What’s on TV tonight: Ratched, Long Way Up, and more

Your complete guide to the week’s television, films and sport, across terrestrial and digital platforms

Ratched
Ratched

Friday 18 September 

Ratched

Netflix

The year is 1947 and an ambitious young woman arrives in northern California, determined to seek employment at the nearby psychiatric hospital noted for its new experimental methods. Her name: Mildred Ratched. Fans of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, either Ken Kesey’s book or Miloš Forman’s film, may well wonder exactly why Ryan Murphy decided that the original tale’s villain needed a backstory and the early episodes don’t provide much in the way of an answer, beyond the trite notion that “monsters are made, not born”. But if you treat Ratched as a piece of drama in its own right then the whole thing becomes 10 times more enjoyable.

Shot in vivid colours like a Douglas Sirk movie gone wrong and anchored by a terrific performance from Sarah Paulson as Mildred, there is also strong support from Judy Davis as the head nurse who despises the new recruit, Amanda Plummer as her eccentric landlady, Finn Wittrock as a mass murderer and Sharon Stone as a woman seeking revenge. As is often the case with Murphy, the dialogue can be a little too on the nose but if you ignore the odd eye-roller and let it wash over you then it becomes strangely addictive in a slightly kitsch way. SH

Long Way Up

Apple TV+

Fans of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s particular brand of laddish high jinks rejoice as Apple revive their travel series. This time around the pair are on a pair of electric Harley Davidsons and heading through Central and South America.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous

Netflix

As further proof that no one learns their lesson in the Jurassic Park universe, here comes another addition to the franchise: an animated series about a group of teenagers under attack from dinosaurs.

Gardeners’ World

BBC Two, 8.00pm

This week sees Monty Don dreaming of spring while planting daffodils, Toby Buckland heading to The Newt, a country estate in Somerset, and Frances Tophill interviewing a gardener at his allotment.  

The Romantics and Us with Simon Schama

BBC Two, 9.00pm

This second episode of what is proving to be a truly enjoyable series focuses on the internal journeys of the Romantics, looking at how they retreated from the troubles of public life to investigate the subconscious and examining how that affected their works.

Atlantic: A Year in the Wild

Channel 5, 9.00pm

Spring arrives for the animals living on the shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean, bringing with it food and the desire to find a mate. In Shetland, an otter prepares to say goodbye to her cubs. Meanwhile, in Iceland a group of killer whales heads off in search of fresh prey.

Soul America

BBC Four, 9.00pm

This excellent music series looking at the birth of soul music comes to a suitably moving end with the death of Marvin Gaye in the early 1980s. From there it looks at how soul became more commercial thanks to the smooth sounds of Luther Vandross and Anita Baker before considering the rise of hip hop and a new era of music.     

Five Guys A Week

Channel 4, 10.00pm

This deranged but oddly addictive dating series returns for a second run. This time around our lucky gal is business consultant Tara who invites haulage driver Lou, photographer Chris, shopping centre manager Adam, health worker Kris and oven cleaner Michael to live with her for a week in the hope of falling for one of them. SH

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) ★★★

Sky Cinema Premiere/NOW TV, 8.00pm 

For any discerning Terminator fan, only the first two films in the franchise are worthy of any attention. And so it is for this sequel, which disregards all the intervening films and TV series, with James Cameron resuming creative control for the first time since 1991 and Linda Hamilton returning as Sarah Connor. The result is OK but nowhere near the brilliance of Terminator 2.

The Lone Ranger (2013) ★★★

BBC One, 10.45pm

While not without its problems (it was also a major box-office flop), this is a strange, fascinating and often thrilling movie artefact. Armie Hammer co-stars as John Reid, a firm believer in the rule of law – until, that is, the outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) kills someone dear to him. Left for dead, Reid is rescued by Tonto (Johnny Depp), a Comanche loner, and they forge an unlikely alliance.

The Drop (2014) ★★★★

Channel 4, 12.05am

Tom Hardy anchors this tale of malfeasance as the tender of a Brooklyn bar designated as the drop for ill-gotten gains. Dennis Lehane adapts his own short story Animal Rescue, and makes a superb team with Belgian director Michaël R Roskam; together they elicit a shuffling and beautifully calibrated star turn out of Hardy. There are also excellent performances from Matthias Schoenaerts, Noomi Rapace and the late James Gandolfini.

Saturday 19 September 

Mystery Road

Mystery Road

BBC Four, from 9.00pm 

We first encountered brooding Australian detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) in Ivan Sen’s excellent 2013 film Mystery Road. Since then there has been a sequel, 2016’s equally strong Goldstone, and a well-received TV series directed by Rachel Perkins (which is available to watch on iPlayer). This second series sees the talented Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah, Sweet Country) at the helm and he quickly develops a heightened sense of menace, deftly painting a picture of a tense community where the threat of violence thrums through the air.

This double bill begins with Jay’s arrival in the remote town of Gideon. He’s been tipped off that a drugs ring is being run out of the area and hopes that finding it will lead to arrests elsewhere. What he uncovers, however, is a dead body, an archaeological dig and a decades old mystery still creating disturbing waves. Pedersen is fantastic as Jay, a man who takes belligerence to new heights (his refusal to cut the town’s sloppy police chief even the smallest amount of slack is particularly enjoyable), while Jada Alberts as his apparently naive young partner offers solid support. The result is tightly plotted, very addictive and not to be missed. SH

Cycling: Tour de France  

ITV4/Eurosport 1 & 2 

The world’s biggest bike race reaches its conclusion after three gruelling weeks over the French Alps and the Pyrenees. Saturday’s penultimate stage is an individual time-trial from the small city of Lure, close to the Swiss border, to La Planche des Belles Filles, a steep, twisting climb that could shake up the General Classification right at the death.

Rugby Union: Leinster v Saracens

BT Sport 3, 2.30pm (kick off 3.00pm)

The Champions Cup returns, with Pro14  champions Leinster taking on last year’s Premiership champions Saracens in the first quarter-final. On Monday, Sale Sharks face Harlequins in the Premiership Cup final (BT Sport 1, 7.45pm).

Strictly: The Best of Movies

BBC One, 7.30pm

Get ready to swoon, sigh and snort with laughter as Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman prepare for the imminent return of Strictly Come Dancing with this highlights package focusing on Movie Week. Yes, it’s time to giggle at Ed Balls’s memorable The Mask samba once again.  

Jane McDonald’s Weekends Away

Channel 5, 8.00pm

Not so much a new series as a repackaging of memorable moments. The focus this time is on short weekend breaks and the opening episode sees the singer head to Malta for a private walking tour before relaxing in the olive groves of Corfu.  

The Queen vs No 10: Behind Closed Doors

Channel 5, 9.00pm

Channel 5’s latest royal documentary looks at the Queen’s relationship with her many prime ministers. It’s a solid programme filled with fascinating observations, including some that might have the incumbent of Number 10 squirming.

Madness: Before and After

Sky Arts/NOW TV, 9.00pm

Filmed last year in celebration of their 40th anniversary, Madness: Before and After is an entertaining profile of a band who have apparently managed the impossible by staying friends. It helps, says lead singer Suggs, that they feel like a family. At 10.30pm is saxophonist Lee Thompson’s enjoyably idiosyncratic account of the band’s origin story.

Jonathan Ross’ Comedy Club

ITV, 10.00pm

With live entertainment still largely a thing of the past, there’s never been a better time to watch this new series from Jonathan Ross celebrating intimate venues and up-and-coming comedians. Tonight’s acts include Nigel Ng, Bec Hill and Jordan Brookes. 

The Beach: Isolation in Paradise

BBC Four, from 10.55pm

Who could have guessed that the week’s most interesting pieces of television would feature a man hanging out on a remote Australian beach and shooting the breeze with his chickens? Airing as a companion show to Mystery Road, this documentary follows director Warwick Thornton as he begins a period of contemplation away from society. It’s an extraordinary study of isolation in which Thornton lives off the land, talks about his childhood and reveals a loathing of green tea. SH

Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★

BBC One, 5.30pm

Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate-box remake of the 1997 animated classic. The film’s songs – including three new ones by Alan Menken – are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, but Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans swish as Gaston, and Dan Stevens dons digital fur as the enchanted Prince, trapped in the body of a monster.

I, Tonya (2017) ★★★★★

BBC Two, 9.30pm

Craig Gillespie’s drama about the Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, whose career went up in smoke in 1994, glides on the knife-edge between satire and sympathy, often dazzling with its footwork. Margot Robbie is viciously mesmerising and morally ambiguous in the lead, while Allison Janney won an Oscar for playing Tonya’s monster mother LaVona to the hilt.

Jimi: All Is By My Side (2013) ★★★

BBC Two, 12.25am

Many of the stories that feature in this biopic of Jimi Hendrix, written and directed by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, were (alas) debunked by those who were close to the guitarist, most notably his former girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. Nevertheless, it’s entertaining, and André Benjamin (aka André 3000) brings Hendrix to life as a potent sex symbol shying away from machismo.

