Plunkett’s Autumn TV preview

As the nights begin to draw in the autumn season is now well and truly with us.

With that in mind, here are 20 televisual treats to look forward to between now and Christmas.

A Spy Among Friends - ITV/ITVX

A Spy Among Friends is one of a host of new dramas coming to ITV this autumn to coincide with the launch of new streaming service, ITVX.

Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce star as spies and lifelong friends Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby in this true life story of espionage and betrayal.

Based on the bestselling book by historian Ben Macintyre, the six-part 1950s-set Cold War drama will co-star Anna Maxwell-Martin, Stephen Kunken and Adrian Edmondson.


Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared - Channel 4

When is a children’s TV show not a children’s TV show? When it’s Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, an unforgettably surreal and satirical take on kids’ TV.

The musical puppet show follows the adventures of Red Guy, Yellow Guy and Duck, taking viewers on a learning journey (of sorts) to a variety of unexpected and horrific destinations.

Made by the creators of the cult YouTube show of the same name, Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is a ‘mixed media trip that moves from kids show pastiche to fever dream horror in the blink of an eye’.

We Are Not Alone - Dave

Set six weeks after aliens have invaded earth, We Are Not Alone is a feature length scripted comedy and one of the most ambitious projects so far undertaken by Dave.

Declan Baxter, Georgia May Foote, Joe Thomas, Amanda Abbington and Mike Wozniak are among a fabulous ensemble cast in the two-hour special scripted by Ghosts co-creators, Ben Willbond and Laurence Rickard.

After a pathetically easy victory over humankind, the Gu’un alien race now have to get to grips with the challenges of governing a chaotic, confusing planet populated by idiots.


This England - Sky Atlantic/Now

Boris Johnson is back - well, sort of - in this six-part Sky Atlantic drama starring Kenneth Branagh as the recently ousted prime minister.

Branagh looks uncannily like the former PM in this examination of Johnson’s first year in office, an extraordinary and unprecedented time as the pandemic swept the nation.

Co-written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, This England co-stars Ophelia Lovibond as Carrie Symonds, Simon Paisley Day as Dominic Cummings and Andrew Buchan as Matt Hancock.

Litvinenko - ITV/ITVX

David Tennant stars as Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB officer who died after drinking green tea poisoned with polonium.

Written by George Kay (Lupin, Criminal), this four-part drama tells the story of the Met Police’s extraordinary efforts to track down who was responsible in one of its most dangerous and complex investigations.

Litvinenko will co-star Margarita Levieva as Litvinenko’s widow Marina, who campaigned tirelessly on her late husband’s behalf, and Mark Bonnar and Neil Maskell as the investigating officers from Scotland Yard.


Somewhere Boy - Channel 4

An 18-year-old boy has been locked away his entire life by his father in a remote house following the death of his mother in a car crash when he was a baby.

Now Danny emerges wide-eyed and blinking into a world he never knew existed, attempting to cope, trying to make friends … and looking for the person who killed his mother.

Lewis Gribben, Samuel Bottomley, Lisa McGrillis and Rory Keenan star in Pete Jackson’s eight-part series, an ‘utterly compelling, surprising and darkly comic’ coming of age story from the makers of The End of the F**king World and Misfits.


Funny Woman - Sky Max/Now

Gemma Arterton stars in the title role of this Sky Max adaptation of Nick Hornby’s Swinging Sixties novel, Funny Girl.

Arterton plays Barbara Parker, a factory girl who arrives in London with dreams of making it big after being crowned a Blackpool beauty queen. And she does just that when she lands a role in a new TV sitcom, a world that was then almost entirely male dominated.

Rupert Everett, David Threlfall and Tom Bateman co-star in the series along with Morwenna Banks, who also adapted Hornby’s best-selling book for the screen.

The House Across The Street - Channel 5

Shirley Henderson and Craig Parkinson star in Channel 5’s new mystery drama, The House Across The Street (formerly known as The Winter Child).

Henderson stars as Claudia, a lonely single mother and school nurse whose interest in the case of a missing child, Emily Winter, becomes an obsession not only in Emily but in the family of the missing girl.

Parkinson plays affable English tutor George in the four-part drama made by the producers of Channel 5’s The Teacher.


Tell Me Everything - ITV2/ITVX

This funny and provocative teen drama explores what it’s like growing up in the social media age, tackling issues such as addiction, bereavement, prejudice and body image.

ITV2’s first original drama commission in a decade, Tell Me Everything is the story of a bunch of teenage friends growing up in Welwyn Garden City and stars Eden H. Davies, Lauryn Ajufo, Spike Fearn and Callina Liang.

Created by Mark O’Sullivan (Lee and Dean, The Agency) the six-part drama is both a celebration of adolescence and a searingly honest appraisal of life for young people today.


The Horne Section TV Show - Channel 4

In which ‘Little Alex Horne’ from Channel 4’s Taskmaster gets his very own show.

Alex and his (real-life) band The Horne Section write and star in this six-part scripted comedy described as a ‘unique blend of talkshow and sitcom, music and mayhem’.

Piloted last year, Horne and the band have been together since 2010 and already have a chart-topping podcast and show on Radio 4. Only one question remains - what will the Taskmaster make of it all?


Live At The Moth Club - Dave

Live at the Moth Club will feature a fabulous line-up of established and emerging talent performing at the iconic Hackney venue.

Jamie Demetriou (Stath Lets Flats), Natasia Demetriou (What We Do In The Shadows), Ellie White (Stath Lets Flats) and Cardinal Burns will be among the acts taking part in the new five-part series.

The show promises to capture not only the experience of a night out at the Moth Club but also weave a narrative around the venue and the people in it. It will ‘admittedly be completely bonkers,’ says Dave. ‘But a special kind of bonkers’.


Without Sin - ITV/ITVX

Vicky McLure stars in this gripping four-part psychological thriller about a grieving mother and the man she believes murdered her daughter.

McClure plays Stella Tomlinson, a mother who is still reeling from the death of her daughter three years earlier, with Johnny Harris co-starring as her apparent murderer, Charles Stone.

Stella and her estranged husband Paul agree to meet with Stone in prison in a last ditch bid to move on and help them come to terms with what has happened. But nothing can prepare them for what happens next.


I Hate You - Channel 4

I Hate You is the new comedy from Friday Night Dinner creator Robert Popper about the best friend you have that you really love - and really hate.

Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) and newcomer Melissa Saint star as two best friends in their 20s and their ‘intense, messy friendship in today’s intense, complicated world’.

Brimful of leftfield humour, I Hate You is directed by Damon Beesley, co-creator of The Inbetweeners, and has comedy pedigree in spades.


Fantasy Football League - Sky Max/Now

The winning combination of football fanaticism and celebrity chat is back with the return of Fantasy Football League,

The rebooted comedy football show will be presented by Matt Lucas and Elis James, joined each week by comedian Andrew Mensah to oversee the celebrity league and round up the funniest highlights from the world of football.

Returning after an 18 year absence, famous names lined up to appear in the new series including Brian Cox, Jennifer Saunders, Tom Grennan, Roman Kemp, AJ Tracey, Sam Quek and Sir Mo Farah.


Stacey Sleeps Over USA - W

After three series sleeping over in the UK, Stacey Dooley takes her popular W documentary strand across the Atlantic.

The award-winning documentary maker lifts the lid on more fascinating and unusual lifestyles staying with some extraordinary families in the US.

This uniquely intimate look at how we live now will ‘tell stories of modern American family life in a fresh and unexpected manner’.


Before We Die - Channel 4

Lesley Sharp returns as detective Hannah Laing in the second series of hit crime drama Before We Die.

More than 12 million viewers tuned in on All4 to watch Laing join forces with maverick detective Billy Murdoch (Vincent Regan) to protect her son Christian (Patrick Gibson).

While the first run was based closely on the Swedish original from which it was adapted, its return will begin an entirely new chapter as Laing takes on crime boss Dubravka (Kazia Pelka), building to a breathtaking climax.


All Creatures Great and Small - Channel 5

In an ever-changing world it is good to know that some things remain reassuringly familiar, and among them is Channel 5’s retro feelgood drama, All Creatures Great and Small.

The James Herriot adaptation returns for a third series this week [15 September], with the much-anticipated nuptials of James (Nicholas Ralph) and Helen (Rachel Shenton).

As comforting to watch as it is luscious to look at, the veterinary drama set in the Yorkshire Dales is the perfect autumnal tonic.

Riches - ITV/ITVX

This glossy six-part drama tells the story of the super-successful self-made Richards family and the power struggle that ensues when the patriarch suffers a stroke.

Starring Deborah Ayorinde, Hugh Quarshie, Sarah Niles, Brendan Coyle and Hermione Norris, Riches has already drawn comparisons with another dysfunctional family drama, Succession.

Writer Abby Ajayi (Inventing Anna, How to Get Away with Murder) said Riches was ‘a love letter to Black London … It has been thrilling to create the Richards’ family and celebrate their opulence, their ambition and their immigrant grit.’


Murder, They Hope - Gold

Johnny Vegas and Sian Gibson return as private investigators Terry and Gemma in a second series of Gold’s comedy mysteries.

Written and created by comedian Jason Cook, the new three-part run promises ‘church bells, couples therapy, aristocratic mystery and a framing like no other’.

And this being Murder, They Hope, there are almost as many guest stars as there are suspects, this time around including Hugh Dennis, Claire Skinner, Isy Suttie, Sally Phillips and Sandi Toksvig.


Gangs of London - Sky Atlantic/Now

As violent as it is gripping (which is to say, lots of both) Gangs of London is returning for a second series to Sky Atlantic.

Combining compelling storylines with cinematic action, the second series of the capital gangland drama begins one year after the death of Sean Wallace and the battle for London’s soul about to begin

Paapa Essiedu returns as Alexander in a cast that also includes Sope Dirisu, Asif Raza, Valene Kane and Michelle Fairley.

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Go into the world of local news in Hold The Front Page. Aussie road trip Upright returns. Avenue 5 faces more intergalactic adventures. Terrifying doll Chucky is ready for revenge and drag queens continue their US road journey in We’re Here.


What to watch on Channel 4

Catch the return of The Big Narstie Show. The road trip is back on for Miriam and Alan. The Gogglebox critics are spending more time on their sofas and Made in Chelsea continues.

Highlights from ITV

Coverage of the FIFA World Cup continues; there's more jungle hijinx in I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! Kelsey Parker shares her story and Davide and Ekin-Su are back - all on ITV channels this month.