BBC1 – 1 January
The partnership of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson faces its greatest test as their iron bond looks like it could be sundered forever. In the first episode of the hotly anticipated fourth series, Sherlock is high as a kite after his bender on the plane at the end of the last one. He’s even taken to tweeting and is as intellectually restless as we have ever known him. Meanwhile, his affable chronicler John Watson and wife Mary (Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington) are rooted in happy domesticity as new parents.
But the clouds are gathering as the tight little group is drawn into the mystery of why someone is smashing busts of Margaret Thatcher. Everyone rises to the demands of a brutal story that leaves Sherlock (and Benedict Cumberbatch at his finest and most mature) lost in the abyss. Gripping.
2. Line of Duty
BBC1 – spring
Chasing corrupt cops has proved so popular that this show has earned a fourth series, and is moving from BBC2 to BBC1. Think of all those lucky millions of viewers about to be introduced for the first time to Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and their boss, Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), as they wade through webs of lies. This series Hastings’s team has DCI Roz Huntley, played by Thandie Newton, in their sights — which is not a good place to be if you have anything to hide…
3. Prime Suspect: 1973
ITV – spring
Jane Tennison is Helen Mirren, but she might not be for long. Tennison, a prequel to Prime Suspect, hopes to do for the iconic female role what Endeavour did for Inspector Morse — give a new face to a familiar character. Stefanie Martini (Doctor Thorne) has been cast as the young Tennison, and the six-part series, written by Lynda La Plante, is set in the 1970s. We see her on the beat as a WPC before she is thrown into a brutal murder investigation, and we get to meet her family — yes, apparently she did have one…