Events that brought the nation together in 2022 ranged from the funeral of Her Majesty the Queen to the Lionesses’ Euro football victory.
Television still has the ability to unify millions of viewers in front of their TV screens.
2023 won’t have some of the big dramas many may have hoped for. (We don’t know if, let alone when, there might be more Bodyguard or Line of Duty coming our way).
But the year ahead still offers some tantalising titles and events.
So here (in strictly alphabetical order) are some of the TV programmes and events that could get us all talking in 2023.
1. Champion (BBC One)
An eight-part musical drama described as a love letter to Black British music and set in south London. It brings audiences into the heart of an intense music battle between a rapping brother and sister. It’s written by award-winning author Candice Carty-Williams (whose debut novel Queen won book of the year at the British Book Awards). The series stars Malcolm Kamulete, Déja J. Bowens, Ray BLK, Nadine Marshall, Ray Fearon and Jo Martin.
2. Clarkson’s Farm (Prime Video)
The second series of the streaming hit will show another year in the life of the man described by the show as the world’s “best known but least qualified farmer”. This 12 months looks at how Jeremy Clarkson tries to introduce new animals and crops to the farm, as well his dealings with the local council when he attempts to open a new restaurant on the site. Farm team members including Kaleb and Lisa will be returning to the show, too.
3. Constellation (Apple TV+)
McMafia and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell screenwriter Peter Harness’s latest is an ambitious, futuristic psychological thriller. It stars Noomi Rapace as an astronaut returning to earth after an accident, to find that parts of her life appear to be missing. The synopsis says it will be “an exploration of the dark edges of human psychology”. The series also stars Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul star Jonathan Banks as a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.
4. The Coronation of King Charles III (Multiple channels)
While it might seem somewhat out of place on a list like this, the King’s coronation is certain to be one of the TV events of the year. Multiple channels are likely to be showing the historic ceremony at Westminster Abbey, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The extraordinary length of the Queen’s reign means that this will only be the second coronation ever to be televised. Her Majesty the Queen’s coronation in 1953 triggered a huge increase in the purchase of TV sets which were then still an expensive novelty. And when we talk about televised events that bring the nation together, it’s easy to forget that the last coronation was the first time that ever happened.
5. The Crown Series six (Netflix)
After series five of The Crown triggered widespread discussions about the blurred lines between historical fact and imagined drama, the sixth and final series of the royal drama sees Imelda Staunton returning as the Queen and Jonathan Pryce as the Duke of Edinburgh. It’s expected to cover seismic events like the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in a Paris car crash, and the effect its aftermath had on the monarchy and the public.
6. Doctor Who (BBC One)
It’s the time travel drama’s 60th anniversary year. And we’ll be getting not just one, but two new Doctors. Sort of. The first will be David Tennant, returning as the 14th Doctor for a series of three specials which will air in November. Then over the Christmas period, Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa will take over from Tennant as the 15th Doctor with Millie Gibson as his companion. With show runner Russell T. Davies (who oversaw the original David Tennant era) back in charge, not to mention an actor like Gatwa who is already hugely popular with younger viewers, there’s a high degree of expectation that the show will see a significant boost in its popularity.
7. 007’s Road to a Million (Prime Video)
Amazon’s deal acquiring MGM Studios now means it has a 50% stake in the James Bond franchise, and the streaming giant will be showing this new eight-part show. Contestants will visit locations around the world made famous by the spy series, overcoming physical obstacles and mental challenges in order to progress to the next round, in what the producers are calling “a true test of intelligence and endurance”. It’s yet to be confirmed whether Q will be supplying them with special gadgets although we do know that contestants will not, under any circumstances, be licensed to kill.
8. Fake Sheikh (Prime Video)
This three-part documentary details the story of former newspaper journalist Mazher Mahmoud, better known as the Fake Sheikh because of his propensity for disguising himself as a Sheikh during his so-called investigation for the now defunct News of the World and other newspapers. His targets included celebrities and even royalty. But in 2016 he was jailed for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, after a court found he had tampered with evidence in a case involving former X factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos.
9. The Gathering (Channel Four)
A six-part drama based in Merseyside which centres on a vicious attack on teenager Kelly who, as a talented gymnast and an enthusiastic urban free runner, inhabits two very different worlds. The story focusses on a group of teenagers and their parents, any of whom could have committed the appalling crime. It’s written by novelist and filmmaker Helen Walsh and comes from the production company behind Line of Duty.
10. Great Expectations (BBC One)
There have been many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic novel about a young orphan named Pip and his experiences in life and in love. This one stars Academy award winner Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham, Fionn Whitehead as Pip and Shalom Brune Franklin as Estella. The cast also includes Ashley Thomas, Johnny Harris, Hayley Squires, and Matt Berry. It’s been adapted by Steven “Peaky Blinders” Knight.
11. Happy Valley series three (BBC One)
It’s been more than six years since our last visit to the Bafta-winning (not so) Happy Valley. It again stars Sarah Lancashire as Sergeant Catherine Cawood. This series follows her discovery of the remains of a gangland murder victim, and explores how events lead back to, yes you guessed it, James Norton’s Tommy Lee Royce. At the same time Cawood is facing a series of challenges within her own family.
12. Heartstopper 2 (Netflix)
The first series followed the unexpected romance between the quiet, introverted Charlie and his schoolmate, the rugby-loving Nick, and the teenage trials and tribulations of their friendship group. It became one of the most loved and talked about shows of the year. The second series promises more of the same, with stars Kit Connor, Joe Locke and Yasmin Finney all returning. Fans will be delighted to hear that a third series has already been commissioned.
13. Loki (Disney+)
Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has always been a fan favourite. The first series of the show saw an alternative version of Loki (the events of the Avengers movies Infinity War and Endgame created something of a cosmic kerfuffle) being brought to a body called The Time Variance Authority, which exists to keep the universe and its timelines on track. The second series picks up in the aftermath of the first season’s spectacular finale. As with much of the interconnected Marvel universe, the events of the series are likely to have repercussions for the storylines of other Marvel projects.
14. Neighbours (Amazon Freevee)
2022 was the year we lost Neighbours forever. Until it then unexpectedly became the year that Neighbours was saved – a twist worthy of the Australian soap itself. Channel Five, which was responsible for a huge amount of the soap’s budget, decided to pull the plug. Another broadcaster couldn’t be found, and the residents of Ramsay Street said goodbye in a finale packed with returning stars including Guy Pearce, Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue. But now it’s being resurrected, with filming beginning in 2023.
15. Nolly (ITVX)
Russell T. Davies’s new behind the scenes drama about the long-running soap opera Crossroads and its star Noele Gordon is one of the shows that the new subscription service ITVX is hoping will draw in viewers. In Crossroads, Noele (known as Nolly) Gordon played Meg Richardson and Gordon became one of Britain’s most famous faces. The three-part drama follows her rise to fame and explores her sudden and unexpected sacking in 1981, which shocked viewers across the country. Helena Bonham Carter plays Nolly, with Mark Gatiss playing her great friend Larry Grayson.
16. The Reckoning (BBC One)
Steve Coogan plays the reviled DJ and TV presenter Jimmy Savile in this drama which is expected to explore how Savile – one of the UK’s most prevalent sex offenders – escaped being exposed for his crimes for decades. It will explore how he ended up being lauded for the charity work he swaggeringly boasted about, which helped to hide his true nature from the public. The truth about Savile was only revealed after his death in 2011.
17. The Rig (Prime Video)
An oil rig off the coast of Scotland is the setting for this dark, mysterious drama. Shortly before the crew are due to return to the mainland, they’re engulfed in a dense fog. At the same time the rig is hit by a series of tremors and all communication is cut off. And that’s just the start, as a serious accident starts the crew wondering if some skullduggery might be afoot. Spoiler alert, the answer’s yes. The cast includes Game of Thrones’s Iain Glen, Line of Duty’s Martin Compston, and Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire.
18. Shrinking (Apple TV+)
Harrison Ford makes a rare foray into two areas where we’re not too used to seeing him. Comedy and television. In Shrinking, Ford plays a down-to-earth psychologist opposite Jason Segel, a grieving therapist who begins to ignore all the rules and guidelines of his profession, and ends up telling his clients exactly what he thinks. The resulting psychological smorgasbord has a huge impact on both his life and the lives of his patients. The series also stars Christa Miller and Jessica Williams and is written by Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence.
19. Squid Game: The Challenge (Netflix)
The dystopian drama Squid Game, where contestants competed in deadly games until only one survived was one of the most talked about shows of 2021. This companion real-life contest presumably won’t be quite as dramatic. Here, 16 people are dropped in a paradise location. Half of them have keys to a dream villa, the other half must live and survive in the jungle. The winner of a daily challenge will be allowed into the villa, but at the same time one of the existing residents must be ejected, and it’s only those inside the villa who have a shot at winning a huge cash prize. Not quite Red Light, Green Light it must be said, but could still be compelling, (and rather safer) TV.
20. Stonehouse (ITV1)
A drama that covers the extraordinary true story of the Labour MP John Stonehouse who in 1974 left a piling of clothing on a beach and disappeared, in an attempt to fake his own death. In fact, he was headed for Australia in the hope of starting a new life with his mistress. It stars Matthew Macfadyen as Stonehouse, Emer Heatley as his mistress Shelia Buckley, and Keeley Hawes (his real-life wife) as on-screen wife Barbara.
A new four-part sports documentary detailing the stunning few days in European Football when a group of top sides revealed plans to form a breakaway super league. Plans which spectacularly fell apart after an angry reaction from football fans. The programme boasts unprecedented access to league presidents, club owners and the architects behind the ill-fated project.
22. Wagatha Christie documentary – title tbc (Disney+)
October 2019. Coleen Rooney posts messages on social media saying she’s carried out a clever sting operation by putting false stories on her Instagram, limiting those who could view them to just one person, and then seeing if the stories then appeared in The Sun newspaper. The stories did end up appearing in the tabloid and Rooney names the culprit as… Rebekah Vardy. A high profile and highly expensive legal battle followed when Vardy sued Rooney for libel at the High Court. Rooney won the case, and this three-part documentary speaks to her in detail about the nearly two-year battle with Vardy.
23. Waterloo Road (BBC One)
Nearly eight years after the popular drama was axed, Waterloo Road is returning to the nation’s screens. Once more it will follow the experiences of pupils, teachers and parents at the troubled comprehensive . Angela Griffin who originally starred as the school’s head of pastoral care returns as Waterloo Road’s new head teacher. Set in Manchester, the rebooted series is part of the BBC’s commitment to reflect life around the UK.