Autumn TV guide 2021: The biggest and best shows to watch, from Vigil to Succession

·10-min read
 (BBC)
(BBC)

Hibernation season is nearly upon us, bringing with it a host of brilliant new TV series to cosy up with.

From the new thrillers and police procedurals vying to steal Line of Duty’s crown to Olivia Colman’s next big TV project, to the long-awaited return of Succession’s warring Roy clan, these are the shows worth staying in for...

Gossip Girl

Move over Blair and Serena... (PA)
Move over Blair and Serena... (PA)

Spotted on the steps of the Met: a brand new gang of designer-clad, uber-privileged and impossibly beautiful teens ready to reboot Gossip Girl for Generation Z. Picking up almost a decade after the finale unmasked GG’s identity, the new series introduces a fresh squad of Upper East Siders whose lives are turned upside down when the anonymous scandal-monger re-emerges - on Instagram, of course. You know you love it, XOXO.

BBC One and iPlayer, August 25

Vigil

Your new Line of Duty replacement? (BBC/World Productions)
Your new Line of Duty replacement? (BBC/World Productions)

File this one under ‘most likely to fill the void left by Line of Duty’ - and not just because Martin Compston (aka AC-12’s resident waistcoat apologist Steve Arnott) is in it. Suranne Jones stars as a detective leading the investigation into a suspicious death on board a nuclear submarine. The crew have passed it off as an accidental overdose, but the signs point to foul play. Look away now if you get claustrophobic.

BBC One, August 29

Stephen

Sharlene Whyte stars as Doreen Lawrence (HAT TRICK FOR ITV)
Sharlene Whyte stars as Doreen Lawrence (HAT TRICK FOR ITV)

This sequel to the 1999 film The Murder of Stephen Lawrence picks up the Lawrence family’s fight for justice for their son in 2006, when the case was re-opened by veteran police officer Clive Driscoll (Steve Coogan), with new advances in forensic technology helping to bring two of the killers to trial. Hugh Quarshie reprises the role of Neville Lawrence, with Sharlene Whyte joining him as activist Doreen, now Lady Lawrence.

ITV, August 30

Only Murders in the Building

An unlikely bunch of amateur detectives (HULU)
An unlikely bunch of amateur detectives (HULU)

After conquering the airwaves, true crime podcasts are now getting plenty of screen time, too. Line of Duty’s sixth series had a whole plot revolving around one, and this comedy-drama, starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, follows a group of neighbours who start recording their own podcast after a grisly murder occurs in their swanky Manhattan apartment building. Could a killer be lurking next door?

Disney+, August 31

Wolfe

Babou Ceesay stars as an unorthodox forensic scientist (AbbotVision / Sky UK Ltd)
Babou Ceesay stars as an unorthodox forensic scientist (AbbotVision / Sky UK Ltd)

If you’ve had your fill of maverick cops, here’s something (slightly) different. Babou Ceesay is a winning lead as mercurial forensic pathologist Wolfe Kinteh whose personal life is on the slide in this slick, darkly funny series from Shameless creator Paul Abbott. He’s backed up by an impressive ensemble cast that includes Amanda Abbington, Natalia Tena and Shaniqua Okwok.

Sky Max and Now, September 10

Sex Education

Jemima Kirke joins the cast of Sex Education (Sam Taylor/Netflix)
Jemima Kirke joins the cast of Sex Education (Sam Taylor/Netflix)

Netflix’s NSFW high school dramedy is back for its third series. This time, Jemima Kirke joins the cast as Moordale’s new headteacher Hope, a former student with schemes to turn her alma mater into an academic powerhouse, with Jason Isaacs starring as disgraced headmaster Mr Groff’s pompous older brother. Musician Dua Saleh also makes their acting debut as non-binary student Cal, who quickly clashes with Hope over her conservative outlook.

Netflix, September 17

The Morning Show

Move over Big Little Lies - is this the starriest cast on TV? (Apple TV+)
Move over Big Little Lies - is this the starriest cast on TV? (Apple TV+)

Apple TV+’s star-studded dive into the murky world of a fictional American morning news programme is back for round two. This time, veteran anchor Alex (Jennifer Aniston) and rising reporter Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) are reckoning with the fallout after denouncing their toxic employers live on air. The Good Wife’s Julianna Margulies is among the new additions to the already stacked cast.

