TV guide: 18 of the best shows to watch this week, beginning tonight

Partition stories on RTÉ1/BBC2, Together with Sharon Horgan, Fatherhood on Netflix

Rose Byrne in Physical, streaming from Friday on Apple TV+

Rose Byrne in Physical, streaming from Friday on Apple TV+

 

Dermot Bannon’s Super Small Spaces
Sunday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm
If your gaff feels a bit like a squash and a squeeze, you might need some help to maximise the space. Enter Dermot Bannon with more useful ideas for getting the most out of that bijou dwelling you call home. In the second of this two-parter, Bannon meets another bunch of homeowners hoping to create their own tiny piece of heaven. Like the Purcells in Co Louth, whose dream it is to create their own desert island vibe, complete with beach and beach hut, despite being several miles from the sea. Or Derek McCarthy, who has built his own woodland cabin in his back garden, complete with shower facilities and beer on tap to keep it all nice and snug. Bannon also meets a couple from Phibsboro who have turned a warehouse into a home, and a Donegal couple who have created three small spaces that connect to the wide open spaces of Glenveagh National Park.

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2021
Sunday, BBC4, 7.30pm
Now in its 20th edition, the biennial competition has launched the careers of opera stars such as Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Bryn Terfel, Jamie Barton and 2019 winner baritone Andrei Kymach from Ukraine. In the opening round, singers from Mongolia, Venezuela, China and Georgia compete for a place in the grand final, performing music by Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti and Mozart and accompanied by the Welsh National Opera Orchestra conducted by Michael Christie. This year’s judges are Welsh baritone Neal Davies, American soprano Roberta Alexander, and Aidan Lang, general director of Welsh National Opera.

How to Cook Well with Rory O’Connell
Monday, RTÉ One, 7.30pm
The TV schedules have been cleared this week to make room for the Euro 2020s, but if cooking is more your sport then tune in as master chef Rory O’Connell wraps up another series in which he shows us mere mortals how to whip up Michelin-worthy meals. It’s like watching Eric Claption demonstrate how to do guitar solos – all sounds very tasty but I’d probably make a dog’s dinner of it. He’s ending the series with a flourish: a starter of spelt, pearl barley and lentil broth followed by a grilled T-bone steak and arborio rice and coconut pudding with sour cherry and orange compote. He also meets Éamonn O’Sullivan of Hewn in Ennistymon, Co Clare, which makes wonderful wooden utensils for the kitchen, used by Michelin-starred Aniar restaurant in Galway. Methinks the producers are missing a naming trick here: subsequent series should be called How to Cook Most Excellently, How to Cook Awesomely and How to Cook Totes Amazeballs.

Partition, 1921
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Partition, 1921: Michael Portillo and Gerry Adams at the Áras Uí Chonghaile James Connolly Visitor Centre in Belfast
Partition, 1921: Michael Portillo and Gerry Adams at the Áras Uí Chonghaile James Connolly Centre in Belfast

Long before Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol, the British government grappled with a fierce conundrum. The “Irish Question” had plagued parliament for most of the 19th century but took on a new urgency as calls for Irish independence grew louder (it doesn’t get much louder than war) and Ulster unionists’ pleas to remain part of Britain became shriller. The flawed solution to the puzzle was partition. In this documentary, former Conservative politician Michael Portillo looks back at events that led up to Partition in 1921, and the legacy it left for a 100 years after. Portillo looks at how the British ruling class pulled out all the stops to support the unionists and unravels the web of intrigue and behind-the-scenes machinations that led to the creation of Northern Ireland. Portillo has proven himself a superb scholar of Anglo-Irish relations through history, and his previous documentaries The Enemy Files (British perception of the 1916 Rising) and Hawks and Doves (British attitudes to the War of Independence) give fresh perspectives on Irish history.

Peter Taylor: Ireland After Partition
Monday, BBC2, 9pm
The documentary maker embarks on a personal journey to mark the centenary of Irish partition, looking back through the films he has made over the past 50 years and reflecting on the controversial subject of a united Ireland. Taylor reveals how his own understanding of this complex and emotional issue has evolved over that time. He examines the early days, when he took a Hull bus driver and his wife to Belfast and a group of Catholic and Protestant children to Wales, as well as his revelatory interviews with MI6 officers and others who were involved in the secret talks between the British government and the IRA that eventually led to peace.

Between the Covers
Tuesday, BBC2, 7.30pm
It’s time to bid farewell to the second series of the BBC’s “book club for the nation”, which has been a welcome distraction during the lockdown. Host Sara Cox welcomes comedians Micky Flanagan and Reginald D Hunter, comedian and actress Sophie Willan and TV presenter Ranvir Singh to talk about their favourite titles. As always, there’s a recently published book to discuss: this week it’s The Frequency of Us by Keith Stuart, the author of 2016’s A Boy Made of Blocks. Meanwhile, Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart’s blistering debut novel about growing up in 1980s Glasgow, is also reviewed by the panel.

Ar Scáth na Sléibhte
Wednesday, TG4, 8.30pm

Cormac Ó hÁdhmaill in Ar Scáth na Sléibhte
Cormac Ó hÁdhmaill in Ar Scáth na Sléibhte

Cormac Ó hÁdhmaill explores the mountains of Ulster with the people who live and work around them. From sheep farming at the foot of Slieve Donard to exploring the underground workings of the Silent Valley Reservoir, Ó hÁdhmaill walks and explores the majestic Mourne Mountains of Co Down.

The Great British Sewing Bee
Wednesday, BBC1, 9pm
Sewing machines, pinking shears and patterns at the ready... it’s time for the three finalists to take on a final series of challenges in the hope of being crowned Britain’s best amateur sewer. First off they must create a bridesmaid’s dress for a little girl, complete with puff sleeves, bound buttonhole and lined bodice. Judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young will then ask them to show off their creativity by transforming cushions and tablecloths into summer festival outfits. Finally, they must whip up off-the-shoulder evening gowns out of luxurious fabric. It’s bound to be tense, but we can still rely on host Joe Lycett to have us in stitches as we find out who will take home the trophy.

Horizon Special: The Vaccine
Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm
As news of the Covid-19 virus broke around the world, teams of scientists jumped into action to create a vaccine against a virus that no one had heard of before. This programme looks at the extraordinary inside story of the unprecedented quest to develop vaccines. Scientists, clinicians and manufacturing experts from the US, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia share the struggles and triumphs of their work, while the trial volunteers putting their bodies on the line tell their stories. Narrated by Lesley Sharp.

Together
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm

James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan in Together
James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan in Together

At last, terrestrial TV has some major new dramas, and this one has a big-name cast to boot. James McAvoy (X-Men, His Dark Materials) plays a self-made man who runs his own computing consultancy. His wife, played by Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan, is a co-ordinator for all of Europe at a refugee charity. Their 10-year-old son Arty is all that is keeping their marriage going – until the country goes into lockdown. The couple are forced to re-evaluate themselves and their relationship, as well as dad’s fresh passion for growing vegetables and Arty’s socialist grandmother. Written by Dennis Kelly (The Third Day) and directed by The Crown’s Stephen Daldry, this promises to be a big hitter.

Comhrá
Thursday, TG4, 7.30pm
This week’s guest is Pádhraic Ó Ciardha, from Cois Fharraige in the Galway Gaeltacht and now living in Dublin. He ha had a varied career: broadcaster, ministerial adviser to Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and Michael D Higgins, and founder and senior manager for many years with TG4 who coined the brand motto, Súil Eile. Ó Ciardha is currently chairman of Gael Linn.

Discovering Sci-Fi on Film
Thursday, Sky Arts, 9pm

Charlton Heston and Edward G Robinson in Soylent Green (1973)
Charlton Heston and Edward G Robinson in Soylent Green (1973)

Ian Nathan, contributing editor of Empire Magazine, is joined by writer Neil Norman and Sunday Times film critic Stephen Armstrong as they count down their top 25 sci-fi movies from the past 100 years. Among the titles are Things to Come, Silent Running, War of the Worlds, The Abyss, Solaris, Soylent Green, The Time Machine, The Thing, Minority Report, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Alien, Forbidden Planet, Contact, The Fifth Element, Westworld, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Planet of the Apes, Metropolis, Back to the Future, The Empire Strikes Back, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Terminator 2 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

