The best TV shows, autumn 2022
From the epic fantasy prequel The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power to the latest volume in Peter Morgan's royal saga The Crown, starring Imelda Staunton, here's the best of autumn TV
There’s expensive, and then there’s ridiculous. After Game of Thrones finished, Amazon has coveted a similar fantasy success for its streaming service Prime Video (starting with The Wheel of Time last year). But its new Lord of the Rings prequel The Rings of Power is a whole new beast, rumoured to be the priciest TV show ever: costing $465 million for just one season.
Set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before Bilbo and Frodo, this series aims to capture the integral events leading up to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Morfydd Clarke (Saint Maud) stars as a young Galadriel, a powerful Elf who would prove vital to the eventual destruction of the One Ring, which was forged during this era.
What is it about handsome men of the cloth? Following Andrew Scott in Fleabag and Tom Hiddleston in The Essex Serpent, David Tennant is the latest to don a cassock for television: this time, for Steven Moffat’s ambiguous new drama Inside Man.
The BBC have released scant information about the series, only details of seemingly disparate characters. Tennant plays a vicar in a small English town (naturally), Stanley Tucci stars as a convict on death row (known as the ‘Inside Man’), and there’s also a maths teacher trapped in a cellar. How are these people connected? Hard to say: the press release unhelpfully reveals that ‘they cross paths in the most unexpected way’.
Like the Channel 4 film Brexit: The Uncivil War, many are concerned that Michael Winterbottom’s new series This England – about the government’s response to the Covid pandemic – is happening too soon. Especially as the outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson isn’t anyone’s favourite person right now. How will the series treat him? With sympathy? With anger?
Kenneth Branagh transforms into BoJo, which includes the blond nest he calls hair, with Ophelia Lovibond at his side playing Carrie Symonds. Andrew Buchan portrays the health secretary Matt Hancock, Shri Patel takes on chancellor Rishi Sunak, and Simon Paisley Day plays the chief advisor Dominic Cummings.
Sex and drugs and high finance. The BBC/HBO series Industry is soap and trash disguised as prestige TV; and yet, it’s so unerringly addictive. The first season followed a horny and ambitious gaggle of graduates training at the massive London branch of Pierpoint & Co – all vying for a permanent position.
Season two looks at the grads who made it through to the next stage, and the pressure’s even worse. Pierpoint is under new management from the US, with Harper (Myha'la Herrold), Yasmin (Marisa Abela) and Robert (Harry Lawtey) needing to find new business connections to cope in a post-Covid world.
Peter Morgan’s excellent series, dramatically tracing the history of our current monarchy, has always been slightly controversial. But recently, it's gained more bombastic reactions. To many, the royal family is too sacred to treat with scrutiny or even dramatisation – especially after the Prince Charles/Princess Diana plotline in season four.
Olivia Colman’s reign has ended, and now the great Imelda Staunton takes the throne. Season five covers the Windsor saga during the 90s Britpop era, which will include the infamous interview with Diana by Martin Bashir. Taking over from Emma Corrin, Elizabeth Debicki is the new Diana. Jonathan Pryce is playing Prince Philip, Dominic West takes on Prince Charles, and Lesley Manville plays Princess Margaret.
Although revisionist Westerns have existed for decades, they’re still refreshing to watch. Writer/creator Hugo Blick's new project The English embraces that revisionism with a revenge-drama premise, set in 19th-century mid-America.
Emily Blunt plays Lady Cornelia Locke, an aristocratic Englishwoman who seeks vengeance on the man responsible for her son’s death. She joins with Pawnee ex-cavalry scout Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer) and travels across a violent landscape to wreak that revenge, but neither is aware that they have a shared past. Also stars Rafe Spall, Toby Jones and Ciarán Hinds.
Bruce Miller's continuing adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is probably the most autumnal series on this list. The growing coldness and darkness and death is a fitting atmosphere for a misogynistic dystopia, one that unfortunately grows more relevant as the years go on.
Season five sees June (Elisabeth Moss) in a lethally sticky situation. After gaining asylum in Canada in season four, she fights and kills her former abuser Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) with a number of Handmaids. Now, she has to face the consequences of her actions as well as a possible response from Fred’s wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), who’s now gaining influence in Canada.
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ITV’s new streaming service ITVX is launching this autumn, and there’s already a slew of great titles. Litvinenko follows the famous assassination of Russian officer Alexander Litvinenko and the subsequent investigation by the Met Police, starring David Tennant and Mark Bonnar. Vicky McClure stars in psychological thriller Without Sin, playing a grieving mother who builds a relationship with her daughter's murderer.
But A Spy Among Friends looks like the most exciting series. Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce star in a John le Carré-like spy thriller based on the true story of friends Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby. The latter became known as one of the most notorious Soviet double agents in history, uncovered during the Cold War.
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