TV guide: 27 of the best shows to watch this week, beginning tonight
Back to Barrytown, Marie Cassidy, The Nevers, Plean Bee, We Are Lady Parts, Solos
Lesley Roy, Ireland’s representative to this year’s Eurovision, performs in the semi-final on Tuesday. Photograph: Ruth Medjber
50 Years of Mr Men with Matt Lucas
Sunday, Channel 4, 6pm
Since the creation of Mr Tickle in 1971, the Mr Men and Little Miss books have brought amusement to generations of families. Presented by super fan Matt Lucas, this fun documentary charts the history of the colourful little characters from the fictional town of Mister Land. Creator Roger Hargreaves died in 1988, but his son, author and illustrator Adam, continues writing and drawing the books. And to celebrate the milestone birthday in 2021, we get to see the five prototype new characters he has created, with the two most popular becoming the latest members of the Mr Men-Little Miss universe in September.
Back to Barrytown
Sunday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm
It’s 30 years since The Commitments alerted the world to the mythical land of Dublin’s northside, and this three-part documentary brings us back to the fictional suburb of Barrytown, the setting for Roddy Doyle’s famed trilogy that included The Snapper and The Van. Colm Meaney, who starred in the film adaptations of all three books, takes us on a journey into the heart of Barrytown, meeting cast and crew from the original films, as well as some of the real people and places that inspired Doyle’s books. Guests include Robert Arkins, Angelina Ball, Ruth McCabe, Mark Geraghty, Brendan O’Carroll, Stephen Frears and John and Ros Hubbard. The programmes will also examine the dashed hopes, thwarted dreams and foiled ambitions of Doyle’s characters, and how the books came just as Ireland’s Celtic Tiger was about to awaken. And RTÉ won’t leave us hanging – it will screen The Commitments on Saturday, May 22nd, and The Van on Saturday, May 29th.
Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes
Sunday, BBC4, 9pm
Written and directed by Doc Martin star Caroline Catz, who also performs the lead role, this cinematic portrait is a conceptual and atmospheric journey into the legacy and character of the Coventry-born electronic music composer and pioneer who, in 1963 conceived one of the most familiar compositions in sci-fi – the Doctor Who theme. The documentary expands upon the idea that Derbyshire, who died in 2001, was an extraordinary artist who lived outside of time and space, and her life story is told through her own musical creations alongside a soundtrack by musician/performance artist Cosey Fanni Tutti.
Dr Cassidy’s Casebook
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Former State pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy reflects on the issues and cases that shaped her career in Ireland. Over two decades Cassidy’s skills were called upon to help with the investigation of all unlawful and suspicious deaths. Always a subject of press interest herself, she used her profile to make her role and the office of State Pathologist more accessible – sometimes resulting in controversy and censure. The three-part series takes Cassidy from a childhood in working-class Glasgow to retirement in leafy Ascot via the professional and personal challenges of dealing with death on a daily basis.
Monday, Sky Atlantic, 10.10pm
Don’t be fooled by the parasol-wielding Laura Donnelly in the poster: this is not Mary Poppins meets The Umbrella Academy. The Nevers is a Victorian fantasy/sci-fi steampunk romp (another one!?) centring around a group of people – mostly women – who have had special powers conferred on them following a supernatural event. But being one of the “Touched” marks you out as a target for all sorts of evil and danger. So quick-witted widow Amalia True (Donnelly), who has been gifted with the power to see glimpses of the future, and inventor Penance Adair, who can see electrical energy patterns, take it upon themselves to organise their fellow “metahumans” to fight back at the forces out to destroy them. A league of extraordinary ladies and gentlemen, if you will. A greater shadow looms over the series: its creator and director Joss Whedon faced allegations of workplace abuse during the filming of Justice League in 2017, and the producers of The Nevers have tried to play down his involvement; not easy when the whole thing has Whedon written all over it.
Monday-Tuesday, BBC1, 9pm
This new drama is worth a look for its impressive cast alone: Laura Fraser, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Eddie Marsan, Aneurin Barnard and Adrian Edmondson for starters. There’s also an intriguing premise. Friends Anna, Nancy, Louie and Cat all work at a local brewery, where they are thoroughly fed up with their bullying, spiteful young boss Jack. So, after a particularly drunken work function, they make the snap decision to bundle him in a car and dump him in the woods. It’s supposed to be a prank, but no one is laughing when Jack is subsequently found dead. The women agree to keep their actions a secret to protect each other, but that’s going to be harder than they anticipated.
