Favourites like Poldark and Top Gear are returning but there’s some great new shows too.
As the nights get colder, and money get tighter, there’s no better time to get snuggled up in from of the TV. In 2016 there are a TV series a-plenty to look forward to. Sports fans already have a bumper summer of viewing, thanks to the European Championships being held in France from June followed by the Rio Olympics. Those who prefer TV dramas and documentaries will be spoiled for choice as these gems hit the screen. So grab the remote, bag a spot on the sofa, sit back and….enjoy.
Poldark – BBC1
It burst onto the screen last year and left the nation all a-quiver over the love triangle between Elizabeth, Ross and Demelza and, of course, THAT scything scene.
Now the series, in all its Cornish glory, is to return in Spring and we will find out how Ross and Demelza are coping after the tragic loss of their baby daughter – remember the heartbreaking scene where he had to break the news of her death to his wife, who had been so fevered herself she hadn’t attended the funeral? Awful.
Ross was last seen being carted off to prison for inciting a riot, which we all knew was a load of nonsense, and the second series will kick off with a “hellish” shipwreck. But at least there will be happiness to come for the pair – pictures taken during the shooting of the second series have revealed a baby bump for Demelza. Hurrah!
Top Gear – BBC2
Easily the most talked-about show of 2015 thanks to Jeremy Clarkson’s assault on a producer over a hot dinner – or lack of one – which led to his departure.
So what now? Well, in May we’ll find out if Chris Evans – aided and abetted by racing driver David Coulthard – can in any way replicate the show’s former popularity. Other presenters will include motoring journalist Chris Harris and German racing driver Sabine Schmitz, who previously raced for Porsche and BMW.
The departure earlier this month of executive producer Lisa Clark doesn’t bode well. But let’s hope they can pull it off – if only to prevent any intolerable smugness from Clarkson.
Call the Midwife – BBC1
The fifth series starts in January and it’s looking like an absolute corker.
Thankfully – after the worrying turn of events in the Christmas special – Sister Monica Joan is still with us.
The year is 1961 and the issues being dealt with in Poplar include immigration, homosexuality, single motherhood and women’s place in society.
For the first time this series will have a story arc which runs throughout the eight episodes, and if you thought that this show had become as emotional as it could ever be – think again.
I challenge anyone to watch the first episode of this run (the plots remain a closely guarded secret) and not be moved beyond belief. I cried so much I thought I’d never stop.
Jericho – ITV
Talking of Call the Midwife, here’s the show’s former star Jessica Raine back to entertain us in another period drama, this one set in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1870s. Raine plays Annie Quaintain, a woman escaping her past by setting up home in the shanty town which has emerged during the building of the majestic Ribblehead railway viaduct. Her gambler husband has died, leaving her and two children penniless, so she decides to open a boarding house for the navvy labourers.
One of her first customers is darkly attractive Johnny who she soon finds herself bound to following an accident on the line which will haunt them forever. Annie also has to work hard to stop her teenage daughter from joining the local knocking shop. It’ll be gripping stuff when it hits screens on January 7.
The Halcyon – ITV
Downton has gone – but could this be its replacement?
ITV chiefs have ordered an eight-part series which tells the story of a swanky London hotel in the midst of WW2. Set in 1940 the drama, which has no casting announced at present, will recapture London life during the blitz and show the impact that it had on both the glamorous guests and the hard-working staff of the five star establishment. Events will be watched from within by America journalist Joe O’Hara.
Shooting in the spring for transmission later in the year, ITV boss Steve November has high hopes for the show, which has Sunday night drama written all over it. “A hotel is the perfect place to show ambition in telling the story of World War II,” he said. “It was an extraordinary time in our country’s history, and London was a transforming city. The Halcyon is busy, energetic, and vibrant which reflects how people carried on with their lives with defiance in the air.” The opening line will sum up the situation: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Cold Feet – ITV
Most people over 35 will fondly remember the Cold Feet years of the late 90s, where huge swathes of the nation were caught up in the lives of Pete and Jenny, Adam and Rachel, Karen and David.
Thirteen years after Rachel’s tragic death – which left Adam (James Nesbitt) a single parent, we will see how the bunch are doing in their 50s. Karen and David had already split up and it remains to be seen if Pete and Jenny managed to make a go of their marriage. If it’s anything like Mike Bullen’s original it will be warm, sometimes painful and always funny. Fingers crossed!
Victoria – ITV
Jenna Colman has waved goodbye to the Tardis but still done a bit of time-travelling – to play Queen Victoria. The actress will take the role of the monarch in the new eight-part series, with hunky Tom Hughes playing her beloved husband (and cousin) Prince Albert.
It will take viewers on a journey from the moment she is crowned at the tender age of 18, following her father’s sudden death. She went on to rule Britain for 63 years, one of the longest reigns in history, not to mention having nine children.
The cast also includes Rufus Sewell as prime minister, Peter Firth as a conniving uncle, Eve Myles as the Queen’s dresser and Nichola McAuliffe as the ruthless Duchess of Cumberland. The ambitious series is being made by the bods behind Poldark, so should be decent when it hits screens in the Autumn.
Tennison – ITV
It worked for Morse with Endeavour so why not Prime Suspect?
Lynda La Plante has penned a prequel to her much-loved novels about Jane Tennison, famously immortalised on screen for 15 years by Dame Helen Mirren.
The six-parter which airs in spring will chart Jane’s early years on the beat, when she was a WPC in 1970s Hackney (Life on Mars anyone?) At just 22 she is still wet behind the ears and has to contend with all the dodgy sexism, rule-bending and out-and-out corruption that you would expect of the era.
We also get to meet her family – which helps us to understand her complex personal life – and see how Jane fares as she tackles her first murder enquiry. I’m guessing she does all right, because a few years later she’s a superintendent. Go Jane…
War and Peace – BBC1
This is the first drama heavyweight to hit our screens, starting tomorrow night.
The adapter of the weighty Russian tome has told how he added in extra sex scenes because Tolstoy hadn’t quite got round to them. Claiming that turning the book into a TV series was an “absolute doddle”, Andrew Davies – the man behind the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice in 1995 – also branded James Norton as “the new Mr Darcy” because of his dashing good looks, and who are we to argue? Norton plays dashing Prince Andrei, in a cast which also features Lily James, Paul Dano and Gillian Anderson.
Set during the Napoleonic wars in Russia, Davies’ version includes a bedroom scene between siblings Helene and Anatole Kuragin. Another sexy addition is a fully fledged romance between Countess Sophie Bezukhov and toyboy Boris Drubetskoy. Defending his decision to spice up the action Davies laughed: “It’s all there, he just didn’t actually write the scenes – and I couldn’t see why – so I thought I’d better.”
Happy Valley – BBC1
This gritty series, written by Sally Wainwright and starring Sarah Lancashire, was the break-out drama hit of 2015. Those who were expecting something a bit similar to the pair’s other hit show – Last Tango in Haliax – couldn’t have been more mistaken.
But how on earth will they recapture that magic? Well, the second series expected in spring rejoins no-nonsence cop Catherine who is back heading up her team in The Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. James Norton’s character Tommy Lee Royce may be firmly behind bars but that doesn’t stop him causing trouble as he forms a bond with a mysterious new admirer played by Shirely Henderson. Other key new castings include former Corrie favourites Julie Hesmondhalgh, Katherine Kelly and Amelia Bullmore plus Kevin Doyle (that’s Molesley to you) as new detective DS John Wadsworth. And the plot? There’s another serial killer on the loose… Eeeek.
The Missing – BBC1
The Missing proved hugely popular last year, even though the ending left lots of fans confused as to whether Oliver Hughes was actually alive or dead. The decision to make a second series has already been slammed by actor Ken Stott, who played a nasty child abuser, but many viewers are thrilled at a second chance to see Tcheky Karyo – French detective Julien Baptiste – who is the only returning character.
So no James Nesbitt or Frances O’Connor when this returns just before summer but instead a whole new case for Julien to work on, in a different location.
His character gave a vital clue during a teaser trail at the end of the last episode, in which he hinted that the plot will revolve around a person who has been found. “To lose somebody can destroy a person. But to find them again, when so much has passed, well, sometimes that can be worse.”
Inside M&S – Channel 4
There have been many fly-on-the-wall shows inside institutions as diverse as Liberty, KFC, Claridges and Virgin. Now Marks & Spencer – probably the brand most synonymous with being British – is to allow the cameras in. And I’m intrigued. The four-part series starting in early summer will chart the retail chain’s journey from the opening of Michael Marks’ stall to its current status as a global business which posted its first profits since 2011 a few months ago. But in October ‘queen of shops’ Mary Portas declared that M&S needs an urgent rebrand if it is to survive, claiming its offerings are no longer relevant to today’s consumers. So is she right? Let’s find out.