TV Guide: 25 of the best shows to watch this week
Sally Rooney’s Normal People given blockbuster debut, plus Gerry Ryan remembered, Paul Hollywood explores Japanese cuisine, and an alt-reality Hollywood on Netflix
Daisy Edgar Jones and Paul Mescal in Normal People, premiering Monday on BBC1 and Tuesday on RTÉ One
Slí na mBeaglaoich
We may be stuck within our 2km radius but, thanks to the magic of prerecorded TV, the father-and-son musical duo of son Breanndán and Cormac Ó Beaglaoich get to travel up the west coast of Ireland – from Kerry to Donegal – in their 40-year-old camper van, making friends along the way and having lots of craic with no need for social distancing. The renowned west Kerry traditional musicians are not just wandering aimlessly up the Wild Atlantic Way, though: they’ll be seeking out kindred musical spirits, digging deep into the traditional music of every region they visit, and meeting some of the finest musical talents along the way.
Ryan: A Legacy
RTÉ One, 9.30pm
It’s been 10 years since the death at age 53 of broadcaster Gerry Ryan, and we still miss his big, warm voice on our airwaves. Sure, Tubridy’s a sound fella, and well tuned in to the mood of the country, but Gerry in his radio heyday was unpredictable, anarchic, sometimes poignant and always entertaining. It was the beating heart of Irish life, right there on the wireless every weekday morning. Some have said there will never be another broadcaster quite like Gerry Ryan, but it’s unfair to compare him to today’s crop. Times were different, radio was more of a communal experience, and – as Gerry knew well – you could get away with a lot more back then. This documentary looks at the life and career of the man who soundtracked our daily lives over three decades, with contributions from friends and family members, and some unseen footage from the archives.
Van der Valk
Back in the 1970s, this British cop series about a detective in Amsterdam was hugely popular, and its theme tune, Eye Level, became a No 1 hit. Barry Foster played the titular sleuth, a clever sort and a dab hand at unravelling complex murder cases – sort of a Dutch Endeavour. This reboot stars Marc Warren as Piet Van der Valk, working the mean streets of modern-day Amsterdam with his crack team of crimebusters. In the first of three feature-length episodes, Van der Valk investigates two seemingly unlinked murders that plunge him into the cut-throat worlds of politics and art.
Time to stop monkeying around and settle down for the latest in the BBC’s long line of fascinating nature programmes, this one a “definitive portrait of a hugely charismatic family of animals, to which we all belong”. They are, of course, primates, a diverse but resourceful group that has made its home in all manner of places across the world, from deserts to jungles, grasslands to bustling cities. More than 400 species of ape, monkey and lemur make up the primate family, including colossal gorillas and tiny creatures no longer than your finger. They can use tools and solve problems, are emotional, thoughtful and caring. Across the first two episodes we’ll see evidence of these, while the third and final edition focuses on how experts are working to keep them safe.
Stacey Dooley: Costa del Narcos
The investigative reporter’s latest case takes her to southern Spain, now the main gateway for drugs into Europe. This disturbing state of affairs has led to violent turf wars between gangs and a government crackdown as the police struggle to regain control of their streets. Dooley goes on aerial patrol with officers guarding the strip of water between Morocco and Spain. It turns out to be a truly eye-opening experience as she sees first-hand the extraordinary lengths smugglers will take to evade them, including travelling at 100mph in speedboats during extreme weather conditions in the middle of the night.
The 1981 London Marathon: A Historical First
The first London marathon was held in March 1981, with just over 7,000 entrants taking part. Nearly 40 years on there are now more than 40,000 participants, making it one of the biggest and best-loved events in the sporting calendar. This documentary looks back at that historic first staging of the event, reliving the remarkable finish to the men’s race ( which ended in a dead heat), all observed through the backdrop of how London looked then.
Reasons to Be Cheerful with Matt Lucas
Channel 4, 7.30pm
Comedy entertainment show written by Harry Hill, with Lucas celebrating everything that is keeping the public, and some celebrity chums, entertained at home. The Little Britain star showcases the ability of men, women, children, celebs and possibly even some pets to amuse themselves during this self-enforced downtime. He’s joined by a plethora of key workers, families at home and famous faces including Tyson Fury, Kevin McCloud, Rachel Riley, Heston Blumenthal, Tom Allen, Jon Snow and Basil Brush.
BBC1, 9pm; also Tuesday, RTÉ One, 10.10pm
It’s the big telly event of the week: a 12-part adaptation of Sally Rooney’s acclaimed novel about coming-of-age in contemporary Ireland. The screenplay is by Rooney herself along with Alice Birch and playwright Mark O’Rowe, and the series is directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie McDonald, so we’re talking serious production power here. You know the story – it’s complicated. Connell is the popular boy at school who’s not short of love interests. But when he meets rebellious loner Marianne, the daughter of his mother’s employer, the two embark on a secret relationship. The love action takes the pair from their last days in secondary school in Sligo to their undergraduate days in Trinity. Connell is played by newcomer Paul Mescal, a first television role for the 24-year-old from Kildare. Marianne is played by English actor Daisy Edgar Jones, who’s already been in Cold Feet and Outlander. To help you get properly immersed in this story, the series opens with a double bill.
Museums in Quarantine
The pandemic has led to the closure of museums across Britain, but this series is here to help give viewers an idea of what they could have seen. It begins with Alastair Sooke examining Tate Modern’s Andy Warhol retrospective, which was due to run until September. It covers the influential artist’s fascination with advertising, pop music and commerce. And while Warhol may be best known for his prints, Sooke also looks at his long-running commitment to experimental film and TV.
Beat the Chasers
Monday-Friday, Virgin One/ITV, 9pm
Bradley Walsh hosts a spin-off from The Chase, in which contestants take on two, three, four or all five of resident experts Mark Labbett, Anne Hegerty, Paul Sinha, Jenny Ryan and Shaun Wallace – at once. Audience members are called out to face five multiple choice questions, with the chance to bank up to £5,000, but if they get the first question wrong they are out. Next, contestants are given the option of playing between two and all five Chasers for increasing amounts of money, but with a decreasing time advantage against them.
Grayson’s Art Club
Channel 4, 8pm
At this time of coronavirus crisis, Turner Prize-winning Grayson Perry will host the show from his studio, where he creates new pieces, leads masterclasses and finds out how other artists, creatives and celebrities are spending their time in isolation. He also encourages artists and viewers alike to produce visual representations of this unique time, at the end of which he plans to display the art in an exhibition chronicling the changing moods of Britain in isolation.
Paul Hollywood Eats Japan
Channel 4, 9pm
This new series was originally planned to give viewers a taster of Japanese cuisine ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The Games have been postponed for a year, but Channel 4 is still broadcasting Hollywood’s culinary adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun. The Bake Off judge’s trip begins in Tokyo, which has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other world city. However, Hollywood isn’t interested in the stars and sushi. Instead, he finds out about the Japanese obsession with pot noodles, and samples the practices of solo dining and solo karaoke. He also embraces their love of themed restaurants, including one where he’s locked up in a prison cell, and even sniffs out an extraordinary bakery.
Scannal: Corrib Gas
RTÉ One, 8pm
The campaign group Shell to Sea forms part of the story of one of rural Ireland’s longest running disputes, between Shell and the local people of northwest Mayo, protesting at the company’s plans to build an onshore terminal at Bellanaboy. A high-pressure pipeline to bring the gas ashore proved to be one of the most controversial aspects and gave rise to Shell to Sea.
Documentary following a year in Portmeirion, the village in north Wales made famous by cult 1967-68 TV series The Prisoner. It may look like an ancient Italian settlement, but this remarkable place was created between 1925 and 1973 by the visionary architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1888-1973). The first episode introduces the staff who work maintaining the popular tourist destination, led by Williams-Ellis’s grandson, Robin Llywelyn, and reveals how they keep Portmeirion in tip-top condition.
How to Keep Your Dog Happy at Home
These are confusing times for dogs. While most of the family is at home and it’s time to play, you’re only allowed to walk 2km. This series, narrated by Martin Clunes, is packed full of inspirational stories of how to bond with your dog and tips on how to keep them entertained, happy and healthy at home. Tonight’s first episode looks at how different breeds need different amounts of exercise. We meet Jet, the rescue Border Collie whose owner has taught her tricks to burn off energy. Plus, Ben Fogle explores dog yoga with his retriever Storm and Gaby Logan and her family discover their boxer’s hidden talent: jumping.
Wednesday, Sky One, 10pm
Cross Robocop with Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and you might get something like this new comedy about an unconventional crime-fighting team. DI John Major (Daniel Mays) and DI Roy Carver (Stephen Graham) are the top duo in the Special Investigations Unit, but when an undercover sting goes wrong, Major is shot dead. Carver must carry on without his partner until year later, when the deceased Major returns to duty – as an AI algorithm. He’s been rebooted and restored, but a glitch in his system means he’s not quite the full Six Million Dollar Man. nna Maxwell Martin costars as Major’s widow who must now deal with her dead ahusband’s virtual reincarnation – and hope he doesn’t discover what she and Carver have been up to while he was off the grid.
What’s It Like to Catch Coronavirus?
Channel 4, 9pm
Some estimates claim that up to 80 per cent of population may catch Covid-19, but the symptoms can affect individuals in very different ways. Channel 4 has given cameras to people across the UK so they can film their personal battles against the illness and discuss their experiences. Experts will offer advice. However, for some of those affected, coronavirus isn’t the only problem they have to face. This programme also offers an insight into what it is like for victims who are dealing with Covid-19 in isolation, asking how their mental health has been affected by being alone at what is often a very frightening time.
Fittingly, the last instalment of Other Voices will be coming from St James church in Dingle. Beloved Chicago duo Whitney and their band wow with their soulful take on indie rock; rising star Joy Crooks plays a selection of her confessional soul songs; BBC folk award-winning brothers Ye Vagabonds give a stunning performance; and singer-songwriter Anna Mieke stuns with her quietly captivating folk songs.
Spring at Jimmy’s Farm
Channel 4, 8.05pm
In any other year, as spring arrives on Jimmy Doherty’s farm, his 280-acre park would be teeming with families eager to see his collection of exotic animals. But 2020 is no ordinary year, and while there are no guests, his animals still need caring for. This documentary, filmed by a small crew, offers a unique insight into how Doherty and his team are managing. In the first episode, lambs, goats and reindeer are all due to give birth, a camel needs to find its mate, and Jimmy builds hides and nesting boxes to keep an eye on what the badgers, birds and fish are getting up to.
The Real Marigold Hotel
It’s a good week for documentaries about British celebrities in India. Not only are former soap actors Adam and Ryan Thomas heading there in ITV’s Absolutely India: Mancs in Mumbai, but a group of veteran semi-famous people are visiting the country to find out what it would be like to retire there in the fourth series of The Real Marigold Hotel. Britt Ekland, Duncan Bannatyne, Zandra Rhodes, Paul Elliott (better known as Paul Chuckle), Henry Blofeld, John Altman, Susie Blake and Barbara Dickson get their first taste of their potential new lifestyle as they take the bus to Puducherry and their home by the sea. It’s a bumpy introduction, but the group seem determined to make the most of the experience, even if Britt struggles with the heat and Elliott is struck down by an upset stomach.
World Cup Gold
A gem from the Sports Archives: the golden age of Irish soccer provides the basis for this international soccer series, presented by one of our greatest soccer heroes, Packie Bonner.We kick off with a classic, the Republic of Ireland v England clash in the Italia 1990 FIFA World Cup at Stadio Sant’Elia in Cagliari. Jack Charlton’s Irish team included Bonner, Ray Houghton, Mick McCarthy, John Aldridge, Paul McGrath and Kevin Moran. England’s team, who were managed by Bobby Robson, included Paul Gascoigne, John Barnes, Gary Lineker and Chris Waddle.
The Shadows at 60
Some fans might argue that the title of this documentary is misleading. The Shadows actually formed in 1958, although they were originally known as The Drifters, and first found fame as Cliff Richard’s backing group. However, it is 60 years since they scored a No 1 with their atmospheric instrumental Apache. To celebrate, Richard and band members Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch and Brian Bennett look back at their remarkable career. There are also contributions from some of the countless British musicians they influenced, including Brian May, David Gilmour and Pete Townshend.
The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys
Channel 5, 8pm
The trip begins in Inverness and soon passes Culloden, site of the last pitched battle on British soil. It then enters the Cairngorms National Park, home to some of Europe’s finest landscapes as well as valleys steeped in Gaelic folklore. The park’s station at Aviemore is home to the Strathspey Railway, where Victorian steam locomotives come to life. There is then a climb to the highest point on Britain’s railway network before the train winds its way through Fife. Eventually the route crosses the Forth Bridge before arriving in Edinburgh. Narrated by Bill Nighy.
From Friday, Netflix
A new series set in Tinseltown – is this the telly version of La La Land? Hollywood follows a disparate group of young hopefuls trying to make it in the movie business in the years following the second World War, but this is an alternative-reality Hollywood, in which black actors get proper roles, openly gay actors get cast as leading men, women get top studio jobs, and mavericks are given free rein to make the kind of movies they want. I know, complete fantasy. The idea is to highlight the bias, misogyny and discrimination inherent in the movie industry, but let’s hope that in upending the studio system, the programme makers don’t forget the reason we watch stuff in the first place: we just want a good yarn.
Apple TV+, from Friday
Apple TV+’s latest series is an eight-part relationship comedy and the platform’s first British show. Directed by Catastrophe’s Jim O’Hanlon and written by former Mock the Week scribe Andy Wolton, Trying stars Rafe Spall, Esther Smith, Phil Davis, Darren Boyd and Imelda Staunton. Smith and Spall play Nikki and Jason, who are young and in love. They are also desperate to have a baby – and it appears to be the one thing they cannot have, prompting them to make a momentous decision. The premise might not sound as if it would generate many laughs, but this promises to be a touching tale about a couple navigating a life-changing journey.