Best new TV dramas in 2021 including Killing Eve, Marcella and Line of Duty

After a year that felt like the plot of a dystopian thriller, we turned to telly as our saviour.

We goggled at Tiger King, gawped at the sex scenes in Normal People, shouted at Quiz and argued conspiracy theories in The Undoing.

Whatever we’ve been watching, escapism has been the order of the day.

Drawing a line under 2020, it’s time to look ahead to months of exciting telly.

Hit shows are returning, including the BBC’s Line Of Duty, and Killing Eve, as well as ITV’s Unforgotten, The Bay and Marcella, and C4’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

It’s A Sin, C4, late Jan
Doctor Who’s Russell T Davies penned this 1980s AIDS crisis drama, with an all-star cast including Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry, Shaun Dooley, Tracy Ann Oberman and Neil Patrick Harris.

The five-part series follows the lives of a group of 18-year-old gay men, Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin, who leave home and move into a London flat.

It explores how their dreams evolve in the shadow of HIV.

Bloodlands, BBC1, late Feb/early March

James Nesbitt plays moody detective Tom Brannick in this thrilling original crime drama.

When a car containing a possible suicide note is pulled out of Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough, Brannick quickly connects it to an infamous cold case with huge personal significance.

Produced by Jed Mercurio, the brains behind Line of Duty and Bodyguard, expect edge-of-seat suspense.

The Pursuit Of Love, BBC1, summer

Married actor Dominic West spotted kissing Lily James

Adapted from Nancy Mitford’s inter-war years novel, it follows leading lady Linda’s (James) hunt for a husband.

It’s narrated by Linda’s cousin Fanny, played by Emily Beecham, and also stars Fleabag’s Andrew Scott.

The Pembrokeshire Murders, ITV, Jan

Feeding our appetite for true crime drama, this grisly series is based on Welsh serial killer John Cooper.

Film star and singer Luke Evans plays detective Steve Wilkins, while Keith Allen plays Cooper, convicted of two double murders in 1985 and 1989.

Luke says: “The series is not just about the crimes, it’s about the people that find this man and the unbelievable twists, which are just mind boggling.”

Vigil, BBC1, spring

A Scottish fishing trawler has mysteriously disappeared. There’s been a death on board a Trident nuclear submarine. And the whole sorry affair means the police are at loggerheads with the Navy and British security services.

This has a top-class cast, including Suranne Jones as DCI Amy Silva, leading an investigation on land and at sea into a massive nuclear conspiracy. Watch out also for Martin Compston, Rose Leslie, Shaun Evans and Anjli Mohindra.

Ridley Road, BBC1, autumn

Based on Jo Bloom’s novel, newcomer Aggi O’Casey plays young Jewish woman Vivien Epstein who goes undercover within a facist organisation in the sixties.

Set in an East End London, this nail-biter, also features Tamzin Outhwaite.

Landscapers, Sky Atlantic, late 2021

Olivia Colman stars in this darkly comic thriller inspired by the real Mansfield murders.

The Oscar-winner plays mild-mannered Susan, who along with her husband, Christopher, killed her parents and buried them in their back garden in 1998. It is partly based on interviews with the killers, who still protest their innocence.

The Great, C4, Jan 3
Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult play Catherine the Great and Emperor Peter in this lavish comedy drama.

The satire follows the rise of Catherine from outsider to longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history.

She arrives in Russia for an arranged marriage to the temperamental Peter, but it’s not what she’d hoped. Catherine resolves to kill Peter, beat the church and baffle the military. What could be simpler?

Devils, Sky Atlantic, Feb

McDreamy fans rejoice – Patrick Dempsey is back on screen as a CEO in this big-business thriller.

Alessandro Borghi plays Massimo Ruggeri, head of trading at one of the world’s biggest investment banks.

But a scandal involving his wife sees his mentor Dominic Morgan (Dempsey) withdrawing his support.

Expect, death, politics, mind games, sharp suits and lots of cash.

The Drowning, C5, winter
How far would you go to find your missing child? It’s the question that looms over this psychological drama. Jill Halfpenny plays Jodie, whose son vanished eight years ago.

Jodie has been trying to rebuild her life, but when she catches sight of teen Daniel (Cody Molko), she’s convinced it’s her son and it sends her on a dangerous path to the edge of reason.

Too Close, ITV, spring
Award-winners Emily Watson and Denise Gough take the lead in this psychological mini-series set to get the nation talking.

The twisted tale follows the relationship between forensic psychiatrist Dr Emma Robertson (Watson) who is assigned to work with Connie Mortensen (Gough), a woman accused of a terrible crime who claims she remembers nothing. The expert and her high-security patient become too close, their sessions complex mind games. But is Connie a killer?

Time, BBC1, autumn

This prison thriller from Jimmy McGovern should deliver his usual gritty, visceral drama.

Sean Bean and Stephen Graham lead the three-parter, looking at guilt forgiveness, and punishment through the eyes of two very different men.

Bean plays a teacher who killed a man by accident, while Stephen plays a prison officer – but quite frankly, we’d watch these two doing nothing.

Finding Alice, ITV, Jan

Where would British drama be without a turn from Keeley Hawes?

She plays a woman who discovers a heap of secrets about her husband after he dies falling down the stairs.

In glorious casting, Alice’s parents are played by Joanna Lumley and Nigel Havers, and her in-laws by Gemma Jones and Kenneth Cranham.

Viewpoint, ITV, spring

Friendship, trust and community are the focus this curtain-twitching thriller about police surveillance.

Noel Clarke plays DC Martin King, who sets up an observation post in the home of secret voyeur Zoe (Alexandra Roach), opposite the house of a missing teacher and her boyfriend.

Grace, ITV, spring

Life On Mars star John Simm headlines this detective drama, adapted from Peter James’ Roy Grace novels.

In this two-parter, Simm plays troubled, unorthodox Brighton detective Roy who is fixated on the disappearance of his wife, Sandy