Best TV for the New Year: we all need to fill these long lockdown evenings

Not only do we have the winter blues to battle but we’re legally being asked to stay indoors for the foreseeable future! If this isn’t bad enough we may fear that we are running out of good TV in January? Fear not as there are some great films and TV series being broadcast this month. At this point may I thank Amazon Prime, Netflix, BBC, ITV & Sky for keeping me from the Gin bottle (well not completely). Here is my selection of potentially best TV for the New Year – many of which I am planning to watch to fill these long, lockdown evenings. I am not promising each and every programme to be 5* but they will fill a void!

THE SERPENT | BBC iPLAYER

Are you watching this right now? Plenty of viewers have already binged all eight-episodes after they landed on the iPlayer on New Year’s Day. My advice is if you have a gap year aged child do not watch it.

The Serpent is a crime drama miniseries based on the 1976 arrest of Charles Sobhraj.

Back in the 1970s, a notorious killer, Charles Sobhraj, was on the loose, escaping authorities and police investigation. He and his girlfriend, Marie-Andrée Leclerc (played by Jenna Coleman), travelled across Nepal, Thailand and India in 1975 committing a series of crimes on what was known as the ‘Hippie Trail’.

Charles was a killer and a conman who posed as a gem dealer to fool his victims and those around him. He was Interpol’s most wanted criminal for a period of time in the 70s, and was being hunted down by Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg.

Charles was dubbed ‘The Serpent’ due to his conniving ways and constant escapism from reprimand. He was also nicknamed the ‘Bikini Killer’ due to the clothing worn by his victims.

THE BUREAU | AMAZON PRIME

The Bureau is a French political thriller television series created by Éric Rochant and produced by TOP and Canal+, which revolves around the lives of agents of the DGSE (General Directorate of External Security), France’s principal external security service. Originally aired in France from 27 April 2015 and in the United Kingdom, the series was released exclusively by Amazon Prime on 17 June 2016.

The first season received positive reviews in both France and other countries, and won several awards. There are now 5 seasons so this should keep you occupied for some time. OH and I have been addicted to it over the Christmas break and have been known to sneak in a few extra episodes during the day when we have been left on a cliffhanger after the previous viewing session.

HEADSPACE GUIDE TO MEDITATION | NETFLIX

This is something different but for some time I have followed the Headspace app and it has really helped me to meditate. They have now produced a three-part series for Netflix showing you why meditation is so good for you. It also teaches or helps you to meditate. If you are interested in learning then this is a great introcuction.

TRACES | BBC ONE

Traces is a drama which originally aired on Alibi back in 2019. After its initial success, the series has now made its way to primetime TV on BBC One. The show is based on an idea by best-selling crime author Val McDermid.

Traces focuses on three women who work together at the Scottish Institute of Forensic Science (SIFA). The series follows Emma Hedges (played by Molly Windsor), Prof Sarah Gordon (Laura Fraser) and Kathy Torrance (Jennifer Spence) who use forensics to work out the truth behind an unsolved murder.

Traces will begin when 23-year-old Emma returns to Scotland to work as a l ab assistant at SIFA.Unfortunately for her, Emma gets caught in something far darker when she starts her new job. When at SIFA, Emma signs up to an online course which teaches the principles of forensic science. However, she soon learns about a murder case which has shocking resemblances to her own past. As she grows determined to find out more, she realises she cannot trust anyone around her as there are secrets everywhere.

But with help from Sarah and Kathy, will Emma finally be able to get justice for the victim?

THE PEMBROKESHIRE MURDERS | ITV

Another must-watch three-part true crime drama coming our way. This ITV series is based on the story of the murders by Welsh serial killer John Cooper. In 2006, newly promoted Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins decided to reopen two unsolved 1980s murder cases linked with a string of burglaries. Luke Evans plays Wilkins while Keith Allen stars as Cooper.

Air Date 11th January

MISS SCARLET & THE DUKE | ALIBI

In Victorian London, Eliza Scarlet is left penniless when her father dies. This is especially problematic in a time where marriage is the only option for financial security. Eliza resolves to continue her father’s detective agency. But to operate in such a male-dominated world of crime-solving she needs a male partner, and soon works with gruff womaniser Detective Inspector William Wellington, known as the Duke.

LEONARDO | STARZ (available through Amazon Prime)

Missing those Sunday evenings of Poldark and the gorgeous Aidan Turner then prepare for another period drama. Turner will be playing Italian inventor Leonardo da Vinci in a new historical series from Sherlock writer Steve Thompson and The X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz.

The eight episodes began shooting last December and Leonardo was originally expected to premiere in 2020, marking the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death.

However, filming was halted earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Leonardo became one of the first series to resume filming during the crisis when cameras started rolling again in June, albeit with rigorous safety procedures in places. The production involved 3,000 crew, including actors and extras, with 2,500 costumes. Filming covered more than 50 locations showcasing Italian scenery, alongside the use of the Leonardo backlot, one of the largest in Western Europe.

I cannot find the exact broadcast date but I will keep you informed. Have a watch of the video to see some of the sets.

BLITHE SPIRIT | SKY

This has been shot in a fabulous-looking Art Deco house and it stars Dan Stevens and Isla Fisher. It promises immaculately designed costumes and a step back in time to an era of drinking cocktails and smoking cigarettes out of silver boxes. And the icing on the cake is Judi Dench playing the mdium Madame Arcati. There are some scathing reviews for this new film but when stuck in lockdown can it really be so bad?

MARSEILLE | NETFLIX

Anyone love Gerard Dépardieu? Well I missed this series so just watched both series back-to-back and loved it. It’s fun, wicked, beautifully shot in Marseille and has some great actors and actresses. It is the first French language original production for Netflix, which ordered the project to series on 10 July 2015. The eight-episode first season premiered worldwide on Netflix on 5 May 2016 the second season debuted in February 2018.

One of the reasons I loved both this and the other French series, The Bureau, is that there are likeable characters who are also flawed. So you can relate to them. Recently I have watched quite a few series that I don’t like any of them so you really don’t care what happens to them. Try this one for a fab, French thriller.

THE DIG | NETFLIX

Another period drama but this time starring Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan. This film is about an archaeological excavation during a hot summer in Suffolk. Ralph Fiennes plays Basil Brown, a local excavator who’s about to make the biggest discover of his life. Carey Mulligan is the frail Edit Pretty, on whose land lie the unexplored mounds she wants uncovered. There are appearances by Ken Stott, Lily James and Johnny Flynn.

THE GREAT | CHANNEL 4

The comedy drama follows Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning), in the first days of her marriage to the sex-mad, foul-mouthed emperor Peter (Nicholas Hoult). As well as featuring a whole lot of nudity, the show focuses on the early years of Catherine’s reign, which lasted from 1762 until 1796. The first episode saw Catherine make her way in the Russian court, adapting to a new life with the heavy-drinking, womanising ruler. It already has people hooked, with viewers taking to social media to praise the show. They were also quick to compare the show to another eccentric period drama – 2018 film The Favourite.

It is great fun and very amusing. Of course it is not historically correct but let’s not go there after the controversy over The Crown.

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES – Season 2 SKY

We join the second series as reluctant witch Diana Bishop and vampire Matthew Clairmont seek refuge in the fascinating and treacherous world of Elizabethan London. There, they must find a powerful witch to help Diana control her magic and search for the elusive Book of Life. Diana realises instantly that the 16th century Matthew Roydon is a different man to the one she fell in love with, but there is no time to settle in, as Matthew must report to his boss, William Cecil, who pressures Matthew to resume his former occupation – spying for the Queen.

There is a stellar cast including Dame Sheila Hancock, Matthew Goode, Teresa Palmer, Trevor Eve, Alex Kingston, Paul Rhys amongst many others.

All episodes available 8th January.

PIECES OF A WOMAN | NETFLIX

This is an extraordinary film as it begins with a 40 minute scene of a woman giving birth assisted by an incompetent midwife, Molly Parker played by Vanessa Kirby. Shia LeBoeuf plays the husband. Not a film for everyone but again some great performances.

BILLY CONNOLLY: IT’S BEEN A PLEASURE | ITV CATCH UP

If you missed this then it is well worth ‘catching up’. It’s a tribute to Sir Billy Connolly who recently announced his retirement from stand-up comedy. This special looks back at his illustrious comedy career.

We are all in need of a good laugh and Connolly is a comedy god. Whoopi Goldberg, Paul McCartney and Elton John share their favourite Billy Connolly stand-up moments in this farewell documentary. It is quite an emotional watch bit a lovely tribute to someone who has entertained us over the years.

I hope that you have found something that appeals to your TV viewing tastes. There is lots coming later in the Spring including the new series of Line of Duty and a series starring Olivia Colman. For the time being this Best TV for the New Year should keep you entertained.

For more TV suggestions have a read of Best TV for December ~ click HERE.