Fair warning: everyone is about to have a lot less free time. WarnerMedia has announced the lineup and launch information for its new HBO Max streaming service, due to premiere in May 2020. The service is going to cost $14.99/ month, making it one of the priciest streaming options. A higher cost comes with some fantastic product, though, as the preliminary list of original titles and old favorites that will be offered is already too cool to pass up.
The headline of the bunch is certainly House of the Dragon, a spinoff of HBO’s mega-super-duper-crazy hit Game of Thrones. Set 300 years before the events of GOT, the series will focus on the Targaryen rulers of Westeros and is based on George R. R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood. While the success HBO found with GOT bodes well, the announcement bodes a little weird, as Tuesday the company scrapped a separate idea for a spinoff with little explanation as to why. Either way, House of the Dragon will be a crucial bellwether for the service — and scratch that GOT itch.
Another buzzy fantasy series coming to the platform is His Dark Materials. Based on a series of novels by Phillip Pullman, and starring James McAvoy and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the BBC show will likely interest some GOT fans. The adaptation, which premieres on HBO next week, will follow a young orphan (Dafne Keen) who uncovers a pattern of kidnappings in an eerie and enchanting world.
In the same zone is Dune: Sisterhood, an adaptation of a spinoff book, set in the world of Frank Herbert’s 1965 Dune novel. This may sound familiar, as Denis Villeneuve is currently directing a film based on the original Herbert novel due in 2020. He is heavily involved in the series as well as executive-producer and director. Dune: Sisterhood is centered on a mysterious group of powerful women and promises a captivating perspective into some of the intrigues of the Dune-iverse. Villeneuve must enjoy playing in this realm, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does with the series.
Also coming down the pike is an adaptation of the 2004 Philip Roth novel The Plot Against America. The upcoming miniseries of the same title tells an alternate American history, where the 1940 election finds Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated by a fascist xenophobe who allies the US with Nazi Germany. The series is sure to be a prescient look at issues that in many ways still plaguing the country. It’ll also star Winona Ryder and Zoe Kazan, two superb actresses who are primed for a prestige HBO series.
Another project that puts sociopolitical issues top-of-mind will be 15 Minutes of Shame, a documentary headed up by Monica Lewinsky and Catfish’s Max Joseph. The film will explore public shaming and social media through several lenses, including psychology, politics, and mainstream media. Lewinsky is often considered to be the first person publicly shamed in the internet era and has recently reclaimed her reputation through the savvy use of social media and an inspiring retelling of her story for anti-bullying activism.
HBO also clearly knows a good thing when they’ve got it and decided to launch another series with Issa Rae (Insecure). Rap Sh*t will follow two women who form a hip-hop duo, and their hustler manager as they try to break into the Miami music industry. HBO Max will feature a couple of other female-produced comedies, too, with shows headed up by Elizabeth Banks and Mindy Kaling. Each of these productions is targeted to teens, with Banks producing DC Superhero High, about kids with superpowers attending boarding school. For her part, Kaling will produce College Girls, a series about a group of roommates trying to hack their freshman year.
Other noteworthy projects include The Outsider, a series that appears to be a Riverdale-ification of S.E. Hinton’s classic novel, and Strange Adventures, a superhero anthology series. Strange Adventures will also pad out the announced Green Lantern show with some more comic-book material. Finally, Luca Guadagnino will foray into television with the coming-of-age series We Are Who We Are. The Call Me by Your Name director has such a distinct style that the series will hopefully tap into.
This lineup had an interesting trend represented, namely the recent moves of big-name directors from studios to streaming. Ridley Scott has Raised by Wolves set up on the platform, a sci-fi serial following androids who must raise human babies on a mystery planet. Michael Mann is producing Tokyo Vice, a drama series starring Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe about the Tokyo police department, which sounds too awesome to be true.
HBO Max also promises a slew of old favorites, such as animation paragons The Iron Giant and all the Studio Ghibli movies. We’ll also get access to the Lord of the Rings and Matrix franchises and classic films like Casablanca, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Shining. Finally, pretty much any WB television show you can imagine will be on there, like Doctor Who, South Park, Gossip Girl, and Adventure Time. Start banking vacation days now; May 2020 will be a month-long national binge-session.