An impressive number of top-quality home-grown dramas came our way in 2018. From murder mysteries to spy thrillers, head-bending weird fantasy and gutsy family drama, here’s our rundown of the top original shows made by UK broadcasters last year.
The ABC Murders
The legendary John Malkovich (Rounders, Billions, Being John Malkovich) played iconic detective Hercule Poirot in BBC One series, The ABC Murders, alongside Harry Potter‘s Rupert Grint in this classic and brutal story of violence and lies.
Death And Nightingales
Death And Nightingales was adapted from the bestselling book by Eugene McCabe, and reunited Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades) with The Fall writer Allan Cubbitt. He’s joined by Matthew Rhys (The Americans) and Ann Skelly (Red Rock) in a three part drama about a woman struggling to control her own destiny, illuminating tensions that tear both families and nations apart.
Baptiste is a spinoff from the first two series of Jack and Harry Williams’ very successful crime drama The Missing. It features The Missing’s French detective Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo), alongside Tom Hollander. It’s set to tell the story of a case with which Baptiste becomes involved while on holiday in Amsterdam, where the chief of police also happens to be Baptiste’s ex.
Strangers stars John Simm as Jonah Mulray, a professor working abroad in Hong Kong who gets quite the shocking piece of news about his wife. The entire series takes place over 8 hours as Jonah is forced to rethink everything he thought he knew about his family.
A Discovery Of Witches
Fans of Sky One’s adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ 2011 fantasy hit A Discovery Of Witches were delighted to learn that the Oxford-set tale has been renewed for series two and three. The fantasy drama is made by Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner’s Bad Wolf production company (names you’ll recognise as two of the telly people responsible for resurrecting Doctor Who with Russell T Davies back in 2005).
This adaptation introduced us to a world in which a fantastical array of supernatural species such as witches, vampires and demons hide, having ceded the world to humans. However, when scholar/historian/reluctant-witch Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) and vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode) search for a powerful ancient witch tome in Oxford, it opens the floodgates of potential war amongst the magical species. While there’s potential to break their ancient laws that severely punish miscegenation, it also bears deadly implications for everyone.
ITV’s seven-part adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic novel, Vanity Fair, stars Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One) as eternally complex heroine Becky Sharp, and it’s brought to us from the writer of Dark Angel and Miss Austen Regrets, Gwyneth Hughes, in a joint venture between the UK channel, Mammoth Screen and Amazon Studios.
We get to follow Sharp as she tries to escape poverty and join the ranks of English High Society, and revel in the many, many ups and downs she experiences along the way. All the best stuff, naturally: “villainy, crime, merriment, lovemaking, jilting, laughing, cheating, fighting and dancing”.
Abi Morgan once again wielded her mighty pen for The Split, a new 2018 series for the Beeb which is due to return for series two in 2019. Emmy winner Morgan, who previously brought us The Hour, River and Suffragette, delivered an exploration of modern marriage and the legacy of divorce seen through the lens of the Defoes – a family of female lawyers at the heart of London’s emotionally-charged divorce circuit. The six-part series stars Nicola Walker, Stephen Mangan, Deborah Findlay, Annabel Scholey, Fiona Button, Meera Syal, Barry Atsma, Stephen Tompkinson, Mathew Baynton and Anthony Head.
The Woman In White
Ben Hardy stars as Walter Hartright, a drawing master who runs into a ghostly woman dressed in white on auld Hampstead Heath. It turns out she’s not a ghost, though, but an escaped psychiatric patient. The five-part series also stars Charles Dance, Olivia Vinall, Jessie Buckley and Dougray Scott. They’re all set to become part of the bigger mystery surrounding the circumstances of Anne’s original incarceration in an asylum, and her ominous return.
Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who, Our Friends In The North) and Paula Malcomson (Deadwood) starred in this moving family drama about a woman who has left her three children suddenly, with those she left behind picking up the pieces, asking themselves why and ultimately trying to move on from the abandonment. The three-part series aired in late March on BBC One.
Ordeal By Innocence
Joining the legendary Bill Nighy in the intriguing cast of the Beeb’s Agatha Christie adaptation, Ordeal By Innocence are Anna Chancellor (Four Weddings And A Fureral), Morven Christie (Doctor Who), Alice Eve (Star Trek Beyond), Matthew Goode (Stoker), and Ella Purnell (Sweetbitter). When Jacko Argyle dies in prison, sent there for a crime he never committed, his family have to face the facts and find out which one of them really did the deed.
This was a highly anticipated new thriller series from Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Killing Eve is based on the Villanelle novellas by Luke Jennings, the 8-part adaptation stars Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) as Eve, a bored MI5 security officer whose desk job does not fulfil her fantasies of being a spy. Doctor Foster‘s Jodie Comer, meanwhile, will be Villanelle, a fearsome assassin clinging to the luxuries her violent job affords her. When Eve is tasked with tracking down Villanelle before she can strike again, the two women are thrown into a cat-and-mouse game that turns the traditional spy-thriller on its head. What else would we expect from the rather remarkable Waller-Bridge? Series two arrives in the US in April 2019 and at an uncomfirmed later date on BBC One.
Guy Pearce stars as a mysterious character in Netflix’s eight-part supernatural teen drama from Hania Elkington and Simon Duric. The story revolves around Harry and June, a pair of young, star-crossed lovers who are determined to escape their repressive families and be together forever, but it turns out that they have both been gifted with strange powers beyond their control, and which may ultimately ruin their romantic plans.
Filmmakers Hossein Amini (Drive, Our Kind Of Traitor) and James Watkins (Eden Lake, The Woman In Black) teamed up for AMC and the BBC’s glossy gangster miniseries McMafia. Inspired by Misha Glenny’s based-on-truth book of the same name, the series centres on Alex Godman, the British-raised son of a Russian crime boss, who struggles to escape his family’s dark history. James Norton stars as Alex, and the series debuted on New Year’s Day on BBC One. Series two is underway.
Sky Atlantic ventured into the realm of historical epicness with Britannia, a ten-part series from Spectre and Black Mass co-writer Jez Butterworth. Kelly Reilly, David Morrissey and Zoe Wanamaker appear as part of the impressive ensemble. The series kicks off in AD 43, chronicling ancient Rome’s conquest of the Celts in the British Isles. Expect period costumes and plentiful bloodletting. All ten episodes were available on demand from January 18th, and series two is coming soon.
Billed as a ‘pre-apocalyptic crime show’, BBC One and Hulu’s Hard Sun focuses on two London detectives in a world that’s doomed to end in five years. Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn play said detectives, who stumble onto proof of the impending end of days while investigating the death of a hacker. The series debuted on BBC One on January 6th. Luther’s Neil Cross penned the scripts.
Zoe Wanamaker, Miranda Richardson and Phyliss Logan take the lead roles in ITV’s Girlfriends, a show which celebrates the friendships between women of a certain age. Kay Mellor (The Syndicate, In The Club) wrote and directed all six episodes, with the show being a passion project she’s wanted to pursue for a while. It arrived on January 3rd.
Set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, Channel 4’s Derry Girls is a six-part sitcom from Lisa McGee (Being Human, Indian Summers). Based on her own childhood memories, McGee has crafted Derry Girls as a chuckle-worthy coming of age story dressed in grim 1990s garb and set against a dark backdrop. The series premiered on January 4th and series two is currently airing on Tuesday nights on Channel 4.
Next Of Kin
Jack Davenport (Coupling, Pirates Of The Caribbean) and Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife, The Fall) star in ITV’s family thriller series Next Of Kin. Paul Rutman of Indian Summers and Vera paired with his wife Natasha Narayan to pen this six-part series. Panjabi plays a GP named Mona, with Davenport playing her husband. When Mona’s brother is murdered while working abroad, the couple are drawn deep into a conspiracy. The show started on January 8th.
Harry Potter & The Cursed Child co-writer Jack Thorne teamed with Channel 4 and Hulu for his dark new drama Kiri. Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley, Last Tango In Halifax) stars as Miriam, a no-nonsense social worker who is put under a lot of public scrutiny when a young girl named Kiri goes missing. This four-part thriller premiered on Channel 4 on January 10th.
The City & The City
David Morrissey had a big year! As well as starring in Britannia, he also had the lead role in BBC Two’s The City & The City, which is based on a fantasy crime novel by China Miéville. Tony Grisoni (The Young Pope, Electric Dreams’ ‘Crazy Diamond’ episode) adapted the book for TV.
Morrissey’s character heads up an Extreme Crime Squad in the fictional city of Besźel. A grisly murder with links to Besźel’s politically tumultuous twin city, Ul Qoma, provide the central narrative thrust.
A Very English Scandal
Doctor Who legend Russell T Davies teamed up with British film legend Stephen Frears for A Very English Scandal, BBC One’s three-part adaptation of John Preston’s novel, which focuses on scandalous 1970s MP Jeremy Thorpe. Hugh Grant starred as Thorpe, with Ben Whishaw playing his former lover Norman Scott. Readers of a certain age will remember that Thorpe was tried and acquitted of conspiring to murder Scott.
Troy: Fall Of A City
Troy: Fall Of A City promised to be massive. It was a co-production between BBC One and Netflix, based on the Trojan War and the love affair between Paris and Helen of Troy. Eight highly expensive episodes (each apparently costing $8.5 million) were made. The Night Manager’s David Farr was one of the writers. The cast was mostly unknowns, making this something of a gamble. The BBC handled the UK distribution, with Netflix tackling the rest of the world.
The always-great Paddy Considine stars in Informer, a BBC One drama from new writers Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani. Considine plays a Counter-Terrorism officer who coerces a second generation Pakistani Londoner (Nabhaan Rizwan) to go undercover in a terrorist organisation and report back. Westworld alum Johnny Campbell is calling the directorial shots.
Cunk On Britain
Not exactly a drama, this one, but it’s still something of high quality for your telly box. We may not be getting Charlie Brooker’s yearly Wipe shows for the foreseeable future, but thankfully his pal Diane Morgan branched out on her own to bring us some satirical funnies. 2018’s Cunk On Britain saw Morgan reprising the role of Philomena Cunk to present a five-part series that lampoons all things British.
War Of The Worlds
Here’s an exciting one: BBC One is working on a TV adaptation of War Of The Worlds which will faithfully adapt H.G. Wells’ iconic sci-fi novel. This means we will be getting a Victorian-era alien invasion story set in the leafy suburbs of Surrey. And, better yet, Doctor Who and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell scribe Peter Harness is handling the adaptation process. It’s unclear when we’ll get to watch this, but spring 2019 sounds likely.
Kiss Me First
Netflix and E4’s Kiss Me First sounded like an interesting prospect. Skins co-creator Bryan Elsley created a series that centres on a lonely video game addict (Tallulah Haddon’s Leila) who crosses paths with a confident party girl (Simona Brown’s Tess) who has a shady secret. Based on the Lottie Moggach novel of the same name, this promised to be a teen drama with a dark twist. E4 hosted the show’s UK debut.
Multi-award-winning writer Sir David Hare served up a four-part drama for BBC Two and Netflix in 2018. Collateral boasted Carey Mulligan, John Simm and Billie Piper among its cast. Set over four days in modern-day London, the series centres on the senseless murder of a pizza deliveryman. Mulligan’s DI character heads up the subsequent investigation, with Simm playing a politician and Piper playing his ex. S.J. Clarkson, who recently shot episodes of Jessica Jones and The Defenders, directs.
From the pen of Kris Mrksa (Nowhere Boys, Underbelly) comes a supernatural drama by the name of Requiem. It’s another BBC One and Netflix co-production – there are a lot of those going around! Across six episodes, a twisty narrative unfolds involving a suicide, a disappearing toddler and creepy Welsh village. Lydia Wilson (Misfits, Ripper Street) stars as Matilda, a young woman caught up in all the drama.
Yet another BBC One/Netflix team-up, Giri/Haji comes to us from Humans writer Joe Barton. That Japanese title translates as Duty/Shame. The protagonist is a middle-aged Japanese man named Kenzo, who comes to Britain looking for his younger sibling who has been posing as a member of the Yakuza. Across eight episodes, the series will cut between London and Tokyo.
Here’s another exciting BBC commission. Having steamed up the screen with Apple Tree Yard, writer Amanda Coe will return to sexual themes for the BBC One drama Black Narcissus. Based on Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel (which was previously adapted into a film in 1947), the Black Narcissus TV series will centre on Sister Clodagh and the nuns of St Faith’s. These nuns set up a shop in a remote area of Nepal, with Sister Clodagh soon struggling to repress her sexual desires for their land agent. No cast or release date info yet.
Doctor Foster’s Mike Bartlett wrote this new series for BBC One. The show follows two rival daily newspapers, with numerous familiar faces filling up their offices – Charlotte Riley, Ben Chaplin and David Suchet. Bartlett’s Doctor Foster collaborator Tom Vaughan directed.
Toni Collette stars in Wanderlust, a family drama from BBC One and Netflix. Written by Nick Payne (Constellations) and directed by Luke Snellin (The A Word), this series explores the relationships of a multi-generational family. Raising questions about monogamy and relationships, Collette’s Joy reassessed her relationship with her husband (Steven Mackintosh) after she suffers a cycling accident.
Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes head up Bodyguard, from Line Of Duty’s Jed Mercurio. Hawes plays a fictional Home Secretary, with Madden playing her war veteran bodyguard. The pair clash over their disparate political beliefs, with Madden sworn to protect a person he disagrees with on numerous big topics.
Harry and Jack Williams, known for their work on The Missing, are jumping ships from the BBC to ITV to bring us a new eight-part drama entitled The Widow. It’s early days yet, with no cast info confirmed, so there’s a chance that this one may not arrive until 2019. Whenever it does appear on our screens, it will tell the story of a reclusive widow named Georgia Wells, who attempts to unravel the truth about her husband’s death. He died while working in Kinshasa.
The Barking Murders
The Barking Murders is a three-part BBC drama based on the murderer Stephen Port, and the aftermath of his four kills. Port date-raped and murdered four men, between 2014 and 2015, using Grindr to attract his victims. Writer Jeff Pope, who previously penned The Moorside and Little Boy Blue, is leading the charge on this one.
Hold The Sunset
Gavin & Stacey alum Alison Steadman stars in this six-part comedy series from the BBC. Edith is a widow who lives across the road from her ex-boyfriend Phil (played by John Cleese). Jason Watkins plays Roger, Edith’s fifty-year-old son who returns home and moves back in, getting in the way of Edith’s resurgent romance with Phil. Charles McKeown wrote this one.
This ITV drama based on the notorious Hatton Garden robbery was originally slated for a 2017 release, but it was pushed back for reasons unknown. Timothy Spall heads up the cast, with Kenneth Cranham and Brian F O’Byrne also in the cast. Jeff Pope and Terry Winsor wrote the scripts, which consist of four hour-long episodes. The exact release date hasn’t been nailed down yet.
Lee Ingleby stars in Innocent as David Collins. After serving seven years in prison for murdering his wife, he is released on a technicality. As he attempts to return to ordinary life, a new police investigation headed by DI Cathy Hudson (Angel Coulby) brings new secrets to the surface.
Anna Friel starred in ITV’s three-part drama Butterfly, playing the mother of a transgender child. Friel’s Vicky is the mum of Max, an eleven-year-old who was born male, but identifies as female. The series was penned by Tony Marchant of Public Enemies.
At long last, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s beloved novel Good Omens is coming to the screen. And it’s got a stellar cast lined up, with David Tennant playing the demon Crowley and Michael Sheen as the angel Aziraphale. As fans of the book will know, these two must form an unlikely alliance to avert an apocalypse.
It’s arriving on Amazon Prime Video on the 31st of May, then coming to BBC Two later in the year.