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50 best BBC shows: all the best dramas on iPlayer right now

From all-time classics to the very best new drama series, discover what you've been missing on BBC iPlayer.

Line Of Duty - Ep 7
Published: Friday, 14th May 2021 at 1:37 pm

The BBC is renowned the world over as a producer of great drama – and throughout 2020 and 2021, more and more of us have been turning to the Beeb for some escapism, with Line of Duty scoring overnight figures of 12.8m viewers and Eve Myles drama Keeping Faith being streamed more than 50 million times on iPlayer.

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BBC iPlayer has some of the very best drama of recent years, as well as more recent hits, available to stream – the problem isn't a lack of choice, it's deciding which of these boxsets to crack on with first! But that's where RadioTimes.com comes in, recommending you the very best across all genres, from thrillers to horrors to period dramas.

Some of the latest additions include brilliant shows like BBC Two’s The Terror, Northern Irish thriller Bloodlands and UKTV’s drama Traces, while classic bingeworthy boxsets include Nordic Noir drama The Killing, the iconic Silent Witness (with all 23 series available on iPlayer) and 10 series of whodunnit escapades with Death in Paradise.

Read on for our top BBC drama picks.

The Missing

The Missing

This BBC thriller from writing duo Harry and Jack Williams delivered two gripping series, both of which kept viewers guessing until the very end. Each series explored a different missing person's case, with Tchéky Karyo's enigmatic and charismatic investigator Julien Baptiste serving as the connective tissue between the two. James Nesbitt was BAFTA nominated for his superb, heartbreaking turn in the first series as Tony Hughes, the father to missing boy Oliver who refuses to give up on his son, while the second series featured an equally impressive cast, with David Morrissey, Keeley Hawes and Laura Fraser appearing opposite Karyo in the twisting tale of two kidnapped girls, Alice Webster and Sophie Giroux, and the surprising link between them. With terrific performances and plot turns you just won't see coming (fair warning: don't get too attached to any of the characters!), The Missing is haunting, surprising and utterly unmissable television. Rather than opt for a third series, the Williams brothers instead decided to continue the story of Baptiste in a spin-off, which launched on BBC One in 2019 and is also available to stream on BBC iPlayer. - Morgan Jeffery

I May Destroy You

I May Destroy You (BBC)

To put it simply, Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You is astonishing. In just six hours (split across 12 30-minute episodes), the show covers a staggering amount of ground, providing a detailed and insightful examination of sexual consent and assault in numerous forms. The show certainly doesn’t shy away from its sensitive subject matter – Coel told Radio Times that the BBC "let [her] do anything" and didn't restrict or hamper the show's content – but its razor-sharp wit and beautifully written characters go a long way to keeping the conversation accessible. Her portrayal of Arabella was one of the best performances of 2020 without any doubt, but co-stars Paapa Essiedu and Weruche Opia are also phenomenal, each of them excelling in both comedic and heart-wrenching scenes. Scoring eight BAFTA nominations in 2021, I May Destroy You is not only hugely compelling television, it’s important, educational, and impossible to forget. - David Craig

Life on Mars

Life on Mars
BBC

Life on Mars might be 15 years old now – it’s painful to consider that, if the series were made today, an equivalent storyline might see present-day copper Sam Tyler transported back to the early 1990s – but this terrific drama, which sees John Simm’s Sam wake up in 1973 after a traffic collision, has lost none of its power to impress. The show’s central gimmick allows Life on Mars to function beautifully as two very different shows at once – a glorious throwback to rock 'em, 'sock 'em British cop shows of the 1970s like The Sweeney and The Professionals and an intriguing fantasy thriller that takes in time travel and unsettling hallucinatory (or are they?) sequences. As the aggressive, politically incorrect DCI Gene Hunt, Philip Glenister might get all the best lines, but it’s Simm’s powerful lead performance that helps ground the madness, with Liz White, Dean Andrews and Marshall Lancaster offering able support as part of a faultless cast. Small but perfectly formed, Life on Mars ran for just two series and kept us guessing till the very end – was Sam mad, in a coma or back in time? – with a sequel series starring Keeley Hawes, the 1980s-set Ashes to Ashes, following and running for three series. - Morgan Jeffery

Responsible Child

Responsible Child

When does a child become fully responsible for their actions? Can they ever be responsible? And what if those actions include something deadly serious? Something like murder? That’s one of the questions posed by documentary-maker Nick Holt’s factual drama Responsible Child, examining how in England and Wales, children as young as ten can be put on trial for murder. Ray (played by Billy Barratt) is an apparently sweet-tempered 12-year-old boy who has endured a tumultuous childhood. He may look like an angel, his lawyer muses, but he and his adult brother have both just been charged with brutally murdering their abusive step-father while he slept — and Ray will be put on trial in an adult court. Does the crime justify the trial (and potential punishment) that he faces? Barratt is extraordinary in the role of Ray, who is essentially a carer for his younger half-siblings, hanging to portray a child who is at once old beyond his years, but who is also frightened, impressionable and vulnerable. While the drama closely follows Ray’s perspective, it also features some excellent supporting turns, notably from Michelle Fairley (Game Of Thrones, Suits) as Ray’s defence barrister, and Stephen Campbell Moore (The History Boys, The Last Post) as a court-mandated child psychologist who questions whether a 12-year-old’s brain could fully compute the consequences of murder. - Flora Carr

The Salisbury Poisonings

The Salisbury Poisonings - dave minty and Tracy

We’re sure you need no reminder of the subject of this BBC fact-based drama – in March 2018 Salisbury unexpectedly became the scene of a national emergency after Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a park bench. When it became clear that Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer and that nerve agent Novichok was the cause of their poisonings, the case became a worldwide media frenzy – but for the city of Salisbury became an emergency cleanup process.

Extensively researched by the creators and former investigative journalists Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn, The Salisbury Poisonings makes for a remarkably restrained and informed take on the 2018 event. The dramatic license one would expect from such a high-profile incident is gone – instead of scenes containing armed police and international espionage, the drama focuses instead on the community of Salisbury, and a few local heroes who rose to the occasion. With remarkable echoes of the later Covid-19 pandemic, we see authorities led by director of public health Tracy Daszkiewicz lead a rather effective track and trace scheme against an initially unknown and very unfamiliar contagion, with the residents of Salisbury – always the focus of the drama – stoically adapting to the new normal. - Daniel Furn

Traces

Traces
BBC

With its moody Dundee setting and morally ambiguous characters, Traces feels in many ways like a British take on the now fashionable Scandi-noir. Traces follows young lab assistant Emma who has a rather bad time on a forensic studies course when she realises the case study actually pertains to her murdered mother. With the help of two female professors at the Scottish Institute of Forensic Science, Emma must ruffle quite a few feathers as she drags up the past to finally bring a killer to justice.

Doing for forensics what Line of Duty did for corruption, Traces is based on an original idea by best-selling crime writer Val McDermid, the master mind behind iconic characters such as Lindsay Gordon and DCI Karen Pirie. The female representation doesn’t end there however – as well as the three leads, the show is made by an all-female production team including writer and director, ensuring a fresh take on the well-trodden crime genre. Mixing whodunnit elements with some in-depth forensics that’s explained far better than the likes of CSI, it’s easy to see why Traces proved popular – a second series is expected in 2021.

The series is stuffed full of talent who are no strangers to crime shows – Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser plays Emma’s initially sceptical new boss, while Line of Duty’s Martin Compston shows off his natural Scottish accent as Emma’s love interest Daniel. However, it is Molly Windsor (Three Girls) who is the star of the show here, putting her BAFTA-winning acting to good work. - Daniel Furn

Torchwood

Children of Earth

Doctor Who has always been renowned for its scary sci-fi (who can forget the terror of the Weeping Angels, eh?) but Russell T Davies’ Torchwood was given the opportunity to really get gritty. The show plunged its hands into the filth of how the existence of aliens would affect the planet as a time-rift in Cardiff (of all places) kept Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and his team plenty busy. Torchwood was sexy, bloody and a lot of fun. If you haven’t seen it before, think of it like a very British take on The X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with each episode featuring a monster-of-the-week before tying into an overarching storyline. As the Doctor Who revival of the early 2000s continued to be popular it was no surprise that Torchwood struck a chord with fans as it introduced hordes of new characters and monsters, offering a gory outlet for those who imagined what an adult version of the time-travel show could look like. After an impressive two series, it later returned in 2009 and 2011 with two miniseries, Children of Earth and Miracle Day - focusing on two sprawling storylines, with the latter taking the team to America. Many fans still hope for a fifth outing for Torchwood, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet. - Eammon Jacobs

Moving On

Moving On
BBC

The BBC’s long-running anthology series Moving On has aired 65 episodes and twelve series since it began in May 2009, and shows no signs of stopping. As you might expect from the title, the series tackles the ever-relatable theme of change, with each episode following a character in contemporary Britain as they reach a turning point in their life.

Usually broadcast over the course of a week in an afternoon time-slot, Moving On has helped daytime television reach new respectability. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always relatable and human, no matter how much each episode and their events may differ they all tap into the emotions and actions that occur in all walks of life. It’s not surprising therefore that the mastermind behind this series is none other than Jimmy McGovern, best known for creating and writing Cracker and Hillsborough.

Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt and Robert James-Collier, Doctor Who’s Paul McGann and John Simm and Game of Thrones’s Alfie Allen are among the many, many familiar names popping up throughout the series. - Daniel Furn

The Fades

The Fades

BBC Three’s slate of programming was incredible before the channel was pulled off-air in 2016, and one of the most underrated shows was 2012’s The Fades from writer and creator Jack Thorne. The series followed Iain DeCaestecker as Paul, a 17-year old student who discovers he’s actually an ‘Angelic’ and has been pulled into a war with vengeful spirits of the dead, known as ‘The Fades’. With a brilliant touch of horror, the series was as if Skins had been crossed with Supernatural.

It was a thrilling show, and it didn’t garner nearly as enough attention as it deserved. Which is surprising because it paired DeCaestecker up with an incredible cast of stars including 2021 Academy Award winner Daniel Kaluuya, Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer, Lucifer star Tom Ellis and Skins alumni Joe Dempsie. With the threat of an apocalypse on the way, the six episode series was a gripping watch. And although it was violent enough to give it an edge, The Fades never pushed into gory horror movie territory. That’s not to say it wasn’t without its scares, because it was undeniably creepy at times. It’s a genuine shame that a second series was never commissioned but at least most of its cast moved on to bigger projects. - Eammon Jacobs

Don't Take My Baby

Don't Take My Baby

The title alone is nightmare-inducing – more heartbreaking is that this factual drama is based on real-life testimony. Wheelchair user Anna and partially sighted Tom are a devoted mother and father to baby Danielle, but social worker Belinda calls their parenting skills into doubt due to their disabilities. With mounting pressure from social services, their parents and each other, Anna and Tom must ask some honest questions of each other as they fight for custody of their newborn.

The drama was made as part of BBC Three’s Defying The Label series which saw fifteen new programmes examine life with a disability – with Don’t Take My Baby as the runaway success, earning Best Single Drama at the 2016 BAFTA’s along with a raft of other nominations. The series was praised in particular for its handling of the little-discussed issue of the nation’s 11,000 disabled couples, and the UK Children’s Services who pass judgement on whether they can keep them. Tough questions with no easy answers are asked throughout the drama that may well call prejudices and beliefs into doubt, not just about the disabled community, but society as a whole.

Ruth Madele stars in a BAFTA-nominated performance as mother Anna, and would later go on to key roles in Cold Feet and Years and Years. Also fighting for his family is Happy Valley’s Adam Long, who also won critical acclaim including a Royal Television Society Award nomination. - Daniel Furn

The Luminaries

The Luminaries (BBC)

Star-crossed lovers? You’ve seen nothing yet. The Luminaries takes place in 1860s New Zealand in the middle of a gold rush as Anna Wetherell (Eve Hewson) and Emery Staines (Himesh Patel) fall for each other when they arrive on the other side of the world after travelling from London. But although their meet-cute was undeniably, well, cute, Anna meets a number of other men in her new home of Dunedin - each of them representing the various Zodiac signs. It makes for interesting chemistry between all these eclectic characters, to say the least. The stylish period drama looks incredible, with gorgeous costumes and impressive cinematography - you’ll be lusting for a holiday before too long.

If there’s one star alone in this which makes The Luminaries worth your time: Eva Green. She’s brilliantly poisonous as Lydia Wells, and steals every scene that she appears in – and the chemistry between Patel and Hewson means you’ll quickly find yourself rooting for them by the end of The Luminaries’ six-episode run. – Eammon Jacobs

Harlots

Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville in Harlots
ITV

An 18th century brothel is an unlikely setting for a period drama – especially on the BBC – but that hasn’t stopped this British-American series from winning rave reviews. Inspired by Hallie Rubenhold’s non-fiction book The Covent Garden Ladies, Harlots follows London brothel owner Margaret Wells as she attempts to raise her two daughters while battling a rival madam – soon starting a war over the city’s most profitable activity.

While Harlots certainly uses its titillating subject matter to draw viewers in and push boundaries, the show's strength resides in its much deeper exploration of business, family and how the two intersect in order to survive as a woman in eighteenth-century London. There’s still plenty of campy fun and bright costumes to lighten the proceedings, but never without losing its grit or comparisons to contemporary gender issues. It was sadly cancelled in 2020 – but three excellent seasons are now available to watch through the BBC.

Samantha Morton – who recently starred as Alpha in The Walking Dead – plays the ambitious and strategic brothel owner Margaret, while Phantom Thread’s Lesley Manville plays her former employer turned rival madam Lydia Quigley. Jessica Brown Findlay, best known as Downton Abbey’s Lady Sybil Crawley, stars in this rather different period drama as Margaret’s daughter and popular sex worker Charlotte, while The Frankenstein’s Chronicle’s Eloise Smyth plays the younger and more reluctant daughter Lucy. - Daniel Furn

McMafia

McMafia - James Norton

What if organised crime adopted a franchise model? That’s how Misha Glenny’s non-fiction book McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld was named, which has since inspired this hit BBC crime drama. The British-born son of a Russian mafia boss, Alex Goodman, has spent his life staying out of the family business, but a murder soon draws him into the world of international organised crime to save those he loves.

While the premise may sound a tad predictable, McMafia combines the global reach of a spy flick with the grit of a crime thriller and a sprinkling of corporate drama for a truly unique and epic final product. However, the show also balances the scope with some more intimate moments, with family drama always the heart of mafia-set shows – and here the series succeeds despite the twisted web of conspiracies Alex’s family find themselves in. The plot is based on some of the short stories found in Glenny’s book so the series, while fictional, is well-informed, and proved popular that the BBC ordered a second season in 2018 – we’re still waiting patiently!

The series is led by James Norton in what is rumoured by many to be a James Bond audition – and an effective one at that. He’s joined by Nomadland’s David Straitharn as Russian-Israeli businessman Semiyon Kleiman, and Juliet Rylance as Alex’s girlfriend who gets a bit more than she bargained for. - Daniel Furn

The Trial of Christine Keeler

Christine Keeler’s story was ripe for a dramatic adaptation as it’s filled with sex, lies, and scandal with a potential threat to national security thrown in for good measure. And the six-part series from the BBC did not disappoint. The Trial of Christine Keeler explored the scandal that the model and showgirl had become wrapped up in when she was 21. The series explores how her numerous affairs with Conservative MP John Profumo and Soviet Attaché Eugene Ivanov had caught the attention of MI5 back in the 1960s.

Sophie Cookson (The Kingsman) played Keeler in the series to much critical praise as her performance conveyed how the young woman’s life was dictated by manipulative figures for their own ends. She’s surrounded by other talented stars like James Norton, Ellie Bamber and Misfits lead Nathan Stewart-Jarrett.The timely drama was adapted by Amanda Coe who wrote the script as well as being an executive producer for the series. As the screenwriter herself put it at the time of release, “it’s a perfect storm of gender, class, race and power.” The Trial of Christine Keeler didn’t need to over-sensationalise anything because the events themselves were already dramatic enough, and it makes for a gripping watch. - Eammon Jacobs

Talking Heads

Sarah Lancashire in Talking Heads (BBC)

What if dramatic monologues, so powerful in the theatre, were the focus of their own TV series? That’s the premise of this show from acclaimed playwright Alan Bennett, which sticks to the format rigidly with each episode consisting of a single monologue in with only one character appearing during the entire runtime. It’s not the most action-packed television out there – but there are few that can match the power of a talented actor or actress given extended time with strong material.

The first two series were made up of six episodes, and broadcast a decade apart in 1988 and 1998 – with their success leading to a radio broadcast, a West End play and two Best Actress BAFTAs for Thora Hird. Covid-19 restrictions made Talking Heads an ideal choice for a remake in 2020, with ten of the original episodes remade with a brand new cast as well as two brand new monologues written by Bennett.

A talented cast is needed to hold the audience’s attention during such a long monologue – and Talking Heads had no trouble attracting the very best. The two original series included acting legends such as Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Penelope Wilton and Bennett himself. Not to be outdone, the 2020 series offered the best of Britain’s modern acting talents, including Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig and Imelda Staunton. - Daniel Furn

Strike

Strike: Lethal White
BBC

Strike is adapted from JK Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series which she penned under the Robert Galbraith pseudonym. It follows an army veteran as he picks up a career as a private detective in London, with Tom Burke playing the eponymous investigator. Strike uses the skills that he picked up when working for the Special Investigation Branch to solve cases for the police. The series is largely carried by Burke’s effortless chemistry with Holliday Grainger, who appears alongside him as Strike’s assistant, Robin Ellacott.

It isn’t quite as frantic or chaotic like Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, but its unique crimes and mysteries push both the actors and the audience to approach the story in new ways. Since 2017 the series has adapted the first four books; The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, Career of Evil and Lethal White. Although audiences are still hoping that the BBC adapt the fifth book in the series, Troubled Blood. But until we learn more about the future of the series, there’s eleven episodes for you to dig into first! And no, before you ask, there’s not a wand in sight. - Eammon Jacobs

Roadkill

Hugh Laurie plays Peter Laurence MP in Roadkill

Hugh Laurie is no stranger to political TV having memorably played Senator Tom James in Veep, though Roadkill is a far more serious affair. Laurie is a great choice as charismatic government minister Peter Laurence, who shows no guilt or remorse as his private life begins to fall apart. Under increasing criticisms from his enemies and facing a strained relationship a home, Peter still attempts a bid for No.10 – will his Machiavellian schemes get him the prize?

There’s a refreshing lack of Brexit or COVID-19 in this Downing Street drama, which instead examines political ambition and the greed and corruption that all too often get entwined with it. The show comes from impressive pedigree with The Hours screenwriter David Hare and Line of Duty director Michael Keillor, but it’s the on-screen talent that had critics raving.

Best known for his bumbling comedy characters, it’s always refreshing when Hugh Laurie showcases his dramatic chops, and his performance here is up there with his sombre work in The Night Manager and House M.D. His charisma and likability is expertly channelled into Laurence’s charming façade that just about covers the amoral muck bubbling underneath, and the show truly shines in his scenes with the late, great Helen McCrory, whose final performance as ice cold Prime Minister Dawn Ellison is one to remember. - Daniel Furn

Sherlock

Cumberbatch Gatiss

Many were sceptical at the idea of a 21st Century version of Conan Doyle's detective – but Sherlock is far better than it has any right to be. This fresh, modern and mind-bending reimagining from Doctor Who scribes Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss takes several of Conan Doyle’s famous stories and not only updates them for the modern audience, but adds a truly unique spin with humorous and highly quotable one-liners, a complex and evolving friendship and, of course, some of the best twists and turns to ever grace our televisions.

It’s no wonder that this show helped launch Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to Hollyood stardom – Cumberbatch excels as the ‘high-functioning sociopath’ with a genius mind but a lack of social skills, and Freeman excellently anchors him as a loyal partner both professionally and more importantly, personally. As well as great turns form the likes of Una Stubbs and Rupert Graves, particular mention has to go to Andrew Scott – before he was Fleabag’s ‘hot priest’, he very nearly stole the show with only a few episodes of screen time as the delightfully malicious mastermind Moriarty.

Sherlock is impressively faithful to Doyle’s original works in many ways, makes some interesting new additions in others but mostly updates to his iconic stories in some seriously clever and creative ways – just wait until you see how the show’s take on The Reichenbach Fall perplexed the internet for years. Its episodic nature means there’s been a few hiccups down the road – but Sherlock at the height of its powers is some of the finest crime drama on British TV. - Daniel Furn

The Secrets She Keeps

The Secrets She Keeps
BBC

Class politics, pregnancy and the power of reputation collide in this Sydney-set psychological thriller imported from Down Under. The Secrets She Keeps follows forlorn shelf-stacker Agatha who idolises the seemingly perfect life of influencer Meghan, who just so happens to be at the same stage of pregnancy as Agatha. However babies are not all the two are carrying – and after a chance meeting at the supermarket, the explosive secrets weighing down on both expectant mothers will culminate in an unforgivable act.

The plot twists in this may not be all that unpredictable – especially if you’re aware of the true story the show is based on – but that’s not the point. Instead, the show’s charm comes from slow-burn tension and dark humour as well as the expected soapy elements, making for a unique noirish exploration of femininity, motherhood and image.

The true strength in The Secrets She Keeps, however, is the performances from the two leads, namely Arrow’s Jessica De Gouw as Meghan, but Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael as Agatha in particular. Worlds away from Lady Edith Crawley, Carmichael plays grippingly against type as the delicate but disturbing supermarket employee determined to have the life she wants – even if belongs to someone else. - Daniel Furn

Normal People

Normal People
BBC

This heartbreaking drama follows two young students Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) and Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar Jones) who begin an intense affair at school before their own insecurities get the better of them, causing a rift in their unique relationship. Based on the novel by critically acclaimed author Sally Rooney, the series follows their lives as they grapple with their own emotions while still trying to desperately cling on to one another. At times, Normal People is heartfelt and poignant, and at others it’s emotionally devastating. What’s even more impressive is this is Paul Mescal’s first major television role, and he’s made a sublime impression on audiences with his truly gut-wrenching performance.

Because Sally Rooney wrote the series (alongside Alice Birch and Alice O’Rowe) those who read the 2018 book will recognize just how faithful to the original story Normal People is. And with a brilliant direction from Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald, it’s unsurprising that the series has been nominated for a collection of awards. It received plenty of attention from the Emmys and the Golden Globes, although so far it's only won Best Casting at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts International Awards. However, Mescal, Jones, and the entire creative team have all been nominated at the 2021 TV BAFTAs. - Eammon Jacobs

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

Can you really make a list of BBC dramas without this national icon? A British institution at this point, the revival of the long-running sci-fi series seemingly did the impossible by not only successfully reinventing the classic show for the 21st Century, but possibly making the show even more popular than it was before. The show’s premise, however, is just the same as it was in the ‘60s: an eccentric alien time lord travels through space and time with their companions in a police box, fighting Daleks, Cybermen and all sorts of monsters and injustices along the way.

We’re now on our fifth(!) Doctor and third showrunner since Doctor Who returned in 2005, and while the show has undergone some changes in terms of episode count, Christmas specials and, of course, cast, the show retains its unique mix of high-concept sci-fi, humour, action and surprisingly human drama.

Jodie Whittaker is the current incarnation of the Time Lord – for one more series at least – with Mandip Gill (Hollyoaks) as plucky police officer companion Yaz. However BBC iPlayer has all 12 instalments of the revival, meaning you can relive – or experience for the very first time – the adventures of Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. With the show nearing its 60th anniversary, we look forward to a few of them potentially returning for a special – here’s to another 60 years. - Daniel Furn

The Syndicate

The Syndicate series 4 ep1
BBC

What would really happen if your syndicate won the lottery? That’s the question posed by this heart-warming drama from BAFTA award winning scriptwriter Kay Mellor, which shows that big money wins can often result in even bigger problems. An anthology series, each instalment shows a different group winning big, at first focusing on employees in a Leeds supermarket and eventually syndicates at a Bradford hospital, a Scarborough stately home and a Yorkshire dog kennel.

While the premise has the potential to become a rather dark affair, in true Kay Mellor fashion the series consistently remains warm and fuzzy, with family usually remaining at the heart of the drama and any criminal activity usually an excuse for light-hearted jaunts. However, amidst the flashy and breezy main plot, The Syndicate possibly excels best with the smaller, more personal subplots, which manage to emotionally and realistically explore issues such as zero hour contracts, gambling addiction and truly stretching your money to survive on the breadline.

The anthology nature of The Syndicate means a big new guest star every season, with Timothy Spall, Alison Steadman, Lenny Henry and Neil Morrissey all featuring as struggling syndicate members who hit the big one. They’re joined by a revolving door of British talent also, including the likes of Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter), Joanna Page (Gavin & Stacey), Mark Addy (Game of Thrones), Siobhan Finneran (Benidorm) and Lorraine Bruce (White Gold) as the only actor to appear in all four series. - Daniel Furn

Killing Eve

Killing Eve
BBC

Always one of iPlayer’s most streamed shows of the year, Killing Eve has become a pop culture smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s easy to see why with its fresh, subversive take on the espionage thriller – being an international assassin has never looked like so much fun.

