the best new British TV drama
Home-grown drama was set to kick off with a bang in 2017, thanks to the return of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in Sherlock. Sadly, the fourth series didn’t prove to be a return to form, with many critics disappointed with a ham-fisted Shutter Island-meets-Saw finale. On the plus side, Sherlock’s failure has left British viewers hungry for more original fare, of which there is plenty to come.
We’ve picked out the best of the best new TV shows for your viewing pleasure:
- The Cuckoo’s Calling
If you’ve not been watching this thrilling eight-part series, you are advised to head straight to BBC iPlayer and catch up immediately. Tom Hardy is as brooding and charismatic as ever as the black-clad, grime-encrusted sailor who returns to the capital to take on the corrupt forces of colonialism in nineteenth century London. Written by Hardy, his dad and Peaky Blinders’ creator Steven Knight, Taboo is an ankle-slashing antidote to the florid period drama the Beeb usually gives us.
Watch it: now, BBC iPlayer
The ‘what would life be like if the Nazis had won World War II?’ genre has made a bit of a comeback recently, thanks to the Amazon Original Series The Man in the High Castle. While that show is set in Nazi America, SS-GB presents a dystopian image of Occupied London (after the Germans triumphed in the Battle of Britain), where Sam Riley’s SS detective is drawn into a murder case in which the stakes are as high as the outcome of the war itself. Penned by Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who wrote Casino Royale, Skyfall and Spectre, this big budget production should be appointment viewing.
Watch it: February, BBC
Speaking of James Bond, Idris Elba – the man that many have touted to step into 007’s brogues – is returning to our screens for his first TV drama since Luther. Directed by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, Elba co-stars as a political activist whose colleagues become the target of Scotland Yard’s Black Power Desk, a very real yet little-known unit that sought to suppress the civil rights movement in 1970s London. Joined by a host of talent, including Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Rory Kinnear (Spectre) and Daniel Mays (Line of Duty), this explosive six-parter could be one of the year’s most memorable.
Watch it: April, Sky Atlantic
The Cuckoo’s Calling
You might wonder why the BBC has chosen to spend the next three years adapting a trilogy of books by little-recognised author Robert Galbraith. When you realise that name is actually a pseudonym used by the ever-so-slightly more famous J.K. Rowling, it all starts to make sense. There’s no wizardry involved: The Cuckoo’s Calling is our first introduction to Cormoran Strike, a bombastically-named war veteran turned private investigator who takes on cases the police have failed to solve. Billed as an ‘event drama’, with any luck it’ll make up for the Beeb’s previous Sherlock-sized detective disappointment.
Watch it: TBC, BBC
If you’re still yearning for the days of El Dude Brothers Mark Corrigan and Jeremy ‘Jez’ Usborne, 2017 is a year to celebrate as, in a way, they are back. Back is a new Channel 4 sitcom that reunites Peep Show stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb as two diametrically opposed brothers warring over a pub inherited from their late father. While that may not sound a million miles removed from the squabbling of Mark and Jez, Back promises to be a touch darker and bittersweet, thanks to the involvement of Emmy Award-winning writer Simon Blackwell, whose credits include Veep, The Thick of It and, yes, Peep Show.
Watch it: TBC, Channel 4
After it scored an international hit last year with global organised crime thriller The Night Manager, the BBC is hoping for repeat success with McMafia. Its chances look pretty good: replacing posho man-hunk Tom Hiddleston for lead honours is posho man-hunk James Norton, who takes on the role of an English-raised businessman dragged back into the criminal world once inhabited by his Russian family. Lending McMafia the requisite big screen sheen are David Straithairn – one of the CIA bad guys dealt with by Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum – and a creative team of Drive screenwriter Hossein Amini and The Woman In Black (the Daniel Radcliffe version) director James Watkins.
Watch it: TBC, BBC