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Best BBC dramas — all the must-see shows on iPlayer

Best BBC dramas includes Vigil
Best BBC dramas includes Vigil. (Image credit: BBC/World Productions)

Vigil, Time, The Serpent, Line of Duty, Normal People, Keeping Faith, Strike, and A Suitable Boy are just some of the very best BBC dramas available to watch right now on BBC iPlayer.

Here's our guide to a string of great BBC dramas, how many episodes there are, and what the critics said.

What are the best BBC dramas to stream right now?

Vigil

Suranne Jones in Vigil.

Suranne Jones stars. (Image credit: BBC)

Love Line of Duty? Couldn't get enough of Bodyguard? Well, great news the makers of both series have made a new submarine thriller, Vigil! Gentleman Jack actress Suranne Jones stars as DCI Amy Silva. 

Silva is called in when there appears to be a link between the mysterious disappearance of a fishing boat and a death on a nuclear submarine. 

The two incidents lead to a clash between the Navy and the British security services. Silva begins an investigation at sea, while back on land, Amy's old colleague and flame DS Kirsten Longacre (The Good Fight's Rose Leslie) hunts for more clues. And what she discovers is a conspiracy that threatens Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Is her life in danger?

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 6 (Being released weekly on iPlayer)

Average episode length: 59 minutes

We say: "It’s an outlandish setting, but a rollicking story nonetheless, and one overflowing with  intriguing subplots."

Silent Witness

TV tonight Adam, Nikki and Jack face a difficult case

Silent Witness is back! (Image credit: BBC)

Silent Witness Season 24 is finally here, with fans hoping this will be the series that at last sees Nikki (Emilia Fox) and Jack (David Caves) get together.

Jason Wong (The GentlemanChimericaStrangers) has also joined the team as pathologist Adam Yuen.

The opening episode of the new series sees Nikki and Jack visiting a high-security prison. As the pair look into the suspicious death of an inmate, Nikki finds herself dealing with disturbing memories. 

Meanwhile, if you've not seen Silent Witness before every series is amazingly currently available to watch on iPlayer! Get stuck in!!

Number of seasons: 24!

Episodes: 222

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: We say about the opening episode: "Comedy star Kevin Eldon shows off his straight acting skills as DI Mason, and Harry Potter actor Evanna Lynch appears as Scott’s girlfriend."

Time 

Time stars Sean Bean and Stephen Graham.

Time stars Sean Bean and Stephen Graham. (Image credit: BBC)

Sean Bean plays Mark Cobden, a guilt-ridden teacher whose life is destroyed when he accidentally kills an innocent man, in BBC1’s thrilling new three-part prison drama Time by acclaimed British TV writer Jimmy McGovern. 

Separated from his family, Mark is sentenced to four years in jail where he befriends prison officer Eric McNally (Stephen Graham), who does his best to protect the inmates from the dangers of life behind bars.

But when one of the most dangerous prisoners identifies Eric’s softer side as a weakness, Eric faces an impossible choice between his principles and protecting the ones he loves. With both Eric and Mark trapped by their pasts and unsure of their futures, can they find survive and find the strength to move forward?

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 3

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: We say: "We've loved watching Sean Bean and Stephen Graham in Time, despite the harrowing nature of some scenes. But let's face it a Jimmy McGovern drama about prison life wasn't going to be in any way gentle."

The Pursuit of Love

The Pursuit Of Love

Fanny (Emily Beecham) with Linda (Lily James) in The Pursuit of Love, which is adapted from the Nancy Mitford classic.

Set in Europe between the two World Wars, the romantic comedy-drama follows the adventures of fearless Linda Radlett (Cinderella and Downton star Lily James) and her best friend and cousin Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham).

Obsessed with love and marriage, the pair are on the hunt for their ideal husband. But their friendship is rocked as Fanny decides to go for a steady life while Linda opts to follow her heart. This leads Linda down an increasingly wild path.

Lily James says: “Linda has spark, passion, fire and curiosity, but doesn’t know what to do with it. Her father doesn’t let the girls have an education or leave the property. But she follows her heart and tries to find herself through the men she encounters — a communist, a conservative and a wild European.”

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 3 

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian says: "It is a treat for all. Mitfordians – please, do give it a chance."

Keeping Faith Season 3

TV tonight Keeping Faith

Faith takes on her most challenging case yet.

Keeping Faith Season 3 sees Torchwood actress Eve Myles star for the final time as lawyer Faith Howells.

Teasing the series, Eve says: “We left Faith at the end of series two asking Evan to leave, and a divorce was imminent. She had come to learn of all his dark secrets and had become embroiled in the dark underworld that Evan was running away from."

Faith not only has to navigate the breakup of her marriage, but she has also taken on an emotionally wrenching legal medical case involving a gravely ill teenage boy.

Number of seasons: 3 

Episodes: 20 [all episodes of season 3 are available to watch] 

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: We said: "In the cracking opener, Celia Imrie joins the cast as the mysterious Rose, whose arrival is about to totally upend Faith’s already fragile life…"

Three Families

TV tonight Three Families

Amy James-Kelly and Colin Morgan star in Three Families.

All names have been changed in this compelling drama based on the true stories of three women. The need for anonymity is because Theresa (Sinéad Keenan), Hannah (Amy James-Kelly) and Rosie (Genevieve O’Reilly) are trapped in tragedy by Northern Ireland’s strict, divisive abortion laws.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 2 

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: We said: "As subjects go, you can’t get much more serious, poignant or brave than this but it’s a triumph thanks to a respectful, balanced approach, coupled with thoughtful, heartfelt performances."

The Serpent

The Serpent

The Serpent stars Jenna Coleman. 

This thriller tells the astonishing true story of Charles Sobhraj, a serial killer (nicknamed The Serpent) who targeted Western travellers during the 70s and became one of Interpol’s most wanted men.

Psychopath, con man, thief and master of disguise, Charles Sobhraj was the chief suspect in the unsolved murders of up to 20 young Western travellers on the "hippie trail" across India, Thailand and Nepal between 1975 and 1976.

One of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century, Charles Sobhraj repeatedly slipped from the grasp of authorities worldwide and by 1976 he had arrest warrants on three different continents.

Stars Victoria's Jenna Coleman and renowned French actor Tahar Rahim.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 8  

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: We said: "Tahar is wonderful as the charismatic killer, while Jenna Coleman couldn’t be further from Victoria in her most sinister role to date as Sobhraj’s besotted partner."

Line of Duty

Obsessed With... Line of Duty

What can Kate find out about Joanne Davidson?

Nearly 10 million tuned in for the first episode of Line of Duty Season 6, so if you’ve missed it, now’s the time to catch up! Penned again by Jed Mercurio, fan favourites Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) all return. This time Hastings has his eye on DCI Joanne Davidson, played by Trainspotting and Harry Potter star Kelly Macdonald. But is Joanne corrupt? And will we finally find out who H is? If H means nothing to you, the good news is that the previous 5 seasons are available to watch on iPlayer!

Number of seasons: 6 

Episodes: 6 per season [all episodes of series 6 are now available] 

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: We say: "Line of Duty is cooking on gas once again with a belter of a first episode."

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife 2021

There's 10 seasons to enjoy of Call the Midwife.

Call the Midwife fans have just seen the tenth series of the show air on BBC1, and now all episodes from series 1 - 10 are available to watch on iPlayer. 

The most recent series was set in 1966 which of course is when England won the World Cup! Series 10 opens with Sister Julienne and Dr Turner clashing over a private clinic venture which sees Trixie seconded to the Lady Emily Clinic in Chelsea. Trixie soon learns that not everything is as it seems at the clinic.

Number of seasons: 10

Episodes: 8 per season, except series one which is six and series 10 which is 7 episodes long.

Average episode length: 58 minutes 

What the critics say: We say: "While the Christmas 2020 special of Call the Midwife might have whetted our appetites, there is nothing better than a whole series to get our teeth into. Season 10 is slightly shorter with just seven hour-long episodes rather than the usual eight, but if the first episode is anything to go by then we are in for a real treat. ”

How to watch great dramas anywhere in the world

There is a handy way to watch your favourite TV shows from wherever you are in the world, and it is called VPN.

This lets you get around the usual digital barriers by changing your IP address, meaning you can watch your favourite TV shows even if you’re away from home.

But which VPN will suit your needs best?

Our favourite is ExpressVPN, which lets you change your IP address on whichever device you want to watch your new favourite TV show on.

From laptops to a Smart TV, Amazon Fire Stick and games consoles to a mobile phone, you can change the address to make your device think it is in a different location.

ExpressVPN is one of the best out there. Not only because it is straightforward and easy to use, but it also has great security and, best of all, it comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.

This is the number one rated VPN in the world right now and as well as trying it out for free for a month, you can sign up for an annual plan and get 3 months absolutely free.

Danny Boy

Anthony Boyle as Brian Wood in Danny Boy

Danny Boy tells the true story of Brian Wood (played by Anthony Boyle) who went from hero to alleged war criminal. (Image credit: Gareth King (BBC).)

Danny Boy is an emotional, feature-length drama written by BAFTA-winner Robert Jones that tells the true story of Brian Wood. Brian (played by Anthony Boyle) returns from Iraq a war hero for his bravery at The Battle of Danny Boy, but is accused of war crimes upon his return, and is then pursued by unshakeable human rights lawyer, Phil Shiner (Toby Jones). 

Over the course of the Al-Sweady Inquiry, the investigation and the pressure from the inquiry, from his own family and what happened in Iraq begin to weigh heavily on him. Toby Jones said: “a story like this retrieves a moment in our history and - like all the best drama - asks some unanswerable questions about what we ask of our soldier and the armed forces, and where victory ultimately lies.”

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 1

Length: 84 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian wrote: “The excellent script by Robert Jones keeps circling back to the moment of enemy engagement, adding more detail and different emphases each time, like a soldier sorting through his traumatised memories.”

Bloodlands

TV tonight Bloodlands

James Nesbitt as detective Tom Brannick.

James Nesbitt stars in this big new thriller. Set in Belfast, the six-part drama centres on DCI Tom Brannick (Nesbitt), a devoted dad to daughter Izzy and a detective of over 20 years.

As the series begins, Brannick and his trusty colleague DS Naimh McGovern (Ripper Street’s Charlene McKenna) are called to investigate when a car is pulled from the river at Strangford Lough.

The vehicle belongs to Pat Keenan — a man with links to the IRA — who’s nowhere to be found but Brannick is clearly rattled when a postcard boasting an image of Belfast’s iconic Samson and Goliath cranes is found hidden in the wing-mirror.

Brannick tells senior officer Jackie Twomey (Fortitude’s Lorcan Cranitch) that he fears legendary serial killer — codenamed Goliath — who evaded capture during The Troubles, has returned. It’s then revealed that one of Goliath’s victims was Brannick’s own wife, Emma…

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 6 

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: We say: “James Nesbitt brings strength and sincerity to Brannick, and with twists and an almighty cliffhanger at the end of episode one, this looks like another Sunday-night hit!”

The Syndicate

TV tonight The Syndicate

Gaynor Faye is one of the stars of the fourth series of The Syndicate.

Each season of The Syndicate follows a new story, and so far we’ve seen characters based in a Leeds supermarket, a public hospital in Bradford, and even a crumbly stately home near Scarborough.

In The Syndicate Season 4 we follow a group of kennel workers who discover their jobs are at risk before learning they’ve won the lottery.

But there is something shifty going on when a newsagent called Frank (Neil Morrissey) tells them they've won £500… only for the group to later suspect they have actually won the £27million jackpot.

However, there is just one problem… Frank is nowhere to be found and neither is their cash. Can they track him down?

“An opportunity arises and Frank takes it — and it changes his life and the lives of everyone around him,” teases Neil Morrissey.

Number of seasons: 4 [only series 4 is currently on iPlayer] 

Episodes: 6  

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: "While it is never too demanding, it is regularly satisfying," comments The Guardian.

The Terror

TV tonight The Terror

A 19th-century Arctic expedition quickly goes wrong.

From Ridley Scott, this icy thriller is inspired by Captain Sir John Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition. It follows the desperate Royal Navy crew as they are pushed to the brink as they attempt to discover the Northwest Passage.

The Terror boasts an all-star cast including Jared Harris (The Crown, Mad Men), Tobias Menzies (Outlander, Game Of Thrones), Ciarán Hinds (Game Of Thrones, Rome), Paul Ready (Cuffs, Utopia), Adam Nagaitis (Houdini And Doyle, Suffragette), Nive Nielsen (The New World) and Ian Hart (Neverland).

Number of Seasons: 1 

Episodes: 10

Average episode length: 53 minutes

What the critics say: We say: “While it looks great and sails along with purpose, there’s no escaping this is a bleak and chilling tale.”

Black Narcissus

Black Narcissus

Black Narcissus stars Gemma Arterton.

Set in the 1930s the series follows the novel’s iconic tale of forbidden love and repressed desires.

Black Narcissus is a haunting love story that follows Sister Clodagh and the other nuns at St Faiths.

The series, set in the Himalayas, sees the nuns travel to Nepal to set up a branch of their order in the remote palace of Mopu.

However, the abandoned palace holds dark secrets, and soon Sister Clodagh finds herself attracted to a handsome land agent called Mr Dean...

Gemma Arterton (The King’s Man, The Escape) leads the cast in the role of Sister Clodagh.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 3 

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: We said it boasts "a stellar cast including the late Dame Diana Rigg and Jim Broadbent, and jaw-dropping scenery".

Death in Paradise

Death in Paradise season 10 with Ralf Little as DI Neville Parker

Ralf Little as DI Neville Parker in Death in Paradise.

Death in Paradise season 10 has now reached iPlayer, with Ralf Little starring as lead cop DI Neville Parker. To mark the 10th anniversary of the show, there’s some old favourites returning including Ben Miller back as DI Richard Poole.

If you’ve never seen the show, then give it a whirl! All 10 seasons are now on iPlayer, which means you can enjoy lots of sunshine and, erm, murders! The series has now concluded, so all episodes are available to watch. Death in Paradise Season 11 is also on its way!

Number of seasons: 10 

Episodes: 8 per series 

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian wrote:Death in Paradise (BBC1) has become the comfy jumper of British television. It is familiar, warm and dependable, and it continues to make a programme that revolves around murder seem cosy and comforting.”

Baptiste Season 2

Tchéky Karyo and Fiona Shaw in Baptiste

Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) is on the trail of Emma Chambers' (Fiona Shaw) missing family... (Image credit: BBC)

Baptiste is back! Tchéky Karyo returns as retired French police investigator Julien Baptiste is at the heart of a brand new case. This time, he is helping British Ambassador Emma Chambers (played by Fiona Shaw) to track down her missing family, whilst also grappling with his own family tragedy.

Teasing what happens in the second series, Karyo said: “We have different time periods – the present day, then 14 months before. In the present day, we see Julien down and yelling at the world with his pain. His family’s a wreck. People love this character because you can rely on him but now he’s losing his temper and drinking. It’s a special journey for him this time. There are a lot of amazing surprises…”

Number of seasons: 2

Episodes: 6 per series [all episodes of Season 2 are available on iPlayer now]

Average episode length: 56 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian wrote: “The mystery of what happened between the Chambers family kidnapping more than a year ago and the present day slowly builds, with the show’s writers, brothers Harry and Jack Williams, cleverly skipping between past and present.” 

Pose Season 3 

Elektra Abundance (played by Dominique Jackson) in Pose Season 3

Elektra Abundance (played by Dominique Jackson) in Pose Season 3 (Image credit: BBC/FX/Eric Liebowitz)

Pose is a powerful drama that celebrates New York city's drag and ballroom culture of the 80s and 90s and follows the lives of members of gay and trans people who, facing discrimination, moved into shared accommodation called "Houses" under a dominant Mother figure.

The final season of the much-loved LGBT drama finished airing in the US earlier this year. The series only just began airing in the UK on BBC2 in early August, but all 8 episodes of the final season are available to watch on BBC iPlayer right now! 

Season 3 takes place four years on from Season 2. As the AIDS epidemic continues, Blanca marshals forces within the LGBT community to demand better support for those living with AIDS, all while juggling motherhood and working as a nurse in an AIDS hospital ward.

Number of seasons: 3

Episodes: 26 (8 episodes in series 1 and 3, 10 in series 2)

Average episode length: 50 minutes

What the critics say: IndieWire wrote: " “Pose” has made its indelible mark on Hollywood, one that will not soon be forgotten. It earned the right to fantasize, dream big, and paint with broad and colorful brushstrokes."

What were the best new BBC dramas in 2020?

Roadkill

Hugh Laurie in Roadkill - how to watch Roadkill online

Hugh Laurie stars in Roadkill.

Roadkill stars Hugh Laurie as Peter Laurence, a charming politician who has his eye on the job of the Prime Minister (played by Peaky Blinders actress Helen McCrory). But in the thriller penned by Collateral writer David Hare, Laurence has a pile of enemies and his life is rapidly going out of control...

Hugh says: “Roadkill is a political drama about the price of success in the political realm and what it demands of the people who do it, and those around the person who does it. It’s pretty unforgiving.”

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 4 

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: The Daily Mail’s Christopher Stevens wrote: “With any actor less likeable than Hugh, this story would be unbearably cynical.”

Us

Us stars Tom Hollander

Douglas's world turns upside down in Us.

Adapted from the hit novel of the same name by Starter for Ten writer David Nicholls, Us stars Tom Hollander. Hollander plays Douglas Petersen, a man who’s stunned when his wife Connie (Saskia Reeves) tells him she’s not sure she wants to be married to him anymore.

As they go on their grand tour of Europe, Douglas makes it his mission to win back his wife’s love. And to repair his difficult relationship with their son Albie. The series takes in some beautiful locations including Paris, Amsterdam, and Venice.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 4 

Average episode length: 58 minutes 

What the critics say:Occasionally the middle-class, massive-kitchen-ness of Us can teeter just on the edge of smug, but in the end I was charmed” The Guardian

Life

Life BBC1 Victoria Hamilton as Belle

Life stars Victoria Hamilton as Belle.

This is a spin-off from the incredibly successful drama Doctor Foster. It’s by the same writer, Mike Bartlett, although neither Suranne Jones or Jodie Comer reprise their roles. However, Victoria Hamilton does return as Gemma’s neighbour from Doctor Foster.

But in a twist, her character, Anna Baker, is now going under the name of Belle and seeking to rebuild her life after her divorce. Life tells the story of the residents of a large house divided into four flats. Belle’s life is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of her chaotic 15-year-old niece Maya (Erin Kellyman). There are further complications when her ex-husband Neil (Adam James) turns up in the series.

Other key cast include Alison Steadman, Peter Davison and Adrian Lester.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 6 

Average episode length: 58 minutes 

What the critics say:The new BBC1 series is truly a mixed bag: poignant one moment, damningly cliched the next, before upending expectations again with an emotional gut-punch.” The Independent.

Talking Heads

TV tonight Talking Heads

Jodie Comer in Talking Heads.

This series of dramatic monologues, written by author Alan Bennett, went into production during lockdown earlier this year. If some of the character’s homes seem familiar, that’s because Talking Heads was filmed on the set of EastEnders which had shutdown production at the time!

The all-star cast includes Imelda Staunton, Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman, Lesley Manville, Tamsin Grieg, Kristin Scott Thomas and Maxine Peake.

Each episode features a different character sharing their story directly to the camera/viewers at home.

The original run of Talking Heads was shown on the BBC during the 80s and 90s and won two BAFTAs. This new version includes remakes of some of the original episodes. Plus two new monologues starring Sarah Lancashire (as a mum who finds herself attracted to her son) and Monica Dolan, who won a BAFTA for her role as Rosemary West in ITV’s crime drama, Appropriate Adult.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 12 

Average episode length: 30-40 minutes 

What the critics say: Talking Heads is a powerful lockdown watch” - GQ

I May Destroy You

I May Destroy You

I May Destroy You. (Image credit: BBC/Various Artists Ltd and FALKNA/Natalie Seery)

This drama, which is an uncomfortable watch at times, led to much wider discussions about issues around sexual assualt, consent and racial identity when it was shown on BBC1.

It is written, co-directed and executive produced by Michaela Coel, who previously wrote and starred in E4’s comedy, Chewing Gum.

Michaela plays novelist, Arabella who, through flashbacks, realises she was raped during a night out in London.

I May Destroy You follows Arabella and her friends, Terry (Weruche Opia) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu), as she struggles to come to terms with what has happened and seeks justice for her and other victims of sexual assault.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 12 

Average episode length: 28-35 minutes 

What the critics say: “Could this be the best drama of the year?” - The Guardian

The Salisbury Poisonings

The Salisbury Poisonings

The Salisbury Poisonings was one of the best BBC dramas in 2020. (Image credit: BBC/Dancing Ledge/James Pardon/Ray Burmiston)

Rafe Spall, Anne-Marie Duff and MyAnna Buring (BBC1’s Ripper Street) star in this torn-from-the-newspaper-headlines drama.

It’s based on real-life events in which a former Russian military officer, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yula were poisoned in the city of Salisbury in 2018. Two Russian nationals were suspected of the attack, using a chemical nerve agent.

In this TV dramatisation, DS Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall) is caught up in the chemical chaos, which also involves a local couple, Dawn Sturgess (MyAnna Buring) and Charlie Rowley (Johnny Harris).

Tracy Daskiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff), Director of Public Health, races against time to stop the spread of the deadly nerve agent, Novichok.

Watch The Salisbury Poisonings on iPlayer now!

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 3 

Average episode length: 56-59 minutes 

What the critics say: “Like watching a Crimewatch reconstruction” - The Independent

Anthony

TV tonight Anthony

The wedding day Anthony never got to see. (Image credit: BBC/LA Productions)

British teenager, Anthony Walker was murdered by two white men in an unprovoked racist attack in a Liverpool Park in July 2005.

Anthony’s tragic story became national news during the trial of the accused, and his funeral was broadcast on a big screen in Liverpool city centre.

This feature-length drama, written by Jimmy McGovern (Cracker, The Street), was made with the support of Anthony’s mum, Gee.

It re-imagines how Anthony’s (played by Toheeb Jimoh) life might have otherwise turned out and the story is told in reverse order leading up to that fateful day.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 1 

Average episode length: 86 minutes 

What the critics say: “A heartbreaking portrait of a life never lived” - i news

A Suitable Boy

TV tonight A Suitable Boy

A Suitable Boy was adapted from a hit novel. (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

This adaptation of the bestselling book by Vikram Seth is reportedly one of the most expensive BBC series ever made.

Filmed on location in Indian cities including Lucknow, Maheshwar and Kanpur, it’s a coming-of-age story about university student, Lata (Tanya Maniktala) who is expected to be the next in her family to marry.

But Lata’s traditional Hindu family may not approve when she meets and falls for Kabir, who comes from a Muslim family.

A Suitable Boy was adapted for TV by Andrew Davies, the writer behind such TV hits as Mr Selfridge and Bleak House.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 6 

Average episode length: 58-59 minutes 

What the critics say: “Settle down for an Indian summer of love with this ambitious adaptation” - The Evening Standard

Strike

Strike in Strike: Lethal White

Strike is in danger in his latest case. (Image credit: BBC/Bronte Films/Steffan Hill)

After her worldwide success with the Harry Potter books, author J.K. Rowling wrote a series of novels featuring detective Cormoran Strike, under the pen name, Robert Galbraith.

It didn’t take long for the mystery to be solved who really wrote the books!

Tom Burke (from The Musketeers) plays the detective in the BBC adaptation series, alongside Holliday Grainger as Strike’s partner-in-crime, Robin Ellacott.

The first series includes adaptations of the books, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career Of Evil.

The guest cast includes Martin Shaw, Tara Fitzgerald, Sian Phillips and Kierston Wareing (who played Kirsty Branning on EastEnders).

A fourth adaptation, Strike: Lethal White is also now available to watch on iPlayer.

Number of seasons: 4 

Episodes: 11 

Average episode length: 60 minutes 

What the critics say: “It’s impossible to not wonder if the TV adaptation of the book series would have been greenlighted were it not for Rowling’s name” - The Hollywood Reporter

Trigonometry

Trigonometry

Trigonometry. (Image credit: BBC/House Productions/Mark Johnson)

Three’s a crowd? Or three’s company?

In this BBC Two drama, London chef, Gemma (Thalissa Teixeira, BBC’s The Musketeers) and her paramedic boyfriend, Kieran (Gary Carr, Death In Paradise) are struggling to make ends meet.

So the pair decide to take in a lodger in the shape of the mysterious Ray (Ariane Labed), a former world-class synchronised swimmer.

But things begin to get complicated when both Gemma and Kieran find themselves attracted to Ray.

Could this be the start of an unexpected three-way relationship?

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 8 

Average episode length: 42-44 minutes 

What the critics say: “Trigonometry is certainly different and that can only be welcomed at the moment” - The Irish News

The Luminaries

TV tonight The Luminaries

Ex James Bond star Eva Green in The Luminaries. (Image credit: BBC/The Luminaries Production Ltd 2018/Kirsty Griffin)

Ex-EastEnders star Himesh Patel (who played Tamwar Masood) has a role in this period drama, which is based on the Man Booker Prize winning novel by Eleanor Catton.

Set in 1865, it follows a young woman, Anna Wetherell (played by Eve Hewson) who leaves the UK to start a new life in New Zealand and seek her fortune in a gold-rush town on the coast.

However, things don’t quite go as planned when Anna finds herself caught up in a murder mystery.

The cast of The Luminaries also includes Penny Dreadful’s Eva Green and The Cry’s Ewen Leslie.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 6 

Average episode length: 56-59 minutes 

What the critics say: “One of the most visually arresting dramas of the year” - The Arts Desk

The Secrets She Keeps

TV tonight The Secrets She Keeps

Jessica De Gouw and Laura Carmichael star in The Secrets She Keeps. (Image credit: BBC / Lingo Pictures / John Platt)

This six-part Aussie psychological thriller is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Robotham.

Set in Sydney, it’s the story of yummy mummy Meghan (Jessica de Gouw) who appears to have it all.

Meghan, a successful online blogger, is pregnant with her third child and is married to a TV presenter, Jack (Michael Dorman, from classic Aussie drama The Secret Life Of Us).

Meanwhile, there’s pregnant supermarket employee, Agatha (Laura Carmichael, who played Lady Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey) whose life couldn’t be more different. She appears to be estranged from her family. Plus the military man who got her pregnant isn't ready to be a dad.

One day, the two women come face-to-face and then… Well, NO SPOILERS! Except to say both characters are hiding some shady secrets that could turn lives upside down.

Listen out for the theme music, an alternate version of Kylie’s No.1 hit, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 6 

Average episode length: 43 minutes 

What the critics say: “Yummy mummy thriller is a guilty, predictable pleasure” - The Guardian

Make Me Famous

Ex-EastEnders star Tilly Keeper (who played Louise Mitchell) is among the cast of this one-off BBC Three drama, written by TV presenter/DJ/actor, Reggie Yates.

It explores the downside of fame found through reality TV shows, and the effect it has on TV participants and their friends and family.

Tom Brittney, who plays Will Davenport in ITV detective drama, Grantchester, stars as Billy, a former contestant on a reality show called Love or Lust.

Billy thought he’d become an instant star. But a year after the show has finished, Billy is discovering that fame and life in the spotlight isn’t all he thought it would be…

Amanda Abbington stars as Billy’s mum, Amanda. While ex-Hollyoaks star, Emma Rigby has a role as a former contestant on Love or Lust.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 1 

Average episode length: 54 minutes 

What the critics say: “A reality TV fable without much of a moral” - The Independent

Sitting In Limbo

This feature-length factual drama is based on the real-life story of Anthony Bryan (played by one-time Casualty star, Patrick Robinson), a Jamaican-born man who legally immigrated to the UK when he was a child.

He has been living in Britain for 50 years when he was suddenly accused of being an illegal immigrant by the Home Office and threatened with deportation.

Anthony was among the “windrush generation”, folks who had arrived in the UK before 1973 from Caribbean countries.

But the political scandal documented in this drama saw Anthony and over 80 other black Britons wrongly detained and denied legal rights.

Sitting In Limbo is written by Bryan’s half-brother, novelist Stephen S Thompson and shows what happened when Bryan fought for the right to stay and the effect all of this had on Bryan’s family.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 1 

Average episode length: 86 minutes 

What the critics say: “UK Windrush scandal drama is vital viewing” - Den Of Geek

Normal People

Normal People

Normal People has been one of the biggest shows of 2020.

First released on BBC Three followed by weekly airings on BBC1, Normal People is one of those “event” TV series which everybody seemed to be talking about at the time (and still are!).

It’s an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Sally Rooney, about the complicated bond between school friends, Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) as they become adults and find themselves both studying at Trinity College in Dublin.

The cast have since filmed some spoof comedy scenes for Comic Relief in Ireland, revealing what happens to Marianne and Connell in Normal Older People. Plus the characters confess all confessions to a priest played by Andrew Scott.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 12 

Average episode length: 23-34 minutes 

What the critics say: Normal People is an honest, absorbing love story” - Vulture

The Trial Of Christine Keeler

The Trial of Christine Keeler BBC2

The Trial of Christine Keeler. (Image credit: BBC)

This 60s-set drama tells the real-life story of British model, Christine Keeler (played by Sophie Cookson from the Kingsman action films) who unexpectedly hit the news headlines when she found herself in a love triangle with Conservative MP, John Profumo (Ben Miles) and a Russian spy, Eugene Ivanov (Visar Vishka).

It led to a political scandal known as the “Profumo affair”. The film Scandal (1989), starring Ian McKellen was an earlier dramatisation of the same events.

The main cast of The Trial Of Christine Keeler also includes Emilia Fox as Profumo’s actress wife, Valerie Hobson. Plus James Norton as the doctor who first introduces Christine and Profumo. And Ellie Bamber as model and showgirl, Mandy Rice-Davies.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 6 

Average episode length: 60 minutes 

What the critics say: “A furiously fast, fun ridel” - The Guardian

Small Axe

John Boyega Small Axe

John Boyega in 'Red, White and Blue', the third film in the Small Axe anthology. (Image credit: BBC)

Small Axe was a series of films that was created and directed by award-winning filmmaker, Steve McQueen (Widows, 12 Years A Slave). The anthology was set within London’s West Indian community from the late 1960s to the early 80s, the BBC described Small Axe as “a celebration of Black joy, beauty, love, friendship, family, music and even food.”

The five films are Mangrove, Lovers Rock, Red, White and Blue, Alex Wheatle and Education, and featured some top-tier talent, including the likes of John Boyega, Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes and Michael Ward, to name but a few. 

Every single film was highly praised by critics (especially Lovers Rock) and received plenty of attention during awards season this year, including leading the 2021 BAFTA TV Awards.

Number of seasons: 1

Number of films: 5

Average Length: 60-80 minutes (Mangrove is 127 minutes long)

What the critics say: “Over the course of one irresistible night, McQueen gives his audience a dizzying, sensuous escape, and his characters a rare chance to truly be themselves.” - Empire, on Lovers Rock 

Stateside series you don't want to miss!

Mrs America

Mrs America Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett in Mrs America. (Image credit: BBC/FX/Sabrina Lantos)

Cate Blanchett has been nominated for an Emmy Award for her role as real-life activist Phyllis Schlafly in this drama series about the rise of the women’s liberation movement during the 1970s.

Phyllis was actively against feminism and abortion and believed a woman’s place was in the home, dutifullly supporting her husband. She actively campaigned to overturn the Equal Rights Amendment during the 1970s.

Her controversial views see Phyllis clash with feminists of the time including Gloria Steinem (played by Rose Byrne) and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman).

Mrs America was created by Dhavi Waller, a former writer for Mad Men.

Mad Men star Jon Slattery appears in the series as Phyllis’s wealthy lawyer husband, Fred.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 9 

Average episode length: 43-54 minutes 

What the critics say: “Cate Blanchett is formidable as a 1970s anti-feminist” - The Independent

Katy Keene

This spin-off series from popular teen drama, Riverdale (available on Netflix) stars Lucy Hale (from Pretty Little Liars) as Katy Keene, an aspiring fashion designer living in New York.

Crossover characters from Riverdale include Josie McCoy (played by Ashleigh Murray), former lead singer with girl group, Josie and The Pussycats. Plus Josie’s stepbrother, Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and super baddie businessman, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos).

Despite plenty of publicity and its connection to Archie Comics, Katy Keene was cancelled in the US after just one season.

But word is, the producers are looking for another channel to pick up the series.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 13 

Average episode length: 42 minutes 

What the critics say: “Escapist teen drama that doesn’t quite reach the heights of Riverdale.” - NME

Fort Salem

With everything that is going on in the world right now, we could do with some supernatural protection from three kick-ass witches!

This entertaining fantasy drama (also known as Motherland: Fort Salem in the US) follows the adventures of Raelle Collar (played by Taylor Hickson), Scylla Ramshorn (Amalia Holm) and Tally Craven (Jessica Sutton), three witches who join the US army!

The series is set in an alternate, present-day America where women now rule the world.

Raelle, Abigail and Tally must use their army training plus magical powers to protect the country from a terrorist group known as The Spree after a shock attack at a shopping mall.

Trivia: The ancient witch language heard spoken on the series was created by some of the folks who also worked on Game Of Thrones.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 10 

Average episode length: 41-51 minutes 

What the critics say: “Imagines an America defended by witches and things look spooky” - E!

Good Trouble

This twentysome US drama is actually a spin-off from The Fosters, which was about a diverse foster family living in San Diego, California.

But it doesn’t really matter if you’ve never seen the original series since Good Trouble is pretty much its own thing.

It follows grown-up foster children, Callie Adams Foster (Maia Mitchell) and her adopted sister, Mariana Adams Foster (Cierra Ramirez) as they begin new lives and careers in Los Angeles.

The sisters move into a funky living space in downtown LA called The Coterie.

Their new neighbours include graphic designer and artist, Gael (Tommy Martinez) and bartender and political activist, Malika (Zuri Adele). Plus Alice (Sherry Cola) who manages the apartment complex.

Good Trouble has been renewed for Season 3.

Number of seasons: 2 

Episodes: 31 

Average episode length: 42-50 minutes 

What the critics say: “Good Trouble is TV’s first good Gen Z drama” - Vox

Classic BBC dramas everyone should watch!

Last Tango In Halifax

This Sally Wainwright written comedy-drama centres around Celia Dawson (Anne Reid) and Alan Buttershaw (Derek Jacobi), who discover a second chance for love 60 years since they last met.

The pair are reunited after their children convince them to join Facebook.

The rest of the main cast includes Sarah Lancashire as Celia’s daughter, Caroline, who begins an affair with a female work colleague after being cheated on by her husband, John (Tony Gardner).

Nicola Walker plays Alan’s daughter, Gillian, whose relationship with Paul (Sacha Dhawan) causes conflict with her son, Raff (Josh Bolt).

After a lengthy break due to writer Sally’s many other projects, Last Tango In Halifax returned for a fifth series earlier this year which was watched by over 7 million viewers on BBC 1.

Number of seasons: 5 

Episodes: 24 

Average episode length: 60 minutes 

What the critics say: “A brilliant, bittersweet Sunday comfort” - The Guardian

Killing Eve

Season 3 of this BAFTA winning spy-drama mostly got the thumbs down from telly critics when it was released earlier this year.

But the earlier episodes of Killing Eve are definitely still a wild watch. Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame was the head writer and executive producer for Season 1.

If you haven’t seen the series before, it follows the international cat-and-mouse chase between MI5 agent, Eve Polastri (played by Sandra Oh of Grey’s Anatomy fame) and assassin, Villanelle (Jody Comer, who won a BAFTA for the role).

Supporting characters include Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw, who also won a BAFTA for the role), head of the Russian Section at MI6 who sends Eve off on various secret missions. Plus, Konstantin Vasilev (Kim Bodnia), who is Villanelle’s handler and a sort of father figure.

The series started life as the novel, Codename Villanelle by British author Luke Jennings. He has since written two sequels. 

Number of seasons: 3 

Episodes: 24 

Average episode length: 41-55 minutes 

What the critics say: “This once-thrilling comedy drama has grown stale and predictable” - The Independent

The Killing

Sofie Gråbøl shot to international stardom as Detective Inspector Sarah Lund in this Danish crime series. If you’ve never seen it, now’s your chance because all three seasons are available to watch on iPlayer. Fans were almost as captivated by Lund’s jumper collection as they were by the slow-burner cases.

Number of seasons: 3 

Episodes: 40 

Average episode length: 56 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian on series two: "For the great and abiding pleasure remains Gråbøl's gloriously inscrutable expression in one of the finest ever demonstrations of undemonstrative acting."

See our best ITV dramas guide for shows on the ITV Hub.