Brian Donaldson peers into the autumn drama and comedy schedules to find string-vested philosophers, Burns-recital champions and flesh-eating zombies
Britain is in utter chaos. The dead have returned to life and are attacking the living who, once deceased, then get up and do some more killing. The only people unaware of this horrendous phenomenon are the occupants of the Big Brother household. But not for long … Don’t worry, this isn’t the credit crunch’s worst case scenario, it’s only the synopsis for a new telly show. Having sat through acres of small screen sewage, Guardian TV critic and Nathan Barley co-creator Charlie Brooker has let his imagination gambol free for Dead Set (E4), a zombie comedy-drama starring Ray’s little girl, Jaime Winstone, and featuring a swathe of cameos including, obviously, Davina McCall.
The Four drama slate gets some heavyweight history action going on with Sideways man Paul Giamatti in the title role of John Adams (More4), an epic seven-parter about the man who was elected as America’s first vice president and second president while The Devil’s Whore (Channel 4) features the English Civil War seen through the eyes of a spirited anti-monarchist aristocrat. Andrea Riseborough, John Simm, Peter Capaldi and Dominic The Wire West star.
Over on ITV, they’re keeping it contemporary with Wired (ITV1) a fast-paced thriller set in the murky world of bank fraud and starring Laurence Fox, Toby Stephens and Charlie Brooks (EastEnders’ nasty Janine). Brooks’ fellow ex-Albert Square pal Michelle Ryan chucks off the shackles of the awful Bionic Woman to play a lass whose love life is ruled by her obsession with numbers in Mr Eleven (ITV1). The Beeb, meanwhile, are going for their standard mix of classic adaptations and modern dramas. Little Dorrit (BBC1) is the latest Andrew Davies affair, starring Tom Courtenay, James Fleet and Emma Pierson while the 1970s Terry Nation series Survivors (BBC1) is resurrected in a 21st century post-apocalyptic setting with Max Beesley and Freema Agyeman trying to stay alive. Moses Jones (BBC2) begins with a wave of violence hitting London after the discovery of a bizarrely mutilated body. Suggestions of witchcraft are soon set to one side as the dark reality dawns.
Chances are you might need a bit of a laugh after all that death and devastation, so the return of Govan’s ‘prodigal bastard’ Rab C Nesbitt (BBC2) for a one-off special can only be welcomed while a new type of Glaswegian mirth-maker arrives when Limmy’s Show (BBC2) has the internet sensation getting his weird characters and mad sketches on the box. No Holds Bard (BBC2) has Ashley Jensen and Bill Paterson preparing to vie for the 2009 Cup O’Kindness, the trophy awarded to the Burns recital champion.
But if you’re after blockbuster British comedy names, Matt Lucas and David Walliams give us Little Britain USA (BBC1) fresh from its American airing with new characters such as astronaut Bing Gordyn, a spaniel called Mr Doggy and cute little pottymouth Ellie-Grace. And whether Peter Kay’s new Channel 4 show is any good or not hardly matters as it has the most arresting title of this or any other year: Britain’s Got the Pop Factor and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice.