There are so many things to admire about Poldark: windswept clifftops, rolling seas, rigorous agriculture, fancy jackets, dramatic staring into the middle distance, sneaky shifts in churches, the best hair this side of Bodmin, and a healthy dose of shirtlessness. Irish actor Aidan Turner turned in another swashbuckling run as eighteenth-century Cornwall’s resident rogue in series three, but the supporting cast also put in strong work, from everyone’s favourite rebellious stepson turned forbidden romance wingman Geoffrey-Charles (newcomer Harry Richardson) to the last hurrah of definite witch Great Aunt Agatha (a venerable Caroline Blakiston). Fans of big-budget period dramas like The Crown and Peaky Blinders will find this worth catching up on.
Star Trek: Discovery
The Star Trek universe continues to ride the fresh injection of cool, sparked by a blockbuster reboot trilogy with its first TV series in twelve years. Walking Dead alum Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Starfleet’s first mutineer, while Michelle Yeoh puts in a strong appearance as their first female captain of colour, and Jason Isaacs experiences something of a renaissance as the enigmatic, morally shady Gabriel Lorca. Set before the original series, it feels accessible for both new and returning fans. It features intriguing side characters, slick production, and a remarkable number of explosions for a series about peace-keeping explorers.
Game of Thrones
The penultimate season of this televisual titan was one of long-awaited revelations and reunions, but it almost didn’t make the cut. It featured noticeably uneven plots, a disregard for female characters, and inexplicable pacing (have the residents of Westeros all suddenly developed the ability to teleport?). It seems the showrunners are straying without the books’ meticulous structure to fall back on – but it’s still one of the most spectacular TV shows out there, with breath-taking sets, locations, and a top cast. There were great moments for most fan-favourites, from Tyrion Lannister (“You look a lot better brooding than I do”) to Davos Seaworth (“Thought you might still be rowing”) to Lyanna Mormont (the REAL MVP of the North).
Big Little Lies
Despite some hesitations (everyone seems a little too Hollywood and perfect in those big ocean-front mansions…), watching this star-studded hit was surprisingly fun. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott and Zoe Kravitz all shine in this soccer-mom-style thriller and the writing is excellent to boot. What you may initially resent in the first few episodes – namely the unfathomably large houses and Witherspoon’s chippy presence – you soon realise are are indispensable features of the show. The houses create empty and cold spaces in a pocket of wealth (Monterey, California) and Witherspoon wins your sympathy as she tries to please everyone in her life, for the most part succeeding. It’s also brilliantly told in a reverse narrative, beginning with the murder of an unknown victim and expanding to a series of interviews which reveal more about the characters.
This Amazon hit’s pilot episode was released in 2015 and was promptly followed by radio silence until January 2017, when a subsequent series arrived. It is, in this writer’s opinion, one of the best shows of the year. Giovanni Ribisi (you may remember him as Phoebe’s brother in Friends) unexpectedly shines as the con artist lead in a duplicitous narrative. Ribisi plays Marius, who is on the run from Vince, a thug-lord played by Bryan Cranston. On his release from jail he assumes the identity of Pete, his ex-cellmate who has told him in endless detail about his childhood, including a long-lost side of the family. What follows is a continuous clash between Marius’ old life and his new one as Pete, and it makes for fascinating and fun watching.
A Netflix original comedy which slipped relatively under the radar, Atypical tackles issues not always represented on television. The plot revolves mainly around Sam Gardner (relative newcomer Keir Gilchrist), who is eighteen and on the autism spectrum. When Sam decides he wants a girlfriend, we watch his mission unravel. What ensues around him is a touching depiction of a family trying to get by amid the influence of autism – sometimes positive, sometimes negative, often funny, always compelling. It stars Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) as Sam’s mum Elsa, but it is really Gilchrist’s performance that steals the show, evoking empathy and humour. This one is definitely worth a watch.
Top Six TV Series To Look Forward to in 2018
The next ten-episode run of Doctor Who will star the first female incarnation of its legendary eponymous time-travelling alien. Jodie Whittaker takes over from the departing Peter Capaldi, who will make his final appearance in the 2017 Christmas special. Even if you’ve never seen an episode before, this is the perfect chance to give it a try, as each regeneration acts as a semi-clean slate for the series. A new showrunner (Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall replaces Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat), a new TARDIS set, a new outfit, a whole host of new companions, and a new leading lady – a new lease of life for Saturday sci-fi’s favourite icon?
Cloak & Dagger
TV is already saturated with Marvel productions, but if you must watch one in 2018, watch out for Cloak and Dagger. It’s an adaptation of a lesser-known comic book about two teenagers from opposite sides of the tracks who have to juggle falling in love with managing their strange superhuman abilities. Olivia Holt stars as Tandy, renamed Dagger for her ability to emit and control bolts of light, while Aubrey Joseph stars as Tyrone, renamed Cloak for his ability to engulf people in darkness. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t already too overcrowded, this could be an intriguing standalone series.
His Dark Materials
This adaptation of Philip Pullman’s dark, unforgettable fantasy trilogy was announced way back in 2015, but it looks like the earliest it will air is autumn-winter 2018. Details of the production have been kept a closely-guarded secret. We know that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child writer Jack Thorne has been given the series’ pen (either a good thing or a very bad thing, depending on your opinion of the fandom-divisive stage play). The extended runtime of a TV series should mean it can remain ‘loyal to the books’ – particularly in light of the less-than-successful film version released in 2007 – and as it’s being made by the BBC, expect a stellar cast and big-budget cinematography.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Coen Brothers. Western. Netflix. The potential to be well written, well acted, and on demand binge-able? Put this one on the watch list. The series will have an anthology style, containing six tales in the Coens’ distinctive western setting. Alongside James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson is set to play the title character, who you’ll recognise as Delmer O’Donnell from the Coens’ earlier feature O Brother Where Art Thou (then appearing alongside George Clooney and John Turturro). The Coens have an amazing ability to create network worlds in which seemingly nothing has anything to do with each other until everything does, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out in a series format and on the American frontier.
Emmy Award-winning Lena Waithe, of Master of None notoriety, creates, stars and executive produces this new coming-of-age drama set on the southside of Chicago. It follows a group of residents, including Straight Outta Compton’s Jason Mitchell, Moonlight’s Alex Hibbert and Sleight’s Jacob Latimore, who find that their lives suddenly collide. The show comes courtesy of a primarily African-American cast and production team, as well as being directed by Nigerian-American Rick Famuyiwa (Dope). At its core, the show promises to be about realities of living in the city’s south side, complete with drama, danger, sadness and, knowing Waithe, some humour too.
A sci-fi drama in which J.K Simmons (Whiplash) playing Howard Silk, a lowly employee at a bureaucratic UN agency bored and lonely, until he discovers that the agency is guarding a dark secret. Simmons’ haggard and wise face alone will make this one to watch, with the first episode directed by Morten Tyldum of The Imitation Game and Passengers fame. The show is set to explore themes of identity and idealism, especially when Howard discovers he has an “other” who is identical to himself and living in a parallel dimension…