15 dramas for 2015: new Broadchurch, Wolf Hall, JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy

What will you be watching in the new year? Here's our pick of the best new and returning shows...

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We’ve already made one resolution for the New Year: watch more TV. Yes, we should really be pledging to run around in the cold, lose weight or learn Swahili, but realistically none of that’s going to happen. Watching more TV, on the other hand, is eminently doable, especially with this list of dramas to look forward to in 2015…

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1. Broadchurch (Monday 5th January, 9.00pm, ITV)

David Tennant and Olivia Colman will return to our screens on Monday with a new mystery to solve – but that’s all we know for sure. In an unprecedented move, ITV won’t be showing previews of any of the eight episodes and advance information is scant to nonexistent, so even your favourite TV website remains in the dark.

What we do know is that police officers Alec Hardy (Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Colman) will be back, along with the parents of murder victim Danny Latimer. Going by clues in the trailer (above), Alec may find himself reopening an old, unsolved case… 


2. Wolf Hall (January, BBC2)

Former Homeland star Damian Lewis and Shakespearean actor Mark Rylance take top billing in this lavish six-part adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The tale of Tudor intrigue features Lewis in the role of Henry VIII, who will stop at nothing to produce a male heir, while Rylance plays the king’s devious adviser, Thomas Cromwell, plotting to reshape England in his master’s image.

Mantel, who was involved in script development but had no role in production, has given the show the thumbs up. “My expectations were high and have been exceeded,” she says. “The spirit of the books has been extraordinarily well preserved.” Claire Foy will play the ambitious but ill-fated Anne Boleyn, while Jonathan Pryce has been cast as Cardinal Wolsey.


3. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (Spring, BBC1)

This offbeat fantasy drama, based on the Susanna Clarke novel, imagines a magical re-awakening in 19th-century England. The title roles are taken by Eddie Marsan, who plays reclusive wizard Mr Norrell, while Bertie Carvel, last seen in Channel 4’s Babylon and BBC2’s The Wrong Mans, plays magical hopeful Jonathan Strange.


4. Death in Paradise (Thursday 8th January, 9.00pm, BBC1)

It lacks the grit now common to most crime series, but that’s to the credit of this gentle and eternally sunny mystery series. Many millions of devotees don’t watch Death in Paradise because it’s The Wire with sand – they watch because, in the gloomy days of January, it’s a daft piece of escapism. Kris Marshall returns as British detective Humphrey Goodman, with Sara Martins as his partner Camille.


5. Banished (April, BBC2)

Ripper Street actress MyAnna Buring and Him & Her star Russell Tovey lead the ensemble cast in Jimmy McGovern’s fictional take on the lives of the first convicts transported to Australia. Resources in the 18th-century penal colony are scarce, and the threat of death is ever-present…


6. 1864 (Spring, BBC4)

Fans of Scandi-noir will recognise plenty of the faces in this Danish drama about the country’s ill-fated expedition to annex the province of Schleswig. The cinematic war epic will feature Sidse Babett Knudsen, Borgen’s female prime minister, as well as Pilou Asbaek, who played her spin-doctor. Lars Mikkelsen, previously seen as Troels Hartmann in The Killing, also appears.


7. Arthur and George (Spring, ITV)

Martin Clunes stars as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in this three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’s novel about a series of true events in the Sherlock Holmes creator’s life. Conan Doyle has lost his wife and finds new purpose in pursuing a notorious miscarriage of justice.


8. Last Tango in Halifax (Sunday 4th January, 9.00pm)

Sally Wainwright’s enormously popular comedy-drama returned over Christmas. The new series will continue to explore the romance between Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi), and the effect their twilight wedding has had on their extended families. As Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) and Kate’s (Nina Sosanya) wedding day approaches, tension appears between the generations – and Alan is keeping a secret from his new wife.

9. Indian Summers (February, Channel 4)

Julie Walters plays the lead in this rare foray by Channel 4 into period drama. This ten-part series, which kicks off with a 90-minute feature-length episode, charts the decline of the British Raj in the early 1930s. The nascent Indian independence movement is gaining ground, and the colonial staff in Simla, a British enclave in the foothills of the Himalayas, fear for their safety.

Walters plays a middle-aged widow, the doyenne of the social scene, while Henry Lloyd-Hughes, last seen terrorising the cast of the Inbetweeners as school bully Mark Donovan, is an ambitious young civil servant on the make. Executive producer Charlie Pattinson promises an “epic, emotional and political story”.


10. Poldark (March, BBC1)

Having played his part in defeating the Orc hordes in the final film of The Hobbit trilogy, Aidan Turner takes on another war-weary soldier. In Debbie Horsfield’s new dramatisation of Winston Graham’s romantic saga of rich and poor in the late 18th century, Turner plays Ross Poldark, who returns to his native Cornwall from the American War of Independence to find his sweetheart, Elizabeth, betrothed to his cousin, believing him to be dead.

The Irish actor has the full confidence of the author’s son, Andrew, who believes he can carry off Poldark’s “good looks, impulsive temperament, strong loyalties and deep emotions”. Expect the Being Human star to have the swoon factor.


11. Foyle’s War (Sunday 4th January, 8.00pm ITV)

Michael Kitchen returns as Foyle in a postwar world of intrigue, spies and dastardly plots, with Honeysuckle Weeks at his side as driver-turned-fellow-agent Samantha. Settling down for a new episode of this perennial favourite is like nursing a tumbler of whisky while your feet are warmed by a roaring fire: all’s right with the world. Yes, plenty is wrong in Foyle’s world but you can guarantee he will walk tall, hat in hand, half-smiling, restoring the moral balance wherever he goes.


12. The Musketeers (Friday, 9.00pm, BBC1)

The swashbuckling adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic returns without original series villain Peter Capaldi (he’s off doing some other show, we forget the name), but the Cardinal’s evil plans are still causing havoc in this new run. Marc Warren picks up the nasty baton as new baddie the Comte de Rochefort, who has an agenda even more ghastly than his predecessor. Tom Burke, Howard Charles, Luke Pasqualino and Santiago Cabrera all return as the titular gun-wranglers, who have to protect the King and France from these new dangers.


13. Fortitude (January, Sky Atlantic)

Stanley Tucci, The Killing’s Sofie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston come together for Sky’s Arctic crime drama. It was filmed in Iceland, but the producers had to fly in their own snow — no wonder it’s the most expensive show the broadcaster has made.


14. The Casual Vacancy (February, BBC1)

JK Rowling is reunited with Dumbledore actor Michael Gambon in this BBC adaptation of the Harry Potter author’s first book for adults. At first glance, Pagford is a tranquil English town, but undercurrents of social tension, in part due to a local council election, bubble beneath its genteel façade. Gambon leads the cast of the three-part mini-series, in the role of adulterous delicatessen owner Howard Mollison, while Julia McKenzie, Keeley Hawes and Rory Kinnear also appear.


15. Cucumber/Banana/Tofu (January, Channel 4)

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Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies returns to Queer as Folk territory of with three linked shows about gay life in the 21st century. Vincent Franklin, better known as The Thick of It’s PR guru Stewart Pearson, stars as a middle-aged man coping with a break-up in the main series, while partner drama Banana, focusing on the younger men featured in Cucumber, airs on E4. A factual strand, Tofu, in which a range of actors and members of the public and the cast are interviewed about sex, will be shown online.