A Pandemic Poem: Where Did the World Go?
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
In May 2019, Simon Armitage was appointed the UK’s poet laureate, with one of his main duties writing poems to mark significant occasions. Well, you don’t get much more significant than a global pandemic and national lockdowns. Armitage’s words form the central narrative in this artistic response to the devastating effects of Covid-19 on our lives. Directed by Brian Hill, the programme features stories of people from all areas of society brought to life through mixing archive footage, musical sequences, and contemporary dance sequences choreographed by Nat Zangi. The film’s contributors include Matthew, who lost his 200-year-old family business; and Comfort, an asylum seeker who struggled with her mental health during lockdown.

ON DEMAND

Black Summer
From Thursday, Netflix

Black Summer
Black Summer

It’s season two in what is now a very crowded genre of zombie apocalypse dramas, and the zombies are still out there doing their zombie thing, while the small minority of non-flesh-devouring people try to carry on with some semblance of a normal life. Really, though, isn’t all this zombie stuff just Trumpers’ fevered nightmare of their neighbourhood being taken over by disgusting, drooling liberals demanding voting rights and healthcare for all? Why don’t TV producers just have done with it and call it Antifa Apocalypse? This Canadian series is made by the producers behind Z Nation and serves as a sort of prequel, bringing us to the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse. Jaime King stars as Rose, who has been separated from her daughter during the first zombie wave, and now, three years later, must negotiate a dangerous landscape filled with scavengers, armed militia and people completely ignoring social distancing rules.

Love, Victor
From Friday, Disney+ Star

Love, Victor
Love, Victor

The grown-ups section of Disney + gives the Mouse House a chance to explore more adult themes. Love, Victor stars Michael Cimino as a high school student getting to grips with life in a new town – and his burgeoning sexuality. It’s set in the same “fictional universe” as the film Love, Simon (sheesh, they’re just ordinary teenagers, not the flippin’ Avengers) and the second season sees star athlete Victor finally come out of the closet, begin his junior year at Creekwood High and enter into a new relationship with Benji. But he’s still got some challenges to deal with – not least a heartbroken ex-girlfriend – and he may have to consult with Simon for some help navigating this new territory.

Raven
From Friday, All4

Michal Zurawski in Raven (Kruk)
Michal Zurawski in Raven (Kruk)

The latest offering from Walter Presents, part of its ongoing Polish season, is a six-part psychological thriller (original title: Kruk) with a supernatural twist. Police officer Adam Kruk (Michal Zurawski) wears a neck brace and has become addicted to the pills and psychedelic drugs he uses to numb the pain – and he’s also about to get a blast from the past. An old childhood friend persuades Adam to return to the city of Bialystok, where they both grew up, to lead an investigation into child molestation at the orphanage they once called home. However, his efforts to get to the bottom of matters is sidelined by the kidnapping of an 11-year-old boy. Complicating matters are the impending birth of Adam’s child and his efforts to kick his addictions once and for all.

Physical
From Friday, Apple TV+
This 10-part tale is set in a southern Californian beach community during the 1980s. Rose Byrne stars as Sheila Rubin, a dutiful housewife supporting her husband as he attempts to develop a political career. However, Sheila’s seemingly perfect mask hides a heap of personal demons, but she’s about to find an unlikely way to work through them – via the newly burgeoning world of aerobics. At first, she’s simply hooked on exercise, but eventually realises her passion could develop into a groundbreaking business.

Fatherhood
From Friday, Netflix

Kevin Hart in Fatherhood
Kevin Hart in Fatherhood

Make sure you have plenty of tissues ready ahead of watching this emotional comedy-drama, based on Matthew Logelin’s 2011 memoir Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love. In it Logelin documents his grief after the sudden death of his childhood sweetheart and wife, Liz, just 27 hours after the birth of their first child. Kevin Hart plays Matthew, and the film follows his efforts to deal with his doubts, fears, heartache and, of course, dirty nappies while raising his young daughter alone. The outstanding supporting cast includes Alfre Woodard, Lil Rel Howery, Paul Reiser and DeWanda Wise, but it’s Melody Hurd who steals the show while tugging at the heartstrings as Matthew’s daughter Maddy.

Contributing: PA

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