Five TV shows to watch this week

Dive into The Blue Planet II or keep up with Ireland’s fittest family

Blue Planet II

Sunday, BBC One, 8pm

It's a bank-holiday weekend, the kids are on midterm break, and Storm Brian is (probably) still raging outside. Never mind the rain – gather the family together on the couch, make a load of popcorn, and settle down to watch Blue Planet II (Sunday, BBC One, 8pm). This will beat The Lego Ninjago Movie fins down. You may remember the original series of Blue Planet, which took nature documentaries to a new level with its incredible footage of ocean life. Well, the BBC have promised this one to be even more mindblowing, thanks to recent technological innovations which will allow the programme makers to go deeper and further than ever before in their quest for fascinating sea life.

This landmark (should that be sea-mark?) seven-part series took four years to put together, and saw the Blue Planet II team mounting 125 expeditions across every ocean on the planet, visiting 39 countries along the way and spending more than 6,000 hours underwater filming a huge variety of sea creatures in their natural habitats. The result is a stunningly filmed series in which the viewer is guaranteed to become totally immersed. With the money they must have spent on this, you'd wonder how the BBC would have any left to overpay its male presenters.

The first episode, 'One Ocean', is determined to start with a big splash, taking a whirl around the world's oceans, from warm tropical waters of the equator to the cold waters of the poles. We'll see dolphins surfing the waves, a tuskfish using an ingenious way of opening clams, and trevally fish leaping out of the water to snatch birds flying by. We'll also see an unlikely alliance between bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales, and meet a mummy walrus and her pup, who are trying to survive in the melting ice of the Arctic. If Jaws made you afraid to go near the water, Blue Planet II will make you want to dive right and experience the wonders of the sea up close.

Ireland’s Fittest Family

Sunday, RTÉ One, 6.30pm

Your family might be planning a couch-potato weekend, but for the Guilfoyles, Meaghers, Ó Gibnes, Hyneses, Ryans and Smyths, there’s no sitting around watching the telly – they’ll be too busy pushing themselves to the limits in a bid to win the title of Ireland’s Fittest Family. The fifth series of the family fitness challenge is being billed as the most gruelling yet, with 12 families being subjected to daunting physical challenges as they compete for the €15,000 prize. Derval O’Rourke returns as a coach, and she’s joined by GAA legend Davy Fitz, rugby ledge Donnacha O’Callaghan, and Anna Geary from last year’s winning family. In the first episode, the first six families are put through their paces – and they’d better not be claustrophobic. They’ll have to get through the “tunnels of terror” in the 400-year-old Camden Fort Meagher in Crosshaven, Co Cork. I’ll just stay right here on the couch where I am.


Generation What?

Tuesday, RTÉ Two, 10.30pm

We’ve had Generation X and Generation Z, but who the hell are Generation What? In this two-part series presented by Eoghan McDermott, Irish millennials answer questions about every topic under the sun, from sex to politics to media to equality. It’s part of a pan-European survey into the attitudes of millennials, and already a million millennials across Europe have answered around 150 questions spanning all areas of life in the 21st century. The first episode will cover topics from sex in public, wearing a religious veil in public and the rise of the far-right. The millennials will also have a chance to talk to some Irish politicians and give them their two cents’ worth.

Ireland’s Refugee Hotel

Thursday, TV3, 9pm

Earlier this year, a group of Syrian refugees were settled in their new home in the town of Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon. An abandoned Celtic Tiger hotel, the Abbeyfield Hotel was fixed up and became their new accommodation. How have the refugees fared since moving to this small town in the West of Ireland? A True Lives special, Ireland's Refugee Hotel looks at life for both the refugees as they settle into their new surroundings and the townspeople who are adapting to the new visitors in their midst. Have the people in this staunchly Catholic town embraced their new Muslim neighbours, and have the refugees managed to fit in with the rural Irish lifestyle?

David McWilliams’s Ireland

Thursday, TV3, 10pm

We know we're in trouble when David McWilliams makes a TV programme. He was a rare voice of reason during the boom years, and though his warnings proved to well-founded, he was still seen as a harbinger of economic doom. With a so-called recovery in full swing, and property prices going back through the roof, the time may be right for the return of the Mac. David McWilliams's Ireland is a new studio series shot in front of a live audience, and it sees McWilliams grapple skilfully with the big issues of today, beginning with – what else? – Ireland's new property bubble. Comedians Oliver Callan and Andrew Maxwell will lighten up the proceedings with their satirical take on current affairs.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist