Culture – The TV shows to watch in 2020 – BBC News


Dramas and thrillers

Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access/Amazon Prime Video) features Sir Patrick Stewart reprising his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard, which he played for seven seasons on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The new series will follow the redoubtable former captain of the USS Enterprise into the next chapter of his life. Alongside Stewart, the cast includes Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd, Alison Pill, Harry Treadaway and Evan Evagora.

Set in the heart of government during a time of crisis, high-stakes British drama Cobra (Sky One) stars Robert Carlyle as the prime minister, and Victoria Hamilton as chief of staff, Anna Marshall. After catastrophic events throw the nation into darkness, a team comprised of Britain’s leading experts, crisis contingency planners and the most senior politicians must now assemble to help bring society back from the brink of collapse. Richard Dormer and David Haig also star.

The follow-up to 2017’s The Young Pope, The New Pope (Sky Atlantic) sees revered director Paolo Sorrentino once again dive into the inner workings of the Vatican, exploring both the very human desires, vices and fragilities of those in power and the complexities inherent in faith today. Picking up where The Young Pope left off, the story finds Jude Law’s Lenny Belardo, known as Pope Pius XIII, still in a coma – and so, following a mysterious turn of events, Secretary of State Voiello (Silvio Orlando) succeeds in having Sir John Brannox (John Malkovich), a charming and sophisticated moderate English aristocrat, placed on the papal throne, adopting the name John Paul III. But while the new pope seems ideal, he has secrets to hide. Sharon Stone and Marilyn Manson guest star.

After the events of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes pair up in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Disney+) to fight together against evil. Anthony Mackie (The Falcon) and Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier) reprise their roles, while Daniel Brühl will return as the villain, Baron Zemo.

And then finally, the CIA thriller Homeland (Showtime) twists and turns its way to an end with an eighth and final season. The question is: will there be finally be light at the end of the tunnel for Claire Danes’ tormented agent Carrie Mathison? This time round, her real-life husband Hugh Dancy will also make an appearance.

Old favourites

Some of television’s least likeable, but most brilliantly written, characters will return for a third season of Succession (HBO/Sky Atlantic), the Rupert-Murdoch-meets-King Lear media empire saga. Fans will be eager to find out about the reverberations of the bombshell at the end of the last series, when wronged son Kendall betrayed his father Logan in a press conference.

The creepy sci-fi drama Westworld, (HBO/Sky Atlantic) about the dawn of AI, returns for a third season – now focused on the outside world beyond the robot theme parks that were the focus of the first two series. Aaron Paul, Vincent Cassel, Lena Waithe, Scott Mescudi and Marshawn Lynch join the cast.

American Gods (Amazon Prime Video), based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, also returns for a third season. Ex-convict Shadow (Ricky Whittle) continues to help mysterious Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane) in a hidden world where magic is real, and where the old gods fear irrelevance amid the growing power of the new gods, including Technology and Media.

For the romantics, season two of Modern Love (Amazon Prime Video) follows quickly on from this autumn’s first run, bringing more unique stories about the joys and tribulations of dating, marriage and friendship, each inspired by a real-life personal essay from the New York Times column of the same name.

Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul (AMC/Netflix) returns for a fifth series. This slow-burning origin story showing how criminal lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) became the corrupt crook that Breaking Bad fans know and love (even though they shouldn’t) has been getting better and better. Now, McGill’s turn to the dark side is closer than ever.

What happens when superheroes are owned by powerful corporations and abuse their powers rather than use them for good?, In series one, The Boys (Amazon Prime Video) explored that question to violently subversive effect, and now it also comes back for a second run which is bound to pile on the mayhem further.

As for returning UK dramas, the second series of London drama Save Me, Save Me Too (Sky Atlantic), features Lennie James, Suranne Jones and Stephen Graham reprising their roles, while Lesley Manville joins the cast. Set fourteenth months on, it sees Nelly (James) still no wiser as the whereabouts of his daughter Jody – but will new evidence emerge?

Foreign drama

The third season of sumptuous German drama Babylon Berlin (Sky Atlantic) continues its exploration of the murky world of the Weimar Republic before the ascension of the Third Reich, as Inspector Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) and Charlotte Ritter (Liv-Lisa Fries) are assigned to investigate the violent on-set death of an actress, only to realise that the film industry is just as rotten as the underworld.

Based on the best-selling trilogy of Kristina Ohlsson’s novels, Stockholm Requiem (Walter Presents/Channel 4) is a psychological thriller following Fredrika Bergman, an unconventional criminologist and new civilian recruit to the police force, as she joins a less than welcoming special investigations unit to tackle crimes across the city.

Gomorrah director Stefano Sollima’s new series ZeroZeroZero (Sky Atlantic) is another adaptation of a book by Italian journalist Roberto Saviano, this time looking at the crime frenzy of international drug trafficking. The Mexican cartels, the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta and corrupt US businessmen all compete for supremacy over the trade routes of the world’s most distributed drug: cocaine. Andrea Riseborough, Dane DeHaan and Gabriel Byrne are among the international cast.

Translating some of the darkness of Black Swan from the ballet world to the orchestral one, Philharmonia (Walter Presents/Channel 4) follows Hélène Barizet (Marie-Sophie Ferdane), a brilliant conductor with unorthodox methods who returns to Paris after 20 years to take over as head of the titular orchestra: one that is ominously nicknamed the “maestro killer”.


Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s fictionalised characters embark on The Trip to Greece (Sky One) for a fresh helping of gastronomic adventures, with the pair locking horns over tragedy, myth and history.

Armando Iannucci brings us Avenue 5 (Sky One), a space tourism comedy set 40 years in the future when the solar system is everyone’s oyster. Hugh Laurie will star as the suave, outwardly confident Captain Ryan Clark, and with him in charge, nothing can go wrong… or can it?

After facing her demons in the first season of Shrill (Hulu), Annie Easton (Aidy Bryant) is no longer the doormat she once was, and returns feeling pretty good with boyfriend Ryan by her side. That is, until she realises that hastily quitting her job and jumping into a relationship with someone who is a little less career-focused may not have been the best idea.

Workplace comedy Intelligence (Sky One) is set in the UK’s government communications headquarters – which is essentially a geekier, more bureaucratic version of MI5 and MI6. When arrogant NSA agent Jerry (David Schwimmer) comes over from the US to join the team, he enlists an inept computer analyst Joseph (Nick Mohammed) in a power grab that threatens to disrupt the team’s ability to combat cyber terrorism.

From It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day, comes Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet (Apple TV+) which follows a team of developers led by the company’s creative director Ian Grimm (McElhenney) as they navigate the challenges of running a popular video game.

Horror comedy series Truth Seekers (Amazon Prime Video) is about a team of part-time paranormal investigators who team up to uncover and film ghost sightings across the UK, sharing their adventures online. As they stake out haunted churches, underground bunkers and abandoned hospitals, their supernatural experiences grow more frequent, and they begin to uncover a conspiracy that could bring about Armageddon.

Larry David is back without a script and riffing with his cast as a fictionalised version of himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm season 10 (HBO/Sky Atlantic). Be prepared for faux-pas aplenty from this consummate study in how seemingly trivial details of one’s day-to-day life – a cold cup of coffee, a shirt stain, a mislaid toothbrush – can precipitate a chain of misfortune to hilarious effect.

Literary adaptations

A legend is about to get fresh blood, as the makers of Sherlock serve up a new take on Dracula (BBC One/Netflix). In 1897, an English lawyer called Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) travels to Transylvania to meet a new client Count Dracula (Claes Bang). Written by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, this will feature all the classic elements – a terrifying, maze-like castle, undead brides, and a vampire whose ambition is to conquer the new world – but with an apparently comic spin and some gruesome special effects.

Writer Sarah Phelps’ latest Agatha Christie adaptation The Pale Horse (BBC One), stars Rufus Sewell as widowed antique dealer Mark Easterbrook, who finds a mysterious list of names – including his own – in a dead woman’s shoe. His investigation leads him to a country village and the titular Pale Horse, a former inn now converted into a home lived in by women rumoured to be witches.

Best known for the Powell and Pressburger film, Rumer Godden’s 1939 haunting tale of sexual repression and forbidden love among nuns Black Narcissus (BBC One/FX), gets a new three-part adaptation by writer Amanda Coe. It follows Sister Clodagh (Gemma Arterton) and the nuns of St Faiths, who travel to Nepal to set up a branch of their order in the remote palace of Mopu. Sister Clodagh finds herself increasingly attracted to the handsome and damaged land agent, Mr Dean (Alessandro Nivola), but as the repressed memories of Clodagh’s past become entangled with the tragic history of Princess Srimati, history seems doomed to repeat itself. An all-star cast also includes Aisling Franciosi, Diana Rigg, and Jim Broadbent.

Following 2018’s Safe, crime writer Harlan Coben serves up another thriller for Netflix: The Stranger, starring Richard Armitage as a happily married father of two whose life is turned upside-down in after he is told a secret about his wife, which sets him on a path to danger. Siobhan Finneran, Hannah John-Kamen and Jennifer Saunders co-star.

Nicole Kidman reunites with Big Little Lies creator David E Kelley for The Undoing (HBO/Sky Atlantic), based on the book You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz. She stars as Grace Sachs, a successful therapist with a devoted husband and a young son who attends an elite private school in New York City. However overnight a chasm opens in her life: there’s a violent death, a missing husband, and a chain of terrible revelations. Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland also appear.

Gender-flipping Nick Hornby’s classic 1995 romantic novel High Fidelity (Hulu) sees Zoe Kravitz now take the role of Rob, a record store owner in the rapidly gentrified Brooklyn neighbourhood of Crown Heights, who revisits past relationships through music and pop culture, while trying to get over her one true love.

Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel of the same name, dark mystery The Outsider (HBO/Sky Atlantic) follows an investigation into the gruesome murder of a young boy. Oddities with the crime, however, lead a hardened cop and an unorthodox investigator to question everything they believe to be real. Jason Bateman stars as the key suspect, alongside Ben Mendelsohn, Marc Menchana and Cynthia Erivo.

Another King novel The Stand (CBS All Access) gets an adaptation from director Josh Boone. In an apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague, and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil, the fate of mankind rests on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail and a handful of survivors.

The most heartrending literary adaptation of 2020 may be the dramatization of Sally Rooney’s hit novel Normal People (BBC Three/Hulu), which follow Marianne and Connell, both from a small Irish town, but from very different backgrounds – as they embark on an on-off romance that starts at school and continues through college, during which they test their relationship, experiment with other partners and explore different versions of themselves.

Post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller Snowpiercer (TNT) is a spin-off both of the much underrated 2013 South Korean-Czech movie directed by Bong Joon-ho (now receiving acclaim for Parasite) and 1982 graphic novel Le Transperceneige. As with the film, the series follows the passengers of a gigantic, perpetually moving train that circles the globe carrying the remnants of humanity seven years after the world becomes a frozen wasteland.

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