Donald Glover’s thrillingly experimental and always groundbreaking show bows out on a high with perhaps the most trippy adventures for Earn and the gang. As usual, there are standalone episodes – a standout being a mockumentary about an animator who accidentally takes over Disney and wants to make “the Blackest movie of all time”. But Earn, Van, Al and Darius are back in Atlanta for this final season, being stalked and shot at when they’re just trying to eat some Popeyes chicken, or go for a session in a sensory deprivation tank. Will it all end up being a dream?
• Disney+, out now
Sgt Catherine Cawood is happier than ever, and has just bought a Jeep so she can drive to the Himalayas when she retires. But she’s got seven months to go on the force till then – and the evil Tommy Lee Royce is back on the scene. Things couldn’t possibly take a downturn, could they? It’s been six years since the last series of Sally Wainwright’s state-of-the-nation masterwork, and this is confirmed as its last. Brace yourself for a brutal final innings.
• BBC, 1 January
The Last of Us
The video game The Last of Us, about two human survivors suffering through a zombie plague, was an immediate all-time classic, thanks to its heavy emphasis on interpersonal relationships over the instant gratification of a quick kill. The television adaptation is being handled by Craig Mazin, who worked absolute wonders with Chernobyl. Let’s hope he does the same here.
• Sky Atlantic, January
Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World
Executive-produced by Chuck D, Fight the Power might just be the definitive history of hip-hop as a force for cultural change. A mix of first-hand accounts from rap pioneers, such as Ice-T and Run DMC, and archive footage of what will be remembered as a keystone era of race relations in US history, this could well be the best evidence yet that, for a while, rap really was “the Black CNN”.
• BBC Two, January
Imagine a world in which everyone has a superpower bar you. At the age of 18, everyone starts being able to walk through walls, commune with the dead, morph into a cat, or trigger an orgasm with a single touch. This fresh, witty comedy from first-time TV writer Emma Moran, and created by Killing Eve’s producers, introduces us to Jen, who remains powerless at the age of 25 and is desperate to discover her gift, at any cost.
• Disney+, January
Pamela, A Love Story
From Playboy star to Baywatch queen and tabloid fodder, it’s been a wild ride for Pamela Anderson. And though we lapped up the drama Pam & Tommy, the revelation that Pammy did not consent to the show in any way did leave a foul taste in the mouth. Now, this intimate documentary made with her full permission – and featuring frank interviews – is her chance to share her own story. Bring it on.
• Netflix, January
The cynical way to sell Shrinking would be “Indiana Jones does Ted Lasso”, since it stars Harrison Ford and is created by Lasso’s Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein (along with Jason Segel). The premise – a therapist has an epiphany and starts telling patients what he really thinks of them – might not seem the most original, but the sheer talent of all involved should make up for that.
• Apple TV+, January
Fleishman Is in Trouble
This ace adaptation of the hit novel is part thriller about a man whose wife goes off to a yoga camp then mysteriously ditches him and their kids, part sad and searching look at the harrowing tedium of middle age and suburbia. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Claire Danes, Lizzy Caplan and Adam Brody, it’s propulsive and very funny – the Manhattan trust fund parents pitying Toby Fleishman for being just a doctor is spot on. People of a certain age will never have felt so seen.
• Disney+, February
Russell T Davies’s three-part drama is based on the life of Noele Gordon, who played Meg Mortimer on the soap opera Crossroads for 17 years. That may not sound particularly compelling, but Helena Bonham Carter is playing Gordon, and Davies very rarely misfires.
• ITVX, February
We thought it was dead. Then it moved to Channel 5. Then we thought it was dead again. But now, finally, Big Brother is returning, this time on ITV. Big Brother is now such a mainstay that everyone knows what to expect of it – housemates, evictions, diary rooms, fighting, sex, occasional explicit acts with wine bottles – but by this point that’s all part of its charm.
