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

Operation Transformation returns for a special Covid-19 series, Killing Eve season three and and Ireland’s Home of the Year revealed

Sunday, April 12th

Heavenly Gardens with Alexander Armstrong
BBC1, 1.50pm
Alexander and Arit Anderson visit gardens expressing hope, joy and renewal. At the Bishop's Palace in Somerset, Alexander discovers why this place has been sacred for centuries, and helps to create a colourful and uplifting work of art. Arit learns how the ancient trees at Scone Palace in Perthshire will be given a new lease of life, and Alexander heads to his home county of Northumberland to tour a garden using humour to plant seeds of change in the community.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Celebrity Special
ITV, 7pm
If you had to put your money any celebrity bagging €1 million on this quiz, who would you choose? Perhaps Stephen Fry would be among most popular choices, along with David Attenborough, Professor Brian Cox and Victoria Coren Mitchell. And not far behind that quintet of eggheads would surely be Richard Osman. Tonight, the Pointless co-host has a go at answering the 15 questions that could bag a massive amount of cash for his chosen charity. Also joining host Jeremy Clarkson is singer and presenter Charlotte Church and former Liverpool and England footballer-turned-pundit John Barnes. As always, if the trio get stuck during the game, they have four lifelines to fall back on –Ask the Audience, 50/50, Phone a Friend and Ask the Host. But how likely is it that Jezza will know the answer to a question that the trio don't? Suppose there could be a motoring question...

Sacred Songs – The Secrets of Our Hearts
BBC Four, 7pm

As part of the BBC’s Culture In Quarantine arts festival, British vocal ensemble Tenebrae give a special performance of music for Easter, with all 20 of its singers filmed and recorded separately, within their enforced isolation at home, under the direction of Nigel Short. The repertoire includes Bach’s Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden and Ach Herr, lass dein lieb engelein; Lobo’s Versa est in luctum; Allegri’s Miserere; Purcell and Croft’s Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secrets of Our Hearts; and Parry’s My Soul There is a Country.


Food Unwrapped Does Chocolate
Channel 4, 8pm
Easter is the most chocolatey time of the year. And to celebrate, this show looks back at some the team's favourite chocolate-based investigations. Jimmy Doherty is on the trail of how they get the bubbles into bubbly bars, while Matt Tebbutt finds out what makes white chocolate white. Matt also gets the inside story on the UK's best-selling after dinner mint – just how does the minty fondant stay gooey in the middle, while the outside stays hard? Kate Quilton heads to Ghana to see if dark chocolate can be good for your health, and Jimmy gets to the bottom of claims that chocolate could actually help people lose weight.

Liam O'Flynn – Píobaire
TG4, 9.30pm
He was one of Ireland's greatest and most influential musicians, and this feature- length documentary looks at the life and work of the master piper, who brought new depth and dimension to Ireland's traditional Uileann pipes. The programme will touch on all the highlights from O'Flynns brilliant career, from working with Planxty to collaborating with Seamus Heaney, Kate Bush, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. There will be a star parade of guests to talk about O'Flynn's singular talent, including Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Ralph McTell and Donovan. An Easter Sunday treat, for sure.

Limmy's Homemade Show
BBC2, 10.45pm
Before breaking into TV, Glasgow-based comedian Brian "Limmy" Limond built an online audience uploading his own funny videos which he'd made on his phone. Now, following a successful pilot on BBC Scotland, he is fronting this three-part series which takes DIY comedy to a new level. Limmy plays multiple parts, while the show captures his off-kilter contemplations, scenarios and stories on a tripod-mounted camera. In this first episode, Limmy is intrigued by signs at the entrance to an underpass and invites the audience to follow him as he solves the mystery. The comedian, whose clip of a techno rendition of a nursery rhyme became a viral hit, gives a music masterclass, coaching would-be DJs on how to interact with a big, excitable crowd.

Monday, April 13th

Mend It for Money
Channel 4, 8pm
Restorers compete to give objects a new lease of life with high-end makeovers, pitching against each other to win jobs and estimating how much profit the items will make when sold. Law-enforcement officer Nick brings in a vintage Allwin penny arcade machine and antique restorer Andy and woodturner Nick go up against each other for the opportunity to renovate it. Sisters Lorna and Louise hope that one of metalworkers Christina and Sean can return their vintage British postbox to its former glory.

ITV, 9pm
In 2001, British army major Charles Ingram pulled off a coup – winning the top prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Incredibly, he did this without seeming to have much knowledge of the topics, and having already used up two of his lifelines in the early stages. Programme makers Celador became suspicious, and when they looked back at footage, they noticed that Ingram jumped between different answers before settling on one, and that one audience member, Tecwen Whittock, coughed whenever Ingram gave the correct answer. Ingram, his wife Diana – who was also in the audience – and Whittock were convicted of conspiring to win the prize by deception, and given suspended sentences – not to mention the notoriety of being Britain's biggest cheats.

Nearly 20 later, ITV launches this three-part factual drama telling the whole story. And they’ve phoned a few very famous friends, with Stephen Frears directing, and the mighty Michael Sheen starring as Millionaire host Chris “Final Answer” Tarrant. Matthew Mcfadyen from Succession stars as Ingram, with Sian Clifford from Fleabag as Diana Ingram, and Aisling Bea as ITV entertainment commissioner Claudia Rosencrantz.

Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Opry
BBC2, 9pm
On Christmas Day, Dolly Parton: Here I Am became BBC Two's most-watched music documentary of the year. So, the channel has decided to give us another helping of the country music legend for Easter. It begins with a TV special marking the 50th anniversary of Dolly becoming a member of The Grand Ole Opry. The legendary venue celebrated with a week of special shows featuring some of country's biggest stars, and culminated with a performance by Dolly herself. This 75-minute programme brings us some of the highlights, including her renditions of Jolene, 9 to 5 and I Will Always Love You. It's followed by the documentary Sisters in Country: Dolly, Linda and Emmylou and another chance to see Parton's 2014 Glastonbury set.

Tuesday, April 14th

Home of the Year – The Final
RTE One, 8.30pm
From restorations, new builds, renovations and re-design the sixth series of Home of the Year has featured very different homes located all over Ireland including a lighthouse keepers' cottage, converted buildings such as a former carriage house and a former shop, re-imagined semi-detached homes, architectural homes, DIY homes, restored period homes and new builds. The judges making the tough decision are designer Hugh Wallace, interior designer Deirdre Whelan and architect Peter Crowley.

Your Home Made Perfect
BBC2, 8pm
Laura Jane Clark and Robert Jamison use virtual reality to redesign a 1930s Surrey house with a poorly designed layout to make better use of the space, and allow the owners to both start a family and have their parents move in with them in the future. Laura's plan involves turning the property into a light-filled interconnected series of spaces, while Robert turns conventional wisdom on its head with a visually striking and flexible design. After experiencing both potential houses, the owners must choose which they would like to put into practice.

Prue Leith: Journey with My Daughter
Channel 4, 9pm
Forty five years ago, restaurateur, chef and writer Prue Leith made what was at the time a radical decision which would change her life forever. The current Great British Bake Off star adopted a 16-month-old baby girl called Li-Da from a Cambodian orphanage. Prue found Li-Da after the little girl's parents were victims of Cambodia's killing fields, in which more than a million people were murdered by the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. Li-Da had an idyllic English upbringing at her Cotswolds home but, by her own admission, Prue rarely questioned whether she could have helped her daughter connect more with her Cambodian roots. Now, in this intimate and revealing documentary, Prue joins Li-Da on a trip to Cambodia as she searches for her biological family.

I'll Get This – Extra Helping
BBC2, 10pm
Many people around the world will be missing meeting up with their friends to share a bite to eat or a few drinks. To remind us what life was like before social distancing, here is another extended episode of the panel show with a twist in which five celebrities go out for dinner together. When they arrive at the restaurant they must all reluctantly place their bank card in the centre of the table. As the food is served and the drinks flow, they play a series of fun and revealing games. If they win a game, they can retrieve their card. The person whose card remains at the end of the evening then must pick up the bill. Those playing tonight are Jonathan Ross, Gabby Logan, Mark Wright, Anita Rani and Rachel Parris.

Killing Eve
RTÉ One, 10.15pm
If anything can make it all worth being in lockdown, it's the return of the wildly successful thriller series starring Sandra Oh as MI6 agent Eve Polastri and Jodie Comer as psychopathic assassin Villanelle. The series turns all the spy thriller/serial killer tropes on their head, giving a decidedly feminist twist to the story of two women locked in a deadly cat-and-mouse game and driven by a growing mutual attraction and obsession. The award-winning first two seasons were hugely acclaimed, but can it keep up the quality for season three (and season four, which is already in production)? Season two ended with a showdown between the two women at a Roman ruins, with Villanelle shooting Eve and leaving her for dead. Has she finally killed Eve? And what happens next? We'll be glued to our sets to find out – after all, we're not going anywhere.

Believe Me: The Cyprus Rape Case
ITV, 10.45pm
Julie Etchingham talks to the teenager at the centre of the infamous case, who reported being gang raped to the police in Cyprus in July 2019, only to end up on trial for making the story up – which she and her lawyers have strenuously denied. The case attracted a lot of media attention and outrage in the UK, and now this programme examines new footage from the case. It also questions the circumstances that led her to apparently retract her allegations under police cross examination without a lawyer present.

Wednesday, April 15th

Operation Transformation – Keeping Well Apart
RTÉ One, 9.35pm
For years, the Operation Transformation team has been battling Ireland's obesity crisis, but now Ireland faces a new, deadlier health crisis, and the OT team will have to adapt if they're going to survive in these challenging times for telly programmers. So instead of helping people shed pounds, they're now going to help families stay safe (and sane) during this lockdown period. When RTÉ first announced the new series, it had the working title of Operation Covid Nation, but that was quickly dropped after the nation collectively went "WTF?!" Realising that the title might be in bad taste given the number of deaths from Covid-19, the producers quickly changed the name, but the idea remains the same. The series follows several families as they adjust to life under lockdown, and gives them advice and guidance on how to stay well, keep fit and avoid throttling each other.

Cameras have been set up in chosen homes (by teams in protective gear) and the programme will follow the families’ progress as they adjust to the new reality.

Kathryn Thomas will be on hand to co-ordinate this collective effort to keep ratings up in RTÉ, and she’ll be helped by a team of experts including clinical psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy, GP Dr Sumi Dunne, Dietitian Aoife Hearne and fitness guru Karl Henry. They’ll be offering guidance on mental and physical health, diet and other issues that arise when a family is suddenly cooped up together in a cramped space.

The way things are going, this series could be in for an extended run. Look out for the next series – working title Operation Irradiation – after Trump declares war on China for starting coronavirus.

Sky Comedy and Now TV, 9pm
So there you are, married and settling down to life in the burbs, when you get a text from some randomer you got off with in college asking you to leave everything behind and head off with them on a road trip across the United States. What would you do? In this new comedy series, Merritt Weaver stars as Stepford wife Ruby, and Domhnall Gleeson stars as her old college flame, Billy, who is now a successful life guru. The two had made a pact 17 years ago that if one of them texted the word "run" and the other texted the same word back, they would drop everything and meet up in New York's Grand Central Station to start their transamerican adventure. The series was created by Vicky Jones, a friend and frequent collaborator of Phoebe Waller-Bridge (she directed Waller-Bridge in the stage version of Fleabag). Waller-Bridge also guest stars in the series, along with Archie Pajabi. Expect to be surprised, challenged and inevitably delighted.

BBC2, 9pm
Novelist-turned-director and screenwriter Alex Garland has picked up plaudits for his films Ex Machina and Annihilation. Now, he's turning his talents to TV with this new eight-part thriller, which stars Ex Machina's Sonoya Mizuno and Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman. It focuses on software engineer Lily, who works for Amaya, a cutting-edge technology firm. When her Russian boyfriend Sergei (Karl Glusman) comes up with an impressive algorithm, he's promoted to Amaya's devs (development) team, who work away from the other employees in a secure facility. Sergei is unable to tell anyone what he's working on, including Lily, but that lack of communication becomes more serious when he goes missing. Amaya provides an explanation for his disappearance and offers Lily any support she needs. However, she doesn't want their help – she wants the truth...

Thursday, April 16th

Building Ireland
RTÉ One, 8pm
When Eamon De Valera came to power in 1932, he had a vision of an Irish rural idyll filled with, as he set out in his famous 1943 speech, "the laughter of happy maidens" (there was no mention of them dancing at the crossroads, which could have caused a traffic nightmare). But Irish people still needed electricity, a means of communication and a way of welcoming tourists to the emerald isle. This third series of Building Ireland looks at some of the big infrastructure projects of the 20th century, including the hydroelectric station at Turlough Hill in Co Wicklow and the transatlantic cable project at Valentia, Co Kerry. In the first episode, architect Orla Murphy heads to Dublin Airport, but she's not flying off anywhere: she's there to explore the airport's first terminal building, a modernist structure built in the late 1930s, that became a gateway for generations of Irish people to discover the big wide world outside.

