TV guide: 27 of the best shows to watch this week, beginning tonight

Colm Toibin, Mare of Easttown, Glow Up, Animal SOS, Shadow and Bone

Michael D Higgins, the ninth president of Ireland, following his inauguration ceremony in Dublin Castle on November 11th, 2011. Photograph: Eric Luke

Ómós – Michael D@80
Sunday, TG4, 9.30pm
Sunday, April 18th is Michael D Higgins's 80th birthday and TG4 has lined up an array of top musicians, poets, thinkers and dancers to celebrate our Prez's big day. It's only fitting – Michael D has always been a lover of the finer arts, and this hour-long special features some of the finest artists around, including Van Morrison, Tolü Makay, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Steve Cooney, Frankie Gavin, Mairtín O'Connor and Gradam Ceoil musician of the year Laoise Kelly. Makay will perform her single Don't Let Go in the surrounds of Rathfarnham Castle, while former De Dannan bandmates Gavin and O'Connor reunite in Galway's Town Hall Theatre for some tribal trad sounds. And in his first TV performance in more than 25 years, Van Morrison temporarily removes his tinfoil hat to perform his classic Burning Ground in Belfast. Also look for contributions from former president Mary Robinson, Druid Theatre director Garry Hynes and Senator Ivana Bacik.

Call the Midwife
Sunday, BBC1, 8pm
The nuns of Nonnatus House would never let a pandemic prevent them from carrying out their duties, and the cast of Call the Midwife have channelled that can-do spirit to complete the 10th series of the popular drama in the midst of Covid-19. We're somewhere in the mid-1960s, in the middle of Thalidomide scandal. When the nuns deliver a baby with no legs below the knee, Dr Turner (Stephen McGann) suspects this could be another tragic case caused by the notorious drug. This series also deals with a burning medical topic: public vs private healthcare. When plans for a new private clinic are revealed, Sr Julienne (Jenny Agutter) and Dr Turner disagree over the project, which could provide much-needed financial support for Nonnatus House.

Sunday, E4, 8pm

Javicia Leslie in Batwoman

The second season of the superhero drama begins with Jacob and Mary holding onto hope that Kate may still be found following the plane crash. A homeless ex-convict named Wilder (Javicia Leslie) stumbles upon Kate’s functioning batsuit, which she uses to take out various members of a new gang called the False Face Society. Meanwhile, Tommy Elliot, wearing Bruce Wayne’s face, moves into Wayne Manor and obtains Luke’s remaining Kryptonite fragment. Julia quickly identifies him as an impostor, but he steals the Batmobile and goes after Wilder with a gun containing a Kryptonite bullet. Finally, the villainous Alice finds a cryptic message from Safiyah written on a newspaper article.


Guy Martin's Battle of Britain
Sunday, Channel 4, 9pm
The average age of the RAF's Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain was just 20, and they manged to inflict a major defeat on the Luftwaffe, which on paper outgunned and outnumbered them. In this two-part documentary, Guy Martin discovers whether he would have made the grade as a fighter pilot as he goes through the same training, the same planes and at the same locations. It begins with flying lessons in a Tiger Moth bi-plane. If Martin masters those, he'll face the toughest test of all: flying a Hawker Hurricane in a dogfight against a Messerschmitt 109.

Noughts + Crosses
Sunday, Virgin Two, 10.05pm

Jack Rowan and Masali Baduza in Noughts + Crosses

Airing originally last spring on BBC1, the six-part Noughts + Crosses imagines a world in which black people are the dominant race and white people – former slaves – are now an oppressed minority. This sounds like fodder for white supremacists and racists banging on about “the great replacement”, but the original YA novels by Malorie Blackman have been hugely acclaimed, so decide for yourself what this series actually has to say about real-life racism, which is very much directed at people of colour. The plot is another take on Romeo and Juliet, as star-crossed lovers Sephy (one of the black “Crosses”) and Callum (a white “Nought”) embark on a forbidden romance. Masali Baduza, Jack Rowan and Helen Baxendale star.

Colm Toibin – On Memory's Shore
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Colm Tóibín

Imagine discovering a portal that takes you inside the head of a great writer and shows you the world from their point of view. Just like Being John Malkovich. This documentary, directed by Brendan J Byrne, brings us inside the mind of Colm Toibin, but without any need for quantum metaphysics. Instead, the Booker-nominated Irish author, considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest living novelists, willingly lets us into his life, sharing his childhood memories of growing up in Co Wexford, and providings insights into the creative process that has led to such acclaimed novels as Brooklyn and The Blackwater Lightship. Toibin has been spending more of his time in the US, where he teaches at New York’s Columbia University, but Ireland still exerts a huge pull on his imagination. And on a trip to a near-deserted Venice, where he discusses the inspiration behind his latest novel, The Magician, based on the life of German novelist Thomas Mann.

Mare of Easttown
Monday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm

Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown

This could be the toughest role Kate Winslet has ever taken on: not only does she have to convincingly play a smalltown homicide detective, she also has to convince viewers she is a native of the fabled Delaware County in Pennsylvania, where this new series is set. The Oscar-winning Brit not only ably masters the Delco accent, she also brings depth and breadth to her character, a cop beset by personal demons who must focus on catching a killer while grieving for her son who has died by suicide. Will Mare’s circumstances hinder her investigation or give her an added edge? This is Winslet’s first TV series since Mildred Pierce 10 years ago, and it’s created and written by Delco native Brad Ingelsby, with Guy Pearce as Mare’s boyfriend, a local writer and professor, and Jean Smart as her ascerbic mum.

Ackley Bridge
Monday-Friday, Channel 4, 6pm
The Yorkshire-set school-based drama is back for a new run, broadcasting each weekday for the next fortnight in a tea-time slot. We're promised several fresh faces, among them mixed-race pupil Kayla, who finds herself torn between her white mother's family and her father's traditional Pakistani relatives. Also set to pop up are Kayla's best friend, firebrand Fizza, and Romany Gypsy community member Johnny, whose good looks are sure to turn a few heads. And Coronation Street star Conor McIntyre pops up as Johnny's granddad.

Different League: The Derry City Story
Monday, BBC1, 9pm
Founded in 1928, Derry City FC has endured a chequered history, including a 13-year spell out of the limelight before joining the League of Ireland's new First Division for the 1985/86 season. Now local boy and supporter Guy King has made a documentary about that momentous period in the club's history, which he describes as a "rebirth". The producer/director has tracked down key players from the era as well as longstanding fans who discuss their memories. Even those who aren't supporters of The Candystripes will find something to enjoy here.

Lucy, the Human Chimp
Monday, Channel 4, 9pm

Lucy and Janis Carter in Lucy, the Human Chimp

Born in 1964, Lucy was a chimpanzee raised as a human child by psychotherapist Maurice K Temerlin and his wife Jane as part of a project at the University of Oklahoma. However, by the age of 12, she was too strong to remain in the household, so a decision was made to transport her to Gambia, where she would be taught to behave as a normal chimp ahead of being released into the wild. This documentary tells Lucy’s story as well as that of Janis Carter, then a young student who had befriended her and accompanied her on her journey to Africa in 1977. The plan had been for Carter to remain with Lucy for a fortnight, but she ended up living with her on an uninhabited island for the next six years.

Opioids, Inc
Tuesday, RTÉ2, 10.30pm
If a pharma company tried to sell you a painkiller that was 50 times stronger than heroin, would you buy it or just say no? This explosive, award-winning documentary, made by PBS's Frontline and the Financial Times, looks at how drug firm Insys Therapeutics made massive profits off the back of its fentanyl-based painkiller Subsys, which was so powerful it made morphine seem like a throat lozenge. The company used dodgy tactics to push the drug, including bribing doctors to prescribe it and rewarding aggressive sales tactics, all the while ignoring the dangers posed to patients by this potentially deadly opioid, which was linked to hundreds of deaths. To hold the company and its bosses accountable, prosecutors used anti-racketeering laws aimed at curbing organised crime. As well as a riveting account of how one company was brought down by greed and unscrupulous practices, the documentary takes a wider look at big pharma's role in fuelling America's huge opioid crisis.

Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook
Tuesday, ITV, 7.30pm

Ainsley Harriott in Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook

Ainsley Harriott begins his latest journey with a sailing lesson on board a 44ft-catamaran. Once they arrive at the a crystal-clear cove on the island of Lavetzzi, it’s time for the chef to deliver his own masterclass as he whips up seafood skewers with pepperonata. That’s just the beginning of the culinary adventure, as Ainsley also explores the medieval fortress town of Bonifacio in Corsica, where he meets olive-oil maker JB and cooks cheesy stuffed aubergines in an outdoor kitchen overlooking the harbour.

Makeup: A Glamorous History
Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm
Tonight, hit BBC3 Glow Up: Britain's Next Make-Up Star comes to BBC1 (see below). Meanwhile, BBC2 is looking to the beauty fads of the past with this new series, presented by professional make-up artist Lisa Eldridge. She begins with the Georgians, who used their look to show off their wealth – 18th-century style icon Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, employed a full-time hairdresser who travelled everywhere with her and earned the equivalent of £100,000 a year plus expenses. In their quest to look good, the rich would go to ever greater extremes, including using white face paint, which could prove fatal. However, that wasn't the only way the pursuit of fashion could go too far: by the end of the 18th century, when revolution was in the air, such an ostentatious look became dangerous.

Doctors of War: Saving Lives
Tuesday, Channel 5, 10pm
This fascinating documentary brings us a week in the life of a hospital in war-torn South Sudan, which is run by local staff and supported by international medics and UK doctors flown in by a humanitarian charity. The staff may have plenty of expertise, but they are working under extreme pressures and with limited resources as they deal with patients, including a group of boys who were critically injured after playing with a grenade, a man shot in the head, and a young girl with multiple knife wounds.

Glow Up: Britain's Next Make-Up Star
Tuesday, BBC1, 11.45pm
The BBC launches another talent search as Glow Up returns for a third series. This time it has a new presenter in the form of Maya Jama, who takes over from Stacey Dooley. Ten aspiring make-up artists will be battling it out to impress judges Val Garland and Dominic Skinner, with a contract assisting some of the world's top make-up artists and the title of Britain's Next Make-Up Star for grabs. In the opening episode, we're introduced to the hopefuls as they get to grips with their first assignment, a beauty campaign for a high-street chain which wants to highlight its inclusive range of cosmetics.

Lights Up: Adam
Tuesday, BBC4, 11pm
The National Theatre of Scotland's multi-award-winning stage play, written by Frances Poet, is made into a theatrical television drama. Inspired by the life of Adam Kashmiry, it tells the remarkable story of a young trans man and his isolating experiences in a Glasgow flat while awaiting a decision on his asylum claim. Born in Egypt, Adam was assigned female at birth but always knew he was a boy. Trapped with no way to describe this feeling, in a deeply conservative society where falling in love with the wrong person can get you killed, he knew that he had to escape. What followed was an epic journey beyond Adam's wildest dreams.

Na Saora Báid
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
In the first episode of this three part series. (first broadcast in 2002), we see the construction of a canvas currach. Eleventh-century historian Geraldis Cambrensis described seeing men fishing in timber-framed boats with an outer skin made of cowhide. Today the Aran Islands are still home to the currach canbháis, or canvas currach. This series was first broadcast in 2002. Léiriú le Eamonn de Buitléir.

Second Hand for 50 Grand
Wednesday, Channel 4, 10pm
Secondhand retailers were already seeing promising signs growth in the past few years, and the pandemic has increased their success. To show how the resale concept has gathered momentum, this documentary follows the day-to-day running of Xupes, "the go-to place for second-hand chic". The family-run business hopes to corner the market in pre-owned luxury handbags, priceless watches, jewellery, art and design. We meet window cleaner Grant, whose dad wants to buy him a Cartier watch. Meanwhile, Rebecca asks Head of Handbags Reece to scour the globe for an exact match for a stolen Prada bag that also had a special family connection for her. And Kristen wants the thrill of buying herself a dream Chanel bag for her birthday.

Laochra Gael
Thursday, TG4, 9.30pm

Seán Cavanagh

Tyrone footballer Seán Cavanagh (born 1983) overcame his early challenges with nutrition to become one of the most accomplished athletes of his era. He put himself under incredible pressure. Insecurity became a driving force, and he came through the tragedies that were visited upon the team to win three All Ireland titles. Uncompromising on the field and in life, Cavanagh has had his share of criticism. But nobody bothers Seán more than Seán Cavanagh, one of the most fascinating characters in modern sport.

Accused of Murdering Our Son – The Steven Clark Story
Thursday, ITV, 9pm
On December 28th, 1992, Steven Clark (23) disappeared; he was last seen close to his home in Marske, near Redcar. Twenty-eight years later his now elderly parents Doris and Charles were arrested on suspicion of his murder, despite the fact his body has never been found. They were subsequently released, and here they get to tell their side of the story. Ex-detective Mark Williams-Thomas (familiar to those who saw ITV's acclaimed documentary The Other Side of Jimmy Savile) reinvestigates the case, spending 17 weeks with the Clarks as they endure a terrifying ordeal. Charles and Doris also discuss their son, who was left disabled by a car accident when he was a toddler, and reveal the devastation they felt at being accused of his murder.

Don Rodolfo
Thursday, BBC2, 10pm

Ciaran Dowd in Dol Rodolfo

In 2018, Irish comedian, actor and writer Ciaran Dowd won the 2018 Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomer for his debut solo show, Don Rodolfo. He describes the titular character as “the grotesque love child of Don Juan and Don Quixote”. This short comedy (10 minutes!) is a spoof swashbuckler in which Rodolfo discusses his conquests, adventures and even thoughts, some of which he really should keep quiet about. If the show proves popular, a series may head our way in the future.

The Shelter: Animal SOS
Friday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm

Cattery manager Hollie Swift in The Shelter: Animal SOS

This new six-part series follows the work at Ireland’s oldest and largest animal welfare charity. Since 1840 the DSPCA has engaged in a battle to rescue and rehabilitate Dublin’s sick and injured animals, and the cameras go behind the lines at their facility in the Dublin mountains. Over the course of a year viewers will follow the trials and triumphs of a dedicated squad of care-staff, vet, and volunteers as they fight to save the lives of creatures great and small. In the first episode, kennel carers Shane and Tanya face a tough time as a pair of terriers with bad mange are dropped at the shelter. Vet Elise and Nurse Mandy attend to an abused pony at death’s door. And Elise performs life-altering eye surgery on abandoned kitten, Banshee.

The Who Sell Out: Classic Albums
Friday, Sky Arts, 9pm
Primarily written by guitarist Pete Townshend and released in December 1967, The Who Sell Out reflected a remarkable year in pop culture when the counterculture and the "Love Generation" became a global phenomenon. This documentary looks at the 1967 concept album, which Rolling Stone call The Who's finest album. It purports to be a broadcast by pirate station Radio London, and contains unrelated tracks interspersed with radio spots, commercials and public service announcements.

Gardeners' World
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
Monty Don explains the next steps of his chilli seeds' growth at Longmeadow, as well as planting out some evergreen cuttings that he has propagated. Meanwhile, Joe Swift gets some garden design and planting inspiration when he visits a courtyard garden in London. In Wales, a woman shows how her back garden has been arranged to remind her of her childhood home in Jamaica. Finally, Nick Bailey finds out about what can be done about pests such as suckers, caterpillars, midges and mites, which are spoiling some of his box hedges.


From Thursday, Netflix

Toni Collette in Stowaway

Stowaway focuses on the crew of a spaceship en route to Mars. Someone has accidentally stowed away, causing severe damage to the craft’s life support systems. As their resources begin to dwindle, those on board must find a way to deal with their new circumstances or face certain death. While the ship’s commander and biologist favour a solution based on clinical logic, a medical researcher with a very different idea tries to stand up for what she believes in. Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Toni Collette and Shamier Anderson star.

Dino Ranch
From Friday, Disney+
Yee-ha! Here's a western series with a difference. Instead of featuring traditional cowboys, it focuses on the animated adventures of the tight-knit Cassidy family, who run a farm that doubles as a dinosaur sanctuary. Ma Jane and Pa Bo think they're in charge, but it's their eldest adopted son Jon who is the real dino-whisperer in the pack, which also includes super-caring wannabe doctor Min and junior inventor Miguel. Joining in the fun are their pet reptiles raptor Blitz, big-hearted brontosaurus Clover and tiny triceratops Tango, who help the children explore the great outdoors while trying to steer clear of the local T-rex. In the first episode, the youngsters learn a valuable lesson about asking for help after being confronted by a couple of crazy critters.

Shadow and Bone
From Friday, Netflix

Jessie Mei Li in Shadow and Bone

Welcome to the Grishaverse, a place of darkness and shadows where the boundaries between science and magic are blurred. The good news is you won’t have to do mandatory quarantine on arrival. The bestselling YA novels by Leigh Bardugo have finally been adapted for TV, but will Shadow and Bone become the new Game of Thrones? There’s certainly an epically drawn-up world here, with its own rules and traditions, and myriad power struggles, but the look is more tsarist Russia than medieval Europe – Tolkien meets Tolstoy. This is a world at war and living under the looming threat of the Shadow Fold, an ever-growing impenetrable blackness filled with unnamed horrors and monsters known as volrca. So yeah, winter is coming, but don’t expect snow. The story centres on orphan Alina Starkov, who discovers she has an extraordinary power to harness light (very handy against forces of darkness). She is recruited to train with the Grisha, an elite army who can manipulate the elements and use them to vanquish their enemies. And believe me, there’s no shortage of enemies round these parts.

Contributing: PA