Best new TV to watch in January
- Brian Donaldson
- 30 December 2020
Including Cobra Kai, The Serpent and It's A Sin
From flying cars to climate activists plus shows about sleep, space and South Africa, and with performances from Paul Bettany, Whoopi Goldberg, Ian McShane, Elle Fanning and Martin Compston, there's plenty to enjoy on your small screens in December.
Get behind the sofas folks, the Daleks are back. But can the Doctor actually do anything about their next invasion given that she's locked up in a high-security alien prison? Our money is on a great escape of some description.
BBC One, Friday 1 January.
Former Time Lord assistant Jenna Coleman pops up as a very different sidekick in this eight-part thriller. She plays Marie-Andrée Leclerc, the girlfriend and accomplice of Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) who murdered Western backpackers across Asia during the 1970s.
BBC One, Friday 1 January.
Chitty Flies Again
David Walliams has long been fascinated by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and embarks upon a mission whereby a replica of the famous car takes to the skies. With his engineer pal Tony in tow, the pair do their utmost to recreate a classic movie moment.
Channel 4, Friday 1 January.
Already a hit on Hulu, this ten-part comedy-drama has Elle Fanning playing Catherine, the controversial leader of imperialist Russia, while Nicholas Hoult is her potty-mouthed emperor. The series is largely written by Tony McNamara whose 2008 play was the series' trigger.
Channel 4, Sunday 3 January.
I Am Greta
This documentary follows the story of the planet's most famous school pupil, as the climate change activist goes from being a lone voice protesting in Stockholm about the environment to addressing the UN in 2019 as the world watched.
BBC Three, Sunday 3 January.
Max Richter's Sleep
The German-British composer has been making audiences and critics sit up and take notice of his contemporary classical ways for some time now, but in his most audacious project, he wanted to send us all to sleep. This film shows the creative process behind his eight-hour opus.
BBC Four, Sunday 3 January.
Stephen King's 1978 novel about a world decimated by plague and conflict has already had the starry mini-series treatment, back in 1994, and this version boasts a similarly strong cast including Whoopi Goldberg, Greg Kinnear, James Marsden and Alexander Skarsgård.
Starz, Sunday 3 January.
One of the true joys of lockdown culture was the six-part comedy starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing versions of themselves in Zoom-shaped hell as they try to rehearse a new version of Six Characters In Search Of An Author. In this follow-up, they aim to navigate the attentions of an American agent played by Ben Schwartz of Parks And Recreation fame.
BBC One, Monday 4 January.
Initially airing on the Alibi channel, this six-part crime drama is penned by Amelia Bullmore from an idea by Val McDermid, features a cast including Laura Fraser and Martin Compston, and revolves around an unsolved murder case.
BBC One, Monday 4 January.
A new year brings a new Nordic noir, this seven-parter set in a bleak and brooding northern Norway as a young man is found dead and his girlfriend is reported missing. A local detective joins forces with a special investigator from the city, their differing personalities and methods soon clashing.
Channel 4, Monday 4 January.
If you loved the original Karate Kid movies, you should go a bundle on this martial arts comedy drama which is now entering its third season. We catch up on the lives of Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny (William Zabka), over 30 years after their school rivalry on the mat.
Netflix, Friday 8 January.
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Pitch Perfect) plays the role of acclaimed 19th century poet Emily Dickinson in a self-consciously modern adaptation. In this second series, she keeps prodding away at the constraints of society, gender and family.
Apple TV+, Friday 8 January.
War between the old gods of mythology and the new gods of technology continues apace as Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) realises that it's impossible to try and stop being a god. Ian McShane, Danny Trejo, Crispin Glover and Marilyn Manson also star.
Amazon Prime Video, Monday 11 January.
The Pembrokeshire Murders
Luke Evans and Keith Allen star in this three-part drama about Welsh serial killer John Cooper who was tracked down thanks to an episode of darts game show Bullseye. Your interest has been well and truly piqued now, hasn't it?
ITV, Monday 11 January.
No-nonsense cop Allegra Dill (Rosario Dawson) returns to her quirky hometown after the murder of her sister in this crime drama that aims to bring the pulp fiction genre bang up to date.
Alibi, Wednesday 13 January.
Blending old-school US television and the Marvel Universe, we meet Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), two super-powered beings who are living idealised suburban lives. But soon, they begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.
Disney+, Friday 15 January.
Bulletproof: South Africa
Noel Clarke and Ashley Walters are back as detectives Bishop and Pike Jr, but this time they're off on their travels to Cape Town for a much-needed break. That holiday feeling swiftly disappears as they are dragged into the kidnapping of a young girl.
Sky One, Wednesday 20 January.
Star Trek: Lower Decks
The Star Trek franchise dips its toes back into animation for the first time since the early 1970s with this comic look at the support crew on one of 'Starfleet's least important ships'. Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid are the main voices with notable cameo appearances coming from Haley Joel Osment, Jack McBrayer and Trekkie icon Marina Sirtis.
Amazon Prime Video, Friday 22 January.
After the excellent standalone episode in early December starring Zendaya as Rue comes this companion piece which focuses on Rue's partner Jules (Hunter Schafer). Details are being kept very secret, but we do know that the episode's title is 'Fuck Anyone Who's Not A Sea Blob'. Which is a great help.
Sky Atlantic, Monday 25 January.
It's A Sin
Probably the most heavily anticipated show of the month is the new Russell T Davies drama which tells the stories of three friends who move to London in the 1980s just as the AIDS crisis takes hold. Synth-pop singer Olly Alexander takes the lead role in a cast which includes Stephen Fry, Keeley Hawes and Neil Patrick Harris.
Channel 4, date tbc.
Check our coverage throughout January for reviews of many of these shows.