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Boyd Hilton’s Pick of Top TV Shows of 2023

Your 2023 watch list is sorted. Boyd Hilton, Entertainment Director at Heat magazine, Contributing Editor of Empire Magazine, and bona fide TV addict gives his selection of the upcoming shows that you don’t want to miss.

The Change - Channel 4

It’s about time top stand-up Bridget Christie had her own show and now we don’t have long to wait for this comedy series in which she stars as Linda, a 50-year-old working class married mother of two having an existential crisis when she realises she’s going through the menopause. Her response is to dust off the Triumph motorbike she hasn’t ridden in 30 years, to set off on an adventure to The Forest of Dean. During her personal odyssey she meets an angry local radio presenter and a mysterious man who lives in the woods with the wild boar, among others.

Truelove - Channel 4

From Humans screenwriter Iain Weatherby and The End Of The F***king World’s creator Charlie Covell comes this eye-catching six-part drama focusing unusually on a gaggle of characters in their 60s and 70s, led by Julia Walters as a retired senior police chief and Clarke Peters as an ex-special forces operative. At a reunion with a bunch of their old friends, they make a drunken pact to help each other avoid a painful death and pass away with dignity. Described as “a darkly comic thriller”, the fab cast also features Sue Johnston, Phil Davis and Peter Egan.

The Curse Series 2 - Channel 4

Series one of this heist comedy was a mix of dazzlingly talented comedy writers and actors from People Just Do Nothing (Steve Stamp, Allan Mustafa, Hugo Chegwin) and King Gary (Tom Davis and co-writer/director James De Frond), and the result was comedy gold. This year series two promises to be even more inventive and outrageous as the gang are now living on the Costa del Sol, aka the Costa Del Crime, dabbling in the hotel and restaurant business. Until big Tom Davis’s brilliant creation Big Mick shows up and threatens to ruin everything with his big mouth. 

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The Curse Series 2 on Channel 4 

Before We Die Series 2 - Channel 4

This complex and compelling crime drama returns after a first series which was based quite closely on a Swedish show. For the second season, we’re promised a storyline which will take the characters in a whole different direction, away from the original. The brilliant Lesley Sharp will return as detective Hannah Laing, who joins forces with fellow cop Billy Murdoch, played by Vincent Regan as she tries to protect her son Christian (Patrick Gibson from The OA) from the scary Dubravka, played by Kazia Pelka (World's End) the matriarch at the head of the Croatian Mimica crime family.

Big Boys Series 2 - Channel 4

Writer/narrator Jack Rooke’s funny and poignant comedy drama, based on his own experiences, was one of the TV highlights of 2022. This year we’re promised a bigger and even better second run, following the continued escapades of teenager Jack (Derry Girls’ Dylan Llewellyn) who lost his dad, went to university, came out as gay, and made a best friend in roommate Danny (Jonathan Pointing). As funny as it was, the revelation of the show was its handling of Danny’s mental health issues which was deeply moving and authentic. 

Maternal - ITV1

This six-part medical drama from writer Jacqui Honess-Martin could hardly be more topical, dealing as it does with the stress and anxiety of working in the NHS. ER’s Parminder Nagra stars as Maryam Afridi who’s returning to her job of Paediatric Registrar at the fictional City General Hospital, after maternity leave. The series follows her and her friends and colleagues Catherine (Lara Pulver, The Split), a General and Trauma Surgeon and Helen (Lisa McGrillis, Mum), a Registrar in Acute Medicine, as they try to cope with life on the post-pandemic frontline. 

Unforgotten Series 5 - ITV1

Fans of Chris Lang’s superb crime drama were devastated when Nicola Walker (who played much-loved and respected cop Cassie Stuart) left the show at the end of the last series, but it will be back soon with a fifth series, the first for the always-excellent Sinéad Keenan (Little Boy Blue), as DCI Jessica James, the new partner for detective Sunny (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and his legendary rucksack. Their first case together revolves round human remains found in a west London renovated property, but how will newbie Jessica cope with the pressure of living up to the pressure of her predecessor? 

Maternal
Maternal on ITV1

Nolly - ITVX and ITV1

For his first series since the magnificent triumph of It’s A Sin in 2021, Russell T Davies has decided to tell the intriguing true story of how the legendary actress Noele Gordon (aka “Nolly”) was summarily sacked from her role as Meg Mortimer in legendary ITV soap Crossroads. The drama sets out to answer the mystery of why Nolly, played by Helena Bonham Carter, was fired suddenly after decades in the show. It also stars Mark Gatiss, in an inspired bit of casting, as Nolly’s best friend, the iconic TV presenter and comedian Larry Grayson. It’s also going to be a love letter to Crossroads itself.

You And Me - ITVX and ITV1

Russell T Davies is a busy man. Not content with creating his new drama series Nolly (and returning to take charge of Doctor Who), he’s also exec produced this ambitious, unusual three-part contemporary love story. It stars Harry Lawtey (brilliant in BBC/HBO’s Industry) as Ben, a young northerner in London whose life is changed forever when disaster strikes on what should have been happiest of all days. Sophia Brown (Giri/Haji) plays Jess, the love of Ben’s life, and Jessica Barden (The End of the F***ing World) plays Emma, a rising theatre star. 

The Bay Series 4 - ITV1

One of the most under-rated of TV crime dramas, The Bay is back this year for its fourth series. Marsha Thomason (Cobra) returns as Morecambe CID Family Liaison Officer Jenn Townsend who this time has to deal with the death of a mother of four in what looks like a targeted attack. As usual with The Bay, we’ll get to know the members of the murder victim’s family and friends (played by the likes of Joe Armstrong (Gentleman Jack), Claire Goose (Waking The Dead), and Ian Puleston-Davies (Tin Star), while Townsend and her fellow cops try to work out who the suspects are. 

A Town Called Malice - Sky Max

This crime thriller is set in the Costa del Sol in the 1980s and looks like it will be mining that period’s music and fashions – it is named after a classic sing by The Jam after all – to create a vivid backdrop for action that plays out. The series follows the criminal escapades of the Lords - a family of former South London gangsters who’ve fallen on hard times and flee to the Costa del Sol. The excellent cast is led by Jason Flemyng (Save Me), with Jack Rowan (Born To Kill), Tahirah Sharif (The Haunting Of Bly Manor) and, most exciting of all, American icon Martha Plimpton (Parenthood). 

Dreamland - Sky Comedy

Lily Allen in a show based on a Sharon Horgan story? That’s the tantalising prospect of this series based on Sky’s 2018 BAFTA-winning short of the same name, written by Horgan. It’s a comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family of four sisters living in Margate. There’s eldest sister Trish (played by onetime Doctor Who companion Freema Agyeman) and her partner Spence (Kiell Smith- Bynoe of Ghosts fame), her two sisters Clare (Gabby Best) and Leila (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) and their other sister, Mel, played by Lily Allen, no less, who threatens to destabilise the entire family.

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Dreamland on Sky Comedy

Funny Woman - Sky Max

Based on Nicky Hornby’s 2016 best-selling novel <Funny Girl>, this comedy drama follows Barbara Parker (Gemma Arterton), who ditches her job in a Blackpool rock factory to go to London to follow her dreams. Not content with the inherently sexist ‘60s ideal of just looking pretty and having babies, Barbara wants to make her voice heard in the male-dominated world of the ‘60s sitcom, and become a star. Only it’s not so much a glass ceiling she hits, but a concrete one.

Succession Series 4 - Sky Atlantic

After a bleak year without new Succession episodes in 2022, the best show on TV is thankfully back in 2023 with a whole new fourth season to enthrall us. Yes, soon we’ll get to see new gloriously entertaining and tension-filled power plays between patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his four grown children, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Siobhan (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Connor (Alan Ruck). And now that Mathew Macfadyen’s magnificently oily Tom’s betrayal has been revealed, who knows how it will all play out, as slick tech dude Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) tries to take over the family business. 

Django - Sky Atlantic 

Loosely based on the classic Spaghetti Western film of the same name, this English-language series features a mouthwatering cast led by Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone) in the title role, with Noomi Rapace (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), Nicholas Pinnock (Top Boy) and Lisa Vicari (Dark). The story is set in the Wild West in the 1860s and 1870s when Sarah (Rapace) and John (Pinnock) have founded New Babylon, a city welcoming outcasts of all kinds. But Sarah’s father Django is looking for her, having seen the rest of his family destroyed. 

The Diplomat - Alibi

Filmed on location in Barcelona, this is a bold and ambitious new six-part drama for Alibi is from World Production (Line of Duty) and stars Sophie Rundle (Gentleman Jack, Peaky Blinders) as consular worker Laura Simmonds, doing her best to help British nationals who find themselves in trouble in the Catalan city. Created and written by Ben Richards (Cobra), the series begins with the unexplained death of a British barman working in the marina. Turns out the crime may be linked to organised crime, and the British security services. The ensemble cast also includes Danny Sapani, Steven Cree, Isak Férriz and Philipp Boos.

Meet The Richardsons Series 4 - Dave

Jon Richardson and his wife Lucy Beaumont have become a bit of a cultural phenomenon and a lot of that is down to the success of this hugely entertaining faux documentary series which purports to show us insights into the real-life couple’s everyday lives. Now there’s a fourth series of ten new episodes on the way, written as ever by Beaumont and Car Share’s Tim Reid, and there are bound to be spectacular new appearances by famous people playing themselves, following on from the likes of David Tennant and Johnny Vegas.

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Meet The Richardsons on Dave

Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over USA - W

Award-winning documentary maker Stacey Dooley takes her successful W series to the States for this new, fourth series of Sleeps Over, in which she will be hanging out with a variety of fascinating families. She’ll meet a nine year old YouTuber obsessed with guns, a transgender couple with two boys aged 11 and 9, and an age-gap couple – Quran, 24 and Cheryl, 61, who married in September last year. Dooley’s brilliantly relaxed, calmly inquisitive approach always yields fascinating insights. 

World’s Most Dangerous Roads - Dave

It’s been over a decade since the last series of this rather ingenious factual format in which celebrity duos traverse some of the scariest roads in the world. This time we get to see Will Mellor in the mountains of Albania with Keith Lemon, Derry Girls stars Saoirse-Monica Jackson and Jamie-Lee O'Donnell in a 4x4 driving across Romania, comedian Lara Ricote in Australia with Stephen Mangan, plus stand-ups Ed Gamble and Lou Sanders in Iceland, Joe Wilkinson and Zoe Lyons in Turkey, Suzi Ruffell and Maisie Adam in Morocco, Darren Harriott and Ria Lina in South Africa and Phil Wang and Pierre Novellie in Lesotho.

Billy Connolly Does… The Decades - GOLD

GOLD has done a great job in recent years giving us the treat of special shows reflecting the unbeatable comedy talents of Billy Connolly with input from the great man himself. And this year they’ll be airing this new three-part series focusing on the years when Billy was at the very peak of his career, with one show each on the 1970s, 80s and then 90s. The programmes will  mix Billy's personal recollections, archive material taken from the news and pop culture of those decades, along with classic stand-up clips from throughout this golden 30-year period. 

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