Five TV shows to watch this week

A look behind the scenes of the making of John Boorman's Excalibur

Excalibur: John Boorman’s toughest film

Excalibur: John Boorman’s toughest film


Excalibur: Behind the Movie
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
In 1981, film director John Boorman came to Ireland in search of the holy grail – the definitive movie version of the legend of King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone.

Boorman shot the film on location in counties Wicklow, Kerry and Tipperary, using a mostly Irish crew and many Irish actors in key roles, including Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne and Ciaran Hinds. It was a gruelling production, as Boorman worked his cast and crew to their limits to achieve his cinematic vision. The resulting movie, Excalibur, wasn’t quite the epic hit Boorman hoped it would be, but it did kick-start the movie careers of many of its stars, Neeson and Byrne among others, and won praise for its visuals. Excalibur: Behind the Movie looks back at the making of Boorman’s toughest film, with contributions from many of its stars, including Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart.

Man in an Orange Shirt
Monday, BBC Two, 9pm

British novelist Patrick Gale makes his screenwriting debut with Man in an Orange Shirt , a two-part drama charting the choppy waters of gay life in post-war Britain. It’s a timejumping tale of two relationships 60 years apart, linked by the titular painting. Part one tells the story of army captain Michael Berryman, who meets and falls in love with a painter, Thomas March, while stationed in southern Italy at the height of the war. The normally strait-laced soldier, whose fiancée Flora is waiting for him to come home and start their family, moves into Thomas’s secluded cottage, where they live for a short time as a couple. Soon, though, Michael returns to London to settle into married life with Flora, while Thomas moves to Soho to live a gay lifestyle. Can the two men rekindle their passion despite the constricting conventions of 1940s society?

Thursday, Sky Atlantic, 10.35pm

Issa Rae returns with the second season of her acclaimed HBO comedy Insecure and we can expect more spot-on gags, more awkward moments, and more impromptu raps as we return to the lives of two black women, Issa and Molly, who are trying to get on in life, love and career. In the Persil-white world of Friends and Sex and the City, Insecure has been welcomed as a sharp, clued-in comedy about young black lives – the only problem, says Rae, is that fans confuse the real Issa with her fictional name. As season two opens, Issa has broken up with her live-in boyfriend Lawrence, and both are trying to get on with their lives – with mixed results. And Molly is having issues about whether she’s valued at work. Aren’t we all? (Quit bellyaching – Ed).

Top Gear
Thursday, RTÉ Two, 8pm

Matt LeBlanc is firmly in the driver’s seat for the second post-Clarkson series of Top Gear, originally aired on BBC earlier this year. Following the departure of Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond (who, let’s face it, really owned it), the Beeb installed its highest-paid presenter, Chris Evans, along with a motley crew of petrolheads (including LeBlanc), but Evans quit the show following negative reaction and poor ratings. Now, the Beeb has stripped it down to three core presenters, Le Blanc, Rory Reid and Chris Harris, revamped the show’s set, and introduced a new slot, Star in a Reasonably Fast Car. Reaction to the second series was more positive, but it’s got a long way to go to get back to its previous Clarkson-era glories.

World Athletics Championships 2017
Friday, BBC 1, 7pm

Ireland’s Ciara Mageean is aiming for titles and new records. Photograph: Inpho
Ireland’s Ciara Mageean is running in the 1,500m

Gabby Logan presents coverage of the opening night of events at The London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which will include the men’s 10,000m final, as well as the opening round of heats in the men’s 100m and women’s 1500m. Only four Irish athletes have qualified for London: Ciara Mageean, 1,500m;  Thomas Barr, 400m hurdles;  Mark English, 800m; and Brian Gregan 400m. Cocerage continues throughout the week.