The 10 best TV dramas coming this autumn

The Rings of Power

Amazon Prime Video, 2 September

Sky’s fire-breathing family saga House of the Dragon has already fired the first salvo in autumn’s fantasy war. Now putting its hairy feet forward is Amazon’s megabudget Lord of the Rings spin-off – at £50m a episode, the most expensive TV show ever made. The prequel to JRR Tolkien’s epic portrays events leading up to the forging of those legendary rings. It looks suitably lavish, but can its storytelling convince?

This England

Sky Atlantic/NOW, 21 September

The gap between events and fact-based TV dramas about those events seems to be shrinking. This six-parter, co-written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, sees Kenneth Branagh don a blond wig and prosthetics to portray Boris Johnson during his tumultuous first months as prime minister. Based on first-hand accounts from Downing Street insiders and health experts, it traces the government’s struggle to tackle Covid-19 and the pandemic’s devastating impact on the country. It might not be terribly flattering for the deposed PM, but them’s the breaks.

Inside Man

BBC One/iPlayer, late September

A playful, twist-packed puzzle of a thriller, as you might expect from creator Steven Moffat. What’s the connection between a small-town vicar (David Tennant), a maths teacher (Dolly Wells) trapped in a cellar, an investigative journalist (Lydia West) and a convicted murderer on death row (Stanley Tucci on Hannibal Lecter-like form)? We’d hate to spoil the four-parter’s plentiful surprises. Rest assured, you’ll have huge fun finding out.

Somewhere Boy

Channel 4/All 4, October

Danny (Lewis Gribben) has grown up believing the outside world is full of monsters. When the 18-year-old finally leaves his remote home and enters the modern world, eye-opening experiences ensue. Formerly titled The Birth of Daniel F Harris, writer Pete Jackson’s bold, beguiling drama is broken into eight snappy half-hour episodes. From the makers of The End of the F***ing World and Misfits, it promises to be a similarly youth-friendly cult hit for Channel 4.

Funny Woman

Sky Max, October

A British remix of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, anyone? Gemma Arterton takes the lead in this perky period piece, adapted by Morwenna Banks from Nick Hornby’s novel Funny Girl. The breezy comedy-drama follows Barbara Parker, a Blackpool beauty queen finding her comic voice in the chauvinistic world of 1960s sitcoms. David Threlfall and Rupert Everett provide sterling support to Arterton, who’s clearly having a hoot.

The Crown

Netflix, November

It’s all change again for Peter Morgan’s stately royal soap. Imelda Staunton takes the throne as the Queen, with Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip, Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret, Dominic West as Prince Charles and Elizabeth Debicki as Diana. Two of the most intriguing pieces of casting, however, are the PMs: John Major must be flattered to be portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller, while Bertie Carvel plays his successor, Tony Blair. The fifth season focuses on the 1990s, including that Martin Bashir interview.

The English

BBC One/iPlayer, autumn

A new series from Hugo Blick – the distinctive auteur behind The Shadow Line, The Honourable Woman and Black Earth Rising – is always an event. His latest six-parter, set in 1890, stars Emily Blunt as an English aristocrat who arrives in America’s Wild West on a revenge mission. Lady Cornelia Locke joins forces with ex-cavalry scout Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer) to find the man responsible for her son’s death. Blick describes it as “a thrilling, romantic, epic horse-opera”. Yee-haw indeed.

A Spy Among Friends

ITV/ITVX, autumn

Damian Lewis as Nicholas Elliott in A Spy Among Friends.
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Elliott in A Spy Among Friends. Photograph: Rob Youngson/Rex/Shutterstock

Double agents. Cold war defection. Le Carré-meets-Mad Men vibes. Guy Pearce and Damian Lewis don dapper 1950s suits for this stylish dramatisation of the Kim Philby espionage affair, based on the bestselling book by historian Ben Macintyre. ITVX is the new (and, thankfully, free) streaming service on which ITV will premiere selected shows before their terrestrial broadcast. It will also soon be airing another factual drama, Litvinenko, with David Tennant as the poisoned Russian spy.

Happy Valley

BBC One/iPlayer, autumn

Writer Sally Wainwright and actor Sarah Lancashire reunite for one last visit to West Yorkshire’s drug-ravaged Calder Valley, completing the story they began in 2014. The third and final series finds sergeant Catherine Cawood on the verge of retirement. When she investigates a gangland murder, it unwittingly leads back to her nemesis, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton). It’s one of several crime dramas making strong returns, alongside BBC stablemate The Capture, which will have Paapa Essiedu joining its cast, and ITV’s Unforgotten, with Sinéad Keenan replacing the much-missed Nicola Walker.


ITV/ITVX, autumn

This high-gloss, high-stakes family drama from Abby Ajayi (a writer on Inventing Anna and How to Get Away With Murder) has already been called “Succession, but black and British”. Set between New York and London, it follows the minted Richards family, who’ve built a multimillion-pound cosmetics empire. When patriarch Stephen (played by Hugh Quarshie) suffers a stroke, it kickstarts a vicious power struggle. Sound familiar, Waystar Royco fans?