TV guide: 12 of the best new shows to watch this week

From glitzy Strictly’s return to Kenneth Branagh in This England, a Budget 2023 special and Graham Norton

Strictly Come Dancing

Saturday, BBC One, 6.45pm

It’s the only show in town on Saturday night, and this weekend’s launch promised to be a big ballroom blitz as the celebrity contestants take their tentative steps on to the floor for the first live show. The entire cast and their professional partners will strut their stuff en masse in what promises to be either a dazzling dance routine or a collective clodhopping catastrophe. There’s no public vote this week, but the judges — Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, Anton du Beke and Shirey Ballas will be quick to give their expert verdicts on this opening group routine.

The Unforgettable Diana Dors

Saturday, Channel 5, 9pm

Just to refresh your memory, Diana Dors was known as Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, a curvaceous blonde bombshell who was the object of your grandad’s fantasies. She enjoyed a successful film, TV, theatre and music career, and was condemned by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a “wayward hussy”. She died in 1984 aged 52 of ovarian cancer, and this documentary charts her eventful life, filled with multiple parties, husbands, lovers and tabloid scandals.

Karen Pirie

Sunday, UTV, 8pm

Readers of the crime novels of Val McDermid will know Detective Sergeant Karen Pirie, the fearless and tenacious young cop with a bit of an attitude. Outlander star Lauren Lyle stars as Pirie in this three-part miniseries adapted from McDermid’s novel The Distant Echo by Emer Kenny, who also stars. DS Pirie is assigned to a cold case murder of a young woman in the Scottish town of St Andrews 25 years ago. Three drunken students were detained at the scene, and claimed to have found the body, but no one was ever charged. Needless to say, someone knows more about it than they’re letting on.

The Andrew Neil Show

Sunday, Channel 4, 6.15pm

The veteran political journalist is back with the new autumn series of his half-hour newsy chatshow, and Neil is hoping to further restore his brand reputation following his disastrous dalliance with right wing eye-snivellers via the ill-fated GB News. It will help that his show is now on the lefty Channel 4, after being cancelled by the BBC during Covid due to budget cuts. Ed Power, reviewing the last series, welcomed the return of the curmudgeonly commentator, but wished he would tear a few more strips off his interviewees. Let’s see if this new series will see him take some scalps on air.



Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Crime doesn’t take summer holidays, and the return of Crimecall to our screens this autumn is a reminder that gardaí are on the case whatever the season. Sharon Ní Bheoláin presents the new series of the long-running public service show, which will feature dramatic reconstructions, shocking CCTV footage and heart-wrenching appeals to viewers to provide information that will help solve some very serious crimes and bring justice for victims. Don’t get too cosy and comfortable — this ain’t Gogglebox.

Inside Man

Monday, BBC One, 9pm

What connects a prisoner on death row in the US, a vicar in a small town in England, and a maths teacher trapped in a cellar? We’re about to find out in this strange new thriller series from Stephen Moffat, starring American actor Stanley Tucci as the doomed convict and Moffat’s old Doctor Who mucker David Tennant as the vicar. Plot details are sparse, but Tennant assures us that Moffat will tie the disparate plot strands together “in his usual brilliant, entirely unexpected way”. Part two of this four-parter airs on Tuesday.

Make Me Prime Minister

Tuesday, Channel 4, 9.15pm

Looking at British politics over the past few years, you wonder if they choose their leaders by playing a drunken game of pin the tail on the donkey. Seems like any bumbling buffoon can become prime minister, so Channel 4 have decided they’d do a better job of selecting a PM than the Tory party. In this new reality series, 12 candidates from across the political spectrum will have to convince judges Alastair Campbell and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi that they have what it takes to become Britain’s alternative prime minister.

Budget 2023

Tuesday, RTÉ One/RTÉ News/RTÉ Player/TG4, From 12.40pm

All eyes will be on Leinster House today as the Government unveils Budget 2023, and RTÉ cameras will be following the accounting action across the day, with coverage and analysis presented by David McCullagh and Vivienne Traynor throughout the afternoon, and a Prime Time budget special at 9.40pm presented by Miriam O’Callaghan and Sarah McInerney in which the Minister for Finance goes head to head with the Sinn Féin finance spokesman. Will this be a big giveaway budget to address the cost-of-living crisis, or will they just put an extra 1p on a packet of fags? All will be revealed.

This England

Wednesday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm

Kenneth Branagh is Boris Johnson in this topical drama chronicling the unfolding of the first wave of Covid in Britain and the fevered first months as health services battled to save lives and politicians struggled to manage the message. It’s hard to recognise Branagh under all that Boris latex — it could just as easily be Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible — but Ken’s got the former PM’s mannerisms and mumblings down to a T. Ophelia Lovibond co-stars as Boris’s fiancee Carrie Symonds, with Simon Paisley Day as the PM’s adviser Dominic Cummins and Andrew Buchan as health secretary Matt Hancock.

The Old Man

From Wednesday, Disney +

The Big Lebowski himself, Jeff Bridges, is the titular pensioner in this Disney+ original series, but this guy hasn’t got time for slacking or bowling, because there’s a hitman on his tail determined to wreck his retirement buzz. Bridges is ex-CIA man Dan Chase, who went AWOL from the agency decades ago due to some brouhaha with his superiors. He’s been “off the grid” for awhile now, but FBI agent Harold Harper (played by John Lithgow) has picked up Chase’s scent, and an assassin is dispatched to take out this geriatric rogue operative.


Thursday, Channel 4, 9pm

We’re still reeling from the bad news that Mock the Week is wrapping up for good after its current series, but there’s some consolation in that its presenter Dara O’Briain will be one of the celebrity guests in this new series of Taskmaster, presided over once again by Greg Davies and Alex Horne. O’Briain will be joined by comedians Sarah Millican, Fern Brady and Munya Chawawa, and Guessable co-host John Kearns, to face such daunting tasks as playing billiards with yoga balls and squeezing pleasure out of construction equipment.

The Island

Thursday, RTÉ2, 7pm

Liz Bonnin presents the final episode in this three-part journey into Ireland’s long distant past, going back 1.8 billion years to the cataclysmic events that formed our little land mass. This week Bonnin meets fossil experts and dinosaur hunters, and there’s another amazing revelation in store: Ireland was where the first creature emerged from the sea to evolve into a land dweller, and the tetrapod’s chosen landing location was Valentia Island in Co Kerry, where its tracks are still visible.

The Graham Norton Show

Friday, BBC One, 10.35pm

The best chatshow in the world returns, with Graham Norton once again herding a bunch of contrary superstars on to the famous couch and trying to get some sense out of them. Graham’s line-up of guests this first week is impressive: Oscar winner Rami Malek will chat about his new murder mystery film Amsterdam; scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis will discuss her final outing in the Halloween horror film series; Lydia West from It’s a Sin will talk about her new thriller series Inside Man; and Robbie Williams will perform his new single, Lost. Sorry, Ryan, I’m flicking over now.

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared

Friday, Channel 4, 11.05pm

Channel 4′s surreal new multimedia series has been knocking around as a podcast and YouTube series for awhile, but now it manifests as six half-hour episodes guaranteed to give you garishly coloured existential nightmares.

Like a horrid hybrid of Sesame Street, The Mighty Boosh and Stranger Things, DHMIS starts off all cuddly and kiddie-friendly, then quickly descends into a third circle of hellish horror that you definitely don’t want seared into the delicate retinas of your little darlings.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist