Seven of the best TV shows to watch this week

Alison Spittle is on a quest to find out exactly what makes a culchie while Lost in Space offers an entirely different sort of quest

Zoë Wanamaker, Phyllis Logan and Miranda Richardson star as friends who come to rely on each other in 'Girlfriends'. Photograph: ITV

Zoë Wanamaker, Phyllis Logan and Miranda Richardson star as friends who come to rely on each other in 'Girlfriends'. Photograph: ITV

 

Alison Spittle’s Culchie Club
Monday, RTÉ Two, 9.30pm
Are you a culchie? Do you know any culchies? Are you perhaps married to a culchie? Or maybe you’re a closet culchie. Then Alison Spittle’s Culchie Club is the show for you. The creator of comedy series Nowhere Fast sets out on a quest to find out exactly what makes a culchie. Is it hereditary? Is it a vocation? Or is it just a makey-uppy term for anyone who lives outside of Dublin? The comedian (who has more than a bit of culchie in her) will venture beyond the Pale to meet a variety of young culchies and get their views on what it means to be “from the country”, including Kerry comedian Shane Clifford, Mayo drag queen Bradley Brock, Kerry social media influencer Erika Fox and the Tully twins from Co Cavan, of Gogglebox Ireland fame. She also learns to drive a tractor (the culchie Porsche) and herd cattle - two essential life skills for culchies - and goes on a fishing trip with self-confessed uber-culchie Kevin McGahern.

Girlfriends
Monday, TV3, 10pm
Not to be confused with the noughties American sitcom of the same name, this British drama series created by Kay Mellor looks at the lives of three best friends of a certain age, as they negotiate the perils of life, relationships and work. Miranda Richardson, Zoe Wanamaker and Phyllis Logan play lifelong friends Sue, Gail and Linda, who always try to be there for each other through thick and thin. When Linda’s husband mysteriously disappears while the couple are on a cruise, the friendship is tested to its limits by long-held secrets (and shocking plot twists).

Big Week on the Farm
Monday-Friday, RTÉ One, 7pm
We’ve been waiting forever for this extended winter to end, but a sure sign that spring has finally sprung is the return of the latest week-long series of Big Week on the Farm. This year’s farm-fest comes from the Deise county. RTÉ are planting their big outdoor studio on the O’Sullivan family farm near Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and a 150-strong studio audience will get a ringside seat at all the action on one of the busiest weeks in Irish agriculture. Presenters Ella McSweeney and Áine Lawlor will be joined by celebrity guest presenters Deirdre O’Kane, Alison Spittle, Sean O’Brien and Lee Chin. Over the course of the week, the programme will look at all aspects of farm life, from lambing to calving to hatching, the lives of farm animals and the work of the vet. And of course the celebrities will take the Pull the Udder One challenge and try to topple Pat Shortt from his milking champion’s stool.

Kiss Me First
Monday, Channel 4, 10pm
Imagine you can enter a virtual world, where you can forget your troubles and be somebody completely different. Some gamers may claim that they already do so, but not to the same level depicted in Kiss Me First, Channel 4’s innovative drama, which began its run last week. Based on Lottie Moggach’s debut novel, it mixes live action with animated sequences set in Red Pill, a secret paradise hidden on the edges of central character Leila’s favourite computer game. It’s there that she meets Tess, her complete opposite who is hedonistic, impulsive and insatiable. Leila’s troubles escalate when Tess turns up in the real world, just as a fellow member of the gaming group mysteriously disappears — making her suspect that Red Pill isn’t the new Eden its creator Adrian claims it to be. Executively produced and written by Bryan Elsley, one of the co-creators of Skins, the six-part drama stars rising talent Tallulah Haddon as Leila.

In this week’s episode, Leila’s alter ego, Shadowfax, must prove to Adrian that she’s a worthy addition to the world of Red Pill. Despite being concerned about the sudden disappearance of Calumny, she’s desperate to be allowed in so that she can learn more about her new friend Tess – but perhaps she should be more worried about Calumny’s whereabouts than she appears to be...

This Time Next Year
Tuesday, ITV, 8pm
If you want to make a big life change but are worried that you lack the willpower to see it through, then perhaps you should tell Davina McCall about. In This Time Next Year, which is back for a second series, the presenter meets the people who are vowing to transform their lives over the course of 12 months – and then catches up with them in a year’s time to find out whether they managed to make the change. But while McCall has an agonising wait to find out what happened next, through the magic of TV, the viewers get an update straight away.

This opening episode features one of the most moving. In 2012, Jayne Hardman’s dog bumped her nose. It might have seemed like a minor accident, but the swelling didn’t go down. Two years later, she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that eats away at body tissue and led to Jayne’s nose slowly collapsing. As well as being unable to breathe through it, Jayne also became too self-conscious to go out alone and hates looking in the mirror. She hopes that in a year’s time, her condition will be in remission so she can get a prosthetic nose and regain her confidence.

We also meet the parents who hope that their profoundly deaf daughter will hear them call her by her name, as well as a 22-year-old radiotherapy and oncology student whose ambition is to be crowned Miss England, and a military couple who are ready to start a family.

Lost in Space
Netflix, from Friday
Danger, Will Robinson! Another ill-advised reboot of the classic sci-fi series about a family stranded somewhere in outer space. We’ve already had a best-forgotten movie version, and now Netflix are “re-imagining” Lost in Space for a new generation – will this one crash and burn, or will it take us to new frontiers of telly entertainment? Lost in Space follows the adventures of the space family Robinson as they set out in their spacecraft the Jupiter 2 to join a new colony, but are knocked off course and find themselves stranded light years from home. The scheming Dr Smith is played by Parker Posey, and Will Robinson is played by Maxwell Jenkins, the kind of kid Steven Spielberg would give his eye teeth to cast.

It looks good, with whiz-bang special effects and big, mindblowing setpieces, but can it recapture the hokey charm of the 1960s original, which featured cheapo props, bacofoil-covered aliens and a robot with vacuum cleaner hose for arms? Some things big budgets can’t buy.

MasterChef: The Finals
Friday, BBC One, 8.30pm
MasterChef champions regularly go on to great things in the culinary world. And it’s been nice to see a few old faces during this year’s run, as a whole host of champions and finalists from years gone by have joined presenters John Torode and Gregg Wallace to appraise the nosh served up by this year’s amateur cooks. It’s been a tough seven weeks for the MasterChef contenders (not to mention the viewers who have had to commit watching to three hour-long editions per week). Throughout the run, the cooks have be challenged to impress the aforementioned past winners and competitors, as well as some of the UK’s most-feared restaurant critics and Michelin-starred chefs. And then there’s the most important judges of all – the men who ultimately decide the winner – Torode and Wallace.

The latest search for the best amateur cook reaches a compelling climax this evening, with the remaining three amateur cooks pushing themselves to the limit one last time before Torode and Wallace crown the 2018 victor. Regardless who triumphs, one thing is almost guaranteed — the winner will already have a place at the top table of Britain’s culinary industry waiting for them.

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