TV guide: 28 of the best shows to watch this week
Triggering Troubles documentary Lost Lives, plus the return of Outlander and The Great House Revival, Al Pacino in alt-history thriller Hunters, and two Friends with new shows
Al Pacino in Hunters, streaming from Friday on Amazon Prime
Sunday, BBC1, 9pm
This acclaimed documentary was released last year in the same week that Arlene Foster claimed the Belfast Agreement was not a “sacrosanct” piece of legislation. Wrote film critic Tara Brady, “Lost Lives is a sobering, triggering reminder of the Bad Old Days. The film, an adaptation of Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, a unique 1999 chronicle of the 3,700 killed in 30 years of the conflict, was written over seven years by journalists David McKittrick, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, David McVea and the late Seamus Kelters. Many talented actors solemnly intone – there is no other way – the awful details. Archive footage is poignantly employed. A beautiful score performed by the Ulster Orchestra, punctuated by evocative vocals, adds to the impossible sense of sadness.”
The Great House Revival
Sunday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm
Following a hugely successful first series, architect Hugh Wallace returns to follow the progress of six restoration projects as owners reclaim buildings on the brink of ruin. The series charts the highs and lows of such complicated building projects, from limited budgets and tight timeframes to the the relentless surprising challenges which older structures generate. The first episode follows Fiona Kelly who, having spent €480,000 on a dilapidated Georgian terraced house in the heart of Phibsborough in north Dublin, has a mammoth project on her hands. Her original six-month timeframe for the project expands to deal with the challenges of a rainsoaked and rotten Great House.
The Battle for Hong Kong
Sunday, Channel 4, 10.15pm
Filmed over eight months on the violent frontline of Hong Kong’s street protests, this documentary goes behind the headlines to tell the compelling and emotional story of how the lives of five young activists were changed forever. Exclusive footage shows police losing control of the situation as the violence spirals. Activists take bloody revenge on anyone who they suspect of informing. “I feel like I am basically at war,” says one. “If I die . . . and Hong Kong gets democracy . . . I’ll be okay with that.” As the Chinese regime faces its biggest challenge since Tiananmen Square, the country’s last bastion of free speech and democracy is fighting for its life.
Art on the BBC: Michelangelo – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Sunday, BBC4, 9pm
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) is undeniably one of the giants of the Renaissance as well as one of the most controversial. He left behind work that has continued to inspire down the centuries, but his sometimes bitter and jealous temperament earned him more than a few enemies. Art historian Sona Datta delves through six decades of the BBC archive to explore how TV has tried to reconcile Michelangelo’s works of art with his difficult personality, bringing to life the story of a man who rose from humble beginnings to become the favoured artist of the rich and powerful.
Herstory: Ireland’s Epic Women
Monday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
Life in the workplace 200 years ago was tough for women, and career opportunities other than lady of the house were virtually nonexistent. One Cork woman, Margaret Anne Bulkley, decided to do something drastic to establish a career in medicine. She dressed as a man, called herself Dr James Barry, and joined the British army as a military surgeon, where she continued to practise until her death in 1865. She was notorious for her bad temper and squeaky voice, but she also became known as the first Irish surgeon to perform a successful Caesarean section in Africa, saving both the mother and baby. Contributors to this episode include Dr Rhona Mahony, Dr Mary McAuliffe and Jeremy Dronfield, who has written a book about the doc in disguise. We’d like to say that things have come on a bit for workplace equality since then, but it seems women are still expected to act like men to get ahead in their careers.
From Monday, Amazon Prime
Saoirse Ronan may be the Irish acting name on everyone’s lips right now, but for the next few weeks, Tydavnet actor Caitriona Balfe will be the talk of the telly, as she sets off on another swashbuckling trip through time in the fifth season of Outlander. I Haven’t seen this series myself, but I’m reliably informed that it has a growing legion of fans, who slavishly follow the adventures of second World War army nurse Claire (Balfe) as she is whisked back in time from 1946 to late 18th century Scotland, where she meets and marries the dashing Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). In season five, Claire and Jamie have set up a colony in North Carolina, but revolution is in the air – and Claire knows how that will all pan out. How far is she willing to go to protect her new life in the New World?
Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week
Monday, 9.35pm, RTÉ2 (repeated Tues, 10.10pm)
Bigger, badder, madder: Special Forces – Ultimate Hell Week is back, led by chief instructor Ray Goggins. This year 28 brave civilian recruits (21 men and seven women) take on the Hell Week challenge in what is the toughest, most gruelling reality show RTÉ has ever produced. Designed to break all but the toughest of individuals, this year’s course is even more demanding then the last. A new set of tasks, locations and challenges, it is the ultimate test of the recruits physical, emotional and psychological resilience. Just two recruits passed the course last year; do any of these newbies have what it takes to impress the DS and make it through hell?
Confronting Holocaust Denial with David Baddiel
Monday, BBC2, 9pm (repeated Tues, 11.15pm)
Comedian and writer David Baddiel takes a deadly serious look at the mysterious phenomenon known as Holocaust denial. Why do people still deny the Holocaust ever happened, 75 years after it did happen? How is it that one of the most meticulously documented events in history is dismissed as a hoax by the same people who are willing to believe the most outlandish conspiracy theories without a shred of evidence? Baddiel looks at the “modern face” of Holocaust denial – and it’s not pretty – and traces how it has evolved to become an effective weapon in the armoury of anti-Semitism. He also tries to find out why Holocaust denial even exists; after all, no one denies the Titanic hit an iceberg or that an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Or do they? We’re in a new reality where historical facts are routinely denied, so confronting Holocaust denial is as urgent as ever.
Man with a Plan
Monday, E4, 7.30pm
“Man spends more time at home looking after the kids.” There was a time when that would have been a shock headline, but these days we kind of take it as read that fathers will do their fair share of the home duties. But clearly some sitcom writers still think there’s humour to be wrung out of the very idea of dad being in charge. Former Friends Matt LeBlanc stars as hapless Adam, who magnanimously offers to pick up the slack at home while his wife goes back to work. It’s not long before he begins to regret volunteering for stay-at-home dad duty, as he discovers that supervising his kids is only marginally easier than trying to wrangle a bunch of hyperactive velociraptors. Adam soon realises he’s going to have to man up and take charge before he gets chewed up and spat out like an old stick of gum.
Amazon: What They Know About Us
Monday, BBC1, 10.35pm
A Panorama investigation into the multinational’s rise to corporate superpower, asking if there a dark side to the public’s love affair with the firm. Former high-level insiders reveal that its customer obsession has led to a huge data-gathering operation, enabling Amazon to use what it knows about us to shape not only the future of retail, but also the workplace and technology. The programme also hears from senior executives who say the company is a force for good.
Monday, Channel 4, 9pm
The return of the documentary offering an insight into life inside a British jail from the perspective of both staff and inmates, this time coming from HMP Foston Hall in Derbyshire, where more than 300 women are incarcerated for everything from nonpayment of fines to murder. The opening edition focuses on the First Nights Unit, where inmates can arrive for sentences as short as just a few weeks. The cameras capture moments of humour and warmth, but there is also bullying, with one returning offender describing the prison as “St Trinian’s on crack”.
Monday, BBC1, 11.35pm
Daisy May and Charlie Cooper are back as Cotswolds cousins Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe for the third run of the acclaimed, multiaward-winning mockumentary. It’s been two years since the last full series, so Kerry and Kurtan should have plenty to talk about – if they’ve actually managed to leave their sleepy village and explore the wider world. The opening episode features a special tribute to Michael Sleggs, the actor who played Slug and who sadly passed away at the age of 33 last year.
Tuesday, RTÉ1, 7pm
Over one week last September, more than 7.6 million people in 185 countries walked out of schools and businesses in the biggest coordinated effort in global climate action ever recorded. But why are children in large numbers skipping school to protest and appeal for a future they think is slipping away? Will it change anything? A new presenter to the series, clinical psychologist Dr Clare Kambamettu, is concerned about climate change and the future, and she is fascinated by the reasons behind the youth climate strikes. For this younger generation, climate change will unquestionably carry a massive burden, both as children and as future adults – and yet they are the least culpable for it’s damage. Kambamettu will meet with school strikers across the country to hear how they feel, their fears and their demands.
The BRIT Awards 2020
Tuesday, UTV, 8pm
As last week’s documentary The BRITs at 40 reminded us, one of the things that makes this event stand out from all the other awards ceremonies is its air of unpredictably – although the music obviously helps as well. So, Jack Whitehall is hopefully prepared for anything as he hosts for the third time. Performers taking to the stage include Lewis Capaldi, who has topped off a great year by being nominated for four BRITs: Best Male, Best New Artist, Song of the Year and Album of the Year. There are also appearances from his fellow nominees Harry Styles, Mabel, Stormzy and Billie Eilish, the latter fresh from cleaning up at the Grammys and could be going home with the gong for International Female Solo Artist.
Royal History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley
Tuesday, BBC4, 9pm
In the first of a new three-part series, Lucy Worsley discovers how the history of the Reformation has been manipulated by generations of politicians and writers. Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon created a religious and political schism between England and Europe that can be still be felt today. Although the Reformation is often portrayed as a lusty royal soap opera, she reveals that it was about far more than a randy king in pursuit of a younger wife and a male heir. It also laid the foundations for Britain’s modern constitution and economic power as an empire. Worsley begins by demolishing one of the founding myths about the Reformation: far from being a ready ally of Martin Luther’s Protestant revolution, Henry remained a Catholic to his death.
How to Stay Out of Jail
Tuesday, Channel 4, 10pm
In Britain, a worrying amount of criminals come out of prison only to reoffend and end up back behind bars. Could there be an alternative to these revolving-door jails? This documentary follows an elite police team in Co Durham, which is taking a different approach to crime reduction by trying to keep offenders out of prison in the first place. The officers present people who have been charged with everything from drugs, child neglect and domestic abuse to fraud and assault with a one-time alternative to court and jail. Instead, they are asked to sign up to a scheme that demands they turn their back on crime. But, as this film discovers, for many people the decision is not simple.
Cilla: The Lost Tapes
Wednesday, UTV, 9pm
Cilla Black spent more than 50 years in the spotlight – she found fame as a singer in the 1960s before becoming one of British TV’s most popular presenters. This one-off documentary shows a previously unseen side to Black: rare footage, which her family found in the loft in the years following her death in 2015, as well as interviews with the ghostwriter of her autobiography. The documentary finds the Blind Date presenter giving a guided tour of her home, rehearsing for the Royal Variety Performance and talking about everything from her friendship with Ringo Starr to why she was the original “woman’s libber”. Her loved ones are also on hand to see the clips for the first time.
Jon Snow’s Very Hard Questions
Wednesday, More4, 8pm
The Channel 4 News presenter takes the helm of what is apparently the “toughest quiz on TV” as he asks the brainiest Brits a series of difficult questions. Each episode will see two teams of boffins aiming to earn a score high enough to top the leader board and go through to the series final, the winners of which will take home £5,000 and the Very Hard Questions trophy. If they’re stumped on any questions, clues are available – at a cost. In the first episode, Intelli-Gents and Assassins’ Guild compete.
Wednesday, RTÉ2, 9pm
This four-part Australian drama, which first aired on Channel 5 last autumn, opens with well-behaved teenagers Nassim and Amandip beginning a burgeoning romance. When a teacher (Sam Reid) discovers a naked image of Amandip on Nassim’s confiscated phone, he attempts to protect his students’ privacy but soon finds the decision has been taken out of his hands. As the scandal unfolds, issues of misogyny, privacy, sexuality and exploitation are forced into the open, changing the lives of four teenagers, their families and their teachers.
Wednesday, TG4, 10.30pm
A troubled detective returns to his hometown to investigate why a young boy would kill his parents. This critically-acclaimed breakout drama returns for a second season, with Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) called back to his hometown in rural New York to investigate a disturbing double homicide: parents murdered by their 11-year-old son (Elisha Henig) with no apparent motive. Revelations about this strange boy and his unconventional background thrust Ambrose on a journey into the dark recesses of his hometown, where he comes up against those fighting to protect its secrets, including the mysterious Vera (Carie Coon).
Trasna an Líne
Thursday, TG4, 9.30pm
The young rugby stars of the future face a gruelling battle to get to the top of their game. This two-part documentary gets up close and personal with young players from Connacht, Ulster and Scotland as they follow their dream of playing for Ireland at the elite level. The filmmakers promise a rollercoaster ride from the dizzy heights of victory to the stomach-churning lows of defeat, with lots of injuries and heartache along the way.
Phil Spencer’s Stately Homes
Thursdsay, More4, 9pm
Phil returns for a new run of the series where he explores Britain’s stately homes, beginning with a visit to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, the family seat of the Cavendish family and the dukes of Devonshire for more than 350 years. He is welcomed by the current owner, Peregrine Andrew Morney Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire (known to his friends as “Stoker”). Spencer asks what it’s like to live in a property that’s so palatial (365 family homes could fit inside it) and opulent. In the beautiful grounds, he lends a hand by turning on Chatsworth’s famous Emperor Fountain and, using cutting-edge virtual reality, steps back inside the long-lost Great Conservatory.
Hoarders: Trapped By My Trash
Thursday, Channel 5, 9pm
Parting with possessions can be a tricky business, especially if they have sentimental value. But for the people featured in this series, the amount of clutter in the homes has reached such a level that just moving around is difficult – and that’s where experts Caz and Tee come in. This week they begin in Plymouth, where 70-year-old Arthur’s two-bedroom flat is full to the brim, and it soon becomes clear that a deep-rooted fear is at the heart of his problem. Then, Khim Sim needs to move stuff out in order to move in her husband-to-be. In London, Mandi’s passion for vintage clothes is out of control. But as the collection is worth £25,000, getting rid of it could turn into a nice little earner.
Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm
Fred Sirieix and his team welcome a new crop of hopeful singletons through the doors looking to find love over dinner. They include plumber Jamie, a lad who has the habit of say the wrong thing. He is paired with Leigh, a practical guy who is good with his hands. Will Jamie’s flirting be enough to win over his blind date? Meanwhile, steampunk enthusiast Joe cannot believe his luck when his date Jess reveals her old job involved dressing as a Victorian.
From Friday, Amazon Prime
If someone told you that a bunch of Nazis were secretly living among ordinary Americans and plotting to create a fourth reich in the good ol’ USA, what would you do? You’d probably go, yeah, we know, check out the White House. In this new drama series, set in New York in 1977, Al Pacino plays a Nazi hunter on the trail of hundreds of high-ranking Nazi officials who are living among the natives, keeping a low profile while they plan their big comeback. Pacino recruits a motley crew of New Yorkers to help him on this dangerous mission. Will this be closer to The Man in the High Castle or more like Springtime for Hitler? It could go either way.
Friday, BBC1, 9.30pm
The BBC’s Comedy Playhouse strand, which in the past has produced such much-loved sitcoms as Steptoe and Son, Till Death Do Us Part and Last of the Summer Wine, returns with another one-off that could potentially become a series. Bumps stars Amanda Redman as 62-year-old divorcee Anita, who still wants to pack as much as she can into life. So when she hears about an Indian woman who gave birth in her 70s, Anita starts thinking about having another baby of her own. She already has two adult children (Lisa McGrillis and Seb Cardinal), who don’t seem likely to make her a grandmother any time soon. But then one of them makes a surprising announcement.
Friday, Channel 4, 9pm
The armchair critics are back – and just in time. After all, if any show seemed designed for the Goggleboxers, it’s UTV’s The Masked Singer, and hopefully Saturday night’s final just sneaked in under the wire to make it in tonight’s round-up. In fact, it could be argued that Gogglebox serves a dual purpose: not just letting viewers find out what the regulars think of the week’s TV, but also rounding up the best and worst small-screen offering, letting us know what we should catch up on, and what we should be thankful we missed.
Friday, Sky One, 9pm
You wait ages for a Friends cast member to make a new sitcom and two come along at the same time. David Schwimmer aka Ross stars as a “maverick” American security agent assigned to a ragtag team of cyber security “experts” at Britain’s GCHQ. Cue clash of cultures, potay-to/potah-to language barriers, and oceans-apart opinions about how to thwart cyber-terrorism. It’s clear from the get-go that the Brits are stuck in old-fashioned civil service ways, while their new American colleague is a bit of a bluffing buffoon. “Oh, you have Wikipedia over here?” he asks ingenuously when his rather ad hoc approach to data-gathering is called out. Somehow I don’t see this uninstalling The IT Crowd from its pedestal.