Plunkett on TV: autumn 2018 preview

The conkers are off the trees and it's occasionally even cold enough to put on the central heating (global warming having rendered straightforward seasonal analogies redundant) so a Thinkbox autumn preview must be long overdue.

So it's in that spirit that I've rounded up 19 shows to look forward to, just a small fraction of the great programmes that commercial TV has to offer over the next few months.

Butterfly - ITV (October)

Anna Friel stars in this transgender drama about an 11-year-old child called Max who identifies as a girl and wants to live her life as Maxine.

Callum Booth-Ford plays Max and Friel Max's mother, who is separated from the child's father (Hollyoaks' Emmett J Scanlan).

The story of the extraordinary demands that are made across a three generational family, the mini-series is created and written by Bafta-winnning Tony Marchant, co-stars Alison Steadman and is produced by Red Production Company (Scott & Bailey, Happy Valley, Cucumber, Unforgiven).

The Reluctant Landlord - Sky 1 (October)

Romesh Ranganathan stars in this semi-autobiographical comedy series in which he finds himself landed with running his local pub after his father leaves it to him in his will.

The eponymous reluctant landlord, Romesh never wanted to be a landlord but his wife and children love it and his mum believes it is the only way of keeping his dad's legacy alive.

So the series, which has already been commissioned for a second run, follows his efforts to offload the pub while his family use every trick in the book - sheer cunning and emotional blackmail - to make sure he keeps it. Comic Nick Helm also stars.

The First - Channel 4 (October)

Sean Penn embarks on the first manned mission to Mars in this drama set in the near future about the inaugural interplanetary colonisation.

Co-starring Natasha McElhone and created by multiple-award winning Beau Willimon, the creator of House of Cards, The First focusses on the superhuman task of colonising another planet and the impact the astronauts' mission has on the families they leave behind.

A co-production between Channel 4 and American streaming service Hulu, it promises a 'story about the human spirit. About our indomitable need to reach for unknown horizons. About people working toward the greatest pioneering achievement in human history. And about the cost that’s required to achieve it'.

Zapped - Dave (October)

James Buckley returns for a third series of the fantasy comedy in which a regular office guy, Brian Weaver (played by Buckley) is transported to the fantastical land of Munty.

The sitcom has established itself as one of Dave's most popular programmes since it first aired in 2016 thanks to its world of magical losers including a hopeless soothsayer played by Sharon Rooney, an armchair revolutionary (Kenneth Collard) and Paul Kaye as a deranged wizard.

Made by Black Dog and Baby Cow, executive producer Steve Coogan will also make an appearance in episode one of the new series. Expect psychotic fairies, monosyllabic orcs and vicious throcks.

Dark Heart - ITV (October)

Dark Heart stars Tom Riley as DI Will Wagstaffe, a murder detective who is haunted by the killing of his own parents when he was 16 years old. And it is not for the faint hearted.

Wagstaffe - or Staffe to his colleagues - is a brilliant cop whose personal demons affect both his private and professional life, including his relationships with his on-off girlfriend, his sister and his young nephew.

Dark Heart features three investigations across six episodes and follows a pilot episode that aired on ITV Encore in 2016. Written by Chris Lang (Unforgotten), it is the first commission for Silverprint Pictures, formerly ITV Studios Drama London (Vera, Shetland).

Emma Willis: Delivering Babies - W (October)

The Voice presenter Emma Willis has been in awe of midwives from the moment her first daughter was born. Now she learns exactly what it takes to be one when she works as a maternity care assistant at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex.

The star worked four shifts a week, day and night for three long months supporting the midwife team on the busy maternity unit and described it as "honestly one of the best things I've ever done".

Talking about the six-part documentary, she said: "If I wasn't doing my current job I know for a fact that I would have loved to work in a hospital. Blood, guts and the workings of the human body have always fascinated me. Both my parents worked in hospitals and so it's literally in my blood."

Club Rep Wars - E4 (October)

This new eight-part series examines what it takes to prosper in the fiercely competitive world of the Club Rep.

Two teams of wannabe compete to win the chance to work a summer season on the party island of Zante, getting a crash course in every aspect of the job to give holidaymakers the best time of their lives.

The sun-kissed popularity contest made by Studio Lambert promises outrageous characters, hilarious nights out and lots of hot summer sun - and E4 viewers will be with them every step of the way.

The Heist - Sky 1 (November)

A real life game of cops and robbers, The Heist follows 10 law-abiding citizens who team up to steal a life-changing stash of hard cash.

But that is only the beginning as The Heist follows their efforts to hide their share of the loot from some of Britain’s best detectives who use a combination of old fashioned sleuthing and state of the art techniques to try to track them down.

The Heist, made by Endemol Shine, tells this epic cat and mouse tale using the latest advances in cameras and 4G to create the ultimate in high stakes, factual entertainment, following ordinary people in the most extraordinary circumstances.

I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! - ITV (November)

A familiar format but an unfamiliar presenting team as Holly Willoughby joins Declan Donnelly to host TV's biggest reality show.

Willoughby, familiar to ITV viewers as one half of This Morning's presenting team, fills in while Donnelly's regular partner, Ant McPartlin, takes a break from TV presenting.

The jungle endurance show is one of TV's most enduring formats, an ITV mainstay since it began in 2002 and is consistently one of the most-watched shows of the year. Expect 2018 to be no different.

Steph & Dom: Can Cannabis Save Our Son? - Channel 4 (November)

Former Gogglebox stars Steph and Dom Parker will be familiar to millions of Channel 4 viewers but they have never seem them like this before.

The couple share their family story for the first time as they investigate whether medical cannabis can be used to help people with epilepsy, including their 18-year-old son Max who is autistic and prone to potentially deadly seizures.

Recent research has shown medical marijuana may be the key to helping treat Max and people like him. But with this treatment denied in the UK, Steph and Dom travel to the US to meet families who have been given cannabis oil and ask how effective it can be in this 60-minute one-off documentary for Channel 4.

Kidding - Sky Atlantic (November)

Jim Carrey is the latest movie star to swap the big screen for the small with darkly comic drama Kidding, reuniting him with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’s Michel Gondry.

Carrey plays kids’ entertainer Mr Pickles, America’s number one children’s favourite and face of a multimillion dollar branding empire who appears to have it all.

But when Mr Pickles’s family life implodes he discovers that reality is no fairytale. Mr Pickles - real name Jeff - suffers a slow motion meltdown that is hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

Saluting Dad's Army - Gold (November)

Alexander Armstrong presents an affectionate four-part celebration of the genius of Dad's Army, 50 years after it was first broadcast on BBC1.

Gold will broadcast that very first ever episode, called The Man and The Hour, before examining just what it is that makes Jimmy Perry and David Croft's creation British TV's most popular and enduring sitcom.

Using archive footage and new interviews, Saluting Dad's Army is a winning mixture of fresh insight and familiar favourites.

Alone at Home - Channel 4 (November)

This four-part factual entertainment series promises to be a fascinating social experiment into how children behave when their parents are not around to tell them what to do.

Alone at Home uses remotely operated cameras to follow how siblings behave when their parents have gone away for a long weekend. Will they still go to bed on time and restrict their screen use or do the carefully constructed rules set down in modern parenting techniques go entirely out of the window?

Closely monitored by psychologists and chaperones and with safeguarding teams on call at a moment's notice, Alone at Home examines how our sons and daughters behave when they are literally home alone. Maybe they can cope better without grown-ups than we think.

The Russell Howard Hour - Sky 1 (November)

Russell Howard returns to Sky 1 for a second series of the Russell Howard Hour in which he offers up his unique sideways look at the week's events.

When the first series of the Avalon produced show aired last year, the Russell Howard Hour was watched by more than 1 million viewers an episode, making it Sky's biggest factual entertainment hit since 2012.

Mixing topical stand-up and interviews, the star is joined each episode by a celebrity guest and one of the comedy scene's most exciting up and and coming stars.

We Are Most Amused and Amazed - ITV (November)

ITV celebrates Prince Charles' 70th birthday with the help of some of the nation's greatest comics and most accomplished magicians in a one-off night at the London Palladium.

Rowan Atkinson, Bill Bailey and Omid Djalili are among the comic headliners while the magic will come courtesy of the likes of Dynamo and Penn and Teller, with many more star names to be announced.

Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller will be ringmasters for the night which will raise money for the Prince's Trust. The Palladium is no stranger to hosting big variety nights on ITV but the hallowed stage has never seen anything quite like this.

The South Bank Show - Sky Arts (November)

Melvyn Bragg returns with profiles of five inspiring women from across the world of the arts including comedian Tracey Ullman and West End and Broadway theatre producer Sonia Friedman (The Book of Mormon, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).

The South Bank Show celebrated 40 years in 2018 and it is six years since it made its debut on Sky Arts, bringing high arts to a mass audience in the best tradition of Sky's arts output.

The new series also features publisher Gail Rebuck, chair of Penguin Random House, singing star Beverley Knight and soprano Danielle De Niese, who sprang to fame playing Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne.

Beat The Internet With John Robins - Dave (November)

Edinburgh award winning comedian John Robins fronts comedy quiz show Beat the Internet in which contestants try to finish sentences based on some of the internet's most popular search terms.

Made by Vice Studios - Vice's first studio gameshow - Robins is ably assisted by 'fact master' Sunil Patel who explains just why we search for the things we do.

It's billed as the first quiz show in which "humans supply the questions and robots provide the answers ... born from the bizarre and the highly intimate everyday relationship we all have with search engines".

Robins was joint winner of last year's Edinburgh Comedy Award for his show the Darkness of Robins. If you want to know more, Google it.

The World’s Fastest Transit Van - Channel 4 (December)

It's nearly three years since Guy Martin wrote off his favourite Transit Van on the way to work. Rather than consigning it to the scrap heap he rebuilt it and entered it into the world's fastest road race.

But Guy Martin being Guy Martin, he's not just satisfied with a Transit van that goes fast. No, he wants the fastest Transit van in the world. So he's rebuilding it again and taking it for a spin around the world famous Nürburgring ring in Germany.

It promises to be a journey to remember.

Summer Camp Island - Cartoon Network (December)

And finally, something for younger viewers. Summer Camp Island is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals and follows the adventures of Oscar the elephant and Hedgehog the, er, hedgehog, on their first summer camp away from home.

As soon as their parents leave the island all sorts of strange things start to happen - monsters emerging from under the bed, camp counsellors who are actually witches, horses that turn into unicorns and, oh yes, aliens. Obviously.

Created by Julia Pott, Summer Camp Island promises to be utterly strange, completely surreal - and totally charming.

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