Belfast Telegraph

Best winter TV treats from The Grand Tour and The Affair to Grand Designs: House of the Year

It's that time of the year when all you want to do is draw the curtains, turn up the heating and settle down to a little of what you fancy on TV. Ellen E Jones compiles her must watch list.

November makes us want to rush home, close the door on the elements and binge on a box-set - but what to watch? Happily, it seems broadcasters have risen to the yearly channel-hopping challenge with an enticing slate of new and returning shows. Here's what we've got to look forward to over the coming months.

The Grand Tour

(Amazon Prime, now)

Amazon has got the old gang back together again for a new show that is Top Gear: The Return in all but name.

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May will resurrect their motoring monster from a different worldwide location each episode.

The question is whether this version will be better than Matt LeBlanc et al back at the Beeb? The answer is: probably.

Watch this if: You can't help but admire the defiant pose J-Clark and pals have struck since leaving the BBC.

A.Dot's Story of Grime

(BBC3, Monday)

Britain's home-grown music is now established enough as a genre to warrant the arts documentary treatment - though, admittedly, Alan Yentob is nowhere in sight.

This look back at the past 15 years is instead fronted by 1Xtra Breakfast Show host A.Dot, aka Dotty. She's perfectly placed to organise her own clash, Grimeaggedon, filmed and recorded in the BBC's historic John Peel Studio in Maida Vale. But even she comes up against some opposition.

Watch this if: You've been fronting as a grime aficionado for a while and it's time to arm yourself with some actual knowledge.

The Affair

(Sky Atlantic, Monday)

If you thought season two's quadrupled perspectives were perplexing, then hold on to your hats.

Season three of this superior, Hamptons-set psychological drama adds one more - that of Juliette Le Gall (Irene Jacob), yet another new love interest for Noah (Dominic West).

However, since this season picks up three years after Noah admitted responsibility for Scott's death, perhaps he's not the only one who's moving on.

Watch this if: You wisely recognise that any show featuring the combined talents of Dawson's Creek's Pacey, The Wire's McNulty and ER's Abby Lockhart must be watched in its entirety.

Grand Designs: House of the Year

(Channel 4, Thursday)

Good old Kevin McCloud is back on the box, counting down the Royal Institute of British Architects' longlist of the UK's best new houses.

In McCloud's company this guided tour of the cutting edge of British architecture is not so much "property porn" as a sweeping, epic romance.

The shortlist will be announced during the course of the programme, with the overall winner crowned on Thursday, December 15.

Watch this if: You've exhausted the internet in your tireless search for the perfect fantasy abode.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

(Netflix, Friday)

If this year has got you hiding under the duvet, here's the perfect piece of escapism to see you through your seclusion.

Ditch 2016 altogether and, instead, spend a fantasy 12 months in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, with wisecracking mother-and-daughter duo Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel).

Each 90-minute episode follows familiar characters through a different season, starting in winter.

Watch this if: You always appreciated Buffy the Vampire Slayer's pop culture banter, but don't want to be stressed out with any vampire carnage.


(Fox, December 3)

The multi-talented Donald Glover - aka rapper Childish Gambino - has been one to watch since Tina Fey hand-picked him to join the 30 Rock writing team when he was just 21.

Subtle in tone and confident in execution, this comedy-drama series marks the moment when Glover made good on his abundant promise.

Tune in to the double-bill finale to discover the fates of wannabe music manager Earnest Marks (Glover) and his cousin-turned-client Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry).

Watch this if: You watch Entourage, or Insecure, or Girls, or Transparent and fancy a show that's a little bit like all of them while being entirely its own thing.

Mariah's World

(E!, December 5)

No ordinary reality show would make it onto this list, but then Her Royal Divaness, Mariah Carey, is no ordinary reality TV star.

Forget the collected sad-sacks of Towie, Made in Chelsea and Keeping Up With the Kardashians - here is a woman who was born to be on camera, sharing wisdom and dispensing shade like a parasol salesman on a private beach.

Watch this if: You still fondly remember that time Mariah was on MTV's Cribs and showed us all how to work out on a treadmill while wearing stilettos.


(Sky Atlantic, December 6)

Westworld, set in a futuristic Wild West theme park, is the new Game of Thrones (only better), and it reaches its first season finale early next month.

Who is the Man in Black? What is this maze? What happened to Arnold? Fans hope some of these mysteries will be resolved while leaving enough loose strands for season two and beyond.

Watch this if: You enjoy Game of Thrones but feel it could benefit from more robot-based ethical dilemmas.


(Netflix, December 16)

Still traumatised by the US election results? Netflix is betting that by mid-December you'll have recovered enough to remember the good times.

This film imagines the life of 20-year-old Barack Obama (played by Australian actor Devon Terrell) when he was a student in New York.

The future US president glides easily between black and white worlds, gets into debates about democracy and plays spontaneous games of basketball, all set to a soothing soundtrack of jazz, soul and funk.

Watch this if: You've emerged blinking from your West Wing box-set binge and are ready to get (slightly) more real about politics.


(Netflix, December 9)

Last year, it was Making a Murderer, but this December Netflix has a new crime documentary for us all to talk about.

Captive consists of eight episodes, each telling a different story of a kidnapping or hostage situation from around the world.

This isn't just victims telling their stories, however, but the perpetrators, too.

Watch this if: You need an all-consuming streaming obsession to get you through the festive season.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

(Netflix, December 11)

Douglas Adams' seriously unconventional private investigator gets another screen outing, only this time the action has been relocated from north London to Seattle and from the late-1980s to the present day.

Erstwhile History Boy Samuel Barnett plays the eponymous investigator, while Elijah Wood is his sidekick and the show's real star, Todd Brotzman.

Watch this if: Eccentric detective shows are your bag - think Sherlock, Elementary, Monk and the lesser-known Damian Lewis vehicle, Life.

In Plain Sight

(ITV, December)

ITV is well-established as the home of quality true-crime drama (see The Widower, The Secret, Code of a Killer) and this one looks to be a worthy addition to the catalogue.

It gives Line of Duty's Martin Compston the chance to traverse the thin blue line as he plays serial killer and scourge of the Lanarkshire police force Peter Manuel.

Douglas Henshall (Shetland) is William Muncie, the detective who worked tirelessly to bring him to justice.

Watch this if: You take an interested in tales of true crime, but not at the expense of great storytelling.

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