TV guide: 15 of the best shows to watch this week
BBC gets personal inside the Apollo 11 capsule, Ardal O’Hanlon revisits the showband era
8 Days: To the Moon & Back, Wednesday on BBC2
Monday, BBC One, 9pm
A hard-working couple are thrilled when their youngest son, Isaac, lands a major role in a Hollywood movie. For this working-class north London family, it’s beyond their wildest dreams. But when Isaac reveals he was sexually abused by a top film-maker, the dream turns into a nightmare. The parents are offered a huge pay-off to keep quiet about the abuse, which they reluctantly accept, thinking they can use the money to rebuild their shattered lives. Over four harrowing, hard-hitting episodes over consecutive nights, the family soon learn that taking the hush money has only added to the trauma.
Showbands: How Ireland Learned to Party
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Ireland in the 1960s wasn’t exactly swinging. While the crowds across the water were having a right old hooley, rocking to The Beatles and Stones, sporting the latest miniskirts and bell-bottoms, Ireland was still stuck in a strait-laced world ruled by clergymen. But then along came the showbands, bringing their own versions of the hits from the US and UK charts, and giving teenagers an excuse to go out to their local ballroom and party like it was 1969. The Miami Showband, The Royal Showband, The Clipper Carlton, Brendan Bowyer . . . they were Ireland’s own pop stars, brightening up dull Irish lives with their mix of pop covers and favourite country and Irish tunes. At the peak of the showband era, there were some 600 outfits performing around the island, but few of them made any money. That went to the dodgy agents and promoters – as well as the church, which owned many of the venues. Ardal O’Hanlon takes a trip back in time to this unique period in Irish music history, and meets many of the movers and shakers who kept Irish teens on their toes.
Brexit Behind Closed Doors
Monday, RTÉ One, 10.45pm
Not had enough of the whole Brexit hoo-ha just yet? Then here’s a two-part documentary to finally rid you of any lingering desire to hear another word on the subject. First shown on the BBC in May, the programme promises to take you deep into the Brexit negotiations, aka the third circle of hell, as EU officials try with increasing exasperation to hammer out a deal with a disunited kingdom seemingly hellbent on self-sabotage. We’ve already seen it unfold in the news over the past three years, so this is just another couple of hours we’ll never get back.
Extreme Tribe: The Last Pygmies
Monday, Channel, 4, 9pm
The Mbendjele are a pygmy tribe almost entirely cut off from the outside world. But in this new series, presenter Livia Simoka gets a chance to learn more about this extraordinary society. She travels into the remote Congolese jungles to live among the Mbendjele, spending five months sleeping on the floor of her adopted family’s mud hut. In the process, she learns more about their traditions, which include female tooth-sharpening. In the opening episode, Livia finds herself caught up in a dispute between two families, and learns why a neighbouring hostile tribe poses such a threat.
Monday, RTÉ2, 11.55pm
Peter McNamara’s 20-minute short follows an Irish paramedic, Sean Ryan (Peter Halpin), working in New York City, He struggles every day to manage a fractured home life as well as death and depravity of the streets.
Ghosts of the Deep: Ancient Shipwrecks
Monday, More4, 9pm
This two-part documentary follows a team of international scientists on a quest in the Black Sea to settle the enduring scientific puzzle of how it changed from a freshwater lake to a sea at the end of the last Ice Age. Was it a catastrophic flood that could have inspired the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, or a slow inundation that happened over generations? The team survey and core the seabed in search of answers, but they also detect over 40 unusual sonar signatures. Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) guide the team to stunningly preserved wrecks, unseen since they left their harbours during the Ottoman period hundreds of years ago.
Charles I: Downfall of a King
Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, BBC4, 9pm
In this three-part series, historian Lisa Hilton discovers how in just 50 tempestuous days Charles I’s rule collapsed, laying the foundations for civil war, the loss of Royal power and – ultimately – the King’s head. We begin in November 1641. King Charles I is in Edinburgh, but while he is away from his capital, the leader of the House of Commons, John Pym, is plotting a move to limit his power. The duel between these two men will spiral across the next weeks into an irrecoverable split across the country.
8 Days: To the Moon & Back
Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm
It remains the most celebrated space mission ever flown, creating iconic images and changing the way we think about out place in the universe – and it lasted for eight days, three hours, 18 minutes and 25 seconds. To mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to set foot on the moon, this docu-drama explores what it was like for the three men who had to spend over a week in what was essentially a high-tech tin can. Cutting-edge digital effects and dramatised performances are used to bring to life declassified cockpit audio recorded by the astronauts themselves, giving an insight into what it was like to make the long, dangerous journey.
The Left Behind
Wednesday, BBC1, 11.05pm
This one-off drama comes from the award-winning team behind Killed By My Debt and the Murdered by... films. The story explores how a young man dealing with a lack of housing and secure employment begins to see an answer to his problems in anti-immigration sentiments, which eventually draws him into a devastating hate crime. As well as exploring the dangers of extremism, the drama, which stars Sion Daniel Young and Kimberley Nixon, also explores the problems facing the white-working class in Britain’s post-industrial towns and cities, who feel they have been left behind.
Wednesday, BBC1, 7pm
The hard-hitting documentary series which reveals the work of police extradition units in Britain and Europe who track down men and women fleeing from justice returns for a second four-part run. Tonight, cameras follow officers from Derby as they travel to Latvia to arrest a gang suspected of people trafficking. Plus, police detectives in London search for fugitives at large in the capital.
Too Gay for God?
Thursday, BBC1, 10.35pm
Documentary exploring the place of the LGBTQ community within the Christian faith, and the Church of England in particular, through the perspective of an openly gay member of the clergy. The Rev Jide Macaulay is an ordained deacon who wants the Church of England to adopt a more inclusive position towards the LGBTQ community, particularly in respect to same-sex marriages for members of the priesthood. Macaulay wants to know why he can’t marry his partner, so he sets out to meet people who have views on and experience of same-sex relationships within the church and seeks to understand the position of other Christian denominations.
Mad Cow Disease: The Great British Beef Scandal
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
Although it was regularly in the headlines in the late 1980s and 1990s, many viewers probably haven’t thought about BSE, aka “Mad Cow Disease”, in years. But as this documentary looking back at the scandal points out, we are still living with the aftermath in the form of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which has killed almost 200 people since 1996. The film looks at how this still incurable and entirely manmade disease came to be a problem and finds the story starts in the 1970s, when supermarkets were emerging into the high streets and meat consumption was going through the roof. To help keep up with demand, farmers started feeding cows an artificial supplement made from the remains of other animals. The documentary also looks at how a series of poor decisions failed to stop the infected cattle getting into the food chain.
Classic Album: The Crickets — The “Chirping” Crickets
Friday, BBC4, 9pm
A look at the making of the 1957 album, the debut of American rock’n’roll band The Crickets, and the only one featuring Buddy Holly to be released during his tragically brief career, which ended with his death in a plane crash two years later, aged just 22. The “Chirping” Crickets album survives as the purest testament to Holly’s skill as a singer, pioneering guitar player and songwriter in an age when few of his peers composed their own material. Contributors include former band member Jerry Allison, singer Cliff Richard, and writers John Beecher and Frank Blanas.
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
Monty Don and his crew focus their attention on the loss of wildflower habitats in the UK and the part that gardeners can play in averting the resulting loss of wildlife. In Lincolnshire, Adam Frost finds out how crucial meadows are to supporting the ecosystem. Arit Anderson visits East Sussex to discover the results of a recent wildlife survey carried out in the gardens there. And Nick Bailey travels to Staffordshire, where meadows are being grown in gardens for the benefit of wildlife. Plus: Carol Klein identifies plants that can help increase insect and bird populations.
Manchester International Festival: Welcoming the World
Friday, BBC2, 11.05pm
The event, which takes place every two years, got under way on Thursday with Yoko Ono’s Bells for Peace, a mass-participatory artwork that invited thousands of people to ring and sing out for peace. No doubt we’ll get a taste of it in this programme, which offers a guide to what’s happening over an 18-day period. Film fans will be most excited about the participation of David Lynch, who is taking over the HOME venue for the duration. Lynch’s contribution includes the largest exhibition of his visual art ever assembled in the UK, as well as film screenings and gigs inspired by his work. There’s also a look at Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah first collaboration (the stage offering Tree), and Maxine Peake and Sarah Frankcom’s theatrical insight into Velvet Underground singer Nico.