Weekend TV guide: 8 of the best shows to watch
A cavalcade of green for St Patrick’s Day, plus Ardal O’Hanlon on the era of showbands
Photograph: Alan Betson
Comic Relief 2019
Friday, BBC1, 7pm
Lenny Henry has no shortage of stars helping him with the latest extravaganza. Emma Willis, Paddy McGuinness, David Tennant, Zoe Ball, Romesh Ranganathan and Alesha Dixon will front the biennial fundraiser in the hope that we dig deep for the Red Nose charity. As ever, that cash will make a huge difference to the lives of vulnerable people and communities in the UK and abroad. Hugh Grant, Rowan Atkinson and many of the cast of Four Weddings and a Funeral reunite for One Red Nose Day and a Wedding. Richard Madden reprises his role as DS David Budd in a mini episode of Bodyguard; Freddie Flintoff drives Robbie Savage round the bend at the Top Gear test track, and the cast of Only Fools & Horses: The Musical join in the fun. Followed at 10pm on BBC2 by Comic Relief Does University Challenge.
Showbands: How Ireland Learnt to Party
Friday, BBC4, 9pm
The showbands phenomenon burst spectacularly onto the Irish music scene in the 1960s. Here Ardal O’Hanlon attempts to find out what started the infamous era, profiles some of the people involved, and examines its eventual decline in the 1980s. With the aid of his campervan, he takes a trip down memory lane to the region where he grew up. He reflects on his time as a punk, aged 15, in 1980, and the band Joe Dolan and the Drifters. “This was not a punk band,” O’Hanlon remarks. “This was a show band!” But why did the genre vanish? Here’s a chance to find out.
Australia: Earth’s Magical Kingdom
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
Even as Australia with Julia Bradbury continues on UTV, the BBC launches its own documentary from down under. This one travels from the peaks of the Snowy Mountains to tropical Queensland. We see how animals have learned to thrive across the continent’s harsh and beautiful extremes. Among the stars are a tree-dwelling kangaroo; an underwater spider (bound to give some viewers nightmares), and a fire-starting bird that flushes out insects and small prey with the aid of some ingenious tactics.
St Patrick’s Festival Parade
Sunday, RTÉ One, 12.15pm (repeated on RTÉ2, 6.05pm)
Time for Ireland’s annual street shindig celebrating our reptile-repelling national saint. The national station will be bringing all the coverage from the big day, with able hosts Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, “Dancing” Des Cahill and Sinéad Kennedy. This year’s theme is “a celebration of Irish storytelling”, and the parade highlights include Artastic’s Forest of Fado, Fado, in which magical creatures come to life right before your eyes, and Walk the Plank’s What a Wonderful World, which tackles climate change with a pageant of the world’s wildlife.
Ceiliúradh na Féile Pádraig
Sunday, TG4, 9.30pm; BBC2, 9pm
A special St Patrick’s Day celebration in the company of Daniel O’Donnell in Armagh’s Market Place Theatre and adjoining Georgian Square. With a strong connection between St Patrick and Armagh, there’s no better place to have this annual celebration. On stage are Irish musical partnerships such as Celticanto, Lemoncello, Rioghnach Connolly, Seán Keane, Colin Foley and Clancy/Holden/Dunphy. Also celebrating with is the choir from the Dundalk IT, dancers “Jig Jazz” and Dylan Millar, Extreme Rhythm, Fusion Trio and the Armagh Pipers Club.
All Star Musicals
Sunday, Virgin One/UTV, 6pm
Quite a few musicals fans like to belt out a number from their favourite shows in the privacy of their own home, maybe throwing in a bit of choreography too if they’re feeling energetic. But what does it take for a musical theatre novice to get on stage at the London Palladium and perform while being watched by a live audience and a panel of theatre veterans? Broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh, Emmerdale’s Amy Walsh, money expert Martin Lewis, Corrie’s Daniel Brocklebank, Grantchester’s Tessa Peake-Jones, and comedians Joel Dommett and London Hughes are about to find out as they tackle songs from musicals including Chicago, The Greatest Showman, South Pacific and Mamma Mia!. Luckily, West End legend Elaine Paige is on hand to act as their mentor.
Skeletons of the Mary Rose: The New Evidence
Sunday, Channel 4, 8pm
The Mary Rose, which sank off the coast of Portsmouth in 1545, was Henry VIII’s favourite warship that also offers a surprising insight into the society he reigned over. The documentray follows a year-long investigation into the Tudor vessel’s crew, using cutting-edge isotope and DNA analysis. The results show that one of the crew may have been of African origin, challenging the image of Tudor Britain as a white, homogenous culture. Onyeka Nubia, a historian of black Britain, delves further into the story, as well as the life of the 16th-century Guinean free-diver who managed to retrieve several treasures from the wreck.
Born Digital: First Cuts
Sunday, BBC4, 10pm
Radio 1’s Dev (aka Devin Joseph Jordan Griffin) introduces compilation of 11 short films commissioned by BBC Arts and the BFI that reflect on life in the digital environment, as part of a season marking the 30th anniversary of the Internet. The films touch on subjects including virtual reality, the gig economy, gay dating from the 1970s to the present day, ancient folk traditions in a modern context, bullying, the search for personal identity, online exploration of sexuality, isolated communities, the impact of technology on privacy, the distorting effect of social media, and conducting an online life while chronically ill.