TV to watch in 2022: The Lord of the Rings, Conversations with Friends and more

Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, and Vikings fans will be in Valhalla

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts
Available on Sky Max and NOW
The cast of Friends did the big reunion show and it was a huge success, so why not the cast of the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone? This HBO special sees Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint return to their magical alma mater, along with the film's director Chris Columbus, to celebrate 20 years since the movie series based on the JK Rowling novels began. Along the way, cast members from all eight Harry Potter movies will make appearances, including Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Ian Hart, Mark Williams and Evanna Lynch.

Four Lives
January 3rd, 4th, 5th, BBC One, 9pm
This three-part true-life drama promises to be a harrowing watch, telling the story behind the murders of four young men in Essex in the UK between 2014 and 2015. Stephen Merchant, normally known for comedic roles, plays the serial killer Stephen Port, who drugged, raped and murdered his four victims after luring them to his house via a gay dating app. Sheridan Smith plays Sarah Sak, the mother of Port's first victim, Anthony Walgate, who worked tirelessly to uncover the truth about what happened to her son, despite a botched police investigation that painted the young men as drug addicts who had overdosed.

Toast of Tinseltown
January 4th, BBC Two, 10pm
Matt Berry is back as pompous thespian Steven Toast, in this follow-up to the Bafta-winning Toast of London. Fed up with his vast talent going unrecognised in London, Toast has decamped to Hollywood, convinced that he will finally be discovered. He'll meet some new people in Tinseltown, including anger management guru Des Wigwam (Kayvan Novak) and Russ Nightlife (Fred Armisen), but some of the old gang will be back, including his nemesis Ray Purchase (Harry Peacock), his landlord Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathurst) and hipster sound engineer Danny Bear (Tim Downie). But will we ever hear Clem Fandango (Shazad Latif) again? We should be told.

After Life
January14th, Netflix
Ricky Gervais returns as widowed Tony in the third and final series of this comedy drama, written and directed by Gervais. Tony, a writer for a local paper in the town of Tambury, is consumed with grief after his beloved wife dies of cancer. He's got nothing to live for, so he's decided to take it out on the whole world. As Tony goes through the various stages of grief, however, he gets past angry and vengeful and starts to suspect that his "superpower" of not caring what happens to him or anyone else might actually be working against him and prolonging his suffering. He realises that the only way to find a reason to live is to try to make other people's lives better. Ricky Gervais being nice? This I'll have to see.


Too Hot to Handle
January 19th, Netflix
The third series of the dating show sees a bunch of buff, tanned 20-somethings thrown together in a luxury resort – it's a recipe for serious rumpy-pumpy. But this is not Love Island; contestants on Too Hot to Handle have to keep their hands to themselves or leave empty-handed. That's right, they have to stay celibate for the duration of their stay if they want to win the grand prize. Can these lads and lasses keep their Speedos on for the entire stay, and will they find other, less physical ways of connecting with their companions?

As We See It
January 21st, Amazon
Jack, Violet and Harrison are 20-something room-mates just trying to get along in life. So far so Friends, but this trio are on the autism spectrum, and sometimes they find life a little bewildering. It's a social experiment of sorts – their aide, Mandy, is hoping that by sharing an apartment, the three will learn to find their feet in a headwrecking world. Jack (Rick Glassman) has a problem holding down a job, and relies on his dad (Joe Mantegna) for money, but when Dad reveals he's got cancer, Jack has to reassess his lack of career options. Violet (Sue Ann Peng) wants a boyfriend because that's what "normal" girls have, but she tends to scare them off with her lack of filter. And Harrison (Albert Rutecki) has found his own way to navigate the world: just stay at home. And no, they're not doing a Dustin Hoffman in Rainman; the three leads all identify as being on the spectrum, so they have an idea how to pitch it.

Dancing with the Stars
January, RTÉ One
The dancefloor was sadly empty last year due to Covid, but this year the tumbleweed is being swept aside as a new bunch of celebs get ready to strut their stuff in the hugely popular contest. RTÉ has been releasing the line-up in dribs and drabs just to keep us all on our toes, but the famous people taking part so far include broadcasters Gráinne Seoige and Aengus Mac Grianna, comedian Neil Delamere, cyclist Nicolas Roche, singer-songwriter Erica Cody, Paralympic swimmer Ellen Keane, model Missy Keating, author Cathy Kelly, retired jockey Nina Carberry and Aslan guitarist Billy McGuinness. They'll be paired with professional dancers, but who will turn out to be the dark horse? Jennifer Zamparelli and Nicky Byrne return as presenters, with judges Lorraine Barry and Brian Redmond joined by a new judge, dancer and choreographer Arthur Gourounlian.

Vikings prides itself on historical accuracy, but really, we're just here for the bloody battles and power plays

February 4th, Amazon Prime
Tom Cruise has made the Mission: Impossible film franchise his own – you couldn't imagine anyone else in the role of Ethan Hunt. But he's found it more difficult to fit into the imposing frame of maverick crimefighter Jack Reacher and fans of the Lee Child thrillers have had a hard time suspending their disbelief. The Reacher TV series stars Alan Ritchson, who has previously played Hawk in Titans, and is basically built like a tank, so you can easily imagine him dispatching a gang of hoodlums without breaking a sweat. The eight-episode series is based on the first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, and sees the decorated army hero turned drifter arriving in the small town of Margrave, Georgia, where he is immediately arrested on suspicion of murder.

Inventing Anna
February 11th, Netflix
The story of socialite and heiress Anna Delvey comes to Netflix, in this drama series produced by Shondaland, which brought us Bridgerton and Grey's Anatomy. It's billed as "the true story of a total fake" and details how Delvey became a doyenne of New York's arty party scene, and how she was exposed as a con woman whose real name is Anna Sorokin. The series is inspired by the New York magazine article "How Anna Delvey tricked New York's party people", and features Julia Garner from Ozark in the title role.

Vikings: Valhalla
February 25th, Netflix
The long-awaited sequel to the hugely successful Vikings, Vikings: Valhalla was also filmed in Wicklow, so you should recognise some of the scenery. The series fast-forwards more than 100 years after the end of Vikings, and follows the exploits of legendary explorer Lief Eriksson. The series prides itself on historical accuracy, but really, we're just here for the bloody battles and power plays. Diplomatic relations between the Vikings and the English are beginning to buckle, and the Vikings are being torn apart by conflicting Christian and pagan beliefs. Will the delicate balance snap, leading to all-out war? We're banking on it.

The Lord of the Rings
September 22nd, Amazon Prime Video
We've seen nary a clip from this hotly anticipated new series, but the epic amount that's been written about it in the media would dwarf even the Silmarilion. When the Peter Jackson movies came out 20 years ago, they kickstarted a fantasy craze that has brought us such series as Game of Thrones and The Witcher, and when LotR comes out in September, it'll be coming into a very crowded magical marketplace. Still, we reckon the allure of Tolkien's world-building will be too tempting to pass up, and the fans will eagerly flock back to Middle-Earth.

Pam & Tommy
Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee were the Kim and Kanye of their day, and their tempestuous marriage provided endless fodder for the tabloids in an age before Instagram. But when news of a leaked sex tape made on the couple's honeymoon came out, the gossip machine went into overdrive. Lily James stars as Pammy, with Sebastian Stan as Tommy Lee, in a wild and wicked romp through the era of Californication.

House of the Dragon
Before the pandemic, the world was in the grip of Game of Thrones fever, as the HBO series based on the George RR Martin books inserted itself into the cultural bloodstream. Now comes a new series set in the GoT universe, and non-Throneheads will be avoiding water-coolers for the next few years. But will ratings' lightning strike twice, or will this become just another swords-and-sex romp in an increasingly crowded fantasy space? House of the Dragon is set 200 years before the events in GoT, and focuses on happenings in House Targaryen leading up to civil war. Of course there's another sprawling cast, with includes Paddy Considine as King Viserys I Targaryen, Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen and Emma D'Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.

Conversations with Friends
The TV adaptation of Sally Rooney's Normal People was the runaway lockdown hit of 2020, and now Rooney's debut novel gets the telly treatment with this new series starring Irish newcomer Alison Oliver as student Frances and American actor Sasha Lane as her friend Bobbi. Jemima Kirke and Joe Alwyn also star. Lenny Abrahamson, who directed Normal People, is back on board for Conversations, along with most of the same creative team, so we're hoping they can replicate the Rooney magic for this new college-based romantic drama.

In the new Star Trek spin-off, we're promised old-fashioned alien-planet-of-the-week adventures, with maybe a bit of a story arc running through the whole thing. I think I might be all trekked out at this stage

Peaky Blinders
Production on the sixth and final season of the Brummie gangster series was halted due to Covid, but the series has finally been finished, and we're pretty sure it's going to be worth the wait. Cillian Murphy returns as ruthless mob boss Tommy Shelby, and in a teaser trailer he's warned by his sister Ada that "one of us isn't gonna be here for long". But if you think this is the end for Shelby, think again. Series six will be followed by the Peaky Blinders movie, so expect the producers to be very reluctant to kill off this enduring, iconic character. Series five ended with the financial crash of 1929 and an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate fascist leader Oswald Mosely, so expect series six to land smack in the Great Slump of the early 1930s.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
The latest Trekkie series is a spin-off of Star Trek: Discovery, which is into its third series on Netflix. If you watched series two, you'll know that the crew of the Discovery blasted off into the future in a bid to outwit the evil AI known as Control, leaving the crew of the Enterprise behind to continue to explore strange new worlds blah blah. Anson Mount returns as Captain Pike, with Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Spock. We're promised old-fashioned alien-planet-of-the-week adventures, with maybe a bit of a story arc running through the whole thing. Having grown up watching the original Star Trek, I think I might be all trekked out at this stage.

TBC, Disney +
When Disney announced it was making a series about The Sex Pistols, it was inevitable that some snotty noses would be out of joint. The series, directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire) is based on the memoir of the band's guitarist Steve Jones, but singer John Lydon wasn't havin' it, and refused to allow Sex Pistols songs to be used in the series. A court battle settled the matter, and now we can look forward to hearing Pretty Vacant, Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen in this tale of the ultimate firework band, who crashed and burned after just one album, and left a scorched earth in its wake.

Stranger Things
TBC, Netflix
We've been waiting and waiting for more strange goings-on to start going on in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. Finally, season four of the Duffer Brothers' masterful series is imminent, and in between the jump scares, we'll be watching out for more 1980s pop culture references. Season three ended with the battle of Starcourt shopping mall and the apparent death of Hopper in a secret underground laboratory. But a series of teaser trailers over the past year tells us that Hopper now seems to be doing hard labour in a Russian gulag, and Eleven has moved to California with the Byers family. You can be certain, though, it won't be long before everybody ends up back in the upside-down.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist