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

From current affairs to the Arctic, the Welsh Valley and the world of Putin, this week’s TV has something for everyone

Arctic from Above

Sunday, Sky Nature, 8pm

It’s one of the most stunning, spectacular and rugged parts of the world, covering 5.4 million square miles of awe-inspiring wilderness, and wildlife biologist Liz Bonnin sets out to explore this unforgiving landscape at the top of the world in this new three-part series.

The series hopes to rival David Attenborough for sheer breathtaking cinematography and up-close encounters with a variety of fascinating creatures, including polar bears, narwhals, arctic wolves, leopard seals, killer whales and reindeer.

Room to Improve

Sunday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm

It’s the series finale of Dermot Bannon’s ever-popular home renovation show, and in this last episode we meet Andy and Anne-Marie Gray, who are keen to extend their semi-detached home in Castleknock in Dublin.

The couple and their two sons are fast outgrowing the house the family have lived in for the past 17 years, but they’re not sure what’s the best way to add space and futureproof their home. It will be up to Bannon to come up with ideas that will float their boat while staying within their €180,000 budget.


Putin vs the West

Monday, BBC Two, 9pm

Russian president Vladimir Putin has emerged as the biggest threat to world peace and stability, but the threat has been brewing for quite some time, and this three-part documentary series looks at the past 10 years of turmoil, including the Maidan protests in Kyiv and Putin’s annexing of Crimea.

Film-maker Norma Percy examines how Putin has been creating a headache for western leaders as he becomes more powerful, more ambitious and more reckless – and interviews key players in world politics, including former British PM David Cameron, former French president François Hollande and former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.

Upfront with Katie Hannon

Monday, RTÉ One, 10.35pm

You’ve read, watched and listened to the news. But now you want to get behind those headlines and bulletins and tease out the wider story, and this new current affairs series, presented by award-winning journalist and broadcaster Katie Hannon, will bring the audience closer to the people at the centre of the big news stories of the day.

The studio audience will get to grill politicians and policymakers, while a wider audience across social media will also get to join the – hopefully – sparkling and stimulating conversation.

Finding Brigid

Tuesday, RTÉ, 10.15pm

Who was St Brigid, semi-mythical historical figure who is celebrated in Ireland’s latest public holiday? Who cares, says you, as long as we get another day off. But in case you want to find out more about the woman who gifted us a welcome break from the doldrums and drudgery of February, Derry Girls star Siobhán McSweeney goes on a quest to unravel the story of the real Brigid, who died 1,500 years ago.

Sweeney has help from Herstory activist Melanie Lynch and poet Laura Murphy, who made it their mission to establish Ireland’s first national holiday in honour of a woman.

Emily Atack: Asking for It?

Tuesday, BBC Two, 9pm

The actor and comedian delivers a serious curveball with this very personal account of the sexual harassment and abuse she and many other women have to endure on a daily basis just because they are on social media.

Atack asks a very pertinent question: why has toxic online behaviour become normalised, and why are the victims of online abuse being blamed for the unwanted attention? Atack confronts the men who send her sexually explicit and threatening messages to find out what motivates them, and she challenges police and parliament for not doing enough to protect women and girls from online hatred.

Neven’s Greenway Food Trails

Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9pm

Chef Neven Maguire mixes cooking with cycling (though not at the same time) in his new series, and this week he’s doing the Royal Canal Greenway, a 130km route which passes through counties Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford. That’ll give you a good appetite. Maguire sets himself up nicely for the cycle with a visit to Kathleen’s Kitchen in Carton House to meet executive chef Gary Rogers, and then drops in to the Multyfarnham Cookery School, run by chef Kamalika Ranasingha, and stops for a magnificent organic gourmet burger at Joe Brady’s food truck on the shores of Lough Owel.

Our Flag Means Death

Wednesday, BBC Two, 11.15pm

The swashbuckling US comedy series set on a pirate ship has been a hit in the US, but reviews on this side of the pond are not so positive. Rhys Darby stars as toff-turned-pirate-captain Stede Bonnet, in a series executive produced by Takia Waititi. Stede is not made for a hard life on the high seas, but he carries on regardless – with presumably hilarious results. Waititi co-stars as the notorious pirate Blackbeard, who, conversely, is hoping to become an aristo like Stede. Have we a new Black Adder on our hands? Jury’s still out to sea on this one.

First Dates Ireland

Thursday, RTÉ2, 9.30pm

The restaurant of romance opens for another set of diners who are hoping to fill that empty feeling in their hearts and find their perfect match on the menu. This week’s singletons in search of sustenance for the soul are southern belle Laya from Cork, who is originally from Georgia in the US, who is paired up with Charlie from Co Louth, whose thumbs are apparently sore from endless swiping on Tinder.

Also arriving at the restaurant is Josh from Co Monaghan and his date Brian, a student union president from Dublin. But Josh has a confession to make: he’s got a drag alter-ego, named Celtic Tigress. Will Brian embrace the Tigress or will he run like a hunted gazelle?

The Rookie

Thursday, Sky Witness & Now, 9pm

Nathan Fillion returns as the oldest rookie in the precinct in the fifth season of the hit US cop procedural drama, and as he nears the end of his training, Nolan is going to have to face some of his worst fears. He’ll also have to face serial killer Rosalind again, and she makes it clear that they have unfinished business. Will Nolan’s wisdom and life experience be enough to get him by in this cut-throat world of policing?

Hotel Portofino

Friday, UTV, 9pm

Telly viewers in need of some post-Brexit escapism can tune in to this new series set in the idyllic Italian Riviera in the 1920s. Natascha McElhone stars as Bella Ainsworth, the daughter of a rich industrialist, who has decided to open a quintessentially English hotel in the beautiful Italian town of Portofino. Cue lots of culture clashes, not to mention plenty of sexual intrigue in the sun, and political corruption amid the rise of fascism. Add in a daring theft and a murder mystery, and you have everything you need for an Italian adventure. Anna Chancellor plays the hotel’s most demanding and difficult guest, Lady Latchmere.

The Late Late Show Eurosong Special

Friday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Time to pick another song to represent Ireland in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, and judging by recent entries over the past few years, you’d half believe the priest in Father Ted who suggested we’re deliberately trying to lose the damn thing.

Six acts will be taking to the Late Late stage to perform their ditties in the hope of doing us proud in Liverpool in May, but not all of them are the usual lambs to the slaughter. Among the entries is veteran new wave band Public Image Limited, fronted by a certain John Lydon. Are you brave enough to give Johnny Rotten nul points? I thought not…

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist