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TV guide: 30 of the best shows to watch this week

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Big Year in Big School

Sunday, Virgin One, 9pm

Children have gone back to a very changed school environment, but what is it like for the small ones starting their first year in school? Will this just seem normal? Big Year in Big School takes in the “tears, tantrums and triumphs” in a class of four- and five-year-olds as they start school in the year of Covid-19, and looks at the impact of home schooling during lockdown on both kids and parents. Cameras have been discreetly set up at Aston Village Educate Together in Drogheda, Co Louth, so we can see what our little darlings get up to after we leave them at the school gates.

The Meaning of Life

Sunday, RTÉ One, 10.30pm

Joe Duffy and Vicky Phelan in The Meaning of Life
Joe Duffy and Vicky Phelan in The Meaning of Life

Joe Duffy has taken over the mantle of the late presenter Gay Byrne in this new series of spirited and spiritual encounters with well-known figures in Irish life and beyond. But this is no poisoned chalice: Duffy shows he’s got the ability to bring out the best in his interviewees, and here he heads to Limerick to meet Vicky Phelan, who has become a tireless campaigner on behalf of women who, like herself, have been affected by the CervicalCheck scandal. Phelan looks back on events that shaped her, from a car accident as a teen to learning she had cancer in 2014, and how these events have shaped her beliefs.

Piers Morgan’s Life Stories

Sunday, ITV, 8pm

Capt Sir Tom Moore joins Piers Morgan for a look back on his extraordinary life, which spans an entire century. Moore reflects on the devastating accident that left him in intensive care at the age of 98 – and how his gratitude to the NHS and battle to regain mobility led to the record-breaking charity walk that first brought him to public attention. Tom takes stock of his wartime service, reveals the untold story of his first marriage, and discusses how his beloved second wife Pamela brought him happiness and a family before her terminal illness left him rebuilding his life once again.

Extinction: The Facts

Sunday, BBC1, 8pm

David Attenborough in Extinction: The Facts
David Attenborough in Extinction: The Facts

David Attenborough has encountered some of the world’s most extraordinary animals and plants. Now many of these wonders seem set to disappear from Earth forever. In 2019, with support from the United Nations, 500 scientists carried out their most comprehensive assessment of the natural world. Their findings revealed that the huge variety of life, known as biodiversity, is being lost at a rate never seen before. This means one million species are at risk of extinction. With the help of ecologists, biologists, economists and environmental lawyers, Extinction examines why biodiversity loss is happening and what it means not just for the natural world but for every one of us.

The Singapore Grip

Sunday, ITV, 9pm

Jane Horrocks and David Morrissey in The Singapore Grip
Jane Horrocks and David Morrissey in The Singapore Grip

An all-star cast, including Luke Treadaway, David Morrissey, Colm Meaney, Jane Horrocks and Charles Dance, were recruited for this high-profile conversion of JG Farrell’s acclaimed novel. It centres on rubber baron Walter Blackett (Morrissey) and his family. For them, life in 1941 Singapore is full of privilege and the terrors of war-torn Europe are a distant whisper. However, when their power and stability are rocked by new arrivals and the looming threat of a Japanese invasion, Walter has a plan. The script is by Christopher Hampton, who won an Oscar for Dangerous Liaisons and was nominated for Atonement.

Radio 2 Live at Home

Sunday, BBC2, 10.50pm

Trevor Nelson and Jo Whiley present an hour of highlights, featuring performances from all artists on the line-up from the event which aims to bring music lovers some late-summer festival magic via a weekend of garden-party performances. Across the past two nights, Radio 2 listeners have been treated to specially recorded performances from and interviews with The Pretenders, Gregory Porter, Sir Tom Jones, Nile Rodgers & CHIC featuring Rebecca Ferguson, Sheryl Crow, McFly, John Legend, The Killers, Erasure and Craig David.

Home: A Year in Ireland’s Housing Crisis

Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Home: A Year in Ireland’s Housing Crisis
Home: A Year in Ireland’s Housing Crisis

Before the biggest public health crisis in 100 years, Ireland was in the throes of a housing crisis that was showing no signs of abating. When Covid-19 hit, it only exacerbated the problem, as work on building affordable homes stalled and we had the bizarre situation where the Government was ordering landlords not to put their rents up or evict people. This documentary, filmed over the course of a year, looks at how Irish families have struggled to find a place they can call home in the midst of a pandemic. We meet a cross-section from Irish society as they navigate a hostile housing environment that seems skewed towards keeping people from ever owning their own home.

