Autumn schedule: Water-cooler TV!

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As viewing figures hit an 18-year high, we trail the shows that everyone will be talking about.

All over Britain, cushions are being patted and sofas plumped. Despite the internet and video games, television viewing figures are at an 18-year high according to a report from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising published earlier this year; and from now on, up to 12 million of us will spend our evenings staring at the flickering screen. The autumn schedules are being packed with some of the best, most popular and most lavish television productions of the year.

From reality crowd-pleasers such as the X Factor to critically lauded shows with small but dedicated followers like Mad Men via a costume extravaganza written by an Oscar-winning heavyweight, there has not been so much "watercooler television" since the medium's 1970's heyday.

"The variety of drama in the next months is amazing," said Nick Cannon, from What's On TV magazine. "We don't seem to have the usual lavish BBC costume drama of a Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy adaptation, but ITV has jumped in there with its splendid Downton Abbey and Channel 4 has snapped up the rights to Pillars of the Earth, a medieval melodrama and a massive production. But the BBC hasn't been outdone and has some smaller gems like Christopher And His Kind and The Road to Coronation Street – just wait until you see Jessie Wallace as Pat Phoenix, she's a revelation."

Ben Halpin, a TV analyst at advertising agency Walker Media, also pointed to ITV's increased investment in "high quality drama" in an attempt to attract a more up-market audience.

"Downton Abbey, Albert's Memorial, Whitechapel II, Bouquet of Barbed Wire and Law & Order should all perform well," he said. "Channel 4 will be hoping their big American import The Event is a success – it is being billed as the new Lost. The brilliant Inbetweeners returns – it could possibly be the highest rating programme ever on E4.

"Another programme that has everyone talking at Walker Media is An Idiot Abroad. I have a feeling this will be a massive success. Anything from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant will attract big audiences. Finally, the list would not be complete without a mention of the fourth series of Mad Men. Genius TV.".

Downton Abbey

ITV used to be renowned for its lavish costume dramas, with gems such as The Jewel in the Crown. Recent years have seen the BBC ransack the wardrobe room, but the commercial broadcaster hopes to be back with this Upstairs/Downstairs-style drama written by Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes. It stars Dame Maggie Smith and follows the fortunes of the residents of the eponymous Abbey in 1912, both the Crawleys who own it and the servants who run it.

"Julian Fellowes and Maggie Smith together is a costume drama dream," said Radio Times editor, Ben Preston.

ITV 1, 26 September, 9pm

Come Fly With Me Matt Lucas and David Walliams became light entertainment heavyweights with the runaway success of Little Britain – their bizarre mockumentary sketch show replete with numerous eccentric characters about life in the UK. Not to rest on their laurels they are back with a new, six-part comedy show set in an airport, with new characters and a weekly guest star. Preston's view: "Big, bold comedy." BBC1. Date to be announced

The Apprentice

The genius of The Apprentice is that a host of pushy, wannabe-wealthy buffoons crash down to earth with their ears ringing to a wonderfully harsh rollickings from Lord Sugar. The Apprentice has been off our screens for 18 months because of the general election – Lord Sugar is a Labour peer.

Preston's view: "It's a blue chip show ... the format just works."

BBC1. Date to be announced

Mad Men

It may have its initial run tucked away on obscure BBC4 but the saga of the badly behaved but impeccably dressed New York advertising men – led by the complex but irresistible Don Draper – is already causing traffic in cyberspace as die-hard fans discuss the lavishly recreated décor, style and manners of the early 1960s.

Preston's view: "Compulsive, addictive all consuming television for 300,000 people."

BBC4 Wednesdays, 10pm

Seven Days

C4's latest reality show is a live docusoap. "Viewers will be able to follow characters as they actually happen," boasts the blurb. A hairdresser, a budding rapper, a single mother, and a student are among the denizens of Notting Hill who have agreed to be filmed.

Preston's view: "It could be intriguing."

Channel 4, 22 September, 10pm

The X Factor

It may be criticised for exploiting the deluded and being a cash cow for Simon Cowell – but the millions who will spend Saturday nights glued to their sets don't care. The live finals will dominate the TV ratings until Christmas and, be fair, it does give a break to talented people who don't have a famous dad.

Preston's view: "Never mind the music, watch the judges."

ITV 1, Saturdays, 7.45pm

Strictly Come Dancing

Back for its eighth series with former Tory politician Ann Widdecombe and magician Paul Daniels among the hoofers. Strictly's success lies in its teatime sexuality, but it will be the celeb with two left feet who gets viewers talking.

Preston's view: "It's another titanic struggle with the X Factor."

BBC 1, Saturdays. 6.25pm

The Inbetweeners

This is how sixth form was for uncool, spotty, 17-year-old boys: a mostly fruitless attempt to buy alcohol and engage in some kind of sexual fumbling. Their antics should have everyone rolling with laughter.

Preston's view: "It has the genuine smell of a teenage boy's bedroom."

E4, tomorrow, 10pm

The Young Ones

Take six celebrities from 1975, put them together in a house and let them fend for themselves. Just one week later tests will show how their memories and their vision have improved.

Preston's view: "Any show that promises to reveal secrets of youth is going to have a following."

BBC1 Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 9pm

An Idiot Abroad

Ricky Gervais' podcasts in which he and his Office and Extras co-writer Stephen Merchant taunt their "round-headed, chimp-like buffoon" sound engineer Karl Pilkington into making weird but strangely logical philosophical observations were a smash hit and turned into an animated series by HBO. So why not send the culturally-challenged Pilkington around the world's seven wonders so he can look at the Pyramids for the first time and describe them as a "death trap".

Preston's view: "The glory of TV is that it doesn't have to be good to be talked about."

Sky One, Fridays, 9.45pm

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Sauce Recruitment: Programme Sales Executive - Independent Distributor

£25000 - £28000 per annum + circa 28K + 20% bonus opportunity: Sauce Recruitme...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money mot...

Guru Careers: Investment Writer / Stock Picker

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A freelance Investment Writer / Stock Picker ...

Guru Careers: PPC Account Executive / Paid Search Executive

£20 - 24K + Benefits: Guru Careers: An enthusiastic PPC Account / Paid Search ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us