TV Guide: 24 of the best shows to watch this week
Making a Museum, Hawks & Doves, Salisbury Poisonings, The Sinner, New Nurses
Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace in the second series of My Brilliant Friend, beginning Friday on Sky Atlantic
The Queen and the Coup
Sunday, Channel 4, 9pm
This documentary focuses on the events of 1953, when Queen Elizabeth, just a year into her reign, was deployed in a US plot to topple Iran’s democratic leader in favour of an all-powerful shah. Planned by MI6 and carried out by the CIA, it would have a huge impact on relations between Iran and the West, which continue to be problematic. However, as the documentary discovers, even the queen herself didn’t know the truth about her role. Drawing on newly declassified secret documents, this programme reveals what really happened for the first time.
The Salisbury Poisonings
Sunday, BBC1, 9pm
Two years ago, Russian nationals Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were targets of a bizarre assassination attempt, using the highly toxic drug Novichok. When the pair were found unconscious on a park bench in the English town of Salisbury, police were baffled, and this three-part drama re-enacts the series of events as authorities, realising with horror what has happened, move to lock down the town to prevent the deadly toxin infecting more people. Rafe Spall stars as DS Nick Bailey, who becomes ill soon after he visits the Skripals’ home in search of clues. Anne-Marie Duff plsyd Tracy Daszkiewicz, the public health director who must move fast to save the people of Salisbury from becoming infected.
Macbeth: Royal Shakespeare Company
Sunday, BBC4, 9.30pm
This 2018 contemporary production of Shakespeare’s darkest psychological thriller, directed by Polly Findlay, marked both Christopher Eccleston’s RSC debut in the title role, and the return of Niamh Cusack to the company as Lady Macbeth. Returning home from battle, the victorious Macbeth meets three witches on the heath. Driven by their disturbing prophecies, the rugged soldier sets out on the path to murder. The supporting cast is on fine form, with three standout performers: Edward Bennett as a moving Macduff, Luke Newberry as Malcolm and, perhaps most impressive of all, Raphael Sowole as a thoughtful Banquo.
Come Dine with Me
Monday, Channel 4, 5.30pm
It might not do much for those lockdown diets, but this ever engaging series is always a tasty confection, especially if you fancy a break from the endlessly bleak news. Now the cooking contest is back for a new run, and in Hertfordshire, bargain-seeker Heidi (33) serves up a bold Asian menu. The cost-conscious host cooks a cheap meat alternative for her starter. But will it – and a game that mimics her shopping habits – satisfy her guests? Bon appetit!
Murder in the Car Park
Monday, Channel 4, 9pm
In March 1987, the body of private investigator Daniel Morgan was found in the car park of a south London pub with £1,000 in his pocket and an axe buried in his head. More than 30 years on, who killed him remains a mystery. Channel 4 tries to outdo Netflix with this true crime documentary series, which delves into Morgan’s murder. The case has been linked to the News of the World investigative journalism scandal as well as London’s criminal underworld, police corruption and even the British establishment. For the first time, those once suspected of killing Morgan, the investigating officers and his grieving brother tell their side of this disturbing story.
The Art of Persia
Monday, BBC4, 9pm
From labyrinthine bazaars to Persepolis – the seat of Persia’s ancient kings – to a temple where a holy fire has burned for 1,000 years, broadcaster and journalist Samira Ahmed goes on a remarkable journey to places rarely seen. The Persians once ruled a vast empire from Egypt to northern India, but their culture was very nearly lost. While the history of their ancient kings was almost forgotten, waves of conquering dynasties brought a new language and a new religion. But despite subjugation, blood and revolution, Persia’s culture flourished. Iranians’ sense of identity helped them weather the storms of conquest, and their art and language became weapons of resistance and defiance.
Making a Museum: The Story of MoLI
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm
Holy MoLI! Can it be a year since the Museum of Literature Ireland opened its doors on Dublin’s Stephen’s Green, providing a splendid Georgian space where people could celebrate Ireland’s great writers? MoLI houses hundreds of years of great Irish literature, including the first-ever copy of Ulysses. To celebrate Bloomsday (for it is today), RTÉ is screening this half-hour documentary by Luke McManus, who followed the MoLI from the beginning, rolling the cameras while this unique project was being rolled out. McManus has worked the camera for Dermot Bannon’s Room to Improve, and it soon becomes apparent that this is one renovation job for the books.
Tutankhamun in Colour
Tuesday, BBC 4, 9pm
Oxford University Egyptologist Elizabeth Frood is our guide to the discovery of the tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon. It provided much-needed good news, following the Great War and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919 and we’ve been transfixed ever since. From bringing to life the young Carter from an old family photo, documenting Egypt’s transformation during the Great War, to the great operation excavating the tomb and the grand revealing of Tutankhamun itself – colourisation brings a new element of realism to this great moment in history.