• ITV, March
Now that every third new release is a spin-off of an earlier show, there’s something refreshing about the return of Frasier. After all, it was one of the first to prove that a peripheral character from one series had the capacity to make a far better one. The big question: can Frasier do it twice? Not much is known about his return – only that none of the supporting cast are returning – but we should all cross everything.
Based on Naomi Alderman’s novel, The Power is a series in which Toni Collette’s progressive politician battles through a world in which (brace yourself) all teenage girls have been mysteriously equipped with the ability to electrocute people at will. It might be the most bizarre premise of the year, but that just makes The Power all the more exciting.
• Prime Video
Lee Sung Jin has written on plenty of amazing comedies, from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to Tuca & Bertie, and now he has created this A24 series. The show follows “two people who find themselves involved in a road rage incident that begins to consume every thought and action of their lives”. It stars Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, which is always a great sign.
With his impressively taut thriller Guilt, Neil Forsyth proved that he is one of the UK’s most gifted writers. He follows it up with The Gold, a bigger and brasher drama about the 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery in which £26m of gold bullion was swiped from a London depot. Hugh Bonneville, Jack Lowden, Dominic Cooper and Charlotte Spencer star.
Candice Carty-Williams’s debut novel – about a young British-Jamaican woman lurching between bad decisions following a breakup – was an instant sensation upon its release in 2019, winning the British book of the year. Now, Carty-Williams has adapted her own book for the screen. Queenie’s many fans will be thrilled.
• Channel 4
No amount of preparation will fully insulate you against Best Interests. Written by Jack Thorne, this is a four-part drama about a couple who decide to attempt to keep their daughter alive against all medical advice. The couple are played by Sharon Horgan and Michael Sheen, and the whole thing seems destined to rip you apart.
Fifteen-Love is made by World Productions, responsible for gaspingly tense dramas such as Vigil and Line of Duty. However, it is set in the world of professional tennis. The story concerns a former player who makes an explosive accusation about her former coach, played by Aidan Turner. God, it’s going to be another nailbiter, isn’t it?
• Prime Video
A “comedy about a menopausal mother of two looking to reclaim her identity”, there are lots of reasons to be excited about The Change. It stars (and is written by) Bridget Christie, and concerns a 50-year-old woman who sacks off a life of invisible work in favour of riding motorbikes around the Forest of Dean. Brilliant.
• Channel 4
Sam Levinson is responsible for Euphoria, the sex-and-drugs teen drama best described as: “What if it were Skins, but much more?” The Idol – Levinson’s follow-up, co-created with The Weeknd – sounds even more outrageous. There’s the same focus on sex and drugs, but this time set against the backdrop of a self-help guru’s cult. Plus it stars Lily-Rose Depp. Expect lots of maximalist thrills.
• Sky Atlantic
Squid Game: The Challenge
Squid Game was a landmark drama for Netflix, in terms of cultural penetration and in the normalisation of subtitled television for English speakers. A second series is still some way off, so Netflix’s potentially dodgy plan B is to stage the show for real, with actual people (but, hopefully, much less death). Potentially the car crash of the year.
The sheer speed at which Steven Knight can turn out fully formed films and TV shows is staggering. Most other writers would still be basking in the glory of SAS Rogue Heroes, but not Knight. Instead, he’s written a six-part drama series about the ska movement that swept through the Midlands in the 1970s. It is apparently also a “high-octane thriller”. Who knew?
Lisa Taddeo’s 2019 book is a work of nonfiction, but parts read like a steamy potboiler. It covers the lives of, you guessed it, three women, each going through their own sex-related crisis. (One is a teenage rape survivor, one had an affair with a teacher, one has sex with people while her husband watches). Now, inevitably, it is a drama series. Shailene Woodley, DeWanda Wise and Betty Gilpin star.
Masters of the Air
The completion of a trilogy two decades in the making, Steven Spielberg’s Masters of the Air follows the blockbuster double-bill of Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Like those shows, this is an ambitious, soaring second world war drama – this time about the air force – with a sprawling cast filled with people who will one day become household names. Hopes are sky high for this one.
• Apple TV+
Three Little Birds
Lenny Henry makes his showrunner debut with this six-part Windrush drama, inspired in part by the life of his mother, who immigrated to Dudley from Jamaica before he was born. “I hope the show will make you laugh and cry and understand how it was for those men and women to swap the sun and the sea for the rain and the cold,” Henry has said. If there was ever a time for Three Little Birds, it is now.
When it arrives in spring, Succession’s fourth season is pretty much guaranteed to be the biggest thing on television. We left the Roys in an even more dismal state of disarray than usual, and there is bound to be blood on the boardroom floor. Let’s just hope Tom Wambsgans makes it out alive.
• Sky Atlantic, spring
The Gallows Pole
If the phrase “Shane Meadows period drama” gives you vertigo, brace yourself. Meadows has adapted Benjamin Myers’s novel about a huge worker-led fraud that took place at the dawn of the industrial revolution. Expect all the things Meadows does well – social commentary, unvarnished drama – but with much worse teeth.
A second new show by Queenie’s Candice Carty-Williams, Champion has been described as “a love letter to Black British music set in south London” and, if it maintains the writer’s precise eye for detail, has the potential to be absolutely brilliant.
You & Me
Before he upped and ran back to Doctor Who, Russell T Davies executive-produced this three-part drama. ITV describes it as “a quintessentially modern love story shot through with the twists, turns and surprises of a gripping thriller”. It isn’t written by Davies – that role goes to Casualty actor Jamie Davis – but it stars Harry Lawtey of Industry fame and sounds like it has ambition by the truckload.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
Bridgerton has been such a soaraway success for Netflix that a Bridgerton Extended Universe was inevitable. Its first branching out is Queen Charlotte, a prequel about the rise of (that’s right) Queen Charlotte. If it works, expect many, many more similar shows in the coming years.
The world needs more superheroes like it needs to be kicked in the face by a horse, but Supacell might just be the exception. It’s a show (created by Rapman, creator of YouTube’s Blue Story and its subsequent movie) about various Black people from south London adjusting to the fact that they suddenly have superpowers. Think Heroes meets Misfits and you’re on the right lines.
Cash Carraway, writer of 2020’s Skint Estate: Notes from the Poverty Line, has now written Rain Dogs, a “wild and punky tale of a mother’s love for her daughter, of deep-rooted and passionate friendships, and of brilliance thwarted by poverty and prejudice”. It’s got Daisy May Cooper in it, too, which is promising.
From Clerkenwell Films, responsible for the staggering Somewhere Boy, comes Truelove. Julie Walters plays a retired police officer who meets old flame Clarke Peters at a funeral. Which sounds sweet, except it turns out that Truelove is actually a drama about the reality of assisted suicide. Channel 4 promises that it is “darkly funny”, which should lighten the load somewhat.
• Channel 4
The previous season of Feud, about the toxic relationship between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, was a hoot and a half. Season two, which concerns Truman Capote’s unfinished novel Answered Prayers and how it dropped a bomb on New York society by mockingly dishing the dirt on his friends, looks likely to be the same. Tom Hollander, Calista Flockhart, Diane Lane, Naomi Watts, Chloë Sevigny and Demi Moore star.
Get Millie Black
Acclaimed author Marlon James’s first television series follows a police officer who is forced out of her job at Scotland Yard and ends up working with the Jamaican Police Force investigating missing people. One of her investigations, however, brings her right back to London. Potentially one of the shows of the year.
• Channel 4
The easiest sell in the entire history of television, Kaos is a show where Jeff Goldblum plays Zeus. There’s more to it than that – there are humans and an ancient prophecy, and what sounds like strong thematic links to Simon Rich’s criminally underwatched Miracle Workers – but mainly Jeff Goldblum plays Zeus. You’re already in. Stop fighting it.