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From epic costume dramas to real-life crime, the new TV you have to watch in early 2016

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Moya Crockett
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The weather outside might be frightful, but there's loads of great telly to get you through the dark first months of the year. From epic costume dramas to hilarious documentaries and real-life crime thrillers, here's our pick of the best upcoming TV shows.

War and Peace

The name of Tolstoy’s seminal work has become shorthand for “huge novel I’ll never get around to reading” – but thanks to this lavish new costume drama, you don’t have to. Lily James dazzles as Natasha Rostova (the role played by Audrey Hepburn in the 1956 film version), alongside the always-excellent Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, 12 Years a Slave) as the endearingly awkward Pierre Bezukhov. The plot is complex - but expect sex, angst, cannon-fire, beautiful costumes, and a surprising amount of upper-crust English for 18th century Russia. Catch up on the first episode on iPlayer now, then cancel all your Sunday evening plans for the next six weeks.

Sundays, 9pm, BBC One

 

Crashing

This anarchic new six-part comedy crashes into the lives and loves of six twenty-to-thirty-something adults, living together as Property Guardians in a disused hospital. It's about "that time in your life when the reality of being an adult kicks you hard in the crotch" - when you realise you've somehow, through no fault of your own, become a grown up. 

Starting January 11, 10pm, Channel 4

Chelsea Does

It’s fair to say that without Chelsea Handler, there would be no Amy Schumer. Blonde, deadpan and unabashedly crude, Handler began starring on her own talk show and comedy series on E! back in 2006. Her new series comprises four documentaries on big subjects: Chelsea Does Marriage, Chelsea Does Racism, Chelsea Does Silicon Valley, and Chelsea Does Drugs. Handler isn’t always a likable host, exactly – she’s habitually provocative, and often offensive – but these are funny and surprisingly thought-provoking films. 

Starting January 23, Netflix

The X-Files

It's been a long time coming - 13 years, to be exact. But David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will soon reprise their iconic roles as Mulder and Scully, as The X-Files returns to our screens. Little is known about the plot of the new series, beyond that a coterie of FBI agents/alien hunters have a new intergalactic conspiracy to solve. But Dana Scully's tough-talking scepticism, intelligence and fierce independence won over a generation of young feminists in the 1990s, so we can't wait to see what she does next. 

Starting early February, Channel 5

Fresh Meat                                                                                          

Fresh Meat

The Fresh Meat gang are back for a last hoorah

Few people can drag out student life for more than four years – so it makes sense that Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong’s wry uni dramedy will end at the end of this, its fourth and final season. We rejoin them in Manchester at the beginning of their final year of university, as real life winks tantalisingly – and terrifyingly – on the horizon. JP (Jack Whitehall) is being pressured to join the family firm; Vod (Zawe Ashton) wrestles with a debt that could sink a small Euro state, while Oregon (Charlotte Ritchie) starts planning her legacy as the Student Union President. It’s as funny, silly and bittersweet as ever. 

Starting February, Channel 4

Vinyl

It’s New York in the 1970s. Punk and disco are battling it out in the clubs, drug dealers are waging war on the streets, and record exec Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) is trying to find the hot new sound to save his floundering label. With executive producers including Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, and co-starring Olivia Wilde, Juno Temple and James Jagger, this gritty, sexy 10-part drama looks set to be a serious hit.

Starting February 15, 9pm, Sky Atlantic

American Crime Story

FX’s new crime anthology series, following one true crime story with every season, kicks off with an explosive retelling of the notorious O. J. Simpson trial. In 1995, the former NFL star was acquitted of two counts of murder for the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and friend Ronald Goodman. Early reviews from the States have been glowing, and the cast is stellar: Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Simpson, with John Travolta and David Schwimmer as his lawyers Robert Shapiro and Robert Kardashian (yes, Kim and co.’s dad). In a spot-on bit of casting, Selma Blair even makes an appearance as a young Kris Jenner. A must-watch.

Starting February 2, FX

Alan Partridge's Mid-Morning Matters

Alan Partridge

Everyone’s favourite disc jockey, is back in the second series of Mid-Morning Matters. Steve Coogan reprises his iconic role in this laugh-til-you-cry mockumentary comedy, which follows Alan Partridge behind the scenes at his titular radio show. Alan was left disappointed at the end of the last series when his workplace crush, Zoe, quit North Norfolk Digital to go travelling - but whatever he gets up to in series two, it's guaranteed to be mortifying. We can't wait. 

Starting mid-February, Sky Atlantic

Happy Valley

Happy Valley

It’s back to West Yorkshire’s Calder Valley for more of the award-winning crime drama. As ever, no-nonsense police sergeant Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) has her hands full: there’s a troubled new detective on the block, last season’s murderer has a mysterious female admirer, and to top it all, there’s a new serial killer on the loose. The first series of Happy Valley was an unexpected smash hit, winning over 30 awards – including the Best Drama Series at the 2015 BAFTAs. Fingers crossed for a gripping second series.

Starting early Spring, BBC One 

House of Cards

The fourth season of the Emmy award-winning political drama returns to Netflix in March. The trailer for the new series - designed to look like a presidential campaign advert - confirms what we all knew was coming. Flinty-eyed Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is running for the White House in 2016, and he looks as ruthless as ever. Frank separated from his equally Machiavellian wife, Claire (Robin Penn), at the end of the last season, but whether the American public will accept a single president remains to be seen.

Starting March 4, Netflix

The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses

The first cycle of The Hollow Crown, which aired in 2012, encompassed four Shakespeare plays and won critical and popular acclaim, as well as a BAFTA for Ben Whishaw in his role as Richard II. This new cycle of films tells the story of Britain's last major civil war, and stars some of the UK's greatest actors, from Benedict Cumberbatch to Judi Dench. Directed by Dominic Cooke, the former artistic director of the Royal Court theatre, it promises to be a weighty affair.

Starting later in 2016, BBC Two

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, podcasts and politics. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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