The 12 best dramas to watch this autumn

From returning series The Crown and Peaky Blinders, to new shows like Kit Harington's Gunpowder and the Margaret Atwood adaptation Alias Grace – it’s going to be a great season for TV…

crown 123

1. The Crown

Netflix, 8 December

The Crown main image

Lavish, sumptuous… Call it what you will, the first series of The Crown was television at its most confident and expensive (it reputedly cost £100 million). Peter Morgan’s Netflix-original drama series, centred on the early years of the Queen’s reign, won universal praise and made a global star of the radiant Claire Foy. She returns, alongside former Doctor Who star Matt Smith as Prince Philip, for a much anticipated second series, joined by Downton Abbey’s Matthew Goode as Lord Snowdon and Dexter’s Michael C Hall as John F Kennedy.

2. Love, Lies and Records

BBC1, November

ashley jensen

Kay Mellor (Fat Friends, In the Club, The Syndicate) was inspired to write this six-part series as she registered her mother’s death at Leeds Town Hall — where she had, years earlier, also marked her daughters’ births and, recently, a friend’s marriage. A place of love, laughter and tears, it struck her as the perfect setting for a TV series. Ashley Jensen is registrar Kate Dickinson, juggling her personal life with the daily drama of her job.

3. The Boy with the Topknot

BBC2, November


Adapted from journalist Sathnam Sanghera’s critically acclaimed memoirs, the one-off drama brings to life his childhood in 1980s Wolverhampton. Sacha Dhawan (Sherlock, Iron Fist) is Sathnam, whose funny but poignant account of his childhood involves facing his father and sister’s mental illness, and defying familial expectations.

4. Gunpowder

BBC1, later this month


Instead of the usual depiction of the insurrection that never was, Ronan (Top Boy) Bennett’s new drama about the Gunpowder Plot presents it as a plan for mass murder that almost came to fruition. And rather than focus entirely on the best-known member of the gang, Guy Fawkes, Bennett’s protagonist is Robert Catesby (Game of Thrones’s Kit Harington), the plot’s mastermind.

5. Hatton Garden

ITV, December

hatton garden 1

Writer Jeff Pope is so good at these real-crime dramatisations; nobody does them better. His recent dramas The Moorside, about the Shannon Matthews kidnap hoax, and Little Boy Blue, centred on the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, were taut, brilliantly written and acted, and both heartbreaking in very different ways. Here Pope and co-writer Terry Winsor turn their attention to the 2015 burglary at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company that netted an aged gang of career criminals many millions (though no one knows exactly how much). Timothy Spall, Kenneth Cranham and Brian F O’Byrne lead the cast.

6. Howards End

BBC1, November

howard's end

That’s Howards End, not Howards’ Way — no one’s bringing back the 80s soap about a yachting community. This is an adaptation of EM Forster’s classic, starring Hayley Atwell, Matthew Macfadyen and Tracey Ullman. The series explores social divisions in turn-of-the-century England, through three families: the intellectual Schlegels, the wealthy Wilcoxes and the working-class Basts.

7. Peaky Blinders

BBC2, November

peaky blinders

They set the bar high for guest stars on this show. Sam Neill’s heartless policeman, Tom Hardy’s menacing baker… Beat that, Adrien Brody. He arrives in the gangland saga as a member of the Italian crime family that killed Grace Shelby — so it’s unlikely mob boss Tommy (Cillian Murphy) will roll out the red carpet.

8. Berlin Babylon

Sky Atlantic, November

berlin babylon

Sky’s 16-part German noir comes wearing the regalia of the most expensive non-English language drama ever made. Adapted from the books by Volker Kutscher, it features a Raymond Chandler-style hero, police inspector Gereon Rath, adrift in 1920s Berlin. Rath arrives from Cologne to investigate an extortion case that leads him into the darker recesses of society. Expect lashings of Weimar decadence and characters who underestimate the Nazis.

9. Stranger Things

Netflix, 27 October

stranger things

This spooky, nostalgic sci-fi series starring Winona Ryder and a gaggle of incredible child actors (above) was a colossal Netflix hit — and now it’s back, in all its retro, gory glory. The first series — which saw a hunt for a missing young boy take a chilling, supernatural turn — launched the career of 13-year-old Millie Bobby Brown, who returns as the telekinetic Eleven for series two, set in 1984.

10. The A Word

BBC1, November

a word

An everyday story of country folk… with a difference. Five million fans will welcome back Peter Bowker’s warm, watchable drama about a regular family trying to cope with their youngest member having autism, in which Morven Christie and Lee Ingleby made a messily plausible husband and wife.

11. The Miniaturist

BBC1, December


Jessie Burton’s debut novel was praised for its rich recreation of life in 17th-century Amsterdam. But it also worked as a haunting thriller full of intrigue, dark secrets and tiny items of furniture. For the adaptation, rising star Anya Taylor-Joy plays country girl Nella, who arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of a wealthy merchant.

12. Alias Grace

Netflix, 3 November

alias grace

After the success of The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace is the latest Margaret Atwood novel to be adapted for TV. The series — based on a true story — follows Grace Marks (played by Sophie Gadon), a 16-year-old Irish maid who emigrates to Canada. But within weeks she is convicted of the savage double murder of her boss and his lover.