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PAUL WHITELAW: Some great TV to look forward to in 2023

Ncuti Gatwa stars in the next series of Doctor Who.
Ncuti Gatwa stars in the next series of Doctor Who.

What’s in store for 2023 on the telly? Everything from Succession to Doctor Who, and more besides. Paul Whitelaw takes a look at some highlights

Nolly – ITVX, February

Helena Bonham Carter stars in Nolly, coming to ITVX.

Written by the redoubtable Russell T. Davies, this factual drama covers a particularly tumultuous period in the life of soap doyen Noele Gordon (Helena Bonham Carter).

Nolly, as she was affectionately known to her friends, became a TV superstar thanks to her show-stealing turn as Meg Richardson in Crossroads.

In 1981, while still riding high after 18 years at the top, Gordon was unceremoniously sacked without any warning or explanation.  She was utterly devastated.

Gordon was a fabulous showbiz trouper of the old school, they really don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Her story encapsulates the fickle and cutthroat vagaries of fame.

The cast also includes Mark Gatiss as Gordon’s dear showbiz chum, Larry Grayson. What’s not to love?

Without Sin – ITVX, available now

Without Sin is on ITVX now.

ITV’s rebranded streaming service, ITVX, hasn’t scrimped on Major New Drama output since it launched last month.

The obvious highlights so far are David Tennant in Litvinenko, plus Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce in A Spy Among Friends, both of which can be watched for free in their entirety.

The same goes for Without Sin, which ‘dropped’ just after Christmas. A stark psychological thriller, it stars Vicky McClure as the grieving mother of a murdered teenager.

In an attempt to rebuild her shattered life, she decides to visit her daughter’s killer in prison. The killer is played by Johnny Harris, an actor with whom McClure shared several harrowing scenes in the TV spin-off from This Is England.

Welcome to Chippendales – Disney+, January

Welcome to Chippendales is on Disney+ in January.

A canny entrepreneur, Somen “Steve” Banerjee dreamed up that male striptease phenomenon the Chippendales in 1979.

He was later found guilty of being an accessory to murder.

This drama, which received mostly positive reviews when it premiered in America recently, delves into his murky saga. If you’re not familiar with the details, then I suggest you go in blind.

Do not Google Banerjee, as Welcome to Chippendales thrives upon its multitudinous truth-is-stranger-than-fiction twists.

I can’t vouch for the whole series as I’ve only seen two episodes, but if you’re anything like me – a sucker for weird stories about extreme showbiz hubris, crime and corruption – then I daresay you’ll be intrigued from the get-go.

Masters of the Air – Apple TV+, early 2023

The final part of Masters of the Air comes to Apple TV+.

The final part of a trilogy that began with Band of Brothers followed by The Pacific, this Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries focuses on the Eighth Air Force of the United States Army during World War II.

The hallmarks of its esteemed predecessors were historical accuracy, sympathetic portrayals of the key characters, and an unflinching approach to the horrors of war.

There’s no reason to suspect that Masters of the Air won’t continue in that tradition.

You can count on this team. As always, it boasts a large ensemble of actors. Austin Butler, who recently shone with his performance as Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s magisterial biopic, and our next TARDIS coordinator, Ncuti Gatwa, are among that ensemble.

The Idol – Sky Atlantic, early 2023

A drama devised by the musician and actor Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, this sounds – in theory at least – like a frank deconstruction of the modern pop biz.

Lily-Rose Depp stars as an aspiring pop idol. The sudden pressures placed upon her trigger a nervous breakdown.

Enter a self-help guru/cult leader played by Tesfaye, who promises to put her career back on track. What could possibly go wrong?

That synopsis suggests a scathing showbiz satire on the way vulnerable young people are exploited by opportunistic charlatans, so let’s hope it makes its point with acute anger and sensitivity.

The Idol, sadly, marks the final screen appearance of Anne Heche, who left us long before her time was due.

Succession – Sky Atlantic, spring

The much-anticipated next series of Succession starts on Sky Atlantic in the spring.

Glory be, it’s back. One of the most outstanding TV dramas of recent years, HBO’s Succession joins the likes of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and Mad Men in that rarefied category of ‘American Dramas That Really Are As Good As Everyone Says They Are’.

If you haven’t seen this scabrous show before, the basic gist is this: Brian Cox plays the monstrous multimillionaire patriarch of a deeply dysfunctional family.

They’re all awful yet utterly compelling and pathetically comical.

Created by Jesse Armstrong of Peep Show and The Thick of It renown, it’s an aghast meditation on the terrifyingly all-powerful likes of Murdoch, Trump and Musk.

Newcomers are advised to gorge on every episode before season four begins.

Doctor Who – BBC One, autumn

We’ll have to wait a while until we get to see new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa in action, but the anticipation is palpable.

The next series heralds the return of writer/producer Russell T. Davies – that man again – who revived Doctor Who so successfully back in 2005.

It’s been a lean few years for the show, its popularity declined under the hapless stewardship of previous head writer Chris Chibnall, but if anyone can reverse this beleaguered institution’s fortunes, it’s RTD.

The comeback kicks off with three specials starring beloved former Doctor David Tennant.

Gatwa – a striking actor who oozes charisma – will take over at Christmas, although a recent teaser trailer suggests we’ll see him before then. Optimism reigns supreme.


Gangs of New York – Friday, Film4, 9pm

A scene from Gangs of New York.

Martin Scorsese started development on this film in the late 1970s, but it didn’t come to fruition until 2002. Was his passion project worth that lengthy gestation?

Well, there are certainly some things to admire in this sprawling historical epic about a Catholic-Protestant feud in the mid-19th Century slums of New York, but it falls short of the masterpiece we expected.

Scorsese presumably lost sight of his goal after dwelling on it for so long.

Still, even a flawed curio by this master filmmaker is worth your time, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ barnstorming performance as a formidable gang leader never fails to command the screen. He does a lot of heavy-lifting, let’s put it that way.


Waterloo Road – Tuesday 3, BBC One

This secondary school-based drama ended its initial nine-year run in 2015.

While popular enough to exist for that long, it was never a critical darling. Imperial phase Grange Hill ran rings around it, and I doubt that even its most ardent fans felt moved to mount a campaign for its return.

It was just ‘there’ and then it wasn’t, like The Lighthouse Family. Yet here we are, Waterloo Road reborn.

Quite right too, as it turns out. This revival, which tackles social issues with commendable tact, empathy and humour, delivers on the promise it always hinted at.

Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond will presumably approve, and I can think of no higher presumption than that. A pleasant surprise.

Belfast Midwives – Tuesday 3, Channel 4

Belfast’s Royal Jubilee Maternity Service delivers around 5,000 babies each year. This new series, a textbook human interest heart-warmer, goes behind the scenes.

These midwives, the unassuming stars of the show, are magnificent. Programmes of this nature aren’t overtly political, that’s not their M.O. as such, but they do serve as a vital reminder of the stresses our toiling nurses endure on a daily basis. We’d be lost without them.

The first episode covered three birth stories, all of which were told with tender loving care. Yes, television is capable of that sometimes.

We all require a bit of positivity at this time of year, so do yourselves a favour and catch the whole series on All 4.