Xuenou > Television > What’s on TV tonight: Rugby Champions Cup, Andrew Neil's new politics show and more
What’s on TV tonight: Rugby Champions Cup, Andrew Neil's new politics show and more
Your complete guide to the week’s television, films and sport, across terrestrial and digital platforms

Sunday 8 May

Rugby Union: Racing 92 v Sale Sharks
Sun, Channel 4, 2.30pm
The European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-finals are upon us. Sunday’s match sees Sale travel to Paris to take on the might of Racing 92 (kick-off 3pm), while on Saturday, Munster take on reigning champions Toulouse in Dublin (BT Sport 2, kick-off 3pm), La Rochelle host Montpellier (BT Sport 3, kick-off 5.30pm) and Leicester Tigers face Leinster at Welford Road (BT Sport 2, kick-off 5.30pm). VP 

Formula 1: Miami Grand Prix
Sun, Sky F1, 7.30pm
After the thrills and (considerable) spills of Verstappen v Hamilton last year, the 2022 Drivers’ Championship looks set to be Verstappen v Leclerc. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has made a chequered start to his title defence, winning a pair of races while failing to finish the other two. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc also has two wins and will look to put the disappointment of last week’s poor finish at Imola behind him at the first ever Miami Grand Prix in Miami Gardens. VP      

Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards 2022
BBC One, 6pm     
After two years of virtual and socially distanced bashes, for tonight’s back-to-normality gala Covid-era host Richard Ayoade – who’s joked about the joys of social distancing – will have to get used to having celebrities in his orbit again. Leading the nominations is Russell T Davies’s Aids drama It’s a Sin, which is up against Olivia Colman vehicle Landscapers, ITV’s Stephen and the Sean Bean prison drama Time for Best Miniseries. Two exciting newcomers, Channel 4’s raucous We Are Lady Parts and BBC Two’s, ahem, raucous Alma’s Not Normal, are livening up the Scripted Comedy category. 

Squid Game, meanwhile, will be hoping to continue to defy all expectations by taking home the Best International award. And though Kate Winslet may have three film Baftas, this is her first TV nomination (for the excellent Mare of Easttown). But can she see off five-time nominee (and one-time winner) Jodie Comer in Help? And will all this be enough to draw in TV fans at home? Even with gowns and glamour back at the Royal Albert Hall, March’s Bafta Film Awards lost the ratings war to Dancing on Ice. Let’s hope for a moratorium on dull speeches and perhaps a surprise or two to keep it lively. VP 

The Andrew Neil Show
Channel 4, 6pm
After leaving the BBC and making an abortive move to GB News, the doyenne of political interviewers lands at Channel 4. Given how Neil’s forensic interrogation techniques are feared by politicians of all stripes, it’ll be interesting to see who will sign up for interviews, but the debate is guaranteed to be contentious. VP 

Eden: Untamed Planet
BBC Two, 7.10pm
With a family friendly voice-over by Helena Bonham Carter, this uplifting wildlife series looks at the world’s isolated corners. Tonight’s opener heads to Borneo’s rainforests, where we follow proboscis monkeys on treacherous swims and witness a recent discovery, a courtship dance between assassin bugs. VP 

Commando: Britain’s Ocean Warriors
BBC Two, 8pm
The elite fighting unit allows cameras to capture recruits as they finish the torturous training required to earn a green beret in this engaging four-part series. Their stories are interwoven with those of serving and former Commandos who relay some astonishing stories of combat in Normandy, the Falklands and Afghanistan. It’s full of eye-opening insights. VP 

Grace
ITV, 8pm
This crime drama with added Brighton allure delivers a gripping, complicated instalment. Det Supt Roy Grace (John Simm) fears the body found in a storm drain may be that of his missing wife, Sandy (Clare Calbraith), which strains his new relationship. And a nemesis arrives in the form of a new detective (James D’Arcy), intent on taking Grace down. VP 

Jazz All Stars: Cheltenham at 25
BBC Four, 8pm
After two years away, the UK’s leading jazz festival marked its quarter-century birthday last weekend with concerts and new commissions. Tonight’s starry gala presented by YolanDa Brown is a concert featuring Gregory Porter and Paloma Faith singing jazz hits, while trumpeter Guy Barker premieres a symphonic celebration. VP 

Afghanistan: No Country for Women
ITV, 10.15pm
This distressing documentary by British-Iranian reporter Ramita Navai exposes the devastating impact on women of the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan. She discovers women imprisoned without trial for so-called immoral behaviour and hears of females being forcibly married off to Taliban soldiers. VP     

Three Men and a Baby (1987) ★★★ 
Channel 5, 1.35pm
A rare directorial effort from Star Trek mainstay Leonard Nimoy, this charming and somewhat literally named comedy sees bachelors Peter, Michael and Jack (played by Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson respectively) left responsible for a baby that shows up on the doorstep of their New York apartment. The three men must learn to care for the child, while tackling a laughable mix-up with some drug dealers. 

The Last Letter from Your Lover (2021) ★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere, 9.40pm
Not one but two intertwined love stories in this touching adaptation of a time-jumping Jojo Moyes novel.  In the present day, young journalist Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones) becomes fascinated by a series of letters, outlining a love affair in the 1960s. In the past, amnesiac Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley) finds the same letters – from “J” to “Boot” – but who are the correspondents?

The Hurt Locker (2008) ★★★★★
BBC Two, 10pm
A landmark in the history of cinema: Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break) was the first female winner of the Best Director Oscar for this intense drama about a bomb disposal unit in Iraq. Jeremy Renner excels as Staff Sergeant William James, a maverick who delights in putting himself in harm’s way, while the jittery cinematography stokes up the suspense to unbearable levels. Ralph Fiennes puts in a cameo as a military contractor.

Monday 9 May

John Stonehouse, the MP who faked his own deathCredit: Channel 4

The Spy Who Died Twice
Channel 4, 9pm     

In 1974, John Stonehouse MP was presumed dead after his clothes were found on Miami Beach. The media soon started reporting about business problems and a mistress – and an allegation that the Labour politician was a spy for the Soviet bloc. When he was found alive a few weeks later in Australia, living under a false identity, he was brought back to the UK, found guilty of fraud and served a three-year sentence. But the spying? No charges were laid – and now Keely Winstone’s revealing film, which is part of the Secret History strand, shows how Stonehouse, who died in 1988, colluded with the Czech security service while he was a government minister and – most remarkably – how three prime ministers chose not to investigate the spying allegations.

Much of this was previously known but the film features testimony – some of it shown for the first time – from his Czech handlers as well as extensive news archive and political talking heads. Did Stonehouse spy for political beliefs or financial gain? Harold Wilson’s aide Bernard Donoughue says simply: “He was a chancer.” But why Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher didn’t prosecute him remains a mystery. VL

Britain’s Top Takeaways
BBC Two, 8pm
Pandemic lockdowns helped double the size of the UK’s takeaway industry in the past two years – and in this jolly series presenters Sara Cox and Darren Harriott introduce a group of takeaway chefs aiming to impress a team of judges. A different cuisine is served in each episode; tonight it’s fish and chips. VL

The Airport: Back in the Skies
BBC One, 8.30pm; Scotland, 10.40pm; Wales, 11.10pm; NI, Tues, 10.40pm
The fly-on-the-wall series returns with its Nineties reality TV breakout star Jeremy Spake – now a “global troubleshooter” – back in his old stomping ground of Heathrow Airport as the aviation industry tries to recover from the pandemic. VL

The Enemy Within: Inside Britain’s Far Right
Channel 4, 8.30pm
Unlike France, this country has little stomach for far-Right politics, but we should be vigilant of any threat to democracy, as this Dispatches report shows. Its reporters went undercover to investigate the far Right’s tactics to gain support in some of the most deprived parts of the country and questions whether one organisation interfered in a recent by-election. VL

Fergal Keane: Living With PTSD
BBC Two, 9pm
In early 2020, the BBC News correspondent Fergal Keane had to step back from his career because he was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after decades of reporting on conflicts and famine. In this Horizon documentary he explains how PTSD has affected him and investigates the latest scientific approach to its treatment. VL

The Games
ITV, 9pm
This series hosted by Holly Willoughby and Freddie Flintoff (being shown live each evening this week) is essentially a reboot of the 1970-1980s show Superstars – but with celebrities rather than athletes taking part in sporting challenges. Ex-Strictly dancer Kevin Clifton is among the 12 competitors. VL

