TV guide: 30 of the best shows to watch this week, beginning tonight

Paddy’s Day from a safe distance, Top Gear, A Tribute to Luke Kelly, Gardeners’ World

St Patrick's Festival TV 2021
Sun-Wed, Oireachtas TV,
If only St Patrick could come back – he could drive those pesky coronavirus bugs out of Ireland. The St Patrick's Festival is going virtual for the second year in a row, only now the organisers have had a bit of advance warning. So, rather than cobble together a few bits and bobs online, they've planned out a programme of fully formed happenings for a special Paddy's Day celebration at home. (You supply the green beer.) The theme is Dúisigh Eire! Awaken Ireland!, so get up, get the telly on and get celebrating our national holiday in your own safe bubble.

Highlights include Tumble Circus present The MacCarnyson (Wednesday, 10.30am), promising big laughs and big hammers; Teen Spirit with Bressie (Sunday, 1.45pm/Tuesday, 3.25pm), in which the singer gives his teenage self some good mental health advice; Seoda: Celtic Connections (Tuesday, 8pm) , featuring musicians from Ireland, Scotland and Wales; Celebrating Pat Ingoldsby (Sunday, 11.47am/Monday, 12.26pm/Tuesday, 1.35pm & 9.55pm), in which three talented illustrators and animators interpret works by the beloved children’s poet; and Pillow Queens, Gemma Dunleavy and Adam Mohamad live at the Guinness Storehouse (Tuesday, 10.30pm).

The whole shebang will be rounded off by Barróg Lá Féile Pádraig aka The Big Patrick’s Day Hug, a special trad night filmed at Whelan’s in Dublin and featuring Lisa O’Neill, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Caoimhe Ní Fhlatharta and Cormac Begley among others.

Comhluadar Ceoil
Sunday, TG4, 8.30pm
Dáithí Ó Sé meets with some of Ireland's musical bands and families. in a new series with plenty of chat and, of course, top class music. In this episode, Ó Sé meets with The O'Connor Family: Gerry, Dónal, Siúbhán and Finnian.


Sunday, ITV, 8pm

The two-part drama is based on bestselling novels by Peter James and adapted by Russell Lewis, creator of Endeavour. The first film, Dead Simple, sees Brighton-based DSI Roy Grace (John Simm) occupied with cold cases but haunted by thoughts of his wife Sandy, who has disappeared. His unorthodox methods have raised eyebrows among the powers-that-be, but his colleague, DS Branson, thinks Grace’s sharp mind might prove useful in finding out what has happened to a groom-to-be who vanished while on his stag night. The victim was a successful property developer with everything to live for, and Grace realises someone close to home may know more than they’re letting on.

Top Gear
Sunday, BBC1, 8pm
The boys are back for Top Gear's 30th series, a milestone few shows achieve. So, what can we expect from Paddy McGuinness, Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff and Chris Harris across the run? The usual mix of mayhem and road tests, of course. Among the highlights are a James Bond-themed adventure, a trip down memory lane involving drives in their fathers' cars, and a race between an Extreme E motor and a man with a jetpack. Plus, the trio will put the likes of the Toyota GR Yaris hot hatch, V8-powered Ferrari Roma and the hybrid V12-engined Lamborghini Sian under the microscope.

My Little Big Day
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Covid-19 restrictions have seen many of us having to downsize their big fat wedding. Instead of the planned enormous nuptials, Irish couples have been forced to dial down the bling factor and whittle down their guest list to 25 – not easy when the groom's family alone could fill the 3Arena. Faced with a range of logistical problems, many couples decided to postpone their wedding in the hope the pandemic might pass before they got too old to walk unaided up the aisle. A few brave couples, however, made the choice to go ahead with a low-key ceremony in the company of a select few guests. How did they get on? Was it miniature magic or a big, huge pain in the aisle? Here we meet six couples who went ahead with a very different wedding than originally planned, and find out what it was like to tie the knot in a pandemic.

The Truth About Long Covid: Dispatches
Monday, Channel 4, 8pm
How long it takes to recover from coronavirus differs: While many of us feel better in a few days or weeks and most make a full recovery within three months, for some the symptoms can last longer. It's predicted that up to half a million people in the UK are now living with so-called "long Covid"; with those numbers in mind, Dispatches reports from Bradford, one of the Britain's worst hit communities during the pandemic. The programme hears from sufferers and asks if the NHS will be able to cope with the virus's lasting legacy.

Monday, BBC2, midnight
This promising sitcom, originally made for BBC Scotland, all takes place in a hospital, where patriarch Tommy lies in a coma. That might not sound like a set-up for generating a lot of laughs, but bear with it. Members of Tommy's dysfunctional family constantly drop by to spend time at his bedside, and it's their "interactions" with him that prompt plenty of smiles. We begin on the unfortunate chap's wedding anniversary, which his wife Liz is determined to mark. His emotionally challenged son Mark and sleep-deprived daughter Hannah also drop by.

Bear & Jonny Wilkinson's Wild Adventure
Tuesday, ITV, 8pm
He spent the noughties getting soaking wet and covered in mud on rugby pitches. Now former England legend Jonny Wilkinson has gone back to roughing it – after joining forces with Bear Grylls to face the gruelling and harsh terrain of Dartmoor. "I'm terrible with heights, and I'm actually really bad with claustrophobia," Jonny admits, just before Bear tells him about a "super cool little place...cliff and crags and caves and rivers, forests...lots of ups and down". Wilkinson later tackles a hideous looking damp "chimney climb", before opening up about his obsessive nature, his childhood and his career.

Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency
Tuesday, BBC1, 9pm

Roman Kemp seems to have led a blessed life. He’s handsome, has a blossoming media career and is the apple of the eye of his parents, Martin and Shirlie Kemp. But last year his world was turned on its head by the sudden and unexpected death of his best friend, radio producer Joe Lyons. Kemp is dedicating this documentary to Lyons’s memory, and it will see him explore the urgent issue of mental health among young men. One of the questions he asks involves why so many of those struggling end up taking their own lives. He hopes that shining a light on a difficult subject will help others of his generation to speak about their feelings rather than struggling in silence.

The Circle
Tuesday, Channel 4, 9.15pm
Following the Stand Up to Cancer celebrity special that concluded last night, the regular show returns for a new run. Emma Willis is back as host, with comedian Sophie Willan resuming her role as the inimitable voiceover. Tonight, the block of flats welcomes its latest set of residents and a £100,000 prize is at stake in an unpredictable game of popularity. The players will be metres apart, but they can't see or hear each other. Instead, they communicate via a voice-activated platform called the Circle. But not everyone is who they seem, and the players have no idea who is real and who is a "catfish".

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan
Tuesday, BBC4, 10pm

In his three-star review from December, Irish Times critic Donald Clarke wrote: “This gruelling doc feels like an endurance event for director Julian Temple, a film for which The Pogues frontman reputedly refused to give an interview. It falls to archive footage, dramatisation, animations and interviews-by-proxy to form the narrative. In contemporary footage we are left with chums and enablers such as Johnny Depp, who also acted as a producer. Depp, Gerry Adams and others sit down with MacGowan for the rounds of the title. The man himself is in a sorry state, wheezing and hissing from his wheelchair.”

Ronnachaí Buí
Tuesday, TG4, 6pm
Repeat of Ciarán Charles' 17-minute drama, which was shot in 2018 in An Trá Bháin, Connemara. It's just an ordinary summer for best friends Colm, Maeve and Peadar (Padraig O'Laoi, Sinéad Ni Fhlatharta, Cian Mac Donnchadh), racing their bicycles near their homes. That is, until girls from Dublin arrive to learn Irish, leading Peadar and Colm into unknown territory. But is there a place for Maeve in this new venture?

Today Show St Patrick's Day Special
St Patrick's Day, RTÉ One, 1pm

Dáithí Ó Sé and Maura Derrane host a special holiday show featuring Daniel and Majella O’Donnell, astronaut Chris Hadfield, Fr Brian D’Arcy, Mary McAleese and more. They will showcase some of the unique virtual parades happening all over the country. Úna Healy, Mundy and Soulé will perform, and the virtual audience will be in with a chance of winning 18 amazing staycation giveaways. RTÉ will also reveal the winner from more than 7,000 entries for the Eye on Nature competition.

The Late Late Show St Patrick's Day Special
St Patrick's Day, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
With no parade taking place for the second year in a row, we're gonna have to get our Paddy's Day entertainment where we can. And to help the nation in its time of party need, Ryan Tubridy is opening the Late Late Show studio two days earlier than usual to bring us a special to beat the (marching) band. This is the first time in the show's 60-year history it's been broadcast on a Wednesday, so it might feel a little discombobulating at first. But I'm sure it won't take long for us to settle and watch the parade of celebs and personalities float by on our screens. Tubs wants tonight's show to be a global hub for Paddy's Day festivities, with Irish people from around the world invited to be part of the audience. So put on your best leprechaun hat, get dolled up in green, and join the virtual fun.

Ré an tSolais
St Patrick's Day, TG4, 9.30pm

A recent suite of music by fiddle player Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and some of Ireland’s finest musicians., inspired by the hope of a new era after the intensity of lockdown. Ní Mhaonaigh hosts a special performance in Letterkenny’s An Grianán Theatre as part of the Letterkenny Trad Week 2021. She was also commissioned by the director of An Grianán, Patricia McBride, to compose new music for the event.

The Rising Sons: A Tribute to Luke Kelly
St Patrick's Day, TG4, 11.40pm

A socially distanced gig to celebrate what would have been Luke Kelly’s 80th birthday. Every year around this time musicians and singers pay tribute to Kelly and the amazing repertoire of music and legacy he left behind upon his death in January 1984. With the world in its current state it seemed these tributes would not be possible, but as this particular year was to be Luke’s 80th birthday, George Murphy and The Rising Sons felt they couldnt allow the occasion to pass without paying homage in some way.

Bill Bailey: Limboland
St Patrick's Day, BBC1, 9pm
Where else do you get a death metal version of Candle in the Wind and a dance version of the iPhone ringtone, as well as comparisons between Paul McCartney and One Direction, and a section on birdwatching? That's right, at a Bill Bailey gig. This programme, recorded pre-lockdown at Hammersmith Apollo, sees Bailey perform his "best show for years" and discuss Labour politics, defective toasters, an Arctic sleigh trip to the northern lights, and malfunctioning Skype calls, in between other trivial subjects and musical show-stoppers.

Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death
St Patrick's Day, Channel 4, 9pm
For many, the enduring image of Caroline Flack is of her lifting the glitterball trophy after winning Strictly Come Dancing in 2014. Nobody who saw the sheer joy on her face could have imagined that, just over six years later, she would take her own life. It's almost 13 months since the announcement of her death, which left many who had followed her career shocked and saddened. This new documentary sees her family and friends, including her mother Christine and twin sister Jody, pay tribute to the Caroline they knew, while the programme's makers goes behind the headlines to offer a truthful profile of the complex woman behind the public persona. It also pulls no punches in its exploration of the pressures that fame heaped on Flack's fragile shoulders.

The Surrogates
St Patrick's Day, BBC1, 11.45pm
Filmed over a period of 18 months, this new three-part documentary charts the progress of five young women who are having babies for other people. The opening episode introduces single mum Caitlin (26) and her boss Kate, who has lost three pregnancies, including one at 32 weeks. Moved by Kate and her partner Matt's story, Caitlin has offered to have a baby for them, which may put a strain on their working relationship. Emma is 23 and, having met a gay couple via a fertility matching app, is pregnant with their child, but is also concerned she may become attached to the youngster before handing it over. Finally, 40-year-old David is gay, single and searching for someone willing to help him become a father.

Thursday, TG4, 8pm

Ireland has more than 60,000 townlands, each operating as an administrative centre for the wider community. In this new series, Síle Nic Chonaonaigh visits various townlands, revealing the strong connections people have with their native places through the culture, the ways of life and the landscape. In this week’s episode she visits the townland of Seanach Dubh, which is situated on the Fanad Peninsula in Contae Dhún na nGall. Some 10 families live in Seanach Dubh, which is dependant on the sea, the land and tourism for survival.

The Good Fight
Thursday, More4, 9pm

The fourth season of the American legal series, a spin-off of The Good Wife, begins. In an alternate reality, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) is delighted that Hillary Clinton has beaten Donald Trump in the 2016 election and is now serving as the 45th president of the United States. But while Diane’s liberal self is overjoyed, she quickly discovers that this alternative world is not the paradise she hoped it would be. For example, the #MeToo movement does not exist and Harvey Weinstein is still a respected movie producer.

Thursday, Channel 4, 9pm
Last year, the 10th series of the comedy game show proved that even a pandemic and a move from Dave to C4 couldn't dim the Taskmaster magic. In fact, it was arguably one of the best runs to date, thanks in part to the brilliant line-up. So the new series has a lot to live up to. Charlotte Ritchie, Jamali Maddix, Lee Mack, Mike Wozniak and Sarah Kendall are all ready to battle it out to win a trophy that is supposed to look like host Greg Davies. Naturally, the man himself is back, along with Alex Horne, who will keep an eye on the contestants as they tackle challenges which in the first episode include controlling pest and delivering plates.

The Flight Attendant
Friday, Sky One & NowTV, 9pm

We all know Kaley Cuoco as the blonde voice of reason among a bunch of clueless geeks in The Big Bang Theory. Now, a year after the final episode of BBT, Cuoco stars in her own series, but we’re not in Pasadena anymore. In this comedy-drama series based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian, Cuoco plays New Yorker Cassie Bowden, who’s enjoying her high-flying job, which takes her around the world and into all sorts of crazy, fun adventures. Okay, she binge-drinks a bit too much, and has a habit of sleeping with random passengers, but she’s sure she’s in full control of the joy-stick. That is, until she wakes up in bed in Bangkok and finds her latest one-night stand lying dead beside her. She might need some serious theoretical physics brains to help her get out of this one.

Comic Relief 2021
Friday, BBC1, 7pm
Like most things, Red Nose Day has been affected by Covid, and as we are still in the middle of a lockdown, the majority of this year's Comic Relief fundraising activities will have to be done at home. The hosts are Sir Lenny Henry, Davina McCall, Paddy McGuinness, Alesha Dixon and David Tennant. Among the highlights are Tennant and Michael Sheen teaming up once more for a special instalment of Staged. Plus, Anna Friel and Keira Knightley co-star in the greatest disaster movie never made, and Paddy and his fellow Top Gear hosts face interrogation by some savage critics. There are also appearances by Dawn French, the Rev Kate Bottley, Alex Scott, Jermaine Jenas, Jack Whitehall, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dame Judi Dench, Karim Zeroual, Joe Lycett, Mo Gilligan, Roman Kemp and Shappi Khorsandi.

Gardeners' World
Friday, BBC2, time tba
The Beeb's flagship horticultural show has been airing since 1968. It returns with a new run tonight as Monty Don shares some of the changes he has made at Longmeadow over the winter. As well as carrying out some essential pruning, he'll be lifting and dividing perennials, sowing chillies and making a start on growing this year's vegetables. Over in Swansea, Joe Swift learns about Sue Kent's plan to grow vegetables on her allotment, while up in Leeds, a shady back yard is transformed with the help of containers and some ingenuity. And Carol Klein shares the plants that put on a show in winter at Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk.

Russia vs the World
Friday, Channel 5, 9pm
Killing Eve star Fiona Shaw narrates this programme exploring Russia's medieval origins through to its bloody expansion to become the biggest country in the world. It's an extraordinary tale that set the scene for one of the world's most enigmatic figures, Vladimir Putin, and his vision of modern Russia. From a tyrannical grip on ordinary citizens to rampant corruption at the highest level, this film reveals the secrets holding the world's largest country together. It begins with a look at the role of the first tsars, including Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, before moving onto Catherine the Great, Lenin and Stalin.


Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal
From Wednesday, Netflix
Made by the team behind the smash-hit Tiger King, this Netflix docu-drama focuses on the headline-hitting story from 2019 that eventually saw actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, among others, sentenced to jail. Their crime was to secure their offsprings' place in a top US university – not through hard work and high test scores, but by paying for them. Matthewe Modine plays Rick Singer, who came up with a number of schemes, such as cheating on college admissions tests, creating fake athletic profiles and bribing school officials. The programme's makers reveal how Singer was eventually caught, using transcripts taken from FBI wiretaps.

Sky Rojo
From Friday, Netflix

After he took the world by storm with his crime thriller series Money Heist, the smart money was on producer/writer/director Alex Pina to become Spain’s answer to Jed Mercurio. His follow-up, White Lines, was underwhelming by comparison to Money Heist, but his latest series could continue his upward trajectory. Smart, sexy and sassy, Sky Rojo follows three sex workers on the run from their pimp, hitting the road with hitmen in hot pursuit. Coral, Wendy and Gina work at a sleazy nightclub and brothel, but a fatal incident at the club spurs the three women to make a break for it and navigate a dangerous world on their own terms. Each frenetic episode zips by in less than half an hour, barely giving you time to catch your breath. Sex, drugs, violence and fast cars – all the ingredients are there, so let’s see if Pina can create telle gold out of them.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
From Friday, Disney+

Another Marvel Cinematic Universe spinoff, but somehow I doubt if it will have quite surreal addictiveness of WandaVision. Superheroes Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) were last seen in the final reel of Avengers: Endgame, and in this six-episode miniseries, the pair team up for some new adventures that will put their powers – and patience – to the ultimate test. It all sounds like a straightforward costumed buddy story, but don’t be surprised if, like WandaVision, it turns out to have a lot more layers going on underneath the superhero surface.

Mountain Rescue
From Friday, All4
Sweden's Åre is one of Scandinavia's most popular skiing resorts and was originally set to host the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games. But it's still getting a little publicity thanks to this thrilling 10-part drama (original title: Åreakuten), which offers breathtaking panoramas of the amazing local scenery. It's picturesque yet dangerous as each episode follows the lives of the local mountain rescue team, as well as the police, fire service and local doctors. At the centre of it all are Asa (Karin Bengtsson) and her son, who left the big city to start afresh after her husband died, and Sofia (Tiril Eeg-Henriksen), a medic with a reckless love life.

Contributing: PA