TV guide: 20 of the best shows to watch this week
Highlights include Paul Mescal in The Deceived, Love and Loss in a Pandemic, and Catherine Fulvio's Tastes Like Home
Orla Brady in The South Westerlies, premiering Sunday night on RTE One
Tastes Like Home
Monday, RTÉ One 8.30pm
In this new series, Catherine Fulvio visits Irish families who show her how to make their favourite dishes, before travelling to locations around the world to recreate these “tastes like home” for family members living abroad. Over the eight episodes, Tastes Like Home revisits Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa, Vancouver and Tiny Township in Canada, San Sebastián and Barcelona in Spain, as well as Dubai and Portland, Oregon to capture eight individual stories, from contestants who refuse to let the physical distance from home curb their appetite for a home-cooked meal.
Monday, Virgin Media One, 9pm
We’ve been having serious withdrawal symptoms since Normal People finished up, scanning the horizon for any sign of Marianne or Connell smouldering back into our lives. Well, the wait is (half) over: Paul Mescal returns to our screens in a four-part Irish thriller (which premiered last month on Channel 5), cowritten by Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee. But hold your whisht there, girls: Mescal isn’t the main man in The Deceived. That role is taken by Emmet J Scanlon from Peaky Blinders, who plays a charismatic and slightly creepy Cambridge lecturer.
Scanlon’s Michael is married to a successful novelist, Róisín, and having an affair with a young student, Opelia, but when he suddenly disappears, Ophelia takes it on herself to track him down. When she finds him, back in his home in Ireland, she learns that Róisín has died in a fire – very suspicious. Michael invites Ophelia to stay at the family home – a big, bleak, scary sort of a place – and soon Ophelia is being haunted by things that go bump in the night. Mescal plays the local fireman (steady there girls) who takes a shine to the new arrival.
Love and Loss in a Pandemic
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Covid-19 has brought levels of isolation and anxiety to everyone. But for those faced with the urgency of a family illness, death or bereavement, lockdown was a nightmare of utter helplessness. For them, the global pandemic triggered a personal crisis where consolation was withheld, farewell words could not be spoken and grief was unresolved. As the numbers of Covid victims climbed, the familiar Irish rituals around death and funerals were reworked. Grief was compounded in a surreal world of PPE and protocols, where the normal remembrance and celebration of someone’s life was restricted or postponed. Applause from a line of socially distanced mourners became the strange new substitute for a comforting embrace.
This new documentary features seven people who face the loss of a loved one in the midst of Ireland’s emergency. It’s a traumatic and bewildering experience, but they emerge with a determination that their relative will not be remembered as just a Covid-19 statistic. A life – somehow – deserves to be celebrated. And as Ireland emerges from lockdown, the process of coming to terms with love and loss in a pandemic, can begin.
Sue Perkins: Along the US-Mexico Border
Monday/Tuesday, BBC1, 9pm
The comedian and presenter has had a nice sideline in travel documentaries in recent years. Her trips have taken her to Japan and the Ganges, among other places, and now she’s adding one of the most contentious places on the planet to the list. President Donald Trump’s determination to build a wall between the US and Mexico has been hugely controversial, and Perkins wants to find out what impact the tightening of border controls has had on the people who live on either side of the divide. She begins in Tijuana and discovers it lives up to its reputation as a party town, before hearing from Honduran volunteers who are building a hostel for fellow refugees fleeing the violence in their nation.
Africa Turns the Page: The Novels That Shaped a Continent
Monday, BBC4, 9pm
Africa has become a superpower in the world of the novel. Shortlists for the world’s major literary prizes are packed with African authors, while novelists such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have become international celebrities. But how did the continentn become such a hotbed of literary talent? In this insightful film, Nigerian-born historian David Olusoga looks at how, as African nations fought for independence during the 1950s, writers such as Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Wole Soyinka became the conscience of a continent. Then, in their wake, writers such as Buchi Emecheta and Ben Okri created masterpieces from their adopted UK home.
Ros na Rún 25 Bliain – Tadhg
Tuesday, TG4, 8.30pm
As played by Macdara Ó Fátharta, Tadhg Ó Direáin has been the local publican, undertaker and a callous businessman in Ros na Rún from the onset in 1996. He never worries that his cruel and often insulting comments drive customers away – after all, this is the only pub in the village! Tadhg loves to meddle in other people’s business. This episode, dedicated to the man we love to hate, is a chance for other characters to meddle in his. They speak openly and candidly about his relationship with his family, his love life, his dodgy business dealings and, possibly, the secrets that he hides.
Dog Tales: The Making of Man’s Best Friend
Tuesday, BBC4, 9pm
Dogs have been at our side longer than any other animal in history. They have made us better hunters, better farmers, saved our lives and protected us from harm. This show unravels the scientific secrets that explain what makes a dog a dog, and reveals that the emotional bond between human and dog is so profound it is helping transform the lives of hardened criminals in the US prison system. There is an examination of a 30,000 year-old Belgian wolf skull that some believe marks the first transition from wolf to dog, while cutting-edge science reveals that the secret of our bond with dogs may be love – theirs for us.
DNA Caillte: Secrets of the Grave
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
Episode two explores a critical time in Irish history: the move from paganism to Christianity. Medieval records don’t give much information on the lives of ordinary people, but now DNA and other scientific techniques such as isotope analysis and osteo-archaeology are opening fascinating windows into the past. Evidence from burial sites in Ireland show that ancient pre-Christian beliefs continued long into the Christian era. And now, a shocking discovery in Co Roscommon suggests that some feared the rise of undead creatures.
Mary Berry’s Simple Comforts
Wednesday, BBC2, 8pm
She’s the queen of the kitchen and England’s surrogate gran, so it’s rather lovely to see Mary Berry return with a new series. Not that she’s ever really been away. Only last week she guest-edited and appeared on Countryfile, revealing why the great outdoors is so important to her. But she’s on more familiar ground in a new six-parter in which she celebrates the best of comfort food. As seems to be the way with most TV cooks these days, Berry is keeping things simple so that even the most disastrous home chef can follow her recipes. Filming on the run was completed in January, so we’ll see her get out and about, braving the elements while selecting and preparing the most heart-warming dishes the UK and further afield has to offer. She begins with a trip to Paris.
Wednesday, BBC2, 8.30pm
Many of us found solace in baking during lockdown – when we could lay our hands on such vital ingredients as flour and eggs. Both sold out in supermarkets as we attempted to make our own food. Nadiya Hussain is back on the box with a new series in which she demonstrates some of her favourite recipes. She travels across the UK to meet with other inspirational bakers, preparing everything from choux pastry to biscuits, and churros to pies. Each episode also sees her meet up with a viewer who needs a hand in making a centrepiece for a celebration or major event.
Thursday, TG4, 8pm
Ireland has more than 60,000 townlands, each one operating as an administrative centre for the wider community. In this series, Síle Nic Chonaonaigh visits townlands across the country, investigating the strong connections people have with their native places through the culture, the ways of life and the landscape. This week she visits An Bun Beag in Gaoth Dobhair in northwest Donegal. The small village (some 50 people) has a long maritime trading tradition and also a unique story within its local Protestant community.
Ros na Rún – 25 Bliain Grá
Thursday, TG4, 8.30pm
As the saying goes, “Every woman should have a husband, preferably her own”. Maybe some of the Ros na Rún villagers should heed this advice! Affairs, marriages, divorce and heartache...Ros na Rún has experienced all of this and more. In this episode Berni talks about Caitríona’s dalliances with men, and her affair with her husband’s son. Meanwhile Caitríona and Mo share Berni’s misfortune in her romantic relationships, including her love for the wayward Liam and her plan to jilt him at the altar. It’s time to dish the dirt and reveal some juicy romantic secrets.
Can We Cure Kids’ Cancer?
Thurday, Channel 4, 10pm
Following three children and their families as they undergo both cutting-edge and traditional treatments at the Royal Marsden in London. Charlotte (3) is one of the first children in the UK to take a pioneering new targeted drug that has saved her life, while toddler Artemis must undergo a stem cell transplant, first performed some 50 years ago, as this is the best option available to her. Elsewhere Lily (14) takes on a cocktail of chemotherapy and newer immunotherapy drugs.
Friday, Channel 4, 9pm
At the height of lockdown, many people found themselves enacting their own version of Gogglebox: sitting around with other members of their household, passing judgment on whatever was on TV. The good news is that the real stars are back for a new series, which will run for the next 15 weeks, ready to dissect the latest small-screen offerings. Their return coincides with new episodes of EastEnders and Britain’s Got Talent after what has been, by necessity, a repeat-heavy summer. But no matter what is on, the armchair critics usually have something entertaining to say about it.
The Romantics and Us with Simon Schama
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
It may be associated with the late 18th and 19th centuries, but in his new series Simon Schama explores how the Romantic movement continues to shape the ways we think about art, identity and, in the opening episode, rebellion. With a little help from contributors including Harriet Walter, Christopher Eccleston, the hip-hop artist Testament and the French street artist PBoy, Schama looks at how the artists and writers of the era believed that imagination and passion could change the world. He begins by examining one of the great icons of popular revolt, Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, which was painted after the July Revolution of 1830, but gained a new impact during the Youth Uprisings of 1968, which Schama witnessed as a young professor in Paris.
Friday, BBC4, 9.30pm
Memories of the late 1960s and early ’70s, a period when inequality, poverty and racism fanned the flames of radical black politics and resulted in a harder soul sound. Stax Records went from being a label built around an integrated house band to becoming a black-centric business spearheaded by Isaac Hayes’ expansive, flamboyant soul symphonies. Meanwhile, the Temptations tackled socially aware subjects like the Detroit riot and absent fathers, while Marvin Gaye conceived the epic What’s Going On. Narrated by Carleen Anderson.
Friday, More4, 9pm
The first episode of this six-part German crime drama (original title: 23 Morde) will be broadcast this evening, with the whole box then released on All 4. The public breathes a sigh of relief when serial killer Maximillian Rapp finally confesses to 23 brutal murders. But something doesn’t add up for Detective Tara Scholl (Shadi Hedayati). She and her lover and colleague Henry Kloss suspect Rapp is innocent of at least three of the murders to which he confessed. Convincing the chief of police that their necks will be on the line if they don’t solve the case, he asks Tara to lead the investigation. But when Rapp warns them that another murder is on the horizon, they have no choice but to enlist him to find the real killer.
Julie and the Phantoms
From Thursday, Netflix
Director and choreographer Kenny Ortega, whose previous works include High School Musical and Descendants, is one of the creative forces behind this new series for younger viewers. Madison Reyes heads the cast as high school student Julie who, a year on from her mother’s death, is struggling to rekindle her passion for music. However, three ghosts (Charlie Gillespie, Owen Patrick Joyner and Jeremy Shada) are about to lend her a hand. These phantoms hail from 1995 and suddenly appear in her mum’s old music studio. Their support gives Julie the strength and inspiration to begin writing songs again. When she begins singing them, her new friends suggest they should form a very unusual band together...
From Friday, Netflix
Comedian Katherine Ryan is known for her biting, quickfire wit, and it was inevitable that she’d end up writing and starring in her own comedy series. Here, she plays someone not too far removed from her stage persona – unapologetic, confrontational and drop-dead funny. She plays a single mom living in London with her 10-year-old daughter Olive, whom she adores. Olive’s dad Shep, an Irish former boyband star, is someone Katherine hates with a passion bordering on homicidal. But Katherine is soon thinking the unthinkable: having another baby with her loathsome ex. Dare she go back over old ground in the hope that lightning will strike twice, or should she just play it safe and have a kid with her current nice-guy partner? No prizes for guessing which way she’ll go.
From Friday, All4
In March 2010, a western crime drama inspired by Elmore Leonard’s novel Fire in the Hole began airing in the US. It was an instant hit. After six series comprising of 78 episodes, it came to an end, leaving fans bereft. Justified has never had as big a following in the UK, but it should have, and perhaps making it available to stream via All4 will help lift the show’s profile. Timothy Olyphant heads the cast as Raylan Givens, a tough deputy US marshal dispensing his own brand of justice in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky. It all begins after Givens is banished to the region in which he grew up after shooting a mobster in Miami.