Autumn TV highlights

It's been an amazing summer of sport, if not an amazing summer, but it won't be long before the evenings begin to draw in and there are fewer barbeque opportunities. Luckily, autumn is when the TV schedules start to look a little more promising - so here's what's in store for avid viewers.

Autumn tv highlights

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Period drama
Downton Abbey will, of course, be returning to our screens soon, but if you can't wait that long for your fix of period drama, Parade's End is a must-see. Based on Ford Maddox Ford's epic saga it follows the fortunes of English aristocrat Christopher Tietjens and his wife Sylvia, and suffragette Valentine Wannop as the Edwardian era draws to a close.

The BBC have assembled an impressive cast featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Rupert Everett, Miranda Richardson and Rufus Sewell - and the series of four novels have been adapted for TV by Sir Tom Stoppard. Tune into BBC Two later this month for the first of this five-parter.

Another highlight looks likely to be Dancing on the Edge, a new drama from the Beeb following a black jazz band playing their way through 1930s London.

Fantastical Fall
There's plenty to keep fans of sci-fi and fantasy going this autumn too. Merlin will be back keeping King Arthur safe from harm (and getting himself into a spot of bother).

And keep your sonic screwdrivers at the ready for the return of everybody's favourite Time Lord as he takes on more of the universe's weird and not so wonderful races. Due on our screens in October, the series will culminate in a Christmas Special, which will mark the debut of new sidekick Jenna-Louise Coleman and a star turn by villain Richard E. Grant.

As if that's not enough, The Walking Dead is back for a third series. Protagonist Andrew Lincoln will once again be battling zombies like an old pro, while David Morrissey joins the cast as The Governor. You'll just have to wait to find out who Andrea's hooded saviour is.

Keep it real
You know it's autumn when the reality shows kick in, and if you just can't get enough of TV talent (or not, as the case may be), both The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing will be hitting a TV screen near you shortly.

It may be minus Simon Cowell, but three of The X Factor judges, Gary Barlow, Tulisa and show stalwart Louis Walsh, have already had a year to settle in, while Nicole Scherzinger comes fresh from a stint on the US version to fill Kelly Rowland's fourth judge spot. Expect plenty of cringe-worthy auditions and plenty of drama.

Things have changed on BBC One's Strictly too, with ballet superstar Darcey Bussell replacing former champion Alesha Dixon. The line-up has yet to be confirmed, but rumour has it some of our star Olympic athletes are on the Beeb's wishlist.

Best of the US
The US so often provides us with some of the best thrillers TV has to offer and this year will be no exception.

The second series of the smash hit Homeland returns to Channel 4 and anyone who got thoroughly addicted to the first season will be desperate to find out whether Carrie can expose the truth about Brody.

Meanwhile, Channel 5's new post-Civil War drama Hatfields & McCoys is set to prove just as addictive. Already a massive hit Stateside, it follows the epic but brutal saga of two feuding families - and the cast is headed by A-listers Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton.

Last but not least, tune into Channel 5 will be screening the almost all-new Dallas. There's a new generation of Ewings at Southfork and viewers can expect plenty more oil baron drama and backstabbing. Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy are set to reprise their roles as Sue Ellen and Bobby, but best of all, 1980s icon of TV Larry Hagman stars once again as JR - the memories will come flooding back as soon as that famous theme tune begins.