Thirty British TV dramas to watch in 2018
PUBLISHED: 13:30 06 January 2018
From Polark to Vanity Fair, Luther to Britannia, Call the Midwife to Marcella, War of the Worlds to A Very English Scandal, there are plentiful programmes you’ll want to bookmark for later in the year
There’s no time for a dramatic pause with the new television line-up for 2018 already in full swing. Here are 30 new dramas worth staying in for that will be gracing the small screen in the coming months, from War of the Worlds to Poldark, Luther to Marcella and Britannia to The Fall of Troy,
1) Collateral, BBC2, February: Carey Mulligan stars in this taut thriller which is set over the course of four days and follows the apparently random death of a pizza delivery driver. Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie has been left in charge of the investigation and refuses to accept the murder as a random act of violence. Meanwhile, politician David Mars (John Simm) gets caught up in the drama through his turbulent relationship with his troubled and unpredictable ex Karen (Billie Piper) and vicar Jane Oliver (Nicola Walker) is forced to conceal her affair with the only witness to the crime.
2) Patrick Melrose, Sky Atlantic: Set to drop in Spring, this five-part mini series stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the aristocratic and outrageously funny playboy Edward St Aubyn. Each episode will tackle one of Aubyn’s books, exploring Melrose’s turbulent life, from his childhood onwards and the series is adapted by novelist David Nicholls.
3) Bodyguard, BBC1: Written by Jed Mecurio, the creator of Line of Duty, this six-part drama is set in and around the corridors of power and tells the fictional story of David Budd, a heroic but volatile war veteran now working as a Specialist Protection Officer for the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. When he is assigned to protect the ambitious and powerful Home Secretary, whose politics stand for everything he despises, Budd finds himself torn between duty and his beliefs. Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden star.
4) Poldark, BBC1: Gorgeous, rugged, windswept, mysterious, full of pasties – Aidan Turner, who plays Ross Poldark is all of these things (and Cornwall isn’t bad either). The drama filled with heaving bosoms and hot breeches is set to return at the end of summer/beginning of Autumn and will see Ross take a trip to London as the show becomes more political. There is no news on whether or not there will be any scything, topless or otherwise, as yet.
5) Vanity Fair, ITV: The BBC has aired adaptations of William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic 1848 novel four times – the last time the drama set against a backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars was shown was in 1998. The story of villainy, crime, merriment, love, cheating and fighting is coming to ITV in autumn with Olivia Cooke cast as Becky Sharp and Tom Batemen as Captain Rawdon Crawley. The cast is stellar and includes Suranne Jones, Michael Palin, Martin Clunes, Frances de La Tour, Simon Russell Beale and Claire Skinner. The plot follows Becky Sharp as she attempts to claw her way out of poverty and scale the heights of society.
6) The Little Drummer Girl, BBC1: Brilliant young actress Charlie (Pugh) strikes up an acquaintance with an intriguing stranger while on holiday in Greece - but it rapidly becomes apparent that his intentions are far from romantic. The man is Becker (Alexander Skarsgård), an Israeli intelligence officer who entangles her in a complex and high-stakes plot that unfolds as she takes on the role of a lifetime in the ‘theatre of the real’. Set in the late 1970s, yet sharply contemporary, The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carre weaves a dynamic and exciting story of espionage and international intrigue, of love and betrayal.
7) Press: BBC1: David Suchet stars as a newspaper press baron in this new drama which charts the fortunes of a liberal left broadsheet and a tabloid after the phone-hacking scandal. Written by Doctor Foster’s Mike Bartlett, it will be a drama which looks at why news is important and the ethical dilemmas reporters and editors face each day (today, the biggest dilemma I faced was whether to take one or two sweets from the tin left on newsdesk). “I’d love to say it’s going to restore journalists’ reputations, but I’m not convinced it will,” he said. Oh good.
8) Luther, BBC1: Luther is the maverick cop’s maverick cop, a cop that could out-maverick the band The Mavericks before beating the Hertfordshire Mavericks at netball. There was talk of Luther making the move to the big screen, but in the meantime he’ll be back on the small screen in autumn with series five. Just what did happen to John Luther after we saw him striding through the streets of London? Idris Elba is back and we can hazard a guess that Laura Haddock’s Megan will be returning, too. The series is being filmed now.
