Taskmaster host Alex Horne with contestant Guz Khan (left) CREDIT:
Taskmaster Series 12 press handout
Thursday September 23 Taskmaster Channel 4, 9pm Just like the UKTV channel Dave before them, Channel 4 has decided, wisely, to schedule two series of Taskmaster a year. And why not? As long as Alex Horne’s peculiarly brilliant imagination keeps churning out inventive challenges, Greg Davies continues to hand out withering insults and a steady stream of game competitors line up to take both on the chin, they could screen this wonderful show all year round and no one would much mind. Tonight’s 12th series matches up Alan Davies, Guz Khan, Morgana Robinson, Desiree Burch and Telegraph columnist Victoria Coren Mitchell. Each is given their moment to shine across a series of testing tasks, one of which features what Davies dubs “the worst attempt we’ve ever seen at any task”.
A big claim. From nice things to sit on, to painting a portrait of Davies with the canvas either six inches or six feet away, to bursting a balloon with forks, pebbles or rubber ducks (an unimpeachable demonstration of hubris here), the fun is absolutely infectious. Who will win, who will flop and who will “do a Mike Wozniak” and become the nation’s unusual obsession over the next 10 weeks? GT
The New Statesman BritBox Revisit all four glorious series of perhaps Rik Mayall’s greatest creation (made in collaboration with Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran), the monstrous right-wing sociopath and Tory backbencher Alan B’Stard. Frantically unsubtle but absolutely irresistible in the brutality of its satire. GT How to Stop Your Migraines Channel 5, 7pm Having tackled IBS last week, Dr Dawn Harper turns her attention to migraines, a debilitating condition affecting one in seven people in the UK, offering assistance to sufferers and addressing a few misunderstandings around them. GT The Hairy Bikers Go North BBC Two, 8pm The Covid-induced shrinking of horizons long ago extended to cookery shows, and here Si King and Dave Myers stash the air miles away to instead take their bikes around their stomping ground of the north of England. They proclaim it to be, you may not be surprised to hear, their “most personal journey yet”. They begin tonight in Lancashire, where they sample pies, buffalo cheese, gin, and ice cream, as well as taking in the teetotal treats of the UK’s last temperance bar. GT A Killing in Tiger Bay BBC Two/BBC One Wales, 9pm The fight to overturn the convictions of Stephen Miller, Tony Paris and Yusef Abdullahi – the so-called Cardiff Three – begins, drawing global support from civil rights campaigners as the grim realities of the case and the investigation begin to emerge in the conclusion of this superlative, necessary documentary. GT
Manhunt: The Night Stalker ITV, 9pm While most of his colleagues believe the Minstead Man will lie low after his close shave, DCI Colin Sutton (Martin Clunes) decides to join one of the observation teams in the hope of a breakthrough which, eventually, comes in the fourth and final episode of this efficient true-crime drama. GT All Creatures Great and Small Channel 5, 9pm James (Nicholas Ralph) is still mulling over a return to Glasgow when the Daffodil Ball looms, presenting an ideal opportunity for him to come clean to Helen (Rachel Shenton) about his feelings for her. Siegfried (Samuel West), meanwhile, has his limited patience tested by the smug Colonel Merrick (James Fleet), who has begun to throw his weight around. Charming as ever. GT
Detective Story (1951) ★★★ Film4, 2.45pm Kirk Douglas plays embittered New York detective Jim McLeod, who is determined unswervingly to do his duty, as he sees it, by hunting an illicit doctor who has been delivering illegitimate children. But as it turns out, his wife, played by Eleanor Walker, had occasion to use the doctor’s services years before – and McLeod soon finds himself in the power of the doctor and reassessing his entire belief system. It’s a gritty noir of the first order.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) ★★★★ TCM Movies, 3.10pm This MGM musical, still heart-warming 65 years on, is expertly choreographed by Michael Kidd and directed by Stanley Donen. Howard Keel stars as Adam Pontipee, an Oregon woodsman who marries the sassy Milly (Jane Powell) hours after meeting. Jealous, Adam’s six brothers kidnap women whom they later woo: a slightly worrisome plot is overcome by the film’s sheer exuberance.
House of Strangers (1949) ★★★★ Talking Pictures TV, 9pm Joseph L Mankiewicz directs this psychological noir about a family of American-Italian bankers in New York who become embroiled in a bitter internecine feud when father Gino (Edward G Robinson) is put on trial for embezzlement, and three out of his four sons refuse to testify for him. Max (Richard Conte), the only one who sides with Gino, is sent to prison himself and comes out seven years later, desperate for revenge.
Friday September 24
Lou Llobell as Gaal Dornick in Foundation
Apple TV+ Adapting Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation novels was always going to be a challenge. Not only because the central hero, Hari Seldon, is a remote visionary mathematician whose future-predicting “psychohistory” theory is beyond the grasp of most mere mortals, but also because of the series’ epic scale, which encompasses a universe-spanning empire undergoing a 1,000-year process of collapse and renewal.
