Those looking for their next fix of binge-worthy British television can tuck into some exciting new launches and the return of unmissable fan favourites happening in 2020. From an array of captivating mini-series
, to side-splitting comedies and explosive dramas, there is a show set to captivate every type of viewer.
Viewers can dive into the dramatic world of British gangsters in Peaky Blinders, with five gasp-inducing seasons already released and ready to binge. Predominantly filmed in the Midlands around Birmingham, anglophiles can follow the story of Tommy Shelby, played by Irish actor Cillian Murphy, as he and his family rise to become the top dogs of the city, shortly after the First World War. Expect scenes of smoke-filled pubs, mist-covered canals and hours of dramatic suspense. Many of the gritty scenes from the seasons were filmed in the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, a firm favourite with creator and writer Steven Knight, as scenes from all seasons to date have been shot there. The open-air living museum explores life since the Industrial Revolution, providing a number of backdrops for the show’s 20th-century setting.
After a hugely successful first season, Sex Education returned to screens earlier this year, with the show following the antics of Moordale Secondary School students and their efforts to establish a school sex clinic. Gillian Anderson returns to her role as Jean, alongside Asa Butterfield and Emma Mackey, for season two, with scenes shot in England and Wales. The former University of South Wales campus in Caerleon, near Newport, doubles up as the school – a town that also houses a wealth of archaeological treasures including the National Roman Legion Museum and the Caerleon Roman Fortress and Baths. Other locations in Monmouthshire, including Tintern, and England’s picturesque Wye Valley, have also been used for filming.
Broadly based on Philip Pullman’s set of enthralling novels, His Dark Materials first aired on the BBC in November 2019. The first novel in the trilogy, Northern Lights, has been adapted in the first series and co-produced with HBO, while filming for the second series is already completed. The pick of an all-star cast includes James McAvoy as Lord Asriel, alongside Dafne Kean as Lyra and Ruth Wilson as the villainous Mrs Coulter. In addition to Cardiff’s Wolf Studios, filming also took place amid the scenic beauty of the Brecon Beacons and at the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health. Eagle-eyed TV fans may also recognise parts of Oxford, including The Bridge of Sighs and the city’s botanic gardens.
Based on the collection of stories from James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small is making its return to the small screen in 2020, thirty years on from its last showing. Detailing the heart-warming and humorous adventures of a young Yorkshire vet, the show initially ran on the BBC from 1978 through to 1990. In partnership with American broadcaster PBS, Channel 5 are bringing the television drama back to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first book’s publication. Set against the striking backdrop of the Yorkshire Dales, Nicholas Ralph debuts as the much-loved vet and is joined by British stars Callum Woodhouse, Anna Madeley, Rachel Shenton and Dame Diana Rigg.
Having first aired on ITV on 15 March 2020, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellows’ Belgravia will explore life among the higher levels of 1840s London society. The binge-worthy historical period drama, based on his 2016 book of the same name, features an all-star British cast including Tamsin Greig, Harriet Walter, Philip Glenister and Alice Eve. Scenes were shot in Northumberland, home to Roman remains at Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland National Park and a stunning stretch of heritage coastline, as well as other locations including London, Bath and Edinburgh.
Having returned for an incredible ninth season in the UK in early 2020, Call the Midwife comes to PBS in the US from late March. A Christmas special also aired in 2019, with seasons 10 and 11 of creator Heidi Thomas’ masterpiece set to air by 2022. The festive special saw the midwives heading to Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, a string of idyllic islands that are renowned for bird watching and wildlife, striking coastlines and an abundance of exciting adventure sports. Season nine saw the cast return to the East End of London in the mid-1960s, set against a backdrop of vast social change.
Another work from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, The English Game tackles the origins of football and first aired on 20 March. Set in the late 19th century, the period drama will look into how the sport crossed class lines on its way to becoming the phenomenon that it is today. Kingsman’s Edward Holcroft, Line of Duty’s Craig Parkinson and Game of Throne’s Charlotte Hope star in the drama, filmed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site and model village of Saltaire, near Bradford.
Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom stars alongside Cara Delevingne in the Victorian fantasy, Carnival Row. Revolving around a rising population of mythological creatures and their struggles to coexist with humans as they lose their exotic homelands, wide-eyed viewers can enjoy a touch of whimsical escapism in a world full of charming British accents and period costume. Fans can catch season one in readiness for the expected second season in 2021.
Telling the tragic story of Joseph Merrick, a man with severe physical deformities who was paraded as part of a ‘freak show’ in Victorian England, The Elephant Man will debut on the BBC in early 2020. The two-part biopic from the makers of The Missing will star Stranger Things actor Charlie Heaton and was filmed predominantly in Wales. It chronicles Merrick’s rise from a working-class Leicestershire family to being well-known among London’s elite after forming a friendship with prominent surgeon Sir Frederick Treves.
Set in the heart of the Cotswolds countryside in the early 1950s and based on the stories of G.K. Chesterton, Father Brown returned to the BBC for an eighth season in early 2020. Harry Potter actor Mark Williams stars as a crime-busting Roman Catholic priest in the hit period drama, while regular filming has taken place in the scenic Gloucestershire village of Blockley, with several other villages also making an appearance. Stow-on-the-Wold’s Donnington Brewery will also feature in season eight as regulars Emer Kenny, Sorcha Cusack, John Burton and Jack Deam reprise their roles.
Exploring the birth of multicultural Britain, creator Riz Ahmed’s Englistan will follow three generations of a British Pakistani family when it airs on BBC Two in 2020. The Rogue One: A Star Wars Story star dives into how the Latifs pursue their dreams against a backdrop of societal change, in this original series produced by the BBC and Left Handed Films.
With its all-star British cast, Oscar and Bafta-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen’s new anthology drama series Small Axe will explore life in London’s West Indian community from the late 1960s. Filmed on location in west London and starring Star Wars’ John Boyega and Avengers: Infinity War’s Letitia Wright, the series will tell five separate stories over six hour-long episodes when it airs on the BBC. Amazon is co-producing in the USA, with Lost in Space actor Shaun Parkes, Line of Duty’s Rochenda Sandall and The Crown’s Alex Jennings also set for starring roles. The west part of the capital is home to the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the V&A and the Museum of Brands.
February 2020 saw Shaun Evans mark his return as Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse in season seven of Endeavour, alongside Roger Allam as Detective Inspector Fred Thursday. Set in 1970, the new season again features Oxfordshire’s picturesque countryside as well as an array of Oxford’s iconic landmarks and is set to air on PBS in the US later in the year. Notable past filming locations have included Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries and Christ Church College, the Bridge of Sighs and the city’s Sheldonian Theatre.
Developed by Stephen Wright, the man behind Peaky Blinders, and co-created by actor Tom Hardy and his scriptwriter father, Chips Hardy, dark period drama Taboo is set to grace our screens with a second series in 2020. Eight new episodes will see Hardy return as James Keziah Delaney, following on from his efforts to rebuild his life after a stint in Africa and save what is left of his father’s shipping empire. Set in London in 1814, the first series featured several London locations, as well as the splendour of Hertfordshire’s Hatfield House.
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