TV guide: 28 of the best shows to watch this week

Maeve Binchy: The Magic of the Ordinary, Eurovision Semi-Final, Roisin Murphy’s Big City Plan, Let’s Make a Love Scene, How I Met Your Father, The Lincoln Lawyer

Claire Danes in The Essex Serpent. The six-part historical drama streams from Friday on AppleTV+

Claire Danes in The Essex Serpent. The six-part historical drama streams from Friday on AppleTV+


Eden: Untamed Planet
Sunday, BBC Two, 7.10pm
There can surely be few places on the planet completely untouched by the human race in some way. But there are areas where it’s very difficult to get to and will never appear on a tourist trail. These unspoilt wildernesses are the main focus of this six-part series, which features breath-taking footage captured in unique ecosystems packed with incredible species. The first episode takes us to the rich rainforest of Borneo, where experts are still discovering new plant varieties.

Great Lighthouses of Ireland
Sunday, RTÉ One, 6.30pm

Fastnet Lighthouse off the coast of Co Cork
Fastnet Lighthouse off the coast of Co Cork

Storms, shipwrecks and strange aquatic sightings – everybody loves a good seafaring yarn, and the second series of Great Lighthouses promises more tales from Ireland’s coastal history and stories of the brave men and women who lived and worked on the lighthouses and lightships, routinely enduring harsh conditions to keep the coastal waters safe. This four-part series features the feat of engineering that is the Fastnet Lighthouse, designed by William Douglass and built from 2,000 interlocking granite blocks that can withstand the most ferocious storm. We’ll also learn about the little-known “blind engineer” Alexander Mitchell, inventor of the screw-pile that revolutionised lighthouse-building. And we’ll also hear about the Dingle lighthouse-keeper who first spotted Fungie the dolphin, and the keepers who helped in the rescue efforts during the Fastnet yacht race disaster in 1979.

Commando: Britain’s Ocean Warriors
Sunday, BBC Two, 8pm
In an eye-opening new four-part series, cameras follow the activities of tthe Royal Marines Commandos. It takes viewers on a journey from a recruit’s earliest days as they embark on the longest infantry training in the world, revealing what it takes to make the grade, to their eventual deployment, which could be anywhere in the world, from the Gulf’s smuggling routes to the frozen Arctic wastes. Among those featured is one of only two women wearing the famous green beret today and there’s also a chance to hear from D-Day veterans, who tell their modern-day counterparts what it was like to land on those Normandy beaches during the Second World War.

Maeve Binchy: The Magic of the Ordinary
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Gordon Snell and Audrey on Maeve Binchy: The Magic of the Ordinary
Gordon Snell and Audrey on Maeve Binchy: The Magic of the Ordinary

Ireland’s most successful novelist died 10 years ago. To mark this anniversary, a group of superfans have come together to contribute to this documentary about her life and legacy, including journalists Róisín Ingle, Conor O’Clery and Olivia O’Leary, academics Declan Kiberd and Margaret Kelleher, and authors John Connolly, Sarah Maria Griffin and Caroline O’Donoghue. The programme looks back at Binchy’s work through a contemporary prism, finding that she was a deft chronicler of contemporary society, with a body of work that still speaks to today’s generation. The programme will also take a heartwarming look at her life with husband Gordon Snell, and how their love endures.

The Spy Who Died Twice
Monday, Channel 4, 9pm
In 1974, high-profile British MP John Stonehouse (1925-1988) disappeared from a beach in Miami; it was assumed he had drowned. Press reports hinted at a corrupt business, an affair and rumours of spying for the Soviet bloc. But Stonehouse was subsequently found in Australia, living under the identity of a dead constituent. He was charged with fraud but not with being in the pay of an enemy power. This documentary reveals how in fact Stonehouse colluded with the Czech security service at the height of the cold war, and asks why prime ministers from Wilson to Thatcher seemingly never investigated the allegations that he was a spy.

Fergal Keane: Living with PTSD
Monday, BBC Two, 9pm

Fergal Keane on the 2011 BBC documentary The Story of Ireland
Fergal Keane on the 2011 BBC documentary The Story of Ireland

As a BBC special correspondent, Fergal Keane’s job has taken him from Kigali to Baghdad to Belfast – he’s effectively spent 30 years covering conflict and brutality. The Irishman’s reporting is praised for its humanity and empathy, but away from the camera Keane was suffering from an acute form of post-traumatic stress disorder. He first went public with his diagnosis in 2020, and in this documentary talks openly about living with PTSD. He also speaks to other people d with the disorder and learns more about the latest research into PTSD and its treatment.

The Games
Monday-Friday, ITV, 9pm; Tuesday-Saturday, Virgin One, 9pm
How athletic – and competitive – are Britain’s celebrities? We’re about to find out as 12 of them have agreed to put on their trainers (and swimsuits and cycling helmets) for this new series that sees them competing in a variety of sporting challenges, all in the hopes of topping the show’s medal tables. The vaguely familiar faces are TV presenter Olivia Attwood, model Phoenix “daughter of Scary Spice” Brown, ex-Strictly pro Kevin Clifton, pop star Max George, songwriter Chelcee Grimes, Harry Potter actor Josh Herdman, model Christine McGuinness, newsreader Lucrezia Millarini, musician Wes Nelson, and soap stars Colson Smith, Rebecca Sarker and Ryan Thomas. The games begin with the women’s hurdles, men’s hammer and 400m, and mixed synchronised diving. Holly Willoughby and Freddie Flintoff have the slightly easier job of presenting.

Britain’s Top Takeaways
Monday-Friday, BBC Two, 8pm
From curry to pizzas, Britain loves a takeaway, yet the people who cook up the food rarely get the acclaim given to the nation’s top restaurant chefs. Luckily, Sara Cox and Darren Harriot are putting that right with this new seriesk. A disused factory in the heart of Manchester has been turned into an epic kitchen where the teams behind some highly rated takeaways compete, cooking up their own cuisine to show they are the finest in the country. Future episodes will include a battle of the burgers and a noodle showdown, but it begins with perhaps the best-loved fast food of all: fish and chips. Judging their efforts will be a selection of ordinary families who will score them from the comfort of their own homes, as well as guest panellists the Moss Side Fire Station Boxing Club.

DIY SOS: The Big Build
Tuesday, BBC One, 8pm
Comedian Rhod Gilbert briefly took over for last year’s Children in Need special, but now Nick Knowles is back in charge as DIY SOS returns. He’s heading to Kettering to meet mum-of-four Lindsay, who married her ex-Royal Engineer husband Shaun in December 2019. Together, they planned to extend their home. But just a few months into the project Shaun was diagnosed with cancer and he sadly died in November 2021. Since then, Lindsay and her children have not only had to deal with their grief, but they’ve also faced the challenges of living in an unfinished home. So, the DIY SOS team are springing into action, with a little help from local tradespeople and some of Shaun’s old army buddies, to finish the job.

Tuesday, TG4, 10.30pm

Ewan McGregor in Fargo
Ewan McGregor in Fargo

Set in 2010, the third series of Fargo centers on Emmit (Ewan McGregor) and his younger brother Ray (also McGregor). Emmit, the Parking Lot King of Minnesota, sees himself as an American success story, whereas Ray is more of a cautionary tale. Forever living in his more successful brother’s shadow, Ray is a balding and pot-bellied parole officer with a huge chip on his shoulder about the hand he’s been dealt – and he blames his brother. Their sibling rivalry follows a twisted path that begins with petty theft but soon leads to murder, mobsters and cut-throat competitive bridge.

The Secret Life of Our Pets
Tuesday, Virgin One, 8pm
In this series we reveal the extraordinary secret superpowers of our pets, honed in the wild and brilliantly adapted for life in the pampered heart of the family. With the help of the very latest camera technology, fun packed animal-friendly experiments and a returning cast of some of the world’s most naturally gifted pets, we uncover how their wonderful quirks of evolution have helped them to master the human world. Each episode will see some of our favourite cast members using their powers to learn a new skill and will keep the audience returning to see how far they can develop their talents across the series.

Derry Girls
Tuesday, Channel 4, 9pm
We all knew this sitcom couldn’t last forever – for a start, it would be increasingly difficult for the main cast, who currently range in age from 28 to 35, to keep playing teenagers. However, if writer Lisa McGee did want to carry on after this third and final series, perhaps she could give us a prequel, and this episode might well plant the seeds. It finds Ma Mary (Tara Lynne O’Neill) and Aunt Sarah (Kathy Kiera Clarke) getting ready for their Class of ’77 School Reunion. But will some shocking truths emerge about what really happened at their leavers’ party 20 years ago?

Will Young: Losing My Twin Rupert
Tuesday, Channel 4, 10.05pm
It’s now 20 years since Will Young won the first series of Pop Idol. In this documentary he explores the life of his twin brother Rupert, who sadly died in 2020 after living with alcoholism for two decades. The siblings were close (Will describes Rupert has his best friend) but the singer initially didn’t notice the extent of his twin’s drinking problem. As Will and his parents look back on happier times with Rupert, the film explores the impact of alcoholism on families and the stigma surrounding addiction. Will also learns more about the difficulties in getting long-term treatment on the NHS, the process of rehabilitation and the constant fears of relapse.

Between the Covers
Wednesday, BBC Two, 7.30pm
In the first edition of the new series, Sara Cox is joined by author and host of Pointless, Richard Osman; comedian and Guilty Feminist Deborah Frances-White; actor David Morrissey; and DJ-presenter Vick Hope. They will all be sharing their favourite books as well as reviewing this week’s two book club choices. The first is People Person by Candice Carty-Williams, while the opening selection from the BBC’s Big Jubilee Read, celebrating authors from across the Commonwealth, is The English Patient by Sri Lankan author Michael Ondaatje. The 14 selected books featured in the series will be labelled with Between the Covers stickers in shops, libraries and online so that audiences can join the conversation on social media using #BetweentheCovers.

Madeleine McCann: The Case Against Christian B
Wednesday, Channel 5, 9pm
Former detective-turned-investigative journalist Mark Williams-Thomas carries out the first active British TV investigation into Madeleine McCann “prime suspect” Christian B. He obtains an account from Christian B himself and tests it against verifiable facts. On the ground, in both Portugal and Germany, Williams-Thomas delves into the suspect’s previous offences both as a sex offender and breaking into properties. Using his known addresses, Mark pieces together where Christian B was thought to be living when Madeleine disappeared and discovers what appear to be weaknesses in the German prosecution case.

Inside No 9
Wednesday, BBC Two, 10pm
In the latest episode of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s anthology, Tony Award-winning Britannia actress Sophie Okonedo stars in Nine Lives Kat, a psychological thriller directed by The Savage Eye filmmaker Kieron J Walsh. Okonedo plays hard-as-nails detective inspector, a divorcee and single mum who is determined to crack the case of a missing boy. However, she also has to curb her drinking, juggle her love life and wrestle with her inner demons. And although she doesn’t want help on the case, it turns up anyway.

Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Final 2
Thursday, RTÉ One, 8pm

Brooke Scullion performing on The Late Late Show Eurosong Special in Feburary. Photograph: Andres Poveda
Brooke Scullion performing on The Late Late Show Eurosong Special in Feburary. Photograph: Andres Poveda

My, how times change. Ireland once ruled Eurovision, and we still stand as the country with the most wins. In this century, however, our Eurovision participation has been one humiliation after another, and since the semi-final format was introduced in 2004, we have failed to qualify for the main contest no less than nine times. Will this year be any different? All hopes are pinned on Derry girl Brooke Scullion and her song That’s Rich, to be performed in tonight’s second semi-final live from Turin, Italy. RTÉ heads might be dreaming of the new Dana but, sadly, this dinky-donk electropop tune is so lacking in X factor or wow factor – or even a chorus – it would struggle in a local amateur contest. It’s great that Scullion will get a chance to perform on the world stage, but why is RTÉ sending yet another lamb – or another lovely horse – to the slaughter?

Roisin Murphy’s Big City Plan
Thursday, RTE One, 10.15pm

Roisin Murphy’s Big City Plan
Roisin Murphy’s Big City Plan

You don’t need a telly architect to tell you that Ireland’s cities are fast becoming uninhabitable for humans, as astronomical rents, vulture funds and big hotels smother once-vibrant urban communities. But we might need Roisin Murphy’s vision to find a solution to this seemingly intractable problem. In this documentary, Murphy looks at the stark contrast of dereliction and rampant commercialism that seems to be the hallmark of many Irish cities, as well as at what is really needed to revive our city centres and create sustainable communities with a sense of belonging. She points the finger at neglect, bad planning and a penchant for demolishing the precious heritage and culture of our cities, Murphy also gets out her crystal ball and looks at what’s in store for our urban landscapes if we don’t get to grips with these problems now.

Art That Made Us
Thursday, BBC Two, 9pm

Penry Williams’s Cyfarthfa Ironworks Interior at Night, discussed on Art That Made Us
Penry Williams’s Cyfarthfa Ironworks Interior at Night, discussed on Art That Made Us

The 19th century saw a divide open up between the urban and the rural, forcing artists to respond to the upheaval to lives and the landscape. Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson reflects on the inspiration of JMW Turner, and we encounter Penry Williams’s attempt to capture the beauty of industry with paintings such as Cyfarthfa Ironworks Interior at Night. Plus, actress Maxine Peake reads from Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South, architect Fiona Sinclair assesses Alexander “Greek” Thomson’s architecture for the people of Glasgow, and artist Jeremy Deller explores William Morris’s drive to bring nature back into Victorian homes.

Great Irish Interiors
Friday, RTÉ One, 8pm

Russborough House in Co Wicklow
Russborough House in Co Wicklow

Great Irish Interiors is back with seven exciting properties. Episode one features Russborough House in Wicklow. There is huge public interest and curiosity in what once lay behind the doors, and within the walls, of the coveted Big House. With these projects, the team aims to give people the chance to physically witness the history of the Irish countryside. We follow the team as they endeavour to return the interiors of these buildings to the condition and style they were in at the height of their glory. With the experts often just working from archives, and very little photographic evidence, they have to be creative, but accurate

Let’s Make a Love Scene
Friday, Channel 4, 10pm

Ellie Taylor, host of Let’s Make a Love Scene
Ellie Taylor, host of Let’s Make a Love Scene

In interviews, most Hollywood actors are at pains to tell us how unsexy it is to film steamy scenes, yet many of them end up falling for their costars. So, could there be something about sharing an intimate moment for the cameras that sparks romance off it? Comedian Ellie Taylor hopes so, as she hosts this two-parter in which a single guy or girl re-enacts three famously sexy scenes from the movies with three complete strangers – and then decides which one he or she wants to go on a real-life date with. First up is beauty therapist Starr, who will re-creates scenes from Fifty Shades of Grey, Ghost and The Notebook with cage fighter Alex, chef Ashley, and finance worker Nick. Starr then gets a chance to watch the scenes back to see who she has the most on-screen chemistry with.

Eurovision: Secrets and Scandals
Friday, Channel 5, 8pm
To get us in the mood for Saturday’s, this documentary reminds us that behind the camp costumes and seemingly nonsensical lyrics lies a competition riven with politics, diva behaviour and controversy. Contributions including Cheryl Baker, Andy Abraham and former host Jan Leeming reveal what happens on and offstage, and there’s a look at why the BBC hasn’t always been an enthusiastic supporter of what is now an annual tradition. It also turns out that moaning that the UK failed to win due to other countries conspiring against us isn’t an entirely new phenomenon: the show explores the explore the murky rumours that Cliff Richard was robbed of his 1968 win by General Franco of Spain.

Eurovision Song Contest – Final
Saturday, RTÉ One, 8pm
Is it Eurovision time already? Seems like only a short while ago that Lesley Roy gamely sang and danced her way through the first semi-final but was gutted not to get through, especially after having to wait a year as the 2020 contest was cancelled due to Covid. Will tonight in Turin tell a different story for Ireland? At the time of writing, Derry singer Brooke Scullion was yet to perform her song That’s Rich in the second semi-final. But since Eurovision voters tend to go for either bangers, belters or ballads, andThat’s Rich is none of the above, I’ll take a wild guess that Ireland will sitting it out yet again. 

This predicted absence will hardly be noticed, as all eyes will be on the Ukrainian entry, Kalush Orchestra, with their folk-tinged hip-hop tune Stefania. F frontman Oleh Psiuk says the song is a tribute to his mammy, but since Russia’s invasion (Russia is banned from the contest this year) the song has been adopted by Ukrainians as an anthem – sort of their own Cathleen Ní Houlihan. We can be sure of hearing one Irish voice at Eurovision again this year: Marty Whelan, delivering his usual warm and wise commentary. 


How I Met Your Father
From Wednesday, Disney+

Hilary Duff (centre) in How I Met Your Father
Hilary Duff (centre) in How I Met Your Father

The latest comedy series from Disney+ is a spinoff from noughties hit How I Met Your Mother, but will it be as popular as its predecessor? Reviews are not encouraging, but fans of HIMYM may enjoy spotting the many Easter eggs referring back to the original series scattered about. The characters are different but the gender-swapped premise is the same. Hilary Duff plays young Sophie in 2021 and Kim Catrall is her future self in the year 2050, telling her kids the story through a series of sitcom flashbacks (they probably wish they hadn’t asked). It’s a time-capsule of 2020s social history, filled with gorgeous young tech-savvy people trying to find love amid the social media trolling, dating app swiping and cancel culture.

Our Father
From Wednesday, Netflix
Over the years we’ve grown accustomed to jaw-dropping documentaries from the streaming giant. Our Father doesn’t focus on the sort of misdemeanours we’d usually associated with the genre – ie there are no bizarre deaths – but it’s no less shocking for it. Instead, it focuses on the activities of Donald Cline who, during the 1970s and 1980s, was a hugely respected fertility doctor based in Indianapolis. However, what many of the women he helped conceive didn’t realise is that he was replacing donor sperm with his own – something he did at least 50 times. The programme unfolds like a detective story as one of the children begins piecing together what happened after taking an online DNA test.

The Essex Serpent
From Friday, Apple TV+
Sarah Perry’s excellent 2016 novel presents a different view of the Victorians than your usual Downton or Bridgerton cliches, dealing instead with real lives and real people in an age that was more enlightened than we give it credit for. The book has been made into a six-part series starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston, and though there are a few higher-up types among the cast of characters, there’s nary a Lord-this or a Lady-that in sight. Danes plays young London widow Cora Seaborne, trying to hide her elation at the sudden ending of her unhappy marriage, and decamping to Essex with her son Francis and friend Martha. Here Cora comes across the legend of an ancient serpent lurking in the Blackwater as well local vicar Will Ransome (Hiddleston), with whom she forms an unlikely bond. But when tragedy strikes, Cora finds herself being blamed for resurrecting the evil creature.

The Greatness Code
From Friday, Apple TV+
The sporting documentary series debuted in 2020 with profiles of seven amazing athletes, including LeBron James, Tom Brady, Alex Morgan and Usain Bolt. Its aim was to use a mix of live action and visual effects to offer in-depth insights into key moments in their careers when they could be described as having touched greatness. Now the programme is back for a second run with the focus on footballer and children’s campaigner Marcus Rashford; Super Bowl-winning NFL quarterback Russell Wilson; six-time X Games gold medalist and professional street skateboarder Leticia Bufoni; Paralympic athlete Scout Bassett; Nascar driver Bubba Wallace; and alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn.

The Lincoln Lawyer
From Friday, Netflix

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo in The Lincoln Lawyer
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo in The Lincoln Lawyer

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo has a tough job: stepping into the loafers of Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller, the titular lawyer whose car is his office. This new Netflix series is based on the bestselling Michael Connelly novels while operating under the shadow of McConaughey’s hit film. You know the story: when his former law partner is killed, Haller has to take over the business, and his biggest-ever murder case, all from the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car. Needless to say, there’s more to the case than meets the eye, and soon Haller finds himself in the crosshairs.

Contributing: PA

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