We’re only three months into 2017 but we’ve already witnessed some sensational drama on TV, setting the standard for the rest of the year. We’ve seen the comeback of Broadchurch, we’ve had Line of Duty reporting for another series on BBC, and The Voice launching its ambitious bid to take over as the most entertaining music show on ITV. We’ve even had controversial drama The Moorside, focusing on the 2008 disappearance of Shannon Matthews in Yorkshire and the subsequent big-money search for her by police, instigating debate after appearing on BBC.
With all of that under our belts, the best news is, is that some of the most exciting TV spectacles of 2017 are still yet to come.
Here are six TV events to mark down in your diary so that you have absolutely no excuse to miss a second of action over the next few months.
Saturday 8th April: ITV Gear up for 2017 Grand National
First broadcast on TV way back in 1960, the Grand National is an event not only watched by a roaring crowd at the racecourse at Aintree, but also on TV by an estimated 500 to 600 million people in over 140 countries. In the UK, ITV have the live coverage rights this year, so make sure you stock up on some snacks to ease you through the inevitable ad breaks.
ITV’s coverage will be fronted by Ed Chamberlin, who football fans may remember as the host of Sky Sports football coverage, including Super Sunday and Monday Night Football. After 16 years at Sky, Ed left the broadcasting giant earlier this year to cover racing on ITV, so the pressure is on to see if the presenter, himself a huge racing fan and a personal friend of retired legendary jockey Tony McCoy, can cope with a switch in sporting focus.
The big race goes off at 5.15pm on April 8th, so you’ll have plenty of time on the day to get your bets lined up (if you haven’t already). Traditionally the subject of competitive sweepstakes up and down the country between families, groups of friends, and offices, the Grand National is unique in its ability to attract betting interest from those who don’t normally get involved in placing bets.
Current odds show Vieux Lion Rouge to be the current favourite for the race, with odds of 10/1 at the time of writing. Vieux Lion Rouge has already proved his quality by winning the Becher Chase and the Grand National Trial, so a Grand National win would be the natural progression for him in April, but Definitly Red (14/1) and Blaklion (14/1) are breathing fiercely down his neck in the Grand National winner market.
Noel Fehily will be riding Blaklion after Sam Twiston-Davies chose to ride Gold Cup contender Saphir Du Rheu for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, and there’s plenty to suggest that Fehily might be the man to watch on April 8th after his performance at Cheltenham earlier this month. The jockey claimed the Champion Hurdle on Buveur D’Air and the Champion Chase on Special Tiara, and has been quoted as being happy with the progression of Blaklion ahead of April’s race.
The favourites for glory aside, if picking a winning horse based purely on name is more your strategy for the Grand National, then fear not: 2017’s race brings us some outstanding options! We’ve got Waldorf Salad on the one hand (perhaps one for Fawlty Towers fans), and the sublimely named Lamb or Cod on the other, both big outsiders for the race but likely to appeal to punters based on name alone.
Wednesday 29th March: Masterchef Returns to Tempt our Taste Buds
Speaking of Waldorf Salad and Lamb or Cod, if you like watching people eat food on TV, then you might be able to join in with Gregg Wallace as he shouts his trademark: “I like it” to anyone who cares to listen when Masterchef returns to our screens this week for a brand new series. Gregg Wallace is a huge part of the show, with his repertoire of facial expressions winning new fans every year and to best prepare for the return of the show and the man himself, check out Morgana Robinson’s hilarious impressions of him on YouTube – trust us, you won’t regret it!
Wallace’s injection of light-hearted comedy has helped to elevate the show from a simple cooking programme to a cult TV hit in the UK, but away from the comedic aspects of the show, John Torode is the judge with the knowledge, his attitude balancing the presenting double act nicely and introducing an element of seriousness to the competition.
— MasterChef UK 🍴 (@MasterChefUK) 27 March 2017
This year, the contestants will be truly thrown in at the deep end by having to cook John and Gregg a dish in an hour and 20 minutes using market ingredients, such as chicken and mussels, before then facing last year’s finalists in the early stages of the competition. This structure should help to keep the series fresh, moving the contestants away from some of the more niche cuisine of recent years and instead allowing the focus to fall on a broader range of cooking talents. The show will need this freshen-up after a relatively disappointing year which saw viewing figures for the final drop significantly from those from 2015’s final.
Friday 31st March: An Epic Day on Netflix
Away from ITV and BBC, if you don’t have Netflix, you might be finding yourself left out more and more of office conversations. After all, what else is there to talk about when the new season of House of Cards lands on Netflix?! Before you ask, we are due another season this year, but the date is TBC. Oh, and don’t even get us started on the outstanding Stranger Things, the hotly anticipated second season of which is due to hit Netflix later this year sometime in the autumn.
