Which of these promising projects will be Hulu’s next “The Handmaid’s Tale”?

hulu the handmaid’s tale
hulu the handmaid’s tale
Image: Hulu/George Kraychyk
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Hulu made television history last weekend when it became the first streaming service to win an Emmy award for best drama series for its dystopian thriller, The Handmaid’s Tale. The streamer’s next challenge will be to prove it isn’t just a one-hit wonder.

Based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood about a near-future United States where women are forced into sexual servitude, The Handmaid’s Tale became Hulu’s first bona fide hit even before it dominated this year’s Emmys. Upon launching on the streaming service in April, it immediately catapulted to the center of the cultural conversation in a way no previous Hulu show had ever done—no doubt due in part to the terrifying vision of America it offered its audience just three months after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president.

Of course, a TV series can be as topical or as provocative as it wants, but it won’t succeed if viewers don’t find it compelling. More important than its political timeliness is the fact that Handmaid’s is simply great television, which is what makes it such a tough act to follow.

The Emmy victory was hugely symbolic for Hulu, validating its diverse expansion into original programming. In order to truly compete with the likes of HBO on cable and Netflix on the internet, however, Hulu will need more than just The Handmaid’s Tale. A lot more.

Creating a hit like The Handmaid’s Tale is far easier said than done: Several other networks pulled off a single hit show and have struggled to make another.

To its credit, Hulu has dozens of interesting projects in the works—many boasting writing, acting, and directing talent from Hollywood and the best shows on cable TV. If the streaming service strikes gold again, it will likely be in one of these shows, currently in development:

1. Castle Rock

This mystery-thriller series that takes place in horror master Stephen King’s fictional Maine town has an abundance of talent. Its creator, Sam Shaw, also made the highly underrated WGN America drama, Manhattan. J.J. Abrams is involved (his TV projects have been hit or miss, but when they hit, they hit big). Michael Uppendahl, a prolific TV director who’s done great work on AMC’s Mad Men and FX’s Legion, is producing and will direct the show’s pilot episode.

But here is where it gets really good. Two writers fresh off HBO’s incredible drama The Leftovers, Lila Byock and Tom Spezialy, are now on Castle Rock‘s writing team. And they’re not the only veterans of The Leftovers working on the show: Actor Scott Glenn, who was one of the best parts of the HBO show’s riveting final season, will be a series regular on Castle Rock.

Glenn joins an already impressive cast, which includes Melanie Lynskey (Togetherness), André Holland (The KnickMoonlight), Terry O’Quinn (Lost), and two Stephen King icons: Sissy Spacek, who played Carrie in the original 1976 film based on King’s book, and Bill Skarsgård, who just terrified audiences as Pennywise the Clown in the King’s It.

If Castle Rock can be half as successful as this summer’s It reboot, then Hulu will have another hit on its hands. It will launch sometime in 2018.

2. The Looming Tower

The potential of this show rests entirely on its leading actors and source material. Based on the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book by Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower stars Alec Baldwin and Jeff Daniels as US government operatives investigating the rise of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in the run-up to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Baldwin will play former CIA director George Tenet, while Daniels will play John O’Neill, the former head of New York’s FBI counterterrorism division, who himself died in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Alex Gibney, the documentarian who adapted Wright’s Scientology exposé Going Clear into a film for HBO, will co-produce The Looming Tower. Dan Futterman, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Capote and Foxcatcher, will also write and produce the series.

It’s unclear exactly how long (or how many seasons) the show can maintain its conceit—and in the age of the Islamic State, a story about pre-9/11 Al-Qaeda could feel dated—but The Looming Tower contains all the ingredients for a powerful, buzz-worthy drama.

3. The Warriors

We haven’t heard anything about this project since it was announced last year. It’s possible it never even materializes, but if it does, it could be a huge triumph for Hulu.

In July 2016, Deadline reported that the Captain America directors known as the Russo brothers will turn the cult classic 1979 film The Warriors into a TV series for Hulu. The film, about an alternate universe New York City that’s controlled by violent, roving gangs, seems ripe for reimagining and further exploration in today’s political climate. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, it might offer a frightening, albeit exaggerated, vision of where America is headed.

More than that, though, the film, and the original novel by Sol Yurick on which it was based, offers a sprawling story that could be mined for elaborate action sequences, shifting alliances, and an abundance of political intrigue (not totally unlike a more modern, realistic Game of Thrones). I am against most reboots, but The Warriors, in the Russo brothers’ assured hands, could be one worth watching—if it happens.

A few other possibilities

  • Runaways, based on the Marvel comic about teen superheroes who wage war against their evil parents, is enjoying very positive buzz among TV critics ahead of its Nov. 21 release. It may not ever be a hit on the same level as The Handmaid’s Tale, but it could be a success for Hulu and the rarity of a distinctive entry in TV’s tiresome comic book universe.
  • Locke and Key, also based on a popular comic series, follows three siblings who discover a set of mysterious keys that give them magical powers. Former Lost co-showrunner Carlton Cuse will lead the series, and It director Andy Muschietti will direct the pilot. The beloved comic has a legion of devoted fans that could help push the series into the mainstream.
  • The First, which imagines the first human mission to Mars, is also the first regular TV role for the acclaimed actor Sean Penn. House of Cards creator Beau Willimon will write and executive produce the series. An interesting premise with a proven TV writer and a well-known, veteran actor to lead it, it wouldn’t be too surprising if The First is a big success for Hulu.
  • An untitled 1990s teen drama is also in the early stages of development at the streaming service, but what we know so far is intriguing. The show is being co-produced by actors James Franco and Seth Rogen, who both had breakout roles in the beloved early-2000s high school comedy Freaks and Geeks, and most recently teamed up on The Disaster Artist. After so much 1980s nostalgia in TV and film, maybe it’s time to do more with the 1990s.