TV guide: 18 of the best shows to watch this week
Powerhouse Fosse/Verdon series begins, plus John Cleese back in Hold the Sunset, Ella McSweeney on How Animals Work, and the bizarre world of million-pound hand models
Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell in Fosse/Verdon, beginning Friday on BBC2
Who Do You Think You Are?
Monday, BBC1, 9pm
Oscar and Bafta nominee Naomie Harris’s dramatic discoveries in this edition of the show inspire her to anger, sadness and tears of joy. On a journey from Trinidad to Grenada to Jamaica, she learns of her great-great-great-great- grandfather’s involvement in the exploitation of so-called liberated Africans shortly after the abolition of slavery. She is also delighted to discover the identify of her African five-times-great grandmother, and uncovers a family story of tragic poverty in Jamaica’s capital of Kingston.
How Animals Work
Monday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
No, not a programme about unpaid animal labour. This four-part series, presented by Ella McSweeney and animal expert Prof Peter Wilson, sets out to learn the inner workings of animals and what makes them tick. If you think you know cattle, sheep, dogs, horses, birds, fish and reptiles, think again. The hosts will uncover little-known facts about everyday animals and gain new insights into their physiology, mechanics and behaviours. But beware: to really get at the inner workings of animals, they may have to perform a few icky dissections on-camera, so maybe skip dinner for this one.
Taking on the Irish Sea – Our Lives
Monday, BBC1, 7.30pm
A 12-strong crew, including three grandmothers, from Llangrannog rowing club in Geredigion, Wales, prepare to take on the Celtic Chalenge and row nearly 100 miles from Arklow, Co Wicklow to Aberystwyth in Ceredigion, Wales,
Young, British and Depressed: Dispatches
Monday, Channel 4, 8pm
With one in eight young people in the UK having a mental disorder, demand for access to mental health services is at an all-time high and anti-depressant use is on the increase. Sanah Ahsan investigates what fuels the crisis and the treatment available for young people, and whether they are over-reliant on anti-depressants. She also asks if medical solutions are being offered for emotional problems and whether destigmatisation campaigns have had unintended consequences.
How to Break Into the Elite
Monday, BBC2, 9pm
Amol Rajan’s relatively humble background as the son of Indian immigrants hasn’t hurt his career: he’s now the BBC’s media editor. But does his story prove that with talent and hard work anyone can break into Britain’s elite professions? Or is he the exception to the rule that your chances are still determined by where you come from? In this one-off documentary, Rajan follows working-class lads Amaan and Elvis in their quest to become city boys, and Leeds students Dominique and Jack, who are starting to suspect that when it comes to the media, it’s not what you know but who you know. Rajanl asks if it is a lack of confidence or connections holding working-class students back.
Monday, RTÉ2, 11.40pm
Jeda De Brí’s nine-minute Irish short from 2015 follows a young homeless man (Ruairí Heading, who also wrote the script) and an unwanted dog he befriends on the streets of Dublin.
I Am Kirsty
Tuesday, Channel 4, 10pm
Last week’s opening episode was a heartbreaking insight into a relationship, and the second edition promises to be just as gripping. Samantha Morton takes the lead role as a single mother who has had a string of unreliable partners. The latest has left her in a terrible state, with debts that threaten to spiral out of control. As Kirsty’s efforts to keep afloat look set to end in disaster, she finds solace with a neighbour (Paul Kaye), who seems to be the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. However, he soon shows his true colours in devastating fashion.
Inside the Factory
Tuesday, BBC2, 8pm
Gregg Wallace visits a cherry bakewell factory in Stoke on Trent that produces 250,000 tarts every day, and meets the team of 12 employed to precisely place the cherries on top by hand. Cherry Healey learns the tricks of avoiding a soggy pastry bottom when baking at home, and visits a factory where almonds are roasted and milled to make butter. Historian Ruth Goodman discovers the origins of frangipane as a perfume in 17th-century Paris, and discovers how the modern cherry bakewell recipe was arrived at by accident.
Counting Tigers: A Survival Special
Tuesday, UTV, 9pm
According to recent figures, it’s estimated there are now fewer than 4,000 wild tigers left on the planet. These iconic animals are struggling to survive in an ever-changing world where man’s needs take priority over nature. One country holds the key to the tiger’s survival – India, which is at the heart of the largest-ever wildlife survey. The nation’s big cat experts want to know exactly how many tiger currently live there in a bid to work out whether they have a future. This documentary had unrestricted access to the survey, which takes in 50 reserves and 400,000km of wilderness.
The Chefs’ Brigade
Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm
Jason Atherton takes 10 chefs from pubs, cafes and caterers around the UK on a culinary journey across Europe while giving them a crash course in preparing food fit for the finest restaurants. The first destination is Puglia in southern Italy, where food is prepared on the principle of making the most of what is to hand. The chefs are tested on their pasta-making skills, and pitted in a culinary contest against a well-regarded local restaurant.
George Clarke’s Council House Scandal
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
George Clarke embarks on a campaign to kick-start a housing revolution and uncover the reasons behind the steep decline in affordable council house building. He meets visionary architects of the past, and visits the best and worst examples of housing on offer. A trip to Vienna, where social housing can come with indoor and outdoor pools, proves inspirational for his housing vision for the future. Back in the UK, Clarke challenges government to reform housing policy before taking matters into his own hands on his call for a new wave of council house building.
Inside the Secret World of Incels
Wednesday, BBC1, 10.45pm
“Incels”, short for involuntary celibates, are sexually frustrated young men who have found support among one another on the internet. They have also been linked to multiple mass murders and hate crimes against women. In 2014, Elliot Rodger (22) shot and stabbed six of his fellow students to death at the University of California. In a chilling video, Rodger said he was angry that he was still a virgin and wanted to show himself as “the true alpha male” by punishing women for not being attracted to him. The murders catapulted online incels into wider consciousness, with some forums recording up to 40,000 members. As well as explaining how an online ideology can push males into disturbing behaviour, this film also unearths some of the reasons for the community’s existence, including mental-health issues, autism and traumatic upbringings.
Million Pound Handjobs
Wednesday, Channel 5, 10pm
Here’s s a look at the world of the “super hand models” insured for £2 million (€2.2 million). Such highly prized digits have helped sell everything from phones and cars to chocolate bars, though there’s little chance of recognising them in the street. Here, cameras go behind the photoshoots and reveal the faces behind the anonymous hands. There’s also a look at what it takes to keep model nails in top condition, and the cupboard essential that is a must-have beauty product.
This Farming Life
Thursday, BBC2, 8pm
Documentary series following the ups and downs of six farming families in Scotland, from Argyll to the Outer Hebrides, as they face up to tough economic times and an uncertain future. Crofting couple Lynn and Sandra face the danger of a drought, while farmer Stevie’s buffalo herd goesfor a cooling dip in the loch. At the Royal Highland Show, Raymond and Johnny hope for success with their Charolais cattle, while Aimee puts her pony skills to the test.
Who Do You Think You Are?
Thursday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Presenter Fearne Cotton began her career in children’s television at the age of 15, before becoming a household name with her show on Radio 1. Today, she divides her time between writing books and bringing up her two children in London. All her professional life she has felt a strong desire to succeed: “I’ve got this drive and it’s a burning drive inside, and I know that comes from my ancestry.” Her own upbringing was, in her own words, “normal”, so she is keen to find out about any remarkable ancestors she might have so she can pass their stories on to her own children.
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
Not to be confused with Frost/Nixon, this eight-part drama tells the story of one of the greatest Hollywood partnerships , if not quite up there with Bogie and Bacall or even Burton and Taylor. Bob Fosse (1927-1987) was the visionary dancer, choreographer and film-maker behind such classic movies as Cabaret and All That Jazz. Gwen Verdon (1925-2000) was the Tony Award-winning dancer and actor who became Fosse’s collaborator, muse, wife and eventual guardian of his legacy. The series, which was nominated for 11 Emmys and stars Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams, promises lots of Fosse’s choreography.
Hold the Sunset
Friday, BBC1, 9pm
Your kids, they f*** you up eh? There you are, getting ready to spend your twilight years basking in the sun, when your 50-year-old son comes along and kicks sand in your dreams. John Cleese stars in the second season of the comedy series, playing pensioner Phil, whose plans to marry his girlfriend Edith (Alison Steadman) and move abroad to sunny climes are put on hold after his son announces that he’s left his wife, kids and job, and is moving home to “find himself”. So Phil and Edith must defer their dreams – although obviously time is not on their side.
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
Friday, BBC2, 8pm
The first series of Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing was one of the surprise gems of 2018 – even viewers whose eyes normally glaze over at any mention of fishing were charmed by watching comedians and friends Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse musing on the big and small questions of life on various riverbanks. Here experienced angler Paul once again tries to teach Bob the finer arts of fishing, while Bob takes charge of booking their accommodation. The opening episode finds them at the river Usk in Wales, where Paul’s father first taught him to fish. That prompts them to discuss their childhoods and reflect on their family lives and values, though they find time to try to catch a wild brown trout.