The 12 best dramas coming to TV this summer

Poldark isn't the only series to hit the small screen in the next few months: from Strike with Tom Burke, to Tamsin Greig in Diana, there's plenty of TV to stay in for

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Do not worry. If sunny days leave you cold, barbecues turn to ash in your mouth and trips to the beach sound like hell on Earth, don’t fret – because there’s plenty of great telly on the box this summer to keep you entertained while everyone else runs around having waterfights and getting sunburned.

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Gone are the days when the summer months were the doldrums of British TV, with all the top-tier series kept for the chillier days of autumn and only the bottom-barrel scrapings making it to the screen in June and July. Nowadays the world’s biggest and best dramas are just as likely to pitch up in sunnier times, and this year’s crop is no exception. Apart from Poldark there are so many brand-new and returning series to watch that you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to distractions in the coming long, warm nights.

Who needs to go outside anyway?

1. Poldark

Sunday 11th June

What’s it about?

The third series of the period drama sees Capt. Ross Poldark – a redcoat who returned to Cornwall after the American Revolutionary War – in a happier place with wife Demelza after the troubling (ahem) events last series. But it’s not all smiles. The series opener raises that ugly unanswered question about Poldark’s pregnant former love Elizabeth: just who is the father of her unborn child?

Who’s in it?

Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Heida Reed and Jack Farthing.

Why watch it?

Not only does the superbly written drama – based on Winston Graham’s epic book series – gift audiences a glimpse at 18th Century Cornwall, but the new series will shift to events abroad. Producer Michael Ray says: “The world of Poldark expands again in series three as we head across the sea to violent revolutionary France, meanwhile on the home-front we meet the richest and most powerful people in Cornwall. And they all want a piece of Ross.”

2. Fearless

June ITV

What’s it about?

Dogged solicitor Emma is convinced that a convicted child-killer is innocent, but her efforts to free him are threatened by powerful forces in the police and intelligence forces who’d rather the truth stay hidden.

Who’s in it?

Helen McCrory, Jonathan Forbes, Michael Gambon, Jamie Bamber, John Bishop and Wunmi Mosaku.

Why watch it?

“Fearless is a legal thriller,” says writer Patrick Harbinson, who’s also worked on US hit Homeland. “But one that’s written in the crash zone where law and politics collide. National security justifies all sorts of police and state over-reach — and the great majority of us are prepared to accept this. So I wanted to create a character who challenges assumptions, who fights for those outside the normal run of society, and who is uncompromising, difficult, and indifferent to unpopularity and danger.”

3. Against the Law

July BBC2

What’s it about?

More than ten years before the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts in 1967, gay journalist Peter Wildeblood finds himself in the dock when his lover is pressured to turn Queen’s Evidence against him, in a retelling of one of the 1950s’ most controversial court cases — the Montagu Trial.

Who’s in it?

Daniel Mays, Mark Gatiss, Charlie Creed-Miles, Richard Gadd and Mark Edel-Hunt.

Why watch it?

“I’m incredibly proud to be part of a drama that tells such an important real-life story,” Mays says. “Peter Wildeblood is a fascinating, complex, yet flawed character from a time when being a gay man in Britain was incredibly difficult.”

4. Top Of The Lake: China Girl

July BBC2

What’s it about?

When a young Asian girl is washed up on Bondi Beach, Sydney, it’s up to Detective Robin Griffin to dive back into the depths of Australian criminal life that nearly destroyed her in the last series of this acclaimed drama.

Who’s in it?

Nicole Kidman, Elisabeth Moss and Gwendoline Christie.

Why watch it?

The first series, Top of the Lake, was a hit with critics and audiences, and this new run of episodes from Oscar-winning director Jane Campion looks set to be another winner. “The astounding cast Jane has brought together will star in a dark and beguiling story that takes Robin Griffin deep into the underworld of Sydney, and to the limits of her own heart,” says executive producer Lucy Richer.

5. Ackley Bridge

Episode one is on Wednesday (June 7) 8.00pm C4

What’s it about?

Think Waterloo Road, but with more of a social conscience. This new Channel 4 drama follows the merger of two Yorkshire comprehensives from segregated British and Asian communities into one multicultural academy, resulting in conflict and culture shocks as the two student bodies mix for the first time.

Who’s in it?

Jo Joyner, Paul Nicholls, Liz White, Sunetra Sarker and Adil Ray.

Why watch it?

Early buzz for the series is very positive, and the issues it explores couldn’t be more relevant.

6. Diana and I

Late summer BBC2

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What’s it about?

The death of Princess Diana 20 years ago shook Britain to its core, creating a sense of national bereavement. This one-off drama follows the lives of four people as they deal with the personal aftermath of the tragedy.

Who’s in it?

Tamsin Greig, Nico Mirallegro, Kiran Sonia Sawar and Laurie Davidson.

Why watch it?

Writer Jeremy Brock says: “It’s not a film written in memoriam. It’s a celebration of what it’s like to be human — good and bad.”

7. The State

Summer C4

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What’s it about?

Peter Kosminsky (Wolf Hall director) follows the experiences of four Brits who join Isis in Syria.

Who’s in it?

This is the first acting project for the majority of the cast.

Why watch it?

In an unflinching depiction of the realities of life under Isis, The State is said to be an authentic drama, confronting one of the most important issues of our time.

8. Strike

August BBC1

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What’s it about?

Cormoran Strike is a war veteran, recluse and the illegitimate son of a rock star — but more importantly, he’s also one of the sharpest investigators in the country, parlaying his experience in the military police into work as a private detective. Tackling three complex cases that have baffled the police, the gloomy Strike (along with his trusty partner Robin) will have to face murderers, liars and traitors as his adventures continue — not to mention the worst of Britain’s press when details of his cases become public knowledge.

Who’s in it?

Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger and Martin Shaw.

Why watch it?

The series is based on Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s other bestselling books (written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith), and if it captures the spirit of the critically acclaimed Strike novels, it’s sure to be as big a smash as her other work.

9. Trust Me

July BBC1

What’s it about?

Skilled nurse Cath Hardacre usually tries to do the right thing — but when she’s sacked for whistle-blowing, her desperate circumstances make her steal a friend’s identity and pose as a senior doctor in Edinburgh. It all starts well, but just how long is that façade going to last?

Who’s in it?

Jodie Whittaker, Emun Elliott and Sharon Small.

Why watch it?

“I’ve worked as a doctor within the NHS for most of my adult life,” says writer Dan Sefton, “so I know only too well that it provides the perfect setting for a contemporary drama — the characters, the (often literal) pain — as well as the affection and dedication of staff.”

10. In the Dark

August BBC1

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What’s it about?

Detective Helen Weeks has a problem. After discovering she’s pregnant with a child that could be either her partner Paul’s — who is also a detective — or the result of an affair, she’s ordered back to her hometown when an old schoolfriend’s husband is arrested on suspicion of the abduction of two young girls. In the glare of the world’s media, Helen and Paul dig deep into the case to find out if they’ve really got the right man — but when secrets of Helen’s own childhood begin to resurface, she might wish it was just a paternity question she had to deal with…

Who’s in it?

MyAnna Buring, Ben Batt and Ashley Walters.

Why watch it?

Bafta-winning screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst (Clocking Off, Exile, Ordinary Lies), is adapting the story from Mark Billingham’s bestselling novels.

11. The Loch

June ITV

What’s it about?

When a human heart is found by the shores of beautiful Loch Ness, local detective Annie Redford must race to catch a serial killer before her small community is torn apart by suspicion. In other words it’s another Broadchurch for ITV, but this time set in Scotland.

Who’s in it?

Siobhan Finneran, Laura Fraser and John Sessions.

Why watch it?

From the beautiful scenery of Loch Ness and the Cairngorms to the crime drama pedigree of lead actors Fraser (Breaking Bad, The Missing) and Finneran (Happy Valley), we’d say this is the perfect scenic whodunnit to occupy your evenings.

12. The Handmaid’s Tale 

Sundays at 9pm on C4. Catch up now on All 4.

What’s it about?

In a terrifying near-future, the fanatical Christian government of Gilead rules the former United States with an iron fist, stripping away the rights of women and forcing the fertile into bearing children for the ruling elite. One enslaved woman, Offred, can remember the time “before” when she had a husband, a daughter and a whole other life — but if she wants to survive, she’ll need to submit to this cruel and puritanical new world.

Who’s in it?

Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Alexis Bledel and Yvonne Strahovski.

Why watch it?

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Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel (on which this series is based) has been a must-read for decades, and this extended adaptation has had a hugely positive reception while airing in the United States over the past couple of months.