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The best TV to watch this summer

With no Olympics, Paralympics or major international football scheduled this summer, BBC and C4 have rustled up some excellent dramas to feast on…

Top of the Lake

The first TV show ever to premiere at Sundance (to a rapturous response), Jane Campion’s masterful miniseries is a story of wide-open landscapes and closed lives. Elisabeth Moss leads a fine cast as the detective investigating the fate of a pregnant 12-year-old in a remote New Zealand community. Potential foes include Peter Mullan's petrifying gangster and Holly Hunter's androgynous guru, newly arrived with her camp for troubled women.

'Top of the Lake' airs on BBC2 in mid-July

Top Boy

Ah, August. The smack of brick on Carphone Warehouse window. The first series of this incendiary Hackney drama appeared shortly after the 2011 riots. Here’s hoping the second run doesn’t coincide with something similarly traumatic but even so, we’d expect it to have plenty to tell us about the anomie that continues to beset parts of urban Britain. Expect new Top Boys Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson to contend with gentrification and the higher reaches of organised crime.

'Top Boy' airs on C4 in August

Burton & Taylor

Marriages, divorces, dust-ups and some pretty decent films: the fur will be flying as BBC4’s run of dramas comes to a close with this biopic of the ultimate showbiz partnership. Dominic West will bring his saturnine charm to Richard Burton and, although you wouldn’t call Helena Bonham Carter voluptuous, she should make a memorably combustible foil as Liz Taylor.

'Burton & Taylor' airs on BBC4 this summer


First-time writers Marlon Smith and Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan have attracted a fine cast (Olivia Colman, Lennie James, Katie Leung) to their outstanding quartet of grim, poignant interlinked stories shining a light on London lives too often ignored by mainstream drama: the street drinker, the Polish cleaner, the Chinese DVD seller and the single mother on an estate.

'Run' airs on C4 in July


British TV’s most disconsolate cop returns for a final journey into the heart of darkness. ‘Luther’s’ gloom can verge on self-parody, but it’s gone from take-it-or-leave-it TV to essential viewing in the space of two seasons. Its secret? Glorious absurdity, a refusal to accept that cop show clichés even exist and, of course, Idris Elba, who fits the lead role like a glove. Plus, we’re promised a return for Ruth Wilson’s brilliantly batshit Alice. Bring it on.

'Luther' airs on BBC1 on July 2

The Mill

Much as BBC1’s ‘The Village’ showed us the effects of world events on one isolated location, this historical drama starring Kerrie Hayes and Matthew McNulty explores the brutal early years of the industrial revolution through the real life events at Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire. Expect child labour, villainous bosses and a touch of class warfare. Up the workers!

'The Mill' airs on C4 this summer