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SXSW 2023: Donald Glover’s Swarm, David E. Kelley’s Love & Death, and Other Notable TV Premieres

Here’s everything we know about the 12 series premiering at this year’s festival.
  • Chloe Bailey and Dominique Fishback in Swarm (photo: Warrick Page/Prime Video)
    Chloe Bailey and Dominique Fishback in Swarm (photo: Warrick Page/Prime Video)

    Some of this year’s most anticipated series will make their debuts at the 2023 SXSW Film & Television Festival taking place March 10 through 19 in Austin, Texas. The festival kicks off with the first look at Donald Glover’s Swarm (yes, the Beyoncé-inspired show Malia Obama worked on) and closes with the premiere of the dark comedy Beef, starring Ali Wong and Steven Yuen. 10 more series representing every streaming service out there will screen in between.

    The festival also features the Independent TV Pilot Competition, showcasing work from new talent looking for funding, and the TV Spotlight program, which most notably will be showing the first season of Demascus, a sci-fi comedy that got axed at AMC before it had the chance to air. The screening seems like an attempt to catch the eye of another network.

    But the main event is the early looks at upcoming 2023 TV series. Here are the 12 shows screening at this year’s SXSW.

    Swarm (Prime Video)

    Atlanta writer Janine Nabers takes a look at the dark side of fandom, with Dominique Fishback starring as the obsessive fan of a Beyoncé-like pop star. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Glover and Nabers cite Piano Teacher, The King of Comedy, Mad Men, and The Sopranos as influences, taking the antihero story and telling it through the lens of a modern-day Black woman. And most of the crew involved comes from Atlanta, so much so that Nabers calls Swarm “a sister to Atlanta.” The one notable exception? Malia Obama, who joined the project as a writer. The series also stars Chloe Bailey and Damson Idris, and will premiere on opening night of SXSW.

    Beef (Netflix)

    Tuca and Bertie writer Lee Sung Jin teams up with Ali Wong once again, this time as the showrunner for the dark comedy Beef. Wong and Steven Yuen (both also producers on the project) star as Amy Lau, an entrepreneur with a seemingly perfect life, and Danny Cho, a failing contractor with something to prove. The pair’s lives become intertwined after a road rage incident consumes their every thought. According to a 2021 press release from Netflix, the show’s origins may spring from real life. “I’m also grateful to the guy who yelled at me in traffic three years ago,” Jin says. “I did not let it go, and now we have a show.” This presentation takes place on closing night of the festival, signaling high hopes.

    Love & Death (HBO Max)

    It’s time for another small screen adaptation about the brutal ax murder of Betty Gore by her friend Candy Montgomery. Unlike last year’s Candy, this version of the retelling is based on John Bloom and Jim Atkinson’s 1984 book Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs and two Texas Monthly articles titled “Love & Death in Silicon Prairie, Part I & II.” Elizabeth Olsen stars as Candy, Lily Rabe stars as Betty, and Jesse Plemons stars as Allan Gore, Betty’s husband who had an affair with Candy in the months leading up to the murder. With David E. Kelley running the show, there are sure to be plenty of dramatic courtroom scenes.

    American Born Chinese (Disney+)

    This action comedy based on the graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang (also a producer) reunites Everything Everywhere All At Once castmates Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu in another genre-bending tale. At the center of the story, though, is Jin Wang (Ben Wang), a high school student who becomes entangled in a battle among Chinese mythical gods. Yeoh plays Guanyin, the god of compassion; Hsu plays Shiji Niangniang, a demoness turned goddess; and Quan plays the seemingly mythical Freddy Wong. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton brings some of that Marvel magic as director of the series.

    I’m A Virgo (Prime Video)

    Writer/director/producer Boots Riley brings the same absurdist social commentary from his first feature film, Sorry to Bother You, to the small screen with this comedy. Jharrel Jerome (who won an Emmy for his performance in When They See Us) stars as 13-foot-tall young Black man in Oakland, California. Not much else has been revealed about the plot, but if Sorry to Bother You is any indication, there will be plenty of unpredictable twists and turns along the way. Brett Gray, Kara Young, Allius Barnes, Olivia Washington, Walton Goggins, Mike Epps, and Carmen Ejogo also star. In February 2022, Riley told Deadline, “Our cast is hard as hell. Our cast slaps everyone else’s cast around on the playground. Sorry. I’ve spoken with the principal about this and there’s nothing more I can do.”

    Mrs. Davis (Peacock)

    The official description for this Damon Lindelof-produced sci-fi drama is simple: “Mrs. Davis is the world’s most powerful Artificial Intelligence. Simone is the nun devoted to destroying Her. Who ya got?” Betty Gilpin stars as Simone, likely pulling out some of her GLOW moves while kicking a robot’s butt. Joining her to take down the AI is Margo Martindale as Sister Simone’s Mother Superior, Jake McDorman as Simone’s ex, and a stacked ensemble that includes Andy McQueen, David Arquette, Elizabeth Marvel, Katja Herbers, Chris Diamantopoulos, Ashley Romans, Tom Wlaschiha, and Mathilde Ollivier.

    Lucky Hank (AMC)

    Bob Odenkirk is back on AMC, trading in the role of crooked lawyer Saul Goodman for college English department chairman William Henry Devereaux, Jr. The drama from Aaron Zelman (Silicon Valley) and Paul Lieberstein (The Office) is based on the 1997 Richard Russo novel Straight Man, and follows Devereaux as he navigates his mid-life crisis while working at an underfunded university. Mireille Enos (The Killing) stars as his wife Lily, and Olivia Scott Welch, Diedrich Bader, Suzanne Cryer, Sara Amini, and Cedric Yarbrough round out the supporting cast.

    A Small Light (Disney+)

    Bel Howley and Liev Shrieber lead this eight-episode limited drama series about Miep Gies, the woman who hid Anne Frank and her family, finding and preserving the former’s diary to be shared around the world. Howley stars as Gies, assistant to Anne’s father, Otto Frank (Shrieber). The series follows Gies’ coming-of-age and relationship with her husband in the Netherlands during World War II, but ultimately tells the story of one ordinary woman stepping up to keep a family safe and share the truth about the Holocaust for years to come.

    Slip (The Roku Channel)

    Zoe Lister-Jones (Life in Pieces) produces, writes, directs, and stars in this fantastical comedy about a woman who works her way through relationships in multiple parallel universes to find her way back to her partner. Tymika Tafari, Whitmer Thomas, Amar Chadha-Patel, and Emily Hampshire also star, but it’s a concept that’s ripe for even more guest stars to step in.

    The Big Door Prize (Apple TV+)

    Chris O’Dowd stars in this adaptation of M.O. Walsh’s novel about what happens when a machine promising to reveal each resident’s true potential shows up in a small town. Gabrielle Dennis, Ally Maki, Damon Gupton, Josh Segarra, Crystal Fox, Sammy Fourlas, and Djouliet Amara round out the ensemble cast for this half-hour comedy from David West Read (Schitt’s Creek). This is sure to fit in well with Apple TV+’s ongoing slate of saccharine, feel-good comedies.

    Rabbit Hole (Paramount+)

    Keither Sutherland is back in action (literally) in this drama about a spy who was framed for murder by some powerful forces. In describing the series to Deadline, Sutherland compared it to ’70s conspiracy thrillers like Three Days of the Condor. The series is helmed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the duo behind I Love You Philip Morris, the This Is Us pilot, and WeCrashed, and also stars Charles Dance, Meta Golding, Enid Graham, Rob Yang, and Walt Klink.

    The Luckiest Guy in the World: The Bill Walton Story (ESPN)

    Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) directs this 30 for 30 documentary about basketball hall of famer Bill Walton. The TV film will follow Walton’s career from his years playing ball in high school to his championship season with the Portland Trail Blazers to his post-NBA career as a sports commentator.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: SXSW, American Born Chinese, Beef, Love and Death, Mrs. Davis, Rabbit Hole, A Small Light, Swarm, Boots Riley, David E. Kelley, Donald Glover