TV guide: 30 of the best shows to watch this week
Stuck in the Rough, Back, It’s a Sin, WandaVision, Star Trek: Lower Decks
The legendary brooch given to Sarah Curran by Robert Emmet at the height of the 1803 Irish Rebellion: Scéalta Grá na hÉireann, Wednesday on TG4
Dancing on Ice
Sunday, Virgin One/ITV, 6pm
The “greatest show on ice” can normally be relied on to bring a bit of sparkle to a grey January and get viewers over the post-Strictly hump. So the 12 celebs, who this year are Rufus Hound, Billie Shepherd, Graham Bell, Colin Jackson, Lady Leshurr, Myleene Klass, Denise van Outen, Joe Warren-Platt, Faye Brookes, Rebekah Vardy, Jason Donovan and Sonny Jay, may be feeling a little extra pressure as the contest gets under way. Tonight, six of them will be taking to the ice for the first time to impress judges Jayne Torvill, Christopher Dean, Ashley Banjo and John Barrowman. Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby are on presenting duties.
Sunday, ITV, 9pm
Keeley Hawes is usually a mark of TV quality, so it’s good sign that she’s in two dramas this week. The Line of Duty and Bodyguard actress is among the cast of It’s a Sin on Friday (see below), and she stars in this new six-part drama. Alice (Hawes) has just moved into a new home with her husband Harry and their daughter, but what should have been a dream turns into a nightmare when Alice finds Harry dead at the bottom of the stairs. In the wake of the tragedy, Alice struggles not just with grief and family (including her parents, played by Nigel Havers and Joanna Lumley), but with navigating her new “smart home”, designed by the late husband she may not have known as well as she thought.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Sunday, ITV, 8pm
2020 wasn’t a bad year for everyone; take Donald Fear, who became the first contestant to scoop the top prize on this show in 14 years. Will Jeremy Clarkson be making any more millionaires as the quiz returns for a new run? We’re about to find out as the first crop of contestants take their place in the hotseat. They have 15 questions, four lifelines and one very big chance to win a life-changing amount of money. (Fear managed to walk away with the million and three lifelines still intact.)
A Perfect Planet
Sunday, BBC1, 8pm
Water is vital for life – and Earth has plenty of it. The potential snag is that most of the water is in the seas and too salty for terrestrial species to use. As the latest episode in the natural history series discovers, just 3 per cent of the world’s H2O is freshwater and most of that is locked up in ice or in underground aquifers. David Attenborough looks at the role of weather in distributing water, and why differing amounts of rainfall around the world have given rise to an incredible diversity of species and habitats.
Cúla4 ar Scoil
Monday-Thursday, TG4, 10am
So, schools are shut until at least February, so that means the kids will be spending the next few weeks in front of the telly watching The Mandalorian and playing Minecraft. Wrongo! Just in time for the resumption of home-schooling, TG4 begins a new series of Cúla4 ar Scoil just to make sure the kids don’t completely turn into couch potatoes during this third lockdown. The half-hour programmes are aimed primarily at primary school children attending Gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools, but of course any kids with a grounding in Gaeilge can watch and learn too. The show is presented by teacher Orla Ní Fhinneadha, with help from a team of teaching colleagues and contributions from a wide range of educators and experts. And it won’t be all maths, Irish, history and geography: the programmes will also focus on creativity, the arts, science, oral traditions and wellness.
RTÉ Investigates: Stuck in the Rough
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
A recent count by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive found that about 139 people were sleeping rough on the capital’s streets in December, most of them Irish males aged between 25 and 44. The count was made over seven days due to Covid-19 restrictions, and so is not comparable with a one-day count of 92 this time last year, but it seems certain that the numbers sleeping rough on Dublin’s streets has increased. This RTÉ Investigates special looks at what life is really like for people who have to bed down in a doorway or in emergency accommodation, and the huge challenges they face in trying to get off the streets. As you sit warm and cosy in your toasty home, this will give you a shiver of reality.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK
Monday, BBC1, 11.15pm
The second series is here, as a new handpicked clutch of 12 fabulous drag queens whirl into the Werk Room for the first time. The dozen contenders are Lawrence Chaney, Cherry Valentine, Bimini Bon Boulash, Ginny Lemon, Joe Black, Tia Kofi, Veronica Green, Sister Sister, Tayce, Ellie Diamond, Asttina Mandella and A’Whora, all of whom pose for a photoshoot with Mamma Ru before preparing two costumes for the runway. Who will have the best looks, sharpest wits, impressive sewing skills, most creative glue-gun action, best death-drop potential, strongest nerves and astounding lip sync assassin capabilities? Actress and model Elizabeth Hurley is the first guest judge, joining Michelle Visage and Graham Norton on the panel.
Long Lost Family
Monday, ITV, 9pm
The Bafta-winning reunion show is back for a 10th series, as presenters Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell reunite more family members with their loved ones. Phyllis and Kevin Haran contacted Long Lost Family after more than 40 years searching for their first-born son. The couple fell in love as teenagers in Ireland in the 1970s and, a couple of months into their relationship, Phyllis became pregnant. Aware of the scandal this would cause within their Catholic community, they hatched a plan to run away to England to bring up their baby. Eventually in London, homeless, jobless and desperate to put their baby’s interests first, they agreed through an agency to place their son in the care of a family, with the possibility of adoption if they couldn’t find their feet.
Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema: Pop Music Movies
Monday, BBC4, 9pm
Kermode combines his twin passions – music and film – as he looks at the success, or otherwise, of pop movies. There’s the classic pop star vehicle, where the biggest acts play a version of themselves, in exuberant films that promote their brand. Then there are pop biopics, dramatised accounts of the stars’ lives that dazzle us with musical set pieces while playing on our fascination with the darker side of fame. Kermode also sees what happens when actors play musicians, and when musicians take on acting roles, and he celebrates some of the true cinematic oddities that have emerged.
Tuesday-Friday, BBC2, 8pm
It takes a special kind of dedication to be outdoors on these January lockdown nights. And they do not come more professional and enthusiastic than the Winterwatch team, who are back to sit around a roaring fire in big padded jackets and talk passionately about the magic of nature. Chris Packham will be in the New Forest with his stepdaughter Megan McCubbin. Iolo Williams is at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, hoping to see some amazing murmurations. Gillian Burke is at The Beaver Project in Cornwall, where she was based for Springwatch. And young naturalist Indy Green will take us deep into Sherwood Forest on the hunt for one of our most elusive birds of prey: the goshawk. During these cold evenings, there’s a lot to be said for television that simply makes us feel warm.
Outbreak: The Virus That Shook the World
Tuesday, ITV, 9pm
Although it is still not known exactly where the coronavirus outbreak started, many early cases were attributed to people who had visited the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Last February 11th, the World Health Organization named the disease Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease 2019. Soon the pandemic spread across the world, infecting and killing millions of people. This documentary explores the spread of Covid across four continents during 2020. Medical professionals look back at the initial outbreak in China, with suggestions that the authorities attempted to cover up the danger. There are also examinations of the decisions taken by governments and public health officials around the world that helped shape the course of the infection.
Silenced: The Hidden Story of Disabled Britain
Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm
Prepare to be shocked, horrified and moved by this documentary from writer, actor and CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell. Born without the lower part of her right arm, Bernell was stunned to discover that some parents thought her appearance would scare her core audience of youngsters. Now she’s investigating where such attitudes come from, and why they persist today. It’s a journey that takes her back in time to the Victorian era, a period in which the disabled were often workhouse residents living under terrible conditions. But on a more positive note, Bernell hears the stories of pioneers who helped create change before finding out which battles still need to be won.
Finné: Liam Ó Maolaodha
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
Liam Ó Maolaodha is the director of Oireachtas na Gaeilge since 1996. A Clondalkin native, he attended Coláiste Chrónáin as a teen and first met Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí, his new Irish teacher. Ó Lubhlaí was highly regarded in the Irish-speaking community across the country and in 2013 allegations of sexual assault came to light about Ó Lubhlaí spanning over decades and involving many young boys. Ó Maolaodha tells of his experience in this documentary.
Scéalta Grá na hÉireann: Robert Emmet & Sarah Curran
Wednesay, TG4, 8.30pm
The doomed love affair between the Irish patriot Robert Emmet and Sarah Curran took place during the Irish rebellion of 1803. Emmet’s fight for a free Ireland brought destruction to himself and to his beloved. He gifted Curran a delicate brooch in the shape of a harp, a lasting symbol of his love for Ireland and his sweetheart. The brooch can be seen today in the Cork Public Museum.
Targeted: The Truth about Disability Hate Crime
Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm
Richard Butchins contracted polio as a child, which left one of his arms paralysed. He has since become an acclaimed, award-winning documentary-maker, often using his own experience as a disabled person as the grounding for his work. He does that again here in a moving and horrifying programme that shines a light on some of the abuse and aggression faced by disabled people in everyday life. The stories range from verbal to violent physical attacks whose impact have lasted far longer than the seconds or minutes the events actually took to take place.
Wednesday, ITV, 9pm
Following the success of The Bay’s first run in early 2019, it was immediately recommissioned, with filming once again taking place in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. It was expected to broadcast in 20202 until Covid struck. Morven Christie returns as DS Lisa Armstrong, who’d been suspended from the force. She’s now back on the job but relegated to tackling menial tasks. However, she gets a chance to prove her worth following a shocking murder. Stephen Tompkinson, Sharon Small, Sunetra Sarker, James Cosmo and Joe Absolom costar.
The Truth About Improving Your Mental Health
Wednesday, BBC1, 9pm
Alex Scott joins clinical psychologist Tanya Byron to explore how science helps us deal with some of the most common mental health issues. The England footballer-turned-pundit has suffered from depression brought on by social media trolls, but speaks to Dr Lee Smith from Anglia Ruskin University to find out if there is a way of using such platforms to our benefit. She also learns a new technique that helps control anxiety, while Byron hears about social prescribing, which is helping those suffering feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm
Back’s back, and for a while there fans of the latest Mitchell and Webb sitcom wondered if Back would ever be back. First off, production on series two was delayed when Robert Webb had to take a long hiatus due to a heart problem, and then there was a certain pandemic to contend with. But the good news is that Webb is back to health and back as smarmy Andrew, the estranged foster brother of Stephen (David Mitchell), whose sudden return has upended Stephen’s plans to take over his deceased dad’s pub. But is Andrew who he says he is, or is he a scheming imposter?
Stephen’s obsession with exposing Andrew has driven him into a mental health institution; in series two he has been deemed fit to re-enter the community, and sets out to mend fences with Andrew. But of course he’s only pretending, and secretly plans to redouble his attempts to expose Andrew as a fraud. But when a rival pub opens across the road from the John Barleycorn and the owners are looking for a hotshot new manager, the scene is set for an escalation in hostilities. By the way, did I mention that Back is side-splittingly funny?
Inside Culture With Mary Beard
Thursday, BBC Two, 7pm
It’s the day after Joe Biden’s inauguration, and hopefully the transition has gone without disruption by the outgoing autocrat and his deluded supporters. What’s this got to do with Mary Beard’s arts and culture show, which starts its new series today, you ask? In the first episode, Beard looks at the tricky issue of succession through the ages, from Roman emperors to British prime ministers to popes, and examines what goes on behind the scenes when power is transferred from one leader to the next. She talks with Armando Iannucci, creator of political satires Veep and The Thick of It, and debates the culture wars that have raged in the US since Donald Trump rose to power.
Laochra Gael: Thérèse Maher
Thursday, TG4, 9.30pm
Laochra Gael continues with the story of Thérèse Maher, the Queen. The eighth of 11 children from a famous hurling family, Thérèse stood out from the beginning. She made her Galway debut at just 16, and it seemed that she was destined for success. But the win on the big day eluded her and Thérèse lost five All Ireland Finals. On top of this, she lost both her mother and her father during this time. And so, there was widespread jubilation when, on All Ireland Day in 2013, in her last ever game, Thérèse Maher fulfilled her destiny.
The Chasers Road Trip: Trains, Brains and Automobiles
Thursday, ITV, 9pm
We’ve seen many famous faces head out onto the road in recent years – Bradley Walsh and his son Barney can currently be seen touring Europe in the latest run of Breaking Dad, while Gordon Ramsay, Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix entertained us with their latest trip at Christmas. Now Chasers Anne Hegarty, Mark Labbett and Shaun Wallace get in on the act, although their adventure is a little different. They’re embarking on an international exploration, during which they pit their wits against child geniuses, great apes and robots.
It’s a Sin
Friday, Channel 4, 9pm
As the writer who brought us Queer as Folk, the revived Doctor Who, A Very English Scandal and 2019’s Years and Years, Russell T Davies has one of the best track records in TV. So, expectations are high for his new drama series, which sees him tackling the Aids crisis of the 1980s through the eyes of five friends. It begins in 1981, as 18-year-old Ritchie Tozer (Olly Alexander of Years & Years – the band rather than the aforementioned series) leaves the Isle of Wight to go to university. He makes four new friends: Roscoe (Omari Douglas), Colin (Callum Scott Howells), Ash (Nathaniel Curtis) and Jill (Lydia West), and together they move into a flat where they can start to discover who they really are. But a threat looms on the horizon.
Susan Calman’s Grand Day Out in Yorkshire
Friday, Channel 5, 8pm
Channel 5 loves Susan Calman and it loves programmes about Yorkshire, so it seemed inevitable that the comedian would one day take a trip there. Her 126-mile journey begins at the North Yorkshire village of Runswick Bay, where she goes hunting for a rare gemstone called Whitby Jet. Speaking of Whitby, Calman’s going there for some fish and chips and a stroll round the Gothic ruins of the abbey. From there she heads to the oldest tourist attraction in England (Mother Shipton’s Cave) before meeting a group who reconstruct Roman gladiatorial battles in York.
Neil Diamond at the BBC
Friday, BBC4, 9pm
Neil Diamond has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and is famed for such pop classics as Sweet Caroline, Cracklin’ Rosie, I’m a Believer and, with Barbra Streisand, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. This programme features some of the iconic American singer-songwriter’s performances at the BBC. Neil Diamond at Glastonbury 2008, which features the songsmith’s set on the Pyramid Stage at Worthy Farm, follows at 10pm, with the Neil Diamond: Electric Prom from 2010 at 10.30pm, and Sings Neil Diamond, an archive collection of performances from artists covering his tracks, at 11.35pm.
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
Beginning with a double bill and based on a true story, this six-part Danish/Swedish drama follows Copenhagen chief of homicide Jens Moller (Søren Malling), who discovers that a homemade submarine has gone missing with a Swedish journalist and the vessel’s designer on board. Reports initially suggest that they may be in the harbour, but this proves not to be the case as the submarine is rescued with only the designer on board. The police launch a search for the reporter, but Moller becomes convinced he is dealing with a murder case, despite the initial lack of a body.
Streaming now, Disney+
Marvel’s first series created exclusively for Disney+ is an unusual project mixing tropes from classic TV series with events akin to those featured in the MCU. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles as Wanda Maximoff and Vision, super-powered beings now living idealised suburban lives. However, they begin to suspect that not everything is quite as it seems... Captain Marvel’s Teyonah Parris, Thor’s Kat Dennings and Randall Park from Ant-Man and The Wasp also star; intriguingly, there are also songs to listen out for from Oscar-winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, best known for their work on Frozen.
Fate: The Winx Saga
From Friday, Netflix
A group of magical youngsters attend a special school where they learn to wield their awesome powers. Now, where have we seen that before? Sorry, can’t recall – my mind is a bit muggled right now. The Winx Saga concerns a handful of freshman fairies who have enrolled in Alfea, the Underworld’s top boarding school; sounds like Harry Potter meets Artemis Fowl with a pinch of Charmed. Of course, it’s not all learning hexes and how to extract teeth from under kids’ pillows. There are also scary monsters and deadly enemies to contend with on the road to fairy fulfillment. Abigail Cowen plays Bloom, who “has the potential to become one of the most powerful fairies the world has ever known” – and the world has known a few. But these sprites don’t have gossamer wings and leafy dresses; they look and act like normal hormonal teenagers, so expect lots of snogs to go with the spells. The series is filmed in Wicklow, where Vikings was made, so soon we’ll be claiming Bloom and her chums Stella, Musa, Aisha and Terra as our very own.
From Friday, Netflix
In 2008 Aravind Adiga won the Booker Prize for White Tiger, his debut novel. It focuses on the life of Balram Halwai, who rises to success from humble beginnings in modern-day India. Balram is cunning and ambitious, so realises early on that he can use his position as a driver for two locals who’ve recently returned from America to his advantage. He makes himself indispensable, but finds out the hard way that loyalty counts for nothing. On the verge of losing everything, Balram must reinvent himself if he’s to become the wealthy entrepreneur he believes is his destiny. Darkly humorous, the film features a charming central performance from Adarsh Gourav as Balram.
From Friday, Apple TV+
Apple’s latest major drama is a gripping eight-part tale from Israel. Ayelet Zurer heads the cast as 48-year-old movie director Alice, who feels pointless and aimless after raising her family. While at a low ebb and during a train journey, she encounters Sophie (Lihi Kornowski), a femme fatale and screenwriter half her age, and develops an obsession with her. Eventually, Alice foregoes her moral integrity to achieve power, relevance and success. It’s a sort of a female musing on Faust, exploring such issues as jealousy, guilt and the fear of ageing, as well as the complex relationships women have with each other. It’s a potential classic.
Star Trek: Lower Decks
From Friday, Amazon Prime
Ever wonder what it would be like to work as a lowly crew member on a Starfleet starship? No, me neither. Let’s face it: we all wanna be captain. But somebody’s got to do the dirty work of cleaning the dilithium crystals and oiling the warp drive, or becoming cannon-fodder when the Klingons attack. This new animated series brings us deep into the bowels of the USS Cerritos, one of Starfleet’s no-mark starships, where ensigns Mariner, Boimier, Rutherford and Tendi have to do the grunt work while their superiors are busy going boldly where no one has gone before. The series features the voices of Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid, but listen out for guest appearances from various past Star Trek stars. I think we may have reached the final frontier of Trekkie spin-offs.