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2012's cult TV shows


2012 is already shaping up to be a vintage year for telly addicts; with the long awaited fifth series of Mad Men airing in March (at last!) and lavish period dramas aplenty, there's a lot to look forward to. So you can appear in-the-know even if you haven't yet watched any of the cult shows of 2012, we've put together a cheat sheet for you.

Words: Sharon Forrester, pictures: Rex Features and Getty Images


If the end of The Killing has left you bereft or you’re sick of whiling away Saturday nights watching back-to-back repeats of CSI, new Danish drama Borgen could be just what you’re looking for. Following hard on the heels of the BBC’s previous Scandinavian hits Wallander and The Killing, Borgen is a fast-paced political thriller – the Danish West Wing if you will - centring around 40-year-old female politician Birgitte Nyborg (played by Sidse Babett Knudsen), a political underdog who is unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight of power after being voted in as the new prime minister.

Guided by an angel on one shoulder, political adviser and wise old sage Bent Sejrø, and the devilishly handsome spin doctor Kasper Juul on the other, Birgitte must navigate the choppy shark-infested waters of parliament while also trying to maintain control of her home life; at one point she tries to introduce a sex schedule with her husband (we’d be drawing one up too if we were married to the ruggedly sexy Mikael Birkkjær. Yes Killing fans – Detective Strange is back!) to help their marriage stay on track despite her new role.

What’s so brilliant about Borgen is that, while we may not be looking to become the next Thatcher, you can relate to Birgitte’s political and personal problems – from dealing with power struggles and finding the confidence to be a woman in charge, to being p*ssed off that nothing fits anymore because she's put on a couple of pounds (her first rule in office is to ban Danish pastries!). Full of tense plot twists, intrigue, scandal and humour, Borgen even manages to throw in a dead body for those grisly Killing and CSI fans among you.

Borgen is on BBC4 Saturdays at 9pm or catch up on all episodes now on BBC iPlayer. We also have three Borgen DVD box sets to give away - enter our competition now!

Parade’s End

Set between the twilight of the Edwardian era and the end of WWI, five-part drama Parade’s End thrusts viewers into a claustrophobic love triangle between English aristocrat Christopher Tietjens played by Benedict Cumberbatch, his beautiful but cruel wife Sylvia (played by Rebecca Hall) and Valentine Wannop (actress Adelaide Clemens), a young suffragette who he falls madly in love with. Adapted by playwright Sir Tom Stoppard from a quartet of stories by Ford Maddox Ford, Parade’s End is a thoroughly English affair that looks set to be this year’s Downton. Out later this year on the BBC.

Mad Men, Season 5

The highly-anticipated fifth season of Mad Men returns to Sky Atlantic this March. Fans are in for a treat as, to make up for the programme’s long absence, the first episode will be two hours long and directed by Don Draper himself, well, actor Jon Hamm. Season 4 saw new divorcee Don pass over the super-smart psychologist Faye (surely his equal in so many ways?!) for his sweet twenty-something secretary Megan; Peggy nearly have a happy ending (kind of), Don’s ex-wife Betty remarried yet still unhappy, and secretary Joan about to pull off one of the biggest scheduling errors of her life – passing off her boss’s baby as her husband’s. We can’t wait! Out in March on Sky Atlantic.


From the makers of 24 and starring Claire Danes and Brit actor Damian Lewis, this compelling new US thriller is getting rave reviews across the pond. Lewis plays an American soldier who is miraculously rescued after being left for dead for years in Iraq. While he receives a hero’s welcome on his return home, CIA officer Carrie Anderson (played by Danes, who won a Golden Globe for her performance) becomes convinced that his rescue was actually a setup connected to an Al-Qaeda plot - but she’s slightly unhinged, which kind of makes it hard for her to be believed... Truth or conspiracy theory? Expect this to be edge-of-your-seat telly. Out later this month on Channel 4.

White Heat

Written by award-winning writer Paula Milne (also of Small Island fame), six-part drama White Heat tracks the lives, loves and subsequent betrayals of a group of seven characters who forged their relationships in the swinging Sixties and whose lives continue to intertwine to the present day. Set against a backdrop which takes viewers from Wilson to Thatcher, feminism to the Falklands, hedonism to HIV, and with a cast including Pirates of the Caribbean star Sam Clafin and Upstairs Downstairs' Claire Foy – White Heat is shaping up to be one hot show. Out later this year on BBC2.



Cult books of 2012