Bored British Intelligence officer Eve is thrilled to be tasked with tracking down psychopathic assassin Villanelle – but what starts out as your usual cat-and-mouse thriller goes into much more interesting territory when the two develop a mutual obsession for each other.

Stylish, funny, and at times very, very, gory, Killing Eve’s feminist take on the usually male-dominated spy genre provides some very witty and surprising results. This is no small part due to the writers – Phoebe Waller-Bridge was head writer of season one just before Fleabag made her an international star, while Promising Young Woman writer-director Emerald Fennell took over the reins for the similarly critically acclaimed season two.

While Sandra Oh was already known for Grey’s Anatomy, Killing Eve would make stars out of both leads – Jodie Comer has rightfully won an Emmy and a British Television Award for her portrayal of the chameleon-esque Villanelle, while Oh snagged a Golden Globe for her work as titular spy Eve. Though very deserving of their Best Actress awards, the two should really be nominated together rather than against each other – their electric chemistry lifts the whole show. - Daniel Furn

A Suitable Boy

A Suitable Boy
BBC Pictures

Based on the 1993 novel of the same name, A Suitable Boy is a vast, sweeping period drama following four linked families in post-independence India, with the focus on young university student Lata Rupa. Her mother is determined to pick Lata’s husband for her – so as the entire country goes through a pivotal cultural and political change, will Lata remain loyal to her mother’s wishes or choose her own suitable boy?

Vikram Seth’s towering 1,300 page novel is condensed into a bite-size six-episode series, yet still manages to cover a sizeable amount of ground, with four large families featured (and over 110 characters), as well the historical context, a background general election, a showcase of Indian music and dancing, and, of course, Lata’s central story. Director Mira Nair ensures that not a minute is wasted, however, with stunning set pieces and an overabundance of colour making sure the visuals are just as busy and exciting as the plot.

A Suitable Boy is also notable for being the first BBC period drama to have a non-white cast – with the actors and actresses involved often highlighted by critics as the best part of the show. Tanya Maniktala delights in only her second on-screen appearance as protagonist Lata, with Indian actor Ishaan Khatter as the wayward Maan Kapoor. Bollywood star Tabu plays his courtesan love interest Saeeda Bai, while Manifest’s Mahira Kakkar portrays Lata’s domineering mother. - Daniel Furn

The Serpent

The Serpent
BBC

The real-life case of notorious serial killer Charles Sobhraj is the focus in The Serpent, making the series instantly attractive thanks to the ‘true story’ element of it all. It follows Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) as he makes his way through the world killing hippies, travellers and anyone he feels is beneath him while his partner Marie-Andrée Leclerc (Jenna Coleman) both fears her boyfriend and enables his actions. Although it’s a fascinating series, there’s surprisingly no mystery aspect to it - since the audience sees (mostly) everything that the killer gets up to. The truly compelling side of the story comes from the cat-and-mouse chase between Sobhraj and investigator Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle).

But it’s equally hard not to be gripped by the chilling performances from Tahar Rahim, and Jenna Coleman for that matter. Sobhraj is a manipulative charmer who uses his personality to relax and disarm his unknowing victims before killing them in a variety of savage ways. But what’s even scarier is Leclerc’s willingness to go along with it all, even though she’s also scared of his brutality. But the freeing nature of feeling like they’re against the world keeps her by his side. It’s an intense watch at times, but true crime fans will love it. – Eammon Jacobs

The Eichmann Show

An interesting premise here – The Eichmann Show focuses not on those who captured the titular Nazi, but those who fought to televise his trial. Holocaust organiser Adolf Eichmann was captured in 1961 and brought to Jerusalem, where producer Milton Fruchtman and director Leo Hurwitz hope to broadcast the trial to combat any resurgence of Nazism. Battling death threats, network reluctance and resistance from the Israeli prime minister, Fruchtman and Hurwitz would go on to make the very first global television documentary.

Of interest to fans of television, legal and indeed political history, this BBC Two television film looks at this well-known event from a fresh and little-known perspective, and shows how we’re still able to view the trial today. The Eichmann Show isn’t afraid to tackle moral issues also – such as the danger of turning the trial of one of the 20th century’s most notorious war criminals into a “show” – and also includes documentary segments so we never lose track of what is important.

The show is helped also by two terrific leads – the always great Martin Freeman convinces as the embattled and beleaguered Fruchtman, and is paired with the equally impressive Anthony LaPaglia as the formerly blacklisted director Hurwitz. - Daniel Furn

Us

Us, BBC

If you haven’t watched Us, you need to. It’s an infectiously heartwarming love letter about family, love and loss. It stars Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves as Douglas and Connie Petersen who take their son Albie, played by Tom Taylor, on a trip around Europe before he leaves for university. Unfortunately for Douglas, Saskia wants a divorce. The time abroad is tense, but it feels so relatably British. The dynamic between the trio makes it all the more difficult for Douglas, because while Albie is so close with his mother, his father just can’t get through to him at all. It’s the small moments between Hollander and Taylor which put that across perfectly, as the middle-aged Dad frequently embarrasses his son to no end.

There’s also something bizarrely refreshing (if a little teasing) about watching the Petersens travel throughout Europe without the need for masks, an overuse of hand sanitizer or even facing long queues because of Brexit. Us also charms the audience by showing us who Douglas and Connie were before they became parents and what brought them together in the first place. And although it’s only four-episodes long, you’ll be surprised how quickly David Nicholls’ writing makes you care about them all, no matter how grumpy Douglas is. – Eammon Jacobs

The Fall

The Fall

The BBC has been killing it with cat-and-mouse crime dramas recently – with The Fall dominating the genre before Killing Eve came along. Gillian Anderson follows Stella Gibson, a tortured Detective Superintendent who is no stranger to catching serial killers. This particular serial killer, however, is revealed at the outset to be family man Paul Spector, hiding in plain set as he attacks young women in Belfast. Which of these tormented but brilliant minds will come out on top?

Unrelentingly dark, The Fall has proved itself to be a mastermind at building tension and drawing complex characters. It threw the crime drama rulebook out the window by revealing the killer immediately, replacing any whodunit elements with a slow-burn will-they-won’t they between the police’s efforts to catch Paul and his efforts to get away, as well as a psychological study of the killer and what could prompt a seemingly normal and functioning human to kill.

Such a two-hander would of course require two strong leads – and they found movie star choices in Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson. Dornan was winning rave reviews as cold serial killer Paul Spector before the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise made him a household name, while the always excellent Gillian Anderson began her recent television resurgence began here with her portrayal of the seemingly cold but passionate Stella Gibson. - Daniel Furn

Small Axe

John Boyega plays Leroy Logan in Small Axe on BBC One
BBC

Small Axe was an anthology series from the critically acclaimed filmmaker Steve McQueen and follows a number of different stories about West Indian immigrants living in London during the 1960s up to the 1980s. The director helmed all five episodes of the series, but worked with Alastair Siddons and Courttia Newland on the stories for each chapter. Each chapter is a stunning illustration of how institutional racism has affected Black communities in the United Kingdom for decades., although Lovers Rock was seen as both a cultural celebration and a transfixing period tale of romance. The series starred an impressive array of actors, with performances from Letitia Wright and John Boyega being praised by critics across the globe for their roles in the episodes Mangrove and Red, White, and Blue respectively.John Boyega won a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actor, and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Leroy Logan, the founder of the Black Police Association. - Eammon Jacobs

Death in Paradise

Death in Paradise
BBC

If you love a good murder mystery with a slice of comedy, then look no further than Death in Paradise. The series is set on a fictional island in the Caribbean called Saint Marie and at first follows Ben Miller’s Detective Richard Poole who’s investigating the murder of a British police officer on the island. Once he solves the bizarrely complicated case, Poole is ordered to stay on the island as the go-to Detective Inspector. The format has worked particularly well with audiences since 2011, as Death in Paradise often rotates detectives in and out to keep the story going, much like in Doctor Who.

So far, Ben Miller, Kris Marshall, Ardal O’Hanlon and most recently Ralf Little have all played the various detectives who are put in charge in Saint Marie, each with their own compelling reasons for staying abroad rather than living in England. Created by Richard Thurgood in 2011, this entertaining comedy-drama has proved that it's got the legs to keep on going. In fact the BBC has been so impressed with it, that it’s already been commissioned for season 11 and season 12. To be honest, with that many murders, we’re surprised there’s anyone still alive in Saint Marie... - Eammon Jacobs

Anthony

Toheeb Jimoh in Anthony on BBC One

Writer Anthony McGovern is no stranger to playing with our emotions thanks to his acclaimed Moving On series – but here he puts his talents to a much more serious and shockingly true story. In July 2005, eighteen-year-old black student Anthony Walker was murdered by two white men in an unprovoked racist attack in a Liverpool park. This television film tells his story – not of the life he lived, but the life he could have had if he hadn’t been murdered, telling the story in reverse from an imagined life at 25 back to the night of his death.

Not an easy watch, this powerful and unconventional method of storytelling really emphasises the feeling of loss, and everything that Anthony could have achieved had his life not been blighted out by hate. Walker’s mother Gee approached McGovern to write the project, and helped provide details about Anthony that would inspire the imagined events – including his wedding, the birth of his child, and saving a friend from alcoholism – without overly deifying him.

Ted Lasso actor Toheeb Jimoh stuns as the titular Anthony, while Shetland’s Julia Brown plays the imagined love of his life Katherine, a representation of the love story he never got to have. - Daniel Furn

Murdered By My Boyfriend

Murdered by my Boyfriend
BBC

As the rates of domestic abuse have continued to spiral in the UK throughout the numerous lockdowns, there’s a vital drama from 2014 which should be mandatory viewing for younger audiences. Murdered By My Boyfriend is a harrowing story based on a real-life case in which Georgina Campbell plays Ashley Jones, a young woman whose boyfriend’s abusive behavior begins to escalate before reaching a horrific end. Ashley’s boyfriend Reece is played by Royce Pierreson (who’s gone on to appear in Line of Duty, The Witcher and The Irregulars), and he’s dangerously charming and nice to begin with before he increasingly starts to control her life more. While the 60-minute film was nominated for Best Single Drama at the BAFTAs (but failed to win) Georgina Campbell rightfully won the award for Best Actress for her leading role in the film. It’s not entertaining subject matter, but it is a necessary watch - especially for younger audiences who should be made aware of the dangers behind this kind of coercive behaviour. Although it is based on a real-life case involving domestic violence, the names of all those involved were changed by writer Regina Moriarty. - Eammon Jacobs

Luther

Idris Elba as Luther
BBC

Idris Elba may be a global movie star these days, but he still found time to film five series of this smash hit BBC One show. Luther sees Elba as the dedicated, obsessive and occasionally violent DCI John Luther, a genius murder detective whose brilliant mind is not immune to the darkness of his job. The series starts with him unable to imprison psychopath and murderer Alice Morgan, leading the two to solve crimes together while he fights his own terrible demons.

Luther has been a smash hit for the BBC over the last decade, with Elba repeatedly garnering rave reviews every time a new series premiered, and the dark tone credited with giving the show more weight and gravitas than most police procedurals. Critical praise has been unanimous – indeed the biggest criticism has been the length of the show, with only twenty-one episodes produced over five series.

Elba is the powerhouse of this series, but he’s joined by some fine company. His Dark Material’s Ruth Wilson makes a particularly memorable turn as psychopathic nemesis and companion Alice Morgan, with The Death of Stalin’s Dermot Crawley as the razor-sharp DCI Martin Schenk and comedian Michael Smiley as “Deadhead” Benny Silver. - Daniel Furn

Make Me Famous

Make Me Famous (BBC)

In a world where social media has become a concrete part of everyday life, it’s become very clear just how damaging it can be. From the falsely perceived standards of beauty that Instagram filters give us, to the torrents of abuse that users can hurl at one another without thinking of the after-effects of their words, stories, tweets and captions. Reggie Yates’ Make Me Famous put social media and fame under the microscope in a painfully tragic way. While it is a fictional tale, it’s not too far from reality as Tom Britney’s Billy struggles to deal with the fame that goes hand-in-hand with appearing on a reality TV series. It’s an emotional watch, as his appearance in the show (titled Love or Lust) has resulted in giving him huge confidence issues. And in a world where contestants on shows like Love Island have taken their own lives as a direct result of being in the public eye, Make Me Famous makes for a perfectly heartbreaking parable. This 60-minute long drama puts Reggie Yates’ point across immaculately by forcing the audience to consider just how dangerous social media can be. - Eammon Jacobs

The Terror

Jared Harris stars in The Terror
BBC

A second season with a completely different plot was made, but it’s the first season of this semi-historical horror drama that’s the one to watch. The Terror is inspired by the real-life doomed expedition of the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus as they searched for the fabled Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic in the 1840s, and presents a fictionalised account of what could have happened as the mystery of their disappearance endures. With the ships trapped in the ice, the starving and unwell crew are forced to contend with an elusive monster stalking them in the ice – as well as each other.

A unique mix of horror and semi-historical drama, other than the obvious supernatural elements the show presents a surprisingly accurate portrayal of life on an 1840s Arctic naval expedition. However, the show succeeds in the horror aspect also, with the isolated Arctic setting means the atmosphere is dire even without the presence of Inuit spirits, and when all hell does break loose it is only after wonderful bouts of restraint and build-up.

A prestige cast help also – Chernobyl’s Jared Harris stars as the troubled but talented Captain Francis Crozier, with The Crown’s Tobias Menzies as the initially antipathetic Commander Fitzjames. Fellow Game of Thrones veteran Ciarán Hinds plays the more popular and jovial Captain John Franklin, with Motherland’s Paul Ready as the morally robust surgeon Harry Goodsir. - Daniel Furn

Keeping Faith

Keeping Faith aka Un Bore Mercher S3

This recently-concluded drama series is led by Torchwood's Eve Myles, delivering an absolute powerhouse of a performance (for which she won a Welsh BAFTA. Streamed more than 50 million times since making its BBC iPlayer debut in 2018, Keeping Faith was a gripping domestic drama set against the backdrop of rural Wales – think Big Little Lies, but set in Carmarthen – with its many plot twists and turns (which we won't spoil here!) keeping fans hooked in both England, where the show aired on BBC One, and in Wales, where a Welsh-language version of the show first aired under the title of Un Bore Mercher. If you marathon your way through the first eight-part series, we guarantee the cliffhanger ending will have you jumping straight into the next season. - Morgan Jeffery

Line of Duty

Line of Duty season 6

Mother of God. If you haven’t seen Line of Duty, perhaps we can persuade you to give it a go… The series from Jed Mercurio follows the anti-corruption officers of AC-12 as they try and root out corrupt police men and women as they work with organized crime gangs. It’s arguably one of the best British shows of the last decade. Each series has an individual case which is inextricably snared in a web of corruption which endangers the lives of everyone involved. But at its core, audiences were enamored by the enduring (professional) partnership of Kate Fleming and Steve Arnott. They’re unstoppable, even in the face of damning odds - and it’s the performances from Vicky McClure and Martin Compston which sell their dynamic so perfectly, “mate.”

But we’d be deranged if we didn’t praise Ted “Yes, like the battle” Hastings. Adrian Dunbar’s ferocious tenacity as the head of AC-12 makes him so, so lovable. Throw in an array of catchphrase-worthy phrases, and he quickly became the face of the show as much as Compston and McClure. This is all without mentioning the insane talent of the guest stars each series, featuring the likes of Lennie James, Keeley Hawes and Daniel Mays - to Thandiwe Newton, Stephen Graham and Kelly Macdonald. The central mystery of H/the Fourth Man does get a little convoluted as time goes on, but putting all the pieces together behind the conspiracy is incredibly satisfying. - Eammon Jacobs

Life

Peter Davison plays Henry in Life

Remember the scandalous events of Doctor Foster which saw a family ripped apart by steamy affairs and scheming? Well, the BBC series Life is a surprising spin-off from the dramatic thriller. Victoria Hamilton reprises her role as Anna Baker (now known as Belle Stone) from the Suranne Jones-fronted show, although don’t expect Gemma Foster herself to show up to cause drama midway through. Life revolves around a Victorian house made up of four different flats, with four different residents each with their own problems and issues as the series addresses mental health, alcoholism, and of course, romantic drama. The series was concocted by Doctor Foster creator Mike Bartlett, who saw the perfect opportunity to build out this world through Anna Baker/Belle Stone. It’s not as over-the-top and wild as Doctor Foster (which is a welcome relief) but it’s just as entertaining. With the likes of Alison Steadman, Adrian Lester and Peter Davison in the cast, it’s like a who’s-who of British TV royalty. Because of the interwoven stories all running through this one house, it’s very easy to become heavily invested in their respective lives and problems, making the six-episode series a very bingeable watch. - Eammon Jacobs

Black Narcissus

Black Narcissus
BBC

Based on the 1947 classic movie of the same name, BBC’s Black Narcissus miniseries is a truly tense watch. It follows a group of Anglican nuns as they try and set up a mission school in an old Himalayan palace, but become troubled by the controversial events that have taken place inside. This horror tinged, psycho-sexual drama is filled with excellent tension as the headstrong Sister Clodagh (Gemma Arterton) tries to have a positive impact on the surrounding community, only to eventually make things worse. There’s definitely some subtext buried in the story commenting on the British Empire in the 1930s and its effect on the countries it tried to “help” or “modernise”.

Don’t go into Black Narcissus expecting ghosts and ghouls to pop up at every turn, it’s more of a psychological horror than anything, forcing the nuns with their own unique test of faith as the past catches up to them in truly tantalising ways. This brooding, erotic thriller is a little edgier than Michael Powell’s 1947 film, with Clodagh’s original crisis of faith swapped out for a steamy dilemma between genuine romance with Mr. Dean (Alessandro Nivola) and staying true to the religion. It might not stick the landing perfectly, but writer Amanda Coe brings an entrancing new vision for the classic tale. – Eammon Jacobs

Bloodlands

Bloodlands
BBC

If you’re aching for a new crime drama to grip you now that Line of Duty series six has finally wrapped up, then mother of god, you need to watch Bloodlands. The James Nesbitt-fronted series comes from Line of Duty and Bodyguard executive producer Jed Mercurio, so just prepare yourself for some shocking twists. The four-part series follows DCI Tom Brannick (Nesbitt) as he connects the kidnapping of a former-IRA member to a mysterious assassin known only as Goliath. It’s very easy to become quickly invested in Bloodlands as the conspiracy presents more layers for audiences to peel back with each new episode.

It’ll definitely keep your eyes glued to the screen - especially when certain revelations come to light. Needless to say, James Nesbitt commands everyone’s attention with this one. This Northern Irish noir (Noirthern Irish anybody?) also features some of the most intense interrogation scenes to rival the ones seen in the AC-12 offices. There’s only four episodes in the first series, so it’s an easy binge-watch. And yes, series two has already been greenlit, not that we’re excited or anything. – Eammon Jacobs

Trigonometry

As far as romantic dramas go, Trigonometry should be up there with Normal People. After Ray (Ariane Labed) decides to change her life for the better, she moves to London from France and quickly takes up a room in an expensive flat with a couple, Gemma and Kieran (Thalissa Teixeira and Garry Carr). But throughout the eight-episode series they all begin to feel drawn to one another, eventually navigating the difficulties of a polyamorous relationship. It’s a stunningly realistic depiction of an unconventional relationship, it thankfully doesn’t sensationalise the deep emotional connection between the trio or make fun of the situation.

The series from writers/creators Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods takes a psychological approach to the unusual situation, as all three try to wrap their heads around their feelings. That’s not to say it’s without its drama or sexual tension, because the atmosphere in that flat is palpable to say the least. The dynamic between Ray, Gemma and Kieran is wonderfully charming - even if there’s a little too much naivety going on at some points. The performances from Labed, Teixeira and Carr often expertly communicate everything that needs to be said between them all without using the words to do so. – Eammon Jacobs

Our Girl

There’s a reason Our Girl ran for four series, because audiences just couldn’t get enough of the military drama. It had all the usual trappings of a typical romantic series, but framing it against the backdrop of the war in Afghanistan made every single emotion feel heightened in a way which snared viewers almost immediately. Although it initially followed Lacey Turner’s Molly Dawes who joins the British Army after being unhappy with her life, the show pivoted to Michelle Keegan’s Georgie Lane from series two onwards.

The action in Our Girl is brilliantly entertaining, raising the stakes for every single relationship and character dynamic across the series. Sure, it can feel a little too romanticised at times, but it’s easy to become invested in the diverse cast of characters who show up along the way. It never shied away from the consequences of war, with both Molly and Georgie having to balance their own personal issues alongside their duties. While Our Girl occasionally ponders on the politics of war, it doesn’t disrupt the various romantic relationships. It’s more concerned with the direct consequences of fighting both on the civilians and the soldiers themselves. – Eammon Jacobs

Silent Witness

Silent Witness XXIII

Silent Witness is one of the longest running police procedurals in the UK, and for good reason. In its impressive 23 seasons so far, it’s featured a revolving cohort of various detectives, forensic pathologists and investigators all dedicated to solving grisly cases that seem more complicated than the last. It’s genuinely astounding that the show hasn’t burnt out of ideas yet, but somehow, every season is filled with surprisingly confounding mysteries. Whether it’s unearthing the crimes of convicted serial killers or the assassination of a US diplomat, there’s a distinct variety in every single case.

And if you like a side of gore with your ‘whodunnits’, you’re in for a bloody treat. There’s severed limbs, internal organs and autopsies galore. And yet, it never feels over the top. If anything it still feels remarkably grounded and timely. Although there’s been plenty of cast members over the years, and a stand-out performance comes from Liz Carr as Clarissa Mullery - a forensic examiner who happens to be a wheelchair user. Silent Witness doesn’t just relegate her to a helpful member of the supporting cast, instead she’s constantly a key part of the investigation, often providing answers where others stumble. Does the format occasionally get a little repetitive? Of course, but that makes its stories no less entertaining. – Eammon Jacobs

Baptiste

BBC

For fans of The Missing, one of the best elements in the series was Tchéky Karyo’s grizzled and unflinching detective, Julien Baptiste. His refusal to get surgery on a potentially fatal brain tumour gave him such a sense of urgency in his investigation into the case of a missing child in the series. His solo spin-off series first follows the case of a missing sex worker in Amsterdam, and it takes some seriously seedy turns along the way. Karyo’s performance is just as brilliant as it was in The Missing, as new developments in the story give the actor a chance to flex his dramatic muscles in different ways.

As the case takes a horrific turn and key characters are revealed to have shocking alter-egos, Baptiste does well in keeping audiences on their toes. It’s a little grisly at times, but it’s not as gory as one of the opening scenes might have you believe. Although some of the later twists are clearly signposted along the way, seeing it all unravel by the end of the first season is definitely satisfying. And with the likes of Jessica Raine and Tom Hollander showing up, what’s not to love? Thankfully, a second series is on the way and will arrive at some point later this year. – Eammon Jacobs

His Dark Materials

Dafne and Amir

Oh His Dark Materials, you brilliant piece of fantasy you. Based on the best-selling books by Phillip Pullman the series follows 13-year old Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen) who embarks on a dangerous journey through a parallel world to uncover the mystery surrounding bizarre particles Dust and how it affects different dimensions in the universe. It’s a riveting adventure that sweeps audiences up along with Lyra in a grand storyline that never compromises its scale to fit the small screen. The series from writer Jack Thorne has struck the perfect blend between realism and fantasy, as Lyra’s world feels familiar to our own but also is vastly different.

And while the first series of His Dark Materials felt a little constricted by setting up all these different characters and plot points about parallel worlds, the second series is so much fun while the cosmic stakes get even bigger. Truthfully, this works so much better than the misaligned cinematic adaptation from 2007. It’s a testament to the stellar cast that all the animalistic Daemons don’t come across as silly or stupid, they’re believable and enthralling. Also what a cast! It boasts the likes of James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda building out the supporting characters. You don’t want to miss this. – Eammon Jacobs

Sitting in Limbo

Sitting in Limbo
BBC

The Windrush scandal has dominated the headlines in the UK over the last few years as the general public has been outraged over the unlawful detaining and deportation of people who had arrived in the country during the 1960s as part of the ‘Windrush’ generation. And as timely as ever, the BBC’s Sitting in Limbo dramatised the institutional failure of the Home Office as Anthony Bryan (played by Patrick Robinson) was arrested and told he would be deported to Jamaica. This true story was written by Bryan’s half-brother Stephen S. Thompson, and it was a heartbreaking account of the government’s failings.

Not only did it show the madness of bureaucracy and how something like this can tear people’s lives apart, but it also highlighted the Home Office’s hostile stance on immigration. While these topics can often get lost in a sea of headlines, Sitting in Limbo managed to cut right to the consequences of it all with a heartbreaking performance from Patrick Robinson. Make no mistake, the feature-length drama is not an easy watch. But it perfectly captures the effects of one of the biggest political scandals in the last decade. Not only has the 2020 film nominated for Best Single Drama at the BAFTAs, but Stephen S. Thompson has been nominated at the 2021 BAFTAs TV Craft for the Emerging Talent: Fiction category for writing the story. - Eammon Jacobs

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Check out our Drama hub for all the latest news, or our TV Guide to find something to watch tonight. For more recommendations, visit our guides to the best series on Netflix, the best series on Amazon Prime and the best shows on Disney Plus.

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