With no end to the lockdown in sight, one thing is clear – we’re all going to watch a lot of TV at the beginning of the year – there’s plenty of variety, at least for now, with terrestrial and digital networks providing everything from revolutionary to comfort TV. With Richard Warlow’s meandering The Serpent, which follows the true story of serial killer Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) and the man who became obsessed with tracking him down, Dutch embassy officer Herman Knippenberg, the BBC kicked off Friday’s new year in style (Billy Howle).
It continues tonight and airs weekly on Sundays at 9 p.m. An atmospheric long-running drama with a wonderful sense of 1970s atmosphere, Warlow’s drama kicks off a solid BBC spring schedule. Fans of Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty mega-series will be glad to know that shooting wrapped before the new rules came into effect, and later this spring, a suitably convoluted sixth season starring Kelly Macdonald as the youngest heroine of AC-12 will air. Mercurio has also nurtured younger actors, and the first fruits can be seen later this year with the release of Chris Brandon’s Northern Irish crime thriller Bloodlands, featuring James Nesbitt as a detective investigating a cold case revolving around a “legendary assassin.” The headline-grabbing film adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s comedy about love is also coming in the spring. In Ridley Lane, Sarah Solemani’s adaptation of Jo Bloom’s acclaimed novel about a young hairdresser (newcomer Aggi O’Casey) who gets involved in the war against fascism in the early 1960s, contemporary charm of a very different kind is on show. With Andrew Haigh taking on The North Water, Ian McGuire’s Booker-listed novel about an ill-fated whaling voyage in the 1850s, BBC Two provides a somewhat different adaptation for high drama and cold seas.
Colin Farrell, Jack O’Connell, Stephen Graham and Tom Courtenay are part of the stellar cast.
Vigil, written by Strike’s Tom Edge, follows detective Suranne Jones closer to home as she investigates the ties between the disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler and a death on a nuclear submarine in Trident. Before that, the lockdown comedy Staged by David Tennant and Michael Sheen returns for another episode of amusing tedium, while BBC Three promises another form of entertainment with Superhoe, in which her funny and moving one-woman show about sex workers is adapted by the hugely talented Nicôle Lecky. ITV also has crime on its mind, beginning the year with The Pembrokeshire Murders, a three-part true-crime story.
Later, in the fourth season of cold-case drama Unforgotten, there’s another foray into the Port, as well as Nicola Walker and her weary despair.
In the third season of the hilariously drawn yet oddly convincing Marcella, Anna Friel can be seen, now with the inclusion of Belfast. Viewpoint, featuring Noel Clarke as a surveillance officer who is in a tense relationship with the single mother (Alexandra Roach) whose house he seizes, aims to serve up a timely slice of paranoia, while Finding Alice, starring Keeley Hawes, features a widow after her husband’s death uncovering dark secrets. With Russell T Davies’ brilliant It’s A Sin, which follows a group of young friends through London’s 1980s AIDS crisis, Channel 4 has the first five-star drama of the year. C4 reveals The Great before that, a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek exploration of the rise of Catherine the Great, written by Tony McNamara (The Favourite), with a stunning performance by Nicholas Hoult as Tsar Peter III. After a long absence, Black comedy Back returns with David Mitchell’s Stephen still dealing with the odious Andrew (Robert Webb). New comedies include Frank of Ireland, written as a misanthropic tragedy by Domhnall and Brian Gleeson and starring Brian, and Lady Bits, written by the talented Nida Manzoor (Hounslow Diaries), followed by a young Muslim punk band. With the thrillers Deadline and Teacher, Channel 5 continues to develop its drama component, joining the well-received historical drama Anne Boleyn, with rising star Jodie Turner-Smith in the title role. Those seeking a true slice of comfort TV should remember that for a second season, All Creatures Great and Small returns. Streaming Channels Dominate