The TV To Watch This Autumn
Ten excellent reasons to stay in over the coming months
Mr James Franco in The Deuce. Photograph by Mr Paul Schiraldi/HBO
The end of summer used to be melancholy. It was a time for reflection – on love affairs lost, the inexorable passage of time and other such autumny business. Happily, great TV has changed all that, encouraging us to pack in the poetry and reach for the remote instead. Now, as the nights close in, the cultured retreat too, retiring to their sofas to totally immerse themselves in the finest entertainment the 21st century has to offer. This autumn’s offering proves the television age is still as golden as a September beech. With several returning greats to look forward to, plus brand-new series in every conceivable genre, someone needs to narrow down your options. Here, then, are 10 utterly unmissable shows to see you through until Christmas.
Curb your enthusiasm
Messrs Larry David and JB Smoove in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Photograph by HBO
Best for fans of The Trip
It’s impossible to overstate Seinfeld co-creator Mr Larry David’s influence on TV comedy. Even Mr David himself, at his most self-aggrandising – remember when he was a car salesman? – couldn’t do it. He invented the concept of a comedian playing a version of themselves (see Louie, Master Of None and The Trip) and captured a certain sort of Los Angeles milieu for the first time (since seen in Entourage and Transparent). Now – after a six-year hiatus that, at one point, looked permanent – he’s back with new episodes that look pretty, pretty good. We’re half-tempted to adopt his upscale schlub uniform of slacks, baggy blazer and worn-in baseball cap in tribute.
From 2 October, Sky Atlantic
Ms Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Deuce. Photograph by Mr Paul Schiraldi/HBO
Best for fans of The Wire
Mr David Simon hasn’t been idle since the end of his superlative crime drama The Wire aired nearly a decade ago, but The Deuce is the first show since that can match it in both scale and ambition. Set at the dawn of the legalisation of porn in 1970s New York, it’s an all-encompassing portrait of a fascinating and freaky age. Ms Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mr James Franco and Method Man all feature in the huge cast of pimps, prostitutes, cops and con men, and you’re about to fall madly, inappropriately in love with every one of them.
Out now, Sky Atlantic
Messrs Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp in Stranger Things. Photograph by Mr Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix
Best for fans of Stranger Things Season 1
The sleeper hit of last year won us over with 1980s period detail so spot-on you could easily be fooled into thinking you were watching lost footage from The Goonies, or a spin-off of A Nightmare On Elm Street. And yes, that detail does include the ageless Ms Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, Will’s panicked mother, determined to rescue her son from the Upside Down (google it). Anticipation levels are high for this second season, which takes place within a few days of Halloween in 1984, and also features Mr Sean Astin (aka Mikey from the actual Goonies).
From 27 October, Netflix
Mr Bryan Cranston in Electric Dreams. Photograph by Mr Thomas Lovelock/Channel 4
Best for fans of Black Mirror
Breaking Bad’s Mr Bryan Cranston is a hardcore fanboy of Mr Philip K Dick. So seriously does he dig the sci-fi writer behind Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and The Man In The High Castle, that’s he’s exec-produced this collection of brand-new screen adaptations. Each hour-long episode is a self-contained mini-movie with its own style and stars. And when we say “stars”, we mean it: the cast includes Mr Steve Buscemi, Ms Julia Davis, Mr Terrence Howard, Mr Timothy Spall, Ms Anna Paquin and Ms Juno Temple, plus Mr Cranston himself. (Black Mirror loyalists should note that Mr Charlie Brooker’s show is also due back in November, with an episode directed by Ms Jodie Foster, no less.)
Out now, Channel 4
Mr Damson Idris in Snowfall. Photograph by Fox/BBC
Best for fans of Narcos
Boyz N The Hood’s Mr John Singleton is the latest high-profile movie director to explore his opportunities in television. This 10-part series sees him back in south LA, this time dramatising the impact of crack cocaine on American lives from its earliest days – y’know, before it turned “whack”. South Londoner and Man U supporter Mr Damson Idris stars as 19-year-old dealer Franklin Saint, but Snowfall isn’t only a story told at street level; we’ll also be meeting CIA operative Teddy McDonald (Mr Carter Hudson) and psychotic Israeli crime kingpin Avi Drexler (Mr Alon Aboutboul).
Coming soon, BBC Two
The Child In Time
Mr Benedict Cumberbatch in The Child In Time. Photograph by Mr Laurie Sparham/Pinewood Television/Sunny March/BBC
Best for fans of The Leftovers
The prospect of spending an evening witnessing the mental unravelling of a man whose wife left him after their child was kidnapped might sound like unmitigated masochism. But that’s only until you’ve been apprised of the talent involved. This stand-alone film is adapted from the Whitbread Award-winning novel by Mr Ian McEwan (of the transcendently sad Atonement and On Chesil Beach) and stars Mr Benedict Cumberbatch and Ms Kelly Macdonald as the troubled central couple. Sad? Yes. Depressing? No.
Out now, BBC iPlayer
Ms Gaby Hoffmann and Mr Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent. Photograph by Amazon Prime
Best for fans of Six Feet Under
Amazon’s most truly original “Original” enters its fourth run, with the Pfefferman family still intent on their individual, and sometimes clashing, voyages of self-discovery. This was all instigated by the season-one decision of parent Mort/Maura to transition from the male identity assigned her at birth to a kaftan-wearing California woman. These characters are funny, poignant and sometimes infuriating, but the family dynamics are universal. The result is a show that could turn even the most boorish neanderthal into a 21st-century woke bloke.
Out now, Amazon Prime
Star Trek: Discovery
Mses Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery. Photograph by Mr Jan Thijs/Netflix. © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved
Best for fans of Futurama
The Walking Dead’s Ms Sonequa Martin-Green stars as a Vulcan-raised human and Starfleet officer in this brand-new series set roughly a decade before Captain Kirk set foot on the Enterprise. The plot nominally concerns the cold war between the Federation and the Klingons, but you should be far more concerned with catching a glimpse of Brit actor Mr Jason Isaacs in the midst of his, as yet, little-lauded “Jasonaissance”. He plays the USS Discovery’s Captain Gabriel Lorca, a role he winningly described as “probably more fucked up than any [of the previous Star Trek captains]”. He also reportedly improvised his own “Make it so”-style catchphrase, which was hastily nixed by the show’s writers.
Out now, Netflix
Mr Richard Dormer in Rellik. Photograph by Mr Joss Barratt/New Pictures/BBC
Best for fans of The Missing
The impressively prolific writers Messrs Harry and Jack Williams achieved a major coup when the second series of The Missing somehow managed to improve on its first, extremely well-received, outing. It’s a measure of the writer brothers’ huge popularity that this twisty-turny police procedural is one of two dramas by them out this autumn (psychological thriller Liar is airing concurrently on ITV). Mr Richard Dormer, best known as the eye-patch-wearing Beric Dondarrion in Game Of Thrones, plays DCI Gabriel Markham, a detective on the hunt for a serial killer. The story is told in reverse (“Rellik” is “killer” backwards, geddit?) which, in any other hands, might be an annoying gimmick. When these guys do it, it’s genius.
Out now, BBC One
Ms Liv Tyler and Messrs Edward Holcroft and Kit Harington in Gunpowder. Photograph by Mr Robert Viglaski/Kudos/BBC
Best for fans of Game Of Thrones
It turns out Jon Snow (aka Mr Kit Harington) does know something after all: how to bag himself a lead role in the most explosive costume drama of the season. He plays the mastermind of the 1605 gunpowder plot, Mr Robert Catesby (who is actually Mr Harington’s ancestor, on his mother’s side), while Downton Abbey’s Mr Tom Cullen plays Mr Guy Fawkes, the military veteran enlisted by Mr Catesby to do his dirty work. Ms Liv Tyler and Messrs Peter Mullan and Mark Gatiss all have supporting roles, which makes Gunpowder easily the most elegantly understated way to mark Bonfire Night this year. Supply your own sparklers, as required.
Coming soon, BBC One