Nine of the best TV shows to watch this April

(Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

Actor Ella Purnell in new Amazon Prime Video series Fallout

From hotly-anticipated videogame adaptation Fallout to a new take on The Talented Mr Ripley and major series starring Oscar-winner Robert Downey Jr and nominee Lily Gladstone

(Credit: Netflix)

(Credit: Netflix)

1. Ripley

It might be hard to top the 1999 film The Talented Mr Ripley, with Matt Damon as the con man and social climber Tom Ripley, hired by the father of the idly rich Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) to convince his expat son to come home to New York. But if anyone can reinvent Ripley it’s the great Andrew Scott (All of Us Strangers), who stars in this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s suspense novel. Johnny Flynn plays Dickie, and Dakota Fanning is his friend Marge Sherwood in the show, which is set in 1960s Italy and has an even darker tone than the film. “Words like sociopath, psychopath or pseudo-sexual killer, all those things are just unhelpful to me,” Scott told Vanity Fair about playing Tom. “Even though he’s not necessarily always a reliable hero, he’s certainly the hero of the story.” Written and directed by Steve Zaillian (The Night Of), the series also sets itself apart by being stylishly made in black and white.

Ripley premieres 4 April on Netflix internationally

(Credit: Apple TV+)

(Credit: Apple TV+)

2. Sugar

Colin Farrell seems so at ease playing a noir-style detective that it’s amazing it took this long. Farrell plays John Sugar, a private investigator living in Los Angeles today, in a series that borrows the tropes of classic 1930s noirs. In true old-Hollywood style, Sugar is a tough guy with a soft heart, who in this contemporary version has had an emotional trauma that still haunts him. When Sugar is hired to locate the missing granddaughter (Sydney Chandler) of a powerful Hollywood executive (James Cromwell), the kind of man who never takes no for an answer, dark family secrets start spilling out. Amy Ryan is the woman – in the old noirs she’d be called a dame – Sugar becomes involved with. The Daily Beast describes the show as “Raymond Chandler in a post-Harvey Weinstein world of casting couch abuses and sexual blackmail”. Fernando Meirelles, who made his reputation with the gritty City of God, directs five of the eight episodes.

Sugar premieres 5 April on Apple TV internationally

(Credit: BBC)

(Credit: BBC)

3. Dinosaur

Two Brothers Pictures has produced some of the most memorable series in recent years, including Fleabag and The Tourist, which is a good sign for their latest. Dinosaur, a comic drama set in Glasgow, follows Nina (Ashley Storrie), a woman with autism who has been living with her sister, Evie (Kat Ronney), until Evie impulsively decides to marry a man she hardly knows. Nina deals with a possible new romance, a career as a palaeontologist (hence, the title) and maid-of-honour duties for the wedding. Storrie, a stand-up comedian who also co-created the show, has autism herself. “Playing Nina was probably the most liberating thing that has ever happened in my entire life,” she told Glasgow’s Sunday Post. She added, “Dinosaur wasn’t written for a Scottish voice, but they [the producers] were open to making it not necessarily a Scottish story but a story that is Scottish because it’s mine.”

Dinosaur premieres 5 April on Hulu in the US and in April on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer in the UK

(Credit: ITV)

(Credit: ITV)

4. Mr Bates vs the Post Office

When this fact-based drama was shown in the UK in January, it galvanised the British public and led the government to introduce a new law. Now arriving in the US, it is completely accessible and self-explanatory to viewers unfamiliar with the harrowing real-life events known as the Horizon IT scandal. Toby Jones plays Alan Bates, one of 700 postal workers wrongly accused of theft and false accounting in 1999, many of them convicted and sent to prison for what turned out to be a computer software error. The series follows Bates as he organises others who have been falsely accused, including Jo Hamilton (Monica Dolan), who is caught in a Kafkaesque nightmare. The more she tries to prove her innocence, the worse her legal case seems to be. The newly proposed law to clear the names of the postal workers is pending and many are still awaiting financial compensation. It’s a drama likely to send a chill through anyone who has ever been caught in computer hell.

Mr Bates vs the Post Office premieres 7 April on PBS in the US

(Credit: Apple TV+)

(Credit: Apple TV+)

5. Franklin

In the annals of strange casting, Michael Douglas as Benjamin Franklin has to be one of the oddest. Yet here is the star known for Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct playing the most colourful of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin flew kites to experiment with electricity and coined aphorisms right and left (“Haste makes waste”). But this historical drama follows Franklin the diplomat during his years in France trying to persuade the French to support the American Revolution. “Diplomacy must never be a siege but a seduction,” he says in the series trailer. Now that sounds like the old Michael Douglas. The show was filmed partly at Versailles, so it looks sumptuous. And it has serious underpinnings. It is based on the respected historical biographer Stacey Schiff’s book The Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America. Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) plays Franklin’s grandson, Temple. And, in a bit of casting as unlikely as Douglas’, Eddie Marsan is John Adams.

Franklin premieres 12 April on Apple TV+ internationally

(Credit: Amazon)

(Credit: Amazon)

6. Fallout

Adapted from the hugely successful video game franchise, set in a far-off post-apocalyptic future nostalgic for the mid-20th Century, this series seems like a perfect fit for Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, who created so many alternate realities in Westworld. They developed the series and Nolan directed the first three episodes, set in a Los Angeles where people survive in underground bunkers called Vaults. The story is original, but reflects the game’s landscape and outlandish characters. Ella Purnell (Yellowjackets) stars as Lucy, who grew up underground, with Kyle MacLachlan as her father, a Vault Overseer, and Walter Goggins as The Ghoul, a disfigured bounty hunter. There are robots, gunslingers, giant mutant creatures and who knows what other post-nuclear disasters. Like another post-apocalyptic show, The Last of Us, Fallout has smart, thoughtful creators. Nolan has said he wanted to avoid good guys and bad guys here. “Whoever the good guys and the bad guys were, they destroyed the whole world. So now we’re in a much more grey area.

Fallout premieres 12 April on Amazon Prime internationally

(Credit: HBO)

(Credit: HBO)

7. The Sympathizer

This ambitious series based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has a lot to balance, including a tricky tone. HBO’s own description calls it “an espionage thriller and cross-cultural satire” that takes place after the Vietnam War years. At its centre is a man called the Captain (Hoa Xuande) a North Vietnamese double agent operating in Vietnam and the US. Robert Downey Jr plays four different roles, all of them reflecting some aspect of US power. The series has two showrunners, the inventive Canadian director Don McKellar and the great Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), who directed three of the seven episodes. “Americans may not know well, but the fact that South Korea participated in the Vietnam War is a very significant event for Koreans,” Park told CNN about the series. “This didn’t feel like someone else’s story to me.”

The Sympathizer premieres 14 April on HBO and Max the US and in May on Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK

(Credit: Hulu)

(Credit: Hulu)

8. Under the Bridge

It’s easy to find series based on true crimes stories, but this one is elevated by its two stars. Recent Oscar nominee Lily Gladstone follows up Killers of the Flower Moon with her role as Cam, a police officer investigating the murder of Reena (Vritika Gupta) a teenage girl in a small town in British Columbia. Gladstone brings a fierce energy and conviction to the role. Riley Keough plays Rebecca, a writer who returns to that town after a decade and is drawn into reporting the story of Reena’s life and death, and the gang of other girls accused of attacking her. Cam and Rebecca’s fraught past together plays out here as much as the killing does. The series, set in 1997, is based on Rebecca Godfrey’s non-fiction book about the murder. Quinn Shephard, the series’ creator, told EW about an important way that the book inspired her approach to the show. “I felt like it offered a lot of space to tell a story both about Reena, but also about childhood and the stories of the other teenagers,” she said.

Under the Bridge premieres 17 April on Hulu

(Credit: Hulu)

(Credit: Hulu)

9. The Veil

Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) is in danger again, this time with a British accent, as a brilliant but erratic MI6 agent in the latest series written by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders). The thriller has Moss’ character, Imogen, on the road from Istanbul to Paris and London travelling with the target of her mission, a woman named Adilah (Yumna Marwan), a refugee whose secrets Imogen has to discover. A cat and mouse game between them intensifies as they try to separate truth from lies and prevent a catastrophic attack in the US. Josh Charles plays a CIA officer overseeing the mission. It seems that Knight, now working on a Peaky Blinders movie, never slows down, and never fails to create something dark and twisty.

The Veil premieres 30 April on Hulu

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