TV guide: 21 of the best shows to watch this week
The Big Bang Theory goes poof! Plus the Irish football split, Alistair Campbell on depression, snoopy singletons in Hot Property, and white-knuckle high climber Free Solo
Unravelling the Mystery: A Big Bang Farewell, Thursday on E4
The Hunt for Jihadi John
Monday, Channel 4, 9pm
Documentary telling the inside story of Mohammed Emwazi’s journey from an ordinary London boy to one of the most notorious terrorists ever. It explores the shattered lives of his hostages and the emotional and psychological turmoil of the family members whose relatives were murdered by him, and gives the definitive account of the hunt for Jihadi John by the CIA, Pentagon and British intelligence operatives, who have never spoken publicly about the operation until now.
Thatcher: A Very British Revolution
Monday, BBC2, 9pm
Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) looms so large in British/Irish history that it can be easy to forget that she was once considered an outsider. This new series takes a new look at the rise and the fall of a still hugely divisive figure. The first episode begins in the 1970s, when a controversial policy earned Thatcher the nickname of “milk snatcher”. It put her political future in jeopardy, but she survived to challenge Edward Heath for leadership of the Conservatives. The media coverage wasn’t the only obstacle she had to overcome: as a woman from a modest social background, she was the odd one out among many of her colleagues. However, with the help of some canny political operators, she defeated Heath and the party elite and prepared to embark on an election campaign.
Monday-Thursday, Virgin One/UTV, 9pm
Originally set to air in 2017 but shelved for legal reasons, this four-part true-life drama finally gets an airing over four consecutive nights. It tells the story of the daring Hatton Garden robbery of Easter 2015, in which a gang of old boys broke into a vault in the heart of London’s diamond district and made off with a fortune. Spoiler: they got caught. Timothy Spall heads a cast of veterans re-enacting this historic heist.
Scannal: The Fingersprint Affair
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm
Scannal returns with more stories that have shocked, outraged, amused and incited the nation. From the landmark legal case that won the right to contraception for Mary McGee to the Croke Park Garth Brooks Concerts that were “Subject to Licence” and left 400,000 fans frustrated, to the 1993 Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland soccer match in Belfast that was decisive and divisive. Episode 1 is The Fingerprint Affair, which examines the investigation into the 1976 assassination of Christopher Ewart Biggs, the newly named British ambassador to Ireland, and the failure of the authorities to listen to gardaí who raised questions about fingerprinting when gathering evidence
Alastair Campbell: Depression and Me
Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm
He was best known as Tony Blair’s spin doctor. But away from the media’s glare, Alastair Campbell has suffered crippling bouts of depression for decades. Though anti-depressants and therapy help him keep his head above water, it begs the question: is that really the best Campbell can hope for? In this one-off documentary, he talks about his experience living with the illness and, with the encouragement of his family, investigates whether radical new treatments can make a difference. While trying to get a better handle on his condition, Campbell also looks back on key events and asks if they could have had a negative effect on his mind.
Tuesday, BBC1, 11.35pm
Online dating is all very well, but how much information can you really glean from a profile? Definitely not as much as you can from snooping through their house and chatting to their mates, which is what the young singletons looking for love in this new series will be able to do. Rising viral comedy star Yung Filly acts as a wingman as he invites daters to go through the keyhole before choosing one suitor to meet in the person. And Filly will even come along on their first date to see if sparks fly.
Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport
Tuesday, UTV 8.30pm
The documentary that goes behind the scenes of the London airport returns for a fifth season. Inside the terminal, seasoned pro Demi dishes out deals for delayed passengers; outside on the airfield, Ian is on the runway as it goes into lockdown with a full armed police presence. Viewers will also see the work of the Border Force’s canine drugs detection team – Rachel and her dog Cole, who in his career has intercepted more than £1 million worth of class-A contraband. Narrated by Julie Walters.
Rhythms of India
Tuesday, BBC4, 9pm
Fancy a dazzling musical travelogue around India? Here musician and composer Soumik Datta takes us on a spectacular journey: from a religious festival in Kerala to folk musicians in the deserts of Rajasthan. There are also performances on the banks of the Ganges and encounters with Delhi’s hip-hop superstars. He begins the epic trek in Kolkata, the city of his birth and the place where he learned to play a traditional Indian classical instrument called the sarod.
Division: The Irish Soccer Split
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
While rugby has a unified Irish squad made up of players from both North and South, Irish soccer has been divided between two disparate teams, and many say this has been to the detriment of the game. This documentary looks at the generations-long rift in the sport with contributions from soccer legends from both sides of the Border, including Niall Quinn, Gerry Taggart, Alan McLoughlin, Bryan Hamilton, Don Givens, Allan Hunter, Mick Lawlor and Brian Kerr. The programme features a wealth of archive detail, and is ably narrated by Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen, whose grandfather was a founding member of the FAI.
Summer of Rockets
Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm
Stephen Poliakoff has created some of the most acclaimed dramas of the past few decades. He has won many awards for writing and directing, and there’s a good chance a Bafta or two might be in the offing for this, his latest venture. Fresh from her turn in The Durrells, Keeley Hawes is back on the box with Toby Stephens in a cold war drama set in 1958. It centres on Samuel (Stephens), a Russian-born Jewish inventor of hearing aids. Before long, MI5 approaches him to spy on friends Kathleen and Richard Shaw (Hawes and Linus Roache) and Lord Arthur Wallington (Timothy Spall).
Paul Henry: Portráid Éireannach
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
Antane Ó Donnaile explores how Belfast-born Paul Henry (1876-1958) created his iconic images of the west of Ireland in a spare post-impressionists style. Today Henry’s works can be found in the National Gallery in Dublin; the Model in Sligo; the Crawford Gallery in Cork; the Ulster Museum in Belfast; the Hunt Museum in Limerick; and the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris
Thursday, Channel 4, 9pm
In her five-star review of this Bafta- and Oscar-winning documentary, Irish Times film critic Tara Brady wrote: “Some way into the year’s most white-knuckle film, rock climber Alex Honnold recalls that more than one ex-girlfriend has told him he has a personality disorder. By then we’re deep into his two-year preparations to climb the sheer wall of El Capitan, a 2,307m-high sheer granite impossibility in Yosemite National Park. If he manages it, he’ll be the first climber to scale the monolith free solo. That’s as in without ropes and safety equipment, as in one finger and toe at a time up a landmark that looks like it belongs in a Roadrunner cartoon. Personality disorder? The man is bonkers. Terrifying but magical.”
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
Imagine having to go to London to find work, not because there are no jobs in Ireland, but because you are being discriminated against by Irish employers. This is the plight that these five deaf people find themselves in as they are forced to move to the UK, where their deafness is not an issue for employers. As the documentary quickly shows, being deaf does not diminish a person’s ability to do their job well, and if this programme can drive changes in employment practice at home, then it will have done its job.
Unravelling the Mystery: A Big Bang Farewell
Thursday, E4, 7.30pm
For years The Big Bang Theory has been best-loved show on both sides of the Atlantic. Now it all comes to an end, so little wonder there’s this fitting tribute to the lives of Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Raj, Howard, Amy and Bernadette. Here fans get a guided tour through the sets (such as Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment); learn about the show’s backstage secrets, and watch the cast share 12 years’ worth of memories, moments and stories from The Big Bang Theory stage. Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco are your hosts. Followed at 9pm by the 280th and final episode.
The Secret Life of the Zoo: Underwater Special
Thursday, Channel 4, 8pm
Special edition of the documentary which gets up close and personal with the animals in Chester Zoo’s aquatic habitat. Rare blind cave fish Tiny Tim needs a love potion to help him become a father, and Popeye the chalk bass – the toughest fighter on the reef – needs an urgent operation after injuring his eye in an altercation. The zookeepers hope to breed from Ophelia the Mexican lake salamander, of which there are only 100 females left in the world, while young penguin Frazzle needs to find a mate and settle down to family life. But he cannot seem to stop flirting with every female in sight.
Big Animal Surgery
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
Given the insatiable desire for shows about animals and medical procedures, little wonder this three-part documentary was given the green light. Presenter Liz Bonnin heads for a sanctuary in South Africa where she witnesses an operation inside the jaws of nine-year-old lion Ricci. His dental problems are so severe it has hindered his feeding. Using specially made tools, one of the world’s leading vets is on hand to fix the issue. But what do you do when such a potentially lethal patient starts to wake up from the anaesthetic midway through?
Mock the Week
Thursday, BBC2, 10pm
It seems there’s just too much going on in Britain for Have I Got News for You and The Last Leg to cover, so it’s time for Mock the Week to return and offer its satirical take on the headlines. As ever, Dara O Briain hosts as regular panellist Hugh Dennis looks back on the latest events in news and politics, with the help of fellow comedians Tom Allen, Ed Gamble, Kerry Godliman, Rhys James and Sindhu Vee. As always, stand-up and improv are the name of the game.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 10.35pm
For almost 20 years, X-Men movies have turned jobbing actors into stars. Dark Phoenix, which opens on June 5th, is rumoured to be the final film in the saga, so Graham Norton will be gossiping with the likes of double Oscar nominees Jessica Chastain and Michael Fassbender, as well as James McAvoy and Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner, whose tenure as Sansa Stark comes to an end this week. (Chastain and McAvoy also star in It: Chapter Two, due out in September.)
Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie
Friday, BBC4, 9pm
Orginaly broadcast in 2017 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever. John Travolta, Barry Gibb and other members of the cast and crew recall the completely unexpected success of the icon dance film. Meanwhile, Strictly Come Dancing’s Bruno Tonioli, who was a young dancer in New York in 1977, walks us through the steps that made the movie legendary and revisits the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, where the film was shot. But will anyone mention Staying Alive, the notoriously bad sequel from 1983, directed by Sylvester Stallone?
Front Row Late
Friday, BBC2, 11.05pm
The late-night arts discussion show on BBC2 has gone through many manifestations over the years. From Late Review (arguably the best version thanks to the acerbic wit of regulars Tom Paulin and Tony Parsons) to Newsnight Review and this incarnation, there’s nearly always food for thought as highbrow guests give us their take on the latest films, books, plays, stage shows and more. The Hay Festival in Wales is the setting for this week’s show as Mary Beard and her panel of guests engage in topical discussion.
Hatton Garden: The Inside Story
Friday, UTV, 9pm
To tie in with the drama Hatton Garden, which is broadcast Monday-Thursday Ross Kemp examines the April 2015 heist in London’s diamond district, when a group of career criminals broke into a safe deposit facility and stole some £14 million in precious metals, cash and jewels, an event dubbed the biggest burglary of its type in British history. The documentary gains access to the secret surveillance material that put the thieves behind bars and features exclusive interviews with the detectives who cracked the case as well as Kenny Collins, one of the thieves involved.