Happily, this impressively produced, big-budget epic from David S Goyer manages to distill the sprawling series into a mostly coherent narrative that gives Seldon (Jared Harris in typically commanding form) a more relatable acolyte in Gaal (newcomer Lou Llobell). She’s a gifted mathematician herself, but rather more appealing than the man who thinks himself capable of deciding what is and isn’t worth saving in global civilization. Tonight’s opener covers a lot of territories, following Gaal as she’s plucked from the interstellar margins and plunged deep into the political heart of the Imperium (the self-cloning dynasty that rules the universe), to unpack Seldon’s understandably unpopular prediction that the empire is on the brink of complete annihilation. Two episodes land today, the rest are weekly. GO
Goliath Amazon Prime Video Despite being left for dead at the end of series three of the entertaining crime drama, maverick lawyer Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) makes another miraculous return, this season taking on some of the true supervillains of modern-day America, the opioid industry, as represented by Big Pharma brothers George (JK Simmons) and Frank Stax (Bruce Dern). GO Inside Culture BBC Two, 7.30pm Mary Beard returns with another run of her reliably highbrow culture show, this week exploring laughter and its role in our lives, with neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott, comedians Shaparak Khorsandi and David Baddiel, and, less predictably, artist Maggi Hambling. GO Mr Mayor Sky Comedy, 8.30pm There’s a sharp satirical edge to many of the one-liners in this new comedy from 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt supremos Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Otherwise, it’s exactly the kind of warm-hearted, fluffily formulaic sitcom that you’d expect from a series starring Ted Danson as a likable retired businessman floundering in his role as the freshly elected mayor of Los Angeles – with Holly Hunter as his political nemesis. GO Grantchester ITV, 9pm The death of a young American airman at the police station leaves Geordie (Robson Green) and Will (Tom Brittney) struggling to figure out how he could have been murdered while in police custody, and an unexpected admission from Will regarding his National Service record threatens to drive a wedge between the two men. GO
The North Water BBC Two, 9.30pm Despite the relentlessly bleak setting, foetid men-only cast, and claustrophobic air of barely contained violence, this grim whaling-ship drama moves on at pace. Tonight, Sumner’s (Jack O’Connell) suspicions about the fate of the cabin boy provoke a savage response – and a death that puts the entire crew in peril amid the ice floes of Lancaster Sound. Colin Farrell continues to be wonderfully abominable. GO The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.35pm The nation’s favourite chat show host is back and, as usual, attracting the biggest names on the promo circuit. This week that could only be the stars – Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, and Rami Malek – of the much-delayed James Bond blockbuster, No Time to Die, with music from Ed Sheeran. GO
The Green Knight (2021) Amazon Prime Video Dev Patel stars as Gawain, in this adaptation of the Arthurian legend, which comes to us via a medieval poem, about his doomed quest to defeat a headless green foe who challenges him to a bizarre beheading game. Along the way, he faces monsters, witches, and all manner of weird creatures – but faces no greater challenge than the temptations of a seductive woman (Alicia Vikander) and his own conscience. David Lowery directs; Joel Edgerton co-stars.
The Starling (2021) Netflix While trying to adjust to life after loss, middle-aged Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) finds herself in a territory battle with a pestering bird that’s taken over her garden – and a husband (Chris O’Dowd) who’s struggling to find a way forward out of his own grief and back to reality. In her comic battle against the bird, Lilly finds an unlikely ally in Larry (Kevin Kline), a quirky psychologist-turned-vet with a troubled past of his own. Can the three of them help each other to heal?
A Monster Calls (2016) ★★★★ BBC One, 11.25pm The monster here is a spirit guide cooked up by a boy in need of a friend. Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is a bullied only-child struggling to come to terms with the terminal illness of his single-parent mother (Felicity Jones). His stern grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) is unable to provide much comfort; nor is his absent father. Should a child be shielded from such a painful event? JA Bayona’s film tackles that question with great skill.
Saturday September 25
The 19th series of the hit BBC talent show Strictly Come Dancing launched earlier this month CREDIT: PA
Strictly Come Dancing BBC One, 7pm We knew the stars’ names (well, most of them) before last week’s launch show but not much more besides. Now, since they’ve been paired up with their professional partners and strutted out in all their Spandex and spangles for us, we’ll have to come to our own conclusions about who’s most likely set the floor alight (and who’ll be dragging their heels) in this 19th series of the BBC’s most consistently entertaining show.
Will Olympic swimming sensation Adam Peaty and former Strictly champion Katya Jones prove the power couple to beat? Will Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice be the people’s favourites, or could it be the first all-male couple, John Whaite and Johannes Radebe? Or will ex-rugby player Ugo Monye and his looking-for-a-third-win-in-a-row partner Oti Mabuse beat them all to the Glitterball? In each case, there’s an emotional “journey” and a wild ride in store for the contestants, beginning in earnest tonight when the 15 celebrities dance live on-air in full competition mode for the very first time. No one will be voted off on this occasion (so, no Sunday night show this week) but nerves will be all-a-jangle nonetheless as the scores carry over and influence that big decision next weekend. GO
Bettany Hughes’ Treasures of the World Channel 4, 7.20pm Hughes takes a trip through Mediterranean island history this week. She explores Malta’s ancient role as a trading hub with North Africa, experiences a summer solstice on the sacred isle of Delos and, on Ischia, tells the story of Michelangelo’s muse. GO
Clint Eastwood: The Man & The Movies Channel 5, 7.55pm Sandwiched between a whole day of Eastwood films, this up-to-date profile contrasts the actor-director’s extraordinary movie career with a rather messier personal life that resulted in two divorces, a famous “palimony” case, and eight children by six different mothers. GO
Britain’s Forgotten Wars with Tony Robinson Channel 4, 8.20pm The man formerly known as Baldrick casts an eye over conflicts that have taken place in his lifetime but appear to have been forgotten, among them the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Malayan Emergency (1948-60), and the Mau Mau Uprising (1952-60). He begins with a look at the Gulf War of 1990, when Saddam Hussein’s annexation of Kuwait led to an UN-sanctioned military response. GO
Pink Floyd: The Endless River / A Delicate Sound of Thunder Sky Arts, 9pm & 10.15pm Longtime Pink Floyd collaborator Ian Emes’s 2019 film is a hypnotic and mystifyingly opaque accompaniment to the ambient instrumentals of the band’s 2014 album The Endless River. Those who’d prefer to see the band itself, in its prime, may prefer A Delicate Sound of Thunder, the concert film of their 1988 Momentary Lapse of Reason tour, which follows at 10.15pm. GO
Military History Night Smithsonian, from 4pm For military history buffs, 14 hours of non-stop war documentaries take in everything from Napoleon’s Waterloo, at 4pm, to The Spy in the Hanoi Hilton, at 5am, via a heaving smorgasbord of other historic hostilities. GO
Global Citizen: Music Festival for the Planet BBC One/BBC Two, from 5.30pm A 24-hour music festival with legions of the world’s biggest music stars from across six continents (Lorde, Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Kylie, Usher, Elton John and more) performing to “unite the world, defend the planet and defeat poverty”. BBC One’s coverage starts at 5.30pm, before switching to BBC Two at 10.10pm. GO
Golf: Ryder Cup 2021 Sky Golf, from 11am The fascinating transatlantic battle continues from Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, with morning foursomes and afternoon fourballs today, and the singles match tomorrow (from 5pm). GO
Football: Chelsea v Man City BT Sport 1, 11.30am The early favourites for the Premier League title meet at Stamford Bridge for the lunchtime kick-off today (12.30pm), before both sides board their private jets and head to Europe for two tantalizing Champions League fixtures. Manchester City takes on Paris Saint-Germain, Lionel Messi and all, on Tuesday, while Chelsea faces Juventus at the Allianz Stadium on Wednesday (both BT Sport 2, 7pm). Liverpool, meanwhile, visits Porto on Tuesday and Manchester United look to bounce back from their embarrassment against Young Boys, at home to Villarreal (both BT Sport 3, 7.15pm). And there’s football on the BBC on Sunday, with full coverage of Man Utd Women v Chelsea Women from the Women’s Super League (BBC Two, 12.15pm). GO
Cycling: World Road Championships 2021 BBC Two, 2pm More sport on the BBC this weekend (hallelujah), with live coverage of the Women’s Road Race (today, 2pm) and the Men’s Road Race (Sunday, BBC Two, 2.40pm), both races beginning in Antwerp and ending in the town of Leuven (that’s right, the home of Stella Artois). GO
Boxing: Joshua v Uysk Sky Box Office, 7pm Anthony Joshua puts his world heavyweight belts on the line tonight, as he goes toe-to-toe with Oleksandr Uysk, the undefeated Ukrainian bruiser who won Olympic heavyweight gold at London 2012 (Joshua won the super-heavyweight gold that summer). A huge partisan home crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium should roar the Englishman to victory, but Uysk, a lighter, more technical fighter, will be no pushover and counts Britons Derek Chisora and Tony Bellew among his scalps. A strong undercard is headlined by Lawrence Okolie, who’ll defend his WBO cruiserweight title against the Montenegrin Dilan Prasovic, who, like Okolie, is undefeated. GO
Black Narcissus (1947) ★★★★ BBC Two, 12.20pm Forget last year’s rickety BBC adaptation, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s deliciously unhinged take on Rumer Godden’s humid psychological drama is a romping delight. When the pious Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) is sent deep into the Himalayas to revive a monastic mission, her efforts are derailed by the creaky, wind-scoured palace she arrives at, and the dishy British agent Mr. Dean (David Farrar).
The Mercy (2017) ★★★★ BBC Two, 8.35pm Colin Firth gives a superb performance as the amateur round-the-world yachtsman Douglas Crowhurst. Crowhurst set off from Teignmouth in October 1968 in a hand-built boat, his British pluck carrying the public’s imagination. But when he began to post impossible speeds, things began to turn sour. Rachel Weisz plays his wife with frozen pathos, while the lavish production values give an immersive vision of a man’s soul flayed at sea.
All the Money in the World (2017) ★★★★ Channel 4, 11.40pm Christopher Plummer was an 11th-hour substitution for Kevin Spacey after the actor was accused of sexual assault, in Ridley Scott’s true-crime thriller. A dramatization of the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, and the refusal of his grandfather, J Paul Getty (Plummer), to pay the Mob’s ransom, it barrels along. Michelle Williams co-stars as John Paul’s mother, while Mark Wahlberg is excellent as the Getty’s fixer.
Sunday September 26
Kate Ballard, sister of the climber Tom, who disappeared in the Himalayas in 2019 CREDIT: BBC TWO
The Last Mountain BBC Two, 9pm There may not be a better investigation this year of the nature of obsession and the many facets of grief than Chris Terrill’s heartrendingly intimate documentary about a mother and son who died doing what they loved, and the father and sister they left behind. In 1995, Alison Hargreaves, one of the greatest climbers in history, died on K2. The journey of her husband, Jim Ballard, and their children, Tom and Kate, to Base Camp was filmed by Terrill for Alison’s Last Mountain, segments of which are used here. Then, 24 years later, 30-year-old Tom – inheriting his mother’s mantle with his own astonishing feats of mountaineering – vanished in the Himalayas with his Italian climbing partner; Terrill films as Jim takes the call from Kate and learns their bodies have been discovered. Jim’s stoicism is extraordinary to the point of being incomprehensible, while Kate, vulnerable and stricken, takes it upon herself to trek to the mountain where Tom’s life was lost. The footage of the latter journey is interwoven with film taken on Tom’s last climb. The result is punishing at times, revelatory at others, and never less than searingly honest. The absence of rancour, meanwhile, is absolutely humbling. GT Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing BBC Two, 8pm Another half-hour of televisual therapy as Bob and Paul head to mid-Wales in search of carp. They cover ground which, of course, ranges a good deal wider than that, taking in father-son relationships, living with cancer, and the power of perseverance. GT
Endeavour ITV, 8pm Another vintage run of this policier comes to an engrossing conclusion with Endeavour’s (Shaun Evans) drinking and depression becoming so severe that even Thursday (Roger Allam) – who has his own problems – begins to suspect all is not well. As if that weren’t enough, the pair are forced to solve the murder of a college don separately when a storm splits up the team. GT Lost Treasure Tombs of the Ancient Maya Channel 4, 8pm Using methods both ancient (digging with spades) and modern (muon tomography), a team of archaeologists uncovers revelatory new information about the Mayans and the manner in which they honoured their royal dead. With investigations spanning Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, the series concludes next week. GT Leeds International Piano Competition 2021 BBC Four, 8.30pm Petroc Trelawny introduces the pick of the performances from the contest that concluded last weekend. Each pianist performs a concerto with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic as conducted by Andrew Manze, with this year’s finalists hailing from Japan, Israel, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Great Britain. GT
Vigil BBC One, 9pm With DCI Silva (Suranne Jones) left trapped in a torpedo tube rapidly filling with water, Vigil has been stopping at nothing to bring our worst nightmares to grim life. Can the traitor be stopped before the nuclear catastrophe? The denouement reveals all in typically tense but slightly ludicrous fashion. GT Foxy’s Fearless 48 Hours with Rob Delaney Channel 4, 10pm Jason Fox (SAS: Who Dares Wins) begins a two-part series with distinct overtones of Running Wild with Bear Grylls, where he takes a celebrity into the great outdoors for a series of physical challenges and a spot of soul-searching. With the presenter Maya Jama to come, tonight sees comedian Rob Delaney preparing to jump off a viaduct and crossing a Highline. They make an engagingly odd couple. GT
Cricket: England v New Zealand Sky Cricket, 10.30am The eighth and final match of what has been two fantastic, keenly contested short-form series between England Women and New Zealand Women, from the St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury. England won the T20 series 2-1 and the ODI series has been just as close. With the tour of Pakistan now cancelled, Heather Knight’s side will be eager to enter a long winter on the back of another victory. GT
Formula 1: Russian Grand Prix Sky F1, 12pm Eight races remain and only five points separate Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the standings. The rivals head to the Sochi Autodrom hoping for better luck than a fortnight ago, when the two collided, crashed out, and handed the win in Monza to McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo. GT
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) ★★★ ITV, 2.10pm Best remembered now for Shirley Bassey’s syrupy theme song and the record $1.25 million salary producers paid Sean Connery to return for his sixth and final Bond film, it’s not perhaps a copper-bottomed classic, but still good fun. In it, Bond is charged with infiltrating a diamond-smuggling ring and stopping Blofeld’s plans for nuclear supremacy. Its campy tone is a far cry from the surly Daniel Craig era.
Now You See Me 2 (2016) ★★★★ E4, 6.30pm As dizzyingly improbable as it is smoothly entertaining, this sequel sees The Four Horseman, a grandstanding gang of heisting magicians, come a-cropper when their nemesis (played by Morgan Freeman) resurfaces. A bouncy Daniel Radcliffe leads the all-star cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Mark Ruffalo. While the spectacular stunts and globe-trotting locations are lavish, it’s far from the most intelligent blockbuster fare. Lizzy Caplan co-stars.
Southside with You (2016) ★★★★ BBC Two, 10.50pm This intelligent romantic comedy provides a semi-fictional account of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date in Chicago, 1989. It begs you to unpick every line for echoes of the future, and it’s to writer-director Richard Tanne’s credit – and his leads, Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter – that the film still thrives (even if we know full well where it’s going). The crackling chemistry of the two leads recalls that of the real-life political power. couple.
Monday September 27
Channel 5 airs a two-part documentary featuring insights from D-Day veterans CREDIT: Nyree Riding
D-Day: Invasion Channel 5, 9pm This atmospheric two-part documentary gives an hour-by-hour eye-witness account of the invasion of Normandy by Allied forces on June 6, 1944, that turned the tide of the Second World War and eventually liberated western Europe from Nazi domination. Operation Overlord was the largest amphibious invasion in history, involving 156,000 men, 11,000 aircraft, 7,000 ships, and inestimable quantities of grit and courage in the face of well dug-in and battle-hardened German defenders. This opening episode focuses on the first 12 hours or so, when British, the US and Canadian troops spearheaded the assault on five Normandy beaches whose code names – Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno, and Gold – have since become synonymous with some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.
Told in large part by the last survivors of the landings and members of their families, it begins just after midnight, with the story of a daring British airborne assault and the capture of two strategic bridges, before widening out to the horrors of the beach landings, notably the brutal resistance met by US troops on the heavily fortified Omaha beach. Contributors also include historians Max Hastings and Onyeka Nubia. GO
Strictly: It Takes Two BBC Two, 6.30pm Always a lively presence on the dancefloor, long-serving pro dancer Janette Manrara is likely to liven things up in the studio, too, as she takes over the co-hosting reins (with Rylan Clark-Neal) on Strictly’s companion show for the next 12 weeks. GO
The Architecture the Railways Built Yesterday, 8pm Tim Dunn takes us into the labyrinthine depths of Charing Cross Station in London and celebrates the Victorian hotel and innovative office block suspended above, in another fascinating edition – which also takes in a regional survivor in Sweden and fascinating addition to Manchester’s rail network, the Ordsall Chord. GO
The Goes Wrong Show BBC One, 8.30pm; not NI Following the success of their botched Nativity play last year, the accident-prone Cornley Dramatic Society returns with more mini farces in which the players’ ineptitude is eked out for our entertainment. It’s a format that’s proved very popular but the sense of “been there, laughed at that before” hangs heavy over this first episode, which revisits the same scenes again and again in its parody of a Downton Abbey-style period drama. GO Silent Witness BBC One, 9pm Another unusual death this time drags Nikki (Emilia Fox) and Jack (David Caves) into a murky world of underground boxing. The investigation is helped by the arrival of another new cast addition, forensic ecologist Simone (Genesis Lynea), though Jack’s family troubles again provide the episode’s emotional heartbeats. GO
Gordon, Gino & Fred Go Greek! ITV, 9pm Ageing adolescents Fred Sirieix, Gino D’Acampo, and Gordon Ramsay are back for yet more larking about abroad, this time enjoying the sun, sea, and copious culinary delights of a pandemic-deserted Greece. Whether lobster fishing in Crete, moussaka-making in Mykonos, or sausage sampling in Santorini, everything’s heavily larded in Top Gear-style bickering, banter, and brio. GO 24 Hours in Police Custody Channel 4, 9pm The police investigation into a brutal assault on three Luton women in their home becomes an international manhunt when the prime suspect flees the country after footage of the attack is released on social media. A nail-biting, disturbing start to the new run of this reliably absorbing fly-on-the-wall series. GO
The Odessa File (1974) ★ ★ ★ TCM, 4.20pm This satisfyingly taut thriller turns on Germany’s attempts to come to terms with its Nazi past. Ronald Neame makes a decent job of adapting Frederick Forsyth’s bestselling thriller and has Jon Voight in top form as journalist Peter Miller, who goes on the trail of an industry big shot (Maximilian Schell) with a Nazi past. It captures Cold War Germany’s atmosphere of bristling suspicion with verve, tension, and vivid panache.
Cowboy (1958) ★ ★ ★ Film 4, 4.45pm For a conveniently timed example of Dalton Trumbo’s screenwriting work, whose blacklisting meant he did not receive a credit (see, right), catch Delmer Daves’ classic Western. It’s a serviceable frontier drama based on the memoir of cowherd Frank Harris, starring Glenn Ford, Jack Lemmon, and Brian Donlevy. The plot revolves around a city slicker (Lemmon) who is inducted into the West’s ways by
Trumbo (2015) ★ ★ ★ AMC, 11.55pm A sturdy biopic that tells the story of Dalton Trumbo, a member of the Hollywood Ten. It follows the vulnerable Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) as he and nine other screenwriters are blacklisted in the 1950s – and his dogged fight against the injustice. The story has been nurtured, but liberties are taken with history; the real Trumbo deserved better than this on-the-nose script. Helen Mirren plays controversial writer Hedda Hopper.
Tuesday, September 28
David Olusoga tells the story of those who lived in one house, from the time it was built until now CREDIT: BBC TWO
A House Through Time BBC Two, 9pm No 5 Grosvenor Mount, in the Headingley area of Leeds, enters the modern age and the era of living history as the ever-reliable David Olusoga begins the final chapter of another absolutely absorbing and surprising slice of social history. Rather cheekily, one tiny detail trailed as a longstanding mystery is instantly solved by the current occupants: the “J Wood” carved into a wall in the backyard referred to the youngest son of John and Rita, the owners of the semi-detached house as the Second World War broke out, Luftwaffe bombs began to fall and their older son, Geoffrey, entered the Atlantic convoys of the merchant navy. Later stories once again run the gamut from the most wretched luck to tremendous courage to great joy and all points in between; there is the couple who, it is believed, met in an Italian internment camp; another who came together while working for The Yorkshire Post (“Yorkshire’s national newspaper”, as it then called itself) and then finally a touching return visit for the students who had dug there while the owners were abroad for work. Charming, moving, and always enlightening, it has been another triumphant series. A fifth must surely be a formality. The only question – where to next? GT
The Great British Bake Off Channel 4, 8pm It is biscuit week, which means brandy snaps, jammy biscuits, and – a truly peculiar showstopper, this – an interactive toy made out of biscuit, where imagination and ambition look likely to outrun ability for more than one baker. GT D-Day: Victory Channel 5, 9pm The concluding part of Max Hastings and Onyeka Nubia’s engaging, forensic analysis of June 6, 1944, as the Nazis are slowly overwhelmed by the combined efforts of the British, Americans and Canadians, but not without serious casualties being taken. GT Never Mind the Buzzcocks Sky Showcase, 9pm Your second dose of Noel Fielding for the evening, as the Bake Off host continues to moonlight in his old gig, this week joined by comedian Jamali Maddix and in-yer-face phenomenon Yungblud; singers Ellie Goulding and Tom Grennan are alongside Daisy May Cooper, with Mick Hucknall and Rod Stewart among those to crop up in the ludicrous banter. GT Spice Girls: How Girl Power Changed Britain Channel 4, 9.30pm Friendship never end? The 21st-century history of the Spice Girls suggests otherwise, and this thoughtful series reaches its final episode with a look at their solo careers and personal lives, which interweaved sporadically until the combination of #MeToo and a final reunion tour crystalized their complex legacy. GT Standing Firm: Football’s Windrush Story BT Sport 3, 10.30pm BT Sport marks Black History Month with a documentary which, in the light of the unconscionable abuse meted out to England’s players of colour following the near-miss of Euro 2020, could hardly be more timely. Narrated by the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, Standing Firm celebrates the impact of the Windrush generation on English football, from the late-1970s pioneers, including Viv Anderson and West Brom’s so-called Three Degrees, to Ian Wright, Paul Ince, and their peers who played at the top levels with such distinction. GT
