We know, we know. You still have two episodes of Fargo season two before you can think about starting season three. You’ve already fallen behind on American Gods. Your planner memory is chock-a-block with Big Little Lies and that OJ Simpson thing and some Spanish prison series your workmate bullied you into recording. You’re struggling to make time for Twin Peaks. New Game Of Thrones is just around the corner. And guess what, Netflix UK have just added a whole new season of It’s Always Sunny, those sods. You need a list of new TV show recommendations like you need a hole in the head.
And yet, as long as they keep making them, we’ll keep recommending them. Sorry. Here’s a pick of twenty-six promising-looking British dramas and comedies to keep an eye out for over the next year or so…
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams
The cast list for this sci-fi anthology series based on the short stories of Philip K Dick is impressive stuff. Between Bryan Cranston (who’s also executive producing), Steve Buscemi, Anna Paquin, Timothy Spall, Vera Farmiga, Terence Howard, Sidse Babbett Knudsen, Richard Madden, Mireille Enos, Lara Pulver, Greg Kinnear… Electric Dreams certainly doesn’t lack for big names.
The list of writing talent is similarly promising. It features Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), Jack Thorne (This Is England, National Treasure), Tony Grisoni (Red Riding) and Matthew Graham (Life On Mars) among others. Electric Dreams will comprise ten standalone adaptations of Dick’s sci-fi short stories, and airs later this year on Channel 4 in the UK and on Amazon Prime Video in the US.
The City & The City
From the work of Philip K. Dick to an author who could be called a spiritual successor of his: China Mieville. A four-part adaptation of Mieville’s acclaimed 2009 novel The City & The City is coming to BBC Two, with David Morrissey (The Walking Dead, The Missing) in the lead role. Described by its executive producer as “a noir thriller with a fantastic twist which will quite literally break boundaries with its unique take on the murder mystery”, The City & The City is a genre-straddling crime fantasy adapted by Tony Grisoni for television. Expect intrigue and weirdness.
Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington is joined by Liv Tyler, Peter Mullan and Mark Gatiss in this three-part historical drama revisiting the story of the failed 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Harington plays Robert Catesby, the Catholic gentleman who devised the plan to blow up parliament, with Mark Gatiss as spymaster general and torturer Robert Cecil. Peaky Blinders’ Laurie Borg is producing this one from a script by Top Boy’s Ronan Bennett. Gunpowder began filming in early 2017 and will air on BBC One.
A Very English Scandal
From the seventeenth century to the 1970s now, but staying with politics, Russell T. Davies has adapted John Preston’s A Very English Scandal into a three-part drama for BBC One. Stephen Frears directs Hugh Grant in the lead role of disgraced MP Jeremy Thorpe, who was tried but acquitted of conspiracy to murder his ex-lover Norman Scott in 1979.
Davies tells Thorpe’s story against the backdrop of the late sixties, following the Sexual Offences Act, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality in Britain. With quality names attached and weighty themes, we expect good things.
More exciting stuff. Peep Show co-creator Sam Bain has written a new three-part comedy thriller for the BBC. Starring Tom Riley, Lizzy Caplan, Chris Geere, Jessica Regan and John Gordon Sinclair, Ill Behaviour takes cancer treatment as its unlikely comedy premise. BBC Comedy Commissioner Shane Allen describes the series as challenging “our own sense of right and wrong in the face of life and death”, but, you know, funny.
Ill Behaviour will follow the Car Share model by debuting on BBC iPlayer before airing on BBC Two later this year.
Agyness Deyn and Jim Sturgess have been cast as detectives Elaine Renko and Robert Hicks in Hard Sun, a new drama by Luther creator Neil Cross. BBC One ordered the six episode series, which is being described as “pre-apocalyptic”, in collaboration with Hulu in December 2015. Hulu’s recent success with its excellent adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale bodes well for that pairing.
Hard Sun is set in a world due to collapse in five short years, and tells the story of the two detectives above struggling to cope with the imminent existential threat. Probably with a bit of crime thrown in, we’d imagine.
There’s not long to wait for atmospheric Scottish murder mystery The Loch, from Fortitude and Vera writer Stephen Brady. The six-part drama airs on ITV later this month, led by Happy Valley’s Siobhan Finneran and The Missing’s Laura Fraser. Set “in a community nourished and sustained by myth and bordered by untamed nature,” this serial killer drama promises to transport Scandi-noir to the Scottish Highlands.