Mother Teresa: For the Love of God
Sky Documentaries, 9pm
This informative three-part documentary pulls no punches in telling Mother Teresa’s story – from her childhood in Albania, founding an order of nuns dedicated to helping Kolkata’s poor, and her Nobel Peace Prize awarded before her death in 1997. Taking part are inpiduals who say she transformed their lives but others who call her a “charlatan”, and say her public image didn’t tell the whole story. VL    

Man Hunt (1941) b/w ★★★★
Talking Pictures TV, 9pm
This is the first of four American-made anti-Nazi films from the German Expressionist Fritz Lang (the others being Ministry of Fear, Hangmen Also Die!, and Cloak and Dagger). A British big-game hunter (Walter Pidgeon) goes hunting Hitler in Bavaria, but is discovered at the last second before pulling his trigger. He is extradited to London, only to be hounded by shadowy Nazi agents. Lang’s tense thriller is a key critique of appeasement. 

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) ★★★★★
Film4, 11.05pm
Eight Oscars, seven Baftas and four Golden Globes cemented Danny Boyle’s energetic adaptation of Vikas Swarup’s novel Q&A as a triumph. The chaotic beauty of Mumbai is exuberantly brought to life to tell the story of an uneducated orphan (Dev Patel) from the slums who is on the verge of winning a fortune as a contestant on the Hindi version of the British game-show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Starship Troopers (1997) ★★★★
5Action, 11.20pm
At first glance, this Oscar-nominated sci-fi action thriller based on Robert A Heinlein’s 1959 novel looks truly silly: in the distant future, a group of American high-school friends join the armed forces to do intergalactic war with some malicious insectoid aliens. Humanity is, of course, at risk. Thankfully, director Paul Verhoeven deftly underpins the whole thing with his characteristically bold satirical verve and bloody, no-nonsense action.

Tuesday 10 May

Pop singer Will Young (left) with his late brother RupertCredit: Channel 4

Will Young: Losing My Twin Rupert
Channel 4, 10.05pm     
A profoundly moving, courageous and insightful treatise on living with addiction, this soul-baring love letter-cum-eulogy also has a campaigning edge. While the singer Will Young was able to fund his twin brother Rupert’s many visits to rehab prior to his death by suicide in July 2020, affordable, accessible treatments for alcohol dependency are woefully thin on the ground and desperately underfunded, the result in part of the stigmas attached to an illness too often assumed to be someone’s fault.

Young speaks fondly and wittily of Rupert, who basked shamelessly in the reflected glory of his brother’s chart success (“This is his idea of heaven,” says Will of the documentary). He is also admirably candid about his conflicted feelings as addiction took hold, tightening its grip to the extent that Will was eventually forced to kick Rupert out of his home. Their parents also appear, still grieving and bewildered by their son’s decline (Will speculates its roots may have lain in a miserable stretch at boarding school). It is understandably light on hope, but there is comfort to be found here through the effectiveness of residential rehab for those that can access it, and in the art therapy some relatives of addicts have taken up. GT

State Opening Of Parliament
BBC One, 10.30am
Royal pageantry meets politics as the Queen outlines Boris Johnson’s legislative programme for the coming year, ahead of the new parliament’s first session. GT

Escher: Journey into Infinity
Sky Arts, 7pm
Featuring correspondence and diary entries narrated by Stephen Fry, this is an absorbing if uncritical study of Maurits Cornelis Escher, the fiercely intelligent and playful Dutch graphic artist best known for his ingenious optical illusions. Well researched (an exchange with Mick Jagger is especially cherishable), visually inventive and attentive to the details of his evolution as an artist and the trails he blazed. GT

Eurovision Semi-Finals 2022
BBC Three, 8pm
The first of the semi-finals from Turin, with, tonight, 17 countries competing for 10 places in Saturday’s final. Scott Mills and Rylan Clark introduce the acts, with notably imaginative song titles including Eat Your Salad (from Latvia’s Citi Zēni) and Give That Wolf a Banana (Norway’s eccentric Subwoolfer). All eyes and ears, however, will be on Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra and their song Stefania. The rap and folk collective are favourites to win this year’s competition. The second semi-final is on Thursday night. GT

Life After Life
BBC Two, 9pm
Having made a fine fist of a labyrinthine narrative, Bash Doran’s smart Kate Atkinson adaptation concludes during the Second World War, with Ursula Todd (Thomasin McKenzie) attempting to save both her brother Teddy (Sean Delaney) and the country as the Blitz rages. Awards will follow. GT

Storyville: Your Mum and Dad: a Devastating Truth
BBC Four, 10pm
Journalist Klaartje Quirijns prods at a desperately painful family secret in this curious documentary, asking her elderly parents about the impact of her older sister’s drowning many years before. Pairing this story with the no less tragic tale of Michael Moskowitz, treated cruelly by his mother who survived the Holocaust, it is by turns sad and frustrating, but never less than heartfelt. GT

The Philpott Fire: 10 Years On
Channel 5, 10pm
In May 2012, Mick Philpott set fire to his home, killing six of his children. Already a convicted criminal, he was sentenced to life imprisonment a year later. It seems unlikely that this documentary will add anything to the same broadcaster’s The Philpott Fire: 5 Years On. GT

The Post (2017) ★★★★★ 
Film4, 6.45pm
The year is 1971, and we’re spying on then-President Richard Nixon in this tremendous media thriller from Steven Spielberg. Tom Hanks takes on the role of Ben Bradlee, the editor of The Washington Post, while Meryl Streep is Katharine Graham, the paper’s publisher, whose life on the genteel DC social circuit is worlds away from the newsroom’s clatter and bark. This tale of a struggle to hold an administration to account is striking and bold. 

The Misfits (1961) b/w ★★★★★
Great! Movies Classic, 9pm
Famous for being the last film completed by both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, this Arthur Miller-scripted Western is fierce. Ex-stripper Roslyn Taber (Monroe) falls for Gable’s cowboy Gay Langland, who works odd jobs with his friend, an ex-rodeo rider (Montgomery Clift); said jobs include rounding up horses to be turned into dog food. The finale, in which Monroe tries to stop them, is one of her most soulful turns. John Huston directs.

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) ★★★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm
Dev Patel brings surprising interest to the story of star mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, whose research in the early 20th century on number theory took academe by storm. Self-taught but unemployed in Madras, he reached out, via civil engineer Sir Francis Spring (Stephen Fry), to Cambridge theorist GH Hardy (Jeremy Irons). It’s a sensitive and overdue look at a true story of genius triumphing over adversity.

Wednesday 11 May

Sophie Okonedo as a Detective Inspector called Katrina in Inside No 9Credit: BBC

Inside No 9
BBC Two, 10pm     
Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s darkly comic anthology series continues its triumphant seventh series with another twisty tale. Attracting more strong guest actors, this week’s tour de force comes from Sophie Okonedo as a Detective Inspector called Katrina, a dogged sleuth who wakes in the middle of the night to pore over her latest pressing case – that of a missing boy called Ashley. She’s a maverick cop and single mother with a drink problem who lives for her job and gives speeches about how she’ll step on any misogynist who gets in her way.

If DI Katrina sounds like a bit of a TV cliché, then that’s as much of  a clue as we can dispense about this episode, except that, in a nod to classic cop dramas, Between the Lines’ Siobhan Redmond also guest  stars alongside Okonedo, Shearsmith and Pemberton. The co-writers play with what’s real and what’s a dream, which keeps the sands shifting under our feet and makes us feel like we’re in a hall of mirrors. It’s another heightened playlet that cleverly delivers Twilight Zone-style plots with a literary sensibility and a deft mix of comedy, psychological insight and well-drawn characters. Armchair theatre at its finest. VP

Oussekine
Disney+
In Paris, in December 1986, 22-year-old French-Algerian student Malik Oussekine was killed by police during a protest. His family’s fight for justice is dramatised in this powerful four-parter led by Succession star Hiam Abbass and Spiral’s Tewfik Jallab. VP

Our Father
Netflix
This sensitive documentary tells the disturbing tale of US fertility doctor Donald Cline, who personally impregnated more than 50 of his patients instead of using anonymous donor sperm as advertised. DNA testing enabled several of his biological children to unravel the mystery of their paternity, and they speak movingly of the impact of Cline’s actions. VP

Between the Covers
BBC Two, 7.30pm
Sara Cox’s book club returns with another celebrity-studded discussion of beloved novels. Richard Osman describes his love of Patricia Highsmith while a group discussion of The English Patient by Sri Lankan author Michael Ondaatje – part of the BBC’s Big Jubilee Read – is so enthusiastic it’s likely to incite a stampede to bookshops. VP

The Great British Sewing Bee
BBC One, 9pm
The feelgood tailoring competition continues with a summer theme and more onerous challenges for the amateur sewers. They must refashion a hammock into a garment and create two-piece coordinated suits – the latter leads to an electric moment when contestant Steve unwittingly chooses as his inspiration a movie costume designed by judge Esme Young. VP

DNA Family Secrets
BBC Two, 9pm
The BBC’s science-based answer to Long Lost Family returns for an emotional second series hosted by Stacey Dooley. Tonight’s subjects seeking answers about their identities include Janet, 62, who once overheard a house guest mention that her father had a love child. VP

Madeleine McCann: The Case Against Christian B
Channel 5, 9pm
What may appear to be another sensational true-crime documentary about Madeleine McCann has more to offer. Former detective Mark Williams-Thomas’s scoop is a communiqué with the chief suspect in the case, Christian Brückner. Williams-Thomas tests Brückner’s story in Portugal and Germany and delivers his own conclusions as to the suspect’s guilt. VP

Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1940) b/w ★★★
Talking Pictures TV, 12.20pm
This is rousing stuff from Robert Stevenson, who would go on to direct Mary Poppins. Cedric Hardwicke plays the reformist tutor Dr Thomas Arnold, who takes over as headmaster of Rugby school in the early 19th-century and tries to crack down on bullying.  Jimmy Lyddon plays Tom Brown, a student who allies with Arnold and leads the other underdog students against their oppressors.  

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years (2016) ★★★★
Sky Arts, 9pm
While you watch this peppy documentary from Ron Howard, which focuses on the band’s notoriously hectic touring period from 1962-1966, you feel pop history whistling past at great speed. “We were force-grown, like rhubarb,” John Lennon observes in one of many well-chosen snippets. It’s a line that chimes again and again with every new step Howard shows the band taking.

Two Way Stretch (1960) b/w ★★★
Talking Pictures TV, 9.10pm
Peter Sellers stars in this comedy caper about three incarcerated criminals. The men intend to carry out a crime with the perfect alibi – by breaking out of prison the day before their release, robbing a jewellery store, then breaking back in before anybody notices. The only hitch comes in the form of Sidney Crout (Lionel Jeffries), the strict new head of their prison block. It lags at times, but is buoyed by a number of solid gags.

Thursday 12 May

Tottenham striker Harry KaneCredit: Getty

Football: Spurs v Arsenal
Thurs, Sky Main Event, 7pm
Things are going to the wire in all areas of the Premier League and this North London derby will be spicy. The fierce rivals are scrapping it out for that coveted fourth place and this game could be crucial (kick-off 7.45pm). Both sides have weekend matches to overcome first, with Tottenham Hotspur facing a daunting visit to Anfield to play title-hunters Liverpool (Sat, BT Sport 1, 7pm) and Arsenal facing a potential banana skin at home to relegation-battling Leeds United (Sun, Sky Main Event, 2pm). Eyes peeled on Sunday for a huge game at the top of the National League: Wrexham v Stockport County (BT Sport 1, noon). GT     

The Jubilee Pudding: 70 Years in the Baking
BBC One, 8pm     
This is the BBC’s opening salvo in a wealth of programming to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. This one-off follows the five home bakers who first beat almost 5,000 hopefuls, and then the 45 other finalists whose creations were judged from recipe alone, to vie for the position of creator of a new celebratory dessert under the patronage of Fortnum & Mason. Susan, Jemma, Shabnam, Kathryn and Sam duly arrive at the famous London luxury emporium to prepare their respective dishes, inspired by their life experiences and ably aided by F&M’s pastry chef Roger Pizey.

For once, there is no time limit, but there is of course a stellar panel of judges chaired by – who else? – Mary Berry, and, including Monica Galetti, 2018 Bake Off champion Rahul Mandal, food writer Jane Dunn and pastry chef Matt Adlard. After the deliberations, HRH the Duchess of Cornwall will announce the winner, with the recipe available on the BBC website after broadcast. Whether it will feature in the nation’s imminent street parties, let alone have the staying power of Victoria sponge or Coronation chicken, remains to be seen, but there’s no arguing with the charm and spirit of the concept. GT

Secret Spenders: Beat the Price Rises
Channel 4, 8pm
This slightly peculiar series continues with Anita Rani secretly watching the spending habits of two couples – who are each getting by on one salary – before collaring them and taking them both to task. Molly and Damien need to curb their supermarket sprees, while a Norfolk pair face cutting down on a rampant takeaway habit. GT

Eurovision Semi-finals 2022
BBC Three, 8pm
Fingers at the ready: Brits can vote on tonight’s crop of 18 semi-finalists, while hosts Scott Mills and Rylan Clark are joined by the UK’s Sam Ryder. From Finland’s Jezebel to Czech entry Lights Off via San Marino’s Stripper, it’s another perse bunch. GT

Secrets of the London Underground
Yesterday, 8pm
Tim Dunn and Siddy Holloway turn their attention to Underground moquettes, another abandoned station and the Waterloo & City Line, the shortest line on London’s tube network. Geeky, but equally fascinating. GT

The History of the Red Army
PBS America, 8.35pm
Airing today and tomorrow, this fine documentary offers a balanced and thorough analysis of a key Soviet institution. We start with how its reputation was forged in the fires of the October Revolution, continuing through to the profound damage of Stalin’s purges, and close with the period of slow decline entered after the Second World War. GT

Art that Made Us
BBC Two, 9pm
This exceptional series, supported by a varied and erudite cast of contributors (this week: Jeremy Deller, Maxine Peake, Olafur Eliasson and Fiona Sinclair among others), arrives at the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution. Artists, architects, writers and designers duly responded to its transformative impact on society, the landscape and environment, with results pored over here from J M W Turner, William Morris, Elizabeth Gaskell and Oscar Wilde, before it reaches a murkily compelling conclusion with the unflinching, discomfiting work of Walter Sickert. GT

The Staircase
Sky Atlantic, 9pm
A cast so fine it can reduce Juliette Binoche to a small supporting role still struggles to breathe life into this unnecessary dramatisation of the documentary miniseries, which approaches its midpoint tonight. The first three episodes are available on Sky On Demand and NOW. GT

Bringing Up Baby (1938) b/w ★★★★★
BBC Four, 9pm
Heaven for fans of screwball comedies – this Howard Hawks effort is one of the very best. Cary Grant plays a palaeontologist who is looking forward to two things: reconstructing a brontosaurus skeleton and getting married. But his life turns topsy-turvy when he bumps into a madcap socialite (Katharine Hepburn). Every scene zings. Astonishingly, it was a major box-office flop. More Grant follows with his 1940 hit My Favorite Wife.

Julia (1977) ★★★★
Talking Pictures TV, 10.50pm
Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave co-star as Lillian and Julia in this magnetic period drama, in which the two women conspire to transport money into Nazi Germany that will be used to fund the local resistance. It’s a touching tale of how life can be uprooted by circumstances beyond our control, and both actresses put in equally fierce performances as women whose love for one another drives them to great lengths.  

Nerve (2016) ★★★
Film4, 11.15pm
Emma Roberts plays a risk-averse straight-A student called Vee in this New York techno-thriller, who is strong-armed by her best friend (Emily Meade) to live a little. Following in the latter’s footsteps, she agrees to an escalating series of dares for cash rewards. The game is called Nerve, and its pitch is roughly the 1997 Michael Douglas film The Game – “They make your life fun” – reconceived as an app. Divertingly ridiculous, up to a point.

Friday 13 May

Tom Hiddleston in The Essex SerpentCredit: Apple TV+

The Essex Serpent
Apple TV+     
This terrific six-part adaptation by Anna Symon of Sarah Perry’s bestselling 2016 novel has lots going for it – a mythical beast,  religious fervour and illicit attraction, plus a superb cast led by Tom Hiddleston and Claire Danes. Set in 1893, the action moves between London and the atmospheric marshes on Mersea Island in Essex, where Cora Seaborne (Danes), a newly widowed woman, moves to take up palaeontology; she soon becomes intrigued by the locals’ belief that the area might be haunted by a sea serpent, known as the Blackwater Beast.

In the first two episodes available today, Cora strikes up a friendship with local pastor Will Ransome (Hiddleston), his wife Stella (Clémence Poésy) and their family, and, as they bat arguments about science and religion back and forth, we can see that the sparks flying between them will turn into something more than friendship. But then a tragedy occurs in the village. Director Clio Barnard injects pace into the tale (the book takes its time) but, like the novel, the drama plays up the gothic – lots of mists over water and screeching gulls overhead – and there are echoes of The Crucible as religious belief and pagan myth again prove a heady mix. VL

The Lincoln Lawyer
Netflix
Co-written by David E Kelley (Big Little Lies), this slick legal thriller is adapted from Michael Connelly’s popular novels. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is Mickey Haller, a streetwise Los Angeles lawyer who operates out of a Lincoln Town Car. In the first of 10 episodes he has a deceptive client and faces a death threat. It’s not as meaty as the Matthew McConaughey film, but engaging enough. VL

Unreported World
Channel 4, 7.30pm
Fatima Manji reports on the work of Pakistan’s Gender Protection Unit, which aims to crack down on domestic violence aimed at women. Something that, according to research, nearly one in three women in the country have experienced. VL

Here We Go
BBC One, 8.30pm
More from the accident-prone Jessops in Tom Basden’s gentle comedy about family life. After her hip replacement, Sue (Alison Steadman, totally joyous in this role) buys a blow-up swimming pool – what could possibly go wrong? Another more than decent sitcom, The Other One – about half-siblings who discover each other as adults – follows at 9.30pm. VL

Lighthouses: Building the Impossible
Channel 5, 9pm
In the last of this fascinating documentary series, Rob Bell visits Longstone Lighthouse off the Northumberland coast, famous for the daring rescue in 1983 of shipwrecked survivors by the keeper’s daughter, Grace Darling. Although still active, nobody lives in nowadays, but previous occupants describe life there – including games of cricket on its tiny beach. VL

The Terror: Infamy
BBC Two, 9pm & 9.40pm; not Wales
The chilling historical drama, set in a US internment camp for Japanese-Americans, continues with back-to-back episodes. We’ve reached 1942 and Chester (Derek Mio) is still trying to fathom the strange goings-on there; some internees believe that a bakemono (a preternatural figure from Japanese folklore) is responsible, and now another death adds to their fears. VL

Let’s Make a Love Scene
Channel 4, 10pm
Ellie Taylor presents this dating show, which adds to Channel 4’s soft porn range (Naked Attraction et al). Three hopeful lads recreate a romantic film scene – this week from Ghost, The Notebook and Fifty Shades of Grey – to “test out their chemistry” with beauty consultant Starr and win a date. Brief Encounter it ain’t. VL

Respect (2021) ★★★
Amazon Prime Video
Jennifer Hudson stars in this affectionate biopic of superstar soul singer Aretha Franklin, which captures the first two decades of Franklin’s life as she realises her ability as a musical prodigy, loses her mother at age 10, and rises to international fame. A clear labour of love for all those involved, the strong supporting cast includes Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess and Mary J Blige.

Senior Year (2022) 
Netflix
Stephanie Conway (Rebel Wilson) was a popular high-school cheerleading captain whose attempt at a daring stunt went wrong, landing her in a 20-year coma. Now she’s woken up, and has decided to pick up from right where she left off – by becoming the prom queen, despite being a 37-year-old woman. But how will an archetypical mean girl fit into a modern school environment? Have things changed that much? More high-school comedy in Sneakerella on Disney+.

Before I Go to Sleep (2014) ★★★
BBC One, 11.40pm
In this mystery thriller we meet Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman), a woman with a rare form of amnesia that means she starts each day with no recollection of the past including and beyond a traumatic accident. As Christine attempts to make sense of her life along with Dr Nash (Mark Strong) and her husband Ben (Colin Firth) she discovers that all is not as it seems, and she may not be able to trust anybody around her. Gripping stuff.

Television previewers

Jack Taylor (JT), Veronica Lee (VL), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Vicki Power (VP) and Gabriel Tate (GT)

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