The best TV shows, autumn 2023: The Morning Show, Sex Education, The Crown
From The Morning Show, season 3, starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston to The Crown, season 6, with Imelda Staunton, here are the best autumn TV shows in 2023
Since Lovesick on Netflix, Johnny Flynn has become the ideal romantic lead: sweet, charming, non-threatening. But The Lovers sees him as a slightly different subject of desire, one that leans into the morally dubious. And like a darker version of Rose Matafeo’s lovely BBC sitcom Starstruck, David Ireland’s series follows a romance complicated by fame and fortune.
Belfast supermarket worker Janet (Roisin Gallagher) doesn’t care much about anyone, not even herself. But then the dashing and self-centred political commentator Seamus (Flynn) breaks into her life, and they’re drawn to each other… despite him having a celebrity girlfriend.
Jay Carson and Kerry Ehrin’s newsroom drama The Morning Show launched Apple TV+ but, after four years of better options, it’s grown into one of the least appealing titles. Nevertheless, there’s something undeniably addictive about a series with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon playing daytime news presenters with rivalrous friction. It’s also weirdly connective: reality and trash rub against each other as fictional characters face true events. Season one dealt with #MeToo and season two utilised the Covid-19 pandemic.
After recently appearing in Good Omens 2, Jon Hamm joins season three as tech titan Paul Marks. Marks throws everything out of order at The Morning Show when he sets his sights on the parent company UBA, and previous loyalties are tested. Can Alex (Aniston), Bradley (Witherspoon) and Cory (Billy Crudup) survive these changes?
Read our review of season two.
The good news: Sex Education is returning in September. The bad news: it’s for the last time. It's the right call. The cast looks less and less like teenagers, and many of them are moving on to bigger things (as seen recently with Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey and Connor Swindells starring in the Barbie movie). But it’s still a difficult goodbye to this hilarious sex-positive teen comedy, which has been a vital guide to the nuances of race, gender, sexuality and disability – not only in regard to sex, but also relationships and intimacy. It’s the kind of show most of us needed growing up.
Season four sees a shift from the norm. Moordale Secondary has closed, with awkward sex therapist Otis (Asa Butterfield) and his ebullient best friend Eric (Gatwa) moving to Cavendish Sixth Form College. Unlike Moordale’s former headteacher Hope Haddon, who inflicted a totalitarian state of conservative sexual politics on the school, Cavendish is the complete opposite. Think yoga, think sustainability, think kindness. Meanwhile, Maeve (Mackey) is over in the US studying under the cult author Thomas Molloy (Dan Levy).
Read our review of season three.
George Kay’s thievish thriller Lupin dropped during a universal moment. The first part of the series arrived on Netflix four days after Boris Johnson announced another lockdown, keeping people inside again. It was perfect timing for this flawed but escapist treasure, loosely based on the Maurice Leblanc novels. Assane Diop (Omar Sy) models himself on France’s infamous gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, but with a modern flair.
After exposing his nemesis Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre) at the end of part two, Assane is on the run after being framed for murder. As the most wanted man in France, he goes into hiding. But being away from his ex-wife Claire (Ludivine Sagnier) and son Raoul (Etan Simon) is too much, and he returns to Paris with an offer for them: leave the country and start again elsewhere.
Read our review of part two.
Bonnie Garmus’s debut novel Lessons in Chemistry continues to pile on the tables in bookshops everywhere. Its summer-read popularity is more than demonstrated by the quick turnaround for a TV adaptation: only 18 months elapsing between the book and the series. Brie Larson takes a break from the Marvel and Fast and Furious franchises to play a disrespected scientist in the early 60s who becomes a TV chef.
Elizabeth Zott (Larson) is a skilled chemist, but the prominence of men and patriarchal values in the field leads to her sacking. Reluctant but with a desire for revenge, Elizabeth accepts a job as a TV cooking host – using her knowledge and experience to teach housewives more than the kitchen allows.
Steven Knight is one of the most prolific TV writers of our times: Peaky Blinders, Great Expectations, and Spencer are just a few recent triumphs. And his latest effort, adapting the Pulitzer-winning WWII novel All the Light We Cannot See with Stranger Things director Shawn Levy, spells another victory.
In occupied France, blind woman Marie-Laure (Aria Mia Loberti) is forced to flee Paris with her father (Mark Ruffalo) to stop a legendary diamond from falling into Nazi hands. They find refuge in the walled city of St Malo, meeting with her uncle (Hugh Laurie) who transmits radio broadcasts for the French Resistance. Meanwhile, in Nazi Germany, the young Werner (Louis Hofmann) is recognised for his talents with radio technology and recruited into the Hitler Youth – soon crossing auditory paths with Marie-Laure.
Free-spirited, bodice-ripping period dramas have always been in demand on television (at least since 1995, when Colin Firth went for a swim). But Bridgerton ignited a more fun, sexual, American energy into the genre. Apple TV+ has already delved into that territory with the bizarre and underrated comedy-drama Dickinson, but their new venture The Buccaneers – based on the unfinished novel by The Age of Innocence author Edith Wharton – looks to be in direct competition with the chart-busting Netflix show.
With a culture-clash premise worthy of Ted Lasso, the series opens with a gaggle of vivacious American women sent to the tight-fisted society of 1870s London with the aim of securing husbands. But these buccaneers have much more in mind, which dismantles the rigid traditions of the time. Stars Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks.
What a time to be a Doctor Who fan! First, Russell T Davies announced his return – nearly 20 years after rebooting the series to stupendous success. Then, after an earth-shattering breakthrough in Sex Education, Ncuti Gatwa was announced as the next Doctor – a genius piece of casting that can’t be unseen. And following Disney’s purchase of the show’s streaming rights, the budget has potentially increased to £100 million per season. But none of those thrilling developments compared to the closing scene of Jodie Whittaker’s final episode, during which she reverse-regenerated into David Tennant (aka the 10th Doctor).
A trilogy of specials will air from November, celebrating the show’s 60th anniversary. As well as Tennant, Catherine Tate also returns as the underrated series four companion Donna Noble. New cast members include Neil Patrick Harris, Heartstopper’s Yasmin Finney, and Millie Gibson as the latest companion Ruby Sunday.
The weird and complicated sci-fi series The OA is one of Netflix’s most controversial cancellations. The creators Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling have kept quiet on the writing front since the show’s cliffhanger demise in 2019, but now they’ve hopped onto the whodunnit trend with A Murder at the End of the World. Despite its premise mirroring Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, this seven-part limited series feels stranger and darker.
The Crown actor Emma Corrin stars as the hacker and amateur sleuth Darby Hart, one of nine guests invited to the retreat of a solitary billionaire (Clive Owen). A guest is found dead and Darby uses her skills to prove who the murderer is. Also stars Harris Dickinson (Triangle of Sadness).
Veteran TV writer Jimmy McGovern’s latest series Time was a brilliant and brutal examination of prison life, hinging on the unforgettable performances of Sean Bean and Stephen Graham. For the second iteration, McGovern transfers to a women’s prison – casting the former Doctor Jodie Whittaker and The Last of Us star Bella Ramsey.
Also starring Tamara Lawrance (Small Axe: Education) and Siobhan Finneran (Happy Valley), Time series two follows three inmates of Carlington Prison: Kelsey (Ramsey), Orla (Whittaker) and Abi (Lawrance). Thrown into a violent and difficult world, they find an unexpected sense of community within the walls.
Read our review of series one.
Writer Theresa Ikoko was a major part of the small but mighty Hackney-based film Rocks. She contributed to a genuine, diverse and cosmopolitan vision of modern London, as seen through the eyes of Gen Z teens. She’s an ideal presence, then, for a new series about the birth of Grime music in the early 2000s – loosely based on the book by DJ Target.
Grime Kids follows a group of young adults wanting to make their lives and voices heard via music, examining the cultures and communities that inspired the Grime movement. This isn’t a collective biopic of Wiley and Dizzee Rascal, but a fictionalised take on the rise of the London-based genre and the kids who created it.
Photo: BBC/Mammoth Screen
Did you know that Cary Grant was born in Bristol, and that his birthname was Archibald Alexander Leach? Although everyone associates the classic Hollywood star with a statuesque face and a mid-Atlantic accent – seen in Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday and North By Northwest – his humble, West Country beginnings aren't easy to guess. But that is the reality, covered in detail by Stan & Ollie writer Jeff Pope in his new four-part bio-drama Archie.
Starting from his troubled early life in Bristol – facing grief, poverty and parental adultery – the series dives into Archibald’s teenage interest in performing. He joins the music hall act Bop Pendor Troupe at 14, finding himself stuck in the US after the tour went international. Archibald decides to stay in the land of opportunity, which leads to global fame. Jason Isaacs plays Leach/Grant alongside Laura Aikman (Scrapper) as ex-wife Dyan Cannon and Harriet Walter (Succession) as his mother Elsie Leach.
Photo: Sky/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Cary Grant in People Will Talk (1951).
When Peter Morgan’s royal Netflix series started back in 2016, who could’ve predicted the real-life dramas that'd happen during its run? Prince Andrew stepped down from his duties after the infamous Newsnight interview, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle left the family (airing their grievances in a Netflix documentary), and Prince Charles became King after the death of Elizabeth II last September. Considering the classic rumblings about abolishing the monarchy, a lot of royalist anger is directed toward The Crown. And although much of it is unfounded, that fury only contributes to the series’ resonance in our time.
What else will happen between now and The Crown's final chapter? Thankfully, season six is extending only as far as the early noughties. Plot details are scarce, but this final chapter will feature the death of Princess Diana as well as the fateful meeting between Prince William (Ed McVey) and Kate Middleton (Meg Bellamy).
Read our review of season five.
Photo: NetflixRead more ...
You have reached the limit of free articles.
To enjoy unlimited access to Culture Whisper sign up for FREE.
Find out more about Culture Whisper
Thanks for signing up to Culture Whisper.
Please check your inbox for a confirmation email and click the link to verify your account.