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

From Chris Packham’s topical take on an ancient mass extinction event to the real-life succession of Rupert Murdoch

World on Fire

Sunday, BBC One, 9pm

Series two of the second World War drama continues the story of ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary global conflict, and having to adjust to the new realities of war. Hitler and Churchill won’t get much of a look-in here, as the focus is on the fighter pilots, infantrymen, factory workers and medical personnel who did their part for their countries. No sign of Sean Bean and Helen Hunt either, who starred in series one, but Lesley Manville returns as Robina, with Jonah Hauer-King as Harry, Julia Brown as Lois and Zofia Wichlacz as Kasia.

Exploring India’s Treasures with Bettany Hughes

Sunday, Channel 4, 8pm

In the second of this two-part odyssey, adventurer, author and historian Prof Bettany Hughes heads south to Thanjavur, once the capital city of a vast empire ruled for years by the Chola dynasty. Prof Hughes visits the 10th-century Brihadeeswarar Temple, and comes across some stunning divine statues in a nearby town. She also takes a breathtaking journey on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which takes her over the stunning terrain of Tamil Nadu. High in the mountains she is introduced to the Toda people, whose way of life was transformed by the arrival of trains, and then boards a houseboat on the Malabar Coast to follow the route of the ancient spice trade down winding rivers and canals.

University Challenge

Monday, BBC Two, 8.30pm

First it was Bamber Gascoigne, then Jeremy Paxman ... and now Amol Rajan is the man in the compere’s chair for the latest series of quiz show University Challenge. This is the toughest quiz in the biz, with viewers at home having little to no chance of getting even one question right, but still we can’t help watching these brainy youngsters in action as they reel off the answers. The set design has changed but the familiar format is still in place, including the voice of announcer Roger Tilling. First up with their fingers on the buzzers are Trinity Cambridge versus Manchester.


Monday, BBC Two, 9pm

Are you ready for an epic journey through the 4½-billion-year history of our planet, in the company of Chris Packham? Strap yourself in, because this whizz-bang new series promises lots of jaw-dropping CGI explosions, upheavals and asteroid impacts as the Earth evolves into the life-nurturing rock we know today. Packham is backed up by teams of palaeontologists, geologists and climatologists to recreate the epic story of Earth and relive its most spectacular moments. In episode one, Inferno, we get a ringside seat at the Earth’s biggest mass extinction event (so far), 252 million years ago, when almost every living thing on the planet was wiped out by a gargantuan volcanic eruption that lasted two million years.


The Murdochs: Empire of Influence

Tuesday, RTÉ One, 10.30pm

It’s no secret that Succession is inspired by the story of Rupert Murdoch’s huge media empire, but can this documentary series come anywhere close to the high drama and boardroom shenanigans of the fictional TV hit? With a heavy-hitting combination of New York Times reportage and CNN programming, this series sets out to dissect the Murdoch media machine and get the stories behind the world headlines, and find out how Murdoch managed to wield such a huge influence in both politics and media.

Why Sharks Attack

Tuesday, BBC One, 8pm

Nothing like a good shark attack story to scare you out of the water this summer, and after watching this documentary, you’ll be afraid to even get your little toe wet. This year has seen a spate of shark attacks in the tourist resorts of the Red Sea in Egypt, and scientists are worried that climate change, fishing and increased human activity may be driving these predators into shallower waters. With the help of scientists and academics, the programme looks into the rise of shark attacks in Florida and Australia, and shark attack survivors tell their own gruesome stories. Enjoy your beach holiday.

The Bear

From Wednesday, Disney+

When Disney+ launched this drama series about a young chef trying to turn his late brother’s grimy sandwich shop into a gourmet joint, it proved a big hit with viewers, but will the crew at the newly renamed The Bear be able to keep up the quality for series two? Jeremy Allen White returns as chef “Carmy” Berzatto, with Ayo Edebiri as sous chef Sydney and Ebon Moss-Bacharach as restaurant manager Richie. Series two follows Carmy and the crew as construction on the new restaurant gets under way, with plans to open in six months. But they need money to get The Bear off the ground, and Cicero agrees to front them half a million on the understanding that if he’s not paid back within 18 months, he gets full ownership.

Barra’s Return of the Wild

Wednesday, BBC One, 8pm

Every day we hear of more species coming under threat of extinction due to human activity, but in this new series, Barra Best is on the hunt for species that are making a comeback against all odds – with a little help from humans. His first stop is the Ballinderry river in Northern Ireland, where freshwater pearl mussels are re-establishing themselves thanks to the efforts of local farmers and conservationists. Then it’s off to Scotland’s Cairngorms, where the country’s population of rare wildcats has been decimated, to watch as conservationists prepare to release wildcat kittens into the region.

Rosie Jones: Am I a R*tard?

Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm

Comedian Rosie Jones has what seems like a great job – being funny for a living – but there’s a side to her job that’s not funny at all. Jones, who has cerebral palsy, has to endure horrific online trolling every day because of her disability, with the R-word invariably thrown at her, along with death and rape threats. Instead of shutting down her social media accounts, though, Jones tries to find out how disability trolling became so prevalent and why some people think it’s all right to abuse another human just because they have a disability. She confronts the trolls themselves and challenges those who have enabled this toxic ableism to step up and speak out against this unspeakable form of bigotry.

The Supervet: Noel Fitzpatrick

Thursday, Channel 4, 9pm

The Irish veterinary surgeon is back with his 18th series, once again providing life-saving treatment for pets, along with heartwarming stories of animals brought back to health and reunited with their grateful owners. Fitzpatrick runs his practice in Surrey, where he comes up with innovative scientific solutions to a range of animal ailments. To kick off this new series with a bang and not a whimper, the first episode looks back over the past decade of Supervet, focusing on the cute puppies Fitzpatrick has saved since the series began in 2014.

Stephen Curry: Underrated

From Friday, Apple TV+

From an inauspicious start as an undersized college player, Stephen Curry has grown into one of the biggest superstars of basketball, blowing opposition – and spectators – away with his amazing shooting skills and becoming a multiple NBA champion and all-star. This documentary looks at Curry’s meteoric rise from a small college basketball team in North Carolina to the top tier of the sport, and how he developed his innovative playing style, including his ability to shoot with lethal accuracy from outside the three-point line. Stephen, the son of former NBA player Dell Curry and the brother of NBA player Seth Curry, started out with few expectations, but since then has set fire to the sport like no one since Michael Jordan.

John Torode’s Ireland

Friday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm

The Masterchef presenter continues his foodie odyssey around the Emerald Isle, and this week he’s reaching the epicentre of epicurean delight – the towns of Kinsale and Dingle on the Wild Atlantic Way. Both of these coastal towns have big foodie reputations to live up to, so they’d better bring their best to the plate for Torode. He goes on a food tour of Kinsale with local restaurateur Martin Shanahan, and tries out Shanahan’s celebrated fish soup, and the world’s oldest alcoholic drink, which is making a comeback. In Dingle, Torode has an award-winning toastie followed by an Irish whiskey ice cream dessert. Yummy.