Were it not for the TV, in all honesty, we’d have probably given up on everything this year.
While it’s possible to track the exact point in the year by the current TV obsession (when things got bad: Normal People; when things got truly terrible: Tiger King) there’s no denying that television has been one of the saving graces in 2020; the year of the unrelenting global pandemic.
Whether we were switching on edgy, genre-pushing series like I May Destroy You, Small Axe or Industry, or whether people were getting a comforting blast of nostalgia from much older TV shows, for many people the small screen has been our constant, reliable companion through these troubled times.
It is, however, quite hard to predict how big an impact the coronavirus will have on the 2021 schedules. Production delays this year mean broadcast delays next year, but filming is slowly ramping up around the world, which means things are looking brighter for anyone keen to find out what's happening in the world of the Roys, the Shelbys and the Windsors. There's also a glut of one-offs and limited series, as well as new adaptations of old favourites. That should all keep us going through whatever crisis is thrown at us next.
Here’s our pick of what we’re most excited to see on screen in 2021.
Starts January 1, BBC One
The BBC turns it hand to a glossy true-crime thriller, which tells the story of French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, known as the Serpent, who murdered backpackers in South-East Asia in the Seventies. A Prophet’s Tahar Rahim takes the creepy lead role, with Jenna Coleman (Victoria) going darker than we've seen her before, as Marie-Andree Leclerc, Sobhraj’s glamourous French-Canadian accomplice.
Nicolas Cage’s History of Swear Words
Streaming January 5, Netflix
Nicolas Cage, screaming the word “Fuuuuuuuuck”, certainly got our attention on the trailer, not only as it encapsulated our thoughts on 2020. So we’re obviously on board for a whole series looking at different potty-mouthed words, and where they came from. Maybe they’ll even suggest some new ones, as god knows we could do with a couple more in these trying times.
Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer
Streaming January 13, Netflix
Want to start the new year off with a terrifying examination of one of America’s most notorious serial killers? If that’s your bag, then knuckle down for this four-part series, which tells the true story of a night stalker in LA, who spent the summer of 1985 sexually assaulting and murdering his victims, who were aged from six to 82. Harrowing stuff that will definitely make you check your front door is triple-locked.
Streaming January 15 on Disney+
Who couldn’t use a few superheroes in everyday life right now? Transporting us off to a fantasy world of Marvel legends, Wandavision is a mini-series which takes place after the events of the film Avengers: Endgame. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany take up their roles again as Wanda Maximoff and Vision, as they live a suburban life in Westview, trying to blend in.
It’s A Sin
January, Channel 4
Legendary showrunner Russell T Davies has moved on from his dystopian family drama, Years and Years, and instead has focused his new, hard-hitting but also heartwarming series, It’s A Sin, centred around a group of friends in London in the Eighties, when a mysterious illness starts hitting the scene. Starring Neil Patrick Harris and Stephen Fry.
Sex Education series 3
The show that made us appreciate Gillian Anderson all over again – and in a whole new light. She and the rest of the cast will be back with more tales of teen angst and sexual frustration in mid-2021.
Succession series 3
Winter, Sky Atlantic
One of the greatest series of the decade left us on a cliffhanger at the end of series two, with Kendall (Jeremy Strong) dropping daddy dearest (Brian Cox) into a world of public pain and humiliation. Which is exactly how we like our Roys. Filming has already commenced on the Waystar Royco crew for series three of Succession, which hopefully means we'll be settling into TV's best opening credits again by the end of 2021.
Winter, BBC One
Thought Peaky Blinders had peaked with an entire IRL festival devoted to the Brummie series last year? Not likely. As one of the biggest hitting BBC dramas, Steven Knight is sure to draw in the ratings again with the new exploits of the the Shelbys. Filming was scheduled to start again in January, but the new Covid-19 restrictions might put that on ice. Still, we're hopeful they'll turn the production around quickly enough for it to land at the tail-end of the year.
Lord of the Rings
Autumn/winter, Amazon Prime
Fantasy fans will be hyped to hear that Amazon Prime is currently filming a multi-season series of Lord of the Rings, which will explore new storylines preceding Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. The showrunners are JD Payne and Patrick McKay, and stars currently on set in New Zealand include Robert Amarayo, Joseph Mawle and Lenny Henry. Thanks to the Kiwis' world-beating coronavirus response, the show is still on schedule to land in late 2021.
In 2018, a wealthy German socialite called Anna Delvey was unmasked in New York Magazine as Russian con-woman Anna Sorokin: and the internet went wild. She defrauded countless people across the arts and hospitality industries, and appeared to have absolutely no shame when she was caught. It seemed inevitable that Netflix would option the story, and now, created and produced by Shonda Rhimes, we’ll get to watch the unbelievable tale ourselves.
Line of Duty, series 6
TBC, BBC One
Look, will we ever get to the bottom of who H is? Not as long as creator Jed Mercurio wants to keep reeling us in. After a stellar turn from Stephen Graham last year, the regular AC-12 crew – Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar and Vicky McClure – will be joined by guest star Kelly MacDonald as DCI Joanne Davidson, who is under suspicion of corruption by the dream team. Filming is due to be wrapped soon and we can hopefully expect the new series around March/April time. Now we’re sucking diesel.
American Crime Story: Impeachment
TBC, BBC Two
We’re jumping back to the Nineties, for the most famous story about an intern and a president of all time. This Ryan Murphy drama about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky – starring Sarah Paulson and Clive Owen – was forced to shut down filming recently due to a Covid outbreak, but Bill will get his day in court (again) soon.
Derry Girls series 3
TBC, Channel 4
Everyone’s favourite wisecracking Northern Irish girls return – with their English lad mate too. Lisa McGee’s coming-of-age series set in the Nineties always brings the laughs, and all the feels too.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Disney+ is expanding the Marvel Universe even further with this miniseries, based on the Marvel Comics characters Sam Wilson / Falcon and Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier. Anthony Mackie plays Falcon and Sebastian Stan plays Bucky, as they fight the anarchist group the Flag-Smashers.
Not only one of the most unforgettable names of a series in recent history, Cowboy Bebop is a live-action sci-fi series based on the manga of the same name by Hajime Yatate. John Cho will take the lead as the cool bounty hunter, Spike Spiegel.
McMafia series 2
TBC, BBC One
James Norton returns once again for this gripping Bond-meets-The Night Manager series about the flow of money and power through murky underworlds across the globe – all in a wardrobe of enviable designer suits, of course.
TBC, Amazon Prime
Graphic novel fans have another adaptation of a classic to look forward to in 2021: and this time it’s the Eighties hit, Paper Girls, about a group of time travelling newspaper delivery girls who get transported on all-new adventures.
Stath Lets Flats series 3
TBC, Channel 4
Oi oi! The world’s most endearing but useless estate agent returns, as brother and sister duo Jamie Demetriou and Tash Demetriou get ready to crack our funny bones once again in this deadpan comedy.
This Way Up series 2
TBC, Channel 4
Aisling Bea’s comedy about mental health didn’t exactly sound like a laugh a minute, but the Irish comedian and actor pulled it off with aplomb – thanks in part to her onscreen sister, Sharon Horgan. We look forward to seeing how Aine’s getting on in the world, this time round.
Barry series 3
TBC, Sky Atlantic
This dark comedy about a hired killer ended in catastrophe in series 2: so where can Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) go from here? Well, we’ll soon find out – even if it’s one of the hardest shows on TV to predict what’s going to happen next.
Industry series 2
One of the surprise hits of 2020, this “bonking and banking” drama (as one tabloid charmingly put it) follows four graduates as they try to navigate their way through the cut-throat world of high-finance. We didn’t see the plot twist coming at the end, but love the savage deviance behind it, and can’t wait to see how further warped the characters become. In December, HBO announced Industry had been commissioned for a second season, although strict coronavirus controls will slow production, so don't expect to see it before the end of the year.
TBC, Channel 4
Stephen Graham is teaming up with another Scouse legend, Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer, for a Jack Thorne-scripted drama about the pandemic. The one-off show is set in a care home in Liverpool, where Jodie plays Sarah, a care worker, and Stephen is Tony, a patient with early onset Alzheimer's. The pair are “pushed into a dark corner and look for a way out”, so expect emotions to run high.
TBC, BBC One
Oh! Here he is popping up again, but as he’s Stephen Graham, we’ll allow it. He stars alongside Sean Bean in a three-part prison drama written by Jimmy McGovern. We’re told it “is a story of guilt and forgiveness, punishment and penitence and the impact that prison has on all those who pass through it”, which does sound gripping, to be fair.
The Talented Mr Ripley
Thought Jude Law and Matt Damon’s adaptation of a con-man charming American socialites couldn’t be beaten? Hold my beer, says the BBC. Fleabag’s Andrew Scott will step into Damon’s shoes as Tom Ripley, and Patricia Highsmith’s 1956 thriller about obsession and class will be scripted and directed by Steven Zaillian. The show was originally suppsed to land in 2020, but production hold-ups – cheers, coronavirus – mean it's been knocked back into 2021.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox
Need some positivity right now? Subscribe to Esquire now for a hit of style, fitness, culture and advice from the experts
You Might Also Like