2020 didn't quite go according to plan, and some of the TV shows I'd hoped we'd see, we didn't. But with production back up for a number of months now and multiple shows now finished and in the edit, there's plenty of new telly to look forward to in 2021.
So much so, that I've pulled together a list of 21 TV shows to look forward to in the next twelve months... and as ever, I keep an updated list of upcoming shows here.
The Office, Extras and Derek all have one thing in common, and that's that they never made it to series three, a decision made by their creator Ricky Gervais who has always said two series and a special feels right. But for the first time in his career, Ricky has agreed to a third series of his hit Netflix series After Life - but that's it. Sadly no more after that, but Netflix have already agreed to buying his next three shows, so this won't be the last comedy we ever get from Gervais.
The five-time I Talk Telly Awards winning show, set in the small fictional town of Tambury, sees Gervais star as local newspaper writer Tony, whose life is upended after his wife, played by Kerry Godliman, dies from cancer.
After contemplating taking his own life, series one sees Tony decide to instead live long enough to punish the world by saying and doing whatever he likes from now on. But it turns out to be tricky when everyone is trying to save the nice guy they used to know. And in series two, whilst still struggling with immense grief, Tony tries to become a better friend to those around him as the paper is threatened with closure.
The series also stars Jo Hartley, Tony Way, Diane Morgan, Ethan Lawrence, Ashley Jensen, Tom Basden, Joe Wilkinson, David Earl, Mandeep Dhillon, Roisin Conaty, Peter Egan and Penelope Wilton.
Alma's Not Normal
In 2018, Sophie Willan won the inaugural Caroline Aherne Bursary Award, which saw her awarded a development fund and mentorship to develop a comedy script. That script became Alma's Not Normal, the pilot of which aired on BBC Two in 2020 to public and critical acclaim - and unsurprisingly was quickly picked up for a six-part series commission.
Alma's Not Normal sees Willan star as Boltonian wild-child Alma Nuthall and follows her and her family of eccentric, unruly women. After a recent break-up, Alma tries to get her life back on track. But with no job, no qualifications and a rebellious streak a mile wide, it’s not going to be easy.
Meanwhile her mum, who is battling a heroin addiction, has been sectioned for arson, and her vampish Grandma Joan wants nothing to do with it. Starring alongside Sophie in the pilot were Jayde Adams, Siobhan Finneran, Nicolas Ashbury and Lorraine Ashbourne who are all expected to return for the series.
Written by Daragh Carville, the first series of Morecambe set ITV drama The Bay, was watched by 7m people per episode, and followed the case of two missing teenage twins, Holly and Dylan Meredith, who disappeared from their home.
With impressive ratings, public praise and critical acclaim, it's no surprise that The Bay is returning this month for a highly anticipated second series. Morven Christie returns to play Detective Sergeant Lisa Armstrong, who in series one was assigned to a missing persons investigation, further complicated by her less than professional connection to the family.
Series 2 begins with Lisa at a low ebb: forced to do menial police work whilst she watches Med go from strength to strength. But a new case involving a shocking murder within a loving family brings Lisa unexpectedly back into the front line. She must get under the skin of a new family and prove her worth; to her colleagues, to her family and to herself.
Returning cast members include Daniel Ryan, Lindsey Coulson, Imogen King, Art Parkinson and Taheen Modak whilst joining the cast are; Joe Absolom, James Cosmo, Stephen Tompkinson, Sharon Small, Sunetra Sarker, Owen McDonnell, Steven Robertson, Amy James-Kelly, Kerrie Taylor, Wendy Kweh, Julia Haworth and newcomer Jack Archer.
Created, written and narrated by comedian and author Jack Rooke, Big Boys promises to be a funny and heart-breaking new comedy about a university fresher, trying to find his tribe whilst still finding himself. It stars Derry Girls favourite Dylan Llewellyn as sweet, shy and closeted Jack whilst Plebs favourite Jon pointing plays Danny, the boisterous, laddish and ever-so-slightly mature student with whom Jack forms an unlikely friendship.
Jack has spent the past year at home with his wonderful, potty-mouthed mum. He’s been grieving for his father and she for her husband, but the time has now come for him to take his place at the local uni.
There he meets his roommate Danny as the pair are thrown together during Freshers week, watched over by an entirely over-enthusiastic Student Union head. Jack and Danny are at significantly different places on the spectrum of masculinity but closely bond during the inevitable chaos and frenzy of a first year.
Created by Samson Kayo and Nathan Bryon and written by Nathan Bryon and Paul Doolan, new six-part comedy for Sky One, Bloods, stars Samson Kayo and Jane Horrocks as a pair of seemingly mismatched paramedics and their fellow ambulance station colleagues through the life-saving world of a south London emergency service.
Kayo plays tough-acting loner Maleek whilst Horrocks plays his over-friendly divorcee paramedic colleague Wendy. Their partnership looks dead on arrival, but pretty soon they’re giving each other life support and the series follows their struggle to gain the respect of their fellow paramedics.
Set within the fast-paced, never-ending rush of 999 call outs, the ensemble paramedic cast include Lucy Punch, Julian Barratt, Adrian Scarborough, Kevin Garry, Sam Campbell and Aasiya Shah.
After a break in 2020 due to the pandemic, Emma Willis returns in 2021 to host a brand new series of Channel 4's hit reality TV show The Circle, as a new batch of players will be moving in to the most talked about apartment block in Britain.
Each player lives alone in a flat in the same apartment block and can only communicate with other players through a voice activated social media platform called The Circle. They can play either as themselves or choose a new catfish persona.
And because the players can't see or hear each other, there is plenty of opportunity for gameplay. Across the series the least popular player will be 'blocked' meaning they have to exit the game and miss out on the potential prize fund of £100k.
Comedian Sophie Willan resumes her role as the unmistakable voiceover of each episode and before the third series of The Circle begins, there'll be a week-long celebrity edition in aid of Stand Up To Cancer. Find out more about that, including the line-up here.
The first series of Code 404 was a huge hit during lockdown, becoming Sky One's biggest comedy launch in eight years, so it's really no surprise that the series set in the Special Investigation Unit at the London Met, starring Daniel Mays, Stephen Graham and Anna Maxwell Martin, is returning for a second series.
Series one saw Mays' character DI John Major return one year after his untimely death thanks to artificial intelligence - much to the surprise of his police partner DI Roy Carver, played by Graham, and wife Kelly, played by Maxwell Martin.
Written by Daniel Peak, directed by Al Campbell and produced by Charlotte Surtees, the series was one of the first productions in the UK to film after the first lockdown which means we shouldn't have too long to wait before the new episodes are on our screens.
It's A Sin
Originally titled Boys, Russell T Davies' new five-part drama It's A Sin, which tells the story of the 1980s and AIDS, finally airs in January on Channel 4. It follows the joy and heartbreak of a group of friends across a decade in which everything changed.
It stars Olly Alexander alongside newcomers Omari Douglas and Callum Scott Howells, as Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin, who each begin a new life in London in 1981. Strangers at first, these young gay lads, and their best friend Jill, played by Lydia West, find themselves thrown together and soon share each other’s adventures.
But a new virus is on the rise, and soon their lives will be tested in ways they never imagined. As the decade passes, they grow up in the shadow of AIDS and are determined to live and love more fiercely than ever.
It’s the story of these boys’ friends, lovers and families too, especially Jill, the girl who loves them and helps them, and galvanises them in the battles to come. Together they will endure the horror of the epidemic, the pain of rejection and the prejudices that gay men faced throughout the decade.
There are terrible losses and wonderful friendships. And complex families, pushed to the limit and beyond. This is a series that remembers the boys we lost, and celebrates those lives that burned so brightly.
The cast also includes Keeley Hawes and Shaun Dooley who play Ritchie's mum and dad, Valerie and Clive as well as Stephen Fry as MP Arthur Garrison, Tracy-Ann Oberman as Carol Carter and Neil Patrick Harris as Henry Coltrane.
Olivia Colman stars as convicted killer Susan in new HBO and Sky Atlantic drama Landscapers, which tells the story of a unique murder case involving four lives lived on the margins of society.
The four-part darkly comic, true crime drama explores the lives of Susan and Christopher Edwards, and asks how this devoted and mild-mannered couple came to kill Susan’s parents and bury them in the back garden of their Mansfield home, in a crime that remained undiscovered for over a decade.
Pivoting through various perspectives from Susan and Chris, to the police officers and lawyers involved in the investigation, the drama also draws the audience into the surreal fantasy world that Susan and Christopher created by casting themselves as their Hollywood heroes in stories of their own invention.
Written by Colman's husband Ed Sinclair, Landscapers is his first television screenplay and is based on extensive research, hours of interviews and direct access to the accused, who have always protested their innocence of murder.
Line of Duty
Series six of Jed Mercurio's Line of Duty had to stop filming at the height of the pandemic which meant we sadly didn't get a brand new series as planned, but thankfully filming wrapped in November and the BBC have confirmed that it will air in 2021.
The new series will feature a brand new case for AC-12, this time investigating Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson, played by Kelly Macdonald, the senior investigating officer on an unsolved murder case whose unconventional conduct attracts the attention of AC-12.
Series regulars Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar and Vicky McClure will all return, alongside Line of Duty newcomers Shalom Brune-Franklin, Perry Fitzpatrick, Andi Osho and Prasanna Puwanarajah.
Having already aired everywhere but the UK, the third series of gripping crime drama Marcella, starring Anna Friel and written by Hans Rosenfeldt, finally returns to ITV in January.
Now undercover as Keira in Belfast, Marcella has taken on a new identity and infiltrated the infamous Maguire crime family but as she investigates their activities, questions come to the fore about how much she’s embraced the Keira personality and left Marcella behind.
As she inhabits the character of Keira, Marcella’s quest for the truth puts her in danger and others in harm’s way. Her undercover role makes her take risks, but will her old life eventually catch up with her?
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
When series three of Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing ended in September 2020, many (including myself) worried that it would be the end, but luckily the BBC were quick to announce a fourth series and not only that, but we were treated to an hour-long Christmas special in December, which was full of the show's unique charm.
Later in 2021, Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse will return to the riverbanks of the UK with each episode centred on catching a key species of fish as Paul uses his extensive knowledge of fishing to guide Bob, whilst Bob hunts out places to stay and creates heart-healthy menus through-out their travels.
Ralph & Katie
Following the third series of BBC One drama The A Word, it was announced that a new six-part spin-off called Ralph & Katie, centred around the popular characters played by Leon Harrop and Sarah Gordy, will air in 2021.
Having just had the wedding of the year, Ralph & Katie will track their first year of married life with each 30-minute episode featuring a different story focusing on the domestic challenges faced by the newlyweds. Challenges faced by all newlyweds, but with the added fact that they have Down’s Syndrome.
To best tell the continuing story of Ralph and Katie, an inspirational and loving young couple who are embarking on the biggest adventure of their lives, The A Word writer Peter Bowker will be writing alongside new and emerging disabled writers.
BBC One's new four-part thriller Ridley Road, written by Sarah Solemani and adapted from Jo Bloom's critically acclaimed novel, is set against the backdrop of a swinging sixties London we haven’t seen, an East End world where far right fascism is on the rise.
When Vivien Epstein, a young Jewish woman falls in love with a member of the '62 group' she follows her lover into danger, rejecting her comfortable middle-class life in Manchester to join the fight against fascism in London, risking everything for her beliefs and for the man she loves. Inspired by the struggle of the ‘62 Group’, a coalition of Jewish men who stood up against rising neo-Nazism in post-war Britain, Ridley Road sees Vivien caught between life and death.
As she starts to work with them, she realises that her missing boyfriend Jack has been badly injured. Vivien infiltrates the NSM, a neo-Nazi movement which is becoming increasingly prominent in London. As she descends further into the fascist organisation her courage and loyalties are challenged.
The cast includes Rory Kinnear, Tamzin Outhwaite, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Eddie Marsan, Samantha Spiro, Rita Tushingham, Danny Hatchard Tom Varey and television newcomer Aggi O’Casey.
After a successful launch on Dave in 2019, Samson Kayo and Phil Bowker's comedy Sliced about two South London pizza delivery drivers, played by Kayo and Theo Barklem-Biggs is back for a new six-part series in 2021.
Both down-on-their-luck, best friends Joshua and Ricky just want to make money move out of their mums’ and meet some women. Is that too much to ask for? If only all the ridiculous stuff that keeps happening to them would stop getting in the way.
In the first series they encountered hopeless security guards, hedonistic pensioners, aggressive teens. And in the final episode, even attended a sex party. So we can only imagine what awaits in series two!
Double I Talk Telly Awards winner Staged is back as David Tennant and Michael Sheen - or should that be Michael Sheen and David Tennant - return to play themselves in a second series of their hit BBC One lockdown comedy, just over six months since the first series aired.
Last time we saw them, production on their upcoming West End production had ground to a halt and rehearsals had moved online. This time around, the pair attempt to navigate their ‘new normal’ at home with their increasingly exasperated families whilst simultaneously trying to tackle the world of ‘virtual Hollywood’ and their ever more fragile egos.
The series hopes to capture our shared feelings of frustration and confusion at a world not quite ready to re-open. Moments that promise normality dashed before they can take hold. The tantalising prospect of comfort kept at bay.
Also returning are Georgia Tennant, Anna Lundberg and Lucy Eaton alongside Nina Sosanya and Simon Evans with new addition to the regular cast, Ben Schwartz, who plays the assistant to Michael and David’s American agent.
Stars Monday 4th January at 9.45pm on BBC One
Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning comedian Rose Matafeo brings her first sitcom to BBC Three in 2021 called Starstruck, in which she plays twenty-something millennial Rose.
Living in London, Rose juggles two dead-end jobs and navigating the awkward morning-after-the-night-before when she discovers the complications of accidentally sleeping with a film star.
Stath Lets Flats
Triple BAFTA award-winning comedy Stath Lets Flats returns to Channel 4 in 2021 with a third series which picks up after the shock cliffhanger ending of series two in 2019.
Incompetent letting agent Stath, played by writer Jamie Demetriou, is faced with rescuing the family business, Michael & Eagle, and his relationship with Katia, while expecting his first child by Carole. Meanwhile his sister, Sophie, and best friend, Al, deal with the fallout of finally declaring their feelings for each other.
Jamie returns alongside Natasia Demetriou, Al Roberts, Christos Stergioglou, Katy Wix, Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Ellie White.
A Jimmy McGovern script, brought to life by Stephen Graham and Sean Bean and directed by Lewis Arnold who directed Des, is the stuff of dreams, but thankfully BBC One have made it happen and Time, their new three-part prison drama will air later this year.
Sean Bean stars as prisoner Mark Cobden who is consumed by guilt after accidentally killing an innocent man. Accepting his four year sentence and separated from his family, he meets Stephen Graham's character Eric McNally, a caring prison officer doing his best to protect those in his charge, a daily challenge in this understaffed and high tension world.
However when one of the most dangerous inmates identifies his weakness, Eric faces an impossible choice; between his principles and his family.
A high-stakes portrayal of life in the modern British penal system, the drama is told through the eyes of two very different men. It is a story of guilt and forgiveness, punishment and penitence and the impact that prison has on all those who pass through it.
When Top Boy ended on Channel 4 in 2013, it was thought that the drama set on the fictional Summerhouse estate in Hackney, would never return. But thankfully it did return for a third series on Netflix in 2019, written by Ronan Bennett and will return for more episodes in 2021.
Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson returned as Dushane and Sully, whilst the series introduced us to many new actors including I Talk Telly Award winner Micheal Ward who played Jamie - a young, hungry and and ruthless gang leader whose ambitions leave no place for Dushane and Sully.
When the series first returned, Dushane returned from exile to reclaim his throne in the lucrative drug market teaming up with his spiritual brother, partner and sometime rival Sully whose time in prison had come to an end.
From the makers of Line of Duty comes Vigil, a new six-part series starring Suranne Jones and Shaun Evans, written by Tom Edge with Ed Macdonald and Chandni Lakhani and directed by James Strong and Isabelle Sieb.
Vigil tells of the mysterious disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler and a death on-board a Trident nuclear submarine, which brings the police into conflict with the Navy and British security services.
Suranne Jones' character DCI Amy Silva leads an investigation on land and at sea into a conspiracy that threatens the very heart of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Whilst Shaun Evans plays Chief Petty Officer Elliot Glover.