Best returning British TV shows 2020: the most anticipated series coming back this year

Struggling to find something to watch? HA! Didn't think so. TV's ridiculous now. Here are the top British TV series coming back this year

A Discovery of Witches season 2
Photo: Bad Wolf Productions

2020 brings many things with it. Brexit. Another iPhone. The 30th anniversary of Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. A Crackerjack revival, the increasingly critical state of our burning planet, the inauguration of a Gangsta Granny rollercoaster at Thorpe Park, and now, a global pandemic that’s shut down life as we know it.

A mixed bag, all told.

One thing you can largely rely on in worrying times is television.

Below are the top British shows originally scheduled to return this year and next. The suspension of filming on all new and continuing shows since mid-March due to COVID-19 will cause significant delays, but we’ll pass on any updated release date information as soon as it arrives.

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A Discovery Of Witches series 2

A Discovery Of Witches series 2 first look

Based on Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy about a witch (Teresa Palmer) and a vampire (Matthew Goode) thrown together against the fates, A Discovery Of Witches debuted on Sky in autumn 2018 (read our reviews here). The fantasy romance was renewed for series two and three in November 2018, and UK filming wrapped in December 2019. The new episodes are set to air on Sky One in January 2021.

A Very English Scandal series 2

Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw in A Very English Scandal

This one has yet to receive the official commission stamp, but it’s too good not to pass on a bit prematurely. Following on from the success of Russell T. Davies’ acclaimed three-part drama based on the real-life events of Lib Dem leader Jeremy Thorpe’s plot to have his lover Norman Scott murdered, the BBC plans to turn the ‘A Very English Scandal’ header into an anthology series following different true life events that rocked English society. As reported by Deadline, Agatha Christie adapter extraordinaire Sarah Phelps is currently writing a three-part drama about a 1963 sex scandal involving the Duchess of Argyll, nicknamed ‘The Dirty Duchess.’

After Life series 2

Ricky Gervais and Penelope Wilton in Netflix's After Life

Release date: Friday 24th of April, Netflix

Ricky Gervais’ emotional Netflix comedy about a misanthrope widower (Gervais) struggling to cope after the death of his wife (Kerry Godliman) will return for a second six-episode run. Filming began in September 2019, and it arrived on Netflix in April. Diane Morgan and Mandeep Dhillon co-star.

Read more:the best stand-up specials on Netflix here.

Back series 2

David Mitchell and Robert Webb in Back

Channel 4 has a second run of Simon Blackwell’s excellent sitcom Back on the way. The first series aired in autumn 2017 and reunited Peep Show’s David Mitchell and Robert Webb as Stephen and Andrew, two erstwhile foster brothers whose neurotic rivalry boils up in the wake of Stephen’s father’s death. Louise Brealey also stars in the squirming, tragicomic delight. Stream the first series on All4 here.

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Read more: the new British comedy series arriving in 2020.

Back To Life series 2

Daisy Haggard in Back To Life

Daisy Haggard and Laura Solon’s six part comedy-drama about a woman released from a lengthy prison sentence arrived last year as one of a clutch of well-received original BBC shows. Haggard plays Miri, who returns to her childhood home and isn’t exactly welcomed back to the community with open arms, alongside Adeel Akhtar, Geraldine James, Liam Williams and more. It aired on Showtime over in the US, and will return for series two, which is currently being written.

Read more: the undersung British TV shows of 2019.

Baptiste series 2

Tcheky Karyo will return as grizzled French detective Julien Baptiste in a second series of the Williams Brothers’ Euro-set crime thriller. The character made his name on two series of The Missing, and earned his own BBC spin-off in spring 2019. (Read our spoiler-filled reviews here.) Regrettably, production on series two was halted in March 2020 because of the global spread of COVID-19, so there’ll be a delay before this one reaches screens.

Blood series 2

Adrian Dunbar in Blood

Release date: Monday 27th April, 9pm, Channel 5

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2018 welcomed the arrival of Sophie Petzal’s award-winning Irish domestic thriller Blood, which starred Line Of Duty‘s Adrian Dunbar as a widower under suspicion when his estranged daughter Cat (Carolina Main) returns to the family fold. It was tightly scripted with a great cast and told a satisfying and emotional story. Read our interview with its creator here. Over in Ireland, Virgin Media One aired the second series in February 2020, and it’s available on-demand on My5 in the UK here.

Brassic series 2

Joseph Gilgun in Brassic

Release date: Thursday 7th May, Sky One

Shameless’ Danny Brocklehurst and This Is England’s Joe Gilgun worked together on rambunctious Sky comedy Brassic, which is inspired by Gilgun’s own misadventures as an errant youth trying to make a few quid. Michelle Keegan and Damien Molony co-star. NOW TV subscribers can watch the first series here.

Read more: the British comedies on their way this year.

Britannia series 3

David Morrissey in Britannia

This one’s not due to arrive until 2021, so forgive a bit of gun-jumping. Playwright Jez Butterworth and showrunner James Richardson first brought their trippy vision of warring Celts, mystical druids and invading Romans to Sky Atlantic in January 2018, and were quickly rewarded by a second series renewal. That run has already been and gone, leaving us awaiting the return of David Morrissey, Mackenzie Crook and co. for more bonkers ancient history. 

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Call The Midwife series 10

Call The Midwife series 9

No, we don’t have much call to talk about it here on Den Of Geek, but Heidi Thomas’ Call The Midwife remains a terrifically warm British drama with a spine of steel when it comes to standing up for the NHS and wading (often literally) through the blood-soaked reality of life for women and children. Series nine finished airing on Sunday nights on BBC One in February, and it’s already been renewed for a 10th and 11th series, taking it into 2022.

Dead Pixels series 2

Alexa Davies in E4's Dead Pixels

Jon Brown’s gamer comedy debuted in March 2019 and was renewed four months later for series two. It stars Alexa Davies and Will Merrick as two die-hard MMORPG gamers (massive multiplayer online roleplay game, if you were wondering) and Charlotte Ritchie as their non-gaming flatmate. Here’s our interview with the creator on how other TV shows and films so often go wrong in their depiction of gaming and gamers.

Derry Girls series 3

Derry Girls cast

Lisa McGee’s terrific 90s-set Northern Irish comedy is set to return for a third series about the lives of secondary school students Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and James. Set in the 1990s, Derry Girls is a coming-of-age nostalgia-flood with characters to love and jokes to spare, in which crushes and friendship fall-outs are dealt with in the same breath as dangerous political turmoil. Cracker.

Read more: 24 comedy TV shows that deserve more love.

Doctor Who series 13

Though arriving in 2021, we’re sneaking this one in. Showrunner Chris Chibnall chatted about the ongoing planning for Doctor Who series 13 back in September 2019, as reported by the Radio Times. Chibnall also quashed rumours that he was to exit the executive producer role after the conclusion of series 12, calling them “categorically untrue.” That’s (we presume) ten more adventures for Team TARDIS on the way! First up though is the Christmas/New Year special ‘Revolution Of The Daleks‘.

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Don’t Forget The Driver series 2

Tim Crouch and Toby Jones collaborated on this Bognor-set comedy about a coach driver and single father (played by Jones, who also plays his own identical twin) who becomes unexpectedly tangled in an illegal people trafficking ring. Sweet and sad with something to say, it was a gentle delight from 2019, so news of its return is worth celebrating.

Read more: the undersung British TV gems of 2019

Endeavour series 8

A three-episode seventh series of Russell Lewis’ Inspector Morse prequel aired in February this year, taking Morse into a new decade, as he and the team investigated the discovery of a body on a canal path on New Year’s Day 1970. Shaun Evans not only returned as the lead, but also directed his second instalment of the long-running crime prequel. We know that series eight is officially in the works, but news about it is as-yet thin on the ground.

Famalam series 3

BBC Three Famalam cast

Comedy sketch show Famalam will be back for a third series and a Christmas special in 2020. Series two, which arrived on BBC Three in June 2019, brought more inventively absurd satire with it, and run number three will comprise returns to existing sketches and characters alongside new creations from Samson Kayo and the gang. Stream episodes on BBC iPlayer here.

Friday Night Dinner series 6

Friday Night Dinner cast

Release date: Friday March 27th, 10pm, Channel 4

Robert Popper’s family sitcom starring Simon Bird, Tom Rosenthal, Tamsin Greig and Paul Ritter is making an imminent return to Channel 4 in 2020 for series six. It’s about the Goodmans, a Jewish family who gather every Friday evening for, well, the name says it all. Absurd, funny and silly, it’s a lovely bit of squirrel.

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Gentleman Jack series 2

Renewed even before series one had aired, Sally Wainwright’s Gentleman Jack arrived on BBC One in the UK and HBO in the US with a bang. It stars Suranne Jones as real-life trail-blazing lesbian industrialist Anne Lister, with a cast including Sophie Rundle, Gemma Whelan and Rosie Cavaliero. It’s witty and dynamic, offering television a new 19th century hero at whom to marvel (here’s our episode one review). Series two is still being researched and written by Wainwright, so don’t expect it for a while.

Ghosts series 2

Ghosts BBC series

This tremendously fun comedy arrived in 2019 from the cast of Horrible Histories and Yonderland. Happily, it’s been renewed by the BBC for both a second and third series, which guarantees us a dozen more episodes of spectral shenanigans as Alison and Mike (alive) try to keep the ancestral family home going while dealing with an influx of housemates from history (dead). Filming wrapped on series two in March 2020. Stream Ghosts series one on BBC iPlayer.

His Dark Materials series 2

The first series of BBC One/HBO’s Philip Pullman fantasy adaptation took us on an epic journey north as young Lyra (Dafne Keen) travelled in search of her missing friend, and discovered a great deal more besides. A second eight-episode series adapting The Subtle Knife, book two in Pullman’s original trilogy, is in the works and expected to arrive at the end of 2020. A third potentially longer run adapting The Amber Spyglass is yet to be confirmed but that’s almost certainly just a formality at this stage. Read our spoiler-filled series one reviews and more here.

Home series 2

Rufus Jones in Channel 4's Home

Aired in: February 2020

Rufus Jones’ timely comedy about a family who inadvertently smuggle a Syrian asylum seeker into the UK returning from a French holiday was recommissioned in August 2019. This warm-hearted sitcom starring Jones, Rebekah Staton and  Youssef Kerkour was a little bit drowned out in the schedules (it aired the same week as series two of huge hits Fleabag and Derry Girls) and deserves more applause.

Innocent series 2

ITV’s Innocent was a four-part series about a miscarriage of justice that aired in May 2018. Its conclusion certainly didn’t call for a continuation so news of a second series renewal was a bit of a head-scratcher until it was revealed that creator Chris Lang (Unforgotten) was writing a whole new case and a whole new set of characters for the second run.

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Inside No. 9 series 5

David Morrissey and Ralf Little in Inside No. 9 series 5

Aired in: February 2020

Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton continue to produce excellence in their inventive, ambitious comedy-drama anthology series Inside No. 9, and its fifth run was no different. Six new half-hour episodes, in which Shearsmith and Pemberton were joined by a raft of co-stars including David Morrissey and Jenna Coleman, aired this spring on BBC Two. Read our spoiler-filled episode reviews here. And listen to the creators’ deep-dive on each episode in their ‘Inside Inside No. 9’ BBC Sounds podcast here.

Keeping Faith series 3

Celia Imrie has joined the cast of BBC Cymru Wales/S4C’s bilingual Welsh drama Keeping Faith (Un Bore Mercher in its original language) for its third and final series. Imrie will join lead Eve Myles as solicitor Faith Howells in an as-yet undisclosed role. The domestic thriller’s first series, if you remember was a huge word-of-mouth hit, eventually making its way to BBC One after unprecedented public interest. The third series will air in 2020 on S4C, and then arrive across the UK on BBCiPlayer from February 2021. Here’s our series one, episode one review.

Killing Eve series 3

Release date: Sunday April 26th.

Well, it had to come back after that cliff-hanger, didn’t it? Based on Luke Jennings’ Codename Villanelle series of novels, international spy thriller Killing Eve has been renewed for a third run. As is now traditional, there’s a new showrunner in charge for the third time around; Phoebe Waller-Bridge handed over to Emerald Fennell who has handed over to See and Fear The Walking Dead‘s Suzanne Heathcote. Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh star. Read our reviews and more here.

Last Tango In Halifax series 5

Last Tango In Halifax first look 2020

Aired in: February 2020

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Happy Valley and Gentleman Jack creator Sally Wainwright returned to the series that really made her name – BBC One’s Last Tango In Halifax – for a fifth series. It’s the story of former childhood sweethearts Celia and Alan (Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi) who reconnect in their seventies and remarry, knotting together their families led by Sarah Lancashire’s formidable Caroline and Nicola Walker’s hot-headed Gillian. (See our series one to four recap here, and our episode one review here.)

Liar series 2

Release date: Monday 2nd March, ITV1

ITV rewarded this Jack and Harry Williams psychological thriller starring Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt and Horatio Hornblower’s Ioan Gruffudd with a second series renewal in 2018. Expect more twists, turns and talking points.  

Line Of Duty series 6

Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure in Line Of Duty

Series five of Jed Mercurio’s hugely successful crime thriller concluded in May last year, and production is already underway on series six. The cast readthrough for the new run took place on the 10th of February, and a month’s filming was done before production was sadly forced to shut down because of the global spread of COVID-19. Line Of Duty stars Vicky McClure, Martin Compston and Adrian Dunbar as bent-copper-hunters AC-12, with each series welcoming a high-profile guest – previous series have welcomed Stephen Graham, Thandie Newton and Keeley Hawes, and this time around it’s Kelly Macdonald.

Man Like Mobeen series 3

Guz Khan in Man Like Mobeen

Aired in: January 2020

Guz Khan’s terrific Man Like Mobeen returned for a third series on BBC Three this January. It stars Khan as a reformed Brummie drug dealer trying to make an honest living while raising his little sister and boasts a hilarious ensemble cast. Stream all three series now on BBC iPlayer.

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Marcella series 3

ITV’s Marcella, co-created by The Killing’s Hans Rosenfeldt and starring Anna Friel, went out in a blaze of bonkers glory in 2018. Series two marked a turning point for the detective show, which went from domestic crime drama to full-blown comic-book spy thriller, complete with faked deaths, conspiracy, and secret investigative units. Series three (pictured above) has Marcella working undercover in a Belfast crime family.

McMafia series 2

James Norton in McMafia

Starring James Norton as the conflicted British son of a Russian mob boss, McMafia was BBC One’s big, glamorous New Year drama for 2018, following in the footsteps of The Night Manager. It was renewed for another eight episode season a good while back but updates on progress have been very thin on the ground. Whenever it arrives, expect more double-crossing and high-stakes violence set against the backdrop of gangland London. Read our series one episode reviews here.

Mortimer And Whitehouse: Gone Fishing series 3

Bob Mortimer in Mortimer & Whitehouse Goes Fishing

A fishing show may seem like a strange choice for this list of mostly high-profile dramas and comedies, but Gone Fishing deserves as much celebration as any of them. That’s thanks to Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse’s natural chemistry as two long-time friends, both of whom have been forced to contemplate their mortality in recent years due to serious heart problems. It’s fishing, yes, but it’s also chat, silliness and genuine human warmth.

Motherland series 3

Sharon Horgan, Holly Walsh and Helen Linehan’s parenting comedy Motherland will be back for a third series. Starring Anna Maxwell-Martin (Good Omens, Line Of Duty), Lucy Punch, Paul Ready and Diane Morgan, it’s a caustic look at the demands of modern parenting and life in your thirties and forties that you don’t even need to have kids to relate to/stare at in rapt horror.

Read more: what’s new on Netflix this month?

Peaky Blinders series 6

Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight’s BBC Two crime saga following the ascendancy of Birmingham’s Shelby family in post-World War One England, is set to return for two further series, which should, if all goes to plan, take us all the way up to the outbreak of World War II. Series five aired late last summer and here’s all the news we have on the penultimate run, series six, which has sadly been forced to suspend production due to the global spread of COVID-19.

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Red Dwarf feature-length special

Release date: Thursday 9th April, 9pm, Dave.

Official confirmation from Dave that the boys from the Dwarf were returning for a 90-minute special in 2020 arrived in October 2019. Titled ‘The Promised Land’, it sees the boys from the Dwarf deal with a tyrannical cat leader and three breakaway cat clerics who worship Lister as a god. Along with the special, which is due to air in April, Dave will also be airing retrospectives celebrating the show’s long history on the BBC and since its revival. Here’s what we know so far

Save Me Too

Release date: Wednesday 1st April, Sky Atlantic and NOW TV

Written by and starring The Walking Dead and Line Of Duty’s Lennie James, Sky Atlantic’s Save Me was one of 2018’s top shows. The crime drama set in a South London estate among a cast of lived-in characters played by the likes of Suranne Jones, Jason Flemyng, Susan Lynch and Stephen Graham, was such a critical success, a second series commission arrived hot on the finale’s heels. Lesley Manville has joined the cast this time around, which is a real treat. Read more about it here.

Sliced series 2

Co-written by Famalam‘s Samson Kayo and PhoneShop‘s Phil Bowker, Sliced arrived on Dave last year and is due to return for a new six-episode series in 2020. It’s about Joshua (Kayo) and Ricky (Theo Barlem-Biggs), two pizza delivery drivers struggling to make life, love and adulthood work in South London.

Temple series 2

Adapted from Norwegian series Valkyrien, Temple is the story of an underground medical facility run by a desperate surgeon and his apocalypse-prepping colleague. It stars Mark Strong, Carice Van Houten and Daniel Mays, and debuted on Sky One in autumn 2019. The series two renewal was announced as the series one finale aired. Read more about the series here.

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Tin Star series 3

Tim Roth in Tin Star

This will be the third and final instalment of the Jim Worth story on Sky and Amazon. Creator Rowan Joffe will wrap up his tale of an English police officer (Tim Roth) who relocates his family to the Canadian Rockies for a fresh start, but who finds that he can’t stop his old life bleeding into the new.

Read more: Tim Roth interview: Tin Star, Reservoir Dogs and more.

The Bay series 2

Daragh Carville’s Morecambe-set crime thriller will return with a new case for Morven Christie’s DS Lisa Armstrong and co. later this year. Production began in summer 2019 on the new episodes. The first series dealt with the disappearance of a set of teenage twins and shady goings-on in a picture-perfect coastal town, earning it the title of ‘the new Broadchurch’. (But now that Channel 4’s Deadwater Fell is also the new Broadchurch, it’ll need a new USP.) Here’s our episode one review.

The Crown series 4

Olivia Colman took over from Clare Foy as HRH Elizabeth II in The Crown series three. The time jump saw Matt Smith replaced by Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip and Helena Bonham-Carter take the reins from Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, with Gillian Anderson playing Margaret Thatcher. Series four is expected to arrive in late 2020. Read our spoiler-free series three review here.

The Last Kingdom series 4

Release date: Sunday 26th April, Netflix

Filming started on season four in April 2019 and the first look images were released back in July 2019, and now it’s finally here. The Last Kingdom series four adapts the next two books in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series, The Pagan Lord and The Empty Throne. Starring Alexander Dreymon as Viking-raised-Saxon Uhtred of Bebbenberg, it’s an action-packed historical drama filled with wit and characters to love. Read our spoiler-filled episode reviews and more.

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There She Goes series 2

David Tennant in BBC Four's There She Goes

After receiving critical acclaim for its first run and a Bafta for Jessica Hynes (who is brilliant in this, as she is in most things), There She Goes is returning. Shaun Pye’s excellent family comedy-drama has been renewed for a second series that will air on BBC Two instead of its original home on BBC Four. David Tennant and Jessica Hynes play the parents of Rosie, a little girl with severe learning disabilities in Pye’s unsentimental and honest autobiographically inspired series. Read more about why we loved series one here.

The Split series 2

Aired in: February 2020 (all episodes on iPlayer)

Abi Morgan’s legal family drama starring Nicola Walker (UnforgottenLast Tango In Halifax) returned for another six episode series early this year. It saw Hannah deal with the aftermath of her night with Christie, while at work she handled the divorce of a high-profile couple with an abusive husband. There’s no word yet on whether a third series has been commissioned, but series two certainly didn’t leave things resolved for the characters.

The Trip series 4: The Trip To Greece

Release date: Tuesday 3rd March 2020, Sky One

Filming began on the fourth series of Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip in 2019, and the new series sees foodies Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden travelling around the dining establishments of Greece while they swap impersonations and provide a glimpse into fictionalised versions of themselves. While the first two series aired on BBC Two, from series three onwards The Trip made the move to Sky Atlantic.

Taboo series 2

From Steven Knight, creator of the excellent Peaky Blinders, in collaboration with star Tom Hardy, Taboo presents a very different vision of Regency England to the traditional Jane Austen world of assembly balls and etiquette faux pas. It’s about James Delaney, an almost invincible, little bit magic, highly mysterious thorn in the side of the East India Company. Series one aired in early 2017, and as of summer 2019, Knight had finished six of the eight scripts for the second series. Here’s what we know.

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Taskmaster series 10

Joining the Taskmaster and little Alex Horne for series nine of Dave’s excellent Taskmaster were Jo Brand, David Baddiel, Katy Wix, Rose Matafeo and Ed Gamble. It’s all change for series ten onwards as Taskmaster moves from Dave to Channel 4. The new series is expected to air in October 2020. Read more about the move and the new series commissions here.

This Country series 3

Release date: Monday 17th of February, BBC Three 7pm

Following 2018’s one-off special, the Mucklowes are back for a third and final series of mockumentary comedy This Country. That’s another six episodes from creator-siblings Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, who are back starring as feckless cousins Kerry and Kurtan in the “typical Cotswolds village” they call home. Series three might be its best yet.

Read more: the new British comedy series of 2019.

Unforgotten series 4

Cassie and Sunny (played by Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar) return for a fourth series of ITV’s excellent cold case crime drama Unforgotten. What makes Chris Lang’s detective series stand out is its empathy—for its characters, for the victims, and often, for the killers themselves. The new series will take another decades-old case as its starting point, and no doubt tell another engrossing, affecting story led by excellent performances from a cast including Susan Lynch and Sheila Hancock.

World On Fire series 2

To the delight of fans following series one’s tense cliff-hanger ending, Peter Bowker’s WWII drama following multiple interconnected stories from around the world during the war, was recommissioned in November 2019. The stories of Harry (Jonah Hauer-King), Kasia (Zofia Wichlacz) and Lois (Julia Brown) will continue in the second run, alongside those of Lois’ conscientious objector father Douglas (Sean Bean) and Harry’s ice-cold mother Robina (Lesley Manville). 

Year Of The Rabbit series 2

Detective Rabbit returns! Matt Berry, Susan Wokoma and Freddie Fox will be back for more Victorian crime-based comedy in a second series of Channel 4’s acclaimed Year Of The Rabbit. C4’s Head of Comedy Fiona McDermott describes the show, which is co-written by Matt Berry with Veep and Black Books‘ Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil, as “glorious, gutsy and audacious”, and you won’t hear any disagreement from us. Series one is currently available to stream on All4, and the six new episodes are expected to arrive later this year.

Read about the new British dramas arriving in 2020 here. And here are the new British comedy TV series