Apple TV+, September 17

Y: The Last Man

Real world not apocalyptic enough for you? Try this (Rafy Winterfeld/FX)
Real world not apocalyptic enough for you? Try this (Rafy Winterfeld/FX)

Marvel has been dominating the TV game recently, but one of autumn’s biggest sci-fi series is based on a comic from their top rival, DC. Y: The Last Man is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which every mammal with a Y chromosome has been wiped off the face of the planet - apart from one man and his pet monkey.

Disney+, September 22

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK

Meet the queens ready to brighten up your autumn (BBC/World of Wonder/Ray Burmiston)
Meet the queens ready to brighten up your autumn (BBC/World of Wonder/Ray Burmiston)

After season two raised the nation’s serotonin levels (and blessed us with the brilliant, bonkers single UK Hun?) at the start of the year, Drag Race UK will return for its third series in September, with a new bunch of British queens vying for Mama Ru’s favour. Among them will be the show’s first cisgender female contestant and returning favourite Veronica Green (who had to bow out of series two when she tested positive for Covid).

BBC Three, September

Succession

Ever since Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) turned the tables on his media mogul father Logan (Brian Cox) in spectacular fashion in front of the world’s press during the final moments of series two, we’ve been craving new episodes of Succession like Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) craves validation from his in-laws. Thank god Jesse Armstrong’s bickering, backstabbing billionaires will be back for round three this autumn. Who will be Logan’s number one boy (or girl) this time around? Don’t rule anyone out.

Sky Atlantic and Now

Help

Nearly a decade ago, Stephen Graham filmed a scene with a teenage actress called Jodie Comer - and was so impressed he urged his agent to sign her. Now Merseyside’s finest will reunite on screen in Help, a one-off drama written by Jack Thorne which takes place in a Liverpool care home during the pandemic. Graham plays a man with early onset Alzheimer’s, with Comer as a young care worker.

Channel Four

The North Water

A period drama that’ll give you chills (BBC/See-Saw Films/Nick Wall)
A period drama that’ll give you chills (BBC/See-Saw Films/Nick Wall)

The cast and crew of The North Water, adapted from Ian McGuire’s novel, journeyed all the way to the icy archipelago of Svalbard - thought to be the furthest north any television drama has ever filmed. Jack O’Connell plays a disgraced surgeon turned ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic; also on board is a scary harpooner (Colin Farrell) with murderous instincts.

BBC Two, September 10, 9.30pm

Colin in Black and White

Jaden Michael plays a young Colin Kaepernick (SER BAFFO/NETFLIX)
Jaden Michael plays a young Colin Kaepernick (SER BAFFO/NETFLIX)

Selma director Ava duVernay helms this Netflix series based on the early years of activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the first sportsperson to take the knee to protest against racial injustice. It explores his experience as the adopted son of a white couple, with Jaden Michael starring as the young Colin and the real Kaepernick guiding us through his story as narrator.

Netflix, October 29

Scenes From A Marriage

Dream team Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain (HBO / Sky Atlantic)
Dream team Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain (HBO / Sky Atlantic)

Former drama school pals Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac make a formidable on-screen duo: see their 2014 film A Most Violent Year for proof. Their latest team-up is a remake of Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman’s acclaimed 70s miniseries, transposing its story of a couple navigating the highs and lows of marriage to present-day America. If anyone can pull off rebooting a classic, it’s these two.

Sky Atlantic and Now

Ridley Road

Tom Varey and Aggi O’Casey star as a young couple fighting fascism (BBC/Red Productions)
Tom Varey and Aggi O’Casey star as a young couple fighting fascism (BBC/Red Productions)

Set in the East End in the Sixties, with fascism on the rise, Sarah Solemani’s adaptation of Jo Bloom’s novel tells the story of Vivien, played by Aggi O’Casey in her first screen role, who is drawn into the fight against the far-right when she falls for a member of the 62 Group, a Jewish-led anti-fascist coalition. Soon she is tasked with bringing down a neo-Nazi movement from the inside.

BBC One

Landscapers

A surreal spin on true crime (Sky)
A surreal spin on true crime (Sky)

Olivia Colman and David Thewlis star in this surreal, darkly comic spin on the startling true story of Susan and Christopher Edwards, a seemingly mild-mannered couple hiding a terrible secret: buried in their back garden are the bodies of Susan’s parents. Landscapers is written by Colman’s husband Ed Sinclair, and is based on hours of interviews with those caught up in the case - including the couple themselves.

Sky Atlantic and Now

Angela Black

Joanne Froggatt leads this thriller (ITV)
Joanne Froggatt leads this thriller (ITV)

Taut psychological thrillers are screenwriting brothers Harry and Jack Williams’ stock-in-trade. Their latest stars Downton’s Joanne Froggatt as Angela, a housewife whose apparently perfect life in suburbia is a facade: her husband Olivier (Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman) is violent and controlling. When a private investigator (Samuel Adewunmi) ambushes her with a series of horrifying revelations about Olivier, it seems like she might finally have a way out - but it might come at a cost.

ITV

Hollington Drive

Good news -more Anna Maxwell Martin on our screens (ITV)
Good news -more Anna Maxwell Martin on our screens (ITV)

Between her scene-stealing turn as rollneck-wearing ice queen DCI Carmichael in Line of Duty and her third outing as Motherland’s exponentially erratic Julia, it’s been a banner year for Anna Maxwell Martin. She’ll be back on our screens soon in this stress-inducing thriller from writer Sophie Petzal, which explores the fallout after a neighbour’s child goes missing.

ITV

Hawkeye

Remember the Avenger whose superpower is… archery? Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton is the latest Marvel character to get a spin-off series, but this time his character is handing over the Hawkeye bow to the next generation, training up protégée Kate Bishop, played by Hailee Steinfeld. Watch out for Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova - her cameo appearance was set up in the closing moments of Black Widow.

Disney+, November 24

Showtrial

A gripping legal drama from the makers of Line of Duty (BBC/World Productions)
A gripping legal drama from the makers of Line of Duty (BBC/World Productions)

When Talitha, the daughter of a wealthy property developer, is charged with conspiracy to murder fellow student Hannah, the ensuing trial becomes a cause célèbre, dragging both of their families into a media maelstrom. Over the course of five episodes, Showtrial explores how politics and the press might shape the legal process.

BBC One

Dopesick

This hard-hitting miniseries is an unflinching exploration of America’s opioid crisis, based on the bestselling book by Beth Macy. Interlocking storylines focus on the families riven by Oxycontin addiction, the big pharma companies feeding the problem and the healthcare workers trying to fight them. Michael Keaton, Will Poulter, Kaitlyn Dever and Rosario Dawson make up the ensemble cast.

Disney+

The Tower

Another crime thriller to keep you gripped (ITV)
Another crime thriller to keep you gripped (ITV)

Game of Thrones alum Gemma Whelan stars as the police officer tasked with hunting down a missing cop who witnessed two people falling to their deaths from a London tower block in this new thriller from Homeland writer Patrick Harbinson. It’s based on the Metropolitan novels by Kate London, who previously worked on the Met’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command.

ITV

Stay Close

Netflix’s collaborations with wildly successful crime writer Harlan Coben tend to result in the sort of addictive thrillers that defy restrained watching - it’s impossible not to race through every episode in one very stressful sitting. The latest is an adaptation of his bestseller Stay Close, starring Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt and Richard Armitage as a trio connected by a long-buried secret. Brace yourself for twists galore.

Netflix

The Girl Before

Gugu Mbatha-Raw could probably make reading her shopping list sound compelling, but her latest TV project sounds especially intriguing. In The Girl Before, adapted from the novel by JP Delaney, she plays a woman who is about to move into a unique home designed by an enigmatic architect (David Oyelowo). There’s one catch - she has to follow his list of exacting demands.

BBC One

The Wheel of Time

It’s always a big deal when a bona fide movie star makes the leap to the small screen. Rosamund Pike stars in this adaptation of the biggest fantasy series you’ve never heard of (seriously - Robert Jordan’s books have sold around 90 million copies worldwide), set in a world where an all-female organisation has access to magical powers. Could this be a Game of Thrones-sized swords and sorcery hit?

Amazon Prime Video, November

The Beatles: Get Back

Director Peter Jackson has spent the last three years restoring and editing footage and audio captured in 1969, showing The Beatles recording their album Let It Be. The result is a six-hour behemoth of a documentary, split into three episodes debuting across consecutive nights, which will also feature the band’s last live performance as a group from the roof of Apple Corps HQ on Savile Row (shown for the first time in its entirety).

Disney+, November 25

Book your tickets for a three day celebration of storytelling featuring the brightest stars of page, stage and screen including Ashley Walters, Will Young, Ed Balls, Robert Harris, Bella Mackie, Greg James and the cast and crew of Netflix productions Top Boy, Bridgerton and Sex Education. Only at the Evening Standard Stories Festival in association with Netflix, 24-26 September, Picturehouse Central. Book now stories.standard.co.uk/programme #ESstories

Read More

Lilibet added to Royal Family’s line of succession on official website

What to see at the BFI London Film Festival from Spencer to Succession

WATCH: BBC Breakfast’s Carol Kirkwood pulled to ground by guide dog

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting