The 40 best TV shows coming this autumn

Ryan Murphy’s reliably wicked and impressively durable horror anthology has always bounced around different time periods in an attempt to keep things fresh. The imminent ninth season rocks up at a classic 1980s summer camp, where a bunch of innocent teens have gathered for what looks like an enthusiastic skewering of Friday the 13th-style slasher movies. In fact, the chopping started early, with some regular AHS cast members – Billy Eichner and Evan Peters – skipping this season. GV
Expected: 19 September, Fox

You don’t rule Russia for 34 years without doing some dirt. And, sure enough, Catherine the Great’s story is tumultuous. As a woman who came to power in a coup in which her own husband was overthrown, Catherine didn’t take any prisoners. And that extended to her unusually liberated private life, too; this drama explores her later years and particularly her affair with military leader Grigory Potemkin. Helen Mirren (who else?) portrays Catherine in her customarily magisterial style. PH
Expected: Autumn, Sky Atlantic

Gone are the days when TV viewers longed for cop shows to cut to the chase. Instead, Line of Duty has revealed a surprising appetite for head-spinningly intricate interrogation scenes. Criminal takes this trend to the next level: it contains literally nothing else. Set entirely within the confines of police interview rooms, the series nevertheless spans continents with stars including David Tennant, Hayley Atwell and Nina Hoss bringing agonisingly intense mental conflicts to life. PH
Expected: 20 September, Netflix

Defending the Guilty

Defending the Guilty

Lawyered up… Defending the Guilty. Photograph: Mark Johnson/BBC/Big Talk

Since Peter Moffat’s Silk ended five years ago, homegrown legal shows have been thin on the ground – making this new series something of a novelty. Best known for penning the Channel 4 dark comedy Flowers, Will Sharpe leads this courtroom comedy, playing a young barrister mentored by Katherine Parkinson’s more hardened attorney. His character – also named Will – is an ingenue who, like many a grad before him, quickly becomes rather disillusioned with the world of work. HJD
Expected: September, BBC Two

Ireland’s past, present and future are drawn together in grim and gory style in this new thriller from Sarah Phelps. Set at the height of Ireland’s millennial financial boom, the series adapts the first two of Tana French’s novels into an eight-part saga that sees ambitious murder cops Rob Reilly and Cassie Maddox confronted with the apparently unconnected but notably macabre deaths of two young women. Killian Scott and Sarah Greene join the dots. PH
Autumn, BBC One


It just wouldn’t be autumn without an ambitious, cross-continental drama, and Giri/Haji promises to be just that. Set in Tokyo and London, this new eight-parter (whose name translates to Duty/Shame) follows a Japanese detective, Kenzo (played by Takehiro Hira), who travels halfway across the globe to London to search for his missing, estranged brother. With a cast from both countries, including Kelly Macdonald and Charlie Creed-Miles, and penned by Humans writer Joe Barton, expect a thriller that is as imaginative as it is international. HJD
Expected: October, BBC Two

Gold Digger

Gold Digger

Gold Digger. Photograph: Mainstreet Pictures/BBC

From Mum to Wanderlust, the sub-genre of TV exploring the sexual and emotional lives of older people continues to grow. This Marnie Dickens drama is another worthy addition. After years of selfless domesticity, wealthy 60-year-old Julia begins a relationship with Benjamin, a skint copywriter 25 years her junior. Julia’s family are suspicious about his motives but have secrets of their own. Do they really have her best interests at heart? Julia Ormond and Ben Barnes are the pan-generational lovers. PH
Expected: Late autumn, BBC One

From steampunk airships hovering over an alternate-universe Oxford to physical manifestations of your soul in the surprisingly cute form of a daemon, this deluxe BBC/HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman’s beloved trilogy of fantasy novels looks set to outclass the stalled 2007 movie version. It boasts a stacked cast – including Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy and Lin-Manuel Miranda – and is led by Logan’s poised mini-Wolverine Dafne Keen as plucky heroine Lyra. GV
Expected: October, BBC One



Biel appeal… Limetown. Photograph: Ricardo Hubbs/Facebook Watch

The pod-to-TV boom (see also Dirty John, Homecoming, My Dad Wrote a Porno) continues with this adaptation of the fictive crime podcast, which tells the story of the disappearance of a group of people in a research facility in a small Tennessee town via the framing device of a public radio broadcast. With the pod drawing umpteen X-Files comparisons, there’s likely to be more than a hint of Mulder and Scully to this Jessica Biel-starring 10-parter. HJD
Expected: 16 October, Facebook Watch

Living With Yourself

Paul Rudd – the seemingly unageing star of everything from Clueless to Ant-Man – stars in this new series, playing not one but two roles, as his character, George, undergoes an experimental new treatment to become a better person. Overseen by the likes of Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, directors of 00s crowdpleaser Little Miss Sunshine, and written by former Daily Show writer Timothy Greenberg, expect it to land somewhere between Maniac and The Good Place. Aisling Bea – who recently wowed in Channel 4’s This Way Up – also stars. HJD
Expected: October, Netflix


Anna Maxwell Martin – last seen giving Superintendent Hastings an almighty tongue-lashing in series five of Line of Duty – reprises her altogether different role in this wonderfully shambolic comedy: as a perpetually struggling middle-class mother shunned by the PTA and entirely unsupported by her husband. Happily, Diane Morgan also returns as the mellow, completely hands-off mum Liz, while Sherlock’s Tanya Moodie joins the fold as Meg, who causes a stir at the school gates. HJD
Expected: October, BBC Two

On the Edge

On the Edge

Teenage wasteland… On the Edge. Photograph: Channel 4

Another triptych of human stories from up-and-coming screenwriters, as Channel 4’s acclaimed anthology series returns for a second run. This time the theme is people “trying to find their place in the world”, encompassing Adulting – about a girl with learning difficulties who gets into a potentially dangerous friendship with a young man (This Is England’s Michael Socha) – plus mental health-themed family dramedy For You, and BBW, a coming-of-age story about a young British-Nigerian woman. HJD
Expected: Autumn, Channel 4

Season two of Ryan Murphy’s groundbreaking drama picks up two years on, with the HIV/Aids crisis ravaging New York City. Some – like House of Evangelista’s Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) – choose activism; others – such as Elektra (Dominique Jackson) – choose escapism, and Pose is at its most magical when both elements combine in the ballroom. The early-90s was also when ball culture went pop, via Madonna’s Vogue. But mainstream acceptance comes at what price? EEJ
Expected: October, BBC Two

Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!

Tan France from Queer Eye

Feeling quiffy… Tan France from Queer Eye. Photograph: Jay Brooks/The Guardian

Can anything stop the Fab Five? The reboot of not especially old, not particularly lamented makeover show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was perhaps the biggest surprise TV hit of … 2018?! Yes, it was somehow only last year that Tan, Antoni and the rest first strode expertly on to Netflix, but with four seasons already released and a second trip abroad coming next, they’ve rapidly become fixtures on the entertainment landscape – and in danger of over-saturation. The new foreign jaunt is also set to be a bigger test than sorting out buttoned-down men and weary women in the deep south or midwest of the US, or indeed the New South Wales farmer who was the focus of previous overseas adventure Yass, Australia! The four episodes in Japan will heighten the tension between worldviews that’s always been a key part of the Queer Eye magic, bringing us the gang’s first full-on culture clash. The Five themselves confidently claim that their normal mix of directness and tenderness has dissipated any thoughts of international insensitivity, with emotional pay-offs such as two old Japanese male friends breaking their deep-seated reluctance to hug forming a more intense version of the show’s regular road to personal redemption. JS
Expected: November, Netflix


Launched to a glut of positive reviews in the US, this semi-autobiographical dramedy tells the story of ‘Allah carte’ Muslim Ramy (Ramy Youssef), a first generation Muslim-American working out how to balance his parents’ culture and religion, and classic ‘youth’ vices of drink, drugs and sex. Like Atlanta, the best storylines here are the ones tinged with politics – among them a coming of age flashback set in the wake of 9/11. HJD
Expected: out now, StarzPlay/Amazon

Rhythm + Flow

Everyone except Simon Cowell should be wildly excited about Cardi B’s return to reality television. She first broke through as the “shmoney”-loving upstart in Love & Hip Hop: New York and now she’s a judge in this 10-part hip-hop talent search, alongside TI and Chance the Rapper. Netflix looks set to innovate the competition format in other respects, too – without live shows, how will the viewers vote? EEJ
Expected: October, Netflix

The Righteous Gemstones

The Righteous Gemstones

This is my church… The Righteous Gemstones. Photograph: HBO/Sky Atlantic

Danny McBride’s latest HBO comedy promises to do for the large adult sons of US southern megachurches what Succession has done for transatlantic media heirs: that is, rip them to shreds for our viewing pleasure. McBride (Eastbound & Down, Vice Principals) writes and stars, but he’s far from the only colourful gemstone. John Goodman is stern patriarch Eli, while Walton Goggins sparkles as Christian rocker-turned-pulpit preacher Baby Billy Freeman. EEJ
October, Sky Atlantic

Rob Delaney Special

In a belated effort to catch up with Netflix, Amazon spent August launching a raft of comedy specials showcasing standup talent from both the US and UK. Having also signed Rob Delaney – Catastrophe co-creator, mercurial tweeter and breakout star of Deadpool 2 – the megacorp streaming service cannily gets the best of both worlds: a bawdy but empathetic Yank who has lived long enough in London to be an astute observer of our sceptred isle. GV
Expected: November, Amazon Prime Video

Start your engines, and may the best (British) woman or man win: the hotly anticipated UK version of the show that brought drag to the mainstream arrives on screens this autumn, with Ru, Michelle Visage, Graham Norton and Alan Carr joined by a range of guest judges, among them Lorraine Kelly and Geri Horner. And, of course, the 10 all-important queens, whose “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent” will be put to the test. While there have been about 100 series of US Drag Race, this is a format that’s still liable to put a smile on your face. HJD
October, BBC Three

Sorry for Your Loss

Was it unexpected that one of 2018’s most emotionally astute depictions of grief was put out by, um, Facebook? Yes, kind of, but we’re moving on now in season two, just as Leigh (Elizabeth Olsen) is moving on from Matt’s death with the help of her family (Kelly Marie Tran, Janet McTeer) and her dead husband’s brother, Danny (Jovan Adepo). Perhaps a posthumously published comic book can help define Matt’s legacy instead? EEJ
Expected: 1 October, Facebook Watch

State of the Union

Hi, infidelity! Nick Hornby turns his hand to bite-size content with this new 10-part series about a long-term couple – Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd – who have hit a crisis point. Each 10-minute episode takes place in the pub as the two fortify themselves before their regular marriage therapy session, offering an evolving weekly snapshot of a relationship in freefall. Directed by Stephen Frears, it has already screened on Sundance TV to admiring reviews. GV
Expected: 8 September, BBC Two

Sticks and Stones

The new three-parter from Doctor Foster writer Mike Bartlett stars relative newcomer Ken Nwosu as Reading-based middle manager Thomas Benson. After badly bungling a pitch meeting, Thomas is determined to win back the client but feels undermined by his team. Is someone really out to get him? And can Bartlett create the same paranoid intensity from workplace bullying as he did with a betrayal in the home? EEJ
Late autumn, ITV

Strictly Come Dancing

The not-all-singing-but-definitely-all-dancing TV mainstay returns for a whopping 17th series. From the Strictly curse that sees partners cha cha cha away from their real-life spouses, to an often random mix of contestants (see Ed Balls, Ann Widdecombe, and, this year, someone named Viscountess Emma Weymouth), it’s reliably repetitive. Even so, it’s always rather fun, too – something that the likes of Made in Chelsea jester Jamie Laing, Radio 1 DJ Dev and Drag Race’s Michelle Visage are likely to appreciate. HJD
7 September, BBC One

TV is full of troubled, rogue cops who don’t play by the rules. But how about a rogue surgeon? This berserk new drama sees Mark Strong playing Daniel Milton, a medic whose desperation to find a cure for his wife’s life-threatening illness leads him into a terrifying world of (literally) underground medicine. Beneath Temple station in London, he finds a network of illicit clinics offering dubious experimental treatments. But what might immersion in this dark realm cost him? PH
13 September, Sky One

The Cockfields

Weirdy-beardy panel show regular Joe Wilkinson co-writes (with David Earl) and stars in this new three-part sitcom set on the Isle of Wight, a relatively untapped comedic setting. He plays Simon, nervously preparing to celebrate his 40th birthday by taking his girlfriend Donna (Diane Morgan) back to his childhood home to meet his daffy mum (Sue Johnston) and overbearing stepdad (Bobby Ball), unaware that his biological father (Nigel Havers) is also keen to elbow in on the fun. GV
November, Gold

The Crown

The Crown

Ooh, ER… The Crown. Photograph: Sophie Mutevelian/Netflix

Like some ermine-clad superhero, this third season of Netflix’s all-conquering royal drama sees Claire Foy’s Queen Elizabeth II enter a palatial phone box and rematerialise as Olivia Colman. We’ve reached the 60s – but will the decade swing for Liz and Phil (who has undergone a transformation of his own and is now portrayed by Tobias Menzies)? Expect moon landings, awkward interactions with pop culture and the arrival of Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. PH
Expected: 17 November, Netflix

The End of the F***ing World

Angst a lot… The End of the F***ing World. Photograph: Netflix

Was James (Alex Lawther) actually killed by police shooters in the series one finale, leaving Alyssa (Jessica Barden) to face justice alone? That’s how Charles Forsman’s original graphic novel ended, but since this show about two runaway teen psychos is back for more 90s indie flick-inspired mayhem, we’re guessing screenwriter Charlie Covell has made some changes. Now their dark dalliance can continue in these short-but not-too-sweet episodes. EEJ
November, Channel 4

The Good Place

The Good Place.

Heavenly creatures… The Good Place. Photograph: NBC/Getty

Each season of America’s cleverest sitcom has had a radical creative decision behind it. Usually that’s been an upending of the reality in which these characters swap brainy one-liners. In the fourth run, however, the twist is that this really is the end: creator Michael Schur decided some time ago that somewhere around 50 episodes would be enough. A showrunner calmly calling time on their own project is a rare blessing in an era of brutal cancellations, caused by the disruptive arrival of streaming – as fans of The OA recently found out, Netflix is not the infinitely generous space it once seemed to be – and the subsequent backlash from traditional media companies setting up their own, exclusive online platforms. Artistically, it makes sense for The Good Place, too, since the genius of the series has always been its willingness to very nearly disappear up itself: it’s avoided it, but every further metaphysical tangle is a gamble. Sticking the landing when your whole routine has been triple comic somersaults won’t be easy. Schur’s fans will trust him to do it, though – especially since, as the show has evolved, it’s revolved more and more around an old-fashioned love triangle, the sort of set-up satisfying finales have always been made of. JS
27 September, Netflix

The Light

It is loosely the third and final part of a state-of-the-nation trilogy preceded by National Treasure and Kiri. But this Jack Thorne drama will also stand alone as a story of beleaguered community life in small-town Britain. After a controversial construction project goes tragically wrong, furious locals seek justice. Sarah Lancashire stars as Polly, a woman whose family is both implicated in the causes of the disaster and torn apart by its aftermath. PH
Autumn, Channel 4

It might be hard work finding a hero to root for in this new drama, which stars an almost unrecognisable Russell Crowe as TV executive Roger Ailes. For the fortunately uninitiated, Ailes was a fake news-pioneering, hard-right provocateur who resigned from Fox News in 2016 after allegations of sexual harassment and was memorably described in Rolling Stone magazine as “one of the worst Americans ever”. Can Crowe humanise this self-consciously divisive figure? PH
5 September, 9pm, Sky Atlantic

Disney launch their streaming platform Disney+ with this flagship series, hoping the lure of a galaxy far, far away will be enough to convince punters to cough up for yet another monthly subscription (the app’s UK release date is still TBC but with the US/Aus/NZ and Netherlands going live in November it’s sure to be soon). The Force, at least, appears strong: it’s helmed by Iron Man and Lion King director Jon Favreau, counts Pedro Pascal, UFC hardnut Gina Carano and Werner Herzog among its cast, and has a budget in the region of latter-season Game of Thrones. LH
Late autumn, Disney+

Back to school for Ryan Murphy, who has most recently given us Pose but whose TV breakthrough came courtesy of the cheesily charming Glee. With shades of Reese Witherspoon’s brilliantly grotesque turn in 1999 film Election, The Politician examines the darkly comical will to power of Payton Hobar (Ben Platt), an ambitious student whose lifelong dream of being US president must survive the savage politics of his high school. A starry cast also includes Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange. PH
Expected: 27 September, Netflix

