Saturday 13 February
The Masked Singer: The Final
Just when you thought life couldn’t get any more surreal, you find yourself spending Saturday nights watching a sausage sing That’s Not My Name. Or gasping at the realisation it was Sir Lenny Henry crooning as The Blob. But that’s showbiz in the pandemic age, in which this bizarre singing contest has capitalised on a desire for fun and frivolity over another earnest sing-a-thon full of wannabes on emotional journeys. And it’s a visual feast – hats off to Plunge Creations of Sussex for costumes that look like an LSD trip made flesh.
Tonight’s final sees the remaining celebrities-in-disguise – as Sausage, Robin and Badger – sing again in a bid to impress the audience and outsmart the judges trying to guess their identities. Last series’s winner, Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud (Bumblebee), joins Davina McCall, Jonathan Ross, Mo Gilligan and Rita Ora on the panel to make more preposterous guesses, such as that it’s Oprah Winfrey or Morgan Freeman up there singing off-key (as if). For the big showstopper, all 12 of the singers will return for a performance. How ironic that a competition about wearing masks has become one of the biggest hits of the pandemic, but this crackers show has really brightened up the winter. VP
Test Cricket: India v England
Channel 4, 3.40am
Play returns to the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai for day one of the second Test between England and India. Joe Root’s men handed India only their second home defeat in 35 Tests in the first Test, the captain scoring 218 & 40 to put England in control. Jimmy Anderson produced a spectacular over in the second innings to stem the Indian tide, sending stumps flying and heads bowing. England must win the series to qualify for the inaugural World Test Championship this summer, but India will fancy their chances of a comeback on home soil. This week, host Rishi Persad will be joined by Andrew Strauss and Ebony Rainford-Brent.
Rugby Union: Six Nations – Scotland v Wales
BBC One, 4pm (kick off 4.45pm)
Scotland stunned England on the opening weekend of the Six Nations to take their first victory at Twickenham in 38 years. The pre-tournament favourites were insipid and slow, but the Scots showed tactical nous and attacking flair to keep the auld enemy pinned back. Wales, meanwhile, have questions to answer after squeaking past 14-man Ireland, who looked the better side even after Peter O’Mahony’s 14th-minute red card. Scotland, who beat Wales in October, will fancy their chances against Wayne Pivac’s injury-hit side. Earlier today, England take their turn to thrash a dismal Italy at Twickenham (ITV, 2.15pm), then, on Sunday, Ireland have a chance to kick-start their campaign against a strong France in Dublin (ITV, 3pm).
Football: Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur
Sky Main Event, 5pm (kick off 5.30pm)
José Mourinho’s Spurs were quick out of the blocks at the start of the season, while old rival Pep Guardiola struggled to get City going. Now, with the finish line in sight, Spurs languish in 8th and City are streaking away at the top of the table. Mourinho will be grateful to have Harry Kane back from injury to challenge the rock solid City defence. Earlier today, Leicester City play Liverpool, whose title-defence is on its last legs (BT Sport 1, 12.30pm).
Sally Lindsay’s Posh Sleepover
Channel 5, 7pm
Sally Lindsay strokes the soft furnishings in another mansion in her docu-series about how the other half live. Admiring the two pools of millionaire Pete at his Surrey pile, Lindsay is surprised to find him a product of working-class Lancashire, like her. Watching them chatter on helicopter rides and sipping champagne produces a painless, if slight, hour of telly.
BBC Two, 7.10pm
For viewers who prefer the sound of grey seals grunting to humans singing on the other channels, BBC Two offers up tonight’s wildlife documentary. Gloriously atmospheric, its final episode follows the effect of autumn’s arrival on wildlife in Norway, Iceland and Scotland.
Secrets of the Royal Palaces
Channel 5, 8pm
Gossip sits uneasily alongside historical investigations in tonight’s junket around royal real estate. A tabloidy tale of Camilla Parker Bowles’s introduction to the Windsor family fold at Highgrove seems out of place among more compelling tales, such as the discovery of a lost art treasure at Hampton Court.
Princess Margaret: Queen of Mustique
Channel 5, 9pm
Anecdotes from Princess Margaret’s great friend Lady Anne Glenconner lift this above the workaday royal documentary. It looks at Margaret’s love affair with Mustique, once owned by Glenconner’s husband, who gifted the princess land and a house to escape the confines of royal life. Among Glenconner’s loving yarns is a recollection of how, when Margaret first arrived on the undeveloped island, they camped and existed on baked beans.
Muse: Drones – World Tour
Sky Arts, 9pm
British stadium band Muse rock out in this 2016 concert film celebrating their Grammy-winning album Drones. Lead singer Matt Bellamy shows why he’s got one of the best voices in rock with a thundering performance, while dazzling special effects make it a visual treat.
Class Action Park
Sky Documentaries, 9pm
This film recounts the rise and fall of a notorious water park in New Jersey built by a former Wall Street banker in 1978. Erected before health and safety was invented, Action Park’s hair-raising rides proved a magnet for local kids, but the blithe tone grows more sombre as visitor deaths begin. VP
Crocodile Dundee (1986) ★★★★☆
Channel 4, 7.10pm
In this Oscar-nominated comedy, Mick “Crocodile” Dundee (Paul Hogan) is a bushman from northern Australia and a dab hand at surviving in the Outback. But when he’s invited to New York City by reporter Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski), he finds life tougher in the urban jungle. Still, he’s a survivor: the muggers who accost the pair find that Dundee’s knife is plenty bigger than theirs. Crocodile Dundee II is on Sunday at 7.10pm.
The Deer Hunter (1978) ★★★★★
BBC Two, 10pm
Michael Cimino’ s perturbing portrait of the American homeland during the Vietnam War stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage as three steelworkers who enlist in the US Airborne Infantry. Atmospheric and, at times, terrifying, the film looks at how war affects people in different ways and remains one of the most fascinating films about the torrid Vietnam War. It won five Oscars, including one for Walken.
Goldeneye (1995) ★★★★☆
Martin Campbell’s romp brought Bond back to screens after a six-year hiatus. It was Pierce Brosnan’s first outing with the Walther PPK and Judie Dench’s inaugural turn as the steely M. The plot is enjoyable hokum revolving around Sean Bean’s rogue MI6 agent, Alec Trevelyan, satellite super weapons and a Russian crime ring. But the action, including a climatic battle in a satellite dish, and a tank charging through a wall, is superb.
Sunday 14 February
Europe From Above
National Geographic, 8pm
If you can get past the clichés – France is apparently a land of “contrasts and romance” – then this whistle-stop tour from the air is an undemanding and sometimes fascinating hour, even if you can guess much of what is showcased as the cameras tick off the country’s most popular regions from the lavender fields, of Provence to the snowy peaks of Mont Blanc.
Thankfully, there are some genuinely interesting facts to be learnt amid the more obvious statements. In Paris, the cameras swoop in not on the busy streets and tourist attractions but on Nature Urbaine, a huge rooftop farm, which, thanks to cutting-edge technology, hopes to bring 1000kg of local produce to Parisians each day. Similarly, while the camera lingers on those lavish lavender fields, we also learn how the crop is harvested and, more importantly, what it means to the region, while a beautifully shot segment on the Alps follows a herd of dairy cows as they make their way through the mountains towards fresh pastures. Perhaps that’s ultimately the best way to view Europe From Above – it’s never going to break new ground but it’s perfect holiday nostalgia fodder. Further episodes in this second series include Greece and Sweden. SH
Dancing on Ice
At the rate this year’s competition is going, with constant injuries and Covid drop outs, there will be no one left to skate in this Valentine’s Day special. The theme is The Greatest Love Stories on Ice, but who will impress the judges the most?
Incredible Journeys with Simon Reeve
BBC Two, 8pm
The explorer’s final highlights package is a sombre one as he focuses on “the climate change crisis happening here under our watch”. Kicking off with his 2015 visit to the Kogi people in Colombia, who warn that we are destroying “Mother Earth”, Reeve then focuses on deforestation before concluding with a look back at his hard-hitting 2010 series on plastic.
The Great Pottery Throw Down
Channel 4, 8pm
The eight remaining potters face the trauma of terracotta as things start to get tricky. They’re asked to design a chicken brick, a casserole dish and a tagine, with the ambitious projects including one that is country music-themed and one shaped as a whale. Who will crack under the pressure?
BBC One, 9pm
Richard Warlow’s atmospheric retelling of Charles Sobhraj’s (Tahar Rahim) murderous journey through Asia in the 1970s comes to a satisfying conclusion as Sobhraj, running out of options, takes drastic action. As much a tale of obsession – Sobhraj’s with death, Marie-Andrée LeClerc’s (Jenna Coleman) with Sobhraj, diplomat Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle) with bringing the killer to justice – as of murder, this has been a smart, well-scripted series bolstered by strong performances from all.
BBC Two, 9pm
Tonight’s episode looks set to be solid as Romesh Ranganathan is joined by entertaining duo Mo Gilligan and Katherine Ryan, in addition to his virtual panel of 20 members of the public.
This series is a great study of the overwhelming weirdness of grief with Keeley Hawes fantastic in the lead role. However, it continues to fall between two stools, neither quite serious enough to be a compulsive thriller nor quite funny enough to be a bleak comedy. Tonight we reach the penultimate episode – though the box set is available on the ITV Hub – as Alice (Hawes) makes some momentous decisions. SH
A Matter of Life and Death (1946 ) ★★★★★
BBC Two, 2.15pm
This is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s masterpiece. During the Second World War, an RAF pilot (David Niven) falls in love with a US radio operator (Kim Hunter) over the airwaves, just as his bomber is attacked. He survives, but an angel comes to collect him, saying he should have died. The pilot appeals for a second chance: he’s got love to live for now. Richard Attenborough co-stars.
Monsters University (2013) ★★★★☆
BBC One, 4pm
Pixar’s 14th feature is an imperfect but delightful confection. It’s set before the events of 2001’s superb Monsters, Inc. but it’s much more than a prequel. The charming underdog tale hinges on the friendship between Mike Wazowski, a green, one-eyed orb, voiced by Billy Crystal, and James P Sullivan, a fluffy ox-thing, voiced by John Goodman. The gross-out gags and heartwarming themes will appeal to the little ones.
An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) ★★★★☆
Channel 5, 10pm
For more soaring romance this Valentine’s Day, just turn to Richard Gere, who had millions of hearts fluttering in 1982, playing a loner who trains as a naval aviator and – along with his fellow cadets – swoops into the town that’s home to the training school to break the hearts of local women. One in particular (Debra Winger) catches his eye. It’s soppy but engaging; Louis Gossett Jr, David Keith and Lisa Blount co-star.
Monday 15 February
Whirlybird: Live Above LA – Storyville
BBC Four, 9pm
Not long after Tim Davie announced that the BBC should focus on landmark documentaries at the expense of the niche comes a film that demonstrates the strength of the latter approach – a story superficially about the thrills and spills of eye-in-the-sky news reporting that taps into something much more profound and melancholy. Driven by a Ty Segall soundtrack, Matt Yoka’s documentary follows the trailblazing work of Zoey Tur (then known as Bob) and then-wife Marika Gerrard who, in the 1990s, shaped the news agenda with their fledgling Los Angeles News Service and footage of the Rodney King riots and the OJ Simpson police chase, filmed from their recently purchased helicopter.
Yet Tur’s boldness was underpinned by a personality whose brashness would eventually curdle into something darker, the obsession with chasing the high of the next breaking news story causing her to both neglect her children and to co-opt them into the family business. While the plentiful archive footage makes it easy to understand the thrill of the chase and adrenalin rush of the capture, the emotional intimacy is uncomfortable. GT
Panorama: Vaccines – The Disinformation War
BBC One, 7.35pm; Wales, 10.45pm
Given the wealth of life-threatening anti-vaxxer misinformation around, it was inevitable that any vaccines developed to counteract Covid-19 would be subject to equally damaging rumours. Marianna Spring investigates the implications as a test group are exposed to an anti-vax video.
DIY SOS: the Big Build
BBC One, 9pm
Going head-to-head for tear-jerking, inspirational stories with Long Lost Family, Nick Knowles and co extend a house in Devon to enable two girls to receive kidney dialysis at home, rather than travelling 100 miles to hospital. As ever, the team goes above and beyond.
Long Lost Family
The final episode of another lachrymose yet uplifting series meets a mother looking for the son she was forced to give up for adoption while only a teenager herself, and a foster carer looking for her sisters. Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell juggle the gut punches and good news with their customary empathy and professionalism.
Undercover Police: Hunting Paedophiles
Channel 4, 9pm
The second half of Jamie Pickup’s harrowing series about police who pose as minors and paedophiles online focuses on an officer operating as 13-year-old “Keira” in order to draw out potential abusers; when one active offender identifies themselves, the National Crime Agency team races to bring the subject to justice. Be warned – it’s a bruising, frightening watch.
Sky History, 9pm
The cash-in title disguises a pretty rote American series where long-standing mysteries are solved to a greater or lesser extent. We begin with Tutankhamun’s tomb, its treasures and supposed curse.
Emma Willis: Delivering Babies in 2020
This time having to bond with her interviewees over videocalls, the indomitable Emma Willis (both a mother of three and now a trained maternity care assistant) spent some of the first lockdown learning about how these expectant parents coped with ever-changing plans and the worries of having a child in the middle of a pandemic. This four-part series follows their stories. GT
The Secret of the Incas (1954) ★★★★☆
Talking Pictures TV, 1.55pm
Often credited as the film that inspired Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, this swashbuckling adventure stars Charlton Heston as adventurer Harry Steele, who leads an expedition to Peru on the trail of a priceless, ancient and buried Incan artefact. It was shot on location in Machu Picchu and the supporting cast features Robert Young, Nicole Maurey and Thomas Mitchell.
Get Shorty (1995) ★★★★☆
Sony Movies, 9pm
Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel, Barry Sonnenfeld’s action-comedy caper sees John Travolta’s Miami loan shark move to Tinseltown in order to launder $200,000 of dodgy money. The swinging, jazz-flecked songtrack, up-for-it cast, and austute satire on Hollywood’s flexible morality lends the familiar materials a winning freshness. It inspired a 2005 sequel, Be Cool, and an Amazon TV series of the same name.
Carlito’s Way (1993) ★★★★☆
Reuniting maverick director Brian De Palma with Al Pacino for the first time since Scarface, this hard-hitting gangster epic charts a drug lord’s (Pacino) efforts to clean up his act. Based on the novels Carlito’s Way (1975) and After Hours (1979) by Edwin Torres, it doesn’t tread new ground, but the film remains tense, poignant and thoughtful. And De Palma draws some sterling performances from his excellent leads, including Penelope Ann Miller.
Tuesday 16 February
Animals on the Loose: A You vs Wild Movie
There’s some splendidly hands-on fun for all the family in Bear Grylls’s survival skills escapade, an interactive adventure in which you, the viewer, get to make all the key decisions about where he goes and what he does next. Charlie Brooker pioneered interactive television on Netflix in 2018 with the dark and surreally complex sci-fi film Bandersnatch. But this is a far more mainstream and simplified iteration of on-screen interactivity, made with younger, less brooding audiences in mind. In that sense it’s more like a live-action video game.
A decision-making adventure with tasks and challenges to complete, it mixes pared down Jurassic Park-style elements (an electric fence surrounding an African nature reserve is out of action, and the escaped wildlife, some of it deadly, must be retrieved) with problem solving (there’s an electricity substation to get back online) and physical trials you choose for Grylls to undertake, such as cliff-climbing and python-wrestling – or getting him to eat disgusting stuff like bugs, leeches and grubs. The more you go wrong, the longer it takes to complete the adventure; but that’s fun too as mistakes mean Grylls suffers more. GO
Tennis: Australian Open
Eurosport 1 & 2
Week two at Melbourne Park begins with British hopes elusive. Johanna Konta retired from her opener after winning the first set, while Cameron Norrie beat Dan Evans in an all-British first round clash. Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal made strong starts. The first quarter-finals is today.
Inside the Zoo
BBC Two, 7pm
Edinburgh Zoo and the 260-acre Highland Wildlife Park in the Cairngorms are the twin locations for this enjoyable series (previously aired on BBC Scotland) following the keepers and their 3,000-plus wild residents including, tonight, grumpy guineafowl, sensitive sun bears and rambunctious rhinos.
Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr
BBC Two, 8pm
It’s rare to see décor “maximalised” quite so madly as in tonight’s edition when the wannabe designers set out to pimp up the “jaded” grandeur of a Sussex wedding venue’s guest rooms.
Joanna Lumley’s Home Sweet Home: Travels in My Own Land
Joanna Lumley’s final leg takes her breathlessly from north Wales to the West Country – visiting along the way the slate quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog and meeting GoCompare man Wynne Evans in Carmarthen, before taking in St Michael’s Mount and a Dartmoor druid ceremony – she ends by catching up with an old acquaintance at Tilbury, Essex.
Paramedics on Scene
BBC One, 8.30pm; not Scot
This “new” series was filmed long before Covid-19, so it feels like a nostalgic throwback to gentler times, when the daily round of the dedicated paramedics of the Scottish Ambulance Service included spending time with vulnerable members of the community as well as dealing with urgent matters such as anaphylactic shock.
Forensics: The Real CSI
BBC Two, 9pm
More gritty real-life crime stories. This edition focuses on how, following the murder of a 15-year-old in a Coventry park last year, analysis of two key pieces of evidence – a mobile phone found a short distance away and the victim’s blood-soaked jacket – helped West Midlands Police and forensics services track down and prosecute the killers.
Charles Hazlewood: Beethoven & Me
Sky Arts, 9pm
The conductor celebrates the 250th anniversary of fellow “musical revolutionary” Ludwig Van Beethoven’s birth in a darkly personal film exploring how the nature of Beethoven’s work, and the tortured processes of refining his musical ideas into their final forms, reveals an artist with serious mental health issues. GO
Dragon Rider (2021) ★★★☆☆
Sky Cinema Premiere, 7.10pm
Tomer Eshed’s capable animation owes more than a debt to the DreamWorks’s How to Train Your Dragon series. Nonetheless, its admirably meta take on this connection, and the premium video-game style graphics, make for a perfectly serviceable family adventure. The story sees an orphaned boy team up with a lonely dragon for a quest in the Himalayas. Patrick Stewart and Felicity Jones lend their voices.
Awakenings (1990) ★★★☆☆
Sony Movies Classic, 9pm
Based on psychologist Oliver Sacks’s 1973 memoir, Penny Marshall’s powerful drama follows a physician (played by Robin Williams, and based on Sacks) who discovers that a newfangled drug might provide a cure for patients with long-term catatonia. The stellar cast, including Robert De Niro as a patient, and Vin Diesel in one of his first (uncredited) roles, elevate the occasionally mawkish material. A fine exploration of what it means to be alive.
Closer (2004) ★★★☆☆
Sony Movies, 10.55pm
Mike Nichols turned Patrick Marber’s acclaimed stage play about the romantic entanglements of four individuals (here played by Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman and Jude Law) into a glossy screen adaptation. It’s an unapologetic story of betrayal, and the script doesn’t shy away from tackling the consequences of unrestrained desire. Owen and Portman in particular have undeniable, crackling presence.
Wednesday 17 February
The Great British Dig: History in Your Back Garden
After a successful pilot last year, Hugh Dennis unearths his riff on Time Team for a full series clearly aiming for a The Great British Bake Off mood. “Welcome… to The Great British Dig,” he announces as the camera soars over his head, marimbas shimmer across the score and the finale compromises cups of tea outside a big, white covered marquee. It also shares Bake Off’s appealingly lo-fi, community feel: Dennis and archaeologists Richard Taylor, Chloe Duckworth and Natasha Billson approach residents in Newcastle’s Benwell Estate to ask if they can dig up their gardens to expand the remains of the Roman fort discovered there in the 1930s, when the houses were built.
Several prove remarkably amenable, despite Dennis’s warnings – “it is a really lovely lawn, are you sure about this?” – and, as they dig deeper into the past, findings include the wall of a 1930s Anderson shelter, medieval crockery and then, at last, Roman glass. Initially constructed to house soldiers guarding Hadrian’s Wall, as well as their families, the fort holds secrets to intrigue experts and novices alike. The whole thing bubbles along with a gentle charm. GT
Amend: the Fight for America
The Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution promises liberty and equal protection for all; this six-part documentary, narrated by Samuel L Jackson and Pedro Pascal among others, explores the theory and practice behind it over the past 153 years. Will Smith hosts.
Behind Her Eyes
This take on Sarah Pinborough’s psychological thriller is very watchable hokum, packed with glorious twists, torrid couplings and implausible dialogue. The ship is steadied by the solid leading trio: Tom Bateman as a suave psychiatrist, Eve Hewson as his troubled wife and, in particular, the excellent Simona Brown, the single mother who falls for him.
BBC Four, 9pm
A year after Glenda Jackson won a Bafta for Elizabeth is Missing, comes a rerun for her most famous Elizabeth in one of the jewels in the crown of BBC period drama, beginning tonight with the years of religious turmoil that preceded the Virgin Queen’s accession to the throne.
Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig
Channel 4, 9pm
This amiable domestic spin on Travel Man this week pairs Sandi Toksvig with actress Jessica Hynes for a trip to Kent, where they find windmills, nature reserves and a marshmallow sing-song on Camber Sands.
Wartime Britain: Keep Calm & Carry On
Channel 5, 9pm
After A Wartime Christmas, the Dekkers return for a new two-parter sans père (he’s away “fighting”) to examine life on the Home Front for an average family. Expect ration recipes, keeping calm and carrying on, making do and mending, and plenty more of the sort of thing you will doubtless have seen many times before, competently told. And not a loo roll panic in sight.
Sky Atlantic, 9pm
Rich people in power behaving badly? Devils may not provide much in the way of escapism from the real world, and this Italian-made series about investment banking, despite some adventurous casting (Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey as a monstrous high financier), never quite catches fire. And although it follows Massimo Ruggero (charismatic Alessandro Borghi), a trader caught up in a murder investigation, it’s only Malachi Kirby’s whizzkid who really cuts through the gloss. GT
Everest (2015) ★★★☆☆
Baltasar Kormákur’s vertigo-inducing adventure is based on the 1996 Everest disaster in which 12 climbers died. It tells the same story as Jon Krakaur’s memoir Into Thin Air, but the impressive CGI and breathless high-altitude sequences justify the retreading. The rivalry between the two expeditions leaders, played by Jason Clarke and Jake Gyllenhaal, is well handled, as are the emotional scenes back in base camp.
The Patriot (2000) ★★★☆☆
Paramount Network, 9pm
Roland Emmerich’s simplified but spectacular version of the War of American Independence is a rollicking historical adventure. The baddy Brits are given to burning rebels alive in a sealed church, and ex-warrior Mel Gibson is torn between his newly discovered pacifism and belief in the colonial cause. Heath Ledger provides able support as his youngest son. Historically accurate it’s not; entertaining, it certainly is.
Jaws 2 (1978) ★★★☆☆
Jeannot Szwarc’s follow-up cannot compete with the Spielberg’s original, or the two-tone terror of John Williams’s signature motif. But it’s a strong sequel in a franchise of ever-diminishing returns. Roy Scheider returns as Police Chief Martin Brody with another toothy problem on his hands. Murray Hamilton is also back as the unsackable mayor of Amity Island. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…
Thursday 18 February
Esther Rantzen: Living with Grief
Channel 5, 10pm
“We’re not used to grief on this scale,” says Esther Rantzen who, sympathetic as ever, sets out to explore the much skated-over subject of how we deal with the death of a loved one. It’s an issue that’s felt all the more keenly with the pandemic rendering impossible so many of the rituals usually in place to bring us comfort in times of sorrow. But while coronavirus forms a background to this film, it is not the focus. Instead Rantzen goes wider, talking to six recently and not-so-recently bereaved people about their experiences – using her own unresolved response to the death of her husband, the television producer Desmond Wilcox, two decades ago as a means of getting to the heart of the matter for herself.
All of these stories are terribly sad, though some are rawer than others. Such as Mandy, who lost her husband of 43 years to Covid in particularly brutal circumstances. Or Joy, still traumatised since her mother was tried for murder after helping Joy’s terminally ill father to end his life with dignity. In the end, though, it is Rantzen’s emotional efforts to come to terms with her own loss that speak most clearly here. “It is something I have been avoiding so long,” she says. GO
Gardening with Carol Klein
Channel 5, 7pm
This two-part tour of basics is aimed solidly at lockdowners who’ve only recently cottoned on to what the green patches outside their homes are for. Presenting from her garden in Devon, Klein’s aim is simply to get us to have a go, beginning with the fundamentals of tree and shrub planting, and the key concept of “right plant, right place”.
This Week on the Farm
Channel 5, 8pm
Helen Skelton and Jules Hudson are back for another stay at Cannon Hall Farm in Yorkshire, celebrating rural life with help from JB Gill and Barnsley farming brothers Rob and Dave Nicholson. Tonight, catching wayward cockerels, the latest in luxe accessories for cows and a tribute to Will the Shire horse.
Piers Morgan’s Life Stories
Chris Eubank, former world champion boxer, faces the glare of Piers Morgan’s spotlight tonight. Up for discussion: career, divorce, eccentricity, bankruptcy, his legendary rivalry with Nigel Benn and the fight in which Eubank’s opponent, Michael Watson – who’s in the audience for this interview – received a catastrophic brain injury that left him in a wheelchair.
Sky Atlantic, 9pm
More unlikely shipboard antics get tonight’s episode off to a protracted start. But the more nail-biting elements of this hugely ambitious narco-thriller soon kick in again, as perfidious Stefano’s (Giuseppe De Domenico) scheme to depose his Mafia don grandfather unravels spectacularly.
Built for Mars: The Perseverance Rover
National Geographic, 9pm
Nasa’s latest mission is due to touch down on Mars at 8.55pm tonight, aiming to find evidence of life on the Red Planet and bring it back to Earth. This absorbing film looks at the construction of the Perseverance rover and its challenges. The machine, says one engineer, “outstrips the complexity of anything that’s been created by humans and put into space, ever.”
Dr Jack And Mr Nicholson
Sky Arts, 10pm
Unpredictable, elusive, enigmatic – some of the more predictable words used to describe Jack Nicholson’s appeal in this deft French profile which picks apart his career playing charismatic losers, drifters and outsiders for proof that he was essentially, playing a version of himself. GO
The Professionals (1966) ★★★★★
This explosive Western, written and directed by Hollywood veteran Richard Brooks and filmed in Death Valley, sees Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster among the four mercenaries sent to revolutionary Mexico in 1917 to rescue a wealthy rancher’s wife (Claudia Cardinale) from bandit Jesus Raza (Jack Palance). Some natty plot twists and action sequences await them down there, as the pacy Oscar-nominated screenplay unfurls.
Edie (2017) ★★★
BBC Four, 9pm
This hiking drama about an octogenerain widow (the indomitable Sheila Hancock) who escapes her daughter’s nursing home machinations by going walking in Scotland is an uphill struggle. There’s no shortage of pretty scenery and Hancock is excellent, but director Simon Hunter never really explores her airless marriage. As such, we get little sense of her joy at escaping into the wide open wilderness. Also on Sunday, BBC Two, 10.45pm.
Happy Gilmore (1996) ★★★
Adam Sandler’s beloved cult comedy is about an ice-hockey player who discovers that he has a gift for golf and joins the PGA Tour to raise the funds to save his grandmother’s house. His unorthodox style raises eyebrows, as does his violent behaviour on the course, which he must learn to control in order to rise through the ranks. Fans of Sandler’s brand of adolescent humour will appreciate this bold and boisterous comedy.
Friday 19 February
Raiders of the Lost Past with Janina Ramirez
BBC Two, 9pm
Cultural historian Dr Janina Ramirez proves an engaging guide to this new series focussing on some of the most notorious archaeologists of the colonial era. That said you can imagine the flurry of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells letters winging their way to the BBC after Ramirez calls said men “products of their era, driven by nationalism, colonialism and ego.” In fact the opening episode is a balanced profile of Arthur Evans, the obsessive millionaire behind the controversial excavation at Knossos in Crete. Evans, who had been obsessed with the story of the Minotaur, spent his fortune on buying up the land where the palace of Knossos was supposed to be. He appeared to be vindicated when the dig revealed a magnificent building, eye-catching frescos and evidence of a new civilisation, which Evans named Minoan.
However the truth, as Ramirez explains, was more complicated and what unfolds is a fascinating tale of how much control archaeologists have over the past. Ramirez, herself in love with Knossos, can’t quite condemn Evans for his imagination: “He is the foundation of the story and others [continue to] build on it,” she concludes. SH
The Muppet Show
“It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the light.” That’s right, it’s “time to meet the Muppets on The Muppet Show tonight” as the first five series of the original Jim Henson show arrive on Disney+. Those with vague memories of Miss Piggy and Kermit may be surprised by how sharp these shows were, stuffed full of sophisticated jokes. A treat for children and parents alike.
Kate Humble’s Coastal Walks
Channel 5, 8pm
Between Julia Bradshaw walking through Devon and Cornwall and this new series with Kate Humble it might seem as though the southwest of the country is heaving with hearty women striding across its coastal paths. That said this is an enjoyable opening episode featuring a lovely interview with the remarkable Raynor Winn, long-distance walker and author of The Salt Path and The Wild Silence.
It’s a Sin
Channel 4, 9pm
Russell T Davies’s magisterial account of the 1980s’s Aids crisis ends with an episode both mournful and moving as time begins to run out for Ritchie (the outstanding Olly Alexander) forcing Jill (Lydia West) and Roscoe (Omari Douglas) into a long-overdue confrontation with his mother (Keeley Hawes). An outstanding piece of television.
Later: with Jools Holland
BBC Two, 10pm
The live music show returns with new episodes filmed at Jools Holland’s south London recording studio. Tonight’s guest is singer-songwriter Arlo Parks and there are also performances from Kings of Leon in Nashville and Nottingham’s punk-poets Sleaford Mods.
Greatest Hits of the 80s
Channel 5, 10pm
The two-part series concludes with a look at the stories behind Spandau Ballet’s biggest hit, True, Soul II Soul’s ground-breaking Back to Life (However Do You Want Me) and the late, great Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). Leg warmers at the ready.
The Great Songwriters
Sky Arts, 10pm
Hot on the heels of The Great Composers comes six more episodes of the series that focuses on singer-songwriters. First up is The Duchess of Coolsville, Rickie Lee Jones, aka the writer behind the insanely catchy Chuck E’s In Love and Company. Coming up in future episodes: Paul Anka, Seal and Noel Gallagher. SH
I Care a Lot (2020) ★★★★☆
Amazon Prime Video
Rosamund Pike, channelling her Gone Girl persona, plays a legal guardian of the elderly who abuses her position to steal from her wealthy marks in this thriller with a cold heart. Director J Blakeson finds little humanity in her complicit, amoral world, but there’s an undeniable swishing style to the film, and Pike is coolly superb. It’s a bracingly heartless watch, though some viewers might end up craving a chink of light.
To Olivia (2021) ★★★☆☆
Sky Cinema Premiere, 8pm
Despite their often workaday reality, writers’s lives are screenplay catnip. And so it proves in this dramatisation of the troubled marriage between Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal. Hugh Bonneville brings a rumpled, teddy-bearish charm as the beloved children’s writer, struggling with the demands of fame, and Keeley Hawes is feisty as the overshadowed Neal, but there’s a sense of déjà vu to the whole enterprise.
Stan & Ollie (2019) ★★★★☆
BBC One, 8.25pm
A triumph for Steve Coogan and John C Reilly as Laurel and Hardy in their twilight years, touring the UK in 1953, struggling to get a film made and to fill their venues. Keeping time with the precise comedy of the duo is no mean feat, but Coogan and Reilly manage it with aplomb. Their bickering, a little barbed after years together, is beautifully observed and there’s a faithfulness to the original gags.
Sarah Hughes (SH), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Vicki Power (VP) and Gabriel Tate (GT)