TV guide: 23 of the best shows to watch this week, beginning tonight
Rory O’Connell, Seven Drunken Nights, Gunplot, Open for Business, Alan Patridge, Fomhuireán na bhFininí, The Mosquito Coast, Tom Clancy's Without Remorse
Nish Patel and Rose Matafeo in Starstruck, Monday night on BBC1
The Mighty Ocean
Sunday, TG4, 9.30pm
The Mighty Ocean opens a musical dialogue between humankind and the environment, touching on the entrancing power of the sea, while questioning our destructive influence on the endangered oceans. The piece, scored for 12 musicians, features Irish traditional legends Máirtín O’Connor, Garry O Briain, Cathal Hayden, Seamie O’Dowd, and Jim Higgins, Sinead O’Connor, Ciara O’Connor and Matthew Berril, and Galway Music Residency’s ensemble in residence, ConTempo Quartet.
Lights Up: The Winter’s Tale
Sunday, BBC4, 7pm
For the first time in the history of the Royal Shakespeare Company, one of its productions will premiere on television rather than stage. The Winter’s Tale, directed by Erica Whyman, was originally scheduled by the RSC for a summer 2020 run, but was postponed due to the pandemic. Set across a 16-year span from the 1953 coronation to the moon landings, this production imagines a world where the ghosts of fascist Europe collide with horrors reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, before washing up on a joyful seashore. King Leontes rips his family apart with his jealousy but grief opens his heart. Will he find the child he abandoned before it is too late?
After the Storm: America’s Enemy Within?
Sunday, ITV, 10.25pm
As an ITV News journalist and former Washington correspondent, Robert Moore knows his way around the Capitol and has seen just what a devious and high-stakes game politicians can play. Even he was shocked at the scale of events in January, when a mob stormed the seat of power – he was filming the perpetrators at the time and his footage was seen the world over. Here he speaks to some of those involved, asking what their grievances were and are, and whether they now regret taking it so far.
How to Cook Well with Rory O’Connell
Monday, RTÉ One, 7.30pm
There’s a certain sense of liberation that comes from watching a cookery show and not feeling under any pressure to try out the recipes on show. So I’m looking forward to cracking open a bottle of rotwein, microwaving a Happy Pear meal and relaxing in front of Rory O’Connell’s latest How to Cook Well series in the full knowledge that I will never, ever attempt to make gratin of goat’s cheese with sundried tomato oil, baguette wafers or pistachio cake with mango and lime. Some things you’ve just got to leave to the experts. O’Connell will not only be displaying his own considerable expertise in this new series, he’ll also be putting the spotlight on some of Ireland’s talented craftspeople making beautiful objects to enhance any dinner table. In this first episode, besides creating the aforementioned foodie delights, he meets Edward Coveney and Esther Gerrard of Cloyne crafts company Elements of Action, which handcrafts bespoke tableware such as brass candleholders and napkin rings.
Monday-Friday, ITV, 9pm
A couple of weeks ago, Noel Clarke received the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award at the Baftas. It was in recognition for his achievements on the big screen, but now he’s back on TV in a gripping five-part drama, delivering another in a long line of skilled performances. This time Clarke is playing DC Martin Young, who has set up an observation post in the home of a single mother. Her windows have a stunning view of the local area, including the home a missing primary school teacher whose boyfriend is the chief suspect in her disappearance. The story focuses on Young’s surveillance unit and offers insights into whether it’s really possible to keep such a close eye on people while remaining objective about their lives. Alexandra Roach, Catherine Tyldesley, Phil Davis and Branagh Waugh are among the supporting cast.
Great British Railway Journeys
Monday, BBC2, 6.30pm
Michael Portillo is hitting the rails once again, although due to coronavirus he won’t be criss-crossing exotic countries any time soon. Instead, he’s sticking closer to home. Once again he has his trusty Bradshaw’s guide tucked under his arm as he explores Britain between the world wars, kicking off his journey back in time in Oxford. The changing fortunes of women at the university is Portillo’s main focus; he hears about the first degrees to be awarded to female students and profiles pioneering crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin.
How to Save a Grand in 24 Hours
Monday, Channel 4, 8pm
We’re currently seeing Anna Richardson alongside the unclothed in Naked Attraction, but thankfully the people she meets during this new series will be fully covered at all times. Each week she and a team of experts aim to help a family cut their living costs while also sorting out their homes and even what they eat. Credit card and utility bills come under scrutiny, with chef Gary Usher on hand to offer tips on eating tastily yet frugally. Also featured are DIY and design expert Eve Humphreys and Peachy Clean, who has ideas on how we can all be better organised.
Hollywood in Vienna: A Night at the Oscars
Monday, Sky Arts, 10pm
The Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, under Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, takes us through a glamorous journey of eight decades of music from Academy Award-winning films. The red carpet will be rolled out for some of Tinseltown’s great films and compositions, and the programme begins with Hooray for Hollywood, first featured in the 1937 movie Hollywood Hotel, before songs from The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca. There is also music from blockbusters Jaws, Out of Africa, Schindler’s List, The Shape of Water and Black Panther.
Monday, BBC1, 10.45pm
Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning star Rose Matafeo has co-written this new sitcom in which she also takes the lead role. She plays Jessie, an East London millennial juggling two dead-end jobs. However, her life is about to be changed by a drunken New Year’s Eve encounter with a guy called Tom. The pair spend the night together, and when she awakes, feeling a little worse for wear, she realises Tom is actually a famous movie star. Jessie thinks their one-night stand will provide her with an amusing anecdote to share with friends – until the experience turns into something rather more complicated. Nish Patel plays Tom, while Minnie Driver is set to pop up in a guest role during the six-part series.
Cosc – Seven Drunken Nights
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm
1967 is known as the summer of love. Hippies in San Francisco were in full flight, Elvis married Priscilla, London was swinging and The Beatles released Sgt Peppers. But a wee ditty from an Irish ballad group that told of a wife’s affair under the nose of her drunken husband was to prove a little too much for our national airwaves. In 1967 The Dubliners were one of Irelands leading folk bands. They broke the mould in Ireland – long-haired bearded folkies were not the norm at the time. The Dubliners were on no great quest for respectability, and were known to take a drink. So it made sense that they should stumble across Seven Drunken Nights and end up recording it as a single for their new album without giving its storyline a second thought.
The song began creeping up the English charts (finally plateauing at No 7), but RTÉ decided its subject matter was not acceptable. The band was delighted with the publicity and even sent a letter to an taoiseach asking for him to intervene, as their success was now bringing them to venues like the Royal Albert Hall. Headlines in newspapers and letters pages were filled with reaction to the story. “If it is good enough to get into the English charts, surely its good enough to be played on RTÉ!” wrote some broad-minded girls from Balbriggan. A silent protest to the nanny state gave the best response to the ban from the public. Seven Drunken Nights eventually went straight to No 1 in Ireland.
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Passing confidential GP documents to your medic chum; going to a golf dinner in Co Mayo; forgetting to tell the Taoiseach about your drink-driving conviction...these are nothing to the shenanigans politicos used to get up to back in the old Dáil days. How about plotting to smuggle arms for the IRA into Northern Ireland while serving in cabinet? This documentary reels in the years to the 1970 arms trial, when Charles Haughey, Neil Blaney and others were accused of a massive gun-running conspiracy. The programme revisits events from the perspective of historians, writers and family members, and includes never-before-heard recordings from the trial itself. But what I really want to know is, will it be soundtracked by the smash hits of 1970?
Open for Business
Thursday, RTÉ One, 7pm
As businesses owners dream of the day when they can finally reopen, this new series of Open for Business looks at the challenges faced by Irish companies as we slowly emerge from this long lockdown and try to get the economy up and running again. Presenters Ella McSweeney and Richard Curran will look at how the past 12 months have transformed our working lives, and also changed our shopping, leisure and dining habits. Will these changes bed in after lockdown ends, or will things snap back to the way they were before? The series will also get out its crystal ball, give it a good wipe clean, and peer into it to see what lies in store for businesses and consumers this summer. Will hotels and hospitality be able to open in time for the staycation season, and will we ever get to fly off to the sun? Episode one will focus on the rollercoaster ride that is Ireland’s vaccine rollout, and also look at the various pandemic supports that have been offered to businesses trying to weather the pandemic. Which ones worked and which ones failed to provide a buffer?
Saved By a Stranger
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
Anita Rani presents a new series exploring the stories of people who were caught up in world-changing events, including the Holocaust, the Troubles and the 7/7 terrorist attacks. But there is something else that links them: they were all on the receiving end of an act of exceptional humanity, and are now going in search of the people who helped them. The first episode hears from Karl, a trainee clinical psychologist who was a passenger on the first carriage of the Piccadilly Line London Underground train – one of the four targets of the 7/7 bombings. In the wake of the explosion, he was comforted by a mystery woman and now he wants to finally track her down. We also meet Emina, who hopes to find the doctor who helped her family get on the list for immediate medical evacuation after her home city of Sarajevo came under siege during the civil war.
Gardening with Carol Klein
Thursday, Channel 5, 7pm
For gardeners, this time of year is all about hope, when everything accelerates, and doubts are swept aside with the last of the winter detritus. Beneath the still-bare trees in her woodland garden at Glebe Cottage in Devon, Carol introduces us to “Cinderella plants” – wood anemones, celandines and other delightful spring flowers that must push through the ground, flower and set seed before the tree canopy closes over, when they must sleep once more until next spring. She also shows us the joy of dividing snowdrops and primroses, as well as what work should be under way in the veggie garden.
Friday, Sky One, 9pm
Anyone who’s watched Star Trek: The Next Generation or Battlestar Galactica will know that sci-fi TV series are just regular dramas dressed up in space suits and special effects. Sure, there are the odd few aliens hellbent on destroying the galaxy, but really it’s all about the relationships between the crew members and whether the first officer will get together with the ship’s shrink. Intergalactic is Sky’s new sci-fi series, set on a spaceship called the Hemlock, but this is no straightforward mission. The ship is carrying female convicts to a remote prison planet, and the inmates hijack it and boldly go on the run from the space cops. But there’s a cop in their midst (Savannah Steyn), who has been wrongly convicted of a crime and is a desperate to prove her innocence. Unfortunately, she’s the only one on board who can pilot the Hemlock, so the leader of the mutineers, (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) forces her to become the gang’s intergalactic getaway driver. Why can’t they all just be friends and try to make the universe a better place?
This Time with Alan Partridge
Friday, BBC1, 9.30pm
Always imitated (unknowingly) but never equalled, telly presenter Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is back in his spiritual home on the BBC for a second series of his weekday magazine show This Time. He’s been a long time in the wilderness, but finally Auntie Beeb is trusting him with a mic and a studio guest, so he couldn’t be happier. Or could he? If only he didn’t have to share the limelight with his co-presenter, Jennie (Susanna Fielding), Alan is sure that he would finally get a chance to showcase his broadcasting talent to the nation. How can he ensure his place in the illustrious history of telly presenting? And will the Beeb have an “Aha!” moment and make him the main man on This Time? More to the point, can Coogan equal the magic moment in the first series when Alan’s lookalike, an Irish republican balladeer, sang Come Out Ye Black and Tans on the British national broadcaster?
Fomhuireán na bhFininí
Friday, TG4, 8pm
The extraordinary story of John Philip Holland (1841-1914), the Clare-born inventor of the submarine who emigrated to US. He had long believed that it was possible to design and produce a sea-going vessel that could travel safely underwater, but his first designs and prototypes were rejected by the US navy. With financial help from the Irish Republican Brotherhood (whom he supported), Holland persisted until, in 1897 the navy finally accepted a submarine of his design and placed an order for more. This is his story.
Friday, Sky Arts, 9pm
A look at Soul II Soul’s groundbreaking Club Classics Vol 1, which was released in 1989. Twisting soul vocals from Caron Wheeler, Rose Windross and Do’Reen Waddell with rare groove-styled dance beats, Soul II Soul created a niche that would see them win a broad array of fans worldwide. Back to Life (However Do You Want Me), their best-recognised hit, is a classic example of this musical melting pot. However, it was another key anthem, Keep on Movin’, that was the group’s first real mainstream success, coming at a time when American artists had saturated the UK’s R&B scene.
Mayo Day – Ár bPobal, Our People
Saturday, TG4, 9.30pm
Today is Mayday but, more importantly, it’s also Mayo Day, when people from the county celebrate their innate Mayo-ness. TG4 is on hand with a one-hour special featuring contributions from the county and from all over the world. Eibhlín Ní Chonghaile and Dáithí Gallagher are the presenters of this telly Mayo-fest, and local musical guests include Matt Molloy from The Chieftains, indie-folk fusion group Billow Wood, country singer Chantelle Padden and trad-pop singer-songwriter Lisa Canny.
The programme will also reach out to the Mayo diaspora spread around the world, including professional chef Andrew Walsh from Breaffy, who runs three restaurants in Singapore; flight doctor Lisa Ní Chuinneagáin from Ballina, who lives and works in the UK; and publican Mary O’Halloran from Foxford, who runs Mary O’s in New York’s East Village. At the end of this programme, no matter where you’re from, you’ll have to agree it’s hip to be Mayo.
Things Heard & Seen
From Thursday, Netflix
Husband and wife writer-director team Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have been married since 1994; their most famous cinematic work is undoubtedly American Splendor, the 2003 biopic about comic book creator Harvey Pekar. That may be eclipsed by their latest project, a horror-thriller based on Elizabeth Brundage’s novel All Things Cease to Appear. As it has at its heart a married couple, the duo have perhaps been able to bring an added realism to the tale. Amanda Seyfried and James Norton star as Manhattan marrieds who swap city life for a historic hamlet in the Hudson Valley. However, the move doesn’t bring them happiness; in fact, a darkness seems to be following them...
The Mosquito Coast
From Friday, Apple TV+
In 1986, Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren and River Phoenix starred in a big-screen adaptation of Paul Theroux’s novel The Mosquito Coast. In this seven-part series, Theroux’s nephew Justin is taking the lead role of Allie Fox, a radical idealist and brilliant inventor. After becoming disgusted with the corruption of the civilised world, he decides to uproot his family and move them to rural Latin America, where he hopes to raise his children in a more humble manner. However, a mysterious government agent is determined to keep an eye on them. Melissa George plays Allie’s wife long-suffering wife, with Logan Polish, Gabriel Bateman and Kimberly Elise as the Fox children. But perhaps of most interest to British viewers is that fact that the series has been developed by Neil Cross, creator of Luther.
From Friday, All4
Believe it or not, the premise of this series grew from an idea for a parody of US sitcom Leave It to Beaver that would star Iggy Pop. While we’re still hoping that show will be made, we can at least watch all three seasons of Moral Orel, an adult stop-motion animation that ran from 2005 to 2008 in the US. The action takes place in the fictional city of Moralton, located in a Bible Belt state, supposedly in the very dead centre of America. The main character is Orel Puppington, a 12-year-old who tries to live his life by the fundamentalist Protestant Christian moral code he’s learned in church or from his father. Unfortunately, his efforts don’t always go to plan.
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse
From Friday, Amazon Prime
It’s been nearly a decade since Tom Clancy passed away, but his legacy lives on in the many films and TV series inspired by his novels. The latest, an adaptation of a 1993 novel, is designed as a spin-off from the Jack Ryan movies. Michael B Jordan heads the cast as John Clark, leader of an elite team of US Navy Seals who rescue a CIA operative being held hostage in Syria. However, three months later, in retaliation for his involvement in the mission, Clark’s pregnant wife is murdered by Russian assassins. Clark is shot too, but after recovering from his injuries, goes rogue in an attempt to gain revenge on those responsible for her death. Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith and Guy Pearce also appear.