Why Years And Years Is The Brilliant TV Show Everyone Has Been Sleeping On

Russell T. Davies' drama has aired without much fanfare, but it totally deserves it.

With all the praise that has been heaped on the likes of Line Of Duty, Killing Eve and Fleabag in recent months, it has felt like a real moment for BBC drama.

But all that fanfare and adulation has somehow managed to escape one of their latest offerings, Years And Years – and quite frankly, that is nothing short of a travesty.

Years And Years kicked off last month after a big marketing campaign focussing on the huge names in the series (Emma Thompson, Jessica Hynes, Rory Kinnear and Russell Tovey, to name but a few), but over the course of its six-episode run, it’s felt like the overlooked child in the roster of BBC One’s shows.

Emma Thompson plays a popularist MP in Years And Years
Emma Thompson plays a popularist MP in Years And Years
BBC

The series kicked off with just over 3 million people tuning in, but some later episodes have consolidated below the 2 million mark. Last week’s instalment even saw Love Island attract double the amount of viewers, despite airing on digital-only channel ITV2.

While those figures will make for eye-watering reading for BBC controllers, what they also reveal is that millions have missed out on enjoying one of 2019′s most superb dramas – and one people would no doubt be raving about if it had appeared on Netflix.

Penned by screenwriting legend Russell T. Davies (Queer As Folk, Doctor Who, Cucumber), Years And Years takes a very plausible look at how British society could pan out over the next 15 years.

The show is penned by former Doctor Who boss Russell T. Davies
The show is penned by former Doctor Who boss Russell T. Davies
Kirsty O'Connor - PA Images via Getty Images

We see the impact of events including Brexit, Trump being voted in for a second term, another banking crash, a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the effects of global warming, continued technological advances, a clamp down on immigration, terrorism and nuclear attacks.

While this might sound like a nightmare that’s a bit too close to home if you avidly read the news, the brilliance of Years And Years is that those stories are told through the eyes of the Manchester-based Lyons family, meaning the drama is rooted in the characters’ relationships with each other and their collective navigation of the seemingly imploding world around them. For that reason, it’s often as heartwarming and funny as it is worrying and disturbing, as well as being emotional and upsetting.

Without spoiling it for anyone intending to catch up on the show, the final moments of episode four deliver some of the most deeply affecting scenes seen on TV in months – maybe even years. Two weeks on and I still don’t think I’ve recovered from the emotional sucker-punch.

The action takes place through the eyes of the Lyons family
The action takes place through the eyes of the Lyons family
BBC

But the real beauty of the show is the pace, as it never rests on its laurels as the action develops over a 15-year period. Ambitious scenes where we move forward in time are utterly heart-racing and brilliantly soundtracked, which give them a feel reminiscent of Russell T. Davies’ tenure on Doctor Who.

And with a cast as stellar as this, it almost seems too obvious to say how amazing their performances are, but we’re going to anyway.

Emma Thompson is chillingly convincing as popularist politician Vivienne Rook, who is like a terrifying cross between Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage. As Daniel and Viktor, Russell Tovey and Maxim Baldry give the most raw and passionate portrayal of gay sex on British mainstream TV since Russell T. Davies’ last series, Cucumber, aired in 2015, while Anne Reid and T’Nia Miller’s dynamic as passive aggressive mother-and-daughter-in-law Muriel and Celeste is just delicious to watch.

The relationship between Viktor and Daniel has been one of the high points of the series
The relationship between Viktor and Daniel has been one of the high points of the series
BBC

The characters are also truly diverse, and while some commentators have somehow seen this as a bad thing, it is truly refreshing to see a mixture of races, abilities and sexualities reflected in an ensemble show like this.

So don’t dismiss Years And Years as just another political drama or a dystopian look at the future – it is so much more than that, and it deserves your attention.

Years And Years is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.