Six TV shows to watch this week

The Crown returns, The Grand Tour motors on, and Charlie Bird goes behind the headlines


The Grand Tour
From Friday, Amazon Prime
Fasten your seatbelts - the turbo-charged trio of Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond are roaring back onto our screens in the second series of The Grand Tour – and the rules of the road are about to get thrown out the window and down a deep gully.

When they left the bosom of Auntie Beeb, many wondered if Clarky, Hammond and May were ready for the telly scrapheap. But they delivered a globe-trotting, wisecracking and car-revving show to their new online masters, and though Amazon don’t reveal viewing figures, we can surmise it was a success, since they’ve forked out the gazillions needed to make the second series.

So, will this be Last of the Summer Wine on wheels? Clarky may be looking more like Compo every day, but we’re assured this new series will be bigger, faster and more deadly than the last. The first episode opens with Richard Hammond driving a Rimac Concept One electric supercar up a Swiss mountain at 120mph – then crashing it, and escaping from the wreckage just seconds before the £1 million vehicle goes up in flames.

This, of course, sets the bar high for the rest of the series, which sees Clarkson driving a Bond Bug on Coniston Water in Cumbria to try to set a new world water speed record (Donald Campbell died on Coniston Water in 1967 while trying to set a new record). Along the way, they drive some pretty cool cars (and a few crocks), Clarkson comes down with pneumonia and May gets a particularly nasty dose of food poisoning.

The trio have also tweaked the format for this second series. They’ve abandoned the travelling studio tent and set up a permanent studio back in Blighty, which will make it easier for them to get celebrity guests in – but also increase the chances of potentially embarrassing encounters with the Top Gear team. Gentlemen, start your engines.

The Crown
From Friday, Netflix
Another British institution – the monarchy – has been tackled countless times on telly, from The Tudors to Wolf Hall, but the one everyone’s waiting for is season two of The Crown (from Friday, Netflix). The sumptuous series starring Claire Foy as young Queen Elizabeth and Matt Smith as Prince Philip has captured viewers’ hearts, and advance reviews suggest pair have turned in an even more accomplished performance for this second outing.

The series covers the period from 1957 to 1964, just after Winston Churchill stepped down as prime minister, so don’t expect to see much of John Lithgow here. Michael C Hall, star of Dexter, will join the cast as American president John F Kennedy, with Jodi Balfour as glamorous first lady Jackie Kennedy. This will be Claire Foy’s last outing as the queen before Olivia Colman takes the crown for the third series.

My Astonishing Self: Gabriel Byrne on George Bernard Shaw
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Who was Ireland’s greatest-ever literary export? In the opinion of Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, it was none other than George Bernard Shaw, the “forgotten man” of Irish literature.

The actor set out his case in My Astonishing Self: Gabriel Byrne on George Bernard Shaw, looking at the life of the man who was not only one of Ireland’s greatest writers, but was also a polemicist, political activist and advocate for human rights who used the medium of drama to get his strong views across and satirise the society he lived in. Among the guests taking part are President Michael D Higgins, actors Ralph Fiennes and Gemma Arterton, historian Diarmaid Ferriter and comedian Dara O Briain.

The documentary is directed by Gerry Hoban, who previously made A Fanatic Heart, Bob Geldof’s ode to WB Yeats.

After the Headlines: Charlie Bird
Tuesday, RTÉ Two, 9.35pm
During his career as an RTÉ reporter, Charlie Bird was always at the centre of breaking news stories, and he revisits some of Ireland’s biggest news events in a new series After the Headline: Charlie Bird. In the first episode, Bird goes back to the terrible night of January 10th, 2007, when two fishing trawlers, the Pere Charles and the Honeydew II, sank off the coast of Dunmore East. Seven fishermen were lost at sea in the tragedy which unfolded on Irish TV and radio, and their bodies were never recovered.

Bird meets the families and friends of the fishermen who died at sea, and finds out how this small fishing community coped with their huge loss after the camera crews and journalists went home.

Would You Believe? A Life for a Life
Sunday, RTÉ One, 10.30pm
If a frenzied crack addict killed two of your closest family members, would you forgive them? That’s the difficult question posed in Would You Believe? A Life for a Life. When Agnes Furey’s daughter Patricia and grandchild Chris were brutally murdered by Patricia’s ex-boyfriend Leonard Scovens in Florida, Agnes refused to let hatred and bitterness destroy her life, so she began a correspondence with her daughter’s killer, who was serving a life sentence for the double murder. The resulting friendship changed both their lives, and led to them working together on promoting restorative justice rather than retribution in the prison system.

Neven’s Christmas Menu
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm
We’re starting the countdown to Christmas, and soon it will be time to start thinking about yuletide food and feasting. But what are we going to cook this season? Chef Neven Maguire has it all in hand in Neven’s Christmas Menu. In this two-part special, the celeb chef will rustle up some mouthwatering Chrismas dishes, including goose, which he hopes more Irish families will adopt as their seasonal bird. Don’t worry – he’s also doing a turkey dish for the traditionalists – a satay turkey.