilliant Friend (HBO, November 18th)
From antiseptic U.S. government facilities to the grimy, gritty streets of 1950s Naples, for those less interested in psychological thrillers and more interested in psychological portraits, HBO’s My Brilliant Friend may be more to your taste. Adapted from Elena Ferrante’s international best-selling novel of the same name, My Brilliant Friend plumbs the joys, horrors, and complexities of childhood. Ferrante’s novels, of which My Brilliant Friend is only the first in a four-book series, chronicle a 60-year friendship between two women. The eight-part HBO series, which premiers November 18th, captures their girlhood and adolescence together, exploring the mysteries and rivalries of childhood attachment, as these two young women navigate the upheavals of growing up, alongside the harsh and violent realities of their impoverished neighborhood.
Viewers allergic to subtitles beware: My Brilliant Friend is presented in the Italian language and Neapolitan dialect authentic to where the story takes place.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, November 19th)
The BBC production of The Little Drummer Girl is more than a series; it’s a television event, and AMC has signed on to share this spectacular moment with American audiences. Adapted from the novel by critically acclaimed spy-fiction author John le Carré, this limited series will unfold in two-hour installments over three consecutive nights, starting November 19th. The series retains the original setting of the novel — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of the late-1970s — so be ready for big hair, colorful threads, and analogue gadgetry, as these spymasters try their hands at some good old fashion subterfuge.
The cast includes Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), whose mere presence is like the brewing calm of a thunderstorm, and Alexander Skarsgård, a native Swede who is becoming an increasingly household name here in the States after recurring roles in True Blood and Big Little Lies. Perhaps the most anticipated performance is that of Florence Pugh in a follow-up to her absolutely devastating debut in William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth last year. (Pugh can also be seen in the newest adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear now streaming on Amazon Prime.)
This dynamic cast is under the direction of Korean cinema visionary, Park Chan-wook. Park exploded onto the film scene with the gut-wrenching instant classic Oldboy (2003) and has consistently delivered top-notch filmmaking ever since. After demonstrating the precision with which he could tease out a mystery in the erotic thriller The Handmaiden (2015), adapting le Carré’s work is a welcome addition to this director’s already impressive oeuvre.