TV guide: 29 of the best shows to watch this week
Us, First Love, Great British Bake Off, Cogadh ar Mhná, London Zoo, Enola Holmes
Fiach (Eoin O’Dubhghaill), Dee (Máirín De Buitléir) and Mack (Pól Ó Griofa) in Ros na Rún. New episodes start Tuesday on TG4.
What Planet Are You On?
Sunday, RTÉ One, 6.30pm
TV shows have to come up with ever more outrageous challenges to keep viewers tuned in. Make a blockbuster movie using your iPhone. Build your own bathysphere to descend into the Marianas Trench. Well, how’s this for an apocalyptic challenge: save the Earth from total environmental destruction. By teatime. Thankfully, What Planet Are You On? isn’t expecting miracles, just for families to pour all their combined resources into reducing their carbon footprint and helping make the world a little less of a landfill.
Four families have signed up for the second series, but have they signed away their privacy and dignity too? Cameras, sensors and other surveillance doohickeys will be installed in each family’s home, and the programme’s “data experts” will pry into their every activity, from the ingredients they use in their meals to how many times they flush the toilet. Whichever family is best at reducing, reusing and recycling will bag a €5,000 prize (which they can use to immediately jet off on a non-carbon-neutral holiday). Who will become Ireland’s most sustainable family? Will it be the McNamaras from Co Limerick, the Yeboahs from Kinsealy, Co Dublin, the Mulvihills from Co Longford, or the Reilly O’Neills, also from Co Longford? Whoever comes out on top, the real winner will be Mother Earth.
Maia Dunphy presents the series from a studio in the old Bord Na Móna briquette factory in Litleton, Co Tipperary, now a recycling centre, and where the company is working hard to restore the boglands to their prehistoric glory.
Sunday, BBC1, 9pm
So, you’ve got the family holiday booked. All the stuff is packed and ready when your wife drops a bombshell: she wants to end the marriage. Sheesh, couldn’t she have said something before all the money was shelled out on flights and hotels? So inconsiderate. But wait! Why not go ahead with the holiday anyway, since it’s paid for, and then split up afterwards? With any luck, she’ll come to her senses and realise what a great and totally understanding guy you really are. This series is based on the novel by English author David Nichols, and adapted for TV by same. Tom Hollander plays soon-to-be-dumped husband Douglas, with Saskia Reeves as his soon-to-leave wife Connie. When Douglas agrees to go ahead with their family trip to Europe, he hatches a plan: win back his wife and fix his troubled relationship with their son (Tom Taylor). Sounds like there won’t be much time for sightseeing.
Monday, Virgin Media One, 10pm
You know what they say: Don’t dwell on the past. What’s done is done. Let it go. Well, here’s a show that aims to bring the past back to life – and maybe even rekindle some passion from long ago. The idea is like First Dates, except that the guests are paired with someone they knew or might have dated a long time ago, but just can’t seem to forget. The programme-makers promise to find the one that got away and give you a second chance to hold onto them. So, no need to stalk your first girlfriend on Facebook, or track down that guy you fancied at the roller disco circa 1980. Don’t forget to wear your rose-tinted glasses.
Claire Byrne Live
Monday,RTÉ One, 10.35pm
It’s going to be a busy autumn for Claire Byrne: she begins a new season of her current affairs TV show just weeks after taking over the mid-morning slot on Radio One vacated by Sean O’Rourke and stewarded by Sarah McInerney over the summer. The new series will still be without a studio audience, but we are promised a crowded schedule of topics, as Byrne and her guests tackle newsworthy events from the Covid-19 pandemic to Brexit to the US presidential elections.
“Our main aim with Claire Byrne Live is to touch the zeitgeist, and that’s always what we strive to do, in particular when we hit Covid last season,” said Byrne at the launch of RTÉ’s autumn schedule. “The mainstay of our programme is our audience – and we lost our audience. We had very many challenges to deal with last season but I think we dealt with them quite well. I hope we did.
“Again, we will be aiming to talk about what people are talking about, doing it in a way that is accessible and making sure we are answering all of the questions that I’m sure people have as we go into the new phase of dealing with Covid-19 in particular,”
Rásaí Lios Tuathail
Monday, TG4, 3pm
Live coverage of the 162nd Listowel annual Harvest Racing Festival as it goes ahead behind closed doors this year. The main race of the day is the Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue Hurdle at 3.40pm. The programme will be presented by Seán Bán Breathnach and Mánus Ó Conghaile, with commentary from Mícheál Ó Sé.
Monday, BBC2, 8pm
Victoria Coren Mitchell returns with TV’s toughest quiz as a trio of Boston United fans known as the Pilgrims take on the Corkscrews, a team of wine lovers. Even picking the question poses a challenge, as the contestants have to choose from six Egyptian hieroglyphs before engaging in lateral thinking in order to find the links between a series of seemingly random words or phrases. As usual, there is no prize money on offer – the only motivation the teams need is the pride of being crowned Only Connect champions.
The Secret History of Writing
Monday, BBC4, 9pm
We take it for granted, but every time we pick up a pen we are employing the most powerful technology ever invented. Writing began about 5,000 years ago, making civilisation itself possible, and every innovation of the modern world is based on the foundation of the written word. But how and where did writing begin, and who began it? In the first of three films about the history of writing, we uncover the hidden links between all the diverse systems in use today and trace the origin of our own alphabet to a turquoise mine in the Sinai Desert and a man riding a donkey whose name was Khebded.
Rose West & Myra Hindley: Their Untold Story with Trevor McDonald
Monday, ITV, 9pm
They are widely regarded as the worst female serial killers Britain has seen. Moors murderer Myra Hindley killed five children in the 1960s alongside her lover, Ian Brady; Rose West was found guilty of 10 horrific murders alongside her husband, Fred West. But what people don’t know is the story of what happened after they were jailed. On conviction, West was sent to HMP Durham, where Hindley also resided alongside IRA terrorists, sex offenders and arsonists. There, the women formed a close friendship that developed into an affair. Category A prisoners, including reformed Mafia member Marisa Merico and ex-gangster Linda Calvey, tell Sir Trevor McDonald how West revealed her murderous temper in prison, while former prison governor Veronica Bird describes how Hindley persuaded a female guard to help her escape.
The Great British Bake Off
Tuesday, Channel 4, 8pm
It’s back! Hurrah! There was a period, not so very long ago, when fans thought there would be no 2020 series, but where there’s a will, there’s always a way. The run has been filmed at a secret Essex location, with the cast and crew (along with 20 hotel staff members and assorted children) all housed in a self-contained biosphere so that they could disregard social distancing guidelines on camera. That also, of course, means that should someone deserve it, they will receive a famed Paul Hollywood handshake rather than an elbow rub – or, even worse, a thumbs-up. Prue Leith also returns as a judge, with presenter Noel Fielding joined by new cohost Matt Lucas. The bakers’ first tasks are a Battenburg with a twist, a fruit sponge technical and, in the showstopper, something that pays tribute to their heroes.
Ros na Rún
Tuesday/Thursday, TG4, 8.30pm
Another welcome return. Andy, now a free man, returns to Ros na Rún and causes upset. Frances, worried that he has come back for revenge, seeks safety from Tadhg. Will Malachaí approve of this, and if not, what will he do about it? Fiach plans on proving to Mack that Dee did indeed gaslight Katy. Will Fiach succeed, or is Dee too clever to fall for his ruse? Colm’s eagerness to help O’Shea investigate the Ionad Pobail credit card soon wanes when he discovers the stolen credit card is in his bag. Will Colm tell O’Shea he found the card?
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm
Scannal looks back to June 2001, when schoolgirls attending Holy Cross Primary School in north Belfast were targeted during vicious Loyalist picketing, stone throwing and verbal abuse in scenes that made headlines around the world. Few will forget the distressed faces of the children (some as young as four) as they huddled behind their parents to avoid being hit by stones, bottles and urine-filled balloons. It was one of the most shocking episodes of the Troubles – and happened three years after the Belfast Agreement. What began as kneejerk protest in June was not resolved over the summer marching season. So on the first day of term in September 2001, loyalist Protesters turned out in force. RUC in full riot gear tried to protect the schoolchildren and allow them to walk the Ardoyne road to their school. A pipe bomb was thrown, one police officer was injured and the children were terrified. Loyalists claimed Republicans were using the school as cover and were spying on their area.
9-1-1: Lone Star
Tuesday, Sky Witness & Now TV, 10pm
Earlier this year, the internet was a-buzz with news of the death of actor Liv Tyler at the age of 43. It turned out to be an online hoax, but just in case you’re still not sure if she’s alive and well, the daughter of rock star Stephen Tyler stars alongside Rob Lowe in this new spin-off series from the creators of 9-1-1. Tyler plays a captain of a paramedic response unit in this procedural drama set in Austin, Texas. Lowe plays a veteran New York firefighter who was a first responder at the 9/11 terror attacks, and now has a diagnosis of lung cancer as a lasting reminder of the event. He is sent to Austin to help a local firehouse to rebuild following a tragedy.
Just One Night
Tuesday, BBC1, 11.15pm
This is one of those Marmite shows: the kind that viewers either love or hate. No matter which camp you fall into, chances are you’ll be screaming at the screen at some point. Each episode sees two people come together for, natch, just one night. They go out on a date and then have to decide if they will see each other again or go their separate ways. It sounds simple enough, but the results are often extraordinary. The first two episodes are being shown back-to-back, and it should be noted that filming took place pre-lockdown.
Danny Dyer on Harold Pinter
Tuesday, Sky Arts, 9pm
As he prepared to tread the boards in Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter in 2019, EastEnders actor Dyer worked on this documentary about the legendary British playwright with whom he had a close friendship. Taken under his wing following roles in films like 1997’s Human Traffic, Pinter cast Dyer in several of his plays. Now, 12 years after Pinter’s death, Dyer takes a look back at his mentor’s work and the profound influence he had on his life. Dyer also learns about repertory theatre, the meaning of the famous Pinter Pause – and of forgiveness, apologising to Keith Allen for the time when, after bingeing on drugs, he forgot his lines on Broadway.
Cogadh ar Mhná
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
For years, the Irish Revolution has been seen as exceptional in that acts of sexual violence weren’t seen as part of it, even though they happen in the course of virtually all wars. But was Ireland really so special? Was the nature of war here so very different from war everywhere else? This documentary argues that the answer is no by presenting for the first time the witness testimony of some of the women who were victims of it, in their own words. It shows that sexual violence was perpetrated by all sides and highlights the repeated silencing of women and their stories in Irish history.
Celebrity Karaoke Club
Wednesay, ITV2, 10pm
This new series sees seven famous faces unleash their vocals as they head into a karaoke bar. The voice may be less Mariah Carey than Mariah Scarey, but in this competition it’s all about the love of karaoke and commanding a stage. But there’s a twist: the people they have to impress are their fellow competitors. So every singer is also a judge. The celebrities heading into Karaoke Club tonight are are Scarlett Moffatt, Courtney Act, Jess Wright, Melvin Odoom, Tallia Storm, Luke Kempner and David Potts. (Sorry, me neither.)
Grayson Perry’s Big American Roadtrip
Wednesday, Channel 4, 10pm
The flamboyant artist’s documentaries have always been entertaining, thought-provoking and informative, and during lockdown he won more fans with his Art Club series, in which he, wife Philippa, cat Kevin and their famous friends encouraged us all to get creative. Perry’s new serie was filmed when virtually nobody had even heard of coronavirus. It was also made before the shootings and riots that have dogged the US in recent months, but helps shed light on some of the reasons for them. Travelling across America on a custom-built bike he designed himself, Perry begins in the south, journeying from Atlanta to Washington DC, during which he contemplates race.
Hyundai Mercury Prize 2020: Album of the Year
Wedneday, BBC4, 10pm
Lauren Laverne narrates this special programme celebrating the 12 albums that make up the shortlist for the much-coveted prize. Two highly respected heavyweights of contemporary songwriting are likely to be frontrunners with the bookies: folk singer Laura Marling, who has now been nominated four times; and soul artist Michael Kiwanuka who has three nods. The other nominees are Kano, Charli XCX, Stormzy, Moses Boyd, Dua Lipa, Georgia, Anna Meredith, Lanterns on the Lake, Sports Team and Porridge Radio.
Inside Culture with Mary Beard
Thursday, BBC2, 7.30pm
The revered classicist and scholar returns with a five-part series delving into the cultural world. Beard begins by taking a trip to Stonehenge, a place she has been passionate about since childhood. She takes a turn about the world-famous mysterious stone circle, where she catches up with various figures, including Turner Prize-winning conceptual and video artist Jeremy Deller. She also reveals which areas of the arts and culture have done well during the pandemic, and which have suffered.
Seal le Dáithí
Thursday, TG4, 7.30pm
Uilleann piper Seán Potts is Dáithí Ó Sé’s guest this week. Son of founding member of The Chieftains Seán Potts, Seán was formerly an editor for the Irish Independent. He is the author of two bestselling GAA biographies of Páidí Ó Sé and Dessie Farrell, and spent 10 years as communications chief for the Gaelic Players Association. Potts is also co-owner of Piper’s Corner in Dublin, which promotes the Irish language, Irish music and Gaelic Games.
The Grand Party Hotel
Thursday, BBC1, 8pm
Like other big hotels, the Shankly in Liverpool caters for an array of guests, but what makes it unique is its party rooms on the top floor. Dedicated to large groups of fun-loving friends, the individually themed communal rooms sleep up to 24 in multiple beds. There are also pink flamingos upside down on the ceiling, monkeys with champagne trays in the bathrooms, and communal jacuzzis, Roman baths and dance floors. But, as we see in this new documentary series, managing these big groups isn’t easy. Tonight we meet Laura, who arrives to celebrate her recent divorce; and Debbie, proud grandmother-to-be who is organising a special baby shower for her daughter. There’s also Liverpool brides-to-be Trudie and Danielle, who are receiving help from the hotel’s wedding planner.
London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year
Thursday, ITV, 9pm
It’s 192 years since London Zoo, located in Regent’s Park, first opened its doors to the public. Many extraordinary things have happened in the intervening decades, but few years have been as unusual as 2020, during which it was forced to close its doors for the first time since the Blitz. This documentary follows the staff as they to keep the animals – and themselves – happy and healthy for three months of lockdown.
Friday, TG4, 7.30pm
Here's the story of former boxer and Dublin garda Jim “Lugs” Branigan (1910-1986). A son of the Liberties, Lugs joined An Garda Síochána and was posted to his native patch. He took no nonsense from gangs, and dealt forthrightly with organised crime. But he also championed young boys who ended up in court and pleaded for clemency and understanding. This is Brannigan’s story, lugs and all, a legend in his lifetime but not without his detractors, then and now. This portrait offers a timely reassessment and tries to separate the facts from the myth.
Later – with Jools Holland: Mercury Prize 2020
Friday, BBC2, 10pm
Jools Holland is back for a new run of his music series, which, for the most part, will be sticking to the lockdown format from earlier this year. So while we won’t get an eclectic line-up of bands and solo artists performing live, guests will join Jools in his South London recording studio to talk about their own musical journey, sharing their influences and picking some classic clips from the Later archives. We start with a special episode featuring the winner of the 2020 Mercury Prize, though we won’t know who that it is until Thursday. (The UK bookies’ favourite is Michael Kiwanuka, followed by Stormzy.)
Friday, BBC1, 9pm
It became one of the surprise TV hits of 2019, and now we return to Button Hall for a second series of the spirited sitcom. At the end of the first run, Alison and Mike received a substantial offer from a luxury hotel chain and excitedly agreed to sell the property. But the offer was withdrawn upon the discovery of a plague pit in the basement. What’s next for the couple and their dead housemates Lady Fanny Button, Thomas Thorne, Julian Fawcett MP, Kitty, Robin the Caveman, The Captain, Mary and Pat? Without the cash to continue the extensive building work and the hotel still a distant dream, Alison and Mike decide to try to rent the place out for events. But after a paranormal photo of the house goes viral overnight, they spot an opportunity to bring funds in: they’ll use the ghosts’ “talents” to create an authentic haunted-house experience.
A Love Song for Latasha
From Monday, Netflix
On March 16th, 1991, Latasha Harlins (15) was fatally shot in the back of the head by a convenience store owner. A jail term of 16 years was recommended, but the judge opted to give the killer a sentence of time served, 400 hours of community service, $500 restitution and funeral expenses; it’s believed the news of this light sentence was one of the catalysts for the 1992 LA riots. Here, director Sophia Nahli Allison moves away from the controversial nature of Natasha’s death to tell the story of a promising life lost in tragic circumstances. The documentary hears from the teenager’s best friend and cousin, who reveal how deep an impact someone can have on other lives, no matter how long or short they live.
From Wednesday, Netflix
Did you know that Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes had a younger sister? You’re about to meet her in this knockabout Victorian adventure. Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown plays Enola who, on the morning of her 16th birthday, discovers her mother has vanished, leaving behind various gifts but no clues to whereabouts. Before her brothers can pack her off to a finishing school, Enola heads off into the big, wide world alone, becoming a super-sleuth in her own right while unravelling a conspiracy. Helena Bonham Carter, Sam Claflin and Henry Cavill play the other members of the famous family.
From Friday, Amazon Prime
We disdain those who subscribe to conspiracy theories, but when it comes to telly viewing, we all flock like sheep to watch the most outrageously implausible conspiracy thriller the human imagination can conjure up. Utopia is catnip for conspiracy buffs, and it revolves around a group of youngsters who bond over their shared obsession with a comic book called Utopia. It’s supposedly fictional, but when some of the apocalyptic events detailed in its inked panels start happening in real life (including, naturally, a global pandemic that starts off as a harmless “flu”) the fans begin to suspect there’s a bigger, more sinister picture hidden within the comic’s pages. John Cusack and Rainn Wilson star.
From Friday, All4
The streaming service’s first-ever Russian series focuses on Nika who, two years ago, was an ordinary teenager. She argued with her parents, suffered from heartbreak and hoped one day to find her place in the world. Now she thinks she has – by becoming part of a cult. But Nika is about to be ripped from the world she’s come to know and love by the Deprogrammers, a group specialising in reintegrating cult members back into society. Their methods can, however, be brutal, as she’s about to find out. Meanwhile, the cult’s leader declares war on the Deprogrammers. Both sides will stop at nothing to claim Nika, leaving ber to wonder who the real brainwashers are. Svetlana Khodchenkova, who appeared in The Wolverine, stars.