TV guide: 22 of the best shows to watch this week
Lovers Rock, Bake Off: The Final, Barrister & Conman . . . and The Late Toy Show
Jordan Kristine Seamón and Jack Dylan Grazer in We Are Who We Are, premiering Tuesday on BBC1
Kirstie’s Christmas: Quick & Easy Craft
Sunday, Channel 4, 8pm
Despite the problems caused by the pandemic, it’s still been a busy and productive year for Kirstie Allsopp. She and Phil Spencer celebrated the 20th anniversary of Location, Location, Location, and during the first lockdown she set out to inspire people to make do and mend in Keep Crafting and Carry On, which was filmed in her own home. Now she’s back with her traditional festive series in which she demonstrates quick and easy Christmas-themed crafts, with help from her florist sister Sofie, former Bake Off champ Nancy Birtwhistle, and of course old mucker Phil.
Small Axe: Lovers Rock
Sunday, BBC1, 9pm
Steve McQueen’s anthology series about London’s West Indian community from the 1960s to the 1980s got off to an explosive start last week with the real-life tale of Notting Hill restaurateur Frank Critchlow. On paper, the second story seems more joyous, although what happens is as a result of racism. Lovers Rock focuses on how black youngsters, after being made unwelcome in the capital’s white nightclubs, were forced to create house parties. It’s told through the eyes of those who find love and freedom via such events and stars a few new names alongside more established ones, including Amarah-Jae St Aubyn, Micheal Ward and Ellis George.
Se Mo Laoch
Sunday, TG4, 9.30pm
A new series of Sé Mo Laoch casts an eye on some of Irish traditional music’s hero’s. This programme looks at the life and career of accordion player and singer Séamus Begley from Baile na bPoc in west Kerry. By the age of 14 he was playing accordion at local dances. In 1972 he recorded his first album, An Ciarraíoch Mallaithe, with his sister Máire. Begley is an eager storyteller known for his sharp wit and famous for pumping out music for dancers with an energy that is sometimes alarming. He has toured extensively with performers such as Steve Cooney, Téada and Mary Black.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: The Million Pound Question
Sunday, ITV, 8pm
The last series ended on a real high when Donald Fear answered all 15 questions correctly, becoming one of only a handful of jackpot winners in the show’s history. But he wasn’t, of course, the first person to complete the feat. That honour goes to Judith Keppel who, on November 20th, 2000 sat in the famous hot seat and went home £1 million better off than she started. Keppel was a garden designer who, was struggling to make ends meet and had gambled £100 on getting on the show – the cost of ringing the 50 times it took to secure her place. Here, she discusses her life-changing appearance; celebrities who have also sat in the hot seat, including Naga Munchetty and Catherine Tyldesley, describe their experiences.
Monday, Syfy/Now TV, 9pm
Imagine you’re bedevilled by visions of all sorts of supernatural horrors – you might want to go and get your head checked right away. But when Jared, an indigenous teenager from a dysfunctional family in British Columbia, starts encountering talking ravens, doppelgängers and skin monsters, he’s relieved to find that they’re actually real, and he’s not actually going mad. The reason for all this dark magic mayhem? Jared is actually descended from a magical family, and his real father, Wade, is a mythical sorcerer known as the Trickster. Now Wade has returned from wherever it is mythical beings hang out, and he wants Jared to follow in his footsteps and become the next Trickster. And, as any teenager knows, being groomed to take over the family business can be a real bummer.
Return from ISIS: A Family’s Story
Monday, BBC1, 9pm
Filmed over four years, this documentary tells the extraordinary story of how Samantha Sally (also known as Samantha Elhassani), who grew up in Arkansas, and her family went from a small US town to the heart of Islamic State – and back. Journalist Josh Baker learns how, after Sally’s arrival in Syria, her Moroccan-born husband became an Isis sniper and her young son Matthew was forced to take part in an infamous propaganda video. Matthew, who is now 13, reveals how he never thought he’d see hi shome again. Sally, who is currently in prison, describes her own life with the terror group, including the part she played in buying sex slaves.
The Hijacker Who Vanished: The Mystery of DB Cooper – Storyville
Monday, BBC4, 9pm
This feature-length documentary seeks to unravel the mystery surrounding DB Cooper, who boarded a Northwest Orient Airlines plane in November 1971 and hijacked the flight while it was still on the tarmac. He claimed to have a bomb in his briefcase and demanded four parachutes and $200,000, which he exchanged for the 36 passengers on board. Cooper ordered the flight to take off for Mexico City and somewhere on the journey, he managed to jump out of the back of the aircraft with a parachute and the money, and was never seen again.
Monday, E4, 5pm
It’s the second season of the witchy drama about three sisters who possess the power of witchcraft but are a bit easier on the eye than the three crones in Macbeth. They’re hoping to keep tapping into the nostalgia for 1990s supernatural teen shows such as Sabrina and Buffy, but they’ll also have to face their own demons along with the usual horrors from the underworld. In series two, Mel, Maggie and Macy have taken over the witchy duties of the Elders, but the responsibility isn’t sitting too easily on their shoulders.
America’s Sex Traffic Cops
Monday, Channel 4, 10pm
When Nadia was first spotted selling sex on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona, she told police officers she was 19. In reality, she was just 15. Bafta-winning filmmaker Jezza Neumann spent three years following a dedicated team of female cops as they tried to get Nadia out of the life she has been lured into. The documentary also meets other victims, as well as officers Amber, Melissa and Christi, finding out what drives them to go to such lengths to help girls who often see them as the enemy – and why the problem of sex-trafficking often reminds hidden from sight.
The Great British Bake Off: The Final
Tuesday, Channel 4, 8pm
Has this been the most wide-open series of Bake Off to date? The first seven episodes saw seven different contestants crowned Star Baker. And some people who seemed like they were in it for the long-haul – if only because the viewers had taken a shine to them – ended up leaving surprisingly early. So, it’s been difficult to call who would make it to the last episode, let alone win. Just to make it even more tense, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith are setting three challenges designed to test every aspect of their baking skills, including a deceptively simple signature that combines custard and puff pastry, a chocolate-and-nut based technical, and a showstopper that involves dessert towers. But who will emerge from the Bake Off bubble as champion?
We Are Who We Are
Tuesday, BBC1, 11.15pm
Directed by the Oscar-nominated Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name), this new drama series stars Jack Dylan Grazer as Fraser, a shy 14-year-old who moves from New York to a military base in the Veneto due to his mothers Sarah (Chloe Sevigny) and Maggie’s (Alice Braga) jobs. As the opening episode of this double-bill shows, he is soon drawn to the outwardly confident Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamon), who has been there for years, speaks Italian and is at the centre of a group of friends. The supporting cast includes rapper Kid Cudi and Francesca “daughter of Martin” Scorsese.
The Truth about Amazon: How to Shop Smart
Tuesday, Channel 4, 9.15pm
The pandemic has been bad for struggling high streets, but it’s been a different story for Amazon: the online retailer has reported its biggest ever quarterly profits and recruited an extra 400,000 staff to cope with the expected extra demand in the run-up to Christmas. In this three-part series, Helen Skelton and Sabrina Grant ask how Amazon managed to beat the competition and also explore how to get the best deals possible on the site. Apparently it’s not always by going for second-hand options, which can be more expensive than buying new.
RTÉ Investigates: Barrister & Conman – The Patrick Russell Story
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
In a world where everyone from hackers to the outgoing US president is trying to scam the public, here’s a warning that no one is immune to the tricks of the conman’s trade. Patrick Russell was a barrister and Sinn Féin activist who had a close friendship with former taoiseach Albert Reynolds. He was also a serial fraudster who conned a number of people out of large sums over three decades. His victims came from all walks of life – businesspeople, tradespeople, celebrities, doctors and barristers, and the money he stole amounted to millions. This month Russell was finally convicted of theft and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, with the last year suspended. Many of those he conned over the years might feel this is a light sentence for such a prolific fraudster. The programme looks at his career from the 1990s, when he was pursued in court by several people over debts worth €800,000, to when he qualified as a barrister and used his position to scam high-profile figures, including conning two well-known musicians out of €1.5 million and a sports star out of €400,000 in a property deal.
Sofia Coppola: Life Cinematic
Wednesday, BBC4, 10pm
The BBC series of films about film-making continues with Edith Bowman chatting by video link with Sofia Coppola. The Oscar-winning director talks about the films that influenced her, ranging from Gilda to A Place in the Sun to To Die For, and the one influence that towers over everything else: her father, Francis Ford Coppola. Bowman will grill Coppola on her screenwriting and directing methods, but if you’re hoping to find out what Bill Murray whispered in Scarlett Johansson’s ear in the final reel of Lost in Translation, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Coppola will explain why that piece of movie dialogue will forever remain a mystery.
The Works Presents
Thursday, RTÉ One, 11.10pm
John Kelly meets David Mitchell, the bestselling author of Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream and, most recently, Utopia Avenue. Mitchell has been twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and – much to his amusement – was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He grew up in England, lived for eight years in Hiroshima working as a teacher, before eventually settling with his wife and two children in Clonakilty in west Cork, his home for the past 17 years.
The Clydach Murders: Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
It was a brutal mass murder that shocked a close-knit Welsh community to the core. In June 1999, three generations of one family – Mandy Power (34), her daughters Katie (10) and Emily (8), and grandmother Doris Dawson (80) – were found dead in their home on Kelvin Road in Clydach near Swansea. The tragedy led to South Wales Police’s largest ever murder hunt. Here BBC Wales Investigates reveals new evidence and questions the safety of the conviction of David Morris, who was sentenced to four life sentences in 2002. His conviction was quashed in 2005 and a retrial ordered after judges ruled that a conflict of interest involving a member of his legal team meant he had not received a fair trial. However, in 2006 Morris was again convicted on four counts of murder.
The Late Late Toy Show
Friday, RTE One, 9.35pm
We’re counting down the days to the end of Lockdown II, and looking forward to the first sign that Christmas is coming: a grinning Ryan Tubridy in his festive jumper. But will this year’s Toy Show be a stilted, socially distanced affair? Not a bit of it, says Tubs, who assures us it will be “the biggest, the best and the brightest” of them all. This year’s theme is is shrouded in secrecy – “Nobody is going to guess this theme,” says Tubridy – but we’re guessing it won’t be Contagion or Zombie Apocalypse. There’s an international element to this year’s show as kids from around the world join in with a special song performed in-studio by a well-known guest artist. With many people unable to travel to see their families for Christmas, this one-off performance from far-flung places is a special musical greeting to loved ones back home.
The Toy Show will be broadcast live around the world on the RTÉ Player, and there will be a special Irish sign language simulcast with interpreters Amanda Coogan and Aisling Dragoi. So wash your hands, get the mince pies ready and settle in as Tubridy and an army of talented kids set out to save Christmas and prove that, despite the pandemic, it’s a wonderful life. (That’s just a wild guess.)
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 11.15pm
Superstar songstress Mariah Carey – whose fanbase has declared her as the “Queen of Christmas” – chats to Norton about her upcoming Magical Christmas Special on Apple TV. Plus, TV chef, writer and former Bake Off champ Nadiya Hussain reflects on her new book and recent series Nadiya Bakes, while British astronaut Tim Peake talks about his autobiography Limitless. Finally, singer-songwriter Gary Barlow performs the single Incredible, from his new solo album Music Played by Humans.
No Man’s Land
From Sunday, StarzPlay
Felix Moati, James Purefoy, Melanie Thierry and James Krishna Floyd star in a new eight-part French thriller that offers a fresh perspective on the Syrian civil war. It gives viewers a sense of the kind of people caught up in the conflict while shining a light on the tragic fate of so many trapped in the country. Antoine (Felix Moati) is a young Frenchman searching for his estranged, presumed dead sister. His investigation into her fate leads him to a unit of female Kurdish fighters whose actions are a real thorn in the side of Isis. He joins forces with them – but will gaining a new sense of the conflict lead him any closer to uncovering what has happened to his sibling?
Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square
From Sunday, Netflix
In her three-star review of Dolly Parton’s latest Netflix confectionary, Irish Timese film critic Tara Brady writes: “A New Yorker (boo) returning to the small town where she grew up, Regina (Christine Baranski) has plans to evict the entire community on – wait for it – Christmas Eve! But what about lovable moppet Violet? And what about Pastor Christian and his perma-smiling wife? What of Regina’s old flame (Treat Williams) and his tatty knick-knacks shop? What about Dolly as the local bag lady? Yes, it’s another silly but utterly delightful seasonal special inspired by Dickens’s most popular work. Good songs. Good spirits. Good times.”
From Tuesday, Netflix
And here’s IT critic Donald Clark’s one-star review of Ron Howard’s new drama: “Back in 2016, a number of snooty publications suggested readers peruse JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy – about the author’s poor upbringing in Appalachia – to understand how Trump voters got that way. Whatever about the book, the film certainly offers clues as to why rural America remains suspicious of the coastal elites. Here is patronising poverty porn of the lowest order. Adams and Close are ludicrously broad as Vance’s drugged-up mother and drunk grandmother. The plot is threadbare. The dialogue is unintentionally hilarious. Wildly inappropriate.”
The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two
From Wednesday, Netflix
In 2018, Kurt Russell popped up as Santa in The Christmas Chronicles, a family film in which two children almost derail the December 25th by trying to get a photo of the elusive St Nick. Russell’s real-life other half, Goldie Hawn, had a cameo as Mrs Claus, and now she’s front and centre in this likable sequel. Siblings Kate and Teddy are spending the festive season with their mother, her new boyfriend and his son Jack. Kate hates this version of a family, and so runs away. But after she stumbles upon a plot to destroy the North Pole led by a magical troublemaker, and it’s up to the kids – and the Clauses – to save the day.