A Sunday night TV war is set to explode as ITV and the BBC pull out all the stops to dominate the weekend ratings.
Both channels are bringing out their big guns as over on ITV Jenna Coleman returns to her royal role in period drama Victoria, meanwhile AC-12 are back in action as Jed Murcurio’s award winning police series, Line of Duty, bursts back on the box.
Telly bosses at ITV decided to try and grab a cheeky head start by launching Victoria this weekend with fans having to wait until next Sunday for the arresting police drama to kick off on the BBC.
As the two dramas prepare to go head to head to win your affections, we spoke to the cast of both shows give you a taste of what’s in store.
Victoria – ITV, Sunday 24 March, 9pm
With its opulent sets, extravagant costumes and gorgeous locations, Victoria is a feast for the eyes, but get ready for plenty of tension as it seems series three is set to be the most troublesome for the young monarch.
Viewers are thrown into the thick of the action as episode one sees Victoria facing a constitutional crisis as a rebellion in France forces King Louis Philippe to seek sanctuary at Buckingham Palace, while on the streets of London cash-strapped workers are plotting a revolution of their own.
Jenna Coleman, who plays Victoria, says seeing a King lose his throne sends the Queen into a spin. “I think this uprising is an entirely new concept to her,” she explains. “She’s known what her path is since she was a child and realised she was going to be Queen.
To see another monarch be dethroned, that really rocks her identity, for sure. She’s in absolute denial. She has faith but she’s been rocked to her core.
It is not just facing an attack from her subjects outside the walls of her palace that has the mother-of-five nervous, she has to two new thorns in her side this series, in the shape of foreign secretary Lord Palmerston (Laurence Fox) and the sudden arrival of her half-sister Feodora (Kate Fleetwood).
Lord Palmerston is smug, smooth-talking and as he doesn’t like to do as he’s told it’s not long before he clashes with his Queen. “She hates Lord Palmerston,” adds Jenna. “I mean, really hates him! If you read her diaries from the time she clearly can’t stand the man. I actually think it’s a kind of jealousy, she’s never really had a threat, she’s always been the champion of the people and had their attention. But now there’s someone else who is very popular amongst the people.”
As for Victoria’s pesky half-sister Feodora, she seems hell-bent on driving a dagger right through the heart of the royal marriage.
“Albert and Victoria’s marriage is very different this series,” explains Jenna. “They are more disparate than we’ve ever seen them before. I think their fundamental differences are wedged further apart with the help of a meddling half-sister! I’d say it’s the rockiest part of their marriage, for sure, they lose each other for a while.”
Line of Duty – BBC One, Sunday 31 March, 9pm
Get ready for more twists and turns than a rollercoaster at Thorpe Park as the fifth series of the gritty, edge-of-your-seat police drama kicks off in explosive style next weekend.
Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar all reprise their roles as Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott, Detective Sergeant Kate Fleming, and Superintendent Ted Hastings, the big hitters inside AC-12, a fictional unit set up to uncover corruption in the police force.
And they’ve certainly got their work cut out this series as the show shifts from lone corrupt coppers to an organised crime gang which seems to have got its claws into the police.
While those who have seen the opening episode have been sworn to secrecy over the shocks in store, it’s safe to say there will be plenty! “We like to spring a surprise!” teases show creator Jed Murcurio, who has a habit of killing off key characters when audiences least expect it - which means the show’s cast are always kept on their toes.
Adrian, who plays the big boss, Hastings, says they don’t get all the scripts up-front so there’s always a frantic search to see what happens next when the new ones drop. “We don’t get all the scripts so when you get a new one you quickly check to find out you’re not dead!” he laughs.
We only get part of the story at a time which is great because during filming you’re not making decisions based on an arc of the story, you’re reacting to what’s happening that moment.
Vicky adds: “We all panic when we get the scripts! We’ve been on this show for seven or eight years and we’re invested in the characters, in everything. But you want to enjoy the suspense as the audience do.”
It’s safe to say that the trio of no-nonsense cops are going to face their toughest test to date and that could put them in serious danger. Scottish actor Martin warned that there’s some big stuff for his alter ego, Steve Arnott, to face this outing. “I kind of take it personally,” he laughs. “When we’re filming I don’t like to read ahead so one day Vicky was like, ‘Have you read episode three yet? And I was like, ‘Not yet’, she just went, ‘Ooh!’. I started to panic and text Jed going, ‘What the hell is going on!’. It’s crazy.”
With a sixth series already green-lit by the BBC, fans can look forward to more action - but it’s a guessing game as to who will actually be left standing as series five comes to an end. Watch this space!