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

SCI-FI

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

THRILLER

Legacy

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

COMEDY

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

DRAMA

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

FANTASY

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

COMEDY

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

DRAMA

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

THRILLER

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

DOCUMENTARY

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

DRAMA

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

FANTASY

Dracula

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

DRAMA

Sherlock

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

COMEDY

Ambassadors

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

FANTASY

Atlantis

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

DRAMA

Breathless

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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn