Autumn TV: Stylist’s guide to the best new dramas coming this season

Written by Helen Bownass

Stylist’s guide to the best dramas still to come this year on the BBC, Netflix, ITV, Amazon Prime and Sky. 

It has been a year like no other: uncertain, overwhelming, meditative, sometimes joyful, tiring. But while everything around us shifts and transforms, one thing remains certain: autumn means brand new dramas, coronavirus or no coronavirus. 

So while the usual autumnal signifiers have changed, or even vanished, for many of us – from buying a new coat to untangling our 40 denier black tights – it’s probably of some comfort that TV schedulers have upheld one tradition that’s as well-worn as that blanket folded over the end of your sofa. 

From returning favourites like The Crown, to crucial and timely anthology Small Axe, alongside a glut of dystopian dramas, there is much to get invested in. 

Here, then, is everything we recommend watching this autumn. 

Best autumn dramas on the BBC 

  • Us

    Us on BBC One

    Who is in Us

    Tom Hollander, Saskia Reeves and Sofie Gråbøl.

    Where and when can I watch Us?

    Us will be on BBC One later this autumn.

    What do we know about Us so far?

    An adaptation of David Nicholl’s 2014 novel, the four-part drama centres on ‘happily married’ couple Douglas and Connie. But Douglas’ world implodes when Connie tells him she doesn’t love him anymore.

    Before she leaves him, Connie agrees to go on a planned family tour of Europe, where David is determined he’ll persuade his wife to stay with him.  

  • Industry

    Industry on BBC Two

    Who is in Industry?

    Myha’la Herrold, Marisa Abela, Harry Lawtey, David Jonsson, Nabhaan Rizwan, Freya Mavor, Will Tudor, Conor Macneill and Ken Leung.

    Where and when can I watch Industry?

    Industry will be on BBC Two later this year.

    What do we know about Industry so far?

    This is a dive into the world of finance through the eyes of a group of ambitious graduates, competing for a limited number of positions at a prestigious London bank.

    Written by first time writers and former finance workers Konrad Kay and Mickey Down, the eight part series also has a well-known director in the shape of Ms Lena Dunham. 

  • His Dark Materials – The Subtle Knife

    His Dark Materials on BBC One

    Who is in His Dark Materials?

    Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Amir Wilson and Andrew Scott.

    Where and when can I watch His Dark Materials?

    His Dark Materials will be on BBC One later this year.

    What do we know about His Dark Materials so far?

    Series two of Philip Pullman’s popular Northern Lights trilogy now gets the adaptation treatment.

    Lyra (Dafne Keen) continues her search for her father and her investigation into Dust, but is joined by new companion, Will (Amir Wilson). Fleabag and Sherlock star Andrew Scott also joins the cast as Will’s father Colonel John Parry, and listen out for his daemon, who will be voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  

  • Small Axe

    Small Axe on BBC One

    Who is in Small Axe?

    John Boyega, Letitia Wright,Malachi Kirby, Michael Ward, Amarah Jae, Rochenda Sandall and Jack Lowden.

    Where and when can I watch Small Axe?

    Small Axe will be on BBC One later this year.

    What do we know about Small Axe so far?

    This is set to be one of the biggest and most important dramas of the year. 

    Directed by 12 Years a Slave’s Steve McQueen, this is an anthology of stories set in the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, about London’s West Indian community and inspired by real people. 

  • Roadkill

    Roadkill on BBC One

    Who is in Roadkill?

    Hugh Laurie, Helen McCrory, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Saskia Reeves Sarah Greene, Patricia Hodge, Ophelia Lovibond, Iain De Caestecker, Katie Leung, Olivia Vinall, Pippa Bennett-Warner and Shalom Brune-Franklin.

    Where and when can I watch Roadkill?

    Roadkill will be on BBC One later this year.

    What do we know about Roadkill so far?

    Created by David Hare, this new political thriller stars Hugh Laurie as Conservative politician Peter Laurence. 

    The ruthless minister is feted as the future of the Conservative party, so he won’t let a series of revelations about his private life ruin his quest to the top.  

  • Life

    Life on BBC One

    Who is in Life?

    Alison Steadman, Peter Davison, Adrian Lester, Victoria Hamilton, Melissa Johns, Rachael Stirling, Saira Choudhry, Erin Kellyman, Calvin Demba and Joshua James.

    Where and when can I watch Life?

    Life will be on BBC One later this autumn.

    What do we know about Life so far?

    From the creators of Doctor Foster this drama tells the stories of the residents of a big house in Manchester divided into four flats, and how their lives do, and don’t, interconnect. 

    The six-part drama also stars two characters from Doctor Foster, Anna Baker ( now known as Belle) who is trying to rebuild her life, and her ex-husband, Neil. 

  • Black Narcissus

    Actor Gemma Arterton

    Who is in Black Narcissus?

    Gemma Arterton, Alessandro Nivola, Aisling Franciosi, Diana Rigg, Jim Broadbent and Gina McKee.

    Where and when can I watch Black Narcissus?

    Black Narcissus will be on BBC One later this year.

    What do we know about Black Narcissus so far?

    The unsettling and surprising 1939 novel and subsequent 1947 film about forbidden desire has been remade into a three-part drama for the BBC by writer Amanda Coe (The Trial Of Christine Keeler, Apple Tree Yard).

    Arterton plays Sister Clodagh one of the nuns of St Faiths who travel to a remote part of the Himalayas. However Sister Clodagh finds herself increasingly attracted to local worker Mr Dean (Nivola), as does fellow nun Sister Ruth. 

Best autumn dramas on Netflix

  • Away

    Away on Netflix

    Who is in Away

    Hillary Swank, Josh Charles and Ray Panthaki.

    Where and when can I watch Away?

    Away is on Netflix on 4 September.

    What do we know about Away so far?

    Hillary Swank goes galactic in this new ten episode series. She plays astronaut Emma Green, leading the first international mission to Mars. 

    But in exploring a new dimension she has to leave behind her husband and daughter. 

  • Criminal

    Criminal on Netflix

    Who is in Criminal

    Katherine Kelly, Lee Ingleby, Rochenda Sandall, Kit Harington, Sharon Horgan, Sophie Okonedo and Kunal Nayyar.

    Where and when can I watch Criminal

    Criminal series two is on Netflix on 16 September.

    What do we know about Criminal so far?

    The unique police procedural, set almost totally in an interrogation room, returns for a second series. The series focuses on four cases and four suspects, but we may also discover what happened outside the room between Kelly and Ingleby’s characters.

  • Ratched

    Ratched on Netflix

    Who is in Ratched

    Sarah Paulson, Sharon Stone, Sophie Okonedo and Cynthia Nixon.

    Where and when can I watch Ratched

    Ratched is on Netflix on 18 September.

    What do we know about Ratched so far?

    This prequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest centres on the sinister and villainous Nurse Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) who heads up a psychiatric ward.

    From the mind of Pose and Glee creator Ryan Murphy, the psychological horror drama will tell the origin story of the ferocious nurse and how she abused the people in her care. 

  • The Haunting of Bly Manor

    The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix

    Who is in The Haunting of Bly Manor

    Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Victoria Pedretti, Kate Siegel, Victoria Pedretti, Catherine Parker, Henry Thomas,  T’Nia Miller, Rahul Kohli, Amelia Eve, Benjamin Ainsworth and Amelie Smith.

    Where and when can I watch The Haunting of Bly Manor?

    The Haunting of Bly Manor is on Netflix on 9 October. 

    What do we know about The Haunting of Bly Manor so far?

    Not one for the faint of heart. This follow up to the terrifying Hill House is set in an English manor house in 1987 where a new governess is recruited after the death of their au pair. 

    Based on Henry James’ gothic ghost story The Turn of the Screw the series is set to focus on a love triangle. Although it’s unlikely to have a happy ending as show creator Mike Flanagan has said it will be: “Much scarier than season one”. 

  • The Queen’s Gambit

    The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix

    Who is in The Queen’s Gambit

    Anya Taylor-Joy, Marielle Haller, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Harry Melling.

    Where and when can I watch The Queen’s Gambit

    The Queen’s Gambit is on Netflix on 23 October.

    What do we know about The Queen’s Gambit so far?

    The twisted coming of age story centres on Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy), who has been abandoned at an orphanage in Kentucky. She discovers a talent for chess while also developing an addiction to tranquilisers.

    An adaptation of a novel by Walter Tevis, the psychological drama follows Beth as she transforms into a glamorous chess player, determined to break into the male-dominated world of chess. 

  • The Crown

    The Crown on Netflix

    Who is in The Crown

    Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, Gillian Anderson, Tobias Menzies, Josh O’Connor, Erin Doherty and Emma Corrin.

    Where and when can I watch The Crown

    The Crown series four is on Netflix on 15 November.

    What do we know about The Crown so far? 

    The 70s and 80s will be the focus of series four of the epic royal drama. This means we’ll see some very familiar protagonists joining the house of Windsor: Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) and Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) 

  • Bridgerton

    Shonda Rhimes the creator of Bridgerton on Netflix

    Who is in Bridgerton

    Dame Julie Andrews, Nicola Coughlan, Rege-Jean Page, Phoebe Dynevor, Polly Walker and Ben Miller.

    Where and when can I watch Bridgerton

    Bridgerton will be on Netflix later this year.

    What do we know about Bridgerton so far? 

    Written by the almighty Shonda Rhimes, this is based on the novels by Julia Quinn about  the high-society Bridgerton family in the early 1800s.

    The series will be based on first novel The Duke and I about the Duke of Hastings (Rege-Jean Page), who fakes a relationship with friend Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) to save him from constant proposals. Julie Andrews plays Lady Whistledown who will narrate proceedings. 

Best autumn dramas on ITV

  • Honour

    Honour on ITV

    Who is in Honour?

    Keeley Hawes, Buket Komur and Moe Bar-El.

    Where and when can I watch Honour

    Honour will be on ITV later this autumn.

    What do we know about Honour so far?

    This two-part drama focusses on the real life killing in 2006 of Banaz Mahmod. The 20-year-old Iraqi-Kurish woman left her abusive husband for another man and was killed by her family who believed she had bought shame on them.

    Keeley Hawes plays Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode who investigated the case and was given the Queen’s Police medal for her work on the case and her pledge to bring the killers to justice. 

  • Des

    Des on ITV

    Who is in Des

    David Tennant, Daniel Mays and Jason Watkins.

    Where and when can I watch Des?

    Des will be on ITV on Monday September 14 at 9pm.

    What do we know about Des so far?

    The three-part true crime drama tells of the arrest and trial of serial killer Dennis Nilsen (David Tennant) who murdered boys and young men in his flat between 1978 and 1983.

    As well as looking at looking at the case through the eyes of the disturbed murderer, it also examines it from the perspective of Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay (Daniel Mays), and biographer Brian Masters (Jason Watkins).

  • The Sister

    The Sister is on ITV

    Who is in The Sister?

     Russell Tovey, Bertie Carvel, Amrita Acharia, Nina Toussaint White.

    Where and when can I watch The Sister?

    The Sister will be on ITV later this autumn.

    What do we know about The Sister so far?

    Luther creator, Neil Cross, is at the helm of this new thriller starring Russell Tovey. He plays Neil, a man trying to escape the ghosts of his past. Until he’s visited by Bob, a figure from his past which triggers a set of dramatic decisions.

    Cross has described it as: “A tale of psychological suspense, of guilt and ghosts and murder. Oh, and love. Always love. Our job is to make viewers want to sleep with the lights on. We’re looking forward to it.”

Best autumn dramas on Channel 4 

  • Adult Material

    Adult Material on Channel 4

    Who is in Adult Material

    Hayley Squires, Rupert Everett, Joe Dempsie, Kerry Godliman and Alex Jarrett.

    Where and when can I watch Adult Material?

     Adult Material will be on Channel 4 later this autumn.

    What do we know about Adult Material so far? 

    Set in the modern porn industry, this drama, by Lucy Kirkwood (Chimerica) is centred on Jolene Dollar (Hayley Squires). 

    Jolene is a mother of three and one of the top porn performers in the UK. But things start to unravel when she meets a young, and unstable new girl on set, who she tried to look out for. 

Best autumn dramas on Sky

  • The Third Day

    The Third Day on Sky Atlantic

    Who is in The Third Day

    Jude Law, Naomie Harris, Katherine Waterston, Paddy Considine and Emily Watson.

    Where and when can I watch The Third Day?

     The Third Day is on Sky Atlantic on 15 September.

    What do we know about The Third Day so far?

    An experimental new journey for Sky that promises to blur the line between fantasy and reality. This six-part psychological thriller is set on a mysterious island. The story is told in three separate stories– Summer, Autumn and Winter. The Autumn episode will be a live broadcast with Punchdrunk theatre and take place in one take, on one day.

    Summer focusses on Sam (Jude Law) drawn to the island, and unable to leave, while Winter follows headstrong Helen (Naomie Harris) who is looking for answers. 

  • Brave New World

    Brave New World on Sky One

    Who is in Brave New World

    Jessica Brown Findlay, Harry Lloyd, Alden Ehrenreich, Hannah John-Kamen and Demi Moore.

    Where and when can I watch Brave New World?

    Brave New World will be on Sky One later this autumn. 

    What do we know about Brave New World so far?

    Aldous Huxley’s cult dystopian novel gets adapted in this ambitious new series. New London citizens Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd) and Lenina Crowne (Jessica Brown Findlay) are used to a rigid social order where privacy and monogamy are banned, sex is consequence free and people manage their moods with a drug called Soma.

    But the pair become involved in a rebellion when they travel to the Savage Lands, and start to question their conditioning. 

  • The Undoing

    The Undoing on Sky Atlantic

    Who is in The Undoing

    Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Donald Sutherland, Edgar Ramirez and Noma Dumezweni.

    Where and when can I watch The Undoing?

    The Undoing is on Sky Atlantic on 25 October.

    What do we know about The Undoing so far?

    This psychological drama is an adaptation of the 2014 novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz and created by Big Little Lies showrunner David E Kelly.Nicole Kidman plays Grace a successful therapist living in New York with her oncologist husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant) and son.

    The family appears to have the perfect life until a horrific death occurs and Jonathan disappears, leaving Grace to dismantle her life and try to create a new one. 

Best autumn dramas on Amazon Prime

  • The Boys

    The Boys on Amazon Prime

    Who is in The Boys

     Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Erin Moriarty and Chace Crawford.

    Where and when can I watch The Boys?

     The Boys, series two is on Amazon Prime on 4 September.

    What do we know about The Boys so far?

    The satirical superhero series about a group of vigilantes, who waged war against corporate superhero team The Seven, returns. The battle is set to continue as super terrorists join the fight and we learn how Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) handled the discovery that Becca is raising Homelander’s baby.

    This time round three episodes will drop at once, with new additions every Friday after that. 

  • Utopia

    Utopia on Amazon Prime

    Who is in Utopia

    John Cusack, Sasha Lane, Rainn Wilson.

    Where and when can I watch Utopia?

     Utopia is on Amazon Prime on 25 September.

    What do we know about Utopia so far?

    Gone Girl and Sharp Objects creator Gillian Flynn is at the helm of this dystopian (another one) and timely drama. It centres on a group comic book fans, who discover their favourite comic has accurately predicted a pandemic. 

    The group comes face to face with the comic book’s central character Jessica Hyde (Sasha Lane) and embark on a mission to save the world. 

Images: BBC, Netflix, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, Amazon Prime, Getty

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