TV guide: 20 of the best shows to watch this week
Love Island winters in South Africa, plus the return of Cold Feet and Vera, Good Omens on the BBC, outlaw vegan influencers and taking a hike with Mary McAleese
The end is nigh: David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Good Omens, Wednesday on BBC2
Sunday-Friday, Virgin One/UTV2, 9pm
If you’re suffering from winter blues, then this splash of sun should help brighten the day. This time the hopeful singletons are off to Cape Town, where they take up residence at a luxury villa. As they flirt, date, break up and make up, the Islanders will attempt to capture the hearts of each other – and the public. Viewers will decide the final couple and declare them the series six winners. Which couple will be in with a share of the £50k prize money? New presenter Laura Whitmore will eventually reveal the answer.
Sunday, UTV, 8pm
Brenda Blethyn is back for her 10th run as Northumberland detective chief inspector Vera Stanhope. In this opening episode, Vera investigates the death of a self-styled entrepreneur whose body was discovered by the bailiffs sent to repossess his house. It wasn’t just his finances that were in a mess: he was also estranged from his wife and son and his failing used-car business had been the target of an arson attack. It’s up to Vera to work out whether Freddie’s death was down to his dodgy dealings or his troubled family life.
Sé Mo Laoch
Sunday, TG4, 9.30pm
The series that casts an eye on some of Irish traditional music’s heroes begins with the life and career of Steve Cooney, who has had a meteoric impact since moving to Ireland from Australia in 1981. Testament to this are the groups and albums that Cooney has contributed to, from Sharon Shannon’s first record to the seminal Meitheal with Seamus Begley, among many others. Joining him for this profile are Iarla Ó Lionáird, Laoise Kelly, Caoilte Cooney, Dermot Byrne, Odhrán Ó Casaide and more.
Louis Theroux: Selling Sex
Sunday, BBC2, 9pm
In theory, it has never been easier or safer to exchange sex for money in Britain. For a start, it’s legal, so long as it doesn’t involve coercion, exploitation or any kind of public nuisance. And then there’s the internet and social media, which have meant that women who want to provide sexual services don’t have to go on to the streets on into brothels, but can instead make bookings, vet potential clients and then meet them in either hotels or their own homes. Some pebelieve this is empowering; other argue that no matter how hi-tech it may be, the sex industry will also be damaging – and driven by men. Louis Theroux meets some of those involved to learn about the risks and benefits.
Sunday, BBC2, 8pm
New series follows custom bike builder Titch Cormack and his team as they take on mechanical challenges to convert broken and battered vehicles into beautiful, bespoke machines. In the first edition, Titch receives a visit from a customer who needs his help. Parachute regiment soldier Chris, who just a few weeks earlier had his right leg amputated, wants Titch to build him a specially adapted motorcycle, but there is a twist: he wants to take it on a challenging off-road ride in an attempt to prove to himself that “he can still be the man he used to be” – and that his new amputation won’t hold him back.
Monday, UTV, 9pm (repeated Tues, Virgin Two, 10pm)
It’s series nine of the comedy-drama, which ran originally from 1997-2005, and was revived in 2016 with most of the original cast, including James Nesbitt as Adam, Hermione Norris as Karen, John Thompson as Pete, Fay Ripley as Jenny and Robert Bathurst as David. There have been pair-ups and break-ups along the way, but these friends are still getting on with life and all its challenges and complications. Series nine sees things hotting up between Adam and Karen and seriously cooling between Adam and his former best friend David, Karen’s ex. Meanwhile, Jenny and Pete are looking forward to a new start as Jenny’s cancer treatment is due to come to an end. Could this be the final season for the time-defying show? Don’t write it off just yet.
Exposed: The Church’s Darkest Secret
Monday/Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm
In 1960, Peter Ball co-established a monastic community. Peter later became the suffragan Bishop of Lewes and then Bishop of Gloucester, eventually resigning in 1993 after being cautioned for sexual abuse, although he continued to officiate at several churches. In 2005, Ball admitted to abusing 18 young men over a period of 15 years, while other charges were allowed, controversially, to lie on file; he was sentenced to 32 months’ imprisonment, was released in 2017 and died last year. This disturbing two-part documentary examines Ball’s case, focusing on an alleged cover-up that allowed him to escape justice for many years and the bravery of his victims to fight for justice.
Monday, RTÉ One, 11.40pm
In Matteo Bertoli’s 12-minute drama from 2015, the last day in the life of a heroin addict (Charleigh Bailey) is seen through the eyes of her eight-year-old daughter (Ellie Walsh). Brenda idolises her Mammy and would do anything to protect her. For Brenda, the biggest threat to her mother’s well-being is her violent, unpredictable Daddy (Andrew Lynch, who wrote the script). Consumed by addiction, Daddy is loud, aggressive and has lost his way in life. But Daddy wasn’t always like that.
Talking It Out
From Monday, RTÉ Player
A new eight-part weekly satirical animation and podcast. Set in a radio studio, Talking It Out is a show where a panel of dysfunctional “media personalities” dissect the week’s news. Heading it up is Dave Coffey, whose job is to keep the entirely improvised show from descending into chaos. The panelists, all caricatures of typical panel show guests, discuss the news stories of the week, ranging from the Government’s latest gaffe to what’s happening with Brexit. Talking It Out will appear on RTÉ Player every Monday as a 10-minute animated show while a longer 15 minute audio version will be released as a podcast every Sunday.
How to Steal Pigs and Influence People
Tuesday, Channel 4, 10pm
If you want to be an online influencer, you need to know how to grab people’s attention. This film goes into a community of established vegan social-media users to find out how they attract followers – sometimes in the hundreds of thousands. For some of them, the best way to get their beliefs across is through an escalating series of daring farmyard heists (hence the eye-catching title of the documentary), while others have turned their back bedrooms into their own chicken sanctuaries. The programme also meets some ex-vegans who have gone to the other extreme and are gaining notoriety for eating a raw-meat-only diet.
Food Unwrapped Does Breakfast
Tuesday, Channel 4, 8pm
How much do you really know about what you’re eating for breakfast? It turns out that one very British favourite, baked beans, has its roots in the US, and Helen Lawal uncovers the truth about the health risks associated with a bacon butty. Kate Quilton finds out why we prefer tea in a mug to a disposable cup (and no, it’s not just because of the environmental impact), while Matt Tebbtt learns why the science behind nuts rising to the top of his muesli can also apply to saving skiers from avalanches. And Jimmy Doherty conducts an investigation into kippers and what they actually are.
Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm
Non-subscribers to Amazon Prime Video now have a chance to see the end of the world as imagined by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This apocalyptic comedy stars David Tennant and Michael Sheen as earthbound angels on opposite sides of the heaven/hell divide who are forced to combine forces when they learn that the end is nigh. The only way to avert Armageddon is to find the Antichrist – an 11-year-old boy named Adam who has no idea he’s about to spark off Doomsday. John Hamm co-stars as the vain angel Gabriel (basically Don Draper with wings) and Frances McDormand and Benedict Cumberbatch kindly supply the voices of God and Satan. Following Pratchett’s death in 2015, Gaiman realised if he didn’t adapt the novel himself, it wouldn’t get done, so fans of both authors will certainly put this on their bucket list.
Wednesday, TG4, 10.30pm
It worked for MASH, which successfully translated from a hit movie to a classic comedy series. But will it work for Catch-22? The 1970 original, starring Alan Arkin, was a dark, uneasy study of the insanity of war, but the makers of this six-episode series (which ran first on Channel 4 last summer) are going back to the source novel by Joseph Heller. The show features star turns from producer George Clooney, Kyle Chandler and Hugh Laurie. Christopher Abbott stars as Yossarian, the US air force bombardier stationed in Italy during the second World War, who is desperate to get out of active combat before he is killed. But his scheme to be discharged is thwarted by the sinister rule known as Catch-22, which basically says you have to be mad to work here, but if you want to leave, then you must be sane.
Tabú: Bumbleance – Aistear Álainn
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
In 2013, Bumbleance, the first ambulance service specially designed to bring sick children and their parents to and from hospital, hit Irish roads. Unlike regular ambulances, the Bumbleance vehicles have everything on board to make journeys as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Unique to Ireland, it is the most child-friendly ambulance service on the planet. This film follows the journeys of the families who use this service to travel great distances for treatment.
Trust Me, I’m a Doctor
Wednesday, BBC2, 8pm
Can’t remember where you’ve put your keys or the name of your next door neighbour? Then maybe you had too much to eat at lunchtime. That seems to be the suggestion Michael Mosley is making in the latest edition of the health series. There is, apparently, a theory that eating less can boost the memory, and Mosley puts it to the test, using a team of people as guinea pigs. Whether those poor, half-starved participants can remember their own names by the end of it remains to be seen, but you can bet they’ll know where to find a can opener. Those suffering from stress may be interested in hearing what Alain Gregoire has to say about the body’s built-in reliever, while Zoe Williams has tips on spotting a mystery illness that can cause stillbirth.
When Rich Kids Go Homeless
Wednesday, Channel 5, 10pm
The format for this new series is simple: six young privileged Brits, who believe homelessness is often the result of the victim’s own actions, agree to live on the streets of London for three nights. Among them is Kieren (23), who plans to beg to raise money that he will invest in umbrellas. On his first night he only makes £5, and finds a place under the arches near Trafalgar Square to bed down. Woken by security, Kieren begs for more hours until he makes enough cash to stay in a hostel.
Making the Grade
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
In her four-star review in May 2018, film critic Tara Brady wrote: “Picking up where 2010 sleeper hit His & Hers left off, Ken Wardrop’s third feature depicts the relationships between Irish piano students and their teachers. The film meets and warmly greets some 51 participants – hailing from all over Ireland – as they prepare for their Royal Irish Academy of Music examinations. Using that body’s grade structure, Making the Grade opens with five-year-old Harry Keegan climbing on to a stool for his first lesson, and closes with those tackling Rachmaninoff for Grade Eight. Heartwarming.”
Addicted to Painkillers? Britain’s Opioid Crisis
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
In America it’s an epidemic. Now new evidence from Public Health England raises concern about the UK’s use of prescription opioids. Dr Michael Mosley investigates this growing problem, meeting patients struggling with addiction and GPs battling to help those suffering from chronic pain. He also uncovers worrying evidence of people abusing over-the-counter opioids and discovers how easy it is to buy strong opioids online. Mosley also considers why people are consuming twice the amount of opioids as 20 years ago, and asks the crucial question: do they actually work?
All Walks of Life
Friday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
Fancy a ramble through the countryside in the company of Mary McAleese? This new series could be right up your bothareen. The idea is simple: in a sort of mobile version of the late Gay Byrne’s The Meaning of Life, the former president brings a well-known personality for a hike along some of Ireland’s most evocative pilgrim trails, and chats to them about their own spiritual journey, and how their lives have been shaped by their values and beliefs. Her first travelling companion is Galway hurler Joe Canning, and they walk along the spectacular Mám Éan pilgrim path in Connemara.
Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music
Friday, BBC4, 9.30pm
Stewart Copeland has spent a life in music – listening, composing and playing. The spell is still strong 60 years and 25 bands, including The Police, later. But why? In this three-part series, Copeland explores how music brings people together, moves them, binds them, and communicates stories like no other art form. This first episode sees him travel from the German cave, where a 40,000-year-old bone flute was discovered to New York, where he witnesses a mass singalong of Choir! Choir! Choir!. Along the way he gets to play with a Memphis marching band, joins a song circle led by Bobby McFerrin, and deconstructs Relax with its producer Trevor Horn.