Troy: Fall Of A City
Cape Town is standing in for ancient Greece in this eight-part retelling of the Trojan war from playwright David Farr, who was behind the BBC’s highly successful adaptation of The Night Manager. Thanks to Homer, we all know the story – Paris, Helen of Troy, Achilles, a big wooden horse and sword fights galore…
A joint BBC/Netflix production (which means it shouldn’t be short on cash for all those pricey battle scenes) Troy: Fall Of A City stars David Threlfall, Johnny Harris, Frances O’Connor, Joseph Mawle, Bella Dayne and Jonas Armstrong.
Attention, fans of Peaky Blinders’ Aunt Pol: Helen McCrory plays lead Emma Banville, a human rights lawyer, in new ITV political crime drama Fearless. McCrory’s character in the six-part series comes up against wrongdoing in the upper echelons when she sets out to prove the innocence of a convicted child-killer. Michael Gambon and Wunmi Mosaku also appear in this political crime thriller from Homeland and 24 writer Patrick Harbinson.
Untitled Patrick Melrose series
David Nicholls (One Day) has adapted Edward St. Aubyn’s stunning Patrick Melrose novels for a new Sky Atlantic mini-series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Each of the five episodes will be based on one of St. Aubyn’s five novels, which tell the semi-autobiographical story of Melrose, a man irreparably damaged by his past. Filming is expected to begin this summer, so an early 2018 air date seems likely.
The End Of The F***ing World
“If David Lynch made a rom-com” is the way Channel 4 commissioning editor describes new eight-part series The End Of The F***ing World, adapted by Charlie Covell from Charles Forsman’s comic book series.
Filming began this April on the adaptation, which stars Jessica Barden (The Lobster, Tamara Drewe) and Alex Lawther (Black Mirror) as Alyssa and James, two misfit teens who undertake a road trip in search of Alyssa’s absent dad. Writer Covell describes the E4/Netflix co-production as “a dark, unconventional coming-of-age love story” veering between brutal violence and comedy, which sounds right up our street.
A licky boom boom down.
Ignoring that, we’re all in favour of supporting new talent, which is why this BBC thriller from two writers making their television debut caught our eye. Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani have written Informer, a thriller about an East London second generation Pakistani man coerced by a Counter-Terrorism officer to go undercover as an informant. It’s a resonant story about identity and belonging, says the official blurb, about a “a world where lines are increasingly being drawn and sides are being taken.” No casting announcements have yet been made.
Cunk On Britain
After giving her unique perspective on Christmas and Shakespeare, as well as some memorable shorts as part of Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe (who could forget the searing investigation “What Is Clocks?”), now Philomena Cunk turns her attention to the state of the nation. New five-part series Cunk On Britain sees Diane Morgan’s character travel the length and breadth of Great Britain to explore UK history, with writing by Charlie Brooker, Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris. Due to air on BBC Two later this year.
Fantasy mental health drama Overshadowed is a BBC Three production about the powerful effect of anorexia on a young woman. Based on actor and playwright Eva O’Connor’s celebrated stageplay of the same name, this short-form eight-part series personifies the disease in human form and shows young lead Imogene suffer under the influence of her monstrous new best friend. This doesn’t promise to be an easy watch by any standards, but represents more innovative and responsible youth programming by BBC Three.
The War Of The Worlds
Now we’re talking! Peter Harness (Doctor Who, Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell) is adapting H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds into a three-part drama for BBC One. Filming isn’t due to begin until early next year, so no casting announcements have yet been made.
The story, as if you need reminding, is a seminal tale of Martian invasion imagining the arrival of belligerent aliens in sleepy Surrey at the start of the twentieth century. Harness, according to his official press statement, aims to make it “a terrifying, Martian-packed series which manages to be emotional, characterful and – deep breath, dare I say it – even political at the same time.” Great stuff.
Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss has produced a series of eight short form monologues charting the experiences of gay Britons for BBC Four. Queers was commissioned to mark the fiftieth anniversary this July of the Sexual Offences Act (see above). Four of the short plays, all of which will be performed at the Old Vic before airing on BBC Four, are from writers new to television, with the others written by Gatiss, Jon Bradfield, Jackie Clune and Brian Fillis.
An enticing cast has been assembled for the anthology series, including Ben Whishaw, Alan Cumming, Russell Tovey, Gemma Whelan and Rebecca Front.
Kiss Me First
E4 and Netflix delve into the world of MMORPGs with Kiss Me First, a six-part online gaming thriller from Skins co-creator Bryan Elsley. An adaptation of Lottie Moggach’s YA novel, Kiss Me First is the story of 17-year-old Leila and her time spent in an virtual gaming fantasy world.
The series will be a combination of live-action and CGI, with Leila’s online experiences in the virtual world rendered in computer-generated animation. The idea, says E4, is to explore “the loneliness and isolation experienced by young people and the disparity between appearance and reality in the social media age.” Consider our interest piqued.
The Boy With The Topknot
Erstwhile History Boy Sacha Dhawan, recently in the headlines as one of many current favourites to replace Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who, is the lead in this BBC Two adaptation of Sathnam Sanghera’s childhood memoir of life in 1980s Wolverhampton. Expect laughs and a heart in this feature-length special adapted by Mick Ford and directed by Lynsey Miller, due to film this month in and around the West Midlands.
The Child In Time
It’s another starring role for Benedict Cumberbatch at the BBC in this version of Ian McEwan’s celebrated 1980s novel A Child In Time, adapted by The Last Kingdom’s Stephen Butchard. Cumberbatch will play a children’s author attempting to rebuild his life after the disappearance of his young daughter in this one-off feature-length adaptation. Kelly Macdonald, Stephen Campbell and Saskia Reeves also star.
The cast for BBC thriller Collateral, which includes Carey Mulligan, John Simm, Billie Piper and Nicola Walker, is enough to get your attention before you get to the fact that it’s the latest work by dramatist David Hare (The Reader, The Hours). This “high-octane thriller” (the BBC’s words) has prestige drama written all over it.
Collateral is a four-part series exploring the aftermath of a fatal shooting. Carey Mulligan plays a DI investigating the killing, alongside John Simm as a politician tangled up in the affair. Filming began in April of this year, so expect to wait a little while for this one.
A new comedy from the writer of The Thick Of It and Veep is always good news, so a warm welcome to Simon Blackwell’s Back, due to arrive on Channel 4 later this year. The six-part series Back reunites Peep Show’s David Mitchell and Robert Webb in a story about families, mistrust and paranoia.
Mitchell plays Stephen, who plans to take over the family business following the death of his father. Webb is Andrew, a former foster child of Stephen’s family, who shows up and charms his way back into their lives much to Stephen’s discomfort. Louise Brealey and Julia Deakin also star.
Filmed and set in Wales, Requiem is a psychological thriller from Kris Mrksa, who made The Slap for television. Without giving much away, it’s the story of a young woman who discovers her past isn’t as it seemed to be before the death of her mother. A line in the press blurb describing Requiem as having “supernatural undertones” suggests that there’s more than meets the eye to this story too…
Bit of a change of scenery here – Humans writer Joe Barton has written an eight-part crime drama set between London and Tokyo. Giri/Haji is another co-production between Netflix and the BBC, telling the story of a Tokyo detective who travels in search of his younger brother, believed to be posing as a Yakuza gangster in London. Described as a “dark, character-driven story Giri/Haji or Duty/Shame is set to air on BBC One here in the UK and to stream on Netflix around the world.
David Morrissey and Kelly Reilly lead the cast of Britannia, a period drama set during the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD. Morrissey plays legendary Roman General Aulus, with Reilly as Cantii princess Kerra, a Celt stuck between her tribal duties and the demands of the druids. Fingers crossed for another atmospheric, action-packed historical in the vein of Vikings or The Last Kingdom
Britannia will air on Sky and Amazon Prime later this year.
Adapted from Margaret Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel of the same name, Black Narcissus is the story of a group of nuns who travel to Nepal to establish a new branch of their order. It was previously adapted into an acclaimed film by Powell and Pressburger in 1947. Apple Tree Yard’s Amanda Coe is on adapting duties this time around. No casting has yet been announced.
Following on from BBC Radio 4’s successful audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, a TV version is on its way. The BBC has partnered with Amazon Studios to produce a six-part comedy series based on Gaiman and Pratchett’s 1990 collaboration about angels, demons, prophecies and the end of the world. It’s too early for casting announcements yet, but we’ll keep you posted as they arrive.
Good Omens will premiere on Amazon Prime Video in 2018 before airing on the BBC at a later date. Each of the six episodes will be an hour long.