From silly superheroics through classic comedy to challenging drama—here's your guide to the best TV shows this September.
Back: Series 1
Two years on from the final Peep Show, David Mitchell and Robert Webb are reunited in a new sitcom, playing estranged foster brothers obliged to cohabit and work together after the death of their publican father.
No previews, but the comedy expertise involved raises expectations: the writer is Simon Blackwell, formerly of The Thick of It and Veep, and the director is Ben Palmer, who spun sometime cult hit The Inbetweeners into a globe-trotting phenomenon. Bonus: a support cast that includes such value-for-money players as Julia Deakin and Geoff McGovern. You won’t miss Super Hans too much.
What is it? Not Peep Show: The Return, but the most eagerly anticipated comedy of the Autumn season.
Why should I watch it? Mitchell and Webb devotees will most likely have hit their Series Record buttons weeks ago, but for anybody who somehow got left behind by the pair’s breakthrough show, here’s a fresh opportunity to connect with the most representative British double-act of our times: think Morecambe and Wise with crippling insecurity.
Watch on: Channel 4, All4; from September 6
Laurel and Hardy season
Once a staple of school-holiday viewing, Stan and Ollie have been absent from TV screens for so long it’s possible entire generations have grown up unaware of their pratfalling charms.
All credit, then, to Talking Pictures, Freeview’s newly established home of long-vaulted cinematic gems, for submitting the right paperwork and making an L&H season the highlight of their September schedules.
A run of ten medium- and full-length features play across the month in matinee and evening slots: full details can be found here.
What is it? A very fine mess: ten films from the clown princes of slapstick comedy, liberated from the archives for the enjoyment of viewers young and old.
Why should I watch it? If you feel your mood will be at all lifted by the sight of a fat man repeatedly falling over or being kicked up the bum.
Best episode? The Sons of the Desert—members of the L&H fanclub—will have their own favourites, not least the 1933 feature from which they took their name. Don’t miss two 1938 classics, however: Block-Heads, in which the homefront proves almost as lethal as the frontline, and Swiss Miss, being the one with the gorilla and the rope bridge.
Watch on: Talking Pictures TV
C4’s late-night home for super-short films from emerging talents returns with an engaging new host in Zawe Ashton, of Fresh Meat fame. The formula, however, remains the same: filmmakers from diverse backgrounds handed roughly three minutes and a measure of Arts Council funding to do whatever they like, be that fiction, non-fiction, installation, animation or music video.
Here, once again, are the first green shoots of what’s hoped will be flourishing careers—and even if some of the imagery doesn’t grab you, you can always go boil an egg until the next short starts.
What is it? A six-episode showcase for some of the brightest new creatives around.
Why should I watch it? So you can claim you already knew these directors when they pick up their first BAFTA.
Best episode? This year’s crop is of a very high standard, with Episode 3 (airing September 4) being the most consistently strong. Other highlights include Pippa Young’s balloon-art lark Goathland (ep. 1), Ashton’s own, sensuous Lighthouse (ep. 2), Bedwyr Williams’ visionary Tyrrau Mawr (ep. 4) and Sarina Nihei’s oddball ‘toon Rabbit’s Blood (ep. 6), the most disconcertingly Lynchian thing you’ll witness this year outside the Twin Peaks reboot.
Watch on: Channel 4, All4
The season’s first major awards contender arrives via Peter Kosminsky, director of 1999’s Warriors and 2015’s Wolf Hall: a searing four-part drama following four British Muslims—two men, two women—as they head to Syria to side with ISIS.
Kosminsky’s accomplishment is to juggle the atrocities his characters see (and take part in) with an understanding of what drove them there in the first place, whether that be a need to prove themselves or simply a misguided sense of adventure.
Not an easy watch, of course, but an enlightening one, its every frame evidently rooted in deep, conscientious research.
What is it? Top dramatist attempts to enter the mindset of those drawn to fight under the blackest of flags.
Why should I watch it? To get beyond the one-dimensional tabloid outrage, and learn something of the very specific threat ISIS poses to the West.
Best episode? Though potent, the conclusion actually forms the least revealing instalment: earlier parts unnerve even more with their detailed observation of daily caliphate life.
Best character? Ony Uhiara is commanding as Shakira, the doctor who travels East in the hope of saving lives, while Sam Otto skillfully offsets Jalal’s youthful rashness with growing, weighty doubt.
Watch on: All4
The Tick: Season 1
Faced with another round of cold, hard superhero product—that’ll be The Defenders, now streaming on Netflix—it’s encouraging to encounter something looser and funnier. Ben Edlund’s mid-Eighties comics here provide the springboard for the tale of a depressive accountant (Griffin Newman) who finds himself tailed by a blue-suited tall guy with antennae (Peter Serafinowicz).
What follows, over an agreeably brisk six-episode run, takes in talking dogs, Very Large Men, bothersome ex-husbands and some very choice phrase-making, making this to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as The Hitchhiker’s Guide was to Star Wars.
What is it? Superheroics of the sillier kind, in a show that slips down nicely.
Why should I watch it? If you’ve grown tired of super-serious event movies labouring over their every nerdy detail.
Best episode? Episode 2, “Where’s My Mind?”, does a very fun job of establishing the reality of hero Arthur’s situation—listen sharp for the kazoo cover of a certain Pixies song. Fight Club much?
Best character? Edlund clearly enjoyed himself stocking his metropolis with daft crusaders: take your pick between Yara Martinez’s static-inducing Miss Lint and Michael Cerveris’s Ramses IV, a huffy sort named after the pharaoh with the shortest reign.
Watch on: Amazon Prime
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