9) Requiem, BBC2, February: What if you want to find out who you really are - but you don’t like the answer? In 1994 a toddler disappears from a small Welsh town, never to be seen again. Twenty-three years later, talented young cellist Matilda, played by Lydia Wilson (Star Trek Beyond, About Time), has her life turned upside down by her mother’s inexplicable suicide. In the wake of the tragedy Matilda begins to question everything she thought she knew about herself, embarking on a quest that leads her to that Welsh village - a place haunted by its own past, where the secrets she uncovers threaten to unravel her very identity.
10) Britannia, Sky Atlantic, January 18: There are a dozen reasons why Sky Atlantic hope this new series will fill the gap left behind by Game of Thrones and each one forms an episode of this new mini-series from playwright Jez Butterworth. It tells the story of the Roman Imperial Army of 43AD and their determination to take over the Celtic heart of Britannia. They’re not reckoning on the druids and warrior women who can handily conjure forces from the underworld.
11) Call the Midwife, BBC1, February: Call the Midwife is back for a seventh series – Patsy and Delia have been reunited as Nurse Mount finally returned from Hong Kong, Trixie and Christopher’s daughter Alexandra hit it off, Shelagh and Doctor Turner are the proud parents of a new baby boy, newly-weds Barbara and Tom are moving in together and Sister Mary Cynthia is still struggling with her mental health issues. It’s all go.
12) Trauma, Sky Atlantic, February: Doctor Foster creator Mike Bartlett posits an A&E doctor’s worst nightmare in this new thriller series. Adrian Lester plays Dr Allerton, who fails to save a 15-year-old stabbing victim. The boy’s father, played by John Simm, blames Allerton and sets about uncovering every aspect of the medic’s life.
13) Troy: Fall of a City, BBC2: Written by The Night Manager’s David Farr, this epic, big-budget drama series tells the story of the siege of Troy from the point of view of a Trojan family and is a collaboration between the BBC and Netflix. Louis Hunter and Bella Dayne star as Paris and Helen, the two lovers whose affair sparks a war between Greece and Troy and brings an empire to its knees.
14) Marcella, ITV: Marcella is back in her trademark fur-trimmed green parka for a second run as title star Anna Friel returns as the troubled detective with secret sorrows of her own. She’s alerted to the discovery of a schoolboy’s body enclosed in a walk surrounded by toys and a school blazer and soon finds him to be Leo Priestly, a boy who was abducted years ago who was friends with her son. Nigel Planer and Keith Allen also join the cast.
15) White Dragon, ITV: White Dragon follows Professor Jonah Mulray, played by John Simm, who learns his wife has died while working in Hong Kong. The crime thriller, which is set to air in Summer, sees Mulray try to get to the bottom of what happened as he discovers that the Chinese detectives working on his wife’s case are holding back evidence.
16) The Split, BBC1: Nicola Walker, Stephen Mangan and Meera Syal star in this new drama about “modern marriage and the legacy of divorce”, with Walker playing a divorce lawyer who handles Syal’s character’s split from her multi-millionaire husband. The drama is written by Bafta-winning Abi Morgan.
17) City And the City, BBC2: This adaptation of China Miéville’s fantasy novel stars David Morrissey as Inspector Tyador Borlú. Set in the fictional European city-state of Besźel, the body of a foreign student is discovered in the streets. Cases like this are run of the mill for Inspector Tyador of the Extreme Crime Squad – until his investigations uncover evidence that the dead girl had come from another city called Qoma. But the two cities defies comprehension and will challenge everything Borlú holds dear.
18) A Very English Scandal, BBC1: One of my favourite writers, Russell T Davies, is teaming up with Stephen Frears to create this three-part adaptation of John Preston’s novel about 1970s MP Jeremy Thorpe. Hugh Grant is Thorpe with Ben Wishaw playing his former lover Norman Scott. Thorpe was tried and acquitted of conspiring to murder Scott - this has potential to be an edge-of-the-sofa gripper.
19) Informer, BBC1: This promising new six-part drama from writers Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani is a sophisticated, character-driven thriller about Raza, a young, second generation Pakistani man from East London (Nabhaan Rizwan) who is coerced by Gabe, a Counter-Terrorism officer (Paddy Considine) to go undercover and inform for him. Gabe, who has a past he is unwilling to expose, is joined by Holly, his new and ambitious partner (Bel Powley) whose endless curiosity becomes threatening to him. As the central counterterrorism investigation heats up, the stakes for all three get higher and higher.
20) War of the Worlds, BBC1: I’m excited: the Beeb is working on a brand new TV adaptation of the HG Wells classic sci-fi novel and even better, it’s being written by Doctor Who and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell writer Peter Harness. Fingers crossed it will air next winter.
21) Kiss Me First, Netflix and E4: The co-creator of Skins, Bryan Elsley has penned this state-of-the-art thriller. Tallulah Haddon will play the central role of Leila, a lonely, reserved 19-year-old who becomes addicted to a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. While on the site, Leila meets Tess, played by Simona Brown, a cool, confident party girl who harbours a dark secret. Tess invites Leila into Red Pill, a secretive, invite-only part of the virtual world led by charming and manipulative, Adrian. Offline, Leila and Tess soon become close, but after Tess disappears, Leila is drawn into unravelling the mystery behind her disappearance. E4 will host the show’s UK debut, at some point in early 2018.
22) Girl/Haji, BBC1/Netflix: Joe Barton (Humans) has written a thriller about a detective called Kenzo who travels to London in search of his brother Yuto, who has been posing as a member of the Yaksuza gang and is wanted for the murder of a Japanese businessman. The drama’s title translates as Duty/Shame.
23) Black Narcissus, BBC1: Rumer Godden’s tale of forbidden love, religious devotion and supernatural phenomenon is being turned into a three-part drama series. Apple Tree Yard writer Amanda Coe is at the helm and the series will take us into the world of Sister Clodagh and the nuns of St Faith’s. Sister Clodagh finds herself irresistibly drawn to troubled land agent Mr Dean and her passion mirrors the tragic fate of doomed loved which once unfolded for long-dead Nepalese princess Srimati.
24) Wanderlust: Toni Collette will star in Wanderlust, a family drama from BBC One and Netflix. The six-part series will explore the relationships of a multi-generational family and look at how we maintain happy relationships and whether lifelong monogamy is possible or desirable. Collette plays Joy Richards, a therapist trying to find a way to keep her spark alive with her husband after a cycling accident causes them to reassess their relationship.
25) The Widow: Harry and Jack Williams, who brought us The Missing, are working on an eight-part series about a woman haunted by the past. Georgia Wells has cut herself off from her previous life and is no longer the woman she was before the death of her husband. She’s finally forced to face the truth about what happened to the man she loved while he worked in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
26) The Barking Murders, BBC1: The Barking Murders is a three-part BBC drama based on the murderer Stephen Port, and the aftermath of his four murders. Port date-raped and murdered four men, between 2014 and 2015, having lured his victims to their death through a dating website and the drama follows a BBC3 documentary which was released last year. Writer Jeff Pope (The Moorside, Little Boy Blue) is hoping to shed new light on the crimes.
27) Hatton Garden, ITV: This four-part drama was removed from the schedules at the last minute just before Christmas to make way for Bancroft instead. It’s due to air soon and ITV promises it will challenge perceptions about the four elderly men who ransacked an underground safe deposit facility who, it says, were far from “lovable old blokes”. The gang, aged between 60 and 76, ransacked 73 boxes at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit after using a drill to bore a hole into the vault wall over the 2015 Easter weekend. They were caught after making a series of mistakes. Timothy Spall leads the cast, with Kenneth Cranham and Brian F O’Byrne also in the cast.
28) Innocent, ITV: Lee Ingleby from The A Word stars as David Collins in this four-part drama about a man convicted of murdering his wife Tara. After serving seven years in prison, 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.
29) Butterfly, ITV: This new mini drama follows the story of an 11-year-old boy, Max, who makes the huge decision that he wants to live life as a girl. He has always dressed as one at home, but now he doesn’t want to hide who he is. His mum, Vicky, played by Anna Friel (Broken, Marcella) and father, Stephen, no longer live together, which puts additional pressure on Max who yearns for an idyllic home life. How do the pair decide what’s best for Max?
30) Good Omens, BBC2: It’s been a long time coming, but Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel is finally coming to television. The comedy drama about an angel and a demon trying to stop the apocalypse stars Michael Sheen (angel Aziraphale) and David Tennant (demon Crowley). The pair have to form an alliance in order to stop the end of the world as we know it and discover what happened to the real son of Satan as they realise they’ve been protecting and corrupting the wrong child.