The Return of the TV Anthology Series

Hey there, old-timers and millennials!  Feeling deprived? Missing anthology shows like Twilight Zone, Playhouse 90, and all that other legendary top-quality TV?

Well, turns out that those TV and digital entertainment execs we all love so much are already in the saddle, riding to your – oh, hell, we mean our – rescue!

by Lisa Rosen

Anthology series, a staple of TV’s storied past, are making a comeback.

And for viewers, these series — offering different stories, characters and, sometimes, casts in each episode or season — are as fulfilling as standard, multi-season series. And less stressful, since they do not necessarily require a long-term commitment.

FX was the first to ride the new anthology wave with Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, now wrapping its sixth season. The network followed with Fargo, which returns next year for its third season, and American Crime Story, which will follow its very successful first season — The People v. O.J. Simpson — with a story about Hurricane Katrina.

Meanwhile, on ABC, John Ridley’s American Crime has been renewed for a third season; at HBO, a third season of True Detective is pending.

Matt Roush, senior critic at TV Guide Magazine, recalls his reaction to Murder House, the first go-round of American Horror Story, which aired in 2011. “When we watched the first season — as the characters kept dying off — we thought, ‘What the hell are they going to do for season two?’”

The show didn’t reveal its anthology roots until the end of the season. Since then, Roush says, subsequent seasons “create a certain amount of excitement and anticipation toward the fact that the show can reinvent itself every time it comes back.”

The season-long anthology clearly has its fans. AMC will launch its own next year: The Terror, starring Jared Harris as the captain of the a British ship searching for the Northwest Passage while being stalked by a mysterious predator.

And Dick Wolf is tweaking his Law & Order format for NBC, with Law & Order:True Crime ; the first season will focus on Lyle and Erik Menendez, who were convicted of murdering their parents in 1989.

But several anthologies expected in 2017 are following the old Twilight Zone model. Those wiping the slate clean every week, rather than every season, include:

  • Bobcat Goldthwait, who has partnered with TruTV for Bobcat Goldthwait’s Messed Up Stories ;
  • Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl), who created The Guest Book for TBS;
  • Dez Dolly, whose Dimension 404 will premiere on Hulu;
  • M. Night Shyamalan, who is curating a return of Tales of the Crypt for TNT;
  • and Gale Anne Hurd, who is bringing Aaron Mahnke’s popular podcast, Lore, to Amazon.

Matt Weiner, creator of Mad Men, is also making an anthology series for Amazon, but at press time, details — including the title and format — of the eight-episode project were yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, the heralded British anthology, Black Mirror, returned for a third season in October, with 10 episodes on Netflix….

Read it all at Emmys