Covid 19: Hope Survives

Monday, Virgin One, 10pm

In this compelling documentary, reporter Zara King explores the effect of coronavirus on life in Ireland. Examining the impact of the crisis on health services, the economy, and on society as a whole, she meets the scientists and medical professionals working tirelessly to treat the thousands of infected and develop a vaccine. Kings speaks to families who tragically lost loved ones and people who have miraculously recovered. She also explores what the future holds and how Ireland will recover from a once in a lifetime crisis.

Steph’s Packed Lunch

Monday, Channel 4, 12.30pm

Steph McGovern on the set of Steph’s Packed Lunch
Steph McGovern on the set of Steph’s Packed Lunch

Steph McGovern presents a new daily show live from Leeds featuring celebrity guests, fantastic food, real-life features and the best entertainment, lifestyle and consumer stories. McGovern is joined by actor Gemma Atkinson, rapper Lady Leshurr and TV personality Vogue Williams, who reveal what has got the viewers at home talking each day. In the kitchen, chefs Jack Stein and Dr Rupy Aujla rustle up lunchtime treats, and there’s a sideways look at the daily headlines with Chris Kamara and Bill Turnbull. Finally, Strictly star Oti Mabuse takes us behind the scenes of her new tour.

Inside the Bomb Squad

Monday, Channel 4, 8pm

New series following the work of the soldiers who defuse bombs in the UK, providing an insight into the training they receive at “bomb school” in Bicester. Sgt Alex Hughes is called out at night to a woodland near Clitheroe, where a dog walker has found an explosive dating back to the second World War. He must make it safe by taking it to a large open field and blowing it up. Afghan vet Sgt Sam Jones describes a spike in the number of calls the bomb squad receive in the UK due to the craze for magnet fishing. Treasure hunters hurl large industrial weights into lakes and canals but often wind up pulling out all manner of potentially deadly explosives, including mortar bombs and hand grenades. One man even caused a major incident by disposing of a grenade in a dustbin on the industrial estate where he works.

Des

Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday, ITV, 9pm

David Tennant in Des
David Tennant in Des

Told from the perspective of the police, killer Dennis Nilsen and his biographer Brian Masters, this three-parter highlights the investigation and trial, but also the effect of the media coverage on public perceptions of the victims at the time. With a top drawer cast, including David Tennant, Line of Duty veterans Daniel Mays and Jason Watkins, it opens in February 1983. Police are called to a north London address, where drains are clogged with rotting human flesh and bones. But the extent of this grisly discovery only becomes apparent when the culprit returns from work. Dennis Nilsen, a meek man, freely admits to the police that it’s not just one or two bodies, but as many as 15 or 16. Followed on Thursday by The Real ‘Des’: The Dennis Nilsen Story (ITV, 9pm), narrated by Tennant.

The Diagnosis Detectives

Monday, BBC2, 9pm

Michael Moseley challenges a dozen of the UK’s leading medical experts to diagnose two patients living with debilitating symptoms that have baffled other doctors for years. One is Hayley (26), whose in the past few years she has gained 20 kilos without changing her diet. She also struggles with muscle weakness and constant fatigue, and her hair has started falling out. An ultrasound showed she had an enlarged spleen, but a diagnosis that would explain all of her symptoms is still out of reach. Experts also hope to help Lotte, who developed a severe headache in 2017 that has never gone away.

Opry le Daniel

Tuesday, TG4, 9.30pm

Daniel O’Donnell and Ashley Campbell on Opry le Daniel
Daniel O’Donnell and Ashley Campbell on Opry le Daniel

Daniel O’Donnell returns to Derry’s Millennium Forum to present a new series of Opry le Daniel. This episode pays tribute to Glen Campbell in the company of his daughter Ashley Campbell, along with Johnny Brady, Ciarán Rosney and Marc Roberts. We’ll get an insight into Campbell’s life, his worldwide reputation and the influence he had on Irish performers.

The Battle of Britain

Tuesday, BBC1, 9pm

To mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the conflict that prevented a Nazi invasion, brothers Colin and Ewan McGregor take us through the timeline of events. Colin, an RAF veteran of 20 years, and his more famous movie star brother have always shared his passion for aviation. Taking to the skies over southern England in Spitfires and Hurricanes, they discover the legacy of the battle and reveal the inspiring personal stories of some of the brave pilots whose part in the conflict helped changed the fate of the world.

