TV guide: 23 of the best shows to watch this week
Dead Still, Is Olc an Ghaoth, Don’t Rock the Boat, My Uni Life, Seriously Sinéad
Coffey and Criscilla Anderson in the new reality series Country Ever After, streaming from Friday on Netflix
Sunday, RTÉ One, 6.30pm
In episode three of this home makeover show with a big difference, Baz Ashmawy and his team take on a task that will seriously challenge both their skills and viewers’ ability to remain unmoved. They’re in the Leixlip home of Denise and Dermot Guihen, who want to adapt their house to the unique needs of their eight-year-old identical twin sons Shay and Finn, both of whom were born with a life-limiting genetic disorder. The boys need round-the-clock care and support, and Ashmawy will have to recruit volunteers and craftspeople from the community to help redesign the Guihens’ house so they can continue to care for Shay and Finn at home. Watch this series, then stop complaining that your enamelled lava countertops don’t quite match up with your Philippe Starck glass taps.
Sunday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm
The world of Victorian Dublin is brought to life in this period comedy-drama that doubles as a macabre murder mystery. Michael Smiley plays photographer Brock Blennerhasset (now there’s a great character name), whose speciality is memorial photography – ie, taking staged portraits of dead people. The bizarre fad for postmortem portraits was an actual thing in Ireland in the 1880s. People queued up to have their deceased loved ones dolled up and propped up in a chair to have their picture taken with their family before making their final journey. But the fad is dying out, and Brock recruits his niece (Eileen O’Higgins) and a new assistant (Kerr Logan) to help him revive the business. But he has a rival who is clearly cultivating a more depraved customer base by actually killing people and photographing them in their death throes. Written by John Morton and Imogen Murphy, and also starring Aidan O’Hare, Jimmy Smallhorne and Martin Donovan, this six-part Irish/Canadian coproduction has the bones of a morbidly funny series.
Is Olc an Ghaoth – Death in the Time of Covid
Sunday, TG4, 10.30pm
The rugged beauty of Achill Island is the setting for these three interconnected short films exploring the quiet stoicism of a remote rural community in the face of a global pandemic. Producer Niamh Fagan, director Tom Sullivan and writer Kevin Toolis have created what they call an Achill Island Gothic Triptych, starring some of Ireland’s finest actors, including Stiofán Seoige, John Finn, Carrie Crowley and Peadar Cox. “There is something almost otherworldly about the west of Ireland, particularly in places like Achill, it’s what we set out to capture,” says Sullivan. The cast and crew had to work under strict Covid-19 rules when filming on Achill, adds Fagan. “We were a lean, mean shooting machine – we were on location, shot, in the can and home before the virus even knew we had been there.”
Totally Under Control: Trump and Covid-19
Sunday, BBC2, 9pm
Some critics have described this feature-length programme as “essential viewing” and “the Covid-19 documentary all Americans need to see”. Oscar-winning film-maker Alex Gibney has joined forces with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger to look back at the chaotic events of 2020, and how President Donald Trump handled the coronavirus pandemic. Filmed in secret over five months, it features archive footage and interviewers with experts and insiders who claim the White House administration missed numerous chances to get the pandemic under control – or at least to minimise the number of casualties. It promises to be a brutal history lesson.
The Wonderful World of Cake
Sunday, Channel 5, 8pm
This celebration of some of Britain’s favourite treats begins with a glimpse inside baking behemoth McVities, learning the secret of how teatime titan the Jaffa Cake is made. The hi-tech McVities Factory in Manchester employs 600 people, working 24/7 to produce 4,000 Jaffas every minute. This golden delicious chocolate-covered disk is still the subject of a huge debate: is it a cake or a biscuit? Chef and food historian Neil Buttery takes on the ultimate Jaffa Challenge – can he break the World Record for the largest Jaffa ever baked at over 1.5 metres wide?
Don’t Rock the Boat
Monday-Friday, Virgin One/ITV, 9pm
Freddie Flintoff and AJ Odudu take to the helm as 12 celebrities tackle one of television’s toughest ever challenges – a race to row the length of Britain. In the opening leg of the race the celebs are split into two crews and face their first epic leg at sea: rowing 90 nautical miles from St Ives to Pembroke while battling sea sickness and exhaustion on the 30-hour row. Meanwhile, the celebs left on land are challenged to race face fist down a 170ft cliff in order to secure luxury accommodation for their crewmates.
Deliveroo: Secrets of Your Takeaway
Monday, Channel 4, 10pm
Deliveroo has revolutionised the takeaway industry, and this documentary, filmed over eight months, follows the teams of computer programmers, app developers and salespeople as they manage a network of British restaurants and delivery riders. However, it also hears from some of the company’s key restaurant partners, many of whom began 2020 full of hope for the coming year, only to be faced with turmoil and the discovery that, at the height of lockdown, takeaways may be their only way of making a living.
Aung San Suu Kyi: The Fall of an Icon
Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm
It’s hard to believe, but Aung San Suu Kyi’s name was once synonymous with the struggle for human rights. Held under house arrest for 15 years by Myanmar’s military junta, Suu Kyi became a shining inspiration to people around the world, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for her style of peaceful resistance to oppression. When she was freed from house arrest in 2010, she went on to become a popular politician and the first de facto leader of Myanmar in 2016. But Suu Kyi’s complicity in the persecution and killing of Rohingya Muslims has led to her becoming a pariah on the world stage. Bob Geldof famously handed back his freedom of Dublin City in 2017, saying he could not share the honour with Suu Kyi, who he described as “a handmaiden to genocide”. This documentary examines how a woman revered as a beacon of justice has so quickly become a reviled symbol of betrayal.
Tuesday, Sky Comedy, 9pm
Before this year’s stock market dips and dives, before the financial crisis of 2008, there was the biggest stock market crash in Wall Street history, a dark day in 1987 known as Black Monday. What triggered this unforeseen financial collapse? Well, if this comedy series is to be believed, the culprits were a bunch of maverick brokers known as The Jammer Group managed to crash the world’s largest financial system – as well as a Lamborghini, Don Henley’s birthday party and the glass ceiling. Now the would-be wolves of Wall Street are back for more fiscally risky business, but somebody’s going to have to pay for all that double-dealing and double-crossing in series one. Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells, Regina Hall and Paul Scheer return as the roguish traders.
The Emily Atack Show
Wednesday, ITV2, 10pm
The actress, comedian and star of The Inbetweeners and I’m a Celebrity... hosts this new comedy show. Hot on the heels of her sold-out 2019 stand-up tour (Talk Thirty to Me), Atack takes to the stage performing stand-up and sketches on a series of very relatable topics. She will also show off impressions of the likes of Gemma Collins, Keith Lemon and Holly Willoughby. Each episode covers a different theme, from going out and family to image, friends and growing up. In the first episode, Atack will at the perils and pitfalls of the dating game.
On Board Britain’s Nuclear Submarine: Trident
Wednesday, Channel 5, 9pm
For the first time, TV cameras are granted access to one of the UK’s nuclear missile submarines as it prepares for a new mission. HMS Vengeance is the youngest of the four Vanguard-class submarines that carry Britain’s Trident ballistic missile nuclear deterrent. Launched in 1998, it is home to a crew of 160 men who spend months at sea working in complete secrecy. No area is off limits to presenter Rob Bell, who lives on board for five days and nights. He delves deep into this clandestine world of national security and terrifying weapons, and finds out more about the unopened “last instructions” (letters of last resort) of the British prime minister.
Fíorscéal: Dollar Heroes
Thursday, TG4, 10.30pm
Some 70,000 forced labourers worldwide are working to provide foreign currency for North Korea’s regime – even in the European Union. This investigative documentary shows the inhumane conditions under which North Korean labour brigades are forced to live and work, and it sheds an important light on how this state-organized human trafficking helps to finance Kim Jong-un’s nuclear program.
Being Frank: The Frank Gardner Story
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
On June 6th, 2004, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner and cameraman Simon Cumbers were ambushed by al-Qaeda gunmen in Saudi Arabia. Cumbers was killed outright and Gardner was shot six times. One of the bullets hit his spinal nerves and at the age of 42 he was left partially paralysed and unable to walk. He has used a wheelchair ever since. Fifteen years on from that horrendous attack, Gardner continues to travel the world reporting for the BBC, but he says he has never got used to his paralysis. In this deeply personal film, he talks candidly about the challenges of suddenly becoming disabled and confronts the effects it has on his day-to-day life, personal relationships and the way he views himself.
Seal le Dáithí
Thursday, TG4, 7.30pm
Cathal Watters, a director of photography who’s credits include the BBC drama Peaky Blinders and the hit Irish film Handsome Devil, is Dáithí Ó Sé’s guest this week. After studying drama in Trinity College, Watters began working for news channels and shooting documentaries. In recent times he has turned his eye towards film and television drama. His work on Peaky Blinders earned him an Ifta nomination for best cinematography.
My Uni Life
Friday, RTÉ One, 7pm
You might be blase about going to college but, as this programme shows, it’s a privilege that should not be taken for granted. This new series follows seven students who have overcome some serious challenges, from disability to disadvantage, and defied the odds to get to third level. Made during one of the strangest years for students, the series shows the strength and determination of these students as they embark on their journey through uni, helped by the Access and Disability programmes run by the country’s main universities. Among the students featured are Shaun Fogarty, whose life-changing injuries have not stopped him from studying at University of Limerick; and Róisín Farragher, who has overcome her own traumatic childhood to study for a doctorate at the Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway. After watching this inspiring series, you won’t be so convinced the students are revolting.
Royal History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
Historian Lucy Worsley turns her attention to the popular narratives surrounding three eras that proved to be pivotal turning points, discovering how they have evolved over the years to suit the political interests of different ages. Future episodes will concentrate on the Georgian Regency and the Russian revolution, but she begins with the French revolution and one of the most famous phrases in European history: “Let them eat cake.” It turns out Queen Marie Antoinette never uttered those words – it was a fib concocted later to explain the origins of the uprising. But as Worsley discovers, the revolution was sparked by lawyers and property owners rather than starving peasants.
Punk/New Wave Years with Annie Nightingale
Friday, BBC4, 9pm
Veteran broadcaster Annie Nightingale has always been something of a pioneer. Not only was she Radio 1’s first female DJ, but she also introduced a generation of listeners – and Old Grey Whistle Test viewers – to the exciting new sounds of punk and new wave. The music was hard to come by on mainstream TV then, but Nightingale found a way to give it a platform. Here she opens up the archives to choose some of her favourite moments, including performances from Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Gang of Four, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Tubeway Army and Ian Dury and the Blockheads, as well as the Damned’s set-smashing appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test and Sex Pistols’ anarchic trip on the Thames.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 11.15pm
Newcomer Emma Corrin made headlines when it was announced that she had landed the coveted role of Princess Diana in the fourth series of Netflix drama The Crown. But did finding herself in the media spotlight help with the role of Diana, who was also thrown in at the deep end? Corrin and her on-screen husband, Josh O’Connor, join Graham Norton to talk about playing the royal couple. British boxing champion turned Strictly contestant Nicola Adams also drops in, and Kylie Minogue has a chat and performs her new single.
Later – with Jools Holland
Friday, BBC2, 10pm
She’s been a West End actress, a DJ and a solo artist, but for many people Melanie C will always be Sporty from The Spice Girls. Tonight she joins Jools Holland for the last episode in the series, to discuss her musical journey and pick out some clips from the Later archives. The presenter also welcomes Mica Paris, who is currently in EastEnders but reminds us why she shot to fame by performing Take My Hand Oh Precious Lord. There’s also a specially recorded track from songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist David Balfe.
The Last Leg: US Elegtion Special
Friday, Channel 4, 10pm
In theory, by the time this airs we should know whether Donald Trump is settling in for four more years as US president or if Joe Biden is moving into the White House. However, as anyone who remembers the 2000 US election will know, it’s not always that straightforward. Regardless of whether the ballots are still being counted or not, Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker should have plenty to talk about as they react to one of the most memorable elections in US history.
Streaming now, RTÉ Player
New scripted comedy series starring Corkonian comedian Sinéad Quinlan, whose dreams of being a successful stand-up have been put on hold over the small matter of a global pandemic. We follow Sinéad as she swaps out her storytelling on stage with a diary where we hear about her ventures out into the new world and her attempts to get her career, love life and social awkwardness back on track. Quinlan only turned her hand to comedy last year, after Stephen Kelly of the Hardy Bucks discovered her speaking at a fitness event; soon after found herself opening for a Hardy Bucks gig. Quinlan quickly won people over with her innocent and relatable observations of everyday life and was the winner of Ray D’Arcy Show’s nationwide search for the country’s best new stand-up comedian.
From Friday, All4
Foreign travel is far from easy at the moment, but at least we’re able to get away vicariously thanks to Walter Presents. This week we take a trip to the Czech Republic courtesy of Wasteland (original title: Pustina), which its makers say “mixes social realism with intense psychological drama and a riveting mystery”. Zuzuna Stivinova stars as Hana Sikorova, mayor of a small, rundown but close-knit community in northern Bohemia. She’s fighting hard against a mining company whose bosses are trying to railroad the locals into selling their homes so they can move in and take advantage of the huge coal reserves in the area. In the midst of the battle, Hana’s 14-year-old daughter goes missing, and suddenly everyone she knows is a suspect in her disappearance.
Country Ever After
From Friday, Netflix
Coffey Anderson and his wife Criscilla may not be household names, but this new docusoap might change all that. After serving in the US Marine Corps, the Texan native began his music career as a gospel singer before switching to country. He’s since released 11 albums, including six Christian faith-based, and took part in the 2003 series of American Idol. Criscilla, meanwhile, is a hip-hop dancer. Country Ever After follows the couple’s day-to-day lives, as well as those of their four children, as they attempt to juggle their career aspirations and dedication to their religion with raising a young family.