2012 TV preview

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The television shows we're most looking forward to seeing in 2012

  • Birdsong Birdsong

    Birdsong

    Spring, BBC1

    After several abortive attempts, Sebastian Faulks’s much-loved WWI-era novel finally reaches the (small) screen in a two-part drama. Flavour of the month Eddie Redmayne and ‘Harry Potter’ star Clémence Poésy are the star-crossed lovers and in-demand Abi Morgan (whose newsroom drama ‘The Hour’ also makes a return), almost inevitably, supplies the adaptation.

  • Sky Atlantic 2012

    All year, Sky Atlantic

    After a year finding its feet, 2012 is a huge year for the channel. All the usual US imports will be bolstered by the long-awaited return of ‘Mad Men’ and – get this – professional gamblers Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte being directed by Michael Mann in a series written by David ‘Deadwood’ Milch. It’s called ‘Luck’ and will doubtless be amazing. Look out too for Chloe Sevigny as a pre-op transsexual hitwoman(!) in Yorkshire(!) in ‘Hit and Miss’, and a sweeping seven-part history of these islands called ‘Great Britain: Our Story’.

  • White Heat

    Early Spring, BBC2

    AKA ‘Our Friends in the South’, Paula Milne’s semi-autobiographical rites-of-passage drama joins a group of idealistic (and appropriately demographically diverse) students in early-'60s Tufnell Park and follows them through the personal and political tumult of the coming decades. Claire Foy, Lee Ingleby and Sam Claflin lead the cast of bright young things.

  • Coppers

    January, C4

    The first series of this observational documentary – far superior to most of its ilk – offered numerous fascinating insights into police life and attitudes, culminating in a memorable episode about crowd control. And, after student protests, the riots and Occupy London, things haven’t got any quieter. This could return Channel 4 to the frontline of provocative, socially insightful doc-making.

  • The Voice

    Spring, BBC1

    The wheels may be falling off one or two of the talent show staples, but that hasn’t stopped the BBC from making its first serious foray into singing contests since ‘Fame Academy’, using a format that made a reasonable splash on NBC in the US. Tom Jones, Will.i.am, Jessie J and The Script’s Danny O’Donoghue will be picking their charges from ‘blind’ auditions before coaching them through the ‘battle’ rounds and into the live performances.

  • Titanic

    Spring, ITV1

    Julian Fellowes transposes the above and below-stairs antics of ‘Downton Abbey’ (which will also, of course, be back) to a certain ill-fated cruise liner. A multi-million-pound budget is matched by a cast of almost as many, led by Toby Jones, Linus Roache, Stephen Campbell Moore and Geraldine Somerville. But has Fellowes exhausted his material? Spectacular stunt work and painstaking period detail will feature, James and Patrick Crawley, we can confirm, will not. Nor, thankfully, will Celine Dion.

  • 56 Up

    Summer, ITV1

    One of the greatest documentary projects of all time, Michael Apted’s genuinely epochal, revelatory series – reality TV with a heart, soul and purpose – is due an update next year. It’s both intriguing and concerning to ponder where middle age and recent global upheavals have left lost soul Neil, cockney chancer Tony, melancholy mixed-race Symon and the 11 others whose lives we’ve followed every seven years since 1964. If there’s one TV show not to miss in 2012, it’s this.

  • The Olympics and Paralympics

    Summer, BBC & C4

    Obviously. But not just so we can catch up on what we couldn’t see in person. Major sporting events have always been a huge driver of new technology on television, so the way in which we choose to watch Tom Daley, Jessica Ennis et al may well dictate the future of sports broadcasting for the next few years. And, with Channel 4 keen to make a big impression after their patchy, occasionally hapless coverage of the World Athletics Championships, don’t count them out to rustle up a few innovations for the Paralympics.

  • Sam Mendes’s Shakespeare cycle

    Summer, BBC2

    No, not another terrible celeb-fronted travel show. Instead, the 'Skyfall' director will be producing new versions of ‘Richard II’, ‘Henry IV parts I & II’ and ‘Henry V’, apparently inspired by the Cultural Olympiad. Television has been a sympathetic home for the Bard recently, with versions of ‘Macbeth’ (starring Patrick Stewart) and ‘Hamlet’ (with David Tennant) far more than just slavish recreations of established stage productions. Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons and Ben Whishaw will play the kings – enough to whet anyone’s appetite.

  • Parade's End

    Autumn, BBC2

    After the qualified success of David Hare’s ‘Page Eight’ in 2011, Tom Stoppard becomes the latest great stage dramatist to return to the small screen. He’ll be adapting Ford Maddox Ford’s quartet of politically and socially enthralling novels set in the early part of the twentieth century. Susanna White, who gave ‘Generation Kill’ and ‘Bleak House’ their memorable, idiosyncratic visual style, will be directing Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall in an exceptional young cast.

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