Plunkett on TV: A look ahead at Spring TV shows

Spring has finally sprung - having said that you'll probably look out of your window while you read this and see that it's snowing again - so what better time than to look ahead at some of the highlights to come on commercial TV over the next two months.

I've highlighted comedy, drama, documentaries, gameshows and sport, a mixture of brand new series and returning favourites - some of them with a twist.

Happy viewing...


Patrick Melrose - Sky Atlantic

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in this five-part adaptation based on the acclaimed semi-autobiographical novels of Edward St Aubyn.

It's hilarious and often harrowing stuff as we follow the life of Patrick Melrose, a privileged and outrageously funny playboy from his childhood in the south of France through years of substance abuse in New York to his return to Britain and recovery.

Adapted by David Nicholls (One Day) the big name cast includes Cumberbatch, Hugo Weaving, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jessica Raine. It starts on Sky Atlantic in May.

The Windsors Wedding Special - Channel 4

Channel 4's spoof behind the scenes documentary series returns for a one-off special to celebrate the royal wedding of the year between Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) and Meghan Markle (Kathryn Drysdale).

The wedding special, which will air in May, will feature Harry planning the best stag party ever, Charles (Harry Enfield) travelling to the US to meet Doria, Meghan's mum, and William (Hugh Skinner) and Kate (Louise Ford) struggling to cope with the arrival of their latest child.

The programme-makers said Harry and Meghan's big day would have "all the same trials and tribulations of any wedding as two disparate families come together, except this one also has a gold carriage and some state-funded security".


Hatton Garden - ITV

ITV’s much-anticipated drama about the 2015 Hatton Garden jewellery heist is written by Bafta-winning Jeff Pope (Philomena, Cilla, Appropriate Adult) and has an all star-cast including Timothy Spall and Kenneth Cranham.

The £14m raid was the most spectacular and outrageous British crime of the decade and the four-part mini-series will tell the inside story of how a gang of elderly men pulled off the burglary and the extraordinary preparation and organisation required.

Co-written by Pope and Terry Winsor, Hatton Garden will also look at the impact on the people whose cash and jewellery was stolen and the complex police operation that brought those responsible to justice. It will air on ITV in May.

How The Young Ones Changed Comedy - Gold

Gold will examine and enjoy the enduring legacy of The Young Ones, one of the most influential comedy shows of its generation, with archive footage and interviews with many of the stars involved.

Nigel Planer and Alexei Sayle will appear in the two-hour documentary alongside comedians including David Baddiel, Charlie Higson and Richard Herring.

Another Gold show, The Young Ones' 20 Greatest Moments, will count down the show's finest scenes, as selected by comedians and industry experts. If the University Challenge episode doesn't come out on top, we'll drive our bus off a cliff. 


Taskmaster - Dave

Greg Davies will return as the all-powerful 'Taskmaster' in a sixth series of the hit Dave show in May. Not only that, it's been recommissioned for a seventh, eighth and ninth series as well.

The show, in which contestants have to take on the hilariously fiendish - and frivolous - challenges set by Davies and his assistant (and show creator) Alex Horne, was UKTV's most popular programme of the year in 2017.

The new series will feature Alice Levine (My Dad Wrote A Porno), Asim Chaudhry (People Just Do Nothing), Liza Tarbuck (Upstart Crow), Russell Howard (The Russell Howard Hour) and Tim Vine (Not Going Out).

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - ITV

ITV will mark the 20th anniversary of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire with a week of programmes and a new face in the presenter's chair - Jeremy Clarkson.

The former Top Gear man is inspired casting by ITV and one of a select band of faces with the heft to replace Chris Tarrant.

All eyes will be on Clarkson when he fronts the first of seven hour-long shows - to be stripped across a week in May - and it will be fascinating to see how he takes to the presenter's chair.

The new run will also feature a number of 'new twists and turns' to the format as ITV looks to introduce the show to a whole new generation of viewers. It's only been four years since Tarrant bowed out, but this is a most welcome return.


Bulletproof - Sky 1

Actor, writer and director Noel Clarke will star in action-packed buddy cop drama, Bulletproof. Clarke will co-star with Ashley Walters as two streetwise London police officers dealing in everything from robbery and kidnap to murder.

Clarke is a "brooding bad boy" confronted by a personal crisis he never saw coming, while Walters is a family man struggling to escape from his father's shadow. But despite their very obvious differences the pair are "bonded by the same moral code". Plus, the need to keep each other alive.

There is no shortage of star-power involved here. Created by Walters, Clarke and Nick Love, whose credits include The Football Factory, Bulletproof co-stars The Wire's Clarke Peters.

The £100K Drop - Channel 4

The prize money might be different but everything else will be winningly familiar in this daytime incarnation of Channel 4's gameshow hit.

The Million Pound Drop's Davina McCall returns as presenter of the £100K Drop which will air in a daily afternoon slot when it begins later in April.

Producers said the show had "all of the original format's nail-biting tension, genuine jeopardy and excitement" with a new jackpot of £100,000. Let's see what's about to drop!

Humans Season 3

Humans - Channel 4

The 'synth' drama returns for a third run in May with creator Sam Vincent promising the "biggest, boldest episodes" yet.

Humans picks up a year after the end of series two, the "dawn of consciousness" in which every synth in the world was given consciousness.

But while synths and humans struggl to broker an uneasy peace in a divided Britain, fractures begin to break out among the synths which threaten to end any hope of resolution.

Familiar faces return including Mia (Gemma Chan), Max (Ivanno Jeremiah), Leo (Colin Morgan), Flash (Ritu Arya) and Katherine Parkinson as Laura.

On the Estate with Michael Portillo - Channel 5

Michael Portillo explores the extraordinary story of the social housing revolution in Britain for this 90 minute documentary on Channel 5.

At a time when the issue of social housing is at the top of the political agenda, the MP turned presenter traces the rise and fall of the council estate for the broadcaster's acclaimed Modern Britain strand.

“The Grenfell tragedy has quite rightly focused attention on social housing," said Portillo. "Public policy towards housing the nation has been through ups and downs [and] this seems to me a deeply appropriate time to discover how ideas and ideals evolved, and who benefited and suffered.”


The Grand National - ITV

The biggest horse race of the year will return to ITV on 14 April, part of 10 hours of live coverage across three days from the Grand National Festival.

It is the second year the Aintree race has been on ITV in a new four-year deal after it previously aired on Channel 4. Last year's race had a peak audience of more than 8 million viewers and a share during the race of 62%.

ITV's coverage will be presented by Ed Chamberlin and former amateur jockey Francesca Cumani, the first time she the former amateur jockey has presented live from Aintree. Former ITV Racing presenter Brough Scott will also return.

Cops UK: Bodycam Squad - Really

The return of the innovative documentary series in which viewers get a uniquely intimate glimpse into the front line of policing in the UK.

Using a mixture of bodycam and observational footage - this time with the Nottinghamshire force - viewers will follow officers as they tackle everything from drownings to drug raids, street fights to a fire in a city centre block of flats.

Set in one of the country's most diverse and contrasting communities, the third series of Cops UK: Bodycam Squad begins in May.

Carnage - Sky 1

Like a mixture of Mad Max and Wacky Races, Carnage will see two teams of engineers, mechanics and drivers transform regular looking cars into weaponised, battle-ready vehicles.

The newly souped-up machines will then do battle with each other in three desert arenas with the aim to inflict as much damage on your opponent as possible. Last person - or car - standing is the winner.

The series, which starts on Sky 1 in May, will be presented by Andrew Flintoff, grim MC Lethal Bizzle and DJ Vick Hope.


The Island with Bear Grylls - Channel 4

The gripping survival show in which Bear Grylls takes a bunch of ordinary Brits and abandons them to fend for themselves on islands in the Pacific returns to Channel 4 for a fifth season in April.

And here's the twist - one island will feature wealthy professionals earning an average of £100,000 a year, the other will be populated by people earning less than the UK national average wage.

How will their different circumstances at home affect how they cope with their ability to live in the wild? Neither group knows the other is there, so how long will it take them to find each other, will they work together, and who's going to be the first person to ask, 'So how much do you earn, then?'

Springtime on the Farm - Channel 5

Countryfile's Adam Henson won't be the only familiar face on Channel 5's Springtime on the Farm, a celebration of all things farming at one of the busiest times of the year.

Taking up residence on a Yorkshire farm, Henson will be joined by JLS star JB Gill, Emmerdale's Kelvin Fletcher, who played Andy Sugden in the soap for 20 years, and Springwatch Unsprung host Lindsey Chapman.

The five-part series will be stripped across a week in April with Henson promising a "real celebration" of farming, with all the trials and tribulations that entails. It's going to be emotional ...


Salvage Hunters - Quest

Modern day treasure hunter Drew Pritchard returns with a new series of Quest's biggest show.

One of the country's leading architectural salvage dealers, Pritchard is on the hunt for weird and wonderful objects and hidden gems in the unlikeliest of places.

Salvage Hunters, which is back on Quest on 9 May, has also spawned two spin-off shows, Salvage Hunters: Classic Cars and Salvage Hunters: The Restorers.


Ninjago - Cartoon Network

And because younger viewers should not be left out ... Ninjago returns to Cartoon Network for its eighth series in April.

The new season is called Sons of Garmadon and if you haven't been watching it so far, you might have a little bit of catching up to do.

"While the Ninjas are searching for Master Wu, a dangerous new biker gang calling themselves the Sons of Garmadon is out to steal three supernatural Oni Masks in order to resurrect the King of Shadows himself: Lord Garmadon ..."

Got that? Best ask a youngster to explain ...

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What’s on Sky in the next fortnight

Matt Lucas and Eli James return in Fantasy Football League. Liz Bonnin explores in Artic From Above. There’s a collaboration in new SWAT. The team in NCIS: LA face an old enemy and The Rookie returns.


Highlights from ITV

The drama continues in Love Island, Maternal continues, follow all the highs and lows in The Sex Lives of College Girls and famous faces continue to impress the judges on Dancing on Ice.