Monday, BBC2, 9pm
It may be about the perils of parenthood, but we don’t see much of the characters’ kids in this acclaimed sitcom. But they are growing up, and some are now on the cusp of leaving primary school. It seems that’s come as something of a surprise to Julia (Anna Maxwell Martin), who is panicking about the catchment area she lives in, and wondering whether a religious conversion might be the way to get her offspring into the right second school. Meanwhile, Liz (Diane Morgan) advises Kevin (Paul Ready) on divorce lawyers, only to make a discovery about her own situation in the process.
Monday-Thursday, ITV, 9pm
Don’t worry too much if you didn’t see the first series of Innocent, which starred Lee Ingleby as a man who claimed to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice. The new second series picks up with a new cast and story, so you won’t be lost. This time around, Katherine Kelly heads the cast as teacher Sally Wright, who was convicted of murdering her 16-year-old pupil, supposedly because she was trying to cover up their affair. Sally has always maintained her innocence, and after five years in prison she’s cleared of the crime and freed to return to her home in the Lake District. But can Sally rebuild her life after losing everything? And if she didn’t kill the teenager, who did?
Catching Paedophiles: Crime and Punishment
Monday, Channel 4, 9pm
Every day nearly 300 incidents of child sexual abuse are discovered online by investigators in the UK. It’s a shocking statistic, but Crime and Punishment focuses on one particular case to show the difficulties in both bringing a successful prosecution and the toll these distressing investigations take on the police. Cameras follow Detective Claire Lyons, who works for Hampshire Constabulary’s Internet Child Abuse Team. Lyons is looking into a man who has been uploading indecent images and fears that he may also have been abusing two young children. Can she prove her suspicions are correct?
Inside No 9
Monday, BBC2, 9.30pm
Ending a hugely popular drama isn’t easy – just look at the mixed response to the last episode of Line of Duty. As Inside No 9 is an anthology, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith don’t have quite that problem, but perhaps this latest edition still strikes a chord with them. It focuses on The Ninth Circle, a fantasy epic series which is generally considered to have gone out on a low with a disappointing finale. Show-runner Spencer Maguire is keen to put that behind him and move on to other projects, but it seems Ninth Circle obsessive Simon Smethurst has other ideas.
Eurovision 2021 – Semi-Final 1
Tuesday, RTÉ2, 8pm
Fans of the annual costume extravaganza (also featuring songs) were gutted when last year’s contest was cancelled due to Covid-19. The good news is that the 65th Eurovision Song Contest is going ahead on Saturday, hosted by the 2019 winner the Netherlands. After flagging a number of possible scenarios depending on where we were with the virus, including contestants competing from the safety of their home countries, the contest will go out live at the Ahoy arena in Rotterdam with an audience of 8,500 and lots of safety protocols in place. But first there’s the matter of the two semi-finals to see which lucky countries go through to the big event. Ireland will be competing in tonight’s first semi-final; our entry, Lesley Roy, was meant to perform last year with her song Story of My Life. She’s finally getting her chance at Eurovision glory with a new song, Maps, which we’re assured is even better. It better be good if it’s to get up to the quality of the song that won it for the Netherlands in 2019: Arcade by Duncan Laurence.
Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer
Tuesday, BBC4, 10.05pm
This four-part series explores the lessons learned from previous global pandemics – including smallpox, cholera and the Spanish flu – and reveals how scientists, doctors, self-experimenters and activists changed how we think about illness and ultimately paved the way for modern medicine. Historian and broadcaster David Olusoga and best-selling author Steven Johnson combine their expertise to guide viewers across 300 years of medical innovation and go behind the scenes to meet the unsung heroes who are tackling public health threats. The opening episode looks at the development of vaccines.
Márú Inár Measc
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
This compelling four-part true crime docuseries shines a light on how killers think they’ve gotten away with their crime and manage to hide in plain sight. How does a community get on with their lives, knowing there might be a murderer in their midst? On September 11th, 1987, Kilkenny woke up to the news that Ann Nancy Smyth had died in a fire that destroyed her small cottage on Wolfe Tone Street. Although it took the community 30 long years to bring down the man who callously murdered Smyth, they never gave up on seeking justice for her.
The Great Diamond Heist
Wednesday, Virgin One, 9pm
Over Easter weekend 2015, an audacious gang robbed a safe depository in London’s Hatton Garden, the centre of the UKdiamond trade. Shortly before, electrical cables under nearby Kingsway had caught on fire, disrupting the emergency services in the area. Coincidence? Alarms at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd went off, but the police ignored them. The burglars were caught on CCTV taking jewellery worth up to $200 million. They had used specialist equipment, taking days to tunnel through the walls of the vault. Within a month nine suspects had been arrested, aged between 43 and 76, including a father and son. The question was, were they the same gang that had made a similar daring raid in Hatton Garden safe netting £1.5 million over the Christmas holiday in 2004? In this fascinating investigation of the case and its aftermath, Gordon Bowers digs deep into the history of heists around the world and questions the motives and methods behind diamond theft.
A Very Royal Baby: From Cradle to Crown
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
Down the centuries, the way in which the arrival of the royal babies has been announced has changed out of all recognition. This new one-off documentary focuses on the past 100 years, which would cover the births of the queen, all four of her children and eight grandchildren. Much of the focus is on Prince Harry’s offspring and the media intrusion he and his wife, Meghan, feel they have suffered. Insights into what happened during her baby shower probably won’t ease their relationship with the press. But there’s also an explanation of why the royals have swapped the tradition of giving birth at home in favour of private hospitals.
Thursday, TG4, 9.30pm
If you notice a buzz in the air, that’s because today is World Bee Day, when we celebrate the small critter with a big role to play in the ecological balance of our planet. But bees and other pollinators are declining due to a mix of monoculture, pollution and climate change, and if we don’t do something soon, there’ll be nothing left to celebrate. This documentary looks at how Ireland is playing a part in reversing the decline of bees via the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, which was set up in 2015 by Dr Úna Fitzpatrick from the National Biodiversity Data Centre and Prof Jane Stout from TCD. The AIPP works by mobilising a citizens’ army of farmers, gardeners, community and sports groups and landowners to make their gardens, fields and other outdoor spaces more pollinator-friendly and restore the habitats that are vital for the many varieties of bee to thrive. The programme will visit projects in Derry, Strabane, Mullingar, Donegal and Buncrana so see how communities have put their heads together to help save their local pollinators, and are setting an example for the rest of Europe to follow.
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
You really had to watch this dark psychological thriller when it was first aired on ITV last October – just the job for a good Halloween scare. Nathan and Bob are two friends bound by the disappearance of a young woman, Elise, following a party. Ten years later, Nathan is married to Elise’s sister Holly, who is still desperately trying to find out what happened to Elise. Naturally, Nathan has never told Holly of his involvement in her sister’s disappearance, or even that he attended that fateful party, hoping the whole thing will stay buried forever. But when a disheveled Bob calls to his door late at night with news that “they’re digging up the woods”, Nathan is pulled back into the nightmare, and forced into a series of very bad decisions.
We Are Lady Parts
Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm
Are you ready for a Muslim female punk band? Well, ready or not, Lady Parts is about to be unleashed on the world in this new musical sitcom from writer Nida Manzoor, who has pulled from her own experiences in London’s diverse cultural hot-pot for Channel 4’s latest comedy. Amina (Anjana Vasan) is a geeky college student who is recruited as the lead guitarist in an exciting, anarchic new band made up of fellow Muslim girls. Her bandmates are singer Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey), drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed) and bassist Bisma (Faith Omole). But Amina is used to a more strait-laced lifestyle, and worries that her new rock’n’roll life will distract from the serious business of getting her PhD and finding a husband. But she can’t leave now, just as the band are about to land their first gig.
Subnormal: A British Scandal
Thursday, BBC1, 9pm
One of the episodes of Steve McQueen’s December anthology series Small Axe told the story of Kingsley, a young black boy who was moved from a mainstream school to an institution for the so-called “educationally subnormal”. The drama was fictional, though inspired by real events that took place until 1971, when the practice was exposed in a pamphlet written by Bernard Coard. Now newcomer Lyttanya Shannon’s documentary, which is executive produced by McQueen, tells the true story of how black parents, teachers and activists banded together to force the education system to change. It also highlights controversial debates on race and intelligence and the impact the unofficial policy had on children.
Later – with Jools Holland
Friday, BBC2, 10pm
Musician Annie Clark, better known to fans as St Vincent, joins Jools Holland from her LA home studio. She’ll be talking about the themes and inspirations behind her latest album, Daddy’s Home, and picking some of her favourite clips from the Later archive, including performances by PJ Harvey, Lou Reed and Al Green. The episode also features Johnny Flynn, who is making his Later debut but is no stranger to the big or small screens. As well as being a musician, he’s carved out a successful career as an actor, appearing in Emma and the David Bowie biopic Stardust, and also provided the theme tune to Detectorists. Plus, Bristol-based five-piece Squid perform their single Paddling, and Laura Mvula treats viewers to a track from her forthcoming third LP Pink Noise.
Eurovision Song Contest
Saturday, RTÉ One/BBC One, 8pm
Is this thing going ahead? You’d hardly know it from the modest media coverage. I suspect Nphet has ordered it to be played down to discourage people from hosting Eurovision parties in breach of Covid guidelines. The 65th Eurovision grand final is indeed going ahead in Rotterdam after being cancelled last year, and by now we’ll know if Lesley Roy has made it through Tuesday’s semi-final to take the stage at the Ahoy stadium to perform Ireland’s entry, Maps. Thirty-nine countries will battle it out on the night, and the live audience will be at a reduced capacity of 3,500, but of course they’re hoping the TV audience will make up the shortfall by few million.
The theme for this year’s contest is “Open Up” (not sure if that refers to the retail and hospitality sector or the wider concept of expanding your horizons). Graham Norton will once again be delivering the commentary for the Beeb and Marty Whelan for RTÉ, but never mind all that. The most exciting thing about tonight’s musical extravaganza is the news that Hannes Óli Ágústsson, the actor who shouts “Play Ja Ja Ding Dong!” at Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdam in the Netflix movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, will be reading out the votes from Iceland. Okay, you had me at “ja ja”.
Evelyn O’Rourke: Ailse & Ise
TG4, streaming now
When journalist Evelyn O’Rourke as diagnosed with breast cancer, she was pregnant with her second child. Now, 10 years on in a country still dealing with the fallout of the CervicalCheck controversy, O’Rourke is on a mission to discover today’s experiences of women who are diagnosed with cancer. She seeks out families, doctors, activists and researchers to better understand how we can treat women’s cancer efficiently and with compassion – and how we can deliver the kind of effective and humane service every Irish woman experiencing cancer deserves.
The Doireann Project
From Monday, RTÉ Player
Doireann Garrihy returns for a third series of impersonations of Irish celebrities and influencers, including favourites such as SoSueMe, Dáithí and School Gate Mam. She also welcomes a brand new character – the one and only Maura Higgins, who in epsiode one clashes with the director of her perfume ad over her French accent.
From Friday, Amazon Prime
In a year when many have experienced isolation, separation and loneliness as never before, David Weil has created a new anthology series looking at what it means to be human, whether in the present day or somewhere in the future. The seven-part series features a top-notch cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway and Helen Mirren; the only catch is they won’t be all in the same room, but will each fly solo in their own episodes, which veer into sci-fi dystopia territory. Among the characters we meet are a physicist obsessed with time travel; a woman on a mysterious trip to the end of the universe; a woman in lockdown who is locked in a battle of wits with her smart home; and man with dementia who is given memory implants bought on the black market. Fans of Black Mirror should feel right at home here.
From Friday, Apple TV+
Rafe Spall and Esther Smith return as Jason and Nikki for a second series of the hit sitcom. The opening run saw the couple struggle to conceive, prompting them to turn to adoption as their best hope of starting a family. Nikki and Jason have now been approved by the adoption panel, but finding the perfect match is proving difficult – it begins to feel as if all the children they have a connection to are being snapped up by other couples. However, Nikki meets a little girl called Princess and falls instantly in love. Unfortunately, persuading others she should become their daughter proves difficult. Ophelia Lovibond, Oliver Chris and Darren Boyd co-star alongside Imelda Staunton, who reprises her scene-stealing role as an eccentric social worker.
1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything
From Friday, Apple TV+
Many of us probably think that when it comes to revolutionary music and groundbreaking popular culture, the 1960s stand head and shoulders above every other decade. Some would argue that 1967, with its summer of love and The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album, provides its pivotal moments. However, the makers of this new documentary series believe that 1971 was the key year, and they’re determined to prove it. Asia Kapadia and James Gay-Rees’ previous projects include the acclaimed Amy and Senna, and now they’re turning their attention to how iconic artists such as The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, The Who, Joni Mitchell and others used the events going on around them to create influential music that still resonates half a century later.
Army of the Dead
From Friday, Netflix
Justice League director Zack Snyder temporarily leaves behind the superhero/comic-book world to make a zombie heist action thriller. It’s something of a personal project Snyder devised the original story and co-wrote the script. Dave Bautista stars as a former war hero who is set a lucrative although dangerous task of infiltrating a zombie-infested quarantine zone inside Las Vegas. Once there, he and his ragtag band of accomplices must break into a vault hidden beneath the Strip to retrieve the $200 million hidden there. Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick and Hiroyuki Sanada co-star. A prequel to the project, Army of Thieves, is currently in production, as is Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas, an animated TV series spin-off.