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

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
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

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments