TV Guide: 30 of the best TV shows to watch this week

One World: Together at Home concert, Colm Meaney in Gangs of London and Ricky Gervais returns in After Life


One World: Together at Home
Sunday, RTÉ Two, 7pm
Pop stars around the world have been forced to cancel their tours and stay at home due to the coronavirus crisis. But they still need something to do to keep from going stir-crazy in their mansions. So someone has come up with the clever idea of staging a global televised concert, featuring some of the world's top stars performing in their homes. That'll keep them from going back on the skag.

The concert is really a celebration of the selfless work being done by health workers - doctors, nurses, carers - around the world who are putting their lives on the line in the battle against Covid-19. And if it gives the celebs something to do while they’re on lockdown, then that’s a bonus.

Among the star-studded lineup are Lady Gaga, Chris Martin from Coldplay, John Legend, Billie Eilish, Alanis Morissette, Paul McCartney, Lizzo, Elton John, Eddie Vedder, Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day and Stevie Wonder. David Beckham will be coming to you from Beckingham Palace, and even the stars of Sesame Street, who are on Muppet lockdown, will be joining the fun.

This is one show Donald Trump won’t be tuning into - the programme hopes to raise millions in pledges to support Trump’s latest enemy, the World Health Organisation, and it’s hosted by some of the US president’s most unrelenting critics: talk show hosts Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert. But of course the Irish will all tune in – just to get a glimpse into the gaffes of the stars.


Food Unwrapped Does Baking
Channel 4, 8pm
The team celebrates the wonderful world of baking. Kate Quilton steps inside the world's biggest bread factory, getting to the bottom of why some loaves fall to pieces at first contact with the butter knife, while others can happily survive a good spreading. Jimmy Doherty is in Turkey, investigating the intoxicating properties of the poppy seeds in our bagels. Matt Tebbutt sets out to find the secrets behind the writing on our cakes – is it the work of man or machine? And he also heads to Italy on a mission to explain the difference between mascarpone and cream cheese.

Stacey Dooley: Locked Up With the Lifers
BBC2, 9pm
The presenter visits a women's prison in America that has adopted a radical new approach to incarceration based on giving the inmates a sense of purpose and self-esteem – also allows them to walk dogs in the corridors and make unlimited phone calls. Stacey meets eight prisoners who are serving life sentences for murder, and discovers the complex sexual relationships that have developed among many of the inmates. But Stacey also asks how the victims' families might feel about such apparently lenient treatment.

ITV, 9pm
The conclusion of Julian Fellowes's drama about secrets and lies in uptight 19th-century London society. James travels to Manchester to investigate the allegations made against Charles, but soon realises there are greater threats at play. Lady Templemore employs Reggie to make Lady Maria change her mind, but her daughter will not give in so easily. Susan is in danger of losing everything after her secret is revealed, but as ever she used her cunning to twist the situation to her own and others' benefit, while Charles is puzzled to receive a mysterious olive branch. Keen to end the feuding, he seeks out the offer of reconciliation – unaware he is being lured into danger.

Home Alone with Joel Dommett
ITV2, 10pm
The comedian and Masked Singer host presents this anarchic special providing the perfect antidote to being stuck indoors. Broadcasting straight from the house he shares with his wife Hannah, Joel will give a hilarious window into his home life and provide a celebration of the uplifting, fun and ridiculous things Britons are getting up to to pass the time. From celebrity call-ins to comedy interviews and games with self-isolated viewers, this one-off entertainment show will bring everyone who's home alone, together.


RTÉ One, 9.35pm
One of the unwanted side-effects of lockdown is that we haven't been able to go to the barber's or hairdresser's to get our regular trim or hairdo. Over the last couple of weeks I have gone from Daniel Craig in Casino Royale to Jack Nicholson in The Shining - very scary. For the people of Abbeyfeale in Co Limerick, the local salon plays a huge role in their lives: the town has 16 clip joints serving a population of just 2,000 people - that's one very neatly groomed town. This documentary looks at the unique bond between a hairdresser and their customer, setting up cameras in front of the mirrors and recording the many conversations that follow. Will there be a few hair-raising tales or cutting remarks?

Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On
Channel 4, 8.30pm
Jamie Oliver presents more recipes tailored for the strange times we are living in. He shows us how easy it can be to cook with simple ingredients at home, what to do with forgotten frozen food, and how to knock up meals using ingredients drawn entirely from the store cupboard. In this episode, the chef shows us how to make a hearty and nutritious minestrone soup "This is brilliant at embracing what you've got in your fridge," he says. "It's super-easy to tweak according to the vegetables you have in the house." He also makes a simple, easy-to-follow chicken curry. "Who doesn't love a curry?" he asks. "I've used chicken here, but you could absolutely use salmon, white fish or prawns – just cook them through in the sauce. Or, you could celebrate veggies. Or just serve the sauce as it is with rice or flatbreads – winner!"

University Challenge –The Final
BBC2, 8.30pm
Jeremy Paxman asks the questions as the competition reaches its climax after getting under way last July, when 28 teams entered the contest with high hopes. They were gradually whittled dow to the final two after a grand total of 36 first- and second-round matches, then the quarter- and semi-finals. The two teams will be endeavouring to succeed last year's winners the University of Edinburgh and become the 49th champions of the quiz, carrying off the trophy designed by Manchester sculptor Adrian Moakes.

Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins
Channel 4, 9pm
Twelve more well-known faces leave their glamorous lives behind as they embark on a gruelling course in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. Putting them through the toughest course yet is Chief Instructor Ant Middleton and his team of staff – Foxy, Billy, Ollie and Jay. This year's celebs are 1Xtra host Yasmin Evans, reality star Joey Essex, former model Katie Price, YouTuber Jack Maynard, TV presenters Anthea Turner and Helen Skelton, former Strictly dancer Brendan Cole, ex-footballer John Fashanu, Hollyoaks actress Nikki Sanderson, Paralympian Lauren Steadman, Rudimental's DJ Locksmith and boxer Tony Bellew. In tonight's first episode, the recruits' first challenge is a terrifying 50-metre cliff free-fall on the remote island of Raasay. That's followed by a boxing session with a twist, as Katie faces up to her past and present, and Tony battles with his inner demons.

The Restaurant That Burns Off Calories
BBC2, 9pm
Maitre d' Fred Sirieix and doctor Zoe Williams open a restaurant with a difference, welcoming 20 unsuspecting diners for a slap-up meal. It all sounds normal enough, but at the back of house is a fully functioning gym, where a group of fitness fanatics are poised on exercise bikes, treadmills and rowing machines, ready to burn off every single calorie ordered and consumed by the diners. This experiment is based on scientific research that suggests that people eat 20 percent less when shown how much effort it takes to remove excess calories.


Cheap Irish Homes
RTÉ One, 8.30pm
We've marvelled at the gorgeous gaffs in Home of the Year; we've gasped as fine Georgian houses got restored to glory in The Great House Revival; and we've ogled as Dermot Bannon oohed and aahed over some seriously luxe pads in Dermot Bannon's Incredible Homes. But haven't we had enough of house envy for one year? In this new series, Maggie Molloy goes to the other end of the property ladder, helping ordinary househunters find a home at they might actually afford. She promises to uncover some hidden gems at rock-bottom prices, and show how even the most run-down property can be turned into a des res with just a little elbow grease and imagination.

Life and Birth
BBC1, regions vary
The previously unsung heroes who work in the NHS are getting a lot of kudos at the moment – and it's about time. The events of the last few weeks have proved that whoever you are, we all need the support of doctors, nurses and medical professionals as we make our way through life. Of course, that healthcare journey begins when we first enter the world, and this new six-part series reveals what it really takes to deliver Britain's next generation. Narrated by actress Suranne Jones, Life and Birth follows the daily dramas are told through the eyes of parents and staff at three of Birmingham's busiest maternity hospitals – Heartlands Hospital, Good Hope Hospital and Birmingham Women's Hospital. In the first episode, 22-year-old mother-of-one Ashleigh goes into labour, supported by childhood sweetheart Luke.

Your Home Made Perfect
BBC2, 8pm
Architects Laura Jane Clark and Robert Jamison come up with virtual reality designs to transform a Halifax couple's 19th-century home. When owner Paula developed MS, it became vital to make the house more wheelchair accessible – but her partner Jeremy also sees an opportunity to give it a stylish new look. Laura's concept makes the most of the views of the garden and uses clever recycling tricks to stretch the budget, while Robert deploys off-the-shelf materials to making the place more accessible.

A Very British Lockdown: Diaries from the Frontline
ITV, 8pm
Documentary featuring a wide cross-section of people as they record their own stories on camera phones – charting the everyday courage, kindness, anxiety and humour they experience as the nation strives to Keep Calm and Carry On. From shopkeepers to home-schooling parents, care workers to cleaners, teachers to nurses, the film reveals what Queen Elizabeth recently called "our quiet, good humoured resolve". Others – such as expectant Mums and the sick and elderly – show their bravery in the face of the coronavirus.

The Truth About Amazon
Channel 4, 9pm
While the high street has shut up shop for the foreseeable future, the most valuable public company in the world is booming, hiring 100,000 extra workers worldwide to meet the unprecedented demand. This Supershoppers special reveals all the tricks and tips you need to know when you buy from Amazon. Presenters Sabrina Grant and Helen Skelton show how to use Amazon's algorithms and apps to your advantage, revealing how shoppers can bag a bargain and how to spot when you are paying more than you should. They also ask how much we should trust this massive, fast-growing tech giant, revealing that some big-name brands sold on the site may be fake and investigating the murky world of Amazon reviews.


The Great British Sewing Bee
BBC1, 9pm
Not only is the sewing challenge back for a new series, it's been unexpectedly promoted from BBC2 to BBC1. That might be partially down to the difficulties of filling the schedules at the current time, but it's also likely a reflection of the fact that this persistently cheery show, with its friendly contestants, soothing atmosphere and "make do and mend" spirit is just what we need right now. Joe Lycett is back as presenter along with judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young, ready to set challenges for a new bunch of amateur stitchers. To ease them in relatively gently, the first tasks are based on wardrobe staples as they are asked to make a wrap skirt, transform a man's shirt into an outfit for a female mannequin, and create a tea dress to fit a live model.

Our Queen at War
ITV, 9pm
During her recent speech, Queen Elizabeth looked back on the first time she addressed the nation, when she and her sister, Princess Margaret, spoke to child evacuees during the Second World War. It was a poignant reminder of just how many years Britain's longest-reigning monarch has been serving her country – and how she began long before she came to the throne in 1952. This documentary looks back on her experiences during what she would subsequently describe as "the terrible and glorious years" of the war, when the teenage princess put on pantomimes at Windsor Castle to aid the war effort, broadcast to the empire and experienced the horror of the V-1 bomb. There are contributions from royal experts and one of the Queen's childhood friends.

Can Science Beat the Virus?
Channel 4, 9pm
A special debate about the coronavirus pandemic, with only scientists on the panel. As Britain increasingly looks beyond politics to science for reassurance about how and when the crisis will end, this programme brings together experts to take part in a straight-talking, fact-based discussion providing scientific answers to the most difficult questions. The discussion covers the psychology of isolation, the technical issues behind mass production of ventilators, and, crucially, gives viewers the chance to explore the fascinating science behind this extraordinary outbreak.


Gangs Of London
Sky Atlantic and Now TV, 9pm
What would happen if you took Peaky Blinders, ditched the flat-caps, and moved the action to modern-day London? Dunno, but this new series from Sky Atlantic does star Joe Cole from the popular pre-war Brummie mob drama, and, judging from the trailer, it doesn't skimp on the ultraviolence. Cole stars as Sean Wallace, who has taken over as boss of London's most powerful crime family after his father, the fearsome Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney) has been assassinated. But there's a bunch of warring international gangs desperate to fill the vacuum left by Finn's passing, so Sean is going to have to hit the ground running – and torturing and killing – to make sure his gang stays in control of the city. Sean proves as ruthless as the old man when it comes to looking after the family's interests, and soon his rivals are realising just how far he'll go to protect his empire and avenge his father's death.

The Big Night In
BBC1, 7pm
Broadcasters across the land are pulling out all the stops to keep the nation occupied and entertained during the lockdown, but the BBC really outdoes itself this week. After scheduling highlights from the Together at Home event on Sunday, the Beeb launches a similarly epic evening of entertainment produced in conjunction with Children in Need and Comic Relief. Matt Baker, Lenny Henry, Paddy McGuinness and Zoe Ball are our hosts – while observing strict social distancing rules, of course – and Peter Kay, Gary Barlow and Catherine Tate are among those set to appear. "BBC One will bring the nation together for this special one off live charity event for an his unmissable night of entertainment when the country needs it most," explains Charlotte Moore, director of BBC content.

Gordon, Gino and Fred: American Road Trip
ITV, 9pm
For the final leg of their US jaunt, the trio arrive in Texas, a meat-lover's paradise where Gordon Ramsay is keen to introduce his companions to some of the best barbecue food known to man. In Lexington, Gordon turns lumberjack in an attempt to fell a dead oak – which is used to infuse ovens with wood smoke. There's a break for a bit of skinny dipping, before the trio fish go fishing, and stay in a strange cabin deep in the woods, surviving on beans and bourbon. They then hit the state capital of Austin, dressing as cowboys in the local bar and at the rodeo, before one last barbecue supper of slow-smoked beef brisket, pork ribs and spicy sausage.


Joe Lycett's Got Your Back
Channel 4, 8pm
Joe Lycett returned to the haberdashery this week for a new series of The Great British Sewing Bee, but he's also still hard at work, fighting for consumer rights on Channel 4. This week, he's bringing his own brand of justice to a parcel delivery company, with a little help from his celebrity sidekick Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. Meanwhile, Anneka Rice is back in a jumpsuit to go on a treasure hunt for Britain's increasingly elusive cash machines, while comedian Rosie Jones is looking into the ethics of beauty products. And while it may be a lot more entertaining than your average consumer show, there's no doubt that Joe and his famous friends still manage to get some impressive results.

Thou Shalt Not Kill
More4, 9pm
The second series of the haunting Italian detective drama continues, with Valeria and Andrea's fractious relationship reaching breaking point. However, they must find a way to work together when the charred body of Claudio Rivetti, a partner in a brick-making factory, is found in one of the firm's ovens. The body was discovered by Rami, a worker at the factory and Valeria is suspicious of the bond between Rami and Emanuela, the wife of the murdered man. Meanwhile, Giorgio sets up Menduni for what he hopes will be an almighty fall.

The Graham Norton Show
BBC1, 9pm
If there's one person who's been keeping calm and carrying on during the current crisis, it's Graham Norton. He's still hosting his Radio 2 show, and will even still be on Eurovision duty on May 16th, looking at what we might have seen had this year's contest gone ahead and bringing us a selection of classic performances. And of course, he's also still continuing with his chat show. It's shorter than before, the guests are no longer getting up close and personal with each other on a sofa, and the "red chair" stories take place in the comfort of the viewers' own homes, but Graham is still bringing us celebrity chat. So, even if many of us are missing Friday nights out, at least Friday nights in still have some semblance of normality.

Hubble: The Wonders of Space Revealed
BBC2, 9pm
Since its launch in April 1990, the Hubble space telescope has made more than 1.5 million observations of the universe. One of the most productive scientific instruments in history, over the past three decades it has transformed man's view of the cosmos. This documentary tells the craft's remarkable story, drawing upon contributions by the astronauts who spacewalked on Hubble to carry out critical repairs and upgrades and the astronomers who have used its unique powers to make new discoveries about the universe.


After Life
Netflix, from Friday
There are several stages of grief, we are told, and you need to pass through each stage to reach acceptance and begin to move on with your life. But nobody has told Tony, whose wife, Lisa, has died of cancer. Tony is still stuck in the anger stage, and he's not planning to leave it anytime soon. He has decided that, instead of killing himself, he'll get revenge on the world by just saying and doing what he likes from now on, no matter how hurtful or unpleasant. This poses a huge problem for Tony's friends and for his colleagues at the local newspaper, who are unused to having such a brutally honest journalist in their midst.

Sounds like Ricky Gervais, who writes, directs and stars in the series, has simply found another outlet for his cruel sense of humour, since the Golden Globes won’t have him back, but the first series of After Life has been praised for its warmth and humanity – looks like Gervais has pitched this one just right.

In series two, Tony has decided to make some effort to be nicer to everyone, but can his colleagues keep their spirits up when the newspaper is threatened with closure? And will the town’s upcoming am-dram show cheer everyone up?

Netflix, available now
Diplomat Sergio Vieria de Mello is not a household name, but he was destined for big things before he was killed in the Canal Hotel bombing in Iraq alongside 20 members of his staff in August 2003. Many felt the UN's Special Representative for Iraq was a shoe-in to become the organisation's Secretary-General. Wagner Moura plays him in this moving biopic, written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Craig Borten. It focuses on the latter part of Mello's life, revealing how, after years of being sent to the world's most dangerous places, he was planning to take one last assignment – in Baghdad – before settling down with the woman he loved. Ana de Armas plays Mello's partner, while Bradley Whitford, Brian F O'Byrne and Garret Dillahunt co-star.

The Last Dance
Netflix, from Monday
Although American sports have gained in popularity in Britain in recent years, they still lag behind football. Nevertheless, certain star players have transcended their game to become global icons. One of those is Michael Jordan. He won numerous personal and team awards during a long and illustrious career, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players ever to grace the court. Jordan spent most of his career with the Chicago Bulls, joining them in 1984. He briefly retired in 1993, but returned in 1995. This documentary takes a look at the events of autumn 1997 when Jordan and his colleagues set out to win a sixth NBA title in eight years. However, as we see here, backroom tension almost overshadowed and ruined their chances of success.

Twelfth Night
YouTube, from Thursday
Nobody can visit Britain's National Theatre at the moment. Instead, it's coming to the people – sort of, anyway. During the past few weeks it's made some of its biggest recent hits available to stream via YouTube, starting with James Corden's hugely popular award-winning turn in the hilarious One Man, Two Guvnors. This time it's a take on one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies from 2017. Director Simon Godwin's take on the tale is gender fluid, with Tamsin Greig never better than as Malvolia, an uptight housekeeper about to be swept away on the tidal wave of love that will hit her master and mistress' home. Oliver Chris, Phoebe Fox and Daniel Rigby also appear. Make sure you catch it sooner rather than later – each show is only available for a week.

Defending Jacob
Apple TV+, from Friday
Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, Jaeden Martell and Cherry Jones head the cast of this eight-part crime drama based on William Landay's bestselling novel of the same name. A shocking event rocks a small Massachusetts community and one family in particular finds itself in the eye of the ensuing storm. Andy Barber is a local assistant district attorney who finds himself at odds with his role to uphold justice when his 14-year-old son is accused of murder. Evans clearly relishes getting away from playing Captain America to tackle a more down-to-earth saga, while Downton Abbey's Dockery ditches period frocks and manners to portray his other half.

Additional preview: PA

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist