TV guide: 17 of the best shows to watch this week
Mary Berry dishes, Irish celebs go global and Dearbhail McDonald brings a personal view to the fertility question
Dearbhail McDonald hosts Fertility Shock
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
You may not realise it, especially if you’re hunched over in a Supermac’s surrounded by screaming kids, but Ireland is having a bit of a baby drought. That’s right: the supply of new babbas is drying up, as fertility rates drop and couples have children later in life, and fewer children than ever before. Journalist Dearbhail McDonald, group business editor of Independent News & Media, goes out to discover what is happening with fertility rates in Ireland and around the world, and discusses her own decision to have her eggs frozen to secure her future chances of motherhood. McDonald also looks at the problems faced by society when its citizens no longer go forth and multiply.
Mary Berry’s Quick Cooking
Monday, BBC2, 8.30pm
The food writer demonstrates recipes that deliver on flavour but save on time, inspired by the cuisine and cooking culture of places she visits. Berry beginning by making her first-ever visit to Rome to explore a cuisine that she has always adored, trying a new take on traditional pizza, uncovering a hidden gem in the Jewish quarter, and cooking a speedy Roman classic with Michelin-starred chef Cristina Bowerman. She also whips up bruschetta, speedy pasta dishes and an irresistible tiramisu.
Monday, RTÉ One, 7pm
With the biggest Irish-language festival in Ireland and the world, Seachtain na Gaeilge, now on, Nationwide celebrates the Irish language and culture. Presenter Mary Kennedy travels to Ballyphehane in Cork, where the community share in all aspects of Irish culture all year round; reporter Niall Martin visits the Dublin Dog Show at the Irish Kennel Club’s exhibition centre; and reporter Helen McInerney goes to Co Carlow to meet a group of young music lovers who gathered from all over Ireland to celebrate traditional Irish music making.
Monday, RTÉ2, 11.30pm
Shaun O’Connor’s 2016 short film, written by Tadhg Hickey, concerns a retired postman (Jon Kenny) who still goes about his daily rounds. The local villages love him, but a bully (Jack Walsh) wants to put a stop to the pretence. Also starring Cora Fenon and Ger Fitzgibbon.
Monday-Thursday, UTV, 9pm
Former Coronation Street star Katherine Kelly is clearly keen to show there’s a lot more to her than playing mouthy Becky. She proves her versatility in this new thriller, taking on the role of a university lecturer who has always prided herself on her academic integrity. So, when a student (Molly Windsor, who won a Bafta for her performance in the hard-hitting Three Girls) hands in a suspiciously good essay, Kelly’s Dr Leah Dale is quick to raise the alarm. However, the student takes the accusation personally, and what had seemed like a simple case of cheating soon spirals out of control.
Monday, E4, 7.30pm
Minnie Driver stars in this American comedy series as hardworking mom Maya DiMeo, who is fiercely protective of her family – particularly her eldest son JJ (Micah Fowler), who has cerebral palsy. JJ has a brilliant personality and a killer sense of humour; what he needs is someone to give him a voice. After finding what they hope will be the right school for JJ, the family moves to a far-too-upmarket neighbourhood, and discover an unlikely candidate to become JJ’s “voice” – the school groundskeeper. The sitcom has gone to a third season on US telly.
The Choir: Our School by the Tower
Monday, BBC2, 9pm (repeated Tuesday, 12.15am)
In June 2017, the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower meant that the pupils at the next-door school, Kensington Aldridge Academy, had to be moved to a temporary home in a collection of portacabins a mile away. But that wasn’t the only impact the blaze had on the school: 72 people lost their lives in the fire, including five of KAA’s pupils. This two-part documentary meets principal David Benson, who hopes that the school can return to its original site – and as KAA specialises in the performing arts, he plans to mark the occasion with a concert. Britain’s best-known choirmaster Gareth Malone is on hand to help the students produce a performance that will celebrate their pride in their community, but the plan runs into trouble when some parents raise concerns about whether it’s too soon to return.
Monday, UTV2, 10pm
This was one of the brightest British comedies of 2017, and it’s now back for a second run. Timewasters centres on a south London jazz band who are sent back in time. In the first of the new series, Horace (Samson Kayo) wants to go back to see his grandma, so the rest of the band end up travelling to 1958 with him. Good support comes from Daniel Lawrence Taylor, Kadiff Kirwan, and Adelayo Adedayo. Guests stars popping up in this run include Anna Chancellor, Javone Prince, Ellie White and Daniel Rigby.
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm
Last year the government revised its targets from 230,000 to just 20,000 electric vehicles on the roads by 2020, with a pledge that all new cars and vans sold would be “zero-emissions capable” by 2030. Dr Lara Dungan investigates why electric vehicles are not yet being purchased in significant numbers, and what can be done to encourage uptake. She looks at whether Ireland could be at the forefront of scrapping the combustion engine by introducing electric vehicles, an eco-friendly replacement, on a country-wide scale – and what new innovations are in place to make this transition a real prospect.
Grow, Cook, Eat
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
Michael Kelly and Karen O’Donohoe are back with a second series aimed at helping people grow their own food. In episode one they focus on that household staple, the onion. Kelly’s young son Nicky gives a masterclass in keeping hens, and O’Donohoe heads home to Cork to meet people committed to growing and cooking fresh and seasonal food. And Chef Katie Sanderson creates Berber Eggs – a simple meal using onions and eggs. The show is sponsored by Bord Bia and StopFoodWaste.ie
Thursday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
God, it must be great to be a celebrity in Ireland. Apart from all the fame and adulation and offers of kinky sex, you also get sent off to exotic locations by RTÉ – and all you have to do is be your own petulant, self-absorbed, spotlight-hungry self. Not that any of the six celebs featured here suffers from any of those afflictions. Senator David Norris, Shane MacGowan’s girlfriend Victoria Mary Clarke, Derek Burke from country-synth behemoth Crystal Swing, former presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon, comedienne Alison Spittle, and former Olympian athlete David Gillick all wear their burden of fame lightly. Which should keep down baggage charges. In this six-part series, the high-flying half-dozen explores the attractions of Morocco. Will it be conflict or chemistry between the celebs? Fasten your seat belts.
Mother Father Deaf
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
What’s it like for children growing up with deaf parents? This film by Donegal native Garry Keane explores the nuances of life for “codas” (children of deaf adults). These include Laura O’Reilly, who found it doubly hard to communicate with her parents during her difficult teenage years; actor Shane O’Reilly, who honed his acting skills through interpreting for his parents; and Catherine White from Tralee, who grew up with sign language as her first language – and still dreams in it. This is a unique portait of people who live in that strange world between deafness and hearing.
Shadow Commander: Iran’s Military Mastermind
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
For decades Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani has dominated the brutal struggle for power and influence across the Middle East. During the Iraq War he is said to have smuggled thousands of sophisticated bombs into the country, arming the Shia militias who killed hundreds of British and American troops. But just a few years later the western coalition found themselves on the same side as Soleimani as they both fought to defeat Islamic State. This documentary includes first-hand accounts of the general’s secret deals and shifting alliances across Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
Draining Alcatraz: The Impossible Escape
Thursday, Channel 5, 9pm
Alcatraz was one of the most notorious prisons in the world, partly because it was supposedly inescapable. The island has caught the imagination of Hollywood over the years, inspiring such movies as Escape from Alcatraz and The Rock. But what made the prison so tough to break out of? This documentary uses cutting-edge visual effects to drain the waters away and reveal some of Alcatraz’s secrets.
Comic Relief 2019
Friday, BBC1, 7pm
Lenny Henry has no shortage of stars helping him with the latest extravaganza. Emma Willis, Paddy McGuinness, David Tennant, Zoe Ball, Romesh Ranganathan and Alesha Dixon will front the biennial fundraiser in the hope that we dig deep for the Red Nose charity. As ever, that cash will make a huge difference to the lives of vulnerable people and communities in the UK and abroad. Hugh Grant, Rowan Atkinson and many of the cast of Four Weddings and a Funeral reunite for One Red Nose Day and a Wedding. Richard Madden reprises his role as DS David Budd in a mini episode of Bodyguard; Freddie Flintoff drives Robbie Savage round the bend at the Top Gear test track, and the cast of Only Fools & Horses: The Musical join in the fun. Followed at 10pm on BBC2 by Comic Relief Does University Challenge.
Showbands: How Ireland Learnt to Party
Friday, BBC4, 9pm
The showbands phenomenon burst spectacularly onto the Irish music scene in the 1960s. Here Ardal O’Hanlon attempts to find out what started the infamous era, profiles some of the people involved, and examines its eventual decline in the 1980s. With the aid of his campervan, he takes a trip down memory lane to the region where he grew up. He reflects on his time as a punk, aged 15, in 1980, and the band Joe Dolan and the Drifters. “This was not a punk band,” O’Hanlon remarks. “This was a show band!” But why did the genre vanish? Here’s a chance to find out.
Australia: Earth’s Magical Kingdom
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
Even as Australia with Julia Bradbury continues on UTV, the BBC launches its own documentary from down under. This one travels from the peaks of the Snowy Mountains to tropical Queensland. We see how animals have learned to thrive across the continent’s harsh and beautiful extremes. Among the stars are a tree-dwelling kangaroo; an underwater spider (bound to give some viewers nightmares), and a fire-starting bird that flushes out insects and small prey with the aid of some ingenious tactics.