While the peak of summer might not be when you’d usually expect top TV shows to be released, this is a year unlike any other, with a stellar television schedule to match. Whether it’s refreshingly raw homegrown talent, like Michaela Coel’s much celebrated I May Destroy You, gloriously glossy BBC period dramas, like the upcoming adaptation of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, or the latest instalment of Netflix’s biggest shows, there’s a whole host of viewing delights on offer. Here we’ve rounded up the best TV shows to keep you entertained all summer long.
If you’re after a dark thriller with gothic undertones, this TV show ticks all the boxes. Ophelia (played by Belgravia’s Emily Reid) is an orphaned young woman who embarks on an affair with her Cambridge lecturer (Emmett J. Scanlan). But after visiting him at his spooky manor house, she learns that his late wife, Roisin, was recently killed in a fire there – and the circumstances surrounding her death are more than murky. What follows is a satisfying psychological thriller that revolves around abusive relationships and power dynamics. And if that’s not enough to convince you, it also stars Emmy-nominated Paul Mescal in a pre-Normal People role, where he’s just as compelling as the village builder who takes a shine to Ophelia.
Out now, Channel 5
This decadent new drama was inspired by author Anaïs Nin’s risqué book of erotic short stories of the same name, so you can expect plenty of steamy scenes. Set amid the sweltering heat and colonial splendour of Tangier in the Fifties, the show stars Juno Temple as American heiress Lucy, who arrives in the city to be reunited with her dashing fiancé, Lord Hugo Cavendish-Smyth (played by Hugh Skinner). But after receiving a disappointingly cool welcome from him, it’s not long until her head is turned by the alluring Cherifa Lamour (Yumna Marwan). A delightfully seductive watch for high summer.
Out 4 August, Sky Atlantic
Hot on the heels of the formidable success of her semi-autobiographical sitcom Chewing Gum, for which she won two BAFTAs, writer and actor Michaela Coel is back with a new 12-part TV series that has swiftly become the most talked about TV show of the summer. Based around her own experience of rape trauma, it tackles issues of sexual consent from multiple viewpoints, as well as exploring themes of friendship, family and millennial angst. Fuelled by dark comedy and a superb lead performance by Coel herself, it makes for bold and brilliant viewing.
Out now, BBC
When a show stars Oscar-winning actor Cate Blanchett in the lead role, you know it’s going to be worth watching – add to that a similarly starry supporting cast of Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba and Sarah Paulson and you’re on to a sure-fire winner. Created by Mad Men writer Dahvi Waller, it tells the true story of the 1970s movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in America, with Blanchett playing conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Hailed as the feminist TV show of the moment, its stellar performances are matched by the glorious period costumes, from silk jumpsuits and flared jeans to psychedelic printed shirts.
Out now, BBC
The hit Netflix mystery drama, executive produced by Jessica Biel, has returned for a third series, with Bill Pullman reprising his role as grizzled Detective Harry Ambrose and Hollywood heartthrob Matt Bomer playing unassuming teacher and father-to-be Jamie. When Jamie is visited by an old college friend, Nick (portrayed brilliantly by Nick Haas), and the two are involved in a tragic car accident, Jamie’s life quickly begins to unravel, as secrets from his past come back to haunt him. Tackling the issue of toxic masculinity with aplomb, expect plenty of twists and turns from this heart-stopping thriller.
Out now, Netflix
Based on a novel by Australian writer Michael Robotham, this gripping thriller TV series stars Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael as downtrodden shop worker Agatha, who envies the life of a beautiful middle-class mother (Jessica De Gouw) in her neighbourhood. As fellow mothers-to-be, the two strike up an unlikely friendship, but their relationship quickly turns sour as Agatha reveals herself to be more and more mentally unstable. Loosely inspired by the true story of the abduction of baby Abbie Humphries in Nottinghamshire in 1994, the show will keep you guessing right up until the end.
Out now, BBC
Taking a beloved book series and turning it into a TV series can be a tricky a task – luckily, this sensitive HBO adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s celebrated Neapolitan novels manages to capture perfectly the same magic and complexity of the decades-long female friendship between heroines Lenu and Lila. And, crucially, the newly launched second series is just as sublime as the first. Set in post-war Naples in the 1950s, it’s full of exquisite details and cinematic flair, not to mention standout performances from the two lead actresses, who were both plucked out of obscurity for the first season when they were just 14 years old.
Out now, Sky Atlantic and Now TV
Ryan Murphy’s darkly comic political satire is back with a second series that picks up where the first season left off, tackling themes of ambition, betrayal and scandal. Ben Platt reprises his role as the precocious Payton Hobart, only this time instead of running for high-school student body president, he’s campaigning for a position in New York’s state senate. The cast is jam-packed with household names, including Gwyneth Paltrow as his mother and Lucy Boynton as Machiavellian ice queen Astrid Sloan, and this season they’re joined by none other than Bette Midler, who delivers a scene-stealing performance as campaign manager Hadassah Gold.
Out now, Netflix
This much-anticipated adaptation of Vikram Seth’s epic 1993 novel transports viewers to 1950s India, with breath-taking cinematography, palatial homes, luscious scenery and vibrant costumes. Directed by Mira Nair, who received an Oscar nomination for her Hindi crime drama Salaam Bombay!, and written by Andrew Davies, the man behind the BBC’s hit adaptations of War & Peace and Pride and Prejudice, the six hour-long episodes tell the tale of a mother’s search to find a husband for her daughter, all set amid the unrest of the Partition of India. Sumptuously shot, it’s a feast for the senses from start to finish.
Out 26 July, BBC
Netflix’s hit dark comedy superhero series, based on the comic book series of the same name, is coming back for a second series. Featuring an ensemble cast that includes Ellen Page, Mary J. Blige and Game of Thrones’ actor Tom Hopper, the show revolves around a dysfunctional family of adopted sibling superheroes, who come together to solve the mystery of their father’s death and the threat of an impending apocalypse. If it sounds a bit mad, that’s because it is, but in the best possible way – and the level of wacky escapism it offers is just what we need this summer.
Out 31 July, Netflix
Based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 fantasy-horror novel of the same name and executive produced by Jordan Peele and J. J. Abrams, we’re expecting big things from this new drama. Set in 1950s America, when the United States was very much still in the throes of segregation, it follows Atticus Black (played by Jonathan Majors), his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), as they embark on a road trip in search of Black’s missing father. Throughout their journey they’re forced to overcome both the racist terrors of Jim Crow America and the terrifying monsters they encounter.
Out 17 August, Sky Atlantic and Now TV
Billie Piper is reuniting with Secret Diary of a Call Girl writer Lucy Prebble on this “excruciatingly honest” eight-part series. The show follows Suzie Pickles (Piper), a star on the wane who has her whole world turned upside when her phone is hacked and extremely private pictures of her emerge. Each episode follows a different stage, moving from shock and denial to guilt, anger and, finally, acceptance, as Suzie struggles to hold her life, career and marriage together. Bold and refreshingly raw, it’s a bitingly relevant take on whether any of us can survive being well and truly ‘known’.
Out 27 August, Sky Atlantic and Now TV