TV guide: 18 of the best shows to watch this week
Emma Thompson stars in new drama by Very English Scandal writer Russell T Davies, plus Ireland in the Eurovision semi-final and new Shane Meadows series The Virtues
Emma Thompson in Years and Years, Tuesday on BBC1
Monday-Thursday, Channel 5, 9pm
From Suranne Jones in Scott & Bailey to Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley, former Coronation Street actresses have a good track record when it comes to crime dramas. Can ex-Weatherfield resident Catherine Tyldesley keep up the standards in this new series, which is showing across four days? It begins as a shot rings out in an isolated farmhouse and a young man is killed by an unseen hand. Two weeks previously, four siblings return home to scatter their mother’s ashes and read her will, little realising that this family reunion will end in murder.
How to Live Better for Longer
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Start your own operation transformation with this two-part series presented by Dr Eva Orsmond, featuring tips to help you improve your health and boost your longevity. The series focuses on the ageing process; Dr Eva believes that age is just a number, and if you look after yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t live a happy and active older life and keep that one foot out of the grave. She brings in scientific and medical experts to advise on how to make the most of your later years, and meets some super-healthy older people who are not yet ready to go gently into that good night.
One Day in Gaza
Monday, BBC2, 9pm
May 14th, 2018, started as a day of mass protest on Gaza’s border with Israel, and would end as one of the deadliest days in the region for a generation. For weeks, Palestinians had been protesting along the border fence, but tensions were running particularly high due to the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem – the controversial step ordered by President Donald Trump. While Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other senior US officials arrived to inaugurate the new embassy, tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered at sites along the Gaza border, barely 40 miles away. As the sun set that day, more than 60 Palestinians were dead or dying, and some 2,000 lay injured, many by live ammunition. Award-winning documentary maker Olly Lambert’s film examines moment by moment what happened on that fateful day and asks who is to blame.
A German Life: Goebells’ Secretary Remembers – Storyville
Monday, BBC4, 10pm
Actress Maggie Smith recently made a triumphant return to the London stage, performing the role of 103-year-old Brunhilde Pomsel, secretary and stenographer to the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph. The playwright, Christopher Hampton, was inspired to write A German Life after seeing this powerful documentary about Pomsel, made not long before she died. It tells the extraordinary story of an ordinary person living through traumatic times and raises profound questions about the moral choices and personal sacrifices that one is faced with when confronted by evil.
Monday, UTV, 9pm
Trevor McDonald and Julie Etchingham discover how Queen Victoria transformed Buckingham Palace from an unloved, unfinished and unfurnished building into the home of the monarchy. The pair reveal how this royal residence was dramatically redesigned by Victoria and Prince Albert, showing how their innovations are still used by the royal family today, while historians Amanda Foreman and Annie Gray and curators of the Royal Collection guide McDonald and Etchingham around Buckingham Palace’s most important spaces.
Years and Years
Tuesday, BBC1, 9pm
A family drama with a difference, this new series created by Russell T Davies (A Very English Scandal) follows the fortunes of one family against a backdrop of massive political and social upheaval. The Lyonses are an ordinary enough TV family, just getting on with their lives in Manchester, but on one fateful night, the political landscape changes forever, and the family’s timeline is thrust five years into the future, to a very changed Britain in 2024. Rory Kinnear stars as dad Stephen Lyons, a financial adviser, and Emma Thompson plays the charismatic but controversial politician Vivienne Rook. If recent events have you wondering where Britain is going, this series should give you plenty of (non-EU sourced) food for thought.
Eurovision Song Contest 2019 semi-finals
Tuesday/Thursday, RTÉ2, 8pm
Amid calls for a boycott of this year’s Eurovision over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, the annual tune-fest is carrying on regardless, insisting it is above politics and focused only on the higher goals of creating catchy songs with silly lyrics. You can bet, though, that some of the entries will have provocative political messages couched among the la-la-las. Before we get to the competition proper on Saturday, we have two semi-finals to endure. The first one, on Tuesday, needn’t concern us (we’re not even allowed to vote in it), but the one on Thursday features Ireland’s entry, Sarah McTernan, with the song 22. Irish Eurovision fans got into a bit of a snit because RTÉ sprung the song on us, obviously believing the public are incapable of picking a winner. But RTÉ clearly hasn’t either: this instantly forgettable ditty hasn’t a chance against the big diva anthems and earworms that will surely be on show. If McTernan crashes out on Thursday, Montrose might be going back to the people next year.
Mary Kills People
Tuesday, More4, 9pm
In this award-winning, darkly comic Canadian series, life is busy for Dr Mary Harris (Caroline Dhavernas). She’s trying to bring up her family singlehandedly, and trying to keep her ER department running smoothly. And to top it all she’s doing a nixer: helping terminally ill people to end it all painlessly and peacefully. These assisted deaths are, of course, strictly off the books. But soon her double life starts to unravel and she is forced to fight hard to hold on to her lucrative little sideline.
PTSD: The War in My Head
Tuesday, BBC1, 11.05pm
John Paul Finnigan from Liverpool, Kevin Williams from London, and Kevin Holt from Doncaster were all in the same regiment, the 2-Rifles, which served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly though, that isn’t all that unites them. All three soldiers died last year after lengthy battles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Finnigan, who was 34, and Williams, who was 29, both took their own lives. This documentary tells their stories, drawing on personal videos, voice notes and letters to explore their fights against mental health issues, while their families and friends offer an insight into how the soldiers’ struggles with PTSD affected those around them.
