TV guide: 19 of the best shows to watch this week
The legacy of Laura Brennan, Bloom and Springwatch calling, recalling the Garth Brooks concert fiasco, and Peter Crouch previews the weekend's epic football clashes
The late HPV vaccination campaigner Laura Brennan profiled in This Is Me, on the RTÉ Player from Friday
A Very British Sex Shop
Monday, Channel 4, 10pm
Meet the Richardsons, whose stock in trade is sex toys and whose business meetings focus on gimp masks and vibrators. Head of the erotic empire is dad Tim, who has owned stores Taboo and Lust in Brighton for nearly two decades. Helping with the business is Tim’s new wife Calandra and ex-wife Nancy. This eye-opening documentary charts the family’s efforts to keep business booming, which involve taking “Sexy Bingo” to the streets of Brighton. We also meet some of the Richardsons’ loyal customers – including a man who’s saved up £1,200 for the tailor-made sex doll of his dreams.
Monday-Thursday, BBC2, various times
Chris Packham, Iolo Williams and Michaela Strachan are back following the fortunes of wildlife around the UK, presenting the first in a week of 90-minute programmes from the Dell of Abernathy in the Cairngorms National Park. Gillian Burke is in Cornwall with topical reports on the state of the nation’s coastal wildlife, while the team launches the largest Springwatch citizen science project ever attempted as they ask people to survey the wildlife living in their gardens.
Monday, BBC1, 10.35pm
The sketch show that features a mix of satire, spoof, silliness and superbly conceived characters, returns for a second series. In the first episode, we’ll find out if All Lives Matter, catch up with the ever-thwarted Nigerian philanthropist Prince Alyusi, and discover what happens when you express your real feelings about Beyoncé. We’ll learn some Black Oscar History with garage MC Scribbler P, see what happens when Nollywood does Love Island, and watch our favourite competitive Aunties battle it out at a wedding.
Scannal: Garth Brooks – Subject to Licence
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm
Ireland in 2014 had just about survived the crash but things were still tough and for many of the 400,000 fans who bought tickets for Garth Brooks’s comeback concerts in Croke Park, this represented a chink of light and hope. Brooks had not played in Ireland since 1997 and the initial announcement of two concerts seemed to release an almost insatiable pent-up demand. Two gave way to three and then to four and finally to five concerts in a row – all to be staged in Croke Park – and all “subject to licence” in a stadium that only had planning permission for three annual special events – and these had already been accounted for. The stage was set for a uniquely Irish country-western concert scandal.
Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm
From The Wonders of the Universe to Stagazing Live, Prof Brian Cox has a strong track record for explaining the solar system. In this new series, he’ll be bringing us the story of the planets like we’ve never seen it before, with a little help from Oscar-winning special effects company Lola Post. He’ll also be drawing on the latest scientific data, which suggest we don’t know quite as much about the planets as we once thought. Cox begins by tracing the development of the four planets closest to the Sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. For a while, all four had similar conditions, so why is Earth now the only one where life persists?
What in the World?
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 11.15pm
Presenter Peadar King joins Irishman Denis J Halliday, former UN assistant secretary general, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Gandhi International Peace laureate, as he returns to Iraq 20 years after resigning from his UN post. “I was becoming complicit in what I believe was a deliberate intention of genocide of the people of Iraq in order to overthrow, or have them overthrow, the government in Baghdad,” Halliday tells King. “Therefore, I didn’t really want to be associated with a genocide run by the United Nations.” Two devastating wars later, Halliday revisits once familiar locations of Babylon, Baghdad, Basra, Erbil and Mosul and finds that the war hasn’t gone away.
The Great Flood of London
Tueday, Channel 5, 8pm
For decades, Londoners have put their faith in the Thames Barrier to keep them safe from water. But the barrier is now under increasing pressure due to three major environmental challenges: rainfall has increased by 20 per cent in the past decade, sea levels are rising, and the city has developed along a floodplain. This documentary looks at what is being done to tackle the problem, and also hears from the architects who believe that the future of our cities lies in amphibious dwellings that can work with, rather than against, the water.
Michael Davitt: Radacach
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
Who was Michael Davitt? This documentary in TG4’s Radacach (Radical) strand tells the story of a lesser-known figure in Irish history who nonetheless had a huge influence on political and cultural events in Ireland. Davitt (1846-1906) was a land activist who helped smash the power of the landlords, and his work in advocating for tenants’ rights set the scene for huge changes in Ireland’s political landscape. He was born into abject poverty in Co Mayo; his family was evicted when he was four and forced to emigrate to Lancashire. Despite losing an arm in a work accident, Davitt joined the Irish Republicvan Brotherhood and was sentenced to prison for gun-running. On his release, he joined the Land League, and pushed hard to free Irish people from the vice-like grip oflandlords. He was also a trade unionist, an advocate for women’s votes, and a supporter of ordinary people’s rights and freedoms around the world.
Thursday, BBC1, 9pm
The return of the Bafta-winning documentary following paramedics and control room staff of the North West Ambulance Service in Greater Manchester. Police inform the team that a patient is trapped beneath a tram, so Matt and Andy, the helicopter emergency crew, are immediately dispatched. Crew mates Paul and Adam treat a man who has collapsed in his bathroom and another who has taken a tumble on the dance floor. Back in the control room, Laura deals with a tough call that makes a deep impact on her.
Thursday, RTÉ One, 7pm
RTÉ’s coverage of this year’s Bloom festival gets off the ground with the small matter of choosing which of five competing gardens will go forward to feature in Bloom. We’ve seen the gardens, we’ve met their green-fingered creators, but only one can make the cut, so it’ll be tough decisions all round and no doubt a few tears behind the trellis.
Thursday/Friday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
Áine Lawlor and Marty Morrissey host another visit to Bloom, where they will present the live shows from one of the stunning showcase gardens featured in this year’s festival. The duo will help you navigate Ireland’s largest gardening, food and family event, and will meet the designers behind some of the breathtaking gardens on show. They’ll also be learning all about the latest trends in horticulture, and sampling some of the great foodie fare on offer, rustled up by some of Ireland’s top celebrity chefs (I’m getting hungry already). They will also go behind the scenes to see how the judges choose the winning gardens.
Callas vs Kennedy
Thursday, TG4, 10pm
In the late ’60s, opera singer Maria Callas, multimillionaire Aristotle Onassis and former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy became the leading players in a scandalous love triangle. Behind their sunglasses, these three were pioneers in the world of mass media. They were there in the front row, at the beginning of celebrity news coverage and gossip. In 1959, Callas fell in love with Aristotle Onassis and became his passionate mistress. In 1968 Onassis wed Jackie on a little Greek island. Back in Paris Callas, who had been waiting for a proposal for the past eight years and who had left her thriving career for Onassis, found out about the wedding in a newspaper. She was devastated and felt betrayed. In Skorpios, Ted Kennedy arrived to negotiate the marriage contract. What was in this contract?
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
This documentary brings to life 12 newly commissioned songs, airs and words in an impressionistic journey from the source of the river Liffey, deep into the heart of the docks. This love letter to Dublin weaves the songwriters’ insights into their musical journeys with stories and memories from the dockworkers, crane drivers and stevedores of Dublin Port. The music ranges from electronic minimalism to folk and rock and is performed by some of the most well known and loved artists in contemporary Irish music, including Bell X1’s Paul Noonan (who curated and produced the album with Gary Sheehan of the NCH), John Sheahan, Lisa O’ Neill, Declan O’ Rourke, Cathy Davey, Richie Egan, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Paul Cleary, Duke Special, James Vincent McMorrow and Gemma Hayes. Hennessy Literary Award-winning writer Catriona Lally reads her enchanting piece entitled Port Magic.
Klopp v Poch with Peter Crouch
Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm
Pelé famously described football as the beautiful game, but during the past few weeks it’s been an extraordinary one. We’re used to weird and wonderful feats occurring, but nobody could have guessed that both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur would come from three goals down to win the right to play in the Champions League final, or that both European tournament finals would be contested by English teams. Here Peter Crouch, who has played for both Liverpool and Spurs, profiles their clash ahead of the final in Madrid this coming weekend. He examines the importance of their managers, German Jurgen Klopp and Argentine Mauricio Pochettino, who have transformed their respective clubs in recent years, turning them into forces to be reckoned with.
The Final Mission: Foxy’s War
Thursday, Channel 4, 9pm
Former elite special forces soldier Jason Fox endured harrowing experiences during several tours of Afghanistan. Now he’s returning to the country for the first time. He claims the place and the events he witnessed defined him as a soldier and as a man; he spent three years in combat there, saw friends killed or seriously injured, and escaped death himself on many occasions. But it’s left its mark – Fox suffers from PTSD, which resulted in his discharg from the military. This documentary charts Fox as he meets old friends and enemies, and asks if the sacrifices made were worth it.
Laura Brennan: This Is Me
Friday, RTÉ Player, from 9am
This new one-off documentary on the RTÉ Player follows the final chapters in the life of Laura Brennan, who was living her life to the full with end stage cervical cancer. After a heroic battle, Laura passed away this past March 20th. But before she died, Laura was determined that every parent in Ireland who had to make a decision on whether their daughter would be vaccinated against HPV would hear her story first. Her cancer, like 5 per cent of all cancers, is caused by the HPV, human papillomavirus. The vaccination rate in Ireland had fallen to 51 per cent, thanks to a lot of ill-founded negative publicity around the vaccine. Laura worked tirelessly as an advocate for the HPV vaccine. The most recent figures showl that the uptake of the vaccine has risen to 70 per cent.
The Late Late Show
Friday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
If you’ve been watching the Sunday night series Ireland’s Favourite Folk Song, you won’t want to miss tonight’s Late Late, as Ryan Tubridy announces which tune has triumphed in the public vote.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 10.35pm
Cuban-American pop star Gloria Estefan is also an accomplished businesswoman and quite rightly regarded as a music legend. She joins Norton to chat about her life and times as well as her musical On Your Feet, soon to open in London’s West End. Plus: David Tennant and Michael Sheen discuss their roles in the upcoming TV adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. And the Jonas Brothers perform their current single, Sucker.
The Pompeii Prophecy: Countdown to Devastation
Friday, Channel 5, 9pm
In AD 79, an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a volcano near the Bay of Naples in Italy, buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. The dust “poured across the land” like a flood, one witness wrote, and shrouded the city in “a darkness . . . like the black of closed and unlighted rooms”. Some 2,000 died, and the city was abandoned for almost as many years. These days, Pompeii provides a window into the lives of the Romans and is a source of outstanding information on the art, customs, trades and everyday life of their civilisation. Here, investigators, historians and geologists hunt for evidence hidden beneath the surface to assess the risk of a new and potentially devastating event of equal magnitude.