Between network TV, cable, streaming (and all those new streaming services popping up), we're starting to reach a tipping point where there's simply more good stuff than people actually have the time to watch ... so we're trying to cut through the noise for the new year. It's 2020 — so what should you put at the top of your queue and DVR list?
We've put together a rundown of 21 sci-fi shows we're most excited to see this year, though that doesn't mean there aren't plenty more awesome genre projects that will also rock by the time 2021 rolls around. We've tried to zero in on new and returning shows that will kick off in 2020, so that means we're not including a few of the excellent The CW shows such as The Flash, Arrow, and Batwoman, some upcoming sci-fi epics like the recently returned The Expanse, or under-the-radar gems like DC Universe's animated Harley Quinn series.
Stranger Things 4 (Netflix)
Netflix's biggest hit hasn't officially confirmed its release date, but it's expected to be back for another round of adventures in 2020, likely in the fall (July and October have proven prime release windows in the past). The third season of Stranger Things introduced some new fan favorites into the mix and opened the door to expanding the terrors of Hawkins to the world.
With some insane cliffhangers still dangling, Season 4 promises to be one of the most highly-anticipated shows of the new year.
Picard (CBS All Access)
Yes, we're also pumped for Star Trek: Discovery's return for a new season — but Captain Picard's return is easily the buzziest thing to happen to the Trek world in years.
This new original series looks to pick up the story a few decades after the end of the Next Generation era, with Patrick Stewart heading back into the field for one more adventure. Picard promises the return of several beloved characters — and a second season is already in the works, so you can jump in knowing the story is definitely going somewhere. The show premieres in late January.
HBO's sexy breakout hit looks to finally take the action outside the park in its eagerly-anticipated third season. The show seems like it will reinvent itself in year three after following the theme park uprising and fallout in Seasons 1-2.
The big new addition to the cast is Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) in a mystery role, though he looks to come into contact with a newly-free Dolores roaming around in the real, outside world of humanity. No premiere date yet, but the robo-drama is definitely back at some point this year.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+)
Disney+ got off to a strong start with its original Star Wars series The Mandalorian, but Marvel fans will have something to get excited about later in the year. There's no set release date yet, but The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will pick up the big screen superhero adventures of the MCU with a few of its A-list stars (namely, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan).
Of course, the pressure is also high for this project to knock it out of the park and start things off right in the new era of Marvel TV. The show is eyeing a late 2020 premiere date and a reported six-episode run.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
The OG Marvel TV series that started it all. In the years since S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered, Marvel has teamed up with Netflix for a bunch of shows, dropped that deal, and moved on to make shows for Disney+. But through it all, S.H.I.E.L.D. has kept trucking along and saving the world.
During that time it grew into one of the smartest, most compelling corners of the Marvel Universe, even if relatively few people noticed. The show's 2020 season will mark its last, with the team going on a wild adventure through time and space (with a Chronicom/LMD version of Coulson revived and along for the ride for good measure) to save the world one more time.
Y: The Last Man (FX)
After spending a few years in various stages of development, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's award-winning comic is finally coming to live-action.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where almost every male has died except for one. The story digs into social and gender issues beautifully, and here’s hoping former Rubicon writer Eliza Clark (the show's latest showrunner) can pull it off. The series stars Diane Lane, Barry Keoghan, Imogen Poots, Amber Tamblyn, and Timothy Hutton.
The Boys (Amazon Prime)
Superheroes became ubiquitous in the past decade or so, with films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool pushing the boundaries of what can be done within the genre. But the supes didn't get truly satirized until Amazon's comic-based series The Boys, which follows a group of outcasts trying to expose the corruption and general awfulness of all those capes flying around.
The first season of the Karl Urban-starring series was a massive hit, and fans are eagerly awaiting the second season at some point later in 2020.
The Mandalorian (Disney+)
The Mandalorian only just ended, but we can't wait to see more of this dusty, gunslinger-filled corner of the Star Wars universe. The first season wrapped with a bang, but creator Jon Favreau is already hard at work on Season 2.
What will happen with Baby Yoda? Where will Mando go next? What is up with Giancarlo Esposito's Moff Gideon and his mysterious dark saber? So many questions. This is the way.
The Stand (CBS All Access)
It's been a long time coming, but one of Stephen King's most ambitious stories ever put to paper is coming back to the small screen.
The CBS streaming service CBS All Access is giving this vision of the apocalypse another shot at primetime; it was presented as a miniseries in 1994. The cast is loaded with A-listers, including James Marsden, Amber Heard, Whoopi Goldberg, Katherine McNamara, and Alexander Skarsgård. The story is set in a world that has been decimated by a plague and focuses on humanity's few survivors, who have divided into opposing factions: good and evil.
Avenue 5 (HBO)
The creative team that brought us the beloved political comedy Veep is heading to space. Well, mostly.
This fascinatingly bizarre project follows the crew and passengers onboard a deep space pleasure ship — basically Carnival Cruise, but in space? The first trailer set up an irreverent spin on class warfare with plenty of jokes to keep it rolling. The cast includes Hugh Laurie as the ship's captain, plus Josh Gad, Zach Woods, Suzy Nakamura, and more.
Locke and Key (Netflix)
After a few fits and false starts over the past decade, the gothic fantasy/horror comic from Joe Hill is finally coming to TV. The series follows a family that returns to their ancestral home that is filled with weird mysteries and, well, a lot of keys.
The original comic is a gorgeous family tale with stunning visuals, and from everything we've seen and heard from the Netflix adaptation, the live-action version should check all those same boxes. The full 10-episode first season drops February 7 on Netflix.
Resident Alien (SYFY)
After a buzzy pilot debut at New York Comic Con, this SYFY original (based on the comic of the same name) follows an alien just looking to hideout and make a life for himself on Earth. The show stars genre fan-favorite Alan Tudyk as an alien who crash-lands and assumes the identity of a small-town doctor.
The show will follow Tudyk's character "Harry" in what's been described as a "twisted and comedic fish-out-of-water story" as he tries to decide if humanity really is worth keeping around.
(SYFY is, of course, the parent network of SYFY WIRE.)
Space Force (Netflix)
Think The Office mixed with NASA? Yeah, count us in.
This new Netflix original comes from The Office co-creator Greg Daniels and his former star Steve Carell, and is described as a workplace comedy about those tasked with starting up a new armed services wing: The Space Force, which has now been established as a real actual thing by President Trump.
Teaming up the dream team of Daniels and Carell again should be a major boon for Netflix, as the actor has only just dabbled back into television with Apple TV+'s buzzy The Morning Show. Carell is joined in the cast by John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Diana Silvers, and Tawny Newsome.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond (AMC)
Oh yeah, remember The Walking Dead? The long-running zombie franchise is still kicking, with plans to launch its third live-action series at some point in 2020.
The new show looks to explore a fresh corner of the undead universe, focusing on a younger generation of survivors who have pretty much spent their entire lives in the post-apocalypse — though largely removed from the insanity in a mysterious city-sized settlement teased in recent seasons of TWD and Fear The Walking Dead. So, think Riverdale meets, umm, The Walking Dead? Maybe?
Regardless, seeing how AMC manages to blend horror into another genre, and the question of if it can attract younger viewers in the process, could go a long way in defining just how much life this undead franchise has left.
After Fox pulled the plug on this DC Comics-based fantasy procedural, Netflix stepped in to keep it going for a couple more seasons of devilish fun.
Lucifer proved a hit on the streaming service, telling more Castle-esque crime mysteries blended with some fascinating world-building and supernatural twists and drama. Plus, Tom Ellis is just deliciously likable in the title role. The show returns for a final season of 16 episodes in 2020, with the release being split into two eight-episode 'batches.'
Filmmaker Alex Garland has made one heck of a name for himself over the past few years with films such as Ex Machina and Annihilation, and now he's turning his attention to the small screen.
Garland's first proper TV series is Devs, an eight-episode tech conspiracy theory drama about a computer engineer looking into a quantum computing company she believes could be responsible for her boyfriend's disappearance. This being Garland, though, we'd imagine there's a whole lot more to the story than that.
Doom Patrol (DC Universe/HBO Max)
It might not have the buzz of a Disney+ or Apple TV+, but DC's niche streaming service, DC Universe, is doing some positively awesome stuff over in its little comic book corner of the internet.
The first season of the bizarre superhero team-up series Doom Patrol quickly became a buzzy, critical hit, featuring a cast of misfits out to save the world from fourth-wall-breaking baddies and universe-eating donkeys. It's a bold move for a show to cast A-listers such as Matt Bomer and Brendan Fraser, then hide them behind gauze and a robot suit (respectively) for pretty much the show’s entire runtime, but that's just what makes this one so great.
Season 2 hits at some point in 2020, and is slated to debut on both DC Universe and HBO Max.
The Orville (Hulu)
Talk about a show that has come about one million miles from where it started. Seth McFarlane's ambitious space comedy debuted to largely awful reviews on Fox, but finally found its footing halfway through Season 1 to evolve into a fantastic dramedy that lovingly carries on the vibe and tone of classic Star Trek adventures.
Season 2 was stellar, and the show made the jump to Hulu for an upcoming third season expected in the latter part of 2020. If you gave up after a few episodes, this one is well worth revisiting.
Based on the post-apocalyptic film about a small collection of human survivors on a never-stopping train, this apparent reboot puts a new spin on the battle of literal class warfare between the front and back of the train.
The story picks up seven years after Earth has become a frozen wasteland, with the only survivors left aboard the Snowpiercer, a perpetual-motion train that spans the globe. Bong Joon-Ho's cult-hit 2013 film of the same name, which starred genre heavy-hitters such as Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, inspired the show, though the small screen version has been through its share of delays and creative differences along the way (it also shifted from TNT to TBS, then finally back to TNT along the way).
Here's hoping it’s worth the wait when it debuts this spring.
Marvel's OG TV studio might be dead, but it still has one new project that has survived the closure: Hulu's Helstrom.
Originally conceived to stream alongside a Ghost Rider TV series (which was subsequently axed during development), Helstrom is reportedly still going strong and set to debut at some point in 2020. The show stars Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon as Daimon and Ana Helstrom, who hunt and punish the worst criminals on Earth. The show is said to be a bit scarier than other Marvel TV fare, which could be a fun fit with movies such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on the way.
Originally scheduled for 2021, Disney is amping up its 2020 originals lineup with MCU series Wandavision. The show features Scarlet Witch and Vision in what's been described as one of the studio's weirdest and most ambitious shows yet (it apparently takes cues from throwback sitcoms). The story is also said to tie into the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which is still scheduled to release in 2021.