April showers bring May flowers, and this month’s British TV program premieres bring hours of viewing enjoyment with the return of midwives, the arrival of alien-battling teens, and more to telly.
With Seasons 7, 8, and 9 already commissioned, this hit period drama returns with most of the Nonnatus House staff back in Poplar from South Africa (from the 2016 holiday special) and now working under the strict Sister Ursula (guest star Harriet Walter, The Crown). It’s 1962, and topics ranging from government health reforms and mental health, to Down’s Syndrome and female genital mutilation, are explored. Jennifer Kirby (Holby City) joins the cast as Nurse ValerieDyer. Call the Midwife: Season 6 premieres in the US on Sunday, 2 April 2017, at 8 PM ET, on PBS. (Check your local listings.) (Photo courtesy of Neal Street Productions 2016)
The second and final season of this costume drama opens roughly a month after the events in the Season 1 finale. World War II is taking an increasing toll on the denizens of Great Paxford, but members of the Women’s Institute continue to do their part for the war effort and, more often than not, for each other. Home Fires: Season 2 premieres in the US on Sunday, 2 April 2017, at 9 PM ET, on PBS. (Check your local listings.) (Photo courtesy of ITV Studios and Masterpiece)
Chewing Gum: Series 2
Season 2 of this multiple award-winning sitcom, including a BAFTA for series writer and star Michaela Coel (The Aliens, pictured), finds the Beyoncé-obsessed Tracey (Coel) still a virgin and still on the outs with ex-bestie Candice (Danielle Walters, Gavin & Stacey). Three months away didn’t help her relationship with now ex-beau Connor (Robert Lonsdale, The Interceptor) either; he has a new girlfriend. And that’s just for starters. Chewing Gum: Series 2, a Netflix Global Original Series (except UK & IE), premieres in the US on Tuesday, 4 April 2017, exclusively on Netflix. (Animated gif courtesy of Netflix)
The Art Detectives (aka Britain’s Lost Masterpieces)
This 3-part documentary follows art historians Dr. Bendor Grosvenor (Fake or Fortune) and Jacky Klein (What Is Contemporary Art?) as they travel to Swansea, Wales, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, in search of lost treasures that could be hidden in plain sight in local museums, galleries, stately homes, and government buildings. The Art Detectives premieres in the US on Monday, 10 April 2017, exclusively on Acorn TV. (Photo courtesy of Acorn TV)
Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point), Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones), Ken Stott (The Missing), Robert Sheehan (Misfits), Edvin Endre (Vikings), and Parminder Nagra (ER) join most of the Season 1 cast for another round of strange goings-on in this mystery drama set in the eponymous Arctic town. (For further details, read this.) Fortitude: Season 2, an Amazon Original Series in the US, premieres Friday, 14 April 2017, exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. (Image courtesy of Amazon)
It’s Peter Capaldi’s final season as The Doctor (sob!) and Pearl Mackie’s first as new companion Bill (woo hoo!). And Matt Lucas returns as the hapless Nardole (from “The Husbands of River Song“), as does Michelle Gomez as the fiendishly fabulous Missy (double yay!). We’ll also see David Suchet (Poirot) as The Landlord, the Mondasian Cybermen (after a 50-year+ absence from the screen), the Daleks, and more when Doctor Who: Series 10 premieres in the US on Saturday, 15 April 2017, at 9 PM ET, on BBC America. (Photo © Ray Burmiston / BBC America)
London’s Coal Hill Academy is home to Miss Quill’s (Katherine Kelly, Happy Valley) physics class. Unbeknownst to the rest of the school, four of her students — Charlie (Greg Austin, Mr. Selfridge), April (Sophie Hopkins, Brackenmore), Ram (Fady Elsayed, River), and Tanya (newcomer Vivian Oparah) — have been charged by The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) to battle alien threats that have broken through the thinning walls of space and time to save the world from being brought into Shadow. Class, the latest Doctor Who spin-off, premieres in the US on Saturday, 15 April 2017, at 10:10 PM ET, on BBC America. (Image courtesy of BBC America)
The White Princess
Adapted from the bestselling The White Princess, part of Philippa Gregory’s “Cousins War” series of historical novels, this follow-up to the Golden Globes® and Emmy®-nominated The White Queen stars Jodie Comer (Thirteen) as the House of York’s Princess Elizabeth and Jacob Collins-Levy (Glitch) as the House of Tudor’s Henry VII. It is hoped that their marriage will end the Wars of the Roses and bring peace to the country, but will it? Featuring Essie Davis (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) as Dowager Queen Elizabeth and Michelle Fairley (Fortitude) as Lady Margaret Beaufort, amongst others in the impressive cast, The White Princess, a Starz Original Limited Series, premieres in the US on Sunday, 16 April 2017, at 8 PM ET/PT, on Starz. (Photo by Jason Bell © Company Television TWP Limited 2016)
This sitcom stars Sally Phillips (Miranda) as Jenny Pope, a 40-something woman whose job loss prompts the repossession of the London house she shares with her husband Nick (Darren Strange, Father Brown) and their two children, followed by the Popes moving to Kettering to live with her parents, Len (Tom Conti, DNA) and Alma Miller (Susie Blake, Coronation Street). Parents premieres in the US on Monday, 17 April 2017, exclusively on Acorn TV. (Photo courtesy of Acorn TV)
Tales by Light: Season 2 (Australia)
The second season of this documentary series from Down Under follows renowned photographers Jonathan and Angela Scott, Eric Cheng, and Stephen Dupont, as they explore far-flung locales and capture extraordinary images that present nature and culture in new lights. Tales by Light: Season 2, a Netflix Global Original Series (except AU & NZ), premieres in the US on Friday, 21 April 2017, exclusively on Netflix. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)
Serie 1 of this Irish Western drama won four IFTA Awards, and Series 2 has been nominated for a record ten. The latter finds the immigrant Connolly brothers — Tom (Owen McDonnell, Single-Handed), Pádraig (Seán T.Ó Meallaigh, Vikings), and Séamus (Dara Devaney, Above Suspicion) — struggling to forge an empire during the Gold Rush in the 1890s Canadian Yukon. They’ve established themselves in the territory, but the growing lawlessness in Dominion Creek means threats that could lose them their family, friends, and gold. Dominion Creek: Series 2 premieres in the US on Monday, 24 April 2017, exclusively on Acorn TV. (Photo courtesy of Acorn TV)
Featuring the late Carrie Fisher in her final TV performance, the new season of this Emmy® and BAFTA-nominated comedy finds Sharon and Rob (series creators, writers, and stars Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney) continuing to row about practically everything and, despite that, trying to make their marriage work. With a fourth season already commissioned, Catastrophe: Season 3, an Amazon Original Series in the US, premieres Friday, 28 April 2017, exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. (Image courtesy of Amazon)
American Gods (US)
I can’t wait for this adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s bestselling novel of the same name to arrive on telly! (It’s a US production, but two UK actors lead the cast.) Ricky Whittle (Hollyoaks) plays ex-con and widower Shadow Moon, who journeys across America with the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane, Lovejoy) as the latter tries to round up the Old Gods (like Loki) to save themselves from extinction in the battle with the New Gods (like Technology). Featuring Emily Browning (Pompeii), Pablo Schreiber (OITNB), Peter Stormare (Black Widows), Orlando Jones (Madiba), and Gillian Anderson (The Fall), amongst many others, American Gods premieres in the US on Sunday, 30 April 2017, at 9 PM ET/PT, on Starz. (Photo by James Dimmock © 2017 FremantleMedia North America)
The first five of the programs below premiere on local public TV stations starting in April 2017. The others have their US broadcast debuts or roll out to additional stations this month. Schedules vary from market to market, so check your local listings for details about air dates and times. To find out if, or to confirm that, a program will be shown in your city, contact the public TV station that serves your area.
One of my picks for best new program premieres of 2016, this dramedy stars Erik Thomson (Packed to the Rafters) as newspaper columnist and widower George Turner, who breaks the fourth wall while typing the articles that share his life-lesson stories, starting with the one about moving himself and his two children from Sydney to a small town at the “arse end” of New Zealand after the death of his wife. 800 Words: Season 1 is confirmed for airing on the following public TV stations and regional networks.
The series finale of one of the best TV comedies of recent years (a BAFTA Awards winner, too) is set several months after Lance (Toby Jones, The Secret Agent) unearthed the find of a lifetime at the end of Series 2. The thing is, he hasn’t found anything since, and has had a run of bad luck with seemingly everything. Could it be “the curse of the gold”? Costarring series creator Mackenzie Crook (Ordinary Lies, see below), the Detectorists Special is confirmed for airing on the following public TV stations and regional networks.
The events in the Series 1 finale pushed DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington, Poldark) to the edge. Weeks later he is forced back to work at the Aberystwyth Police to investigate an arson attack with partner DI Mared Rhys (Mali Harries, The Indian Doctor). The arrival of his estranged wife, Meg (Anamaria Marinca, The Last Enemy), the internal investigation into his role in a woman’s death, and three more murder cases only add to his troubles. Hinterland: Series 2 is confirmed for airing on the following public TV stations and regional networks.
In this three-part documentary, Doc Martin star Martin Clunes journeys to 16 of Australia’s 8000 islands — including Lord Howe Island in the east, the Tiwi Islands in the north, Carnac Island in Western Australia, and Mundoo Island in South Australia — which represent a cross-section of the country’s diverse people, terrain, and history. Martin Clunes: Islands of Australia is confirmed for airing on the following public TV stations and regional networks.
Secrets of Great British Castles: Series 2
Popular historian, journalist, author, and TV program presenter Dan Jones (Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets) is back on public TV in the second season of this documentary series, in which he gives viewers the lowdown about six more UK castles. They include Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, Cardiff Castle in Wales, and York Castle, Lancaster Castle, Leeds Castle, and Arundel Castle in England. Secrets of Great British Castles: Series 2 is confirmed for airing on the following public TV stations and regional networks.
(All photos above courtesy of American Public Television)
Based on G.K. Chesterton‘s “Father Brown” stories and starring Mark Williams (“Harry Potter” films) as the eponymous Catholic priest and amateur sleuth, the latest season of this hit mystery series finds Lady Felicia (Nancy Carroll, Prime Suspect: Tennison) bidding adieu to Kembleford, Mrs. McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack, River) being righteous as always, and the dastardly Hercule Flambeau (John Light, WPC 56) plotting yet another heist of a precious artifact. Joining the cast is Emer Kenny (Pramface), who plays Bunty, Lady Felicia’s niece. Father Brown: Series 5 premieres on KCET (Los Angeles, CA viewing area) on Sunday, 2 April 2017, at 8 PM PT. (Photo courtesy of KCET)
One of my favorite UK TV premieres of 2015, this drama follows the lives of a car showroom’s employees and the impact of the lies they tell to hide bad habits, debts, affairs, and more. Featuring Max Beesley (Hotel Babylon), Jo Joyner (EastEnders), Michelle Keegan (Coronation Street), Sally Lindsay (Scott & Bailey), Shazad Latif (American Gods), Jason Manford (Ripper Street), and Mackenzie Crook (Detectorists), Ordinary Lies premieres on WETA UK (Washington, DC viewing area) on Saturday, 29 April 2017, at 9 PM ET. Two biopic miniseries starring Sheridan Smith (Black Work) also premiere the same evening: Cilla (8 PM), about the late, great singer and entertainer Cilla Black, and Mrs. Biggs (10 PM), about Charmian Biggs, the wife of Ronnie Biggs, one of the men involved in the Great Train Robbery (see below).
MORE PROGRAMS ADDED TO STREAMING SERVICES
The Falklands Play
This docudrama, about the British government’s actions leading up to and during the conflict over the Falkland Islands in 1982, premiered in the UK 20 years after the onset of the Falklands War, almost to the day. The tele-film stars Patricia Hodge (Miranda) as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, James Fox (Utopia) as Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, and John Standing (Churchill’s Secret) as Home Secretary William Whitelaw. The Falklands Play begins streaming Monday, 3 April 2017, on Acorn TV.
Julia McKenzie (Agatha Christie’s Marple) and Anton Rodgers (May to December) reprised their roles as empty-nesters Hester and William Fields for this Britcom, a sequel series to the popular Fresh Fields. The follow-up finds the couple moving from London to Calais, France, where accountant William has accepted a new job, and facing even more challenges than they had at home in England. French Fields: Series 1-3 begins streaming Monday, 3 April 2017, on Acorn TV.
This two-part drama written by Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch) tells the story of the Great Train Robbery of 8 August 1963 — the biggest heist in Britain’s history at the time — in which a gang attacked the Royal Mail train from Glasgow to London and made off with more than £2.6 million. Featuring Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast), Martin Compston (Line of Duty), Robert Glenister (Hustle), Paul Anderson (Peaky Blinders), Neil Maskell (Humans), and Jim Broadbent (London Spy), amongst others, The Great Train Robbery begins streaming Monday, 3 April 2017, on Acorn TV.
Richard Roxburgh (Hacksaw Ridge) has won several awards for his portrayal of Cleaver Greene, a rake if ever there was one, in this fabulous and funny hit Aussie comedy-drama that revolves around the mess of a life of the brilliant and beleaguered barrister. Series 2 finds Cleaver on the news a lot — for his affair with a politician (Oscar® nominee Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense), his defense of a friend accused of murder, and his imprisonment for manslaughter. Rake: Series 2 begins streaming Monday, 10 April 2017, on Acorn TV.
A Royal Television Society nominee for Best Drama Serial, this TV movie stars Caroline Goodall (The White Queen) as Anne Travers, a successful barrister who must defend her psychiatrist husband, Michael Mitcham (Mark Strong, Low Winter Sun), when he is accused of a young woman’s murder. Featuring Nathaniel Parker (Inspector Lynley), Abigail Thaw (Endeavour), and Pip Torrens (Versailles), Trust begins streaming Monday, 10 April 2017, on Acorn TV.
Genius of the Modern World
In this three-part documentary, historian, author, and TV program presenter Bettany Hughes (Genius of the Ancient World) retraces the lives of three great thinkers whose ideas shaped the modern world: political revolutionary Karl Marx, philosopher Frederick Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. Genius of the Modern World begins streaming Monday, 17 April 2017, on Acorn TV.
Mystery of the Roman Skulls
One of the most intriguing mysteries of archeology in London is the discovery of hundred of human skulls since the 1800s. Most recently, skulls were unearthed during engineering projects in 2012 and 2015. In this hour-long documentary, researchers, archaeologists, and other specialists reveal their current research and possible explanations for how and why so many skulls have been found in the capital city. Mystery of the Roman Skulls begins streaming Monday, 24 April 2017, on Acorn TV.
The antithesis of noir crime dramas is this light police drama starring the late, great Richard Griffiths (“Harry Potter” films). He plays Detective Inspector Henry Crabbe, a 25-year veteran whose dream is to retire and serve up his signature steak and kidney pie at his (technically his wife’s) restaurant, Pie in the Sky. But his ineffectual boss, ACC Freddy Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair, Parade’s End), won’t let him retire so easily, so Henry must do double duty as a copper and chef. Costarring Maggie Steed (Chewing Gum), Pie in the Sky: Series 1-5 begins streaming Monday, 24 April 2017, on Acorn TV.
(All photos in this section courtesy of Acorn TV)
Jodie Comer (Doctor Foster) stars in this five-part thriller as Ivy Moxam, an abductee who, in the opener, escapes the cellar where she’d been held captive for 13 years. But returning to her family doesn’t bring her peace or a sense of safety, as her captor has gone on the run and evaded the police. As the detectives delve further into the case, they begin to suspect that all is not what it seems, including Ivy’s story. Thirteen begins streaming as an Amazon Prime Video offering on Friday, 21 April 2017. (Photo courtesy of Amazon)
Set in New Zealand, this Golden Globe® and Emmy®-nominated mystery centers on a detective’s (Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men) investigation into the disappearance of a pregnant twelve-year-old girl. Featuring David Wenham (The Code), Peter Mullan (The Fixer), Thomas M. Wright (Outsiders), and Holly Hunter (Saving Grace), Top of the Lake: Season 1 begins streaming Monday, 24 April 2017, on Hulu. (Photo courtesy of Hulu)
Based on the IDW “Wynonna Earp” comics by Beau Smith, this supernatural drama stars Melanie Scrofano (The Listener) as the eponymous heroine, a descendant of Wild West gunslinger Wyatt Earp. A victim of the family curse, Wynonna returns to Purgatory to take on the curse and the revenants — the walking dead who had died at Wyatt Earp’s hands and are murdering and wreaking havoc in her hometown. Wynonna Earp: Season 1 begins streaming Saturday, 1 April 2017, on Netfix.
Ah, Midsomer. Picturesque, quaint, and the deadliest (fictional) county in all of England. DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) has a new sidekick in DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix, Marcella), and the pair must solve murder cases involving a ghost town, a neighborhood watch group, a cricket tournament, and a pet show. Guest stars include Hugh Dennis (Outnumbered), Neil Morrissey (Striking Out), Susan Jameson (New Tricks), and Aisling Loftus (Mr. Selfridge), as well as Jason Hughes, who returns to the series as the now-promoted DI Ben Jones. Midsomer Murders: Series 19 begins streaming Saturday, 1 April 2017, on Netflix.
The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass: Series 1-3
Following the competitions on The Great British Baking Show, judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood take viewers step by step in recreating the signature, technical, and showstopping bakes featured in the series, including Tiramisu Cake, Raspberry and Chocolate Doughnuts, Spanakopita, and Sussex Pond Pudding. The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass: Series 1-3 begins streaming Saturday, 22 April 2017, on Netflix.
Real Rescues: Series 6-7
A Royal Television Society Awards winner, this documentary follows fire, police, ambulance, and other first responders as they respond to various types of emergencies in the UK. It also takes viewers behind the scenes with the people involved, from the emergency workers to the people they saved. Real Rescues: Series 6-7 begins streaming Wednesday, 26 April 2017, on Netflix.
(All photos in this section courtesy of Netflix)
For updates about April 2017 program offerings, see the British TV Viewing Guide.