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26 of the best shows to watch this week, beginning tonight


The Mating Game
Sunday, BBC One, 8pm
Forget swiping right. Nature’s grasslands are among the most challenging
habitats for animals seeking a mate, as a young male ostrich in Namibia is about to learn. On the Serengeti plain, a mature zebra stallion must defend his mares from roaming bachelor rivals, while other animals adopt sneakier methods to woo potential other halves. The nursery web spider uses worthless gifts disguised as prized treasures, while ruff birds go for a cross-dressing strategy to deceive rivals and attract willing females.

Ridley Road
Sunday, BBC One, 9pm

Agnes O’Casey and Julia Krynke in Ridley Road

Set among the Jewish community in 192 London, this drama series, based on the novel by Jo Bloom, exposes the darker side of swinging London. Far-right fascism and anti-Semitism is on the rise, resulting in pitched battles on the streets of the capital. Vivien Epstein (Agnes O’Casey) is a Jewish hairdresser who moves from Manchester to London in search of a former boyfriend, Jack (Tom Varey). Vivien falls in with an anti-fascist organisation, the 62 Group, led by the charismatic Soly Malinovsky (Eddie Marsan), who sends her on a dangerous mission to infiltrate a neo-Nazi group led by the real-life Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear).

Listening Through the Lens: The Christopher Nupen Films
Sunday, BBC Four, 9pm

South African filmmaker Christopher Nupen
South African filmmaker Christopher Nupen

South African-born filmmaker Nupen cofounded an independent production company in 1968 and went on to make more than 80 productions about music. He befriended many of those he profiled, while being credited with championing classical music on television. This documentary, narrated by Stephen Fry, looks back at his accomplishments. Nupen himself is featured, as are John Williams, Michael Grade, Melvyn Bragg, David Attenborough and Daniel Barenboim, among others. His films Jacqueline du Pre: A Gift Beyond Worlds and We Want the Light: The Jews and German Music precede and follow the documentary.

Sold: The Eircom Shares Saga
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

A dancer dressed as a dragon burns a flare in front of the launched Telecom Éireann share offer price in Dublin on July 7th, 1999. Photograph: RTÉ
A dancer dressed as a dragon burns a flare in front of the launched Telecom Éireann share offer price in Dublin on July 7th, 1999. Photograph: RTÉ

In 1999, Telecom Éireann, Ireland’s national phone provider, floated on the stock exchange, sparking a goldrush among ordinary punters keen to snap up shares and hopefully get rich quicker than you can dial the speaking clock. This documentary tells the sorry story of a failed flotation that left many citizen investors hanging on the line, as their shares plummeted in value. It’s a glimpse into an Ireland at the cusp of a technological and communications revolution – and at the height of Celtic Tiger hubris. This was a time when everyone suddenly had disposable income and your taxi driver would wax lyrical about apartment investments in Bulgaria. No one wanted to miss out on this chance to make a killing from the privatisation of the national telco, so more than half a million punters signed up to buy shares. Disappointed investors were soon calling for heads on a plate, but over the following decade the value of Eircom sank so low, even the plates were beyond the budget.

Antisocial Ireland
Monday, Virgin One, 9pm
Virgin Media crime correspondent Sarah O’Connor investigates the apparent rise in antisocial behaviour across the country. High-profile and shocking incidents of disorderly conduct, assault and riot,often perpetrated by gangs of youths, have been widely shared on social media. This special examines Garda efforts to clamp down on public order offences and talk to victims who feel abandoned by the authorities. It also hears from community representatives and outreach workers trying to tackle antisocial tendencies among young people before they manifest in violence.

Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution
Monday, BBC Two, 9pm
Remember Cool Britannia, when the UK was at the height of its cultural and political powers, and even the Irish basked in its reflected glory? It was the era of Britpop encapsulated by Blur v Oasis, Brit Art as illustrated by Damien Hirst, and New Labour as represented by prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. This documentary series looks at the meteoric rise of New Labour as it swept to power in the late 1990s and fell from grace in the wake of the Iraq War in the early 2000s. With help from many who were there, including Neil Kinnock, Peter Mandelson, Ed Balls and Alastair Campbell, the series looks at a time, 20 years before Brexit and Boris, when Britain seemed united by a shared vision for the future.

Murder Island
Tuesday, Channel 4, 9.30pm
Not to be confused with Love Island, where contestants gather at a tropical paradise in their skimpiest swimwear and try to pair up. This new series brings contestants to a windswept Scottish island, where they will don their deerstalker detective caps, divide up into teams of two, and try to solve a murder-mystery. But this isn’t just any old whodunit: the murders are cleverly devised by crime writer Ian Rankin, creator of Inspector Rebus, and the amateur sleuths will have help from forensic experts, criminal profilers and the armchair detectives at home.

In the first episode, the detective teams arrive by boat to the island, and are brought to the crime scene, an old rundown property called The Manse, where the body of Charly Hendricks was found. With a murder to solve and the clock running down, I’m afraid there won’t be much time for snogging or sitting around in a hot tub.

Dementia & Us
Tuesday, BBC One, 9pm
More than half a million people in the UK are diagnosed with dementia, a term that covers many different conditions. This powerful two-part documentary follows four people, aged 45 to 91, who are living with the condition. It begins in summer 2019 and features Chris (43), who has a rare form of dementia caused by a faulty gene that runs in families; Clover (89), whose daughter Marcia faces some hard decisions about her mother’s care; and Marion (61), recently diagnosed and discovers her mental capacities are already diminishing. Finally, cameras follow Gilly (77), a former professional footballer with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s whose wife is finding it harder to cope.

Anthony
Tuesday, Virgin One, 9pm

Toheeb Jimoh and Julia Brown in Anthony
Toheeb Jimoh and Julia Brown in Anthony

Welcome reairing of a drama which originally ran on BBC One in 2020. Sixteen years ago, 18-year-old college student Anthony Walker was killed by two white men in an unprovoked racist attack in a Liverpool park. This drama imagines what life may have held for Anthony if the teenager had not been killed. The reverse chronology sees him realise his dreams and enjoy the life he had a right to before it was taken away. Toheeb Jimoh, Julia Brown and Rakie Ayola head the impressive cast of this feature-length drama.

French and Saunders Night
Tueday, BBC Four, 9pm

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in Dublin in January 2001. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in Dublin in January 2001. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders first met while studying teacher training at university in the 1970s. They eventually decided that a comedy career was preferable to one spent in a classroom, which is lucky for us. Now BBC Four is celebrating their partnership by broadcasting two programmes. The first, which aired in 2017 to mark the 30th anniversary of their eponymous sketch show, features both new and old material. It’s followed by a chance to see French’s one-woman stage show 30 Million Minutes.

Brassic
Wednesday, Sky Showcase, 10pm & NowTV

Joe Gilgun and Michelle Keegan in Brassic
Joe Gilgun and Michelle Keegan in Brassic

It’s like a Geordie Young Offenders – Sky’s comedy series set in the fictional northern English town of Hawley returns for a third series. We’re back in the petty criminal world of Vinnie O’Neill and his motley crew of ne’er-do-wells. Vinnie (Joe Gilgun) is out of prison after his arrest at the end of series two, but his nemesis, PC Carl Slater (John Weaver), is now promoted to detective and watching him like a hawk. Can Vinnie revive his shady business without getting his collar felt again? The cast includes Bronagh Gallagher, Damien Molony and Aaron Heffernan.

TB Scéal Eitinn in Éirinn
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
TB was once Ireland’s biggest killer, with thousands every year dying of the illness once known as the Irish Disease. This documentary showcases the rise of TB, its effects on Irish life and people, the sanatoriums where the victims were treated, and those who helped battle the illness in Ireland. These include Noel Browne, who as minister for health sacrificed his political career to help Ireland defeat the illness.

28 Up: Millennium Generation
Wednesday, BBC One, 9pm
Change is among the themes explored in this edition as we catch up with Stacey, who is starting a new chapter after eight years teaching in China. Ryan from Bolton is finally moving out of his mum’s house and into his own home. And Talan from Cornwall is battling to overcome depression as he returns to university for a second attempt. Meanwhile, Orala from London has also moved out of home for a change of career, and pandemic has given Hannah from Kent the push she needs to make a big life change.

Catching a Predator
Wednesday, BBC Two, 9pm
Last year, Reynhard Sinaga was prosecuted for drugging, assaulting and raping 48 men, brutal attacks he recorded. The police investigation revealed Sinaga could have had more than 200 victims, many of whom were oblivious about what happened. This documentary gains exclusive access to the Greater Manchester Police two-year investigation and tells the inside story of how they built a case against Singana. Plus, one of his victims waives his right to anonymity to shed light on the under-reported crime of male rape.

Iceland with Alexander Armstrong
Wednesday, Channel 5, 9pm
Alexander Armstrong first visited Ireland during his ITV series Land of the Midnight Sun. He clearly liked what he saw as now he’s back to explore it in more depth. Iceland was the last country in the world to be settled by humans and, as Alexander discovers, its isolated position has helped to create a unique culture. The Pointless presenter begins his journey in suitably epic style by taking to the skies in a helicopter for a bird’s eye view of an erupting and lethal volcano.

Prue’s Great Garden Plot
Wednesday, More4, 9pm
She can currently be seen on Tuesday evenings on Channel 4 judging the skills of talented amateurs during the latest run of The Great British Bake Off, but here’s a chance to get Prue Leith out of her culinary comfort zone. In this new series, she and husband John Playfair attempt to start a garden from scratch at their new home. The opening episode sees them move in before wrestling with their outside space’s layout before seeking advice about trees.

Hunting the Football Trolls – Jermaine Jenas
Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm

Jermaine Jenas in August 2003. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty
Jermaine Jenas in August 2003. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty

In a powerful documentary, former England footballer-turned-pundit Jermaine Jenas examines the phenomenon of football trolls, spending a year monitoring online abuse. He talks to representatives from the Premier League and Professional Footballers Association to find out what they are doing to stamp out the hate that players – Jenas included – face on social media. He speaks to players, embeds with the UK’s only dedicated football policing unit, and even confronts a troll in a bid to understand what motivates them.

Chris O’Dowd: Off Camera
Thursday, Sky Arts, 10pm

Chris O’ Dowd in Dublin in February 2006. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
Chris O’ Dowd in Dublin in February 2006. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Photographer Sam Jones must be the most gentle interviewer on the planet; he chats to his guests as though they’re old friends, coaxing out of them fascinating facts about their lives and careers. His latest subject is actor and comedian Chris O’Dowd, who first came to fame on this side of the Pond via sitcom The IT Crowd. O’Dowd discusses his early projects as well as his breakthrough role in hit movie Bridesmaids, which introduced him to American audiences, and his subsequent success in the TV series Moone Boy and Get Shorty.

Have I Got News for You
Friday, BBC One, 9pm
Say what you like about the Tories, you have to hand it to Baroness Warsi, who in May was the most recent politician to brave this often-scathing quiz show. It was her second appearance, having popped up the previous year, following Liberal Democrat Layla Moran and Labour’s Jess Phillips, who both graced the show in 2019. As the curtain goes up on the 62nd series, it will be interesting to see if more MPs have the courage to go where Roy Hattersley famously feared to tread (he was replaced by a tub of lard in a 1993 edition). In the meantime, we can be sure that the sharp wits and even sharper tongues of regular team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton will be ready and eager to be deployed.

Valley of Tears
Friday, More4, 9pm

Ofer Hayoun in Valley of Tears
Ofer Hayoun in Valley of Tears

Israel might not be regarded as a major global TV force, but it has provided the source material for several hit American remakes in recent years. Homeland, In Treatment and Your Honor are just a few, and there apparently more on the way. Before they arrive, here’s a chance to see the 10-episode Valley of Tears; perhaps it, too, will eventually undergo a revamp, but for now, we’re being treated to the original. It focuses on the experiences of soldiers during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

ON DEMAND

For the People
From Tuesday, Amazon Prime

Ben Shenkman and Hope Davis in For the People
Ben Shenkman and Hope Davis in For the People

After creating must-see telly set in the medical and political worlds with Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, it was only a matter of time before Shonda Rhimes turned to the legal industry. The result was How to Get Away with Murder, which was such a success she followed it with this slick series following the lives and loves of new legal eagles, both prosecutors and defenders, as they try major cases in New York. Here, the curtain goes up on the second series, kicking off as Sandra Bell, Jill Carlan and new investigator Ted defend a teenager who inadvertently caused the death of a US senator after sending the police on a wild goose chase. Hope Davis, Britt Robertson and Charles Michael Davis cast.

Among the Stars
From Wednesday, Disney+
Not a show about hanging out with famous people, this is a docuseries following Nasa scientists and astronauts as they prepare to blast off on another space mission. We’re promised a peek inside the inner workings of the space agency and an insight into what it takes to get a crew into outer space. The focus is on the final mission for astronaut Capt Chris Cassidy, and the team of engineers, flight controllers and specialist who are working together to help the crew safely complete the mission.

Baking Impossible
From Wednesday, Netflix
Netflix is fast becoming the place to be for baking shows, from the chaos and comedy of Nailed It! to the delights of Nadiya Bakes. This latest is served up piping hot from left field, pairing the most creative and innovative bakers with the best and brightest engineers. Together they will compete to make creations that are beyond everyone’s wildest imaginations, but here’s the twist: each duo will be total strangers. Every episode, the teams will come up with fantastic fabrications that must not only taste delicious, but also survive intense engineering stress tests. Think along the lines of an edible skyscraper that can withstand a simulated cake-quake and you’ll get the idea.

Get Rolling with Otis
From Friday, Apple TV+

Get Rolling with Otis
Get Rolling with Otis

Loren Long’s gentle books featuring Otis the Tractor and all his friends at Long Hill Dairy Farm have been turned into a delightful animated series. Otis may be little but he has a big heart, and whenever he sees a friend in need he hits the brakes, asks how they’re feeling, and rolls into action to help. Parents looking to entertain their small people can settle them down for a single episode, which features two stories or, if you’re looking for some serious snuggle time with your youngster, you can watch the entire series. Author Long is among the show’s executive producers.

Muppets Haunted Mansion
From Friday, Disney+
There aren’t many events that can make us more excited than Christmas, but anything Muppet-related always manages to work us into a frenzy. Kermit the frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear and a whole host of other colourful characters will take over one of Disney’s most popular attractions on the spookiest night of the year: Halloween. As if that wasn’t reason enough to tune in, a host of celebrity guests will be popping up as some of the 999 Happy Haunts that are scattered across the mansion’s walls and halls, including Brooklyn Nine Nine’s Craig Robinson, The Fresh Prince’s Alfonso Ribeiro, and Chrissy Metz from This Is Us, while Glee star Darren Criss will feature as the mansion’s groundskeeper.

A Tale Dark & Grimm
From Friday, Netflix

A Tale Dark & Grimm
A Tale Dark & Grimm

This 3D adaptation of Adam Gidwitz’s book, based on the tales by the Grimm brothers, follows youngsters Hansel and Gretel as they set out to flee their murderous parents and find a new, safer home. So far so happy ever after – you may think. But the series takes the same smart approach as the book and has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. While it might possibly be a little dark for small viewers, younger teenagers (and lots of adults, let’s be honest) will adore the clever wit and smart animation. The talented vocal cast includes Raini Rodriguez, Andre Robinson and Jonathan Banks.

Contributing: PA



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