Bear’s Mission with David Walliams
Tuesday, UTV, 9pm
Bear Grylls teams up with David Walliams for an adventure that pushes the actor, author and Britain’s Got Talent judge to his limits in Devon. Walliams has to throw a self-inflating life raft off the top of a 200-foot drop so they can cross a freezing cold lake. However, that doesn’t go to plan. He also prepares a menu of dead rat for dinner, much to his disgust. Walliams also reveals how he first suffered from depression as a teenager, and speaks of the need for men in particular not to be ashamed of asking for help.
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
Here’s a new four-part series penned by Shane Meadows (This Is England) that is uncomfortably close to home. It tells the story of a recovering alcoholic (Stephen Graham) who is having some trouble with the recovering part. When his ex-partner leaves Liverpool with their son for a new life in Australia, Joseph is thrown from the wagon and must set out on a journey to confront his own dark past. This takes him back to Ireland and painful memories of growing up in a brutal care system which he has spent his adulthood trying to block out with drink and drugs. This sure ain’t gonna be a holiday back on the Auld Sod.
Pat Kenny’s Big Debate
Wednesday, Virgin One, 10pm
Pat Kenny is back with a special programme getting to the heart of all things Brexit and how it affects you. From Brussels to Ballydehob, it’s the story everyone is talking about. Kenny, his guests and a live studio audience will dissect this once-in-a-generation-defining issue and discuss what the future holds for Ireland in Europe.
Wednesday, BBC2, 10pm
Delightfully observed and beautifully written, Mum features a wonderful central performance from Lesley Manville as the title character. When we first met her, Cathy had just lost her husband and was learning to cope with her grief and being on her own again. Since then, she’s developed feelings for his best friend Michael while dealing with the problems of her nearest and dearest, including her son, his lovable but hapless girlfriend, and her brother and his snobby partner. The last time we saw her, Cathy and Michael were edging ever closer to a relationship; will the new third run see them live happily ever after?
Nadiya: Anxiety and Me
Wednesday, BBC1, 9pm
Since Nadiya Hussain won The Great British Bake Off in 2015, she’s rarely been off TV screens. But behind the scenes Hussain suffers from extreme anxiety and debilitating panic attacks, which she’s had since childhood. For decades, she has kept her anxiety a secret, ashamed to speak out. Now, she sets out to find the cause of her anxiety, exploring the most effective, available treatments, while also having therapy herself, in the hope of managing her anxiety.
David Harewood: Psychosis and Me
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
British actor David Harewood is perhaps best known for his roles in US dramas Homeland and Supergirl, What many may not realise is that when he was 23 years old, Harewood had a psychotic breakdown and was sectioned. Now, in this deeply personal film, he pieces together what happened to him in the hope that it will help him and others better understand the misconceptions around psychosis. He hears from people who are going through their own mental health crises, spends time with the combined emergency mental health and police teams, and meets two inspirational young people from an Early Intervention drop-in group.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 10.35pm
With Graham on his jollies in Tel Aviv preparing for Eurovision, Jack Whitehall steps into the host’s shoes. Among the comedian’s guests is actor Luke Evans, who is currently starring in comedy film Murder Mystery. Also on the sofa is singer-songwriter Paloma Faith, who is about to utilise her acting skills as the villain in Batman TV prequel Pennyworth, and Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie, who will be on stage at in London next month to play Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Friday, Channel 4, 8pm
Leading dog experts Oli Juste, Katie Patmore and Hannah Molloy bring their pop-up school to the grounds of Chatsworth House, where they teach novice pet owners how to navigate puppyhood. But while the canines may be the stars of the show, we also get an insight into the lives of their new families and their reasons for opening up their homes to a four-legged bundle of joy. In the first episode, we meet Hannah and Jack, who thought that bouncy Labrador Rueben would be a practise baby, but are now finding they have very different parenting styles.
The Last Leg
Friday, Channel 4, 10pm
The satirical comedy show is back for a 17th series – not bad for a programme that originally began life as part of Channel 4’s coverage of the 2012 Paralympics. The key to its longevity is the chemistry between hosts Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker, who offer their takes on the headlines and deal with the eternal question “is it okay?” However, the show has also boasted an impressive and eclectic line-up of guests, which in the last series alone included Alastair Campbell, Michael Sheen, Stephen Merchant, Stacey Dooley and Chesney Hawkes. So who will be joining them this week to reflect on the state of the UK as Brexit continues to loom?
The Sheridan Smith Story
Friday, Channel 5, 9pm
Documentary examining the life and career of the award-winning actress and singer, who has gained plaudits for her work in TV, theatre, radio and film over the past 20 years. Smith’s performing skills were honed from a young age, and she regularly appeared on stage with her parents, a professional country-western duo. At 16, she left her native Lincolnshire for London as a member of the National Youth Music Theatre, landing roles in shows such as Bugsy Malone. She was then cast in the classic sitcom The Royle Family before becoming a familiar face on a variety of dramas and comedies including Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Gavin & Stacey, Mrs Biggs, Cilla and Jonathan Creek.