TV guide: 22 of the best shows to watch this week
The Hunger: The Story of the Irish Famine, Larry Gogan,The Case I Can’t Forget, Mank
Angela (voiced by Lucy O’Connell) in Angela’s Christmas Wish, streaming from Tuesday on Netflix
Sunday, RTÉ 2, 12.25pm
Want to keep the kids occupied while you have a lie-in, but don’t want them playing endless video games? Then let them watch Gamer Mode, Ireland’s first gaming TV show, which introduces a whole new universe of video games, massive multiplayer shoot-’em-ups and other electronic delights. This is a show for gamers, presented by gamers, and promises some dazzling on-screen displays of skill from some of the country’s champion console-masters. The show airs on weekend mornings right up to December 20th. Only problem is, after your kids watch this, they’ll be dying to log onto their Xbox and Playstations to try out the cool new stuff they’ve learned about. The series, which began on Saturday, will continue for the next three Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons (check listings for times).
Small Axe: Red, White and Blue
Sunday, BBC1, 9pm
We first saw John Boyega fitting uneasily into a stormtrooper suit in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the third of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series of films, Boyega dons the uniform of a police constable – and it also proves a challenging fit. In this true story from the 970s, Boyega plays a young forensic scientist Leroy Logan, who decides to join the Metropolitan Police Force after witnessing his father being assaulted by two policemen. Logan naively thinks he can change racist attitudes from within, but he soon finds that institutional racism runs deeper than he realised.
Sé Mo Laoch
Sunday, TG4, 9.30pm
This programme looks at the life and career of Nollaig Casey and Máire Ní Chathasaigh, sisters who grew up in a west Cork household steeped in traditional music and song. Máire is the doyenne of Irish harp players and one of the country’s most important and influential traditional musicians. Nollaig has recorded and toured with Planxty, Coolfin, Cherish the Ladies and Arty McGlynn. In this documentary they tell their story in their own words. With Arty McGlynn, Chris Newman, Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh and John Dwyer.
Defending Digga D
Sunday, BBC1, 11.50pm
At the age of 20, Rhys Herbert aka Digga D is one of the UK’s biggest up-and-coming drill artists, with his tracks racking up millions of views online. As this documentary begins, Herbert is not just on the brink of the stardom – he’s also just been released from a 15-month stint in prison and has become one of the first musicians in British history to be given a police Criminal Behaviour Order controlling his creative output. If his music is believed to be “inciting or encouraging violence”, it can be taken down and Digga D can be arrested. It may seem like a unique situation, but as the film shows, it highlights larger arguments around censorship and drill music.
Escape to Barbados
Sunday, Channel 4, 6pm
The economy of Barbados relies heavily on the tourist trade –and that has taken a battering during the pandemic. But the Caribbean island offers a special visa that allows people to move there to work from home. This documentary meets some of the Brits who have decided to take advantage of the “Barbados Welcome Stamp”, including Kris, Brigitta and their three children from Manchester, who hope the move will lead to a better work-life balance; and grandparents Steve and Amanda from Salisbury, who see it as a chance for one year-long last hurrah.
The Hunger: The Story of the Irish Famine
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
It’s the 175th anniversary of the Great Famine, and this two-part series promises to delve deeper than ever into a defining moment in Irish and European history. Prepare to have your perceptions and assumptions challenged by this major documentary, narrated by Liam Neeson, featuring interviews with leading historians and academics, and extracts from eyewitness accounts of those who witnessed the worst humanitarian disaster of the 19th century. The film paints a picture of a downtrodden peasant underclass left to die by selfish liberal elites, and a poverty gap so wide that the middling classes hosted dinner parties while, just a few miles down the road, poor people starved to death or – in some cases – driven to cannibalism. The programme also shows how Europe as a whole was affected by the potato blight that originated in cargo ships coming from South America and, in an echo of 2020, how different responses to the blight led to very different outcomes.
Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism & Me
Monday, BBC1, 9pm
It was one of the most disturbing episodes in English football history. In 2011, a complaint was made against John Terry for using racist language towards Anton Ferdinand during a televised game. Although Terry was eventually acquitted in a criminal court, an FA commission found him guilty three months later, banning him for four matches and fining him £220,000. However, in some some respects the individual who paid the highest price was Ferdinand. He would play little more than a year more in the Premier League after the infamous spat and has since been subjected to online abuse, which affected his mental health, career and the lives of his loved ones. In this deeply personal documentary, Ferdinand, now 35 and retired from the game, reveals what is was like to be at the centre of a racial storm and football power struggle and also attempts to address wider questions of race in the game.
Cloch Le Carn – Larry Gogan
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm
By his own admission, Larry Gogan never worked a day in his life. That’s because he loved his job so much, it didn’t seem like work. His job, of course, was to bring the latest pop hits to RTÉ radio listeners and brighten up our lives with his golden voice and irrepressible personality. You try doing that for 60 years: it’s hard work. Cloch Le Carn looks back at the life of Larry, who died in January, through the eyes of family, friends and colleagues – and the ears of his loyal listeners. “He was never driven by celebrity or the fame, he was always driven I think about just doing something that he liked,” said his son David. There’s sure to be mention of his legendary Just a Minute quiz, and if you have to ask why Gogan is a true national treasure, then the question obviously doesn’t suit you. The three-part series continues with profiles of two other recently departed treasures, Jack Charlton and Brendan Bowyer.
Great British Christmas Menu
Tuesday, BBC2, 8pm
Over the years, Great British Menu has honoured many heroes, from D-Day veterans and military personnel returning from Afghanistan to NHS staff. So it’s only fitting that this seven-part special centres around serving up a festive feast to some of the key workers who have played a huge part in keeping the country going over an incredibly difficult year. Previous winners from the series will be joined by veteran judges including Tom Aikens, Tommy Banks and, in this first episode, Lisa Goodwin-Allen, to compete to create one of the six courses, beginning with Christmas-themed canapes and starters. In a tweak to the usual recipe, Andi Oliver takes on the role of presenter, while her place in the judges’ chamber is taken by comedian Kerry Godliman.
The Dam Busters: A Daring Plan
Tuesday-Thursday, Channel 5, 9pm
Over three night, historian Dan Snow will re-live the countdown to one of the most famous and ingenious bombing raids in history. The story begins in spring 1943, when, as Snow discovers in this opening episode, 24-year-old wing commander Guy Gibson learned that he had just eight weeks to recruit and train 147 aircrew for a top-secret mission that would require them to master the skill of flying at night and at super-low altitudes. Meanwhile, scientist Barnes Wallis was working on a new precision weapon: a bouncing bomb.
The World’s Biggest Murder Trial: Nuremberg
Tuesday, Channel 5, 10pm
On November 20th, 1945, the infamous Nuremberg trials began. To mark the 75th anniversary, this eye-opening documentary takes a closer look at what happened as well as the verdicts delivered almost a year later. Although many leading Nazis had been killed or taken their own lives by the time the trials began, there were still plenty of major figures in the dock. These include the Luftwaffe’s commander-in-chief and Hitler’s former right-hand man, Hermann Goring; others included Rudolph Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg and Albert Speer. The film uses archive footage to retell the dramatic events that took place in the German city, including incredible moments captured in the courtroom itself.
The Case I Can’t Forget: The Murder of Mary Gough
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Some crime cases linger long after they’ve been closed. In this new series, investigators look back on cases that have stayed with them, though they may have long ago been solved. In the first episode we meet retired detective inspector Pat Marry, who spent four years doggedly pursuing the killer of 27-year-old Mary Gough in 2001. This was Marry’s first-ever murder investigation, and it began when Mary’s husband Colin Whelan dialled 999 to say his wife had fallen down the stairs. Suspecting that all wasn’t what it seemed, Marry gathered reams of forensic evidence, and data from a confiscated hard drive, to find out what really happened to Mary. After a long, drawn-out cat-and-mouse game, the killer was finally put behind bars, and Marry was promoted to detective inspector, becoming one of the Garda’s leading crime investigators. But the case of Mary Gough has always haunted him, and as he reopens the original case files, perhaps this programme will finally provide closure.
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
At the start of the year, nobody foresaw how 2020 would pan out. Who could have predicted that we’d spend much of the time under restrictions that kept us socially distanced, or that thousands upon thousands would be killed by a virus we’d never heard of? Thankfully the majority of us have remained fit and well, but this feature-length documentary tells the stories of four people who haven’t been so fortunate. Cameras chart their lives over a six-month period after they arrive for treatment at London’s King’s College Hospital.
Inside Cinema: Guilt-Free Pleasures
Wednesday, BBC4, 10pm
Should we really feel guilty about the things we really like? There’s always some film or other we don’t want to admit to enjoying because we assume other people will laugh at our supposedly poor taste. Here, film critic Catherine Bray celebrates some of the cinematic trash we can’t help but love, with help from comedian Mae Martin’s narration. Among the offerings making it onto the duo’s list are Ed Wood’s famously dreadful Plan 9 from Outer Space, entries in the Sharknado franchise and even Sleepless in Seattle.
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
Andrew Marr dissects the seismic societal changes Britain has gone through since the queen first came to the throne in 1952. He looks at how Britain went from buttoned-up, class-ridden rigidity in the 1950s to a more liberal, permissive society in the 1960s and ’70s. Marr also looks at the kickback against progress that has shaken Britain, particularly the conservatism of Middle England that has driven the Brexit vote. This is the story of the “New Elizabethans” who embodied the struggle between old certainties and new possibilities in a fast-changing Britain. I’m sure the queen and other royals will get a mention in there somewhere.
I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! 2020 Final
Friday, Virgin Media One/ITV, 9pm
The jungles of New South Wales were replaced by a castle in North Wales due to coronavirus restrictions, but otherwise it’s monkey business as usual as the contestants endure gruelling tests of their endurance and multiple assaults on their dignity – all in the good cause of keeping their name up in the media. Tonight’s final episode sees the last remaining celebs emerge from lockdown and one of them crowned the King or Queen of the Castle.
Grayson’s Art Club Exhibition
Friday, Channel 4, 8pm
During the first lockdown, the Turner Prize-winning potter won a whole new bunch of fans by hosting an art club from his studio. Alongside making his own work, Grayson Perry’s wife, psychotherapist Philippa, showcased her own artistic talents while the couple invited celebrities and members of the public to submit their responses to a different theme each week. It was a simple but charming show that proved to be rather inspiring. Perry promised that once the lockdown was over he would organise an exhibition of selected pieces, which was expected to take place in November. Sadly, the second lockdown put paid to that, although there’s a chance to see preparations for it and to hear from those whose art will feature in the show when it can eventually open.
Waterhole: Africa’s Animal Oasis
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
Filmed in collaboration with Tanzania’s Mwiba Wildlife Reserve, this three-part documentary reveals the importance of waterholes to the African ecosystem. At the beginning of the dry season, a new waterhole is dug by the programme’s crew, enabling Chris Packham and biologist Ella al-Shamahi to get up close to the animals using it. Before long they’re able to observe the many different thirsty species dropping by, and figure out which of them – if any – are willing to share.
Available now, Netflix
Based on the novels by Robyn Carr (there are 21 in the Virgin River series, so the show could go for some time yet), this drama’s first run last December went down a treat with viewers looking for something to warm the cockles of their heart. It stars Alexandra Breckenridge as Mel Monroe, a nurse and practitioner who has swapped the hustle and bustle of LA for a new post in a quiet Californian town. The series ended with Mel packing her bags to leave, but as we catch up with her, she’s back in town and working at Doc’s clinic again, having realised it’s time to stop running from her past by putting down some firm roots. Martin Henderson, Tim Matheson and Annette O’Toole co-star.
Angela’s Christmas Wish
From Tuesday, Netflix
Eleven years after his death, Frank McCourt remains best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes. But he wrote several other tales, including Angela and the Baby Jesus, a picture book for youngsters detailing his mother’s childhood experiences of the festive season. In 2017 it was turned into the Emmy-nominated animation Angela’s Christmas, narrated by his brother Malachy. Director Damien O’Connor returns to the characters for this sequel in which Angela, now seven, hopes to find a way to reunite her family by bringing her father home from Australia, where he has travelled to find work.
From Friday, Netflix
David Fincher is the widely regarded director of Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network and Gone Girl. But what some fans don’t realise is that film-making is in Fincher’s blood – his father Jack was a screenwriter. Prior to his death in 2003, he penned a script inspired by the experiences of fellow scribe Herman J Mankiewicz. Fincher Jr was perhaps able to persuade Netflix to back the highly personal project following his work on the hit House of Cards. In Mank, Gary Oldman plays Mankiewicz as he battles with Orson Welles (Tom Burke) while trying to complete the screenplay for Citizen Kane. Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins and Charles Dance co-star.
From Friday, Apple TV
Apple TV+ recently released Doug Unplugs, a charming children’s animated series based on a popular book. Hot on its heels comes another CGI cartoon with a literary origin, this time Jon J Muth’s Zen Shorts. It focuses on the adventures of siblings Karl, Addy and Michael, who have a very special neighbour living next door: Stillwater, a panda who is always available to give them very wise advice, enabling the trio to gain a new perspective on the world around them. According to Apple’s press office, the panda also “brings newfound fun and adventure,” and gives children “a deeper understanding of their feelings, as well as mindfulness tools that help them face their own day-to-day challenges”.