In a grim, feudal realm of might and magic, brooding but hunky monster-hunter Geralt (Henry Cavill, rocking a killer white wig) roams the blighted landscape looking for trouble on his faithful nag Roach. Based on a series of best-selling Polish fantasy novels (and already adapted into a hugely successful video game franchise), The Witcher seems purposefully designed to scratch that Game of Thrones itch, promising down-and-dirty combat and even murkier politicking. GV
December, Netflix

Perma-sad rapper and London fan Drake was the driving force behind this reboot of the cult black British drama starring former So Solid Crew man Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson, better known as grime veteran Kano. As it returns, Dushane (Walters) is back and ready to reclaim his place as the kingpin of the Summerhouse estate, but a host of newbies (played by the likes of up-and-comer Michael Ward, who appeared in Stormzy’s Gang Signs and Prayer short, and rap heavyweight Dave) aren’t going to make things easy for him or Sully (Robinson). HJD
13 September, Netflix



Daddy issues… Transparent. Photograph: Amazon Prime

The groundbreaking dramedy is well placed to deal with its enforced #MeToo casting change: even before his dismissal, Jeffrey Tambor had become less and less important in an ensemble piece with a bold, open-hearted diversity beyond its headline-grabbing title role. Tenderly observed as Tambor’s portrayal of transgender matriarch Maura was, in the five years since Transparent debuted, the casting of a cis man has in any case looked more and more retrograde. No House of Cards-style collapse is likely here, then, as the show kills Maura off and puts its secret weapon, Judith Light, literally centre stage. Rendering the feature-length “movie” finale as a musical ought to create the perfect conduit for Transparent’s ongoing obsessions: grief, trauma, Jewish culture, how those three interact, and how they affect the unhappy adults’ endless search for identity. That the Pfefferman family are staging a show within a show, a theatrical production about themselves, rather than just breaking into song during their ordinary lives, will offer plenty of scope for ruthless introspection – another Transparent calling card. More straightforwardly, perhaps the current vogue for film musicals taps into a desire among audiences to sing our way through dark times. We could find worse heroines in 2019 than Light as the viperish, brittle, defiant Shelly, a woman grabbing at life hard before it’s too late. JS
27 September, Amazon Prime Video

Rotoscoping animation has been around for a while – remember Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly? – but this sci-fi series from the BoJack Horseman team is the first time the trippy technique has been used for episodic television. Undone’s plot is equally mind-bending: a car accident leaves Alma (Rosa Salazar) with a new understanding of time, which she uses to find out the truth about her father, Jacob (Bob Odenkirk). EEJ
13 September, Amazon Prime Video

He might not prove so untouchable after all but that is likely to be the only note of cheer in this meticulous and carefully sourced documentary. It traces Weinstein’s rise, explores the ways in which he allegedly used his power to exploit and abuse dozens of women and tracks his downfall, too. With many of Weinstein’s accusers speaking on camera for the first time, expect a harrowing anatomy of a modern scandal. PH
1 September, 9pm, BBC Two

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds

All’s Wells… War of the Worlds. Photograph: BBC

The adaptation of HG Wells’s sci-fi classic should finally arrive this autumn after multiple delays caused by problems with the show’s CGI. This tale of alien invasion famously caused panic when it was first broadcast on the radio in 1938, and while this apparently faithful retelling of the story should be received more calmly, it’s hard to tell at the moment. Rafe Spall, Eleanor Tomlinson and Robert Carlyle star. PH
Expected: Autumn, BBC One

Rorschach’s back! (Or at least his weird mask is.) After Zack Snyder’s slavish 2009 movie version of the revered superhero-subverting comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, here comes a freestyle sequel overseen by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof. Set three decades after the original story, it imagines an off-kilter alternate reality where vigilantes are outlawed and Robert Redford (played by, uh, Robert Redford) is the US president. What happens when masked avengers rise again? GV
October, HBO

World on Fire

World on Fire

War effort… World on Fire. Photograph: Ben Blackall/BBC/Mammoth Screen

It wouldn’t be autumn without a lavish BBC wartime epic. Written by Peter Bowker and starring Helen Hunt and Sean Bean, World on Fire is a nuanced people’s history of the second world war, telling stories from all sides of the conflict. There’s a Mancunian factory worker for whom the war opens up unimagined possibilities, an English translator trying to smuggle his Polish lover out of Warsaw, and a German family hiding their disabled daughter from the Nazis. PH
Autumn, BBC One

Main image composite: HBO; BBC; Sky Atlantic; FX; The Guardian; NBC


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