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

Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me; Ireland’s Fittest Family; The 2 Johnnies Do America

Ireland’s Fittest Family

Sunday, RTÉ One, 6.30pm

Mairead Ronan presents another clash of the clans as four buffed families — the Fitzsimons from Co Wicklow, the Gallaghers from Co Laois, the Finnegans from Co Meath and the Dorans from Co Wexford — go through a series of challenges that make boot camp seem like a stroll in your slippers. They’ll be coached by Davy Fitzgerald, Anna Geary and Donncha O’Callaghan, along with new coach, jockey Nina Carbery, as they take on such new challenges as High and Dry, Raft Rage and the Water Eliminator.

Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

Sunday, BBC Two, 8.20pm

Has he not found the bleeding place yet? Sure you can’t miss it — it looks like a big boot. It’s season two of Hollywood actor Stanley Tucci’s culinary jaunt around Italy, and we’re looking forward to further lip-smacking adventures as Tucci samples the foodie delights to be discovered from Piedmont to Puglia and from Lombardy to Lazio. The first series was made when no one was allowed to travel, and gave us a vicarious taste thrill, so let’s see if Tucci can keep us on board for this return trip.

The 2 Johnnies Do America

Monday, RTÉ2, 9.30pm

The Tipp twosome make a return foray into the Land of the Free, and encounter more colourful characters and bizarre customs as they delve into the underbelly of the US in this second series of Stateside adventures. In the opening episode, they try to get into the US through the back door — Mexico — and fetch up in Texas, where they risk certain death at a monster motorbike rally, risk getting trampled in a cattle ranch, and venture deep into hipster territory in Austin, home of the SXSW festival.

Hashtag Dogs

Monday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm

We’ve heard of handbag dogs, but now meet the hashtag dogs — the new breed of dogfluencers who are doing the business on social media. Ken Wardrop’s film looks at the rise of cute canine videos on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok and showcases some of the dog stars who have amassed millions of followers. During the pandemic, Wardrop discovered that looking at cute puppy pics and watching hilarious hound videos was the perfect stressbuster, so this film promises to be the equivalent of a weekend in the spa.


Paxman: Putting up with Parkinson’s

Tuesday, UTV, 9pm

Famously tenacious TV presenter Jeremy Paxman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a year and a half ago, but instead of shuffling off the stage, he’s making this documentary about how the disease has impacted on his life, his family and career. Paxman is well known for grilling politicians, but here he meets other people who are living with Parkinson’s and medics seeking better treatments for the disease. He also meets actor Jane Asher, who is the president of Parkinson’s UK, and explores unusual therapies, including ballet and playing bowls.

How Long Will You Live?

Tuesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm

Dr Phil Kieran is on a mission to help us extend our life expectancy — not with a magic youth elixir, but by simply making some key lifestyle adjustments. In this third episode, Dr Phil meets 32-year-old accountant and mother of two Catherine Duffy, who is living with Asperger’s syndrome, and is finding it a challenge to keep fit and healthy in her busy life. When she was younger, Catherine was a keen camogie player, but hasn’t picked up a camán in years, and she’s hoping to get back into playing sports regularly, with a bit of help from Dr Phil.

Ralph & Katie

Wednesday, BBC One, 9pm

Fans of The A Word will be looking forward to this spin-off series, following the characters of newlyweds Ralph and Katie as they set out on the bumpy road towards wedded bliss. The A Word starred Max Vento as a young boy named Joe, who was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. This new series focuses on a young couple navigating the perils of married life and the challenges of living with Down syndrome. Leon Harrop and Sarah Gordy return as Ralph and Katie, and some other familiar faces from The A Word will be making appearances. Expect stereotypes to be well and truly smashed.

Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me

Wednesday, BBC Two, 9pm

England rugby star Steve Thompson took a lot of knocks during his glittering international career, but probably the hardest knock was when he learned may have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition directly linked to repeated head trauma on the pitch. This special documentary follows Thompson’s journey to understanding his condition, coping with memory loss (he doesn’t recall being awarded an MBE after England’s Rugby World Cup victory in 2003), and challenging world Rugby to take more action to protect its players.


Thursday, BBC One, 8pm

Comedian Rob Beckett is your host in this new reality relationship show, in which six celebrities and their partners are brought to a heavenly manor house in the countryside — and then put through hell. These celeb couples reckon their bonds are strong, but they’ll have to perform some physically, mentally and emotionally demanding challenges to prove they are made for each other. Will the couples be at each other’s throats by the end of it all, or will their hearts be still entwined? Only one unbreakable couple will be crowned winner — the rest will probably see each other in court.

Foster & Allen: Lost in Music

Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm

After 40 years ploughing their own country and Irish furrow, the legendary duo are ready to push the boat out and try some new styles, so they hook up with some cred new artists and learn some new tricks in this two-part musical adventure. They’ve sold millions of albums to adoring fans who know exactly what they’re getting, but now it’s time to reinvent themselves with a bit of aul’ rap, soul and indie, as they prepare for a special live concert featuring such guests as Steo Wall, Toshín, Ailbhe Reddy and Strange Boy. Welcome to the new world accordion to Foster & Allen

The Midnight Club

Friday, Netflix

Netflix’s new horror/mystery series revolves around a group of terminally ill patients at a hospice who meet up every night at the witching hour and scare the bejaysus out of each other with creepy ghost stories. They make a pact: whichever of them dies first must make contact with the others in whatever way they can. Needless to say no sooner than one of the group kicks the bucket, things start to go bump in the night. The series is created by Mike Flanagan and Leah Fong, and based on the 1994 novel by Christopher Pike.

Friend of the Family

Friday, Peacock & Now

Anna Paquin stars as a mother desperately trying to protect her daughter from a ruthless and relentless predator in this harrowing new series based on a true story. The Brobergs were a tight-knit, God-fearing family, but when a charismatic neighbour became obsessed with their daughter Jan, he used devilish cunning to tear the family apart, kidnapping her many times and turning her against her parents. Somehow the family had to dig deep into their reserves of faith to survive this evil visitation.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist