2012 TV Preview

An early New Year highlight will be the second series of ‘Sherlock’ (New Year’s Day, 8.10pm, BBC1). Three stand-alone feature-length films lie in wait for the brilliantly eccentric Benedict Cumberbatch and the stolid, long-suffering Martin Freeman. Both are perfectly cast in their roles as Sherlock and Watson, and the three stories – ‘A Scandal In Belgravia’, ‘The Hounds Of Baskerville’ and ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ – get the year’s TV off to flyer.

Later in 2012, Cumberbatch stars in ‘Parade’s End’, a story about the lives and loves of the aristocracy around the time of World War I. He plays a conservative landowner who is having an illicit relationship with Rebecca Hall’s spirited suffragette; while Adelaide Clemens is his beautiful, vicious, socialite wife. Adapted from Ford Madox Ford's novels by Sir Tom Stoppard, and with a quality supporting cast on board, this looks like it could be top class.

Talking of the antics of the historical elite, ‘Downton Abbey’ will return in September. In the meantime, its creator Julian Fellowes has turned his prolific pen to the enduringly fascinating story of the ‘Titanic’ in a four-part drama coming to ITV1 this Spring. Linus Roache, Celia Imrie and Toby Jones star. Fellowes promises that the action will focus not on the first-class passengers, or the poor devils in steerage, but the (as he claims) “previously untold” stories of the second class passengers. Sadly, despite our repeated letters, he has refused to include the Downton cast in the yarn; we believe that Miracle Recovery Matthew could have saved the day with some amphibious wheelchair heroics.

Staying with the historical, men of a certain age upon whom the shower scene in ‘American Werewolf In London’ left a profound and lasting effect will be delighted to know that the peerlessly lovely Jenny Agutter will be back on screens in 2012. She heads the cast of ‘Call The Midwife’ (Miranda Hart is also involved) in a period drama about, well, midwives in 1950s East London. It looks a bit like a classier version of ‘The Royal’ (if such a thing is possible).

From the same era, newsroom drama ‘The Hour’ returns for a second series, and we’re excited that Peter Capaldi is joining the cast. The series will move on to 1957 and focus on the Cold War; presumably there will not be any Malcolm Tucker-like swearing.

Talking of journalism, we’ll be keeping our eye out for ‘Hacks’, starring Claire Foy as a tabloid editor on Channel 4 early in the year. Written by ‘Drop The Dead Donkey’ creator Guy Jenkin, it sounds like a dark black comedy about the lengths newspapers will go to in their search for the story.

One woman with an opinion on that is Sienna Miller, who takes time off from sticking it to the media to star in an interesting-sounding drama about Alfred Hitchcock (played by Toby Jones). La Miller plays Tippi Hedren, who was the star of ‘The Birds’, and the object of Hitch’s obsession. ‘The Girl’ is a feature-length film and will be on BBC2.

If there’s anything that TV producers like more than a detective, it’s a “reimagining” of a beloved character as a youngster. Inspector Morse is the latest to get the treatment in ‘Endeavour’ (January 2nd, 9pm, ITV1). Steven Evans plays the grumpy young sleuth in 1965, already fond of crosswords and his car, investigating the case of a missing schoolgirl that takes him to Oxford. This is a feature-length film, plans are afoot for a series.

BBC2 is also getting in on the crime act with ‘Line Of Duty’ (featuring Vicky McClure and Lenny James), a heavy-sounding exploration of a fatal shooting by police and the ensuing cover-up. Topical comparison’s to 2011’s Mark Duggan case are already being made.

Given the economic times, it’s perhaps no surprise that dramas about winning the lottery are up front in writers’ minds. The great Timothy Spall stars in ‘The Syndicate’ for BBC1, a drama about a group of supermarket workers in Leeds whose lives are changed by six little numbers, and the fallout from their windfall. The presence of Spall, and the fact that it is written by Kay Mellor (‘Band Of Gold’, ‘Fat Friends’) pretty much guarantees that this five-parter will be warm, human and bittersweet.

We don’t know too much about Australian import ‘Winners And Losers’, which is coming to ITV2, other than to say that it’s about four unpopular girls whose lives are turned upside down by a lottery win.

One of the most intriguing ideas on the horizon is ‘Eternal Law’, which comes to ITV1 in January and imagines two angels sent to earth… to work in a law firm and influence humanity for good. Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham, writers of ‘Life On Mars’, are the men behind the frankly implausible idea of lawyers being anything other than devils, but we’re looking forward to seeing how this works out.

January will also see Sky 1 dip their toes in big-budget drama with the lavish ‘Treasure Island’. A mighty cast including Eddie Izzard, Elijah Wood, Philip Glenister and Donald Sutherland tackle Robert Louis Stevenson’s great pirate yarn, and jolly good fun it is too.

In the world of comedy, we’re excited about rumours that ‘Mid-morning Matters With Alan Partridge’ might be coming to BBC2, although details are as yet unclear. Jack Whitehall is set for a BBC3 comedy about a useless teacher in ‘Bad Education’, while the delightfully quirky Zooey Deschanel comes to Channel4 in a sitcom about a girl who finds her boyfriend is cheating on her. She moves in with three blokes, and laughs ensue in ‘The New Girl’, which is on the channel in January.

Warwick Davis of ‘Life’s Too Short’ has been doing a pilot of a comedy panel game called ‘Ace Of Clubs’, and Sharon Horgan (‘Pulling’) stars in a fun-sounding BBC3 production about a woman wrongly imprisoned for murdering her boss. It’s called ‘Life Story’.

However, none of these sound like they might be as (unintentionally) funny as the surely dire reboot of ‘Dallas’ that is coming to Channel 5. And finally, great news for fans of campery: there’s a shake-up in the ‘Dancing On Ice’ panel as Gardiner and Bunton get the chop in favour of skating legend Katarina Witt… and Louie Spence!

[See also: Exclusive interview with Sir David Attenborough]