Grayson's Art Club
Channel 4, 8pm
While key workers continue to be rushed off their feet, much of the rest of the nation finds itself with more time on its hands. But how do we make sure we remain occupied during the lockdown? The idea of staring into space for the coming weeks may appeal to some, but for others it's their idea of hell. Reading books and watching films will get dull after a while. Some folk have decided to try new indoor hobbies or to take up former pastimes. Now Grayson Perry is hoping to inspire us all to unlock our inner creative beast via a new series in which he teaches everyone how to draw, paint and sculpt, with help from other famous artists. He then wants us all to send him the fruits of our labours, after which he will use them to curate an "isolation exhibition".

The Truth About Traveller Crime: Dispatches
Channel 4, 9pm
To many people, the arrival of Travellers in their area causes unease and upset, with some telling stories of extortion, theft, vandalism and violence. But do these nomadic communities deserve their bad reputation? In this edition of Dispatches, reporter Anja Popp goes in search of the truth. She goes on patrol with police dealing with rural incidents and talks to members of the public who claim to have fallen victim to crime waves and experienced intimidation from Travellers. On the other side of the coin, she also hears from the Travellers themselves, as well as their advocates, who say they suffer prejudice and attack. And, for the first time, Dispatches analyses the crime statistics around Traveller sites.

Front Row Late
BBC2, 11.30pm
Host Mary Beard gets to grips with the latest broadcast technology as she aims to present the new series of the arts review show from her study each week. And with cultural institutions around the country closed, the programme aims to bring content alive through interviews, discussions and exclusive performances from leading writers, artists, actors and musicians. The first show features an exclusive puppet production based a short story by Edgar Allen Poe, created in confinement in Canada by leading author Margaret Atwood and her sister Ruth.

Friday, April 17th

Friday, BBC1, 7.30pm
After an arduous eight-week journey, the search for the country's best amateur cook reaches its climax as the final three contenders push themselves to the limit for one last time before judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace. This is their very last chance to pull out all the stops, show everything they've learned along the way and demonstrate the kind of cook they have become. They must produce the best three dishes of their lives, push their culinary boundaries and deliver jaw-droppingly good food as they vie to lift the trophy and become the 16th MasterChef champion.

On Demand

The Innocence Files
Netflix, from Wednesday
True crime stories are at the fore once again in Netflix's latest documentary series. The nine episode run is split into three compelling parts – the evidence, the witness and the prosecution – while discussing eight cases of wrongful conviction dealt with by the non-profit Innocence Project. Among those featured are Chester Hollman III, who spent 28 years behind bars after being convicted of murder, death row exoneree Alfred Dewayne Brown, and Levon Brooks, who was sentenced to life in prison after false forensic testimony "proved" he raped and killed his ex-girlfriend's daughter, allowing the real culprit to remain free to commit other atrocities. It's not easy viewing, but the programme does highlight the need for the Innocence Project's work.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth
Apple TV+, from Fri
Next Wednesday, April 22nd, is Earth Day, not that any of us will get to see much of the planet, seeing as we're all still in lockdown. Nevertheless, it's a 24-hour period in which we're meant to demonstrate our support for the environment. Apple TV+ is marking it a little early via this short animation based on Oliver Jeffers' bestselling book. The tome is designed to act as a kind of visitors' guide, to inhabitants both old and new, revealing fascinating facts about our extraordinary planet. The animation does the same by following a seven-year-old boy as he learns about Earth from his parents. Jacob Tremblay, Meryl Streep, Chris O'Dowd and Ruth Negga are among the vocal cast.

Apple TV+, from Friday
Property programmes are not exactly a rarity. While Channel 4 has the likes of Grand Designs and Location, Location, Location, the BBC broadcasts Your Home Made Perfect and Homes Under the Hammer. These shows concentrate on buying places or renovating them, but Apple TV+'s entry in the genre has more in common with House of the Year or The World's Most Extraordinary Homes, albeit without either Kevin McCloud or Caroline Quentin. The nine-part series offers viewers a never-before-seen look inside the world's most innovative homes. Each episode unveils the boundary-pushing imagination of the visionaries who dared to build them. These are the kind of dwellings most of us can only dream about owning.

Mafia Only Kills in Summer

All 4, from Friday

The Italian series offering a hugely original and darkly comedic insight into the Mafia during the 1970s is back for its second 12-part run. During the previous season, the Gianmmarresi family had contemplated leaving Sicily, but Salvatore had decided against it, unwilling to leave his homeland at the mercy of murderous villains. The story picks up as the clan returns home, determined to carry on as normal, despite the threat of Mafia retaliation forming a shadow over their lives. Lorenzo, however, is ready to ask for a transfer north to escape the situation, while Pia lands a new teaching job – and finds herself fatally attracted once again to mobster Tommaso Buscetta.

Additional previes: PA

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist