The Long Call
Inspired by Ann Cleeves’ best-selling novel, this four-part UK series is the “first primetime detective drama to feature [a] gay male lead in a relationship”. DI Matthew Venn (Fleabag’s Ben Aldridge) returns to North Devon with his husband Jonathan (Declan Bennett) after the death of his father. He ends up investigating the murder of a villager with DS Jen Rafferty (Pearl Mackie). Before you draw comparisons with Broadchurch, know that the complicated childhood of Venn involves a deeply religious upbringing and the rejection of his family and community as a young man as a result of his homosexuality (Juliet Stevenson plays his mother who doesn’t exactly welcome him home). This series deserves to stand alone.
The Long Call premieres exclusively in Australia at 8.30pm, Thursday 3 February on SBS. Episodes stream at SBS On Demand weekly the same day they go to air.
We’re in London where Danish secret service agent Katrine Poulson (Victoria Carmen Sonne) and British spy Beatrice Ogilvy (Lydia Leonard) are thrown together in a race against time. As a terrorist plot against the British PM unfolds, Poulson and Ogilvy are tangled up in a web of lies, murder and power struggles; they can’t trust anyone, and they soon realise the deadly conspiracy could be part of a far-reaching geopolitical masterplan. This English-language political thriller also stars Game of Thrones’ Stephen Dillane and Homeland’s James D’Arcy.
Red Election season 1 is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Before We Die (UK)
The UK remake of the popular Swedish version (also streaming at SBS On Demand), this English-language series sees Detective Hannah Laing on a manhunt when her married lover and fellow cop Sean Hardacre goes missing. With the help of one of Sean’s sources, Laing and her partner begin investigating close-knit Croatian family, the Mimicas. The discovery of their plot to smuggle a huge quantity of cocaine into the country is muddied by Laing’s son Christian’s involvement as an informant. With its family relationships and liberal dose of jeopardy, this crime thriller is layered and enthralling.
Before We Die is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
This British drama from the 90s groups together five rookie lawyers in a share house, launching their careers while also enjoying their first taste of independence. Refreshingly, there is no moralising here. Drinking too much or having casual sex can happen without dire consequences. As one of its stars, Cyril Nri says, “it was real life. [I thought] ‘I have to be in this. I don’t care how. I just have to be in it.’” Creator Amy Jenkins, herself a former lawyer, vowed not to enter a courtroom, but focus on the conversations and relationships, and it’s all the better for it. The soundtrack kills, too.
Seasons 1 and 2 of This Life are now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Starring Cush Jumbo (The Good Fight) and David Tennant (Doctor Who, Broadchurch), this four-part crime drama is set in the fictional Scottish town of Kirkdarroch and follows two families in the aftermath of a horrific crime. One night the community is drawn to Tom’s home in the forest by the flicker of flames and the smell of smoke. Amid the confusion Tom’s wife Kate (Anne Madeley) and their three children are found dead while Tom is rushed to hospital. As the fingers of suspicion point first to Tom, then to others as more details of that night emerge, Jess (Jumbo) becomes desperate to understand what could have caused such a tragedy, and what secrets lie at the root of this terrible act…
Deadwater Fell is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
In this UK remake of Norwegian series Valkyrien Mark Strong plays Daniel Milton, a successful surgeon who, along with the young and lonely Lee (Daniel Mays), runs a top-secret clinic beneath London’s Temple tube station. There, he treats those who can’t or won’t seek legitimate healthcare: criminals, illegal immigrants, misfits; their clientele becomes increasingly unpredictable. Game of Thrones’ Carice Van Houten plays Anna, a medical researcher who’s unwittingly drawn into the business. In the vein of Mary Kills People and Trust Me, the ‘hugely rewarding’ Temple centres on the good doctor (and that bass-heavy voice of his) juggling the illegal operation and a fraught personal life.
Temple seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming at SBS On Demand.
The A Word
A is for autism in this UK drama series, at its heart, young Joe Hughes, played with aplomb by Max Vento. When Joe is diagnosed, his parents, Alison and Paul (Morven Christie and Lee Ingleby) are flooded with worries. As with most families, none of them knows how to talk about it or express their many feelings adequately, causing friction and adding to their stress. This smart contemporary drama is filled with ideas about parenthood, disability, community and communicating. It’s also audacious and funny, raw and loving.
The A Word complete seasons 1–3 are now streaming at SBS On Demand.
This seminal UK spy drama ran for 10 incredible seasons and introduced us to a slew of players who would become the who’s who of British actors. Set behind the scenes of the modern British Security Service (MI5), Spooks shows what it’s like to be a spy, through the eyes of the spies themselves, balancing personal life storylines with intense and sleek action. The series became known for its shock twists, cliffhanger endings and the feeling that no character is safe (long before Game of Thrones killed off a lead character early, Spooks had already done so and in a completely brutal way).
Jump back to 2002 when in season 1 a young Matthew Macfadyen was the chief of section D, a clandestine counter-terrorism division who work round the clock to safeguard the nation.
Spooks complete seasons 1–10 are now streaming at SBS On Demand.
This UK series is an epic re-imagining of one of literature’s greatest and most enduring heroes, Beowulf. Set in the mythical Shieldlands, a place of spectacle and danger populated by both humans and fantastical creatures, the story begins with Beowulf (Kieren Bew) returning to Herot, after many years wandering as a mercenary warrior, to pay his respects to ailing ward and Thane of Herot, Hrothgar (William Hurt), and to set right past wrongs.
When Herot is attacked by the terrifying monster Grendl, Beowulf has no choice but to hunt it down, winning favour with Herot’s new partner Thane Rheda (Joanne Whalley) and the wider community in the process. And so begins a personal journey that sees this mighty, capable and somewhat isolated man slowly reconnecting with his family and home. Essentially a Western set in Britain’s mythic past, the story unfolds on a huge canvas, filmed among the breathtaking beauty of England’s north east. Get ready for epic fights, thrilling chases, raids, celebrations and battles.
Beowulf is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Starring the one and only Olivia Colman and David Tennant as our lead investigators, Broadchurch is set in a small beachside town with wind and cliffs aplenty and a crime that will have you trying to guess who in the town is guilty. In season 1 when the body of 11-year-old Danny Latimer is found on the sand, DI Alec Hardy and DS Ellie Miller are called to investigate in a case that will change the small Dorset community forever. This slow-burn murder mystery will hook you in and the performances from the incredible cast will make you want to watch just one more episode (and then surprise, you’ve watched them all). This series was so popular it was remade in the US with Tennant reprising his role.
Broadchurch complete seasons 1–3 are now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Years and Years
This series from Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, Queer As Folk, It’s a Sin) shows how to survive against the backdrop of a frightening political world and the rise of extremism. Years and Years follows the Lyons, a busy Manchester family. Daniel’s getting married to Ralph. Stephen and Celeste worry about their kids. Rosie’s chasing a new fella. Edith hasn’t been home for years. All are presided over by Gran, the imperial Muriel. But when their lives all converge on one crucial night in 2019, the story accelerates into the future, following the lives and loves of the Lyons over the next 15 years. And what a world! Society gets hotter, faster, madder, with the turmoil of politics, technology and distant wars affecting the Lyons in their day-to-day lives. Set against this, the Lyons have to navigate their everyday hopes and fears, knowing that one ordinary family could never change the world. Or could they?
The Salisbury Poisonings
This incredible four-part series is based on the real-life 2018 assassination attempt on double agent and spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK. Soon after the attack, it was discovered that a lethal nerve agent called Novichok was used, just half a teaspoon of which could kill 20,000 people, sending the local community into turmoil. Local policeman Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall) and Head of Public Health Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff) worked exclusively with producers to capture the fear, uncertainty and immense heroism of the community who ultimately rose to the challenge of overcoming a lethal contagion. Very inspiring stuff, and maybe a little timely too.
The Salisbury Poisonings is now streaming at SBS On Demand.