TV guide: 24 of the best shows to watch this week, beginning tonight
Dermot Bannon’s Super Small Spaces, V Day, Krept & Konan, I’m Fine, Clarkson’s Farm
Sean Bean and Stephen Graham in Time, Sunday on BBC1
Sunday, BBC1, 9pm
Take two of the finest actors around and one of the best writers of TV drama, put them in prison and you’re bound to see the sparks fly. Sean Bean and Stephen Graham star in a new three-part series written by Jimmy McGovern, that redefines the term “gritty”. Bean plays convict sentenced to four years for accidentally killing a man. But he’s no hardened lag – he’s a teacher with a family, remorseful and willing to do the time to atone for his crime. However, he soon finds that prison life is not simply counting the days to release, but a daily fight for survival. Graham plays a prison officer who is no hardened screw but someone who cares about the wellbeing of his charges and does his best to protect them in a daily atmosphere of danger and high tension.
Dermot Bannon’s Super Small Spaces
Sunday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm
You might be able to keep the wolf from the door, but there’s no keeping Dermot Bannon out of your gaff. Seriously, you can’t even do a spot of home renovation before next thing you know the starchitect is rocking up with a camera crew, ready to ooh and aah at your amazing interior. At this rate, he’ll be poking the cameras into birds’ nests and badger setts to admire what they’ve done with the place. In this new series, Bannon salutes the people up and down the country who have maximised their minimal space during the pandemic. With people forced to stay within the narrow confines of their home for much of the past year, many have reimagined their spaces and made the most of their bijou dwellings. Among the inventive homeowners are craftsman Garvan de Bruir, whose self-build in Kildare was inspired by vintage airplanes, and Thomas McCarthy, who with his siblings has converted an old double-decker bus into a living space in honour of their father, who died from suicide in 2020.
British Academy Television Awards
Sunday, BBC1, 7pm
Over the past year, many of us have spent even more time than usual watching TV. So, it’s lucky that 2020 was a good year for small-screen offerings, no matter how fraught things may have been behind the scenes. Now, Richard Ayoade hosts the socially distanced ceremony celebrating the year’s best telly. I May Destroy You and Small Axe emerged as the big winners at last month’s Bafta TV Craft Awards, and have a good chance of adding to their tally tonight as they go head to head in the best actress and best mini-series categories. Other big shows up for awards range from The Crown to The Masked Singer, while Nigella Lawson’s pronunciation of the word “microwave” is in the running for must-see moment, as voted for the by public.
Our Cilla: The One and Only
Sunday, Channel 5, 9pm
For many years Cilla Black was such a ubiquitous figure on screens that it was easy to forget just how remarkable her career really was. This documentary is taking a look back at her life to remind us how a working-class girl from Liverpool could at various points claim to be Britain’s best-selling female artist, the first woman to be given her own BBC chat show and the queen of Saturday night TV. To tell her story, the film draws on rare footage, as well as interviews with Michael Grade, Christopher Biggins, Gloria Hunniford, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, and Alex and Sue Tatham, aka the first ever Blind Date couple to get married.
Monday, Virgin One, 9pm
The two-part drama (which aired on ITV in March) is based on bestselling novels by Peter James and adapted by Russell Lewis, creator of Endeavour. The first film, Dead Simple, sees Brighton-based DSI Roy Grace (John Simm) occupied with cold cases but haunted by thoughts of his wife Sandy, who has disappeared. His unorthodox methods have raised eyebrows among the powers-that-be, but his colleague, DS Branson, thinks Grace’s sharp mind might prove useful in finding out what has happened to a groom-to-be who vanished while on his stag night. The victim was a successful property developer with everything to live for, and Grace realises someone close to home may know more than they’re letting on.
Football’s Gambling Addiction
Monday, Channel 4, 7.30pm
There are an estimated 1.2 million problem gamblers across Britain, and research suggests only a tiny proportion of these get the right help. In her debut documentary since stepping down as leader of the Scottish Conservatives, lifelong football fan and former journalist Ruth Davidson examines the popularity of football betting, the growth of gambling advertising, the impact of new technology, and widespread concerns about harm, particularly for younger fans. With the upcoming review of the 2005 Gambling Act, Davidson asks uncomfortable questions about how we got here, why it has taken so long to address this problem and if the government itself is addicted to revenues taht gambling brings to the treasury.
Tuesday, Sky One, 10pm
Fresh from the Friends reunion, David Schwimmer returns to his current day job, as brash NSA agent Jerry Bernstein, who is tasked with liaising with Britain’s cyber crime unit but can’t resist trying to take over the whole show. Series creator Nick Mohammed returns as lowly systems analyst Joseph Harries, who finds himself dragged into Jerry’s power plays, and invariably ends up having to avert a diplomatic incident – that or all-out nuclear war. Series two finds Jerry on a sticky wicket: not only is he accused of treason, but a cyberweapon he helped develop has fallen into the hands of the Russians. But never mind national security: Jerry and Joseph have a more important mission on their hands, ie uncovering the identity of their secret Valentine’s Day admirers.
The Dog Rescuers with Alan Davies
Tuesday, Channel 5, 7pm
Alan Davies returns, once again following the work of the RSPCA inspectors, emergency services, vets and nurses who have dedicated themselves to keeping Britain’s dogs safe. In the process, he’ll uncover stories of daring canine rescues, as well as tales that will bring a tear to many pet-lovers’ eyes. But while the comedian and QI regular is keen to give credit to the professionals, he’ll also get his own hands dirty as he visits two of the UK’s busiest hospitals to act as an honorary vet’s assistant.
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm
It’s the big day on everyone’s 2021 calendar, when we get our jab and can finally come out of our cocoon/bubble and start living some semblance of a life again. We’ve had some grim documentaries from the frontline of healthcare at the height of the pandemic, but V Day focuses on the light at the end of the Covid tunnel as it follows the State’s biggest-ever vaccination programme, beginning with the inoculation of the over-85s in February and following the ups and downs and twists and turns along the way (sounds like it could be a Crown-type saga).
For older people and vulnerable younger people who were forced to cocoon at home for the best part of a year, the vaccine offers a chance for freedom from loneliness and isolation, and the documentary tells the stories of some of these people. They include Liam, who was finally able to visit his wife at her nursing home after months of painful separation, and 20-year-old Rebecca, who suffers from severe asthma, and for whom the jab is a key to freedom. The programme also follows essential workers as they pull out all the stops to deliver and administer the vaccines across the State, including Dr Austin Corcoran, who is busy vaccinating homeless people in inner-city Dublin, and pilot Lt Oisin Murtagh and crew member Dermot Corcoran, who deliver vaccines to elderly inhabitants of remote islands such as Inisbiggle (pop 16).
In the Footsteps of Killers
Wednesday, Channel 4, 10pm
Emilia Fox is best known for spending 17 years solving crimes as Dr Nikki Alexander in Silent Witness. But in 2019, she tried her hand at dealing with real-life murders when she fronted the BBC documentary Jack the Ripper: The Case Reopened. Also appearing on the programme was criminologist Prof David Wilson, and the pair are now reteaming for a new three-part series in which they tackle troubling cold cases, searching for new leads the original investigators may have missed. In each edition, Fox and Wilson visit the places where each tragic incident took place before interviewing witnesses, suspects and the friends and families of the victims to get a feel of what might have happened. The first episode focuses on Patrick Warren and David Spencer, young boys who went missing on St Stephen’s Day 1996.
Krept and Konan: We Are England
Wednesday, BBC1, 11.45pm
Casyo Valentine Johnson and Karl Dominic Wilson – aka hip hop duo Krept and Konan – are big football fans and avidly follow Manchester United. So it must have been a dream come true for them both when they landed the chance to record England’s official Euro 2020 anthem. This documentary follows them as they get to know the England squad, including Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tyrone Mings and Declan Rice, as well as manager Gareth Southgate, who has his own ideas about what should be included in the song.
Thursday, RTÉ Two, 9.30pm
There is a mental health crisis among young Irish men, but it’s been beaten into us that men must be tough and that big boys don’t cry. Getting young men who are struggling with depression to let down their guard and open up about what they’re going through is no easy task. Perhaps when they see the bravery and honesty of the four young men featured here, some might find the strength to stop bottling it all up.
Dublin musician Hugh Mulligan, better known as Malaki, talks about how music has helped him express his feelings and brought him out of a dark place. Belfast-born Dublin hurler Lorcan McMullan talks about how his almost-obsessive dedication to the sport took its toll on his personal relationships. Westmeath Gaelic games star Ray Connellan talks about his work trying to get GAA players to be more open about their feelings. And ultra marathon runner Conor O’Keeffe talks about the struggles he faced as a teenager and how talking it out helped him through.
Tradfest: The Dublin Castle Sessions
Thursday, RTÉ2, 11.30pm
This new six-part music series, Hothouse Flowers founder Fiachna Ó Braonáin goes on a musical journey using trad as the starting point. Tonight’s first episode features David Kitt and Conchúr White; Maighread and Triona Ni Dhomhnail; Mark Redmond; and Ultan O’Brien and Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin with Mark Redmond.
Thursday, TG4, 10.30pm
Diabetes is the disease of the century: it affects 430 million people worldwide and by 2040 will affect one adult in 10. In the past 40 years, a whole system has gone off track because patients either take too many drugs or can no longer afford them. Only the pharmaceutical industry seems to be thriving in this bleak health situation; diabetes is a colossal market that brings in $46 billion a year. This documentary is based on the testimony of whistle-blowers, patients, researchers, and doctors critical of the system. It also confronts the industrialists and institutions responsible for this situation.
The Statue Wars: One Summer in Bristol
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
Few people had probably heard of Edward Colston before last summer. However, after Black Lives Matters protesters pulled down the bronze statue of him that stood in his home city of Bristol before throwing into the nearby harbour, he suddenly became a household name. (The 17th-century slave trader’s literal fall from grace was even lampooned in an episode of the US sitcom Family Guy.) This fascinating documentary takes us back to the day Colston was toppled on June 7th, 2020, when Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, the first directly elected mayor of black African heritage of a major European city, found himself caught in the eye of a storm. Cameras follow his story as tries to reunite the city amid mounting tension.
Noel Gallagher: Out of the Now
Thursday, Sky Arts, 9pm
Having written some of the most iconic songs from the past 25 years and beyond, Noel Gallagher’s back catalogue is exemplary – and you could say the same for his ability to tell an hilarious anecdote. The latest Sky Arts original commissions for music-lovers sees the Manchester-born songwriter present an up-close performance of music and storytelling from London’s Duke of York’s Theatre. Backed by his full band, Gallagher will perform 10 classic tracks spanning his career in Oasis and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and talk us through some of the significant moments in his own life and career.
Great Paintings of the World with Andrew Marr
Friday, Channel 5, 9pm
The second series begins with the first and perhaps most influential art installation ever created – Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. Marr travels to Paris to explore the remarkable story of a cycle of massive flower paintings, works that move him almost beyond measure. But behind these beautiful, serene canvasses lies a tale of personal tragedy, a brutal war, and a man tormented by an unrelenting obsession. Monet was the leading figure in Impressionism, the most important art movement of the 19th century, and this Water Lilies cycle was his final gift to the world.
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
At Longmeadow, Monty Don plants up his containers with the aim of bringing some summer colour into his jewel garden. Down in Hampshire, Joe Swift meets the designer of an award-winning contemporary garden. Next, in Staffordshire, cameras visit the national collection of one of summer’s most delicate flowers, the angel’s fishing rod, a herbaceous perennial with delicate arching plumes of bell-shaped flowers. Finally, we catch up with three sisters from Dorset to find out about their new growing project.
From Wednesday, Disney+
Tom Hiddleston takes great delight in reprising his role as the God of Mischief in this new series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s got the mullet and the evil grin but, this time, instead of sabotaging everything and messing with space and time, he’s working (reluctantly) with the good guys. The series takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, when Loki nicked the Tesseract and created an alternate timeline – and another version of himself (mullet intact). But Mobius M Mobius of the Time Variance Authority (played by Owen Wilson), is not too happy, and makes alternate Loki an offer he can’t refuse: fix the timeline or be erased from existence. What can a super-villain do but play along? Also starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku and Richard E Grant.
From Friday, Disney+
If you like dramas with surreal and/or supernatural elements, this eight-part Australian series is for you. Filmed in Tasmania, it stars Emma Booth as a troubled policewoman who uses unorthodox methods to get to the bottom of the crimes assigned to her. Molly McGee is going to need all her professional skills to uncover who is responsible for wrapping a body in barbed wire and dumping it at a local beauty spot in a scene reminiscent of Twin Peaks. Molly also has to deal with Alex (Ewen Leslie), a face from her past who is also assigned to the case; it soon becomes clear they won’t find working together easy.
From Friday, Netflix
Omar Sy returns as the gentleman thief out for ungentlemanly revenge in this hit French-made series, filled with disguises, subterfuge, sleight of hand and trompe l’oeil. Omar Sy plays Assane Diop, a smart operator who carries out some daring heists that capture the public’s imagination, but whose real purpose is to avenge the death of his father, who was wrongly accused of stealing a valuable necklace by the rich family who employed him and who hung himself in prison. His father has left him a book written in the early 1900s about a fictional thief named Arsene Lupin (The books are real - they’re a kind of French version of Raffles), and Assane vows to follow “in the shadow of Arsene” and become the greatest (and most refined) thief of modern times. In the eagerly awaited second series, Assane’s quest for revenge on the Pellegrini family has torn his own family apart - and left series on littered with plot holes. Time to consult those old Lupin books and come up with a fresh plan.
From Friday, Amazon Prime
Jeremy Clarkson is best known for driving big, powerful machines in many exotic locations. But when he swapped the Lambo for a John Deere tractor and decided to become a farmer, he suddenly found himself in unfamiliar territory and way out of his comfort zone. Clarkson has detailed his farming trials and errors in his weekly Sunday Times column. Now this docu-series puts on the wellies and charts a year in the life of Farmer J as he discovers that running a 1,000-acre farm is no walk in the park – there’s all the crop planning, animal husbandry and the drainage in the lower field to deal with, not to mention the threat of bad weather, drought and a bloody global pandemic. Is Clarkson really finding it all that hard, or is he just milking it? We’ll find out soon enough.
From Saturday, Youtube Cúla4
This is a series about young, creative people and their particular interests for the annual Cruinniú na nÓg celebration. Cruthaím highlights the talent of young Irish speakers across the country and in Gaeltacht areas and their unique creative processes. One young Irish speaker from each county and a representative from the diaspora of Irish speakers will showcase their creativity in the series of videos that will be broadcast on Cúla4’s Youtube channel.
From Saturday, Tik Tok bloc_tg4
For the first time ever, a TikTok drama will be produced in Irish as part of this year’s Cruinniú na nÓg. The drama will use the popular trend #FairytaleonTikTok to tell the love story of a Debs Fairytale or a classic teenage romance for the TikTok Age featuring Gillian and Séamus. The drama will be published on in segments from Saturday. It was created by writer-director Philip Doherty with input and collaboration with young people.