24 Hours in A&E
Tuesday, Channel 4, 9pm
The hospital documentary returns, focusing on the stories of two motorcyclists, which reveal how the bonds between loved ones can be strengthened through adversity. Prezmek may have life-changing spinal injuries following a high-speed motorcycle crash on the M4, forcing his wife Tatia to reflect on how their plans for the future may have to change. Teenager Leon undergoes a CT scan after crashing. While waiting for the results, his mother Janey thinks back to his school days.
Tuesday, Syfy/Now TV, 9pm
There’s a new party drug in town. It’s called Blis, and all the cool kids in Berlin are getting off on it. The drug is sweeping the German capital’s club scene, but there’s a nasty side-effect: anyone who ingests it has their body taken over by aliens from outer space. Bummer. The adventure begins when Berlin woman Nora isn’t feeling quite herself after a wild night out. Meanwhile, investigators Nique Navar and David Leonhart are investigating why teenagers are suddenly vanishing – is this another side-effect of Blis? Sounds like good, clean bodysnatching fun.
Hawks & Doves: The Crown and Ireland’s War of Independence
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
You may be surprised that Diarmaid Ferriter is not presenting this new two-part documentary on a seminal event in Irish history. You may be even more surprised that the presenter is none other than former Tory MP and British defence secretary Michael Portillo. But Portillo brings a unique insight into this time of turmoil, exploring how his predecessors at Westminster reacted to seismic events across the Irish Sea. Turns out that many English politicians at the time were less concerned with the Irish question and more interested in furthering their own political careers. Portillo gets into the mindset of Britain’s parliament of the day, and how the Conservatives used the War of Independence as a weapon to empower their own party. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t seem a million miles away from all the intrique and chicanery that went on in the House of Commons during Brexit.
Lá Dár Saol
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
If you thought Earth needed millions of years to change, it’s time to think again: this film uses the latest science to reveal how much our planet can change in just one single day. Fact: Earth makes a mountain of new rock every hour and is not only constantly changing shape but is also losing weight. In fact, every day you wake up on a completely different planet.The documentary starts on the island of Stromboli, where geologist Chris Jackson climbs a volcano to see how much lava a single volcano can produce on a daily basis and how it builds new land. In Iceland we find out how the entire country is growing as the inner Earth forces the continents apart and creates new land in between. (The moving of continents causes around 300,000 earthquakes each day.)
Keeping Britain Fed
Wednesday, BBC2, 8pm
Cast your mind back to February and March. People were going about their daily lives, and perhaps stopping off at the corner shop or supermarket to pick up our groceries on their way home. Suddenly that all changed, and during the lockdown, our perception of those who keep us fed shifted dramatically. For this one-off documentary, Sara Cox and Ade Adepitan are given access to some of Britain’s biggest food retailers and their suppliers to see how their systems stood up to the most testing time in their history. Cox finds out what goes on in one supermarket, while Adepitan witnesses how the UK’s farms, factories and depots rose to the challenge of producing and suppling food in the exceptional circumstances.
George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
Architect George Clarke delves into the world of small builds, meeting people taking tiny, unpromising spaces and creating places to live, work and play. In the first episode, Clarke talkes to a couple who are creating a disappearing bathroom and a man squeezing a camper into a Reliant Robin. He also discovers Chile’s stunning architecture, and plans his hardest-ever build: an observatory. The full series will be available on All4 after this episode is broadcast.
O’Casey in the Estate
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
Theatre has a grand tradition of posh people pretending to be ordinary folk – they win Tony awards for it. But imagine if the plain people of Ireland got to be in the plays of O’Casey while the luvvies had to wait in the wings. In this two-part documentary, the people of Dublin’s East Wall prepare to stage a production of The Plough and the Stars, which depicted life that area 100 years ago. What’s changed in the community in the past century? Well, they may no longer be living in tenements, but the people of East Wall still feel they don’t have a voice in modern Ireland. So what better platform than the Abbey stage? Director Caitriona McLaughlin is at the helm for this unique centenary production, but will Covid-19 scupper their plans? And will the amateur actors discover they’ve more in common with the characters in O’Casey’s drama? And will TV blurb writers ever stop asking stupid questions?
Remarkable Places to Eat
Thursday, BBC2, 8pm
Fred Sirieix has previously been sniffy about Marrakesh’s culinary offerings, but in the first episode of this new series, TV chef Andi Oliver wants to introduce him to the Moroccan city’s rich food heritage. Heading beyond the old walled medina, Andi’s first call is the Chab family’s elegant Al Fassia restaurant for a slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with caramelised onions and almonds. Sirieix is so impressed he heads out to the countryside to discover how it’s produced, while Oliver accompanies one of the Chab sisters on a trip to the local spice market. She then takes Sirieix to for an extraordinary dish of chicken tagine at Al Bakraka – an unfussy restaurant located in a petrol station.
My Brilliant Friend
Friday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm
Welcome back to the lives of Lila and Elena, the bezzie mates in this acclaimed Italian series (original title: L’amica geniale), based on the bestselling books by Elena Ferrante. Lila and Elena have been friends since childhood, but now that they are grown up, friendship doesn’t seem so simple anymore. As the second series opens, Lila (Gaia Girace) is off on honeymoon to the Amalfi Coast with her new husband, Stefano (Giovanni Amura). But despite the idyllic setting, Lila’s marriage is already looking rocky, and when she comes home, Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) can’t help but notice the bruises on her friend’s body.
Jack Whitehall’s Father’s Day
Friday, BBC1, 8.30pm
Jack Whitehall has spent much of his comedic career alongside his former celebrity agent father Michael, and their often combative relationship has brightened up various TV appearances over the years. Jack claims that despite their rows, he’s missing Michael during lockdown. So he is setting up on the pavement outside his home, where they will reminisce over old photos, awkward home video footage and family tales. They also participate in a special edition of MasterChef and treat key workers to a surprise or two.
Later – with Jools Holland
Friday, BBC2, 10pm
Jools chats to singer, songwriter, broadcaster and frontman of Elbow, Guy Garvey, who has a long history with Later, having performed six times. Alongside making music, Garvey presents a weekly show on BBC6 Music, so he is no stranger to delving into the back catalogues to bring listeners his favourite music. He does just that here, illustrated with treats from the Later archive. Last in the series.
From Friday, Netflix
Penélope Cruz, Gael García Bernal and Ana de Armas are among the stars of this searing drama based on The Cuban Five, a group of spies who operated in mainland America during the 1990s. At the centre of the story is Rene Gonzalez (Edgar Ramírez), a Cuban pilot who steals a plane and sets out to forge a new life for himself in Miami, leaving his wife and daughter behind. Other defectors follow and, once on US soil, form an espionage network whose aim is to root out violent anti-Castro organisations responsible for terror attacks on their homeland. Gripping and stylish, Wasp Network is a must for anybody who loves a bit of political intrigue.
LOL: Last One Laughing Australia
From Friday, Amazon Prime
Rebel Wilson hosts a six-part comedy series in which 10 comedians go head-to-head in a hilarious new competition. Each week they will attempt to make each other laugh, with the person who manages to keep a straight face the longest going through to the next round. The overall winner will be crowned on July 2nd, taking home a cool £100,000 in the process. There are no rules either, with competitors allowed to do or say anything they like – as long as they don’t titter or guffaw. The participants (Dilruk Jayasinha, Frank Woodley, Joel Creasy, Nick Cody, Sam Simmons, Susie Youssef, Becky Lucas, Nazeem Hussein, Anne Edmonds and Ed Kavalee) might not be household names, but appearing in this showcase could turn them into international stars.
From Friday, All4
Already acclaimed across Europe – it was a nominee at the 2019 Nordic Film & TV Fond Prize and Prix Europa, among other accolades – this delightful and warm-hearted period Danish drama (original title: Sygeplejeskolen) finally makes it onto English-language screens. Set at Fredenslund Hospital in 1952, it focuses on the nursing profession during a difficult time in its history. Staff numbers are at an all-time low so, for the first time, men are being accepted into the nurse training programme. Among them is Erik, a young soldier who takes his place alongside five other males. Not everyone embraces this turn of events, and Erik’s growing passion for Anna, an upper-class female student, is sure to raise a few disapproving eyebrows.
From Friday, Netflix
High school presidential hopeful Payton Hobart is back on the campaign trail again, but this time he has sights set much higher: all the way to the US Senate. The second series of the political comedy finds Payton’s ambitions undimmed – he’s now a college student, and still on a mission to become president. But to move his political career forward he will have to unseat the Senate majority leader (Judith Light) and her formidable chief-of-staff (Bette Midler). Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Payton’s mum, whose own plans threaten undermine Payton’s path to the presidency.
From Friday, Netflix
Bill Pullman is back as dogged detective Harry Ambrose for the third series of this nail-biting US anthology crime drama. As regular viewers will be aware, Ambrose specialises in solving bizarre and baffling cases, so expect plenty of twists and turns along the way. Each season follows a different crime or perpetrator, with Matt Bomer taking centre stage this time around as expectant father Jamie Burns, who finds himself caught up a nightmare. He’s involved in a car crash that kills an old college friend, and initially the investigation into what happened looks pretty straightforward. However, after questioning a witness, Ambrose discovers there’s far more to what appeared to be a tragic accident than meets the eye.