The Third Day

Tuesday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm

Jude Law in The Third Day
Jude Law in The Third Day

Jude Law visits a mysterious island off the coast of Britain where the inhabitants engage in strange, sinister rituals and are hellbent on preserving their creepy, arcane traditions. Wait! Is that a Wicker Man I see on yonder clifftop? This series isn’t giving much away, save that it boasts a starry cast that includes Emily Watson, Naomie Harris, Katherine Waterston and Paddy Considine. The format is also a bit unusual, in that its six episodes are split into two parts: “Summer” and “Winter”, with a special “live” episode in between called “Autumn”.

Cat Tales: In from the Wild

Tuesday, BBC4, 9pm

Cats. Where do they come from? Why do we love them? What’s going on inside their heads? This programme answers the biggest questions about the world’s most popular furry pet. Detailed real-time brain scans reveal a possible explanation for why owners are besotted with their cats. A cat’s meow plugs straight into the emotional centres of our brains in exactly the same way as a baby’s cry. And adult cats only meow to humans – so even if they don’t intend to manipulate us, they do. However, domestic cats haven’t always had it easy, suffering sacrifice in ancient Egypt and persecuted as agents of Satan in the Middle Ages.

Unquiet Graves

Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

An image from Unquiet Graves
An image from Unquiet Graves

Between 1972 and 1978, more than 120 people on both sides of the Border were murdered in a campaign of targeted assassination by a group known as the Glennane Gang. Many of their victims were ordinary innocents – farmers, shopkeepers, publicans – with no links to paramilitaries or police. These sectarian atrocities were carried out simply to strike terror into the community, with no one knowing who would be the next victim. This documentary by award-winning Belfast film-maker Seán Murray unravels the network of collusion that facilitated the murders, and how members of the RUC and UDR collaborated with the gang as they rampaged unchecked through Tyrone, Armagh and into the Republic’s Border counties. Stephen Rea narrates this tale of yet another dark episode in our history.

Walking Britain’s Roman Roads

Wednesday, Channel 5, 8pm

As any Monty Python fans will tell you, the Romans have done a lot for us, and not just the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, the fresh-water system and public health. There’s also the roads, and as this, the first in a new series reveals, they tie much of the UK together. Dan Jones begins his journey by exploring the country’s oldest and longest, which runs from the Kent coast to Shropshire and passes through key sites of Emperor Claudius’s invasion and Boudicca’s rebellion.

Ambulance

Wednesday, BBC1, 9pm

The Bafta Award-winning documentary series returns for a new run as cameras follow a whole new cast of characters at the London Ambulance Service. Call handler Abbie takes an emergency 999 call for a patient having a seizure at work, while ambulance crew Kate and Femi are dispatched to a young man who is struggling to breathe. Then, as the shift continues, Advanced Paramedic Rory treats a young footballer with a broken ankle, and Kayleigh and Lauren are called to a patient who has overdosed and is at risk of cardiac arrest.

It’s a Park’s Life

Thursday, RTÉ One, 7pm

A return to one of Europe’s largest city parks for an inside look at the magic of the Phoenix Park, and the larger-than-life characters who inhabit it. A constantly buzzing hive of activity, there really is something for everyone. The second series of It’s A Park’s Life revisits a day in the lives of gardeners Brian and Meeda, and our favourite park rangers, Kieron and James, among an array of fresh new faces. It’s the President’s Day Competition at the All-Ireland Polo Club, one of the oldest in the world, and the show follows club legend Lar as he soaks up the atmosphere and commentates on the action. The club’s history and significance to Irish culture is unveiled and we discover Ireland’s influence in the world of polo.

Saving Lives at Sea

Thursday, BBC2, 8pm

This documentary follows ordinary men and women of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) who are ready to launch their boats and race to the rescue within minutes of a cry for help, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whatever the weather. Over 150 years the volunteers have saved the lives of more than 140,000 people – and here they set out to rescue others who have got themselves into trouble at sea.

Nationwide: Culture Night Special

Friday, RTÉ One, 7pm

Culture Night has become part of Ireland’s cultural landscape, a special night when the doors to great art and heritage are thrown open for the delight and delectation of all. The Covid-19 pandemic has not closed down Culture Night 2020, but it has forced a lot of changes to the programme: many events are taking place online and many others are happening in a real-life space with all the health and safety protocols in place. This special edition of Nationwide provides taster of the treats in store on the night, including a special dance film piece commissioned by RTÉ, created by award-winning choreographer Emma Martin and shot on location in Dublin Castle, with a traditional music soundtrack that doffs a cap to the great Seán Ó Riada.

Tearmann: Oíche Chultúir/Culture Night

Friday, TG4, 8pm

Áine Ní Chiobhán
Áine Ní Chiobhán

An insightful documentary featuring new and innovative work from various Gaeltacht artists. Local customs and indeed the Gaeltacht communities themselves continue to influence a new generation of artists. Featured in the film are Cathal Mac Fhionnghaile, Siobhán Ní Dhuinnín, Áine Ní Chiobhán and Johnny Óg Connolly.

Gardeners’ World

Friday, BBC2, 8pm

We’re still wondering what happened to summer and it’s anyone’s guess what autumn will bring. But there’s obviously still plenty to do for green-fingered enthusiasts. This week the seasonal planting of bulbs begins at Longmeadow, and Monty Don adds in some spring-flowering daffodils while Frances Tophill chats to a gardener whose allotment is filled with traditional and exotic vegetables. Toby Buckland, meanwhile, pays a visit to The Newt in Somerset, where he finds out about its chequered history and explores its emergence as one of Britain’s most exciting gardens.

First Dates

Friday, Channel 4, 11.05pm

Photographer Chris, haulage guy Lou, shopping centre manager Adam, health worker Kris and oven-cleaning technician Michael move in with Tara, a 32-year-old business consultant, each hoping to win her affections. Nearly all of Tara’s friends are married, and just about the most serious relationship she had to date has been with her beloved German shepherd. Top of Tara’s list of requirements is a man who can make her laugh. Eventually, five become one – will Tara make the right choice?

Secret Scotland with Susan Calman

Friday, Channel 5, 8pm

The ever-engaging presenter returns for a third series for a new journey that begins on a hunt for secrets in the former industrial powerhouse of Falkirk. She embarks on a canal boat trip before getting a look inside the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift. Calman also takes a look at the largest equine statue on Earth – the Kelpies – before meeting the inspiration behind them: one of the largest breeds of horse, the Clydesdale. A few miles from Falkirk, Ms Calman takes a look at a giant Georgian pineapple, and ventures into Midlothian to explore a royal hideaway filled with stories of passion, betrayal and daredevil courage.

ON DEMAND

High Fidelity

From today, StarzPlay

Zoe Kravitz in High Fidelity
Zoe Kravitz in High Fidelity

Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel about a music-obsessed guy getting over a break-up was one of the best novels of that decade, and helped no end of folks in a similar situation. Though transplanted from London to Chicago, the film version starring John Cusack wasn’t bad either. This 10-part adaptation gives the source a fresh spin by gender-flipping the lead protagonist has been gender flipped and story reimagines the story from the point of view of Zoe Kravitz (whose mum Lisa Bonet was in the film version). She plays Robyn (aka Rob) Brooks, the record store-owner whose obsession with pop culture and top five lists should appeal to many, not least because of her fourth wall-breaking narration.

Challenger: The Final Flight

From Wednesday, Netflix

During almost three years of service, the space shuttle Challenger completed nine missions, spending 62 days, seven hours, 56 minutes and 22 seconds in space. Challenger hosted the first spacewalk of the space shuttle program and carried the first American female astronaut and first black astronauts. But in a tragedy that shocked the world during Challenger’s 10th launch on January 28th, 1986, broadcast live across the US, the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after lift-off, killing all seven people on board. This four-part documentary s takes an in-depth look at the Challenger disaster, a moment that changed the Nasa space programme for ever and has proved unforgettable for a generation of Americans.

The Devil All the Time

From Wednesday, Netflix

Tom Holland, best known to superhero fans as Spider-Man, takes on an altogether more brooding role in this adaptation of a novel by Donald Ray Pollock. The dark drama spanning the time between the second World War and the 1960s tells the story of a young man living in the backwoods of rural Ohio and trying to make his way in the world. But he is constantly threatened by the forces of evil in the shape of sinister characters, including an unholy preacher on the run from the law, a crooked sheriff and a husband-and-wife team of serial killers. The ensemble cast includes Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough, Bill Skarsgard, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska and Harry Melling.

Ratched

From Friday, Netflix

Sarah Paulson in Ratched
Sarah Paulson in Ratched

We still get the collywobbles recalling Louise Fletcher’s Oscar-winning turn as the psychiatric nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Now, 45 years later, Nurse Ratched is back to haunt our waking moments in a new series starring Sarah Paulson as the monstrous matron.This is an “origin story” of sorts, beginning just after the war, when young Mildred Ratched gets a job as a nurse at a leading psychiatric hospital. The powers-that-be are impressed by her dedication to her job, but turns out she’s more Florence Frightengale, and it’s not long before she’s gleefully joining in on some very dodgy experiments on patients’ minds.

Contributing: PA

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