Virgin Media, Sept 7th
We’ve been having serious withdrawal symptoms since Normal People finished up, and scanning the horizon for any sign of Marianne or Connell smouldering back into our lives. Well, the wait is (half) over: Paul Mescal returns to our screens in a new Irish drama series written by Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee and her husband, actor and screenwriter Tobias Beer.
But hold your whisht there, girls: Mescal isn’t the main man in The Deceived. That role is taken by Emmet J Scanlon from Peaky Blinders, who plays charismatic and slightly creepy Cambridge lecturer Michael Callaghan. He’s married to a successful novelist, Roisin, and having an affair with his young student, Opelia, but when he suddenly disappears, Ophelia takes it on herself to track him down. When she finds him, back in his home in Ireland, she learns that Roisin has died in a fire – very suspicious. Michael invites Ophelia to stay at the family home – a big, bleak, scary sort of a place – and soon Ophelia is being haunted by things that go bump in the night. Mescal plays the local fireman (steady, there, girls) who takes a shine to the new arrival.
Julie and the Phantoms
Netflix, Sept 10th
Singers wanted: Must have croaked it. We’ve heard of death metal, but this is ridiculous. Here’s a new series about a band with a very unique selling point: three-quarters of them are dead. High school student Julie is the only living, breathing member of this unusual quartet. Her three backing singers, Luke, Alex and Reggie, happen to be ghosts; they may not be able to hold corporeal form, but can still hold a tune. Together, through the life-affirming power of music, they help Julie deal with the death of her mom, and encourage her to unearth her own singing and songwriting talents. The great thing about having ghosts in the band is that they don’t have too many demands on their rider, and they don’t snort up half of Bolivia on the tourbus. Columbia Records have helpfully created a soundtrack album to go along with the series, so you can sing along with this unearthly band.
Netflix, Sept 11th
Comedian Katherine Ryan is known for her biting, quickfire wit, and it was inevitable that she’d end up scripting and starring in her own comedy series. Here, she plays someone not too far removed from her stage persona – unapologetic, confrontational and drop-dead funny. She plays a single mom living in London with her 10-year-old daughter Olive, whom she adores more than anything else in the world. Meanwhile, Olive’s dad Shep, an Irish former boyband star, is someone Katherine hates with a passion bordering on homicidal. But Katherine is soon thinking the unthinkable: having another baby with her loathsome ex. Dare she go back over old ground in the hope that lightning will strike twice, or should she just play it safe and have a kid with her current nice-guy partner? No prizes for guessing which way she’ll go.
Big Year in Big School
Virgin Media, Sept 13th
Children have gone back to a very changed school environment, but what is it like for the small ones starting their first year in school? Will all this handwashing, mask-wearing and social distancing just seem normal? Big Year in Big School looks at the “tears, tantrums and triumphs” in a class of four- and five-year-olds as they start school in the year of Covid-19, and looks at the impact home schooling during lockdown has had on both kids and parents.
Home: A Year in Ireland’s Housing Crisis
RTÉ, Sept 14th
Before the biggest public health crisis in 100 years, Ireland was in the throes of a housing crisis that was showing no signs of abating. When Covid-19 hit, it only exacerbated the problem, as work on building affordable homes stalled, and we had the bizarre situation where the Government had to tell landlords not to put their rents up or evict people. This documentary, filmed over the course of a year, looks at how Irish families have struggled to find a place they can call home in the midst of a pandemic. We meet a cross-section from Irish society as they navigate a hostile housing environment that seems skewed towards keeping people from ever owning their own home.
The Third Day
Sky Atlantic, Sept 15th
Jude Law visits a mysterious island off the coast of Britain, where the inhabitants engage in strange, sinister rituals and are hellbent on preserving their creepy, arcane traditions. Wait – is that a Wicker Man I see on yonder clifftop? This series isn’t giving much away, save that it boasts a starry cast that includes Emily Watson, Naomie Harris, Katherine Waterston and Paddy Considine. The format is also a bit unusual, in that its six episodes are split into two parts – “Summer” and “Winter”, with a special “live” episode in between called “Autumn”. Make no mistake, though, this will be creepy.
