Spoof royal soap operas, pirate radio mockumentaries, and everyone's favourite cannibal are among our top TV picks this August. 

Hannibal: Seasons 1 and 2 

With TV sluggishly emerging from summer silly season, time to step backwards. Before creating Amazon’s flashy American Gods, Bryan Fuller riffed on Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter prologues, and came up with a show equally gross and engrossing. Season One finds psychiatrist Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) entering the troubled headspace of profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy); Season Two places him at the heart of the Baltimore PD.

Be warned—it’s every bit as grisly as the books—and amazed that these nightmares were first transmitted not on some pay-per-grue channel like HBO, but NBC, formerly home to Friends.

What is it? The best Hannibal Lecter adaptation since The Silence of the Lambs.

Why should I watch it? If you prefer your police procedurals several shades darker than the norm.

Best episode? Aided by first-rate directors, the show develops a muted house style that the aesthete Lecter himself would appreciate—disrupted by Season Two’s climactic bloodbath. (A third and final season followed.)

Best character? The Lecter-Graham mind games are the main event, yet around them, Fuller establishes a close-knit, mutually sustaining network of psychopaths, fleshed out by cherishably idiosyncratic personalities: Eddie Izzard, Gillian Anderson, Jeremy Davies, Amanda Plummer…

Watch on: Netflix

 

People Just Do Nothing: Series 4 

Somewhere in the middle of its third run, this superior sitcom from comedy mega-producer Ash Atalla achieved the miraculous feat of getting its audience to care deeply for a bunch of chancers—the stoned, self-aggrandising or otherwise deluded staff of Brentford-based pirate radio station Kurupt FM—who’d previously been no more than (hilarious) running jokes.

That’s testament to the sharp writing and playing of this ensemble, now approaching the equal of Atalla’s previous The Office: for Series Four, we’re promised more drama as the Kurupt crew face off against a rival station.

What is it? This decade’s funniest homegrown sitcom.

Why should I watch it? If you share its makers’ belief that there's something inherently amusing about folk still championing UK Garage music.

Where did we leave it? With the doomed romance between MC Grindah (Allan Mustafa) and hairdresser Miche (Lily Brazier) finally foundering, and the incorrigible Beats (Hugo Chegwin) adapting in his own way to fatherhood.

Best character? A big Reader’s Digest shout-out to Asim Chaudhry, BAFTA-nominated for his portrayal of the eternally hapless entrepreneur and ladies’ man Chabuddy G: “The G stands for Girth.”

Watch on: BBC iPlayer, from August 15

 

Twin Peaks: Season 3 

We’re now on the home stretch of what’s been the audiovisual event of the year: a show not just unlike anything else presently showing, but unlike anything previously seen on Twin Peaks itself—bigger, weirder, wilder, a jaw-dropping illustration of the benefits of giving a creative like David Lynch domain over a weekly hour of programming.

Yes, it’s perverse that Kyle MacLachlan’s Agent Cooper should have been “reborn” as manchild Dougie Jones, but his meanderings have expanded the show’s field of inquiry—beyond smalltown America to the corridors of corporate power—and deepened, rather than dissipated, the original mystery. More please.

What is it? A triumphant return for David Lynch’s murder-mystery series.

Why should I watch it? To experience television pushing at the outer limits of the imagination. (Conversely, you shouldn’t watch it if you want an uninterrupted night’s sleep.)

Best episode? Part 8, notoriously, set narrative concerns aside altogether to pursue a breathtakingly abstract course—back to the A-bomb test that first blew Lynch’s America off its axis.  

Best character? The still-underrated MacLachlan has etched out three distinct presences: Cooper-in-limbo, the innocent Dougie, and the malevolent Mr. C. Give him all the awards/pie going.

Watch on: Sky Atlantic 

 

Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later 

Back in 2001, at the dawn of a new era in American comedy, David Wain and Michael Showalter knocked off the amusing but little-seen Wet Hot American Summer, a fond item of 1980s revivalism charting the tos-and-fros at a lakeside holiday camp.

In 2015, Netflix funded this pair to make Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, a sporadically hilarious series-length prequel with a very fine cast (Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd); now the franchise flashes forward a decade with many of the same players in place. Expect non-sequiturs and goofy throwbacks in equal measure.

What is it? Series-length spin-off from one of the keystone films of the recent American comedy renaissance.

Why should I watch it? If you have any degree of fondness for the decade fashion forgot.

Where did we leave it? In all honesty: this is not one of those franchises that dwells unduly on story continuity.

Best character? Poehler and Cooper lent star power to First Day of Camp; rumours persist that the latter has been replaced by Poehler’s erstwhile Parks & Rec sweetheart Adam Scott for 10 Years Later. Again: embrace the randomness.

Watch on: Netflix, from August 4

 

The Windsors: Series 2 

From Star Stories, C4’s uproarious series of mock celebrity biographies, writers George Jeffrie and Bert Tyler-Moore have progressed to lampooning perhaps the most famous Brits of all, the Royal Family.

The second run of their gleefully deranged soap opera sees the schism between the Windsors’ older and younger ranks widening only further: poor Fergie (Katy Wix) finds herself being turned away from Harry’s new Kensington nightclub for not being cool enough, while a subplot sees power-crazed Camilla (Haydn Gwynne) making a pre-Brexit bid to rewrite the Magna Carta.

What is it? The follies of our non-elected figureheads, afforded a larger-than-life treatment.

Why should I watch it? If you find Netflix’s The Crown a little too reverent.

Where did we leave it? With conscientious Kate (Louise Ford) still wrestling with her “gypsy” past, and Harry (Richard Goulding) and Pippa (Morgana Robinson) going their separate ways.

Best episode? Episode Three hits a peak of absurdity with nice-but-dim Wills (Hugh Skinner) discovering a rogue uncle (Harry Enfield) locked in the attic at Sandringham.

Best character? Robinson’s Pippa is a hall-of-fame vamp, but even the drop-ins (Matthew Cottle’s drippy Edward, Tim Wallers’ braying Andrew, Gillian Bevan’s frosty Theresa May) sparkle like crown jewels.

Watch on: Channel 4, All4

 

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