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Cult Spy: Autumn Preview

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After a distinct lack of decent telly (and sun) during the summer, the advent of autumn brings with it a barrage of cult shows. Several old favourites are back, there's a range of exciting new ventures, plus a couple of remakes too. Here's our rundown of what to expect for the rest of 2008…


Prison Break (September 2, Sky One)

After a mostly-dire third season, can Prison Break restore the fun and thrills of its early days? How on Earth are they going to explain the return of supposedly beheaded Dr. Sara Tancredi? What is the significance of Whistler's bird book? One thing's for sure - with strong rumours of two major cast members being killed early on, the writers are taking no prisoners.

As well as the old gang returning, new recurring characters include Company Agent Wyatt (Cress Williams) and computer hacker Roland (James Hiroyuki Liao). However, the most prominent new addition seems to be wisecracking comic actor Michael Rapaport, who will team up with Scofield and Burrows as security agent Don Self in a bid to bring down The Company. Let's hope he brings with him some antiperspirant to minimise Scofield's dreaded sweat patches.


Merlin (Late September, BBC One)

Robin Hood failed to reach the dizzy heights achieved by Doctor Who in the Saturday evening slot, but that hasn't stopped the BBC from rehashing another legendary tale. Hopes are certainly high for the 13-part Merlin, which revolves around the magical adventures and friendship between the eponymous young wizard (Colin Morgan) and the arrogant Prince Arthur (Bradley James).

An impressive supporting cast includes Anthony Head, John Hurt, Richard Wilson and Michelle Ryan, plus the CGI comes from the same team responsible for Doctor Who - The Mill. Can Merlin possibly accomplish that rare feat of blending lavish spectacle along with an involving storyline? The answer is imminent, but the omens are good as mainstream US broadcaster NBC has bought the series to air in a peak timeslot - a move almost unheard of for British shows.


The Sarah Jane Adventures (late September, BBC One)

After a largely impressive first season, despite the embarrassment of the panto Slitheen episodes, the Doctor Who spinoff returns for its second season. Far more than just 'kids TV', this intelligent show is set to continue exploring a range of surprisingly dark emotional themes with the loss of the Jackson family during the early stages of the year. A new family will arrive in the form of the Chandras, with youngster Rani set to join Sarah Jane's investigative gang.

Long-term Doctor Who fans will be delighted to witness the return of the legendary Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart to the franchise - a character who starred alongside numerous Doctors in the classic series between 1968 and 1989. In addition, the Sontarans will be making Sarah Jane reach for her sonic lipstick in a hurry. Comics Bradley Walsh and Russ Abbott will be making appearances, while Samantha Bond brings back the Bane as the evil Mrs. Wormwood - last seen in the pilot episode that kickstarted The Sarah Jane Adventures.


Heroes (Late September, BBC Two)

'Villains' and 'Fugitives' will be the two chapters opened up during the popular show's third season, which fortunately doesn’t have a writers' strike to contend with this time. The restoration of Sylar's powers will ensure the atmosphere of brooding menace returns to the series, especially as he will seek to take down The Company (shouldn't he be on Prison Break?). Expect plenty of handbags between Sylar and Elle along the way.

The prospect of two Claire Bennets roaming the world (one good, one bad) will have many adolescent males drooling in anticipation, but the return of Malcolm McDowell as the theoretically deceased Mr. Linderman promises a great deal. Perhaps the best news for British fans is that the BBC will be screening the episodes a matter of days after their US transmission.



Survivors (October, BBC One)

The premise sounds over-familiar - a deadly virus has wiped out most of the world's population and only a handful of survivors remain. Yet the fact that the BBC project lacks the big bucks of similarly-themed I Am Legend could work in its favour, as the emotional and philosophical dilemmas look set to be foregrounded ahead of the visual element. How would we all cope without electricity, clean running water and Facebook?

This remake of Dalek creator Terry Nation's original 1970s Survivors has three seasons' worth of the classic series to use for material over the six episodes. Julie Graham, Max Beesley, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Freema Agyeman and Paterson Joseph will be our guides for the journey, which promises to be a harrowing and gripping affair.


And the rest...

Don't forget that Jack Bauer will be returning for a two-hour movie in November's 24: Exile (Sky One, November) to whet your appetites for the delayed seventh season, J.J. Abrams will be exploring the paranormal in Fringe (Sky One, TBC) and Harvey Keitel will be filling Gene Hunt's snakeskin boots in the American remake of Life On Mars. Then, on Christmas Day, prepare for the stomp of the Cybermen as they return to Doctor Who in Victorian times...
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