TV guide: 23 of the best shows to watch this week
The Undoing, The Million Pound Cube, Home Rescue, The Mandalorian, Truth Seekers
Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey in Holidate, streaming on Netflix from Wednesay
Abba: In Their Own Words
Sunday, Channel 5, 9pm
Although they didn’t officially become a band until 1972 (or adopt the name Abba until 1973) Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad first began working together in 1970. To mark the 50th anniversary, this documentary retells their incredible story from the early days to worldwide fame. It combines rarely seen archive footage and interviews with all four band members with some of their incredible songs. The programme also hears from celebrity fans and people who worked with them, including original studio engineer Michael Tretow and costume designer Owe Sandstrom.
DIY SOS: Big Build Ireland
Sunday, RTÉ One 6.30pm
In February 2019, Tipperary man Michael Barry died of cancer aged just 34, leaving his wife Sinead and their three young children – and an unfinished house – behind. The talented tradesman had been building a new home for his family when he fell ill, and he was never able to finish the project so close to his heart. In this episode, the DIY SOS Build team, led by presenter Baz Ashmawy, consider it an honour to finish the work that Michael began before his untimely death. With help from local volunteers and craftspeople, the team set out to complete the dream home for Sinead and the children to finally move into.
Monday, Sky Atlantic & Now TV, 9pm
How’s this for a totally original pitch? Woman is in a seemingly perfect marriage, but when her husband goes missing, woman’s life begins to unravel as all sorts of secrets come to the surface,and she begins to wonder if she ever really knew this man at all. Yeah, The Undoing sounds like a well-worn yarn (it’s based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz). Still, Nicole Kidman is sure to add some edginess to her role as high-flying therapist Grace Fraser, whose life comes crashing to earth after her husband (Hugh Grant) disappears, leaving a string of very public disasters in his wake. Grace must marshal all her wits to survive in this hostile new reality, and get to the truth about what’s really going on. (It’s a conspiracy, I tell ya.)
The Million Pound Cube
Monday-Friday, Virgin Media One, 9pm
Back in the mists of time, Philip Schofield presented The Cube, in which contestants faced a daunting array of physical and mental challengeswhile enclosed in a six-sided hexahedron. Now the series has been rebooted for all those locked down in their own cubes, and the prize purse has been super-sized from £250,000 to a million squids. And of course, Schofield himself is back to present, and looking forward to it. “The Cube is such a cracking format, but with the players now in teams and a whopping million-pound prize fund, it now means this high-pressure environment has just got tougher. I can’t wait to be reunited with the legendary Perspex Cube!” Neither can we. (The show was broadcast last week on ITV.)
Blasts from the Past
Monday-Friday, RTÉ2, 4pm
Bill & Ted aren’t the only ones who get to travel through time and learn all about history and stuff. In this kids’ educational series, teen time-travel trainee Emily Blast (Eleanor O’Brien) takes off on a mission to recover missing artefacts from Irish history. Every afternoon this week, Emily will time-jump through a series of wild adventures and meet well-known figures from Ireland’s past including St Patrick, Annie Moore, Countess Markievicz, Tom Crean and the Pirate Queen herself, Grace O’Malley. How does Emily defy the laws of time? Why, with an app of course. With the Time Surfer App (TeSsA), Emily sets off to find the missing items – including St Patrick’s crozier, Annie Moore’s steamship ticket and Tom Crean’s compass – and return them to their rightful place and time before the course of history is irrevocably changed.
Monday-Thursday, RTÉ2, 3.40pm
Stories from Irish children and teenagers: Dillon’s Adventures (Monday): Dillon Lynch (12) is a coder and outdoor adventurer who with his dad, Pat, braves the elements to climb the 49th and final mountain of the Mainland Munster Highpoint Challenge. Tajus the Kickboxer (Tuesday): Tajus (12) is an athlete, model and social media influencer from Cellbridge who d reams of becoming a professional kickboxer. From Sheriff Street to Delphi (Wednesday): A group of city kids go on a trip of a lifetime to Co Mayo to learn how to fish – and to eath what they catch. Joseph Wants to Walk (Thursday): Joseph, a regular boy who happens to have cerebral palsy, embarks on a challenge he has set himself: to walk unaided into his own 10th birthday party.
Strictly: It Takes Two
Monday-Friday, BBC2, 6.30pm
The weekday half-hour sister show to Strictly is back, promising even more exclusive access and backstage gossip than ever before. Radio 2 DJ and former Strictly contestant Zoe Ball returns as host on Mondays-Wednesdays, with Strictly superfan Rylan Clark-Neal taking the reins on Thursdays and Fridays. Ian Waite also returns with analyses of the couples in the training rooms, and Strictly favourite Gethin Jones returns as roving reporter giving a sneak peek of all the action at rehearsals in Elstree Studios ahead of Saturday’s live show.
