Looking forward: the best TV shows of 2023
From the televisual union of Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes in Stonehouse to the excited, wealthy return of Succession with Brian Cox, here's the best TV that 2023 has to offer
Sarah Lancashire returns as the straight-talking Yorkshire sergeant Catherine Cawood in Sally Wainwright's lauded crime drama Happy Valley.
The third and final series kicks off with a body in a reservoir, the result of a gangland murder, and evidence points to Catherine’s incarcerated nemesis Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton). Meanwhile, Catherine’s grandson Ryan (Rhys Connah) is now 16 and wants to build a relationship with the man claiming to be his father.
Politicians have always been mined for their dramatic potential, but nowadays it’s easier than ever. 2022 further confirms that British politics is in a constant state of absurdity. Fitting, then, that the new ITV drama Stonehouse opens the new year. The three-part series follows the bizarre story of John Stonehouse and his failed attempt to fake his own death.
Matthew Macfadyen portrays John, a charismatic family man and the Labour MP of Walsall North in Harold Wilson’s government. He was accused of being a Czech spy and having an affair with his secretary. Facing financial woes, John faked his death and planned a new life in Australia before being found out. Macfadyen stars alongside his real-life wife Keeley Hawes, who plays John’s wife Barbara.
Like the living dead, video-game adaptations are often decrepit versions of their former selves. But HBO's take on The Last of Us (often cited as one of the best games of all time) could buck the trend. Chiefly because the Chernobyl writer/creator Craig Mazin is leading the adaptation, alongside the original writer Neil Druckmann.
Despite ostensibly being a zombie game, The Last of Us finds crushing humanism in a primal and violent landscape. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, where a fungal infection turns people into lethal corpses. When the traumatised and reluctant Joel (Pedro Pascal) bumps into 14-year-old Ellie (Bella Ramsey), who's immune to the virus, he delivers her to scientists developing a cure. When travelling on this terrifying road trip, they begin to bond.
After Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein scored a golden goal with Apple TV+ football comedy Ted Lasso, the pressure’s high for their new therapy series Shrinking starring Harrison Ford and Jason Segel.
It’s probably the dream of every therapist: saying exactly what they think. Like Ricky Gervais’s After Life, only in a much more unsuitable setting, a grieving therapist (Segel) decides to break the rules and provide unfiltered honesty to his patients. In doing so, he catalyses huge changes in their lives and his own.
Based on the lauded debut novel by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Fleishman is in Trouble follows the 41-year-old hepatologist Toby (Jesse Eisenberg) after a bitter divorce battle. Seeing things positively, he is elated by his new liberation – diving into the modern era of digital dating, where he’s able to find numerous sexual prospects across NYC.
But just at the start of Toby's new life, his ex-wife Rachel (Claire Daines) suddenly disappears and he's stuck with the kids. Despite enjoying his time as a single man, her vanishing forces him to ruminate on their unsuccessful marriage.
Russell T Davies is a towering figure in British TV writing. Over the years, he’s shown audiences an unflinching look at the Manchester gay scene in Queer As Folk, revitalised Doctor Who, looked into Jeremy Thorpe’s affairs in A Very English Scandal, imagined a far-right populist future in Years and Years, and examined a harrowing past in It’s A Sin. And now, months before his surprising return to the TARDIS, he’s tackling the famous soap star Noele Gordon in Nolly.
Another surefire winner for ITV’s new streaming service ITVX, the three-part series shows the climax of Gordon's 17-year run on Crossroads. In 1981, she was suddenly axed from the show. But why did she have to leave? Davies examines how unkind the establishment was to women who don’t follow the rules. Gordon is portrayed by an always vivacious and perfectly cast Helena Bonham Carter.
The projects from Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine waver in quality. With every excellent film or TV show like Gone Girl and Big Little Lies, you have the imperfections of The Morning Show and Where the Crawdads Sing. Regardless, their philosophy of elevating ‘female authorship and agency’ often remains and seems to continue in their latest TV adaptation Daisy Jones & The Six.
Based on the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid and inspired by Fleetwood Mac, this 10-part Prime Video series looks at a fictional band finding fame in the 70s. But lead singers Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) and Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) decide to quit after a sold-out show, and decades later they decide to reveal the truth.
The third season of Succession fired the starting guns of revolution. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) – the initially assumed heir to the media empire Waystar RoyCo – rebelled against his father and CEO Logan (Brian Cox) in an effort to bring him down.
The fourth chapter in the Roy family saga sees Kendall assembling his sibling soldiers Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Shiv (Sarah Snook) for a full-scale attack. After Logan’s recent deal with the streaming boss Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), severe angst and friction grow within the family. Their power is fading.
Read our review of season three.
What a time to be a Doctor Who fan! Firstly, 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.
Before the releases of Wednesday, Stranger Things 4 and DAHMER, the silly and sexy Bridgerton was right at the top of the Netflix charts. Maybe the new spinoff series Queen Charlotte will achieve something similar, especially given the current obscurity around the release of Bridgerton season 3.
This prequel focuses on the titular queen as a younger woman (played by India Amarteifio), beginning with her marriage to King George (Corey Mylchreest). In Bridger-verse lore, the royal pairing spread racial diversity across upper-class British society – thus creating the colourblind aristocracy of the Ton. Golda Rosheuvel and Adjoa Andoh return as the older Queen Charlotte and Lady Agatha, with new additions including Michelle Fairley as Princess Augusta and Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Ledger Bridgerton.
When Peter Morgan’s royalty drama started back in 2016, who could’ve predicted the present-day dramas that occurred during its run? Prince Andrew stepped down from his duties after the infamous Newsnight interview, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle left the family (recently airing their grievances in their Netflix documentary), and Prince Charles became King after the death of Elizabeth II in 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. Most of the plot details haven’t been announced yet, but they will feature the death of Princess Diana as well as the aftermath felt by her children. Also, the casting of Meg Bellamy as Kate Middleton confirms that this season will examine the start of Will and Kate’s relationship.
Photo: Netflix/Diana FieldRead more ...
Best Interests (BBC One)
Better (BBC One)
Black Ops (BBC One)
HENPOCALYPSE! (BBC Two)
Inside No. 9, series 8 (BBC Two)
Starstruck, series 3 (BBC Three)
Steeltown Murders (BBC One)
The Family Pile
The Sex Lives of College Girls, season 2
Django (Sky Atlantic)
Dreamland (Sky Comedy)
The Lovers (Sky Atlantic)
The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Sky Atlantic)
A Town Called Malice (Sky Max)
Heartstopper, season 2
Our Planet II
Top Boy, season 3
You, season 4
Good Omens, season 2
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, season 5
Lessons in Chemistry
The Full Monty
The Mandalorian, season 3
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