Weekend TV guide: 10 of the best shows to watch

Profiles of two national icons – Edna O’Brien and Twink – plus BBC documentary on what might be a ground-breaking cancer treatment

 

Shipmates
Friday, Channel 4, 11.05pm
A new ship-based game show sees twentysomethings head to the Mediterranean, where they party on a lavish cruise liner and complete a series of physical and mental challenges in order to be crowned the most popular team. Setting sail from Barcelona, the ship, carrying 1,500 passengers, will sail the Med via Cannes, Corsica, party islands Ibiza and Palma, before heading back to Barcelona. The aim is to convince the other party-goers to vote for them in the week-long contest. At the end, the group with the most votes will win a luxury holiday to Bali.

Charley Pride: I’m Just Me
Friday, BBC4, 9.30pm

Charley Pride
Charley Pride

This one-off traces the journey of the musician, from his beginnings as a sharecropper’s son on a cotton farm in segregated Mississippi to his rise as a groundbreaking country music star. Charley Pride arrived in Nashville in 1963 while the city was rocked with sit-ins and racial violence. But with perseverance and musical talent, he parlayed a series of fortuitous encounters with music industry insiders into a wealth of hit singles. Narrated by country singer Tanya Tucker, the film features interviews with country greats, including Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton.

Twinkling Through the Years
Saturday, RTÉ One, 8.15pm

Twink
Twink

Couldn’t they have thought of a better title for this celebration of Twink’s 60 years in showbiz? Twink of an Eye, perhaps, or maybe I Twink, Therefore I Am. In this special programme, the grande dame herself (aka Adele King) trawls through the archives to dig out some of her more memorable – as well as forgettable – performances, including her 1970 Eurovision bid as one-third of Maxi, Dick & Twink (Ireland’s first girlband); her comedy cleaning-women routine with Jonathan Ryan; and her countless panto appearances as Ireland’s glitziest fairy godmother.

Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival
Saturday, BBC2, 9.30pm
Joe Swift and Jo Whiley present this year’s final show from the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival. As well as looking back at the week’s show gardens, floral marquees and pavilions, talks and demonstrations, Carol Klein goes in search of foliage with a fizz. Plus, Adam Frost shares his garden design tips and Arit Anderson shows how viewers can bring the festival feeling into their own gardens. Finally, the team explores the garden dedicated to renowned horticulturist Beth Chatto, who died last year and was best known for creating the Beth Chatto Gardens near Elmstead Market in Essex.

Matangi/Maya/MIA
Saturday, BBC2, 10.30pm

Matangi/Maya/MIA
Matangi/Maya/MIA

In her four-star Irish Times review of this documentary, which won the Special Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Tara Brady wrote: “When she was attending Central St Martins College at the turn of the millennium, Sri Lankan-born Mathangi Arulpragasam had ambitions to become a documentary film-maker. Her obsessive lensing and brief but dizzying success as the rapper M.I.A ensures that this appropriately messy, wonderful film has plenty of material to work with. Stretching from the rapper’s Tamil Tiger origins to her controversial performance at Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, this is the brilliant, engaging, witty, provocative portrait that its subject deserves.”

London’s Great Bridges: Lighting the Thames
Saturday, Channel 4, 7pm
The Illuminated River Project is currently working with artist Leo Villareal on a scheme to light up the 15 bridges that cross the Thames. If it works, it will contain 100,000 bulbs and become arguably the largest public art work ever conceived. In a three-part series, Charlie Luxton finds out more about the project. He begins by travelling to the US to meet Villareal, whose previous works include illuminating the 1.8 mile-long San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Race to the Death: Rome’s Charioteers
Saturday, Channel 4, 8pm
Documentary on new discoveries about chariot racing in ancient Rome, exploring how influential the sport was in Roman culture. While charioteers are still among some of the best-paid sports stars in history, the stakes were particularly high, with riots provoked by the results of races and curses employed to influence the outcome. Race to the Death follows a team attempting to reconstruct a racing chariot and take it round a test track, and uncovers the story of the slave who became Rome’s most successful driver.

Edna O’Brien: Fearful and Fearless
Sunday, BBC1, 11.30pm
Alan Yentob meets the Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short story writer. Philip Roth has described O’Brien as “the most gifted woman now writing in English”, while the former president Mary Robinson cited her as “one of the great creative writers of her generation”. Here O’Brien looks back on her literary career, from her controversial 1960 debut The Country Girls, which was banned in Ireland, to her most recent work, Girl, inspired by the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. She discusses sex, books and a lifetime of striving to break down social and sexual barriers for women.

War in the Blood
Sunday, BBC2, 9pm
This feature-length documentary follows patients with terminal cancer through groundbreaking “first in-human” trials for CAR T-cell therapy, a pioneering treatment that genetically modifies the body’s immune system to target cancer. At this experimental stage, patients have been warned not to expect any benefit – they are taking part primarily to test for side effects. At the heart of the film are “guinea pigs” Graham (53) and Mahmoud (18), who despite being separated by two floors of a hospital, are bound together by their commitment to the trial. The film also focuses on scientist Martin Pule, who has devoted his career to finding a cure for cancer and is now feeling the pressure as his treatments are tried on humans for the first time.

Life & Soul
Sunday, RTÉ One, 11am
Colm Flynn and Áine O’Neill travel the country, hearing stories of how faith impacts on life and vice versa. They begin by meeting the parents of inspirational Kerry teen Donal Walsh, six years after his death.

Contributing: PA

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