Monday-Thursday, ITV, 9pm
Halloween may be a bit different next Saturday, with curtailed trick-or-treating and fancy dress parties. But ITV is setting the mood with this creepy psychological thriller in four parts. The series, inspired by Neil Cross’s 2009 novel Burial, stars Russell Tovey as Nathan, a well-meaning but directionless lost soul who harbours a terrible secret he’s desperate to keep buried. Nathan now has a new life and is devoted to his wife (Amrita Acharia). However, his world is turned upside down when the disheveled Bob (Bertie Carvel), an eccentric and shocking face from the past, turns up on his doorstep during one rainy night.
President Trump: Tweets from the White House
Monday, Channel 4, 9pm
While FDR was known for his “fireside talks” and JFK won the presidency partly because he was good on television, Donald Trump is truly Amrica’s first social media leader. He has tweeted tens of thousands of times since moving into the White House, giving the American people unique access to his innermost, unedited thoughts – and giving him access to his “base” without the interference of the traditional media. This is the story of how, whether they have caused controversy or solved intractable foreign policy problems, tweets have changed American politics for ever.
Inside the Bat Cave
Monday, BBC2, 9pm
The greater horseshoe bat was once a cave-dweller, but now tends to roost in old buildings such as churches and barns. It is rare in the UK and, like many other bats, declining in number. Lucy Cooke presents this documentary, which looks at the hidden behaviour of these creatures, as cutting-edge night-vision cameras and ultrasonic detectors follow a roost for four months. Viewers will get to witness the birth of a new generation of pups in the colony and track their progress towards their perilous maiden flights.
Tuesday-Friday, BBC2, 8pm
Chris Packham was apparently heartbroken when “TV wife” Michaela Strachan could only make guest appearances from South Africa on this year’s Springwatch. Well, the good news for Chris and TV viewers is that Michaela is “falling back” into her role for the Beeb’s Autumnwatch 2020, based at Tentsmuir Forest in Fife. There she will cover, among other things, a live camera set-up on the Isle of May as the grey seals haul out for pupping. While Packham is staying close to his home in the New Forest, Gillian Burke is at RSPB Old Moor in South Yorkshire, and Iolo Williams at the Centre for Alternative Technology near Aberystwyth. Autumnwatch doesn’t feature the colossal, stunning natural world as chronicled by David Attenboroug. But it does shine a light on something even better: the natural world down the road.
Hair Power: Me and My Afro
Tuesday, Channel 4, 10.15pm
This one-off film asks how it is that hair became one of the most misunderstood, celebrated and debated aspects of the black experience. Academic and broadcaster Emma Dabiri leads the conversation, as men and women descrie how their identities have been shaped by their hair and how they wear it. From looking at the science behind what makes black hair different and the beauty routines that are a rite of passage and source of empowerment for many, to feelings of otherness and rejection, this documentary cracks open a subject that too often has been off limits.
Opry Le Daniel
Tuesday, TG4, 9.30pm
Daniel O’Donnell is back in Derry’s Millennium Forum in Derry, where he will be joined by the “country queens” Crystal Gayle and Gloria and Susan McCann. Gayle’s career began in the1960s when she performed with her older sister, music legend Loretta Lynn. In 1975 Gayle recorded her first big hit, Wrong Road Again, but it was Don’t You Make My Brown Eyes Blue that made her an international star. Gloria and Susan McCann, meanwhile, are two of Ireland’s top country acts.
The Rap Game UK
Wednesday, BBC1, 11.15pm
The acclaimed BBC3 series is back for a second season. Krept & Konan and DJ Target put a whole host of upcoming rappers through their paces, joined by the crème de la crème of UK lyricists as mentors. Only one will take the crown and sign a valuable deal with Play Dirty Records at the end. Tonight, straight after the artists meet each other, they find themselves in front of the trio having to demonstrate their a capella skills, before rapping about a key moment in their life to guest mentor Rapman.
Sing It Loud: Black and Proud
Wednesday, Channel 4, 11.10pm
Maya Jama is at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s for a one-off celebration of Black History Month alongside some of the Britain’s finest gifted young jazz musicians. Zara McFarlane, Ashley Henry, Poppy Ajudha, Reuben James and Ayanna Witter-Johnson all take to the world-famous stage to perform their own interpretations of iconic black protest anthems from Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye and James Brown. Multi-talented saxophonist Soweto Kinch also delivers a rousing rendition of his recent work to complete a joyous evening.
Thursday, RTÉ One, 7pm
We’ve spent so much time at home during the pandemic, we haven’t noticed that the place has gotten a little cluttered. In fact, it’s gotten very cluttered (well, I suppose we did go a bit mad on the online shopping). Now, with more restrictions looming, the realisation has dawned on us that there’s actually no room for us in our own house, thanks to all the accumulated stuff piled up. (Curse you, Jeff Bezos!) Time to call in architect and decluttering guru Roisin Murphy and super-builder Peter Finn to literally give us a dig-out. In this new season, the duo help families reorganise their homes for the new normal, in which everyone is working from home, space is at a premium, and it’s time to let go of that bench press from Argos that nobody’s used since April. First up for the home makeover are Swords hairdresser Sinead and daughter Jodi (11), who need help with a conservatory that’s become a floor-to-ceiling clutter magnet.
Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm
British actor, writer and director O-T Fagbenle plays the titular Maxx in this new six-part comedy about a washed-up former boyband star desperately trying to revive his career and rekindle romance with his ex- girlfriend, who is currently flying high in the pop stratosphere. Max may be in the proverbial gutter, having gone through his drug hell and tabloid shame, but now he’s determined to take back his pop crown and prove he’s no loser. But the comeback trail is fraught with perils and pratfalls.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 11.15pm
Fellow comedian and presenter Bill Bailey talks to Graham tonight, and presumably his appearance on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing will form a large part of the conversation. One wonders whether Norton himself has been tempted to trip the light fantastic on the show. Also appearing are Irish actor and singer Jessie Buckley, starring in the bizarre’s Netflix drama I’m Thinking of Ending Things, and actor-novelist David Walliams. Singer Dermot Kennedy provides the musical interlude with his single Giants.
Later with Jools Holland
Friday, BBC2, 10pm
A real meeting of musical minds this week as Jools welcomes Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, talking to him about his musical journey and punctuating the chat with clips from the Later... archive. That’s a deep well from which to draw, as Cocker has been on many a Later... and Hootenanny show, albeit most recently in 2006, when he unveiled his debut solo album. Asides from the headline act of Cocker, debutants Greentea Peng and Working Men’s Club also make an appearance.
From Wednesday, Netflix
This time of year is becoming known as “cuffing season”. Singletons, faced with spending Christmas alone (and the inevitable probing questions from overly interested relatives), seek companionship to see them through the festive season. Holidate stars Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey as two just-friends who resolve to couple up on each of the key holiday dates as one another’s platonic plus-ones. What could go wrong? Naturally there’s the odd hiccup along the way, but this being a Hollywood romcom the big question remains, will the two attractive leads realise what we know already: that they actually have real feelings for one another?
From Friday, Disney+
The first series of the Mandalorian swooped in just as lockdown began, giving despereate parents something to keep the kids occupied while they went on a Zoom meeting. The first live-action series based on Star Wars is, at its heart, an old-fashioned western about a helmeted gunslinger trying to bring Baby Yoda to safety in a lawless galaxy. Even the fab theme music evoked the spirit of spaghetti westerns. Kids – and grown-ups – will be eagerly awaiting the second series, which promises even more exciting action, more Easter eggs, and more familiar characters from the Star Wars universe, including Boba Fett and Ahsoka Tano.
From Friday, Amazon Prime
Nick Frost and Simon Pegg team up for a new series that perfectly blends horror with comedy. The duo have already proven themselves genre-literate with their loose “Cornetto Trilogy” directed by Edgar Wright; now, with co-writers James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders they tell the tale of a team of part-time paranormal investigators who host an online spook-spotting show that, against the odds, sees them stumble upon actual ghouls and demons – and eventually a world-threatening conspiracy. Chilling stuff, but very, very funny to boot. Co-starring Malcolm McDowell, Emma D’Arcy, Samson Kayo and Susie Wokoma.
The Owl House
From Friday, Disney+
One of the Disney Channel’s newest and most warmly received shows makes its debut on Disney+. Mixing a traditional animation style with a wonderfully modern sense of representation in its cast of characters (the lead, 14-year-old Dominican-American Luz Noceda, is Disney’s first bisexual main character), The Owl House is a magical tale that resonates with – and celebrates – anyone who has ever felt like they don’t always fit in. The story follows Luz as, on the way to a juvenile detention summer camp, she stumbles through a portal into a magical realm. There she fulfils a lifelong dream by apprenticing to a powerful witch. Top fantasy fun from the studio that does it best.