Netflix, Sept 18th
We still get the collywobbles recalling Louise Fletcher’s unforgettable turn as the sinister psychiatric nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Now, 45 years later, Nurse Ratched is back to haunt our waking moments in a new Netflix series starring Sarah Paulson as the monstrous matron.This is an “origin story” of sorts, beginning just after the war, when young Mildred Ratched gets a job as a nurse at a leading psychiatric hospital in Northern California. The powers-that-be are impressed by her dedication to her job, but turns out she’s more Florence Frightengale, and it’s not long before she’s gleefully joining in on some very dodgy experiments on patients’ minds.
Amazon Prime, Sept 25th
We disdain those who subscribe to conspiracy theories, but when it comes to telly viewing, we eagerly flock like sheep to watch the most outrageously implausible conspiracy thriller the human imagination can conjure up. Utopia is catnip for conspiracy buffs, and it revolves around a group of youngsters who bond over their shared obsession with a comic book entitled Utopia. It’s supposedly a fictional comic, but when some of the apocalyptic events detailed within its inked panels start happening in real life – including, naturally, a global pandemic that starts off as a harmless “flu” – the fans begin to suspect there’s a bigger, more sinister picture hidden within the comic’s pages. John Cusack stars as Dr Kevin Christie in his first regular TV role. Welcome to the small screen, Mr Cusack.
The Comey Rule
Sky Atlantic, Sept 30th
How much are we looking forward to this two-part drama based on the bestselling book by former FBI director James Comey? A LOT. Especially since it stars our own Brendan Gleeson as US president Donald Trump, along with Jeff Daniels as Comey, making this a must-see political thriller. Gleeson’s portrayal of Trump has been hailed as going beyond the usual comic caricature to nail the dark, amoral heart of the 45th president. The action centres around the fraught relationship between the two men during the early days of the Trump presidency, and pulls no punches in detailing the White House’s descent into lawlessness under its new incumbent. Will this put the final nail in the coffin for Trump’s re-election? I’m keeping my tiny little fingers crossed.
The Great British Bake Off
Channel 4, Sept
Bake off is back, and celebrating the spirit of lockdown, when families across the UK got out the oven gloves and baked their way through the pandemic. The new series will open with a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Great British Flour Shortage, with clips of families hunting high and low for the precious powder. Social distancing rules mean many changes to the production, with filming moved to a remote location and cast and crew having to remain in “quarantine bubbles”, but we’re promised it won’t look much different on screen, and of course those lovely buns and pastries will look just as colourful and appetising. You might notice, though, that Sandi Toksvig seems to have lost all her hair. That’s because it’s not Sandi Toksvig, who left the show after the last series, but her replacement on the show, Little Britain star Matt Lucas.
Emily in Paris
Netflix, Oct 2nd
Looking for a gritty drama about the struggles of a young woman trying to survive on the mean streets of Paris? Sashay on by, dahling, because this new Netflix series is high-end all the way, with Champagne running like tapwater and outfits that will never see the inside of a thrift store. This new series is created by Darren Star, the man behind Sex and the City, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210, and he doesn’t do downmarket. Lily Collins plays the titular Emily, an ambitious twentysomething from Chicago who lands her dream job in the French capital, developing the social media strategy of a French luxury brand marketing company. But it’s not all rosy in the jardin – her new bosses are a bit sniffy about her brash American style of marketing, and there’s bound to be boyfriend trouble in a city filled with smooth-talking, bestubbled hunks.
Strictly Come Dancing
BBC One, Oct 24th (Final December 19th)
Alas, there will be no Dancing with the Stars on RTÉ next spring, due to the constraints on TV production imposed by the pandemic, but fear not: there’s still a terpsichorean tournament to look forward to, as Strictly announces its return. The BBC seems to have found a way to allow the show to go ahead under strict Covid-19 guidelines, and have already announced some of the celebrity contestants, including actor Caroline Quentin, former boyband star Max George and Olympic boxer Nicola Adams, who will be part of the show’s first-ever same-sex dance partnership. Quentin is well known for roles in Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek – let’s hope her dancing is anything but creaky. George used to be in The Wanted – will the viewers want him to stay? At the time of writing, comedian Bill Bailey has also been confirmed for the show – we’ll be fervently hoping he does his famous Teutonic techno routine, Das Hokey-Cokey.
