Television Highlights: The best of the week ahead
Treachery in a small town
The Casual Vacancy, Sunday, BBC1, 9pm
Interest in this new three-part BBC drama is high, both here and in America, as it happens to have been inspired by J.K. Rowling's first adult novel. And a major departure it was too, because The Casual Vacancy is a venal, amusing and sometimes tragic account of the tensions simmering beneath the surface in a seemingly idyllic west country town. Michael Gambon stars as Howard Mollison, the scheming and reactionary chairman of Pagford's town council, who wants to sever all ties with a nearby council estate called The Fields which he believes is bringing down the tone. In his way stands Barry Fairbrother (Rory Kinnear), a high-minded councillor with socialist leanings.
After making an impassioned speech during a stormy meeting, Barry appears to have won the day until he drops dead on the local golf course, creating an unexpected and bitterly contested vacancy on the council. And as three candidates are quickly lined up, including Barry's half-brother and Howard Mollison's ambitious son, the teenagers of Pagford decide to get involved, and start airing the community's dirty secrets on the parish chat site.
As affairs, treachery and all manner of unpleasantness come to light, the great and good of Pagford begin tearing strips out of one another. And in a grim parallel story Krystal, the 16-year-old daughter of a heroin-addicted prostitute, decides to get pregnant in order to escape her mother's influence and the deprivation of The Fields. Keeley Hawes, Julia McKenzie, Simon McBurney, Emily Bevan and Rufus Jones co-star in a drama that sounds a long way from Hogwarts.
Indian Summers, Sunday, Channel 4, 9pm
Julie Walters heads the cast of this ambitious new 10-part drama set in 1930s India. Created by Paul Rutman, Indian Summers takes place in Simla, a sophisticated city at the foothills of the Himalayas to which the country’s British rulers retreated in the hottest months. Walters plays Cynthia Coffin, the queen of Simla’s Anglo society, and the series will follow the stories of powerful Britons and embittered locals as India lurches towards mass upheaval and independence.
Community, Netflix, any time
This delightfully anarchic sitcom seemed doomed last summer after NBC decided to drop it. Yahoo! Screen came to the rescue, and season six will appear later this year, but meanwhile you can watch all the rest on Netflix. Joel McHale stars as Jeff Winger, a narcissistic lawyer who has to go back to college when his firm finds out he lied about his degree. At Greendale Community College he falls in with a bunch of misfit students that includes an aimless, annoying millionaire (Chevy Chase).
The Affair, Showtime, 2015
Showtime's moody drama has earned strong reviews in the US, and will appear here later this year. The excellent and often miscast Dominic West stars as Noah Solloway, a happily married New York teacher and novelist. He's on summer vacation in Montauk when he meets a fascinating younger women called Alison Bailey (Ruth Wilson) in a diner. Slowly, almost inevitably, they begin sleeping together, and The Affair charts their romance with a lot of insight, and no judgement.