If you needed any more convincing to bite the bullet and sign up, especially if you’re not overly keen on the range of American-based shows on Netflix, then this coming Friday might
just persuade you. The next few weeks are especially rich in terms of the choice of new shows to watch (a full listing of what to look out for can be found here), but this Friday brings us the decadent War & Peace, the familiar comforts of Last Tango in Halifax, and series five of the strangely addictive BBC hit Call the Midwife.
I rewatched BBC’s amazing War and Peace last month. It’s sooooo good pic.twitter.com/0JQEohkM66
— Sheriff David A Fart (@sillydingdong) 19 February 2017
It’s a tough contest but War & Peace is probably the pick of these, especially if you have a squeamish other half put off slightly by the thought of Call the Midwife! This Andrew Davies adaptation of the original book, focusing on the fate of five aristocrat families as the era of Russian imperialism ends, has received an impressive Rotten Tomatoes rating of 83%. Some of the battle scenes are truly stunning from a visual point of view, as is the general level of acting across the board.
Monday 1st May: Neil Gaiman’s American Gods Hits Amazon Prime
Neil Gaiman has in the past had several books adapted for the screen, with Likely Stories broadcast in 2016 on Sky Arts, but this new series is causing huge excitement amongst those who enjoy watching action unfold in an alternative universe and witnessing a tense battle of old versus new. The plot is based on the premise that the “old” gods aren’t particularly happy that people in the modern age are spending more and more time worshipping the new “gods” of media.
The battle that takes centre stage in this show reflects some of the debate about how big a role technology plays in our modern lives. As is the case in our reality, modern technology continues to advance, leaving the old gods in a position where they need to confront these mod cons before they are defeated. This leads the god character of Odin to travel around the USA to unite the other gods for battle.
Gillian Anderson and Ian McShane in particular are receiving plaudits for their performances in American Gods, and reviews in general have been hugely positive, so make sure you keep this particular Monday in May free. Better still, if you do splash out £79 for Amazon Prime for a year, you can catch up on another cult classic, The Man in The High Castle, and be done with both series before American Gods has even started.
Wednesday 29th March: Harlots Arrives on ITV
We may know her best for her role in Downton Abbey as Lady Sybil Crawley, but Jessica Brown Findlay is returning to our TV screens this spring in a very different role, thanks to new ITV drama Harlots. The actress has praised the show for bringing a unique and very different approach to the family period drama, and it is certainly fascinating to see how working women in the 18th century had the ear of the rich and powerful.
The producers and those associated with the show have been quick to point out that this new show isn’t all about nudity and instead focuses on the development of the characters involved, perhaps partly as a backlash against shows like Game of Thrones, where female characters are often portrayed in a fairly scantily clad state for no apparent reason. In fact, any nudity in Harlots is more likely to be male nudity than female, with co-creator Moira Buffini desperate to ensure the show is not just seen as one that is on TV to provide titillation for its viewers.
Whatever the success (or failure) of the show in the eyes of the critics this spring, this is certainly going to be one that generates headlines in the press, so make sure you add it to your viewing schedule sooner rather than later.
Thursday 6th April: The Masters Brings Golf Back into the Spotlight
Golf didn’t consistently draw positive attention in 2016, with the failure of the sport’s top players to embrace the Rio 2016 Olympic Games leaving a sour taste in many people’s mouths, especially since so many sports fight tooth and nail for the platform that the Olympics provides. All of this will be forgiven, though, if this year’s Masters event in Augusta turns out to be a classic.
The action tees off on April 6th, with interest in the UK and Ireland heavily invested in Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, as well as Danny Willett. The latter will be battling to retain his 2016 title, the green jacket holder desperate to create some real history by again out-muscling and out-thinking his competitors.
The focus of the Masters is always on the trials and tribulations of the players, and the agony and ecstasy that the course brings. It also helps that the Masters takes place on arguably the most stunning golf course in the world, so some of the pleasure in watching this tournament lies in simply observing the sheer natural beauty of the environment on our screens as the players trudge their way around hoping not to be defeated by its tricky nature.
— England Golf Ben (@bljgolf) 27 March 2017
The other draw this year could well come in the form of Tiger Woods, who has the automatic right to play here due to his previous tournament win. If Tiger competes and can harness just
some of the incredible talent he has, we might yet talk about the 2017 Masters as one of the biggest sporting events in recent years. Live TV coverage will only be on Sky, so you will either need to grab yourself a subscription or accept that the closest you are going to get to live coverage is watching the regular highlights on the BBC, who have recently extended their deal to show them.
So there you have it: six excuses from the world of food, sport, drama, and fantasy to stay glued to the screen this spring. Do you have any other viewing priorities across Netflix, BBC, ITV, or Amazon Prime this March and April? Let us know if so!