Sky Atlantic & Now TV, Oct 26th
How’s this for a totally original pitch? Woman is in a seemingly perfect marriage, but when her husband goes missing, woman’s life begins to unravel as all sorts of secrets come to the surface, and she begins to wonder if she ever really knew this man at all. Yeah, The Undoing may sound like an old yarn (it’s based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz), but Nicole Kidman is sure to add some edginess to her role as high-flying therapist Grace Fraser, whose life comes crashing to earth after her husband, Jonathan (Hugh Grant) disappears, leaving a string of very public disasters in his wake. Grace must marshal all her wits to survive in this hostile new reality, and get to the truth about what’s really going on. Believe, me, luv, it’s a conspiracy.
Brave New World
Sky One, Oct
Imagine a world where everyone looks the same, pop no end of happy pills and has sex with anyone they like. Yes, the students are all going back to college… but I digress. Brave New World is a futuristic new series based on Aldous Huxley’s classic dystopian novel. The series is set in a socially engineered utopia of New London, where everyone is in their place and everybody is happy. But beyond New London is a place called the Savage Lands, which looks more like downtown Detroit. On an adventure trip to the Savage Lands, one of New London’s perfect couples encounter John the Savage (Alden Ehrenreich) and bring him back to experience their precisely programmed paradise. Cue culture clash of apocalyptic proportions.
Disney +, Oct
The first series of the Mandalorian swooped in just as lockdown began, giving grateful parents something for keep their kids occupied while they went on a Zoom meeting. The first live-action series based on Star Wars is, at its heart, an old-fashioned western about a be-helmeted gunslinger trying to bring Baby Yoda to safety in a lawless galaxy. Even the fab theme music evoked the spirit of spaghetti westerns. Kids – and grown-ups – will be eagerly awaiting the second series. Get those Zoom meetings scheduled now, mum and dad.
Netflix, Nov 15th
How did Netflix turn the story of the British royal family into a riveting series that has proven a huge hit with subscribers? It’s not as if viewers don’t already know all there is to know about the Windsors. But by simply and sumptuously re-enacting this familiar saga, the producers have captured our imaginations, and each time a new series is announced, there’s always a buzz about who might be joining the cast. For this fourth series, Gillian Anderson takes the role of prime minister Margaret Thatcher (now, that’s an unusual casting to put in the X-Files) but who will be playing Prince Charles’s bride-to-be, Lady Diana Spencer? Relative newcomer Emma Corrin will play the young princess, but this role is sure to make her a big star. This chapter covers the early 1980s, when the queen (Olivia Colman) is looking to give the British people bread and circuses with a royal wedding, just as new PM Maggie is putting the jackboot into the unions, and taking Britain to war with the “Argies” over the Falkland Islands.
Sky Atlantic, Nov
Tim Roth returns as haunted cop Jack Worth for the third and final series of the cop thriller, but don’t be expecting a return to the wide-open spaces of the Canadian Rockies. Season three sees Jack and his family leaving Little Big Bear to return home to Liverpool. Why is he going back? To face the demons that drove him out of the place 20 years ago, and also perhaps to take down ruthless local criminal Michael Ryan, who has gained a stranglehold in the city while presenting himself as a legit businessman. Ian Hart plays Ryan, with Genevieve O’Reilly returning as Jack’s wife, Angela, and Abigail Lawrie as their daughter, Anna.
BBC One, TBC
Hugh Laurie stars in a new political thriller about a Conservative politician, Peter Lawrence, whose life unravels amid ever-deepening scandals and personal revelations. Laurence is corrupt, cheating and treacherous – and totally shameless. As his enemies close in on him, he doubles down on the dastardly deeds, hellbent on furthering his career and taking down anyone who gets in his way. Any relation to real-life Tory politicians is totally coincidental, I’m sure. If Laurie in the lead role isn’t enough to have you jumping on the Lawrence Bus, then the starry supporting cast, which includes Helen McCrory from Peaky Blinders, Sidse Babett Knudsen from Westworld and Sarah Greene from Dublin Murders and Normal People, should seal the deal.
The world of Victorian Dublin is brought to life in this period drama doubling up as a macabre murder mystery. Michael Smiley plays photographer Brock Blennerhasset, whose speciality is memorial photography, ie, taking staged portraits of dead people. The bizarre fad for postmortem portraits seriously took off in Ireland in the 1880s, and people queued up to have their deceased loved ones dolled up and propped up in a chair to have their picture taken before making their final journey. Demand for Blennerhasset’s services go through the roof, but he’s got a rival – except that this person is actually killing people before taking their picture. Written by John Morton and Imogen Murphy, and co-starring Norma Sheahan, Eileen O’Higgins and Aidan O’Hare co-star, this six-parter has the bones of a morbidly funny series.
Amy Huberman returns as flaky Joy in the second season of the warm-hearted comedy, all about one Irish woman’s quest for peace, love and whatevs. The first series was a bit Bridget Jones-ish, with the hapless Joy working as a vlogger and being thrown into all sorts of mad situations without a parachute. Hopefully the second series will find its own voice, as Joy sets out to become an entrepreneur, trying to build up her online life coaching brand, and trying not to end up finding trouble. Pat Shortt will be joining the cast for season two, but what we want to know is, will Aidan the talking dog be back on board?
DIY SOS: The Big Build
If you’re looking for a guaranteed viewer-magnet, then retooling a reality show format from overseas seems to work a treat, as Gogglebox Ireland and The Voice Ireland have proven. The Big Build, presented by Nick Knowles, is ripe for an Irish telly reconfiguration thanks to our national obsession with property and endless curiosity about other people’s homes. Baz Ashmawy presents the Irish version, and the premise is the same – a deserving family is chosen to receive a house renovation, and Baz and his team have just nine days to complete the job. Now if someone can come up with a programme where families are actually given a home…
Channel 4, TBC
This hardcore drama set in the world of porn is sure to get tongues wagging on Twitter, with graphic sex scenes and uncomfortable portrayals of exploitation. The series stars Hayley Squires as British porn queen Jolene Dollar, who has reached the top of her profession while trying to maintain an ordinary life for her three children. But things are changing in the adult industry – people expect to get their kicks free on the web, and adult film-makers have to get their actors to perform more extreme acts to persuade punters to pay up. After an encounter with young starlet Amy on set, Jolene’s life and career begin to unravel. Rupert Everett co-stars as porn mogul Carroll Quinn.
Sky Atlantic, TBC
Julia Stiles returns as poor little rich wife Georgina in the third series of this sumptuous dama set in the most lavish locations known to humanity. Originally created by Neil Jordan and co-written by Jordan and John Banville, the series follows newly widowed Georgina as she tries to survive in the cut-throat world of oligarchs and art thieves. Jordan disowned the series after he said gratuitous sex scenes and expository dialogue had been added. I agree – that expository dialogue should go. There is also lots of moody gazing into moonlit marinas filled with zillion-dollar yachts, and lots of meaningful looks across art galleries and terrazzos. In this third series, Georgina is now a “rising star in international art restitution” and is on the hunt for stolen artworks with help from her new ally, Gabriel (Rupert Graves).
Finding Jack Charlton
Virgin Media, TBC
Football fans mourned the passing of Big Jack in July at the age of 85, and rightly hailed his role in taking the Republic of Ireland soccer team onto the international arena. This documentary doesn’t dwell too much on Italia ‘90, but focuses on the final 18 months of Charlton’s life, when he lived with dementia. The programme will offer “an intimate and compelling insight into Jack and the challenge faced by thousands of families universally”, with contributions from his wife, Pat, and son John, and many other people from Charlton’s life and career.
Amazon Prime, TBC
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team up again for a new sitcom, going back to the small screen following a string of cult films such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Paul and The World’s End. This one is set in the world of ghost-hunters, the kind you see on telly in such shows as World’s Most Haunted Cowsheds or whatever. In this series, Frost is a paranormal investigator who uncovers a conspiracy theory bigger than anything Ghostbusters could come up with. If you can’t wait, catch Pegg and Frost’s classic comedy series Spaced, available on Netflix right now.