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TV guide: 21 of the best shows to watch this week



Britain’s Got Talent: The Finalists Revealed

ITV, 6.30pm; Virgin Media One, 8.30pm

It feels like an age since we last saw an edition of this programme. Earlier in the year, viewers got to see the auditions, which were filmed shortly before the lockdown began. Many feel that those are the best moments in the entire competition, as the good, the bad and the downright terrible compete for a place in the later stages, but it’s still good to see how the entire run pans out. The acts that made it through to the semi-finals have had an agonising wait – everyone hoped the show would continue, but nobody was sure how or when it would happen. Now Ant and Dec, as well as the judges, are back – albeit without a studio audience. Unfortunately, Simon Cowell is still recovering from the serious accident in which he broke his back, so his place on the panel will be taken by Diversity star Ashley Banjo.

BBC Proms 2020: Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO

BBC Four, 8pm

Suzy Klein presents live classical music from the Royal Albert Hall, as Sir Simon Rattle, making his 75th appearance at the Proms, conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in a programme that explores the ideas of dialogue and space. As well as music by Elgar, Beethoven, Gabrieli, Kurtag and Vaughan Williams, the evening also includes Dawn, the world premiere of a new BBC commission by British composer, pianist and conductor Thomas Ades. “In this piece, the sunrise is imagined as a constant event that moves continuously around the world,” writes the composer. “This eternal dawn is presented as a ”chacony“.

Strike: Lethal White

BBC One, 9pm

He’s not quite as famous as Harry Potter, but Cormoran Strike gets the job done without the need of a wand, whether it’s catching perpetrators or solving tricky criminal cases. JK Rowling’s muggle hero returns for a new series, starring Tom Burke as the war veteran turned private detective, and Holliday Grainger as his assistant Robin Ellacott. But there’s a chill in the air at the detective agency – ever since Robin’s wedding to Matthew (Kerr Logan), things have been frosty between the two sleuths, but they have to put their professional tensions to one side when a shocking new case comes onto their desk involving a strangled child.

Liverpool FC: The 30 Year Wait

BBC2, 9pm

Documentary on Liverpool’s Premier League title success, the first time they had tasted top-flight glory since the 1989/90 First Division campaign. The Reds were all set to clinch the title in record time, but the enforced break due to the coronavirus put their celebrations on hold, until they were eventually crowned champions in June thanks to Manchester City’s defeat to Chelsea. Featuring interviews with key players and staff, this documentary focuses on what it means for the title to have finally returned to Merseyside after so many years.


RTÉ News: Six One

Monday, RTÉ One, 6.01pm

Summer’s over – time to roll up your tent, park the camper van and hide all those photos you took on “staycation” in Malaga. The kids are (hopefully) going back to school, Ryan Tubridy is back with The Late Late Show (Friday), but at least we still have a couple of weeks before we can think about going back into our offices.

The end of the silly season means Six One can go back to its usual full one-hour programme from Monday, without the need to fill time with videos of pub parties and raving idiots ranting on about rigged elections. The programme will be anchored by Caitríona Perry and David McCullagh, and you can bet they’ll bring their considerable professionalism and flair to the job. As we prepare to settle down for some serious news this autumn, let’s pause to remember the late Six One co-presenter Keelin Shanley, who died much too young last February.

Planet Earth: A Celebration

BBC1, 8pm

Sir David Attenborough turned 94 in May, but there’s no stopping the national treasure, and next month will see the cinematic release of his new film A Life on Our Planet. But before that arrives, Sir David has teamed up with a gaggle of award-winning musicians for this retrospective aiming to “lift everyone’s spirits”. The special programme brings together eight of the most extraordinary sequences from Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II, with a stunning musical performance courtesy of composer Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea, the team at Bleeding Fingers, and Mercury Award-winning UK rapper Dave. Among the sequences that are featured is the Bafta-winning racer snakes vs iguana scene, which sees our plucky hero, a hatchling marine iguana, sprints across the beach followed by a hunting mob of snakes.

The Diagnosis Detectives

BBC2, 9pm

After tackling lockdown obesity earlier this month with his dieting show Lose a Stone in 21 Days, Michael Mosley is back on the box as he and a team of medical experts investigate strange and inexplicable illnesses. By combining their knowledge, and using cutting-edge technology to test their theories, they’ll try to solve complex medical mysteries. Tonight, we meet Paul, whose dreams of a happy retirement have been ruined since his face started swelling so dramatically that he struggles to see. “It’s distressing”, says his daughter. “Is it something life threatening?” Also in the show, the experts help Judy, whose problems began in 2007 when she started being sick and finding swallowing uncomfortable. She has now reached a point where she struggles to eat solid food.

Me and My Penis

C4, 10pm

Documentary in which men talk openly about their penis and how it feels to be a man, while artist Ajamu makes intimate photographic portraits based on the sitters’ experiences to help them rethink the way they see their bodies and themselves. The men talk about the pleasures and physical realities of the penis, including sex, masturbation and erections, but also tell stories of infertility, violence, sexual abuse, homophobia and mental health, questioning taboos and the definitions of masculinity.


The Truth About Cosmetic Treatments

BBC One, 8pm

The two-part investigation into the impact procedures can have on our physical and mental health concludes as activist and blogger Mehreen Baig researches a non-surgical bum lift and an expensive procedure that claims to remove cellulite permanently but requires a high pain threshold. Then, Michael Mosley scrutinises the science behind fat freezing and fat heating, and learns about the use of anabolic steroids for body enhancement. Finally, with the help of volunteers, he also compares the latest infrared-light weight-loss technology with traditional exercise.

How to Cook Well with Rory O’Connell

RTÉ One, 8.30pm

The master chef is back for a new series, so the young pretenders can just get out of the kitchen and let the real expert show you how it’s done. O’Connell doesn’t use “gimmicks” in his cooking, has no interest in throwing together a one-pot wonder, and is unlikely to ever use the term “bish, bash, bosh”.

This is serious cordon bleu cooking – and I know that because his recipes feature ingredients I’ve never heard of, and you’d need a degree in higher maths just to follow the instructions. The first recipe features a substance called “labneh”, which Wikipedia tells me is some class of yogurt cheese (no, still don’t get it). O’Connell also offers some handy cooking tips, such as how to separate the water from the oil in watercress oil – can’t believe I’ve been doing it wrong all these years.

War on Plastic: The Fight Goes On

BBC1, 9pm

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani present an update on the campaign against single use plastic, challenging a British family from Berwick to do go plastic free on a budget. Hugh discovers what becomes of the packaging for pre-packed sandwiches, and Anita conducts experiments on teabags to discover the secrets of their construction. The programme also examines how the Coronavirus pandemic has led to a rise in single use plastic for safety reasons, and asks whether we really need to return to buying fruit and veg wrapped in plastic.


Reported Missing

BBC1, 9pm

Most people who go missing are reported to police within a few hours, but for those who live on the streets it isn’t always so straightforward. Aaron hasn’t been seen for two months when the homeless healthcare centre that usually treats him notifies Gloucestershire Constabulary that he is a missing person. Officers scour the streets and homeless shelters but can find no trace of him. The town’s rough sleepers know him well, but no one has any idea what may have happened to him. It’s not long before another drug user is added to the missing priority list – James, who is of no fixed address, has discharged himself from hospital against medical advice. Narrated by Indira Varma.


RTÉ One, 9.53pm

With Sinn Féin enjoying a surge in popularity this year – as shown by their enviable showing in the general election earlier this year – RTÉ have decided the time is right to air this celebration of the life and legacy of Martin McGuinness, who died three years ago aged 66.

McGuinness was a man of huge contradictions, a former IRA leader who plotted a political path to peace, and who eventually became deputy first minister in Northern Ireland’s Assembly following the Belfast Agreement. Some lauded him as a peacemaker; others condemned him as a terrorist. As former US president Bill Clinton says in this documentary: “You either admired him or you thought he was the Devil incarnate.” Others interviewed for the documentary include former UK prime minister Tony Blair, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Eileen Paisley, widow of former DUP leader Ian Paisley, with whom McGuinness developed an unlikely friendship. The programme promises to unlock some of the secrets McGuinness took with him to the grave, but we’re sure Gerry Adams isn’t quaking in his desert boots.

Two Weeks To Live

Sky One, 10pm

Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams is back in a new comedy series with a violent edge. The actor formerly known as Arya Stark here plays a young woman named Kim Stokes, who doesn’t fit in with normal society. That’s because she’s been brought up in the wild by her survivalist mother, and has been trained in all forms of weaponry, combat and other kickass skills. This comes in handy when she finds herself – along with hapless pub-owners Nicky and Dave and a big bag of cash – pursued by a gangster hell-bent on murder and cops out to get their (wo)man. Okay, the body count is unlikely to rival a typical episode of GoT, but let’s hope the laugh quotient is way up.

Fort Salem

BBC1, 11.15pm

If you missed the opening episodes of this series, it’s set in an alternate version of America where the Salem Witch Trials ended in the US agreeing to stop persecuting those with magical powers if they signed up to fight for their country. Now, in the present day, a trio of young witches are being trained in combat magic. In the third episode, which opens tonight’s double bill, there’s excitement when male visitors arrive at Fort Salem, but one of the men seems to have a history with Scylla and it could affect her budding romance with Raelle. Meanwhile, Tally is quite taken with one of the warlocks, but she isn’t sure what her next move should be. Alder has bigger matters on her mind than flirting as she attempts to convince the Hague (which in this series is an international military council of witches) to adopt her strategy against the Spree.


The 2 Johnnies Do America

RTÉ Two, 9.30pm

YouTube’s top Tipp duo have enjoyed huge success in their home county – and all Ireland – but now it’s time for the boys behind The Coppers Song and She Only Rings Me When She’s Locked to seek out pastures new.

This new series sees the hurlers-turned-entertainers head off on their first tour of the States. What will the yanks make of them? What will they make of the yanks? The lads are on a mission to find out what it means to be Irish-American in the Trump era, but they’re also curious about what it means to be an American today.

In the first episode, the pair visit the spiritual home of hip-hop, Compton in east LA, renowned for its gangs and violence, but have trouble convincing the locals in the ’hood that they’re not cops. They also tog out with the city’s GAA club, the LA Cougars, and presumably have no trouble convincing the players that they’re true GAA men.

Frankie Boyle’s New World Order

BBC2, 10pm

Throughout his career, Frankie Boyle has taken aim at anything and anybody. The royal family, Rebecca Adlington, Katie Price, Oscar Pistorius, Pope Benedict XVI, Jimmy Savile and the IRA have all been subjected to the Scot’s close-to-the-bone comedy over the years. Bearing that in mind, it should be interesting to see what Frankie has to say about what is arguably the biggest global story since the Second World War – the Covid-19 pandemic. New World Order returns for its fourth series tonight, and Frankie is joined by comic guests to try and make sense of these bewildering times. Although the show may be officially classed (by listings anyway) as a “comedy”, it is merely a chance for Frankie to get a few things off his chest. And let’s face it, he doesn’t need a second invitation.


Soul America

BBC4, 9.30pm

In the 1950s and early 1960s, a new sound began heading our way from the US. A combination of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues and jazz, soul became hugely popular across the globe, bringing black artists to the forefront of the international music scene. This new three-part documentary series chronicles the development of soul, and begins with a trip to the Deep South, taking in the sights and sounds of Muscle Shoals in Alabama and Stax in Memphis before journeying north to Detroit – certainly no programme about the genre could be made without a visit to Motown. Carleen Anderson is the narrator, while contributions come from Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, Candi Staton and Mavis Staples.



From Friday, Netflix

Women are always being made to feel bad about choosing to pursue a career as well as bring up a family, but how’s this for an epic guilt trip: going into outer space and leaving your husband and kids to get along without you for the next three years.

Hilary Swank plays astronaut mom Emma Green as she prepares to lead America’s first mission to Mars, but her timing isn’t great, with the mission coming just as she is facing numerous family crises at home.The series will look at the effects of being separated from your loved ones by millions of miles, and just what sacrifices people must make in service of a greater cause. And I feel bad about going into Tara Street just when the kids need their bicycle tyres pumped up.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Netflix, from Fri

Any project helmed by Charlie Kaufman has to be worth a look – and anything with Irish actor Jesse Buckley, doubly so. Kaufman, of course, is the Oscar-winning writer-director behind Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation and Anomalisa. Now he’s back with this psychological chiller based on Iain Reid’s acclaimed novel of the same name. The plot focuses on Cindy, a young woman having doubts about her relationship with boyfriend Jake. Nevertheless she agrees to accompany him on a road trip to visit his parents at his family’s farm. All four adults are later trapped there thanks to a snowstorm, during which time Cindy begins to question everything she knows about herself, her lover and the world. The outstanding cast also features Jessie Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis.

Earth to Ned

Disney+, from Fri

The Jim Henson Company is one of the production teams behind this unusual take on the chat show format. Ned is an alien commander who calls off his planned invasion of Earth when he and his sidekick, Cornelius, fall in love with the human race. So, instead of blowing us all the smithereens, the duo decide to get to know us better by meeting a variety of celebrity guests – while keeping the show a secret from his father, the Admiral of the Galactic Fleet. Not everybody popping up on the programme is a household name on this side of the Atlantic, but there are enough – including RuPaul, Rachel Bilson, Bindi and Robert Irwin, Taye Diggs, Billy Dee Williams and Eli Roth – to make it interesting.

– Additional previews by PA

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