Interesting new TV shows feature familiar faces in unusual roles

Actors reinvent themselves by taking on roles vastly different from those that they are known for

Actors are stretching themselves in different roles in a slew of new titles on television that sound interesting, at least on paper.

Jason "Horrible Bosses" Sudeikis voices an animated warrior trying to reconnect with his live-action ex-wife and teenage son in Son Of Zorn. Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery goes from playing an upper-crust woman to a thief and con artist in Good Behavior.

Zach Galifianakis, star of the raunchy Hangover movies, plays a failed professional clown in Baskets - as well as his twin brother.

And Rowan Atkinson stretches his acting chops more than his rubbery Mr Bean face in a serious dramatic role, playing the titular French detective in Maigret's Dead Man.

CLASS


Class. PHOTO: BBC

When: Premieres Oct 23, on demand

Where: BBC First (StarHub TV Channel 522)

Story: A spin-off of the long-running science-fiction series Doctor Who (2005 to present) set in contemporary London. Time-travelling has thinned the walls of time and space and evil creatures are eager to break through.

Buzz: The show was created and written by award winning author Patrick Ness and he produces together with Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin, both of whom had worked on Doctor Who, which suggest a strong foundation for the show.

BASKETS

When: Premieres Oct 31 , 10pm

Where: FX (StarHub TV Channel 507, Singtel TV Channel 310)

Story: Zach Galifianakis plays Chip Baskets, who is not clowning about as he pursues his dream of becoming a respected professional clown, even if the only job he can find is at the local rodeo. The actor also plays Dale, Chip's effete and sarcastic twin brother.

Buzz: The show, co-created by the acclaimed Louis C.K., has been renewed for a second season, and comedian Louie Anderson, who plays Chip and Dale's mother in a gender-bending role, won the Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance.

CHEWING GUM


Michaela Coel (above). PHOTO: DAVE KING PHOTOGRAPHY

When: Premieres Oct 31, on demand

Where: Netflix

Story: A British sitcom about 24-year-old Tracey Gordon (Michaela Coel), a religious Beyonceobsessed virgin.

Buzz: At the 2016 British Academy Television Awards, Coel won for Best Female Comedy Performance while Chewing Gum was nominated for Best Scripted Comedy. It has been picked up for a second series.

HIGH MAINTENANCE


Ben Sinclair (above). PHOTO: HBO ASIA

When: Premieres Nov 5, 10pm

Where: Cinemax (StarHub TV Channel 611)

Story: Each episode of this comedy focuses on a new set of characters as they get their fix from a weed dealer referred to simply as The Guy (Ben Sinclair).

Buzz: High Maintenance had originally premiered on video-sharing website Vimeo in 2012 before HBO ordered six new episodes, which started airing in the US on Sept 16. The show - which The New York Times has described as "the same wry, peripatetic series at heart, a vision of urban life as a web of stories connected by wisps of smoke" - has a high score of 81 on the review-aggregating website metacritic.com. It was renewed for a second season by the network last month.

BRAINDEAD


Mary Elizabeth Winstead (above). PHOTO: CBS

When: Premieres Nov 8, 9.45pm

Where: AXN (StarHub TV Channel 511, Singtel TV Channel 304)

Story: This is not a zombie series but a political satire. Documentary film-maker Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) discovers that bugs are eating the brains of Congress members and their staffers. Tony Shalhoub (Monk, 2002 to 2009) plays a Republican senator, who is among the first of them to have their brains eaten and replaced by the aliens.

Buzz: From the creators of the legal drama The Good Wife (2009 to 2016), Robert King and his wife Michelle King.

SON OF ZORN


Son Of Zorn. PHOTO: FOX

When: Premieres Nov 9, 10pm

Where: FX (StarHub TV Channel 507, Singtel TV Channel 310)

Story: What if He-Man had a wife and son in a contemporary setting? That is the deliciously delirious premise of this animation-live action hybrid. Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), the Defender of Zephyria and decapitator of the dark herdsmen of Grith, heads to suburbia to reconnect with his ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) and mellow teenage son (Johnny Pemberton).

Buzz: Reviews have been mixed. The Los Angeles Times praised it for being "an old story in a new loincloth. But it works".

GOOD BEHAVIOR


Michelle Dockery (above). PHOTO: WARNER TV

When: Premieres Nov 16, 11.30pm

Where: Warner TV (StarHub TV Channel 515, Singtel TV Channel 306)

Story: Letty Raines (Michelle Dockery) is a thief and con artist starting life over after her release from prison. She is reunited with her 10-year-old son, but is soon entangled with a killer. Based on the Letty Dobesh novella series by American author Blake Crouch.

Buzz: Downton Abbey's aristocratic Lady Mary as a substance-abusing trickster? Going gritty could be a smart move for Dockery to reinvent herself in the wake of the popular period drama.

DICKENSIAN


Dickensian. PHOTO: BBC

When: Premieres Dec 1, on demand

Where: BBC First (StarHub TV Channel 522)

Story: Familiar characters from Charles Dickens' works come together in one Victorian London neighbourhood as Inspector Bucket (from Bleak House) investigates the murder of moneylender Jacob Marley (from A Christmas Carol).

Buzz: Penny Dreadful (2014 to 2016) brought together the likes of Dorian Gray, Dr Jekyll and Dracula in one show. Dickensian gives the concept another go with a different set of characters. Despite some good reviews, including five stars from The Telegraph, the show was cancelled after the first series.

CHANCE


Hugh Laurie (above). PHOTO: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM

When: Premieres Dec 13, 10pm

Where: FX (StarHub TV Channel 507, Singtel TV Channel 310)

Story: Hugh Laurie goes from acerbic doctor in House (2004 to 2012) - his last and very successful TV series - to a forensic neurophysicist in his new TV show, an adaptation of the 2014 Kem Nunn novel of the same name.

Buzz: The psychological thriller premieres in the US on the subscription video service Hulu today. It has been ordered for two seasons for a total of 20 episodes. This could be the fix that fans of House have been looking for.

MAIGRET'S DEAD MAN


Rowan Atkinson (above centre). PHOTO: PEKET COPRODUCTION

When: Premieres in December, on demand

Where: BBC First (StarHub TV Channel 522)

Story: In Maigret's Dead Man, the fictional French detective Jules Maigret - the late Belgian writer Georges Simenon's best-known character - focuses on the murder of a gambler with connections to a brutal gang from Czechoslovakia.

Buzz: Rowan Atkinson is the latest, and possibly most unlikely, actor to step into the shoes of the much-loved detective in the British series Maigret. Doubters will have to eat their words as the second series has been commissioned. The series comprises two standalone TV movies. The first, Maigret Sets A Trap, is currently available on BBC First, while the second, Maigret's Dead Man, will be released in December.

• Telecast details are subject to change.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Stepping into unlikely new roles'. Print Edition | Subscribe