Back to Life BBC One, from 10.35pm; NI, from 11.05pm A double bill brings the second run of Daisy Haggard and Laura Solon’s superb sadcom to a close, with poor Miri Matteson (Haggard) trying to stay steady while her worries over John’s (Adrian Edmondson) fate threaten to turn her life upside down again. Adeel Akhtar and Geraldine James excel in support. GT
Contraband (1940, b/w) ★★★ Talking Pictures TV, 2.20pm Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson team up during the London Blitz to smash a German spy ring in this larky Hitchcockian thriller from Powell and Pressburger. Its depiction of the Phoney War stage of the Second World War, when blackouts blanketed London in darkness, and danger sparked over the wireless, is well-judged; the leads, too, are impressively cool-headed among the zany zigzags of the script.
A Night to Remember (1958, b/w) ★★★★★ Film 4, 4.20pm If James Cameron’s Titanic went head-to-head with Roy Baker’s film about the 1912 tragedy, made for less than one percent the cost of the 1997 version, it’d sink. A Night to Remember lacks the special effects, but it’s far more emotionally involving. Kenneth More is heroic as Second Officer Bertie Lightoller, and (crucially) there’s no sentimental syrup to clog all the drama up. Baker’s film is an unfairly forgotten gem.
Cowboys (2020) ★★★★ Sky Cinema Premiere Proving adroitly how adaptable the Western is as a cinematic form (and how far it has come since John Wayne’s surly cowpoke days), Anna Kerrigan writes and directs this tender-hearted drama about a father (Steve Zahn) who flees into the Montana wilds with his transgender son (Sasha Knight). On their trail is his Bible-bashing mother (Jillian Bell) who believes her daughter has been corrupted. A beautiful, meditative tale.
Wednesday September 29
Rhashan Stone and Anna Maxwell in ITV drama Hollington Drive CREDIT: ITV
Hollington Drive ITV, 9pm The nightmare of a child going missing is a powerful theme for a TV drama. The only problem is that Stranger Things, The Missing, The Bay, and dozens of other mysteries have already done it, and it remains to be seen if this four-part thriller by Blood writer Sophie Petzal can mine new intrigue from the tired trope – but tonight’s opener certainly grabs the attention.
It opens with a tense family barbecue featuring sisters Theresa (Anna Maxwell Martin) and Helen (Rachael Stirling), who live with their families in the same glamourous suburban cul de sac (Theresa’s house is so swanky it’s distracting). When one of their children’s school friends disappears, Theresa suspects that her 10-year-old, Ben, is somehow involved.
So in this case the missing child belongs to somebody else, but this cataclysmic event on the secrets of the close cause to surface and puts relationships under strain. Maxwell Martin shines as a character very different from her roles in Motherhood and Line of Duty: Theresa is a closed-off woman, dogged by flashbacks to a violent event. Helen, meanwhile, is a control freak whose personal life is nonetheless out of control. Plot seeds have scattered that look likely to grow into a taut thriller. VP
28 Up: Millennium generation BBC One, 9pm The spin-off of Michael Apted’s 7 Up series returns, finding its subjects aged 28. Tonight’s episode is a heartening catch-up with millennials such as Sanchez, who had to give up football but found his calling as a DJ, and Courtney, who discovered she loves teaching. No so-called snowflakes here. VP How to Paint the Mona Lisa More 4, 9pm This charming film follows artist Adebanji Alade as he attempts to recreate the Mona Lisa using the same pigments, brushes and methods. It’s a gripping art history lesson as Alade learns Leonardo’s famous sfumato technique of subtle shading and experts fill us in on the history of Renaissance painting. VP Janine Jansen: Falling for Stradivari Sky Arts, 9pm This feature-length documentary follows violinist Janine Jansen as she records an album with 12 important Stradivari violins. Jansen’s virtuosity is evident as she tries them out, but her analysis of each one’s sound is quite technical. Including experts detailing the history of the violins, this is one for devotees. VP Hitmen: Reloaded Sky Comedy, 9pm This daft comedy starring Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins as bungling assassins Fran (Perkins) and Jamie (Giedroyc) returns for a deserved second run, with gags hitting their target more often than Fran and Jamie do. In tonight’s double bill, Sanjeev Bhaskar guest stars and Katherine Parkinson is a hoot as their old schoolfriend, Kat, who inserts herself into their double act. VP
The Blob: A Genius without a Brain BBC Four, 10pm A single-cell organism that is a billion years old – nicknamed “The Blob” – turns out to be so smart it can solve mazes, for example. In this documentary, leading scientists explain the surprising things Physarum polycephalum is teaching them about human intelligence. VP
Outsiders Dave, 10pm Dave’s bid to replace Taskmaster is this new reality series that, like its predecessor, features comedians doing daft things. Six contestants, including Kerry Godliman, Ed Gamble, and Jamali Maddix, tackle outdoorsy tasks that are judged by city softie David Mitchell. In tonight’s opener, they cut down a tree and administer first aid, rather badly. Mitchell is suitably droll and the comedians deliciously competitive. VP
Hour of the Gun (1967) ★★★ Paramount Network, 2pm “This picture is based on Fact. This is the way it happened” – John Sturges’s drama sets out its stall early in its treatment of that most-mythologized Western moment: the shootout at the OK Corral. Sturges had previously tackled the same subject in the celebrated gunfight at the OK Corral. This more judicious version stars James Garner as the outnumbered Marshall Wyatt Earp, while Jason Robards is the ailing Doc Holliday.
Boy Erased (2018) ★★★★ BBC Two, 11.15pm Joel Edgerton, writing and directing, adapts Garrard Conley’s agonised memoir about being sent to a Christian “gay conversion” camp into an equally pained film. (Edgerton co-stars too, as the director of the unpleasant camp.) Lucas Hedges is superb as Jared, whose sexuality is revealed to his mother (Nicole Kidman) and father (Russell Crowe); neither are open-minded. It’s a difficult but bracing treatment of an enormously thorny issue. True Grit (2010) ★★★★ ITV4, 11.25pm This gripping Western directed by Joel and Ethan Coen is a remake of the 1969 John Wayne film. Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a sharp 14-year-old trying to find her father’s killer. Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) is the ageing gun she hires to help her, and Matt Damon is a Texas ranger along for the ride. As in all the Coens’ best work, violence and dry humour punctuate the sumptuous cinematography.
Thursday, September 30
With school exclusions at their highest in 10 years behaviour expert Marie Gentles visits Milton Hall Primary School CREDIT: BBC TWO
Don’t Exclude Me BBC Two, 9pm Prior to the pandemic, permanent exclusions from state schools in England were at their highest for almost a decade, with rates among children aged five to six years doubling in the previous three years. At Milton Hall Primary School in Southend-on-Sea, despite having a £200,000-a-year pastoral unit with four staff dedicated to behavioural issues, some pupils were so aggressive and disruptive that the school authorities felt obliged to call in specialist behavioural consultant Marie Gentles. In this opening episode of two – essential viewing for any parent with challenging offspring – Gentles heads into classrooms and homes with a view to tackling three of Milton Hall’s most disruptive children, all of them already on the brink of exclusion.
“Exclusion isn’t the answer. We need to change our story,” says Gentles, the former head of a pupil referral unit, who has developed a pioneering approach to transforming pupils' behaviour and reducing the rate of exclusions. “It can work for every single child, every single time.” Quite a claim, yet watching her in action, working not only with the children but the adults around them as well, seems to bear it out. GO
The Problem with Jon Stewart Apple TV+ The charismatic former Daily Show host returns to television after an absence of six years, presenting this serious-minded (though Stewart’s satirical bent will doubtless make it more enjoyable than that sounds) new US-focused topical series from Apple that “brings together people impacted by different parts of a problem to discuss how we come up with change”. GO The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys Channel 5, 8pm The fabulously photographed rail-travel series returns, starting in Australia with a four-day coast-to-coast journey aboard the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth. There’s also a trip on one of the southern hemisphere’s oldest lines, the Zig Zag Railway which climbs the precipitous western flank of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. Wanderlust inducing. GO
Ambulance BBC One, 9pm Filmed at the height of the pandemic, the latest run of the Bafta-winning documentary series introduces a new cast of paramedics from the North West Ambulance Service as they care for the people of Lancashire and beyond, beginning with a potentially fatal cardiac arrest in Blackpool and a serious road traffic accident on the M55 motorway. GO The Real Manhunt: the Night Stalker ITV, 9pm Following last week’s drama series, Susanna Reid presents a documentary about the investigation that inspired it: the 17-year hunt for the UK’s most prolific serial sex attacker. There are fascinating interviews with the detectives involved, most notably former DCI Colin Sutton who eventually cracked the case. GO Taskmaster Channel 4, 9pm With the battle to become the 12th Taskmaster champion already well under way, this week the contestants (Alan Davies, Desiree Burch, Guz Khan, Morgana Robinson and Victoria Coren Mitchell) are called upon to put their individuality aside and demonstrate a capacity for teamwork while investigating dodgy doggy bags and slapping suspicious Space Hoppers. Zany fun. GO All Creatures Great and Small Channel 5, 9pm The excellent second series continues as James’s (Nicholas Ralph) crisis of conscience over a widow’s cattle herd leads to a deepening of his relationship with Helen (Rachel Shenton). GO
Bridge of Spies (2015) ★★★★ Film 4, 6.15pm Steven Spielberg conjures up a rewarding Cold War thriller that swirls with intrigue; its tension is worthy of the best of Hitchcock’s films. Tom Hanks stars as James Donovan, a US lawyer recruited by the CIA to defend Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance, in a role that won him a Bafta and an Oscar) and arrange to trade him for a captured US pilot in East Berlin. Amy Ryan and Alan Alda also stalk through the fog
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) ★★★★★ BBC Four, 9pm This superb adaptation of John le Carré’s brilliant Cold War spy novel is a triumph. It follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service, with Gary Oldman spearheading the excellent cast which includes Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and Benedict Cumberbatch. Funny, seductive and suspenseful, director Tomas Alfredson captures scenes with silky fluidity.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) ★★★★ Talking Pictures TV, 11pm Until 2006’s The Prestige, David Bowie’s best performance was as the mysterious alien in Nicolas Roeg’s film of the Walter Tevis sci-fi novel. Thomas Jerome Newton, as the alien calls himself, sets out to raise money so he can restore water to his drought-ridden planet but gets sidetracked by tacky American culture, a pulpy romance with waitress Candy Clark, and booze. An off-kilter gem.
Friday October 1
Celebrities go toe-to-toe in a variety of fun trivia-based games on Richard Osman's House of Games Night CREDIT: Matt Frost
Richard Osman’s House of Games Night BBC One, 8.30pm A boiling brain of good game show ideas and now a mega-selling author, Richard Osman has a Midas touch that has yet to desert him. Tonight, his amiably slight parlour games concept returns to primetime following a successful first run last year (alongside plenty of teatime editions). The quartet in competition for the next three Fridays is three stand-ups – teatime champion Ed Gamble, Dara Ó Briain and Sindhu Vee – and Car Share star Sian Gibson. Osman knows just how much to tweak a winning formula, adding a house band led by the “low-energy musical whimsy” of David O’Doherty, a willing foil for our host’s gentle barbs, and a level of audience participation, especially in the cunning opening round where the stars must pick out from the crowd, for example, a systems engineer on Mars Rover or Louise Brown, the first test-tube baby. Keeping the atmosphere conversational and the stakes very low (prizes include a smoking jacket and carriage clock), pinching discreetly from other series (the art-project round comes bearing a distinct whiff of Taskmaster) and finding the right combination of contestants, House of Games keeps it simple and reaps the rewards. GT
Diana: The musical Netflix Beating Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart, to the punch of a wide release, this astoundingly camp-looking stage musical interpretation of the life of the Princess of Hearts, introduced as “a lonely girl aswirl”, premieres ahead of its Broadway opening in November. GT
The Thames with Tony Robinson Channel 5, 7pm This latest episode of the Blackadder star’s yomp along the river may already be a little out of date, with supply-chain issues and shortages in water-treatment chemicals leading to a loosening of regulations on the sewage that can be dumped into our rivers. Back in happier times, Tony Robinson here looks at the significance of the Thames in keeping our water clean, from the construction of Bazalgette’s sewer system to a lab-based recreation of the Great Stink of 1858 that inspired it. GT
Inside Culture BBC Two, 8pm; NI, 12.05am; not Wales Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former First Lady, joins Mary Beard for tonight’s edition, with their conversation ranging from the art, music, and literature that has inspired her through her life in American politics to her own writing process. GT The Cotswolds with Pam Ayres Channel 5, 8pm Another leisurely hour in the company of the estimable Pam Ayres as she tours her home district. This week she travels to Britain’s longest high street, a potter’s workshop, Adam Henson’s pioneering farm park, and – a compulsory inclusion on any celebrity travelogue – a trip on a steam train. GT
Grantchester ITV, 9pm Never as cosy as its trappings would suggest, the soft-focused images and daft humour of Grantchester have often disguised a flintier, more daring side, this week approaching its peak as Leonard’s (Al Weaver) trial draws near and Will (Tom Brittney) considers whether to risk his career in support of his friend. There is also, of course, a weekly case to crack: this time the death of a bystander during an armed robbery. GT The North Water BBC Two, 9.30pm; NI, 11.05pm Tempers rise when two Inuit men arrive with a proposition; Drax (Colin Farrell), ever ready to exploit a weakness, sees a chance at freedom and, as Sumner (Jack O’Connell) spots a bear, Andrew Haigh’s mesmerising drama takes a turn for the hallucinogenic in its penultimate episode. GT
Diana: The Musical (2021) ★★★★ Netflix In a fresh initiative from the streamer, Netflix will be broadcasting this stage production before it opens on Broadway. Based on the life of the Princess of Wales, it promises to bring us “face to face with one of the 20th century’s most compelling figures”. From the team behind Come From Away, which tackled 9/11 with jazz hands, it could be unexpectedly sensitive; or it could be a disaster. Either way, snobs beware: Diana herself probably would have loved its glorious campery.
The Guilty (2021) ★★★★ Netflix A thriller with a spine-tingling premise, Jack Gyllenhaal plays a bored 911 call operator whose ordinary day takes an unexpected turn when an apparently kidnapped mother phones in. Directed by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua, and written by True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto, it capitalizes on its claustrophobic set-up with aplomb as Gyllenhaal’s desperate attempts to rescue the woman contrast with a panicked voice at the end of the line.
Invictus (2009) ★★★ BBC One, 11.25pm To get you nicely warmed up for the Autumn Internationals, here’s Clint Eastwood’s take on the victorious South African team of 1995. As the country emerges from apartheid, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) sees the potential for the national rugby union team, led by François Pienaar (Matt Damon), to be a catalyst for harmony. It’s polished, capable, and uplifting; though some might feel it could do with more mud, grunt and sweat.
Television previewers Catherine Gee (CG), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Vicki Power (VP), Gabriel Tate (GT), Rachel Ward (RW), and Jack Taylor (JT)