The best things you'll see on television this autumn
DUE to Euro 2016 and then the Rio Olympics, the choice of non-sport-related programmes to watch has been thinner for the past two months than the plot of a Michael Bay movie.
But as the days grow shorter and the leaves begin to fall from the trees, things are about to change.
The sheer number of American series that will be coming our way between now and the turn of the year would require a separate preview, so I’ve concentrated primarily on Irish and British programmes, some new, some returning favourites.
For a change, the domestic channels, and particularly RTE, seem to have put a bit more thought and effort than is usual into producing television a lot of us might actually contemplate watching.
Here then, ahead of the official release of the autumn schedules next week, are some to keep an eye out for.
Striking Out (RTE1)
Patriotism demands that we mention this four-part home-grown legal
drama — which somewhere along the line had its title changed from ‘Cheaters’ — at the top of the list. That and the fact that it looks like it just might be a cut above the norm for recent RTE drama offerings (yes, we’re calling out you, Rebellion).
The reason? The behind-the-camera talent, namely writer James Phelan, who penned TG4’s hugely amusing Wrecking the Rising. Amy Huberman stars as a solicitor called Tara, who sets up her own practice when she catches her colleague and fiancé (Rory Keenan) playing away from home.
The reboot of the 1970s favourite was one of last year’s biggest critical and popular successes — and rightly so. It was excellent entertainment, old-school but with modern production values, and graced by star-making performances from Clondalkin man Aidan Turner as the brooding Ross and Eleanor Tomlinson as the lovely, flame-haired Demelza.
In terms of viewing figures, it wiped the floor with all comers. A rival broadcaster would want to be nuts to run a drama up against it, which is probably why...
... may yet be shifted out of its planned 9pm Sunday slot. There’s sure to be a lot of interest in Doctor Who evacuee Jenna Coleman as the young Queen Victoria, but will ITV want to take the risk of a series it apparently sees as a natural replacement for Downton Abbey suffer an ignominious battering in the ratings?
Ripper Street (BBC2)
The series they just couldn’t kill. Axed by the BBC then rescued by Amazon Prime, which gave it an even bigger production budget, Richard Warlow’s superb period thriller, set in Victorian London but filmed in Dublin, returns on Monday for a fourth season.
The two-part opener finds Long Susan languishing in prison. Does Jackson have a plan to save her? It was announced earlier in the year that the fifth season will be the last.
Luke Cage (Netflix)
Marvel’s Netflix vehicles Daredevil and Jessica Jones have proved far more enjoyable than most of its bloated big-screen blockbusters. Mike Colter, already introduced in Jessica Jones, stars as the crime-busting former convict (known as Power Man when I was a comic-reading lad) with superhuman powers and unbreakable skin.
Luke Cage will be followed in due course by another 70s Marvel cult hero, Iron Fist, and the characters will eventually team up in a series called The Defenders.
Cold Feet (ITV/UTV)
The residual affection for Cold Feet, a huge hit in the 90s, is such that ITV is probably taking less of a gamble than you’d first think by reviving it. Can James Nesbitt and the rest (minus Helen Baxendale, whose character died in a car crash) revive the magic?
We are reliably informed that the matter of the post-transplant Nesbitt’s resurgent hair will be humorously addressed in the script.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (Channel TBC)
And speaking of revivals, everyone’s favourite walking catastrophe, ‘Larry David’, played by
Larry David, returns to screens after a five-year gap for another series of spectacularly embarrassing foot-in-mouth, wish-a-hole-would-open-up-in-the-ground-and-swallow-you mishaps. What can you say? Sheer comic genius.
Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope (RTE2)
It never rains Amy Huberman but it pours her. She takes a strictly supporting role, though, in this six-part comedy-drama centred on a young Cork couple (Nika McGuigan and Seána Kerslake) whose lifestyle spirals out of control in Dublin.
The tiny Irish-language channel with the huge creative brain has a far better record of making us laugh — for all the right reasons, rather than for The Ray D’Arcy Show — than RTE. This new musical comedy from the people behind An Crisis and Crisis Eile concerns a woman trying to bump off her husband with the help of an old flame.
Count Arthur Strong (BBC1)
The news that the Beeb has commissioned a third series of Graham Linehan and Steve Delaney’s lovely sitcom with Delaney as the incorrigible Arthur is enough to restore your faith in TV commissioners. The viewing figures might be small, but the laughs are big.
RTE2’s take on First Dates worked. TV3’s The Great Irish Bake Off, on the other hand, seemed to be missing whatever vital ingredient makes the British original so popular (we’re guessing 250g of Mary Berry, sifted). Who knows how this home-grown version of Channel 4’s surprise runaway hit will work out? Only you can be the judge of the people judging the people on the telly.
Dancing with the Stars (RTE1)
With The Voice of Ireland finally being put out of its, and our, misery, RTE had to find something to fill that Sunday evening void or else the culchies would rebel, so they opted to purchase the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing format.
They couldn’t very well call it that, so instead they went for the title that’s used in America and around the world. The question now is who will these ‘stars’ be? You can probably make a few educated guesses.
Keeping Ireland Alive: The Health Service in a Day (RTE1)
Autumn schedule publicity tends to favour dramas over documentaries, so it’s hard to find out what the various channels have in store on the factual front. This five-part series, one of the most ambitious the national broadcaster has ever mounted, is sure to be a standout, though.
Seventy-five camera crews were sent to locations around the country in May to bring back a detailed, close-up look at every aspect of the health service over the course of a single 24-hour period. Every day, 200 babies are born, 80 people die and over 200,000 access the service in some way or another, so the potential for dramatic human interest stories is immense.