BBC dramas 2020 – all the must-see tv shows to watch on iplayer

iPlayer is packed full of brilliant BBC dramas including the hit of the year, Normal People

Normal People, Killing Eve, Strike and A Suitable Boy are just some of the must-see BBC dramas of 2020 you can watch right now on BBC iPlayer.

Here’s our guide to the great BBC dramas you can watch right now, how many episodes there are and what the critics said. And we have a guide to all the best TV Shows on for Autumn 2020. See our TV Guide for other shows to enjoy.

What new BBC dramas are there in 2020?

Talking Heads

TV tonight Talking Heads

Jodie Comer in Taling Heads

This series of dramatic monologues, written by author Alan Bennett, went into production during lockdown earlier this year. If some of the character’s homes seem familiar, that’s because Talking Heads was filmed on the set of EastEnders which had shutdown production at the time!

The all-star cast includes Imelda Staunton, Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman, Lesley Manville, Tamsin Grieg, Kristin Scott Thomas and Maxine Peake.

Each episode features a different character sharing their story directly to the camera/viewers at home.

The original run of Talking Heads was shown on the BBC during the 80s and 90s and won two BAFTAs. This new version includes remakes of some of the original episodes. Plus two new monologues starring Sarah Lancashire (as a mum who finds herself attracted to her son) and Monica Dolan, who won a BAFTA for her role as Rosemary West in ITV’s crime drama, Appropriate Adult.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 12
Average episode length: 30-40 minutes
What the critics say: “Talking Heads is a powerful lockdown watch” – GQ


Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells in Harlots BBC

Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells in Harlots

Samantha Morton (The Walking Dead) and Lesley Manville (Talking Heads) star in this 18th century set period drama, which was originally shown on the channel, ITV Encore

They play Margaret and Lydia, the boss ladies who run rival brothels in Soho, London. Margaret happens to be a former prostitute who once worked for ruthless Lydia.

Lydia fights dirty in her attempts to put Margaret out of business. Very soon it is all-out war, with Margaret’s eldest daughter, Charlotte (Jessica Findlay Brown) caught-up in all the drama.

The series was inspired by The Covent Garden Ladies by British historian, Hallie Rubenhold, which tells the stories of three sex workers in 18th century London.

BBC2 plan to show all three seasons of Harlots. But just the first season is available on iPlayer at present.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 8
Average episode length: 44-50 minutes
What the critics say: “Obscenely enjoyable: why Harlots is the best show you’re not watching” – The Guardian

I May Destroy You

I May Destroy You

I May Destroy You

This drama, which is an uncomfortable watch at times, led to much wider discussions about issues around sexual assualt, consent and racial identity when it was shown on BBC1.

It is written, co-directed and executive produced by Michaela Coel, who previously wrote and starred in E4’s comedy, Chewing Gum.

Michaela plays novelist, Arabella who, through flashbacks, realises she was raped during a night out in London.

I May Destroy You follows Arabella and her friends, Terry (Weruche Opia) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu), as she struggles to come to terms with what has happened and seeks justice for her and other victims of sexual assault.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 12
Average episode length: 28-35 minutes
What the critics say: “Could this be the best drama of the year?” – The Guardian

The Salisbury Poisonings

The Salisbury Poisonings

The Salisbury Poisonings has been one of the best BBC dramas on this year

Rafe Spall, Anne-Marie Duff and MyAnna Buring (BBC1’s Ripper Street) star in this torn-from-the-newspaper-headlines drama.

It’s based on real-life events in which a former Russian military officer, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yula were poisoned in the city of Salisbury in 2018. Two Russian nationals were suspected of the attack, using a chemical nerve agent.

In this TV dramatisation, DS Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall) is caught-up in the chemical chaos, which also involves a local couple, Dawn Sturgess (MyAnna Buring) and Charlie Rowley (Johnny Harris).

Tracy Daskiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff), Director of Public Health, races against time to stop the spread of the deadly nerve agent, Novichok.

Watch The Salisbury Poisonings on iPlayer now!

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 3
Average episode length: 56-59 minutes
What the critics say: “Like watching a Crimewatch reconstruction” – The Independent


TV tonight Anthony

The wedding day Anthony never got to see

British teenager, Anthony Walker was murdered by two white men in an unprovoked racist attack in a Liverpool Park in July 2005.

Anthony’s tragic story became national news during the trial of the accused, and his funeral was broadcast on a big screen in Liverpool city centre.

This feature-length drama, written by Jimmy McGovern (Cracker, The Street), was made with the support of Anthony’s mum, Gee.

It re-imagines how Anthony’s (played by Toheeb Jimoh) life might have otherwise turned out and the story is told in reverse order leading up to that fateful day.

Anthony is available on iPlayer now.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 1
Average episode length: 86 minutes
What the critics say: “A heartbreaking portrait of a life never lived” – i news

A Suitable Boy

TV tonight A Suitable Boy

A Suitable Boy was adapted from a hit novel

This adaptation of the bestselling book by Vikram Seth is reportedly one of the most expensive BBC series ever made.

Filmed on location in Indian cities including Lucknow, Maheshwar and Kanpur, it’s a coming-of-age story about university student, Lata (Tanya Maniktala) who is expected to be the next in her family to marry.

But Lata’s traditional Hindu family may not approve when she meets and falls for Kabir, who comes from a Muslim family.

A Suitable Boy was adapted for TV by Andrew Davies, the writer behind such TV hits as Mr Selfridge and Bleak House.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 6
Average episode length: 58-59 minutes
What the critics say: “Settle down for an Indian summer of love with this ambitious adaptation” – The Evening Standard


Strike in Strike: Lethal White

Strike is in danger in his latest case

After her worldwide success with the Harry Potter books, author J.K. Rowling wrote a series of novels featuring detective Cormoran Strike, under the pen name, Robert Galbraith.

It didn’t take long for the mystery to be solved who really wrote the books!

Tom Burke (from The Musketeers) plays the detective in the BBC adaptation series, alongside Holliday Grainger as Strike’s partner-in-crime, Robin Ellacott.

The first series includes adaptations of the books, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career Of Evil.

The guest cast includes Martin Shaw, Tara Fitzgerald, Sian Phillips and Kierston Wareing (who played Kirsty Branning on EastEnders).

A fourth adaptation, Strike: Lethal White will air as a four-part series, starting on 30 August on BBC1

Number of seasons: 4
Episodes: 11
Average episode length: 60 minutes
What the critics say: “It’s impossible to not wonder if the TV adaptation of the book series would have been greenlighted were it not for Rowling’s name” – The Hollywood Reporter




Three’s a crowd? Or three’s company?

In this BBC Two drama, London chef, Gemma (Thalissa Teixeira, BBC’s The Musketeers) and her paramedic boyfriend, Kieran (Gary Carr, Death In Paradise) are struggling to make ends meet.

So the pair decide to take in a lodger in the shape of the mysterious Ray (Ariane Labed), a former world-class synchronised swimmer.

But things begin to get complicated when both Gemma and Kieran find themselves attracted to Ray.

Could this be the start of an unexpected three-way relationship?

Find out in Trigonometry available on iPlayer.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 8
Average episode length: 42-44 minutes
What the critics say: “Trigonometry is certainly different and that can only be welcomed at the moment” – The Irish News

The Luminaries

TV tonight The Luminaries

Ex James Bond star Eva Green in The Luminaries

Ex-EastEnders star Himesh Patel (who played Tamwar Masood) has a role in this period drama, which is based on the Man Booker Prize winning novel by Eleanor Catton.

Set in 1865, it follows a young woman, Anna Wetherell (played by Eve Hewson) who leaves the UK to start a new life in New Zealand and seek her fortune in a gold-rush town on the coast.

However, things don’t quite go as planned when Anna finds herself caught-up in a murder-mystery.

The cast of The Luminaries also includes Penny Dreadful’s Eva Green and The Cry’s Ewen Leslie.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 6
Average episode length: 56-59 minutes
What the critics say: “One of the most visually arresting dramas of the year” – The Arts Desk

The Secrets She Keeps

TV tonight The Secrets She Keeps

Jessica De Gouw and Laura Carmichael star

This six-part Aussie psychological thriller is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Robotham.

Set in Sydney, it’s the story of yummy mummy Meghan (Jessica de Gouw) who appears to have it all.

Meghan, a successful online blogger, is pregnant with her third child and is married to a TV presenter, Jack (Michael Dorman, from classic Aussie drama The Secret Life Of Us).

Meanwhile, there’s pregnant supermarket employee, Agatha (Laura Carmichael, who played Lady Edith Crawley on Downton Abbey) whose life couldn’t be more different. She appears to be estranged from her family. Plus the military man who got her pregnant isn’t ready to be a dad.

One day, the two women come face-to-face and then…

Well, NO SPOILERS! Except to say both characters are hiding some shady secrets that could turn lives upside down.

Listen out for the theme music, an alternate version of Kylie’s No.1 hit, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

The Secrets She Keeps is available on iPlayer now.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 6
Average episode length: 43 minutes
What the critics say: “Yummy mummy thriller is a guilty, predictable pleasure” – The Guardian

Make Me Famous

Ex-EastEnders star Tilly Keeper (who played Louise Mitchell) is among the cast of this one-off BBC Three drama, written by TV presenter/DJ/actor, Reggie Yates.

It explores the downside of fame found through reality TV shows, and the effect it has on TV participants and their friends and family.

Tom Brittney, who plays Will Davenport in ITV detective drama, Grantchester, stars as Billy, a former contestant on a reality show called Love or Lust.

Billy thought he’d become an instant star. But a year after the show has finished, Billy is discovering that fame and life in the spotlight isn’t all he thought it would be…

Amanda Abbington stars as Billy’s mum, Amanda. While ex-Hollyoaks star, Emma Rigby has a role as a former contestant on Love or Lust.

Make Me Famous can be watched on iPlayer now.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 1
Average episode length: 54 minutes
What the critics say: “A reality TV fable without much of a moral” – The Independent

Sitting In Limbo

This feature-length factual drama is based on the real-life story of Anthony Bryan (played by one-time Casualty star, Patrick Robinson), a Jamaican-born man who legally immigrated to the UK when he was a child.

He has been living in Britain for 50 years when he was suddenly accused of being an illegal immigrant by the Home Office and threatened with deportation.

Anthony was among the “windrush generation”, folks who had arrived in the UK before 1973 from Caribbean countries.

But the political scandal documented in this drama saw Anthony and over 80 other black Britons wrongly detained and denied legal rights.

Sitting In Limbo is written by Bryan’s half-brother, novelist Stephen S Thompson and shows what happened when Bryan fought for the right to stay and the effect all of this had on Bryan’s family.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 1
Average episode length: 86 minutes
What the critics say: “UK Windrush scandal drama is vital viewing” – Den Of Geek

Normal People

Normal People

Normal People has been one of the biggest shows of 2020

First released on BBC Three followed by weekly airings on BBC1, Normal People is one of those “event” TV series which everybody seemed to be talking about at the time (and still are!).

It’s an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Sally Rooney, about the complicated bond between school friends, Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) as they become adults and find themselves both studying at Trinity College in Dublin.

Normal People has received four nominations for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be announced in a virtual ceremony presented by Jimmy Kimmel on September 20th.

The cast have since filmed some spoof comedy scenes for Comic Relief in Ireland, revealing what happens to Marianne and Connell in Normal Older People. Plus the characters confess all confessions to a priest played by Andrew Scott.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 12
Average episode length: 23-34 minutes
What the critics say: “Normal People is an honest, absorbing love story” – Vulture

The Trial Of Christine Keeler

The Trial of Christine Keeler BBC2

The Trial of Christine Keeler

This 60s-set drama tells the real-life story of British model, Christine Keeler (played by Sophie Cookson from the Kingsman action films) who unexpectedly hit the news headlines when she found herself in a love triangle with Conservative MP, John Profumo (Ben Miles) and a Russian spy, Eugene Ivanov (Visar Vishka).

It led to a political scandal known as the “Profumo affair”. The film Scandal (1989), starring Ian McKellen was an earlier dramatisation of the same events.

The main cast of The Trial Of Christine Keeler also includes Emilia Fox as Profumo’s actress wife, Valerie Hobson. Plus James Norton as the doctor who first introduces Christine and Profumo. And Ellie Bamber as model and showgirl, Mandy Rice-Davies.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 6
Average episode length: 60 minutes
What the critics say: “A furiously fast, fun ridel” – The Guardian




There’s always a risk when you “reimagine” a classic that you’re not going to please everyone.

Sherlock creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat give the infamous vampire bloodsucker (played by Claes Bang) a makeover for this 2020 TV series.

The story is still set in Transylvania in 1897 like the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker and begins with Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) travelling to Count Dracula’s castle.

But after that there are plenty of changes from the novel.

The character of Professor Van Helsing has been changed to a nun, Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells). There’s less (or no) screen time for certain supporting characters from the novel. Plus there’s more of a focus on Dracula’s sexuality.

So fans and critics were divided. Watch and decide for yourself whether this latest version of Dracula has the right kind of bite!

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 3
Average episode length: 88-91 minutes
What the critics say: “Horrific, and not in a good way” – The Arts Desk

NEW Stateside series you don’t want to miss!

Mrs America

Mrs America Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett in Mrs America

Cate Blanchett has been nominated for an Emmy Award for her role as real-life activist Phyllis Schlafly in this drama series about the rise of the women’s liberation movement during the 1970s.

Phyllis was actively against feminism and abortion and believed a woman’s place was in the home, dutifullly supporting her husband. She actively campaigned to overturn the Equal Rights Amendment during the 1970s.

Her controversial views see Phyllis clash with feminists of the time including Gloria Steinem (played by Rose Byrne) and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman).

Mrs America was created by Dhavi Waller, a former writer for Mad Men.

Mad Men star Jon Slattery appears in the series as Phyllis’s wealthy lawyer husband, Fred.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 9
Average episode length: 43-54 minutes
What the critics say: “Cate Blanchett is formidable as a 1970s anti-feminist” – The Independent

Katy Keene

This spin-off series from popular teen drama, Riverdale (available on Netflix) stars Lucy Hale (from Pretty Little Liars) as Katy Keene, an aspiring fashion designer living in New York.

Crossover characters from Riverdale include Josie McCoy (played by Ashleigh Murray), former lead singer with girl group, Josie and The Pussycats. Plus Josie’s stepbrother, Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and super baddie businessman, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos).

Despite plenty of publicity and its connection to Archie Comics, Katy Keene was cancelled in the US after just one season.

But word is, the producers are looking for another channel to pick-up the series.

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 13
Average episode length: 42 minutes
What the critics say: “Escapist teen drama that doesn’t quite reach the heights of Riverdale.” – NME

Fort Salem

With everything that is going on in the world right now, we could do with some supernatural protection from three kick-ass witches!

This entertaining fantasy drama (also known as Motherland: Fort Salem in the US) follows the adventures of Raelle Collar (played by Taylor Hickson), Scylla Ramshorn (Amalia Holm) and Tally Craven (Jessica Sutton), three witches who join the US army!

The series is set in an alternate, present-day America where women now rule the world.

Raelle, Abigail and Tally must use their army training plus magical powers to protect the country from a terrorist group known as The Spree after a shock attack at a shopping mall.

Trivia: The anicent witch language heard spoken on the series was created by some of the folks who also worked on Game Of Thrones.

You can watch Fort Salem on iPlayer now!

Number of seasons: 1
Episodes: 10
Average episode length: 41-51 minutes
What the critics say: “Imagines an America defended by witches and things look spooky” – E!

Good Trouble

This twentysome US drama is actually a spin-off from The Fosters, which was about a diverse foster family living in San Diego, California.

But it doesn’t really matter if you’ve never seen the original series since Good Trouble is pretty much its own thing.

It follows grown-up foster children, Callie Adams Foster (Maia Mitchell) and her adopted sister, Mariana Adams Foster (Cierra Ramirez) as they begin new lives and careers in Los Angeles.

The sisters move into a funky living space in downtown LA called The Coterie.

Their new neighbours includie graphic designer and artist, Gael (Tommy Martinez) and bartender and political activist, Malika (Zuri Adele). Plus Alice (Sherry Cola) who manages the apartment complex.

Good Trouble has been renewed for Season 3.

Number of seasons: 2
Episodes: 31
Average episode length: 42-50 minutes
What the critics say: “Good Trouble is TV’s first good Gen Z drama” – Vox

Classic BBC dramas everyone should watch!

Last Tango In Halifax

This Sally Wainwright written comedy-drama centres around Celia Dawson (Anne Reid) and Alan Buttershaw (Derek Jacobi), who discover a second chance for love 60 years since they last met.

The pair are reunited after their children convince them to join Facebook.

The rest of the main cast includes Sarah Lancashire as Celia’s daughter, Caroline, who begins an affair with a female work colleague after being cheated on by her husband, John (Tony Gardner).

Nicola Walker plays Alan’s daughter, Gillian, whose relationship with Paul (Sacha Dhawan) causes conflict with her son, Raff (Josh Bolt).

After a lengthy break due to writer Sally’s many other projects, Last Tango In Halifax returned for a fifth series earlier this year which was watched by over 7 million viewers on BBC 1.

Number of seasons: 5
Episodes: 24
Average episode length: 60 minutes
What the critics say: “A brilliant, bittersweet Sunday comfort” – The Guardian

Line Of Duty

No spoilers! This award-winning crime drama is full of so many unexpected twists and turns, viewers are regularly left wondering, “Wait! Did that really just happen?”

The series, created by Jed Mecurio who was also the mastermind behind Bodyguard, has such a big following that it switched from BBC Two to BBC One after it became the most watched drama in years.

With filming of Series 6 delayed because of the coronavirus crisis, now’s a good time get on board if you’ve never watched the series before.

Line Of Duty begins with D.S. Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) being transferred to the Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (AC-12) and teaming-up with new partner, D.C. Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) to investigate case involving police corruption.

Other main cast who appear throughout the series include Stephen Graham, Thandie Newton, Daniel Mays, Anna Maxwell Martin, Lennie James and Keeley Hawes.

Who can be trusted? Who will be unexpectedly killed-off? You’ll just have to watch Line Of Duty to find out!

Number of seasons: 5
Episodes: 29
Average episode length: 57 minutes
What the critics say: “10 reasons why Line Of Duty is your new favorite crime series” – BBC America

Killing Eve

Season 3 of this BAFTA winning spy-drama mostly got the thumbs down from telly critics when it was released earlier this year.

But the earlier episodes of Killing Eve are definitely still a wild watch. Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame was the head writer and executive producer for Season 1.

If you haven’t seen the series before, it follows the international cat-and-mouse chase between MI5 agent, Eve Polastri (played by Sandra Oh of Grey’s Anatomy fame) and assassin, Villanelle (Jody Comer, who won a BAFTA for the role).

Supporting characters include Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw, who also won a BAFTA for the role), head of the Russian Section at MI6 who sends Eve off on various secret missions. Plus, Konstantin Vasilev (Kim Bodnia), who is Villanelle’s handler and a sort of father figure.

The series started life as the novel, Codename Villanelle by British author Luke Jennings. He has since written two sequels.

Season 4 of Killing Eve is currently in production.

Number of seasons: 3
Episodes: 24
Average episode length: 41-55 minutes
What the critics say: “This once-thrilling comedy drama has grown stale and predictable” – The Independent

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