On TV this week: The Bridge, The Confessors, Champagne Football: John Delaney, Riviera, Blackpink
28 of the best shows to watch this week
Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery. The third series begins beaming...er, streaming...from Friday on Netflix
Sunday, Channel 4, 9pm
There’s no Big Brother this year and I’m a Celebrity is still weeks away, but this new reality show may help fans fill the gap, though it’s more akin to the likes of Castaway 2000 and Shipwrecked. A dozen strangers are brought together by a picturesque lake to be issued with a challenge: they have 20 days to build an 850ft bridge from the bank to an island, where the cash prize of £100,000 has been stashed. There will be other challenges along the way designed to provoke moral dilemmas, spark rivalries and put the team dynamic under threat. If the group successfully construct the bridge, they must decide between them who is most deserving of the money. The winner then has a big choice to make – keep it all or share it.
Enslaved with Samuel L Jackson
Sunday, BBC2, 9pm
It’s Black History Month which, at the moment, seems more important than ever. We’re about to see a plethora of programmes linked to it hit our screens, and this fascinating, moving, disturbing and upsetting documentary promises to be one of the best. It tells the terrifying story of some of the 12 million Africans who were enslaved by European traders and shipped against their will to the Americas over the course of 400 years. Two million of them died en route due to the hideous conditions in which they were kept. Samuel L Jackson fronts the series, which uses 3D mapping and new diving technology to find and reconstruct the boats, revealing new information about the journeys they undertook. Drama, artefacts and science, as well as personal testimony, are also used to highlight this dark period in human history.
Cork Folk Festival
Sunday, TG4, 9.30pm
A new music series from the heart of Cork city, celebrating the highlights from ast October’s 40th anniversary of one of Irelands best loved festival’s. Musician Doireann Ní Ghlacáin hosts an hour of music and song from Irish and international artists along with new upcoming talent. Filmed at iconic venue’s such as the Cork Opera House, Kino, the Cork School of Music and St Luke’s, this episode features Jackie Daly & Matt Cranitch, Shane Hennessy, Caoimhe & Eimear Flannery, Greenshine, Clíodhna Halley and MacDara Ó Faoláin.
Imagine: Marina Abramovic – The Ugly Duckling
Sunday, BBC1, 11.10pm
When it comes to performance art, few have pushed boundaries and converted cynics to its merits more than Marina Abramovic. Here she talks to Alan Yentob about her life and work in a programme that was supposed to tie in with her exhibition at the Royal Academy in London – the first solo show by a woman at the institution in its 250-year history. Sadly, that’s been postponed until autumn 2021. Among the highlights are Abramovic’s return to her hometown of Belgrade and a look at some of her most famous projects, including one involving walking the length of the Great Wall of China.
Monday, RTÉ One, 9,35pm
“Bless me, father, for I’ve forgotten my sins.” How long has it been since you last saw the inside of a confession box? Probably not since the time you stole your little brother’s Gameboy – and even then you weren’t convinced it was a mortal sin. This new documentary by the makers of Abbeyfealegood brings us back inside that forbidding wooden box, where Catholics have confessed their transgressions in exchange for instant absolution and a couple of Hail Marys. Priests and chaplains from both urban and rural parishes recall some of the memorable sins they’ve heard in the confession box which, due to Covid-19 restrictions, is now largely used as storage for cleaning products rather than for cleansing souls.
Who Do You Think You Are?
Monday, BBC1, 9pm
Just when you thought that the genealogy show had run its course, up pops another series. Unfortunately, filming restrictions mean that only four episodes have been made; thankfully they’re all rather fascinating. author and actor David Walliams learns the tragic facts about a relative’s experiences during the first World War; ex-Silent Witness star Liz Carr uncovers the story of an ancestor’s role in an attempted murder; and Ruth Jones of Gavin & Stacey fame uncovers the part played by her grandfather in a forerunner to the NHS. Tonight, current Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker is sent back in time for real (well, sort of) when she returns to her Yorkshire roots to hear some uncomfortable truths about her great-great grandfather.
Rob Burrow: My Year with MND
Monday BBC2, 7pm
Last December, just two years after retiring from the game he loved, former rugby league star Rob Burrow announced he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. In this moving documentary, Burrow describes the toll the condition is taking on him physically, his determination to live as normal a life as possible, and how lessons learned during his career with Leeds Rhinos, England and Great Britain have prepared him for what lies ahead. Friends, family and former colleagues also offer their views.
Richard Osman’s House of Games
Monday, BBC2, 6pm
Sort of a neat midway point between Pointless’s good-natured quiz show format and Taskmaster’s chaotic abandon, House of Games has proved a big hit. The first series ran for just 15 episodes, expanding each time until now we’re promised a 100-long fourth season; that’s 20 weeks. The first week’s competitive quartet are presenter and wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan, A Place in the Sun’s Jean Johansson, comedy actor Stephen Mangan, and composer-comedian Vikki Stone.
John Bishop’s Great Whale Rescue
Monday, ITV, 9pm
In this moving and gripping documentary, the Liverpudlian comedian reveals he’s passionate about whales while setting out on an epic adventure to rescue two members of the beluga species from China before relocating them to the safer waters off Iceland. Bishop can hardly contain his delight at being allowed to swim with the creatures; he also helps to train them and aids the experts as they begin the difficult process of lifting these beautiful animals into slings and crates before they’re transported by air to their new home. But it proves to be a far from simple journey, beset by logistics, the weather, accidents and the precious cargo’s health.
Drama Out of a Crisis: A Celebration of Play for Today
Monday, BBC4, 9pm
During the last six years of the 1960s, the BBC produced The Wednesday Play, a series of one-off dramas. In 1970, when its regular slot could no longer be guaranteed, its name was changed to Play for Today. Like its predecessor, which had included Cathy Come Home among other groundbreaking programmes, it featured landmark works by key writers and directors, including Mike Leigh, Dennis Potter, David Hare and Ken Loach. This documentary, broadcast to celebrate the strand’s 50th anniversary, looks back at key moments in its history and the reasons for its demise in 1984.
Craig & Danny: Funny, Black and on TV
Tuesday, ITV, 8pm
In celebration of this year’s Black History Month, Red Dwarf co-stars Craig Charles and Danny John-Jules look back on some of great and sometimes forgotten British black comedy legends. Through a combination of nostalgic archive footage and star interviews, they find out about the greatest black comics, from the first breakout black comic, Yorkshireman Charlie Williams, to today’s rising stars such as Michaela Coel and genre-defining shows from Desmond’s to The Real McCoy. This celebration of pioneering stars will draw our focus to the present day to offer an insight into the legacy of decades of comedy talent that has touched the new generation of black comedians.
Escape to the Farm with Kate Humble
Tuesday, Channel 5, 9pm
It’s now more than a decade since Kate Humble left London to begin a new, more sustainable life on a small farm in Monmouthshire, Wales. Some cynics may wonder just how much actual farming she does. But as this new series proves, she’s very hands on, getting involved with feeding, mucking out and even delivering the livestock. In the first episode, cameras follow Kate as she tends to Sausage, a Welsh pig who is due to give birth – but things aren’t going to plan. She also heads to a local flour mill to find out how it’s been dealing with the recent rise in demand.
Champagne Football – Inside John Delaney’s FAI
Tuesday, Virgin One, 9pm
Virgin Media Sport’s Tommy Martin examines the scandals of John Delaney’s time in the FAI in a documentary based on the best-selling book by Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan.
Cogadh Ar Mhná
Wednesday, RTE One, 9.35pm
If official historical accounts are to be believed, the War of Independence and the Civil War were unique among wars in that women were neither raped nor sexually assaulted during the conflicts. This documentary exposes the lies and cover-ups that led to this myth gaining credence, and shows that vulnerable Irish women were targeted by armed gangs, dragged out of their homes, and subjected to horrific assaults. Through painstaking research, historians Mary McAuliffe and Lindsey Earner-Byrne, sociologists Linda Connolly and Louise Ryan, and writer-historian Ann Mathews uncover hitherto hidden stories of sexual violence against women in the years before the formation of the Free State, and show how authorities silenced these women when they tried to seek justice for the crimes committed against them.
Among them were Mary M from Westmeath, who became pregnant after being raped by a Republican gang and who pleaded for help from the archbishop of Dublin; and Nora Healy from Cork, who was raped by crown forces, and, when she went to report it to the local RIC, spotted one of her attackers at the station, and was told by the sergeant in charge to keep quiet. This documentary originally aired last month on TG4.
Portrait Artist of the Year 2020
Wednesday, Sky Arts, 8pm
Stephen Mangan welcomes a new batch of amateur and professional artists, who have been chosen from thousands of entrants, to compete and impress distinguished judges Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan. This new series will also see another 24 writers, actors, musicians and TV personalities sit for the portraits. Tonight, the first hopefuls paint actresses Ncuti Gatwa and Fay Ripley, and peeress Baroness Glenconner. (Mangan’s co-presenter, Joan Bakewell, hosts the show’s sister series, Portrait Artist of the Week, on Sunday.)
Henry VIII: Rise of a Tyrant
Wednesday, Channel 5, 9pm
To many, Henry VIII is probably best known as the king with six wives, two of whom he had executed. Yet in his own era he was initially seen as a charismatic young prince, a far cry from the tyrannical monarch he would become. Jason Isaacs narrated this new series, which sets out to explore the transformation in his reputation and go behind the myths to explore how Henry’s personality shaped a nation. The opening episode focuses on his early years and the deaths of both his mother and older brother, which led to him becoming heir to the throne. It also examines his complex relationship with father, Henry VII, who kept his teenage son a virtual prisoner. When Henry VIII came to the throne, he publicly criticised his father’s reign, but he would also show signs of sharing his predecessor’s paranoia.
Thursday, Sky Atlantic and Now TV, 9pm
Julia Stiles returns as poor little rich wife Georgina in the third series of this sumptuous dram, set in the most lavish locations known to humanity. Originally created by Neil Jordan and co-written by Jordan and John Banville, the series follows newly widowed Georgina as she tries to survive in the cut-throat world of oligarchs and art thieves. Jordan disowned the series after he said gratuitous sex scenes and expository dialogue had been added. (I agree – that expository dialogue should go.) There are also lots of moody gazing into moonlit marinas filled with zillion-dollar yachts, and lots and lots of meaningful looks across art galleries and terrazzos. Georgina is now a “rising star in international art restitution” and on the hunt for stolen artworks with help from a new ally (Rupert Graves).
Thursday, Channel 4, 9pm
The Bafta-winning gameshow makes its debut on Channel 4 following nine seasons on Dave. Once again co-hosts Greg Davies and Alex Horne will confound their celebrity guests with some “perplexing and extraordinary challenges”. But first, Davies wants to gloat about Channel 4 finally deciding to air the show, several years after telling him that “Taskmaster is not fit for TV”. “I see, so no one wants to watch the most elite comedic minds doing battle in a series of incredibly important tasks?” he sneers in the trailer for the new series. The latest tranche of tasks includes painting a picture of a horse while riding a horse, collecting tears in an eggcup, and destroying a cake in the most visually engaging way. Guests competing this season include Johnny Vegas, The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson, Two Weeks to Live’s Mawaan Rizwan and comedian Richard Herring.
The Trump Show
Thursday, BBC Two, 9pm
As E-day draws ever closer, the BBC has decided now is a good time to recap on the madness and mayhem of Donald Trump’s four years in the White House. So, for anyone who has lived under a rock for the past four years, this will be essential catch-up viewing. For the rest of us, who have endured a constant bombardment of agent orange on every media platform, this might seem like more telly torture. But there are some signs that “Trump fatigue” is an actual thing, and some voters may be thinking it’s time to change the channel. Turn him off!
Fíorscéal: The Nature Effect
Thursday, TG4, 10.30pm
From Japan to the US, via Sweden, Germany and Canada, this documentary heads off to meet researchers from the most prestigious universities – biologists, neuroscientists, experts in environmental psychology – who are demonstrating that experiencing nature stimulates unexpected biological and psychological resources and represents a boundless source of wellbeing. Their studies also show that regularly immersing oneself in nature reduces anxiety and mental fatigue, improves our attention and cognitive functions, and can even helps fight against depression.
Mo Gilligan: Black, British and Funny
Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm
For 30 years Britain has been home to a thriving black comedy circuit, and Mo Gilligan is here to celebrate it. Cameras follow him as he meets pioneers Angie Le Mar, the veteran comic from The Real McCoy who was the first female black comedian to have a sell-out show in London’s West End; and John Simmit, whose claims to fame include playing Dipsy in Teletubbies. Mo also meets one of his own biggest influences (multi-award-winner Slim) and hears about some of the new breakout stars who are emerging from the scene.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 10.45pm
Legendary football manager Arsene Wenger talks about his autobiography (My Life in Red and White), actress and comedian Dawn French promotes her new novel (Because of You), and cricketer and Top Gear presenter Freddie Flintoff reflects on his new book (Right, Said Fred). Plus, Hollywood star Samuel L Jackson and his wife, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, chat about the documentary Enslaved (airing Sunday on BBC2), and recent Mercury Prize-winner Michael Kwanuka performs his current single Light.
Sir Cliff Richard at the BBC
Friday, BBC4, 9.50pm
He’s been called the Peter Pan of Pop, but Cliff Richard is now officially all grown-up: he turs 80 on October 14th. Some fans may be shocked by that, while some other regular BBC4 viewers may be more surprised to realise he was younger (if only by days) than John Lennon, whose milestone birthday the channel marked last Friday. Richard was already a well-established star in Britain long before Beatlemania struck. There’s a chance to remind ourselves just how long and varied his career has really been as the BBC pays tribute, starting with the movie Summer Holiday and continuing with this look back through the Beeb’s archives. Following, Rock ’n’ Roll Britannia puts his early records into the context of the UK’s first rock acts.
Later – with Jools Holland
Friday, BBC2, 10pm
Paloma Faith first appeared on Later more than a decade ago. She’s back to Jools Holland about her fifth album. Infinite Things was recorded before the pandemic, but Faith decided to make some dramatic changes during lockdown so it would better reflect the times. She also opens up about her influences and chooses a diverse selection of clips from the archive. Plus, there’s a unique performance at Jools’s studio from producer, songwriter and musician Fraser T Smith, and a specially recorded track from the celebrated Malian songwriter and guitarist Afel Bocoum.
Blackpink: Light Up the Sky
From Wednesay, Netflix
Blackpink, a four-part girlband from South Korea, are a massive force in the global music world, with millions buying their records and lapping up their videos. Jisoo, Jennie, Rose and Lisa’s debut album, Square One, was a huge hit, and this year they became the highest-charting female Korean act on the US’s Billboard Hot 100 thanks to single Ice Cream. This documentary features interviews with each member, who discuss their rise to fame. There are also insights into their recording process and, most intriguingly, the highs and lows of life as a K-pop idol.
Star Trek: Discovery
From Friday, Netflix
Star Wars may rule the movie galaxy, but Star Trek still holds its own in the telly realm. The newest addition to Star Fleet has proved a big hit with Trekkies, so Netflix is launching a third series in the saga of Discovery officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) as she boldly goes forth to find her true place in the universe. Series two found her flitting around in space-time in an attempt to close up all the plot paradoxes opened up by the first series (such as why Spock never mentioned he had a half-sister in the original 1960s show) and try to get the wider canon to neatly sync up again. (Why bother? Only the most rabidly pedantic Trekkie – about three of us – would care.)
The season ended with the crew setting engines to warp speed and flying into a wormhole, emerging 900 years into the future where they can start a new storyline with a clean slate. The Discovery crew discovers, however, that a lot has changed in Star Fleet over the millennium, and soon Burnham and her colleagues are facing a whole new galaxy of threats. Meanwhile, Spock is finding his firm belief in logic challenged yet again. We’re hoping series three will be sufficiently bonkers to challenge all logic.
From Friday, Netflix
It came as no surprise when it was announced that Katie Cappielllo’s New York Fringe Festival hit was going to be turned into a TV series, and it was even less of a shock when it was revealed that it would be ditching its original title (Slut: The Play). Its gestation has not, however, been an easy one. Ming Peiffer announced that she and two other writers had quit the show due to “racist exploitation and abuse”. Hopefully any off-screen problems won’t overshadow the important issues confronted in the drama, which focuses on five students at Brooklyn’s largest high school. They’re depicted as fighting to succeed while dealing with such matters as sexuality, racism and social justice.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
From Friday, Netflix
Following a brief theatrical run, Aaron Sorkin’s true-life legal drama makes it to the small screen. The Oscar-winning writer, who also directs, illicits fine performances from an all-star cast, among them Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne, Frank Langella, Sacha Baron Cohen and Michael Keaton. The story begins in 1968 when what was intended to be a peaceful protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago turned into a violence clash involving the police. In its aftermath, organisers of the protest, including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden and Bobby Seale, were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot. The film charts what happened at their extraordinary and shocking trial.