Autumn's television gold: 30 of the best

Holly Williams selects the juiciest offerings from a bumper harvest of one-off TV dramas, series and sitcoms


Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special

BBC1, 23 November

Not only do we get three doctors, all at once – the outgoing Matt Smith, the past David Tennant, and John Hurt as some kind of mystery, filling-the-gap doctor – but also Daleks, zygons and Billie Piper, so pleasing card-carrying Whovian geeks, and making it worth the casual fan tuning in. Or buying a ticket: these celebrations are so large, they’ll also be shown on cinema screens, in 3D. Many happy returns, Mr Time Lord.

See also: Downton Abbey Christmas Special, the only “event telly” rival, ITV, 25 Dec



BBC2, late October

Paula Milne follows The Politician’s Husband with this Seventies Cold War thriller. A one-off drama, based on the novel by Alan Judd and directed by Pete Travis. Charlie Cox plays a young British spy tangling with Soviet diplomats, forbidden lovers and international intelligence. With Romola Garai, Andrew Scott and Simon Russell Beale.

See also: Lucan, also set in the Seventies, with Rory Kinnear in the title role. ITV, winter


Hello Ladies

Sky Atlantic, late October

Stephen Merchant cuts the ties with Ricky Gervais in his first solo sitcom, loosely based on his stand-up show. Merchant’s bumbling Englishman attempts to romance the ladies of LA to predictably cringe-worthy effect. From the team behind the US version of The Office.

See also: London Irish, sitcom about hard-drinking Irish ex-pats, starring comedian Ardal O’Hanlon. Channel 4, from 24 Sept


Masters of Sex

Channel 4, early October

A classy-looking drama, even as it cheekily explores the “smut vs science” debate that real-life 1950s researchers faced when they began examining sexual responses. Made by Showtime in the US, shown on Channel 4, it stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, with the pilot directed by John Madden. A promising blend of genuinely interesting plot material, will-they, won’t-they romances, sumptuous period detail, nookie (for research, natch), and squirmingly retro sexual-scientific measuring devices.

 See also: Quirke, detective drama also set in 1950, based on John Banville’s novels and starring Gabriel Byrne. BBC1, autumn

"Classy looking drama", Masters of Sex


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Channel 4, from 27 September

This US spin-off from The Avengers movie starts here a mere three days after it premieres stateside. The series follows a team of government agents, assembled to contain super-powered forces: the Marvel Comics-like organisation S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division). Created by Joss Whedon in a welcome return to the small screen, it has a decent shot at expanding into a TV saga what made the movie such a critical and box-office smash.

See also: Orphan Black, superior sci-fi by BBC America. BBC3, from Friday


The Wrong Mans

BBC2, late September

Spoofing action-filled, big budget American TV series, The Wrong Mans is both sitcom and thriller. Created by and starring James Corden and Matthew Bayton, as a luckless duo working for Berkshire County Council whose blue-collar lives are turned upside down by a chance phone call. Mistaken identities prompt comic mishap as they are drawn into a murky world of international espionage. The supporting cast includes Dawn French, Sarah Solemani, Rebecca Front, Dougray Scott, Emilia Fox, Nick Moran, Stephen Campbell Moore and Tom Basden - the very Best of British.

See also: The ultimate office losers, The IT Crowd, in a one-off 45-minute special. Channel 4, 27 September

The Wrong Mans, created by James Corden and Matthew Bayton


The 7.39

BBC1, winter

This two-part romantic drama is penned by David (One Day) Nicholls – who promises “a love story for grown-ups”. Two strangers on a train (that’d be the 7.39 to Waterloo) strike up a regular conversation… you can see where it’s going, but with David Morrissey and Sheridan Smith as our bored commuters – not to mention poor old Olivia Colman as his wife – we reckon this will chug along nicely. Hankies at the ready!

See also: Melting hearts with its tale of pension-aged passion, Last Tango in Halifax is back for a second series. BBC1, autumn


The Tunnel

Sky Atlantic, late October

Très neat: this 10-part drama about the death of a French politician investigated by cops from Folkestone and Calais is a co-production by Britain’s Sky Atlantic and France’s Canal+. It’s an adaptation of the hit collaborative Scandinavian drama The Bridge – the road/railtrack from Sweden to Denmark being the scandi equivalent of the Channel tunnel. Expect simmering national stereotypes as the British and French police, led by Stephen Dillane and, oh là là, Clémence Poésy, discover they’re gonna have to work together.

See also: The Blacklist, for a less likely collaboration: James Spader is a criminal working with the FBI. Sky Living, early Oct


The Fried Chicken Shop

Channel 4, from tomorrow

Last year, the nation was gripped by a documentary about a fried chicken shop in Clapham, south London. Channel 4 capitalises on this with a full series featuring the hard-working staff and their customers. Here’s hoping life at the Rooster Spot will be as finger-lickin’ good as before.

See also: Bouncers, another look at Britain’s night workers. Channel 4, from Thursday

Chicken shop staff including Harris, Zahid, Bilal and Imran


The Escape Artist

BBC1, late October

David Tennant is a junior barrister whose skill at wriggling people out of tight legal corners has earned him the nickname “the escape artist”. But will his talent for getting nasty characters off the hook come back to haunt him? Course it will. Co-starring Sophie Okonedo and Ashley Jensen.

See also: The Great Train Robbery, a two-part drama about a notorious crime and its consequences. BBC1, autumn



Sky Living, October

Bram Stoker’s vampire yarn gets its latest incarnation. Jonathan Rhys Meyer, with sex appeal and menace in equal measure,  plays the Count. Dracula descends on Victorian London, posing as an American entrepreneur while in search a bite to eat. May deviate from the source, but with glossy production values.

See also: True Blood, biting back with season 6. Fox, from 30 Sept



BBC1, winter

He’s back – after cheating death with that nasty Reichenbach fall, as in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original. The wait has been agonising, but soon the nation will swoon again for Benedict Cumberbatch’s brainiac, coat-swishing Holmes, and his sidekick Watson (Martin Freeman), in the third series of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s hugely popular reboot.

See also: Agatha Christie’s Poirot. ITV, Oct



BBC2, early November

David Mitchell and Robert Webb reunite as a newly arrived British ambassador and his jaded deputy at the British embassy of Tazbekistan. Their scramble to win business contracts from an under-resourced office in a country not noted for its human rights record  should have satirical bite. Keeley Hawes and Tom Hollander also feature.

See also: More painfully ineffectual politicking - Veep, Season 2. Sky Atlantic, Oct



BBC1, late September

Jason lands at the mysterious ancient city of Atlantis, befriends Hercules and Pythagoras, and fights the Minotaur and Medusa. Greek myths for a new generation: swords, sandals, CGI and Juliet Stevenson. 

See also: Moonfleet, more children’s drama, with added smuggling. Sky1, Christmas



ITV, October

A gynaecological ward in 1961 is a hotbed of secrets, thwarted ambition and a handy lightning rod for the sexual revolution and its attendant social issues. Stars Jack Davenport, Iain Glen and Zoe Boyle.

See also: Book in with Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe for The Young Doctor’s Notebook. Sky Arts, Nov

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor