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

Claire Byrne hosts new quiz show Ireland’s Smartest, Paul Mescal up for another acting prize at the Olivier Awards, Lily Allen’s TV acting debut in Dreamland and the final of Home of the Year

Ireland’s Smartest

Sunday, RTÉ One, 7.30pm

The smart money may be on Claire Byrne to take over from Ryan Tubridy as the new host of The Late Late Show, but meanwhile Byrne is returning to our tellies with a brand new quizshow specifically tailored for brainyheads. It sounds a bit like QI crossed with Mastermind with a dash of University Challenge, as the producers traipse up and down the country in search of clever clogs to take part in a quiz that “tests their knowledge and their nerve to the limit”.

The Olivier Awards 2023

Sunday, UTV, 10.15pm

Luvvie alert! Britain’s annual celebration of thespian endeavour takes place at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and we have a decent skin in the game, in the form of Paul Mescal, who is nominated for his role in A Streetcar Named Desire. He didn’t bag a best actor Oscar but, judging from the rave reviews for his turn as Stanley Kowalski, this one could be in the bag. Also up for awards are Jodie Comer for Prima Facie, David Tennant for Good and Beverley Knight for Sylvia, with nods for such hit productions as My Neighbour Totoro, My Fair Lady and To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Agreement

Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Miriam O’Callaghan, keeping her current affairs hat firmly on after ruling herself out of the running to be new Late Late Show host, presents a two-part documentary to mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement. Over two consecutive nights the documentary will track the intense negotiations that led up to the signing of the historic agreement, and saw John Hume and David Trimble share a Nobel Peace Prize for their tireless efforts at brokering peace. It also features interviews with key players in the events of the day, including former UK prime minister Tony Blair, US senator George Mitchell and former taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

The House of Paisley

Monday, BBC One, 10.40pm

He was a fire-and-brimstone preacher who pursued the unionist agenda with evangelical zeal, becoming a thorn in the side of republicans and the Irish government, then surprised everyone by embracing powersharing and developing a close personal and professional relationship with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness. This documentary series tracks the life story of this towering, controversial figure in Northern Ireland’s recent history, examines the faith and political beliefs that shaped his career and looks at his role in the founding of the Free Presbyterian Church and the Democratic Unionist Party.


Home of the Year

Tuesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm

We’ve oohed and aahed over a lot of fine homes over the latest series, and indulged ourselves in serious property envy, but now it’s time to pick a winner in the latest series looking for those homes that go that little extra square foot to become something very special indeed. Judges Hugh Wallace, Amanda Bone and Sarah Cosgrove have run the rule over some of the country’s greatest gaffs, including a converted school in Co Mayo and a super-elegant Victorian in Co Down, and they’ll have the unenviable (yeah, right) task of choosing the Home of the Year 2023.

Rain Dogs

Tuesday, BBC One, 11.40pm

Daisy May Cooper stars in a new comedy drama about a single mother, Costello Jones, and her precocious 10-year-old daughter, Iris, who are living on the margins of society, just one misstep away from homelessness. Costello is desperate to find a better life for herself and Iris, and she forms an unlikely bond with a privileged gay man, Selby, played by Jack Farthing. Can this unconventional family find their way in life, or will the whole thing go off the rails?


Wednesday, RTÉ One, 7pm

Presenter Donal Byrne continues his exploration of the Irish Civil War, and in this episode of Nationwide, he’s focusing on the last days, as the conflict began to sputter out following the killing of IRA leader Liam Lynch. With the final tally of deaths reaching 2,000 by the time arms were laid down, Byrne examines the traumatic effects of the war on families from both sides of the divide, and learns that, for some families, the hurt is still very real 100 years on.


From Wednesday, Apple TV+

The mad homage to classic musicals returns for a second series, with more songs, more dance and more of that business we call show. Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong return as Josh and Melissa, and the second series finds them longing to return to Schmigadoon, but instead finding themselves in Schmicago, where the musicals are a lot darker, more daring, and just a little bit depraved. Like Brad and Janet in Rocky Horror, the pair will have to navigate a sexy, scary new soundscape while trying to hold on to their musical purity.


Thursday, Sky Atlantic & Now, 9pm

Pop star Lily Allen makes her TV acting debut in this new comedy series all about women’s relationships and family dynamics. The series follows the lives of four sisters and their mum, and it’s no surprise to find the writing hand of the mighty Sharon Horgan behind it. The series is based on Horgan’s award-winning 2018 short, and is set in the seaside town of Margate. Freema Agyeman plays eldest sister Trish, who is expecting her third child, much to the delight of sisters Clare (Gabby Best) and Leila (Aimee-Ffion Edwards), their mum (Frances Barber) and their nan (Sheila Reid). What she’s not expecting is the reappearance of her third sister, Mel (Allen), the disruptive force in the family. We’re expecting the comedy bar to be raised up yet another notch.

Reunion Hotel

Thursday, BBC Two, 8pm

You’ve been to the First Dates restaurant, but now here’s a second chance at love as Alex Jones opens up the Reunion Hotel for business. The idea is simple: you may have an old flame from your past you’d like to get together with again. Or maybe there’s an old friend you’ve lost contact with. The staff of the hotel will set up your reunion, and provide all you need to make your reacquaintance. In the first episode Tegan reunites with the man who saved her life after she fell on the Tube tracks, and Lee is hoping to meet the brother he never knew he had.

Tiny Beautiful Things

From Friday, Disney+

Clare is a writer in serious need of finding a new chapter in her life, and when a friend offers her a gig as an agony aunt, she discovers the therapeutic value of helping readers with their problems. Kathryn Hahn plays Clare, who has assumed her new persona as Dear Sugar, dishing out advice and wisdom to the public while piecing her own messed-up life back together. The series is based on the best-selling collection by Cheryl Strayed, and beware – there may be feelgood moments of unbearable lightness.


From Friday, Netflix

Between 1940 and 1041, The Emergency Rescue Committee helped thousands of refugees to escape from occupied France, and this series tells the true story of how a group of idealistic young people, led by American journalist Varian Fry (Cory Michael Smith) and bankrolled by Chicago heiress Mary Jayne Gold (Gillian Jacobs) managed to spirit out some of Europe’s greatest artists and intellectuals from under the Nazis’ noses – including Andre Breton, Hannah Arendt, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Marc Chagall.