Sunday 20 September 

Us

Us

BBC One, 9.00pm

As with Starter for Ten and One Day, David Nicholls adapts his own bestselling novel for the screen, but this four-part drama feels more plausible and poignant than either, thanks to nicely judged turns from Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves and a time-hopping narrative that genuinely serves the story. We join uptight scientist Douglas (Hollander) and frustrated artist Connie (Reeves) in bed as the latter drops a bombshell: “Things between us might have run their course.” Despite her determination and his disbelief, they decide to honour a long-planned Grand Tour of Europe with their son, Albie (Tom Taylor, caught in the middle of a second middle-class break-up following Doctor Foster), before he goes to university.

As they head to Paris, the dad jokes, passive-aggressive bickering and youthful frustrations mount up, the superficial rubs shoulders with the profound (musings on middle age, allusions to a shared pain at the heart of their marriage) and flashbacks to the young Douglas and Connie make a convincing case for why they got together in the first place. Melancholy without being bleak, funny without being silly, it’s perfect Sunday night entertainment. GT

Cycling: Tour de France  

ITV4/Eurosport 1 & 2 

The riders roll into Paris, with tradition dictating the maillot jaune remain unchallenged. The relentless Primož Roglič looks most likely to be quaffing champagne on the Parisian outskirts, but fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogačar has kept himself well in range after an impressive final week. Britain’s Adam Yates, who has had an excellent Tour with Mitchelton–Scott ahead of his move to Team Ineos next season, would need something spectacular to take the yellow jersey going into the final weekend.

Football: Chelsea v Liverpool

Sky Main Event, 4.00pm (kick off 4.30pm)

The new Premier League season got underway last week, with Chelsea and Liverpool both getting off to winning starts. Frank Lampard will likely be the happier of the two managers after Chelsea beat Brighton convincingly, with new frontman Timo Werner impressing on debut. Jürgen Klopp has more to be concerned about after Liverpool barely scraped past newly promoted Leeds United in an extremely open and entertaining game. Although early in the season, this match could prove crucial should the heavily reinforced Chelsea bridge the gap in class to Liverpool and Manchester City.

Family Fortunes

ITV, 8.00pm

Our survey probably wouldn’t have said Gino D’Acampo as number one choice to host a revamped Family Fortunes but, 18 years after Les Dennis took his bow, here he is offering two families the chance to win £30,000 by guessing the most popular answers to a series of questions.

Scotland’s Scenic Railways

Channel 4, 8.00pm

Bill Paterson is on voice-over duty for this lovely documentary covering Scotland’s railways and those who work on them. The West Highland Line features, as does the Flying Scotsman, steaming over the Forth Bridge.

Louis Theroux: Life on the Edge

BBC Two, 9.00pm

Louis Theroux’s Behind Bars marked the documentarian’s first step away from the quirkier Weird Weekends films towards an increasing seriousness. Law and order in the USA is the subject of this enjoyable retrospective compilation. Once again, it’s a fascinating assessment of an evolving career, and of an endemically flawed criminal justice system.

The Singapore Grip

ITV, 9.00pm

This peculiar adaptation is struggling to find its tone. Matthew (Luke Treadaway) finds life in imperial Singapore not entirely to his taste, with Pearl Harbor looming and his future in the balance. 

The Forgotten West Memphis Three

Sky Crime/NOW TV, 9.00pm

Bob Ruff brings his hit podcast Truth and Justice to the screen, with this two-parter reopening the cold-case murders of three eight-year-old boys in 1993. How flawed was the original case, and how might new technology help justice be done?

The Movies

Sky Documentaries/NOW TV, 9.00pm

With the studio system having breathed its last, we’re now entering the 1970s in this history of filmmaking. It was a period when New Hollywood began churning out classics at an astounding rate courtesy of Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and their peers.

9/11 Pentagon Special

Sky History/NOW TV, 9.00pm

Sixty years after the ground was broken on The Pentagon, a hijacked plane crashed into the building, killing 184 people. This film offers a raw, moving account of September 11, 2001 in Arlington. GT

Doctor Zhivago (1965) ★★★★★

BBC Two, 3.00pm

David Lean’s adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel is arguably his greatest film. Doctor Zhivago is a tale of thwarted love during the Russian Revolution, with a sprawling cast and several intertwined plots. Omar Sharif (in the title role) and Julie Christie (playing his mistress) are the seductive stars; Alec Guinness and Rod Steiger are warm and wicked (respectively) in support. It’s also on BBC Four on Thursday at 8pm.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) ★★★★★

Film4, 4.35pm

Laika, the studio behind Coraline, crafted this stop-motion film with obsessive artisanal flair down to the last detail. Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson, is on a quest to locate a magical suit of armour. Like his mother, he has supernatural powers, and finds that he can summon vengeful spirits from his past. This is a profound, imaginative and ravishing riposte to frenetic cartoons.

Dreamgirls (2006) ★★★★

5STAR, 9.00pm

A musical about a 1960s girl group whose talented lead (Jennifer Hudson) is gradually replaced by her more beautiful back-up singer (Beyoncé) in a manner strongly reminiscent of Diana Ross and The Supremes. The catchy songs are belted out a little too fortissimo, but Hudson’s rendition of the best number, And I Am Telling You, is heartbreaking, while Beyoncé’s is equally mesmerising in Listen.

Monday 21 September 

Rose West & Myra Hindley: Their Untold Story with Trevor McDonald 

Rose West & Myra Hindley: Their Untold Story with Trevor McDonald

ITV, 9.00pm

One of the more bizarre facts to emerge from this hour is that Rose West, Britain’s most prolific serial killer, is now an avid fan of Strictly Come Dancing who asks a prison visitor known as “mum” to phone-vote on her behalf. (Kelvin Fletcher was her favourite last year.) Other than that, new revelations are surprisingly thin on the ground in a film that speculatively explores the time West and fellow child-killer Myra Hindley shared a high security wing in HMP Durham in the 1990s – when they became best friends for a month or so before a serious falling-out split them apart again. The question of whether their friendship had a sexual element adds a salacious note but most attention is given to contrasting West’s fiery temper with Hindley’s chilling manipulativeness.

Contributors include a trio of former fellow inmates, prison officers, West’s former solicitor and her biographer; and Trevor McDonald gets to practice his interrogation skills on Hindley’s former counsellor, Rev Peter Timms. In the end, though, both West and Hindley (who died in 2002) remain elusive, as unknowable as the true motives behind their appalling crimes. GO

Cricket: Women’s T20  England v West Indies

Sky Cricket, 5.30pm (starts 6.00pm)

England’s women play their first match since March, when their T20 World Cup semi-final was cruelly washed out, discarding them from the tournament. They take on West Indies on Monday in the first of three T20 matches, with the second match on Wednesday (Sky Cricket, 5.30pm).

Only Connect

BBC Two, 8.00pm

TV’s most perplexing quiz returns for a sixteenth series as another two teams (a trio of Boston United fans vs a threesome of oenophiles) embark on a series of fiendish conundrums. As ever, Victoria Coren Mitchell presides.

Inside the Bomb Squad

Channel 4, 8.00pm

The second outing for this occasionally terrifying series, about the 2,000 threats that the bomb squad deals with annually, looks at organised crime, some homemade explosive devices and a live shell on Llandudno beach.  

Too Young to Die

Sky Arts/NOW TV, 8.00pm

The clean-cut image of 1970s hitmakers The Carpenters masked a complicated backstory, especially for Karen Carpenter, whose battle with eating disorders (leading to her death, aged 32) is sensitively explored in this film on her legacy.  

Ghosts

BBC One, 8.30pm

A funny BBC sitcom is a rarity these days but this haunted house comedy from the Horrible Histories troupe hits the mark consistently. As the second series opens Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike’s (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) plans to open a hotel are long dead, but a visiting photographer prompts them to put Button House’s spectral residents to work instead.  

Brain Surgeons: Between Life and Death

Channel 4, 9.00pm

This new series explores the high stakes world of brain surgery at a leading neurological clinic in Southampton. The main focus is on surgeons’ efforts – over a gruelling two-day procedure – to remove a potentially fatal tumour growing in the brain of a 12-year-old. 

The Secret History of Writing

BBC Four, 9.00pm

This fascinating three-part series explores the key part played by writing in the advancement of civilisation and the evolution of the human brain. It begins with ancient cave painting. 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Sky One/NOW TV, 11.00pm TV’s top awards return as a virtual event coming direct from the homes of nominees and presenters and anchored by host Jimmy Kimmel. The Crown or Killing Eve are two British series vying for best drama series, while Olivia Colman and Jodie Comer are both up for best actress. GO

Young Winston (1972) ★★★★

Sony Movies Classic, 6.10pm

Richard Attenborough’s meticulous biopic traces the early years of one of Britain’s most loved prime ministers. Based on Winston Churchill’s memoirs, it begins with his stint as a war correspondent in Africa at the turn of the century, skips back to his childhood at two different public schools, and leads up to his election to Parliament, the start of his path to the premiership. Simon Ward stars.

The Adventures of Tintin (2011) ★★★★

Film4, 6.55pm

When a cultural creation as popular as Hergé’s Tintin gets the Hollywood treatment, the knives will inevitably be sharpened. It’s to Steven Spielberg’s credit, then, that this animated adventure will appeal to both fans of the original comics and newcomers. The plot is absorbing, the action rollicking and the visual effects are vibrant. Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis provide voices.

The L-Shaped Room (1962, b/w) ★★★★

Talking Pictures TV, 11.00pm

This kitchen-sink drama, adapted and directed by Bryan Forbes from the novel by Lynne Reid Banks, stars Leslie Caron as a young, unmarried French woman who falls on hard times when she finds herself pregnant. At a British boarding house full of outcasts she finds solace in the friendship of a young writer (Tom Bell). It’s a muted, rather sombre piece of realism.

Tuesday September 22

The Great British Bake Off

The Great British Bake Off

Channel 4, 8.00pm

“Familiar. Comforting. Lovely.” Prue Leith expresses her hopes for an 11th series of the bake-a-thon that many feared wouldn’t happen in the era of Covid. But thanks to Love Productions throwing money at the problem – quarantining cast and crew at an Essex hotel for six weeks – the frothy confection that is Bake Off was able to rise again. You won’t notice a difference – no need for distancing means consolatory hugs and “Hollywood handshakes” can be doled out with impunity. The only notable difference is actor Matt Lucas has joined the series as the new co-host in place of Sandi Toksvig. He is a warm, droll presence and may need to size up his wardrobe after joining Leith and Paul Hollywood to sample all the cakes with them.

Last year’s series came in for criticism for its impossible tasks, but we’re eased in gently with cake week – bakers must create a Battenburg, individual pineapple upside-down cakes and a cake bust of their hero. The results indicate strong talent among this year’s contestants, and there’s high drama from the off with an accident leading to dropped cakes and tears. Snappily edited with a light touch, this opener contains all the right ingredients. VP

The Sheriffs Are Coming

BBC One, 8.00pm

Cameras follow sheriffs as they enforce court orders for businesses to pay their creditors. We’re rooting for the heavies tonight when they seek a refund for a lemon of a car bought by a teenager who’d saved up for it.

Britain’s Biggest Dig

BBC Two, 9.00pm

One upside of HS2 are the archaeological digs mandated along the line. This fascinating series mixes in elements of Who Do You Think You Are? and explores the legacy of a forgotten British explorer, Matthew Flinders, as his bones are unearthed in London.

All Creatures Great and Small

Channel 5, 9.00pm

Although yet more plot is expended on the overfed dog of dowager Mrs Pumphrey (the late Diana Rigg), there’s drama more compelling between squabbling brothers Siegfried and Tristan (Samuel West and Callum Woodhouse) and for James (Nicholas Ralph), whose crush on Helen (Rachel Shenton) only grows. With a lush Yorkshire backdrop and some rose-coloured specs, this reboot makes for agreeable viewing.

Danny Dyer on Harold Pinter

Sky Arts/NOW TV, 9.00pm

Having shocked us with the revelation of his royal roots, Danny Dyer discloses his equally unlikely link to theatrical royalty. In this personal essay-cum-Pinter-biopic, Dyer describes how the playwright took him under his wing after casting him in No Man’s Land in 2001 and meets with Pinter alumni Ken Cranham and Keith Allen in this tender love letter to his mentor.

9-1-1: Lone Star

Sky Witness/NOW TV, 9.00pm

Rob Lowe consigns last year’s British flop Wild Bill to history as he tackles a new role in this solid 9-1-1 spin-off. He’s New York fireman Owen Strand, transferred to Texas to recruit a new firefighting team. The role uses Lowe’s charm in the same way Parks and Recreation did, while pathos comes from his cancer diagnosis. His team, including Liv Tyler, wrestle with demons, but the city-slicker-down-south vibe is livelier than a bull on the loose. 

The Write Offs

Channel 4, 9.30pm

Sandi Toksvig hosts an inspirational two-part crash course in reading for eight illiterate adults. She removes them from their comfort zones with navigation tasks and recipes, with help from Bake Off’s Prue Leith. VP  

The Last of the Mohicans (1992) ★★★★

AMC, 6.50pm

Michael Mann’s magnificent period epic, set in 18th-century North America and adapted from the 1826 novel by James Fenimore Cooper, was Daniel Day-Lewis’s first prominent role. He plays Hawkeye, a white European adopted by Chingachgook (Russell Means) of the Mohican tribe; the pair band together and battle to save a British party from massacre at the hands of the bloodthirsty Hurons.

Bugsy (1991) ★★★

Sky Movies Classic, 9.00pm

The period frocks, sets and motor cars all look jolly, as do stars Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, but we’re left wanting a little more from this tale of how “Bugsy” Siegel, an unhinged mafioso, set out to build Las Vegas. It’s slick and watchable but violence and family values have made other Mafia movies far more compelling. Director Barry Levinson too often veers to the picturesque and frothy. 

Planet of the Apes (2001) ★★★

ITV4, 10.05pm

An alarmingly ordinary movie, and as such a crushing disappointment from Tim Burton. His “reimagining” of the 1968 classic, with Mark Wahlberg sullenly crash-landing in the original Charlton Heston role, allows all its fascinating conceits to be melted down into a bland, gelatinous mass. On the plus side, it’s visually splendid: Ape City is a magnificent hilltop habitat of vine-entangled buildings

Wednesday September 23

Grayson Perry's Big American Road Trip

Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip

Grayson Perry’s travels around the British psyche are always thought-provoking affairs, and the same proves the case with his newest three-part film which sees him heading across the Atlantic Ocean to attempt to make sense of America. Naturally, this being Perry, he does so on a custom-made Harley Davidson and wearing a fantastically lurid motorcycle suit.

His first stop is Atlanta, Georgia, where he tries to understand America’s problematic relationship with race. Perry meets black Americans of all ages and backgrounds to try to see whether the creation of “a new America is taking place”. Attending a dinner party in Atlanta he learns the nuances of code switching, with one guest explaining that he was told to wear a grey suit when meeting with white people, meanwhile in Washington DC he spends time with “the black elite”, upper middle-class black families whose achievements stretch back generations. The evening’s most interesting event, however, comes when Perry meets a young performance poet and her two friends. Their frank and thoughtful dissection of race has Perry reconsidering his own attitudes – as it should for all those who tune in. SH

Mary Berry’s Simple Comforts

BBC Two, 8.00pm

The redoubtable Mary Berry is in Ireland this week where she delivers a trio of genuine comfort meals including an easy salmon recipe, a slow-cooked pork with traditional colcannon and a tasty looking lamb stew.

ENO’s La Bohéme: Live At The Drive-In

Sky Arts/NOW TV, 8.00pm

The arts industry continues to come up with interesting ways to attempt to return to normality in the age of Covid-19. Tonight sees the advent of Drive Through Opera, an innovative idea in which the English National Opera will perform Puccini’s La bohème in front of an audience seated in their cars.

Nadiya Bakes

BBC Two, 8.30pm

The great conundrum at the heart of Nadiya Hussain’s shows is that she is a wonderful, engaging presenter, but leaves something to be desired with her over-complicated food. The recipes in this episode include a pink pepper pithivier, pepperoni bread and, most strangely of all, baked noodles.  

Ambulance

BBC One, 9.00pm

The fly-on-the-wall documentary series really should come with a warning for easily upset viewers. This hard-to-watch episode includes a harrowing injury to a child and an emotional moment when a desperate man tries to get a van to move for the sake of his dying father.

Harlots

BBC Two, 9.00pm and 9.50pm

The second series of the period drama reaches a satisfyingly dark finale as Lucy (Eloise Smyth) finally realises that Lord Fallon (Ben Lambert) can’t be trusted. Meanwhile her sister Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay) pulls out all the stops to save their mother (Samantha Morton) from the gallows. SH

Hyundai Mercury Prize 2020: Album of the Year

BBC Four, 10.00pm

Ahead of tomorrow’s Mercury Music Prize announcement, this programme looks over the 12 nominees and attempts to assess which album has the best chance of winning. The bookmakers’ favourite is three-time nominated Michael Kiwanuka, with four-time nominated folk singer Laura Marling a close second. However, given that the list lacks any major surprises, grime star Kano’s inventive and soulful Hoodies All Summer might just be worth a punt. SH

Enola Holmes (2020) 

Netflix

Netflix is angling for a slice of the Sherlock pie with this adaptation of Nancy Springer’s young adult series about Sherlock Holmes’s equally sharp younger sister, Enola, played by Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown, who sets out to solve a mystery of her own when their mother disappears. It’s directed by Fleabag veteran Harry Bradbeer, with a script from His Dark Materials’s Jack Thorne and star turns from Henry Cavill and Helena Bonham Carter. 

Get Carter (2000) ★★★

Sony Movies, 9.00pm

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, goes the old and useful saying. This has never been truer than with Michael Caine’s classic revenge drama which gets an inferior modern remake from director Stephen Kay (who went on to direct the TV series Covert Affairs and Sons of Anarchy) and relocates the action from Tyneside to America. That said, Sylvester Stallone is rather likeable as he takes on the lead role of mob boss Jack Carter.

Robin Hood (2010) ★★★

Channel 5, 10.55pm

It’s not surprising that Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, aiming to decant the machismo of Gladiator into a medieval flagon, take Robin Hood seriously. Crowe’s Robin, portrayed as an ahead-of-his-time Republican, is clapped in the stocks for criticising the savage King (Danny Huston, whose curly wig is more Cowardly Lion than Richard the Lionheart). What makes the movie is its majestic feel for the English landscape.

Thursday September 24

London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year

London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year

ITV, 9.00pm

Stephen Fry narrating, animals being cute and occasionally brutal, the keepers smitten with their charges. To all intents and purposes, London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year follows a very familiar script, right down to the alliteration and Je t’aime… moi non plus soundtracking an otherwise unappetising scene of mating spiders. But there are points of insight and interest to distinguish it from the many zoo documentaries doing the rounds: the troubles of social distancing from certain vulnerable animals and an ultrasound via videocall for Oni, a heavily pregnant okapi, are fascinating to watch, while the deteriorating appetite of Sumatran tiger Indy sounds a note of genuine alarm.

Covid-19 even brings some unexpected good news for Alex, who is dreading the imminent departure of Dominic the sea lion to another zoo, and the story of the team in the insect house – and their pioneering work with near-extinct species, – feels like it could have done with more time. It’s charming enough, but it feels as if the real story – the psychological and economic impact of the pandemic and crippling absence of customers – is being saved for next week’s second and final episode. GT

The One Show

BBC One, 7.00pm

It might not be how they would have chosen to celebrate, but the winner of the Mercury Music Prize will, incongruously enough, be announced on tonight’s edition of The One Show, which offers the intriguing prospect of Stormzy, Kano or Sports Team being interviewed by Alex Jones.

Inside Culture with Mary Beard

BBC Two, 7.30pm

While Sky Arts beds in on Freeview, Mary Beard returns for a new series of what used to be known as Front Row Late. She begins by visiting Stonehenge with Turner Prize-winning artist James Deller.

The Grand Party Hotel

BBC One, 8.00pm

At its outset a grimly chirpy “one big happy family” docusoap, this behind-the-scenes peek at Liverpool’s unapologetically garish hotel The Shankly improves tenfold with the arrival of its sceptical, steely new general manager Lyndon Barrett-Scott. “It’s like a pirate ship,” he comments on arrival. “It will grow on me.” Time will tell over the next four weeks.

Discovering: Harrison Ford

Sky Arts/NOW TV, 7.00pm

Within five years, Harrison Ford played Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Rick Deckard; he later returned to the roles only reluctantly, but still managed to be the best thing in each of the revived franchises. This episode looks at the roles that made him famous.

World War II & Cinema

Sky Arts/NOW TV, 8.00pm

This three-parter explores why audiences risked their lives to attend cinemas and examines how film-makers continue to bring war stories to the big screen.

She the People: Votes for Women

Smithsonian Channel, 9.00pm

The Smithsonian vaults have been opened for this film celebrating the lives of America’s suffragettes, telling the inspiring stories behind a table and a trading card photo, and exploring the links between the movements of both sides of the Atlantic.

Lodgers for Codgers

Channel 4, 10.00pm

This charming series joins another pair of mismatched houseshares: Ché moves in with a multi-millionaire after a lifetime in temporary accommodation, and a 19-year-old must contend with their landlord’s late-night parties. GT

A Beautiful Mind (2001) ★★★

Film4, 6.20pm

More Russell Crowe and this time he’s piling on the mannerisms as John Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who contended with schizophrenia. Ron Howard’s biopic won the Best Picture Oscar, though it underestimates the audience’s intelligence by suggesting that a good wife (Jennifer Connelly) is better than medication. Still, it’s entertaining fare, and with a dynamite twist as well.

Chicago (2002) ★★★★

5STAR, 10.00pm

As usual with Hollywood versions of stage musicals, this film doesn’t have half the pizzazz of its stage sibling. It’s still a corker, though. Director Rob Marshall includes Bob Fosse’s dance routines inthis daft but winning tale of two 1920s killers (Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones) who try to charm their way to the top – and away from Death Row – by making themselves into vaudeville stars.

Funny Cow (2017) ★★★

Film4, 11.15pm

Maxine Peake produces and stars as a fictional comedian in that least welcoming of environments, the 1970s Yorkshire stand-up circuit, in this strange, glum film. Funny Cow, as she calls herself, draws her material from her abusive family life, which is so violent and unredeemed that it makes the film exceedingly bleak viewing, at times. TV veteran Adrian Shergold also indulges in some odd directorial choices.

Friday 25 September 

Utopia

Utopia

Amazon Prime

Gillian Flynn, the bestselling author of Gone Girl who also penned Netflix’s terrific Sharp Objects, clearly has an extraordinary feel for the zeitgeist – teeing up this US reboot of the British cult TV classic about the hunt for a deadly virus/vaccine, well before the pandemic axe fell. Made for Channel 4, writer Dennis Kelly’s stylish and hugely influential original was one of the best dramas aired in 2013, although its fresh-faced cast and wilfully geeky subject matter – a graphic novel from the past holding the key to a dark scientific conspiracy of the future – more or less guaranteed the show a level of obscurity over its acclaimed two series.

Flynn’s US-based adaptation remains surprisingly faithful to Kelly’s original, and while the switch to America makes the comic-book background seem more immediately credible (much of the opening episode unfolds at a huge Comic-Con style convention), it also oddly notches down the weirdness factor. As such, fans of the original are unlikely to disapprove too much, and the ramped-up pandemic relevance seem only likely to win legions of new fans for what could be Amazon’s first big hit of the season. GO

Tehran

Apple TV+

Gripping right from the outset, this Israeli-made Homeland-style spy thriller has a nail-biting premise: a Mossad agent (Niv Sultan) on the run in Tehran with Iranian intelligence in hot pursuit. Fauda-writer Moshe Zonder skilfully juggles the politics to ensure all sides get superb characterisation.

The Gadget Show

Channel 5, 7.00pm

This is still mainstream TV’s only show devoted to gadgetry. Craig Charles and his team of pro-geeks are back after a short summer break to check out the best of the latest gizmos and visit Berlin, to see one of 2020’s few surviving trade shows.

Secret Scotland with Susan Calman

Channel 5, 8.00pm

Continuing her amiably entertaining jaunt, Calman hits the Trossachs to enjoy a tour of Inveraray Castle with the charming Duke of Argyll, discovers that bog myrtle is a natural midge-repellent, and gets hands-on with Rob Roy’s claymore sword.

The Romantics and Us With Simon Schama

BBC Two, 9.00pm

In seeking the roots of modern nationalism look no further than 18th-century Switzerland and the diagnosis of nostalgia as a debilitating medical condition. So says Simon Schama in this concluding part, which explores Romanticism’s often problematic blending of culture and politics, via Rabbie Burns, Chopin, Nazism and even the Last Night of the Proms.

Tread

Sky Documentaries/NOW TV, 9.00pm

A small story with a sharp edge, this absorbing true-crime documentary explores how small-town corruption and business bitterness came to a head in Granby, Colorado, in 2004, when Marvin Heemeyer went on a rampage in his armour-plated, gunned-up three-ton bulldozer.

Later: with Jools Holland: Mercury Prize 2020

BBC Two, 10.00pm

Ahead of the new series, a special edition in which Holland meets this year’s winner (announced yesterday) to hear about the creative journey behind the victorious album. 

I Want My MTV

Sky Arts/NOW TV, 10.00pm

Mixing pop nostalgia and keen cultural analysis, a fabulously atmospheric rerun of the music, stars and heady early days of the TV channel that pioneered the pop video way back in 1981. GO

Judy (2019) ★★★★

Sky Cinema Premiere/NOW TV, 8.00pm

Rupert Goold’s film focuses on the final months of Judy Garland’s life in 1968, when she was ravaged, rake-thin, bankrupt and adrift in an alcoholic haze. Renée Zellweger brilliantly embodies her, if “embodies” is quite the word for this spectral, rasping, self-pitying figure. The script aims for compassion but its tabloidy zoom in on the car-crash years is faintly unseemly.

John Wick (2014) ★★★

Channel 5, 10.00pm

Fifteen years after The Matrix, Keanu Reeves fans rejoiced at this sharply tailored thriller, in which a former hitman comes out of retirement to seek revenge. Reeves’s best film in a while works well because of its sleek, artisanal dovetailing of sincerity and style. Co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch show respect, too, for the need for stealth and stillness between the action. Willem Dafoe co-stars.

The Midwife (2017) ★★★

BBC Two, 12.45am

From French film-maker Martin Provost, this is the story of an emotional collision between an older and younger woman. Tightly wound midwife Claire (played by Catherine Frot) is furious when her father’s former mistress Béatrice (an enjoyably lascivious Catherine Deneuve) returns to her life, needing help. The inevitable but unlikely friendship follows in a touching, if sentimental, relationship drama.

Television previewers

Chris Bennion (CB), Catherine Gee (CG), Michael Hogan (MH), Sarah Hughes (SH), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Gabriel Tate (GT) and Rachel Ward (RW)