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


The Great Pottery Throw Down
Sunday, Channel 4, 7.45pm
During last year’s series, fans of the clay-based competition were delighted by Derry Girls star Siobhan McSweeney’s appearance as host. Following in the footsteps of Sara Cox and Melanie Sykes, she added a little levity to the proceedings, so viewers were looking forward to more of the same in 2022. Sadly, that’s not to be because McSweeney has stepped down; but we have high hopes for her successor, comedian Ellie Taylor. Two people who are returning are the judges: ever-tearful Keith Brymer Jones and the more stoic Rich Miller. They’ll welcome another batch of amateur potters into the workshop before setting them challenges involving the creation of a children’s crockery set and ceramic milk bottles.

Anne
Sunday, ITV, 9pm; Thursday, Virgin One, 9pm
In 2013, at the age of 62, Anne Williams passed away following a battle with cancer. It was not, however, the longest or most public fight of her life – that was dedicated to the memory of her 15-year-old son Kevin, one of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. The Liverpool housewife spent the last years of her life fighting for justice for Kevin and the 95 others who lost their life on that terrible afternoon in Sheffield, and lived just long enough to see the truth established by the Hillsborough independent panel in 2012. Her extraordinary story is being told in a new four-part drama starring Maxine Peake. It reveals how Williams, despite having no legal training, successfully campaigned against the original inquest’s findings. Followed on Thursday by the documentary The Real Anne: Unfinished Business (ITV, 9pm).

Call the Midwife
Sunday, BBC One, 8pm
Time moves quickly in Poplar – last week it was Christmas 1966, now it’s Easter 1967. A demolition project is going on, leading to the unearthing of a long-buried secret that stirs up emotions among the staff and residents at Nonnatus House. Meanwhile, Nancy’s excitement at her first day as a midwife is somewhat tempered by a disaster at home. The Flemings return with a mixed bag of news and Sr Julienne agrees to take on a sensitive delivery.

Tom Hanks: Hollywood’s Mr Nice Guy
Sunday, Channel 5, 9pm
He is the pre-eminent Hollywood star of our times, his movies have earned more than $10 billion and won countless awards, and he is admired as the nice guy who came first. But what lies behind Tom Hanks’s extraordinary success? This documentary explores what drove him to the top and what has kept him there. Old friends from his very first acting job at the Great Lakes Theater Festival recall Hanks as a young actor. Sitcom writer David Chambers reveals how he won his big break on TV. And film director Nicholas Meyer recounts how Tom fell in love with second wife Rita Wilson on the set of his film Volunteers.

Droichid na hÉireann
Monday, RTÉ One, 7.30pm
We cross them every day on our way to work, to the shops or just to visit people, but do we ever stop to think about the stories behind these bridges? No, because that might cause an accident. In this new six-part series, Lochlann Ó Mearáin looks at the history of some of Ireland’s bridges: the people who designed built them, the historic events linked to them, and the roles they played in bringing communities together. Ó Mearáin also visits geological formations such as the Bridges of Ross in Co Clare, uncovers some of the country’s lesser-known bridges, and dares to cross Ireland’s longest rope bridge.

Four Lives
Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday, BBC One, 9pm
This three-part true-life drama promises to be a harrowing watch, telling the story behind the murders of four young men in Barking, Essex between 2014 and 2015. Stephen Merchant, normally known for comedic roles, plays the deeply disturbed serial killer Stephen Port, who drugged, raped and murdered his four victims after luring them to his house via a gay dating app. Sheridan Smith plays Sarah Sak, the mother of Port’s first victim, who worked tirelessly to uncover the truth about what happened to her son, despite a botched police investigation that painted the young men as drug addicts who had overdosed.

Attenborough’s Wonder of Song
Monday, BBC One, 6.30pm
Sir David Attenborough is choosing a selection his favourite recordings – but this isn’t just a TV version of Desert Island Discs. Instead, the veteran broadcaster is bringing us songs from the natural world, all recorded during his lifetime and featuring animals ranging from the largest lemur and a humpback whale to a lyrebird. Our understanding of song has long been dominated by Charles Darwin’s theory that males sing to attract a mate and females listen and choose; essentially the audio equivalent of the peacock’s tail. But recent discoveries now challenge these long-held ideas, and Attenborough explains the part his chosen recordings have played in revolutionising how we think about the role of song in the animal kingdom.

The Tower
Monday, Virgin One, 9pm
Get ready for a head-spinning opening sequence that will give you vertigo. This three-part crime drama (which screened last month on ITV) begins with a horrific incident on the roof of a south London tower block, which sees a police officer and a teenage girl fall to their deaths. It’s up to DS Sarah Collins (Gemma Whelan) to investigate, but another officer, who was on the roof at the time of the deaths has gone awol. Whelan is best known for roles in Game of Thrones and Upstart Crow, and she is joined by Tahira Sharif, Emmet J Scanlan and Jimmy Akingbola for this series based on Kate London’s novel Post Mortem.

The Cabins
Monday-Friday, Virgin Two/ITV2, 9pm
The first series of this dating show was packed with first dates, awkward silences, cooking disasters, karaoke and heartfelt confessions. It saw love blossom between Charlotte and Sarah, as well as hot tubs, body painting, axe throwing and tandem bike rides. It’s now back for a second run, with three brand spanking new cabins in Wales (Otter’s Pocket, Stag’s Mount and Beaver’s Burrow) for the lovelorn pairings to check into. And, in a new twist, the cabins are nestled closely together, so the couples get a chance to gossip and debrief with their neighbours.

Party Island: Summer in Zante
Monday, Channel 4, 10pm
If you’re already looking ahead to a summer holiday, then it may interest you to know that the Greek island of Zante is a heavily searched-for destination. This documentary follows some of the holidaymakers and workers who arrived there last summer, including a student nurse who is looking forward to travelling after working on the wards during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Brits Connor and Harry are on a last-minute lads’ holiday, but the trip gets off to a bad start when one of them is detained in passport control.

Donie O’Sullivan: Capitol Man
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm
On January 6th, 2021, as a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington DC, a young journalist from Cahersiveen provided calm, cool commentary to the horrified viewers watching on CNN as the insurrection unfolded. Donie O’Sullivan’s dynamic, informative segments shot him to fame. This hour-long documentary provides insights into the young Kerry man’s early life, as he struggled with mental health issues, and honed his skills at separating truth from lies in social media and political discourse. We’ll also hear from colleagues, family and friends about what drives O’Sullivan to seek the truth.

The Style Counsellors
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
The people in The Style Counsellors come from all walks of life but share a common problem: they’re in a rut clothes-wise. This might be because they have always prioritized others – juggling the demands of work, being a parent or because their life circumstances have changed dramatically in recent times. Presenter Suzanne Jackson is a fashion and beauty blogger. She also owns her own cosmetics company, SoSu by Suzanne Jackson. Fashion and style are both her business and her passion. This season she is joined by a whole team of different Style Counsellors – including the inimitable Eileen Smith – who, over different episodes, will offer their hot takes on the latest trends. As ever Suzanne will be meeting and making over some amazing women – and one brave man – who need to add a bit of wow to their wardrobe.

Toast of Tinseltown
Tuesday, BBC Two, 10pm
Matt Berry is back as pompous thespian Steven Toast in his follow-up series to the Bafta-winning Toast of London. Fed up with his vast talent going unrecognised in London, Toast has decamped to Hollywood, convinced that he will finally be discovered. He’ll meet some new people in Tinseltown, including anger management guru Des Wigwam (Kayvan Novak) and Russ Nightlife (Fred Armisen), but some of the old gang will be back, including his nemesis Ray Purchase (Harry Peacock), his landlord Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathurst) and hipster sound engineer Danny Bear (Tim Downie). But will we ever hear Clem Fandango (Shazad Latif) again? We should be told.

Gossip Girl
Tuesday, BBC One, 10.35pm
She’s back, this time bringing us the skinny on a new generation of teenagers at an exclusive private school in New York’s upper east side in this rebooted new series. It’s a decade since Gossip Girl originally dished up the juicy titbits on teen lives, and social media has changed a lot since then, and only gotten more vicious and vindictive. Excellent. Kristin Bell returns as the voice of the anonymous blogger who seems to know everyone’s innermost secrets and has the lowdown on every clandestine tryst (sort of a cyber version of Lady Whistledown).

The Hunt for Bible John
Tuesday, BBC Two, 9pm
Over the course of 18 months, beginning in 1968, three women were found murdered in Glasgow. They had all attended the same dancehall and were all killed in a similar brutal and sadistic fashion. The prime suspect became known as “Bible John” after a key witness described a man who picked up women yet quoted extensively from the Old Testament. Ddespite one of the biggest manhunts in Scottish history, the case remains unsolved. This two-part documentary looks back at the case, taking viewers back to a 1960s Glasgow that seemed far from swinging sixties London.

Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild
Tuesday, Channel 5, 9pm
Ben Fogle is back, ready to meet more people who have quit the rat race. First up is Alex (39), who left a lucrative retail career to live in a mountainside hideaway in central Portugal. Alex made the radical change following a near breakdown and a personal tragedy. Since leaving the UK, he’s had to survive with no heating, electricity or water but is now in the process of transforming a centuries-old buildings into his perfect home. He also tells Fogle that while he’s enjoyed his solitary lifestyle, he’s ready to begin socialising again.

The Language of Love
Tuesday, Channel 4, 10pm
Can love transcend language? That’s the question at the heart of this new dating series,. Host Davina McCall will accompany a group of Brits to a stunning finca in Andalusia, where they will meet a group of Spanish speakers who are also looking for romance. As well as finding out if the sparks will still fly over the language barrier, the potential new couples will face challenges designed to test their bond. Spanish TV host, actor and singer Ricky Merino is on hand to co-host and interpret how their relationships are developing.

Operation Transformation
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9pm
As sure as day follows night, the Christmas pig-out is followed by the national guilt-trip that is Operation Transformation. Once again, Kathryn Thomas (who is healthier than you’ll ever hope to be) leads the nation in a collective effort to reboot our health and help us make it to next Christmas. You know the drill: five leaders take on the challenge of transforming their lives, with help from the expert panel of fitness coach Karl Henry, psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy, dietitian Aoife Hearne, and GP Dr Sumi Dunne. We don’t have details of who the leaders are yet, but we’ll of course be rooting for them in their efforts to turn their lives (and those of their community) around.

Neven’s Seafood Irish Trails
Wednesday, RTE One, 8.30pm
Neven Maguire returns with a new six-part series that sees him travelling around Ireland to meet some of the producers and chefs responsible for Ireland’s great seafood reputation. In this fourth series of his hugely popular seafood travels, Maguire includes Kerry, Dublin, Mayo, Cork and Galway, And, as always, he prepares delicious dishes based on local produce throughout the series. He begins in Tralee Bay, home to one of Ireland’s oldest oyster fishing grounds.

The Two Escobars
Wednesday, TG4, 10.30pm
At a time when drug money fuelled the sport known in the underworld as “Narco-soccer”, the fates of Andres Escobar, the inspirational captain of Nacional, and Pablo Escobar, the notorious leader of the Medellin cartel, were permanently linked. When Andres was murdered 10 days after scoring an own goal against the US in the first round of the 1994 World Cup, it cost the country more than a shot at the title. This hard-hitting documentary precedes TG4’s screening of the series Narcos, which begins on Wednesday, January 12th at 10:30pm.

Mandy
Wednesday, BBC Two, 10pm
Following the festive special, the “mistress of the deadpan arts” Diane Morgan is back with a second series of shorts. It will once again see Mandy chase her dreams through more weird and short-lived jobs, beginning as she takes up a role as a stately home tour guide at Brampton Hall. Then, in the second episode, Mandy finds herself on the programme Who Are You, Do You Think, a “fictional” genealogy programme. Michelle Greenidge is also back as Lola, Mandy’s close friend and confidante in the local nail salon, with Tom Basden returning as Mandy’s fed-up benefits officer.

22 Kids & Counting
Wednesday, Channel 5, 9pm
The Radfords return, with Noel’s pie-making business booming. Meanwhile, Millie (18) now has a baby of her own and Chloe (25) is house hunting with her boyfriend. Luke has something big to tell the family, and Sue and Noel face an important decision: will they have another baby or will they decide that 22 kids is enough? When another giant family, the Walkers, come to visit, Noel and Sue have time to speak with their old friends about what they should do. Once their minds are made up, they have to break the news to the rest of the clan. But how will they take it?

First Dates Ireland
Thursday, RTÉ2, 9.30pm
As yet another year of not-much-going-out fizzles to a close, it’s time to light the touch-paper and stand well back as First Dates returns for a scorching new season, lighting up Thursday nights with a conflagration of fiery first impressions, burning hearts and old flames. Once again, the game of love is played at a regulation distance but that won’t stop daters getting up close and personal as eyes lock, hearts connect and passions ignite. On hand, as always, with warm welcomes, words of encouragement and matchmaking savoir faire are maitre’d Mateo and table angels Alice and Pete. This year the team has a new face – chirpy cheerleader and barman Neil, who came for a date but ended up taking over as our resident mover, shaker and cocktail maker.

How to Be Good with Money
Thursday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
Financial planner Eoin McGee returns to help households and individuals to get their finances in order. New year. New you? New financial goals? In this eight-part series, McGee works with people who want to achieve short and long term goals by better managing their money. This year introduces the How to Be Good with Money Money Box, which travels the country for you to ask Eoin your personal finance questions. Once inside the Money Box, people also share their spending habits.

Brian Friel – Shy Man, Showman
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
When Brian Friel died in October 2015, he left behind 24 published plays, two short story collections and adaptations of work by Ibsen, Chekov and Turgenev. He also left Irish theatre changed forever. A beguiling mix of showman and shy man, Friel was notoriously reluctant to give interviews. As Seamus Heaney said: “Trying to capture Friel is like shifting smoke with a pitchfork.” Yet this unwillingness to talk to the press and a withdrawal from public life in the mid-1980s mean that many have not understood how influential he was and remains. Faith Healer, Philadelphia Here I Come and Translations took Irish theatre in completely new directions, while Dancing at Lughnasa brought it to totally different audiences. The documentary examines that legacy via unprecedented access to his widow. Anne. and their family home, along side a stream of stars such as Sinéad Cusack, Stephen Rea, Siobhán McSweeney and Liam Neeson who readily attest to his genius.

Dragons’ Den
Thursday, BBC One, 8pm
The Den is back in business with a new fire-breather taking one of the five famous chairs. The youngest-ever Dragon, Steven Bartlett, comes out fighting in this first episode, alongside familiar faces Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden, Touker Suleyman and Sara Davies. A couple of 21st-century cheesemongers reveal they’ve sunk an astronomical sum of money into their new app, and emotions run high as a hair technician tangles with the fearsome five. Plus, a Scottish entrepreneur presents a pint-sized gadget that he hopes will be big business, and a robotic invention sends the Dragons into a virtual world.

The Apprentice
Thursday, BBC One, 9pm
Lord Sugar has another wad of £250,000 burning a hole in his sizeable pockets. A new crop of 16 contestants arrive with their wheelie suitcases and check into the luxury flat tonight before Sugar summons the aspiring entrepreneurs to his boardroom. From there, under the watchful eyes of Karren and Tim Campbell, the candidates are thrown in at the deep end as they set sail from Portsmouth on a luxury cruise ship. Their task is to come up with marketing campaigns for a new cruise liner, including creating a brand and a TV advert. Back on dry land, Lord Sugar is on the lookout for answers and it’s man or woman overboard for one candidate when they’re the first to hear those dreaded words: “You’re Fired!”

Screw
Thursday, Channel 4, 9pm
Created by Bafta-nominated writer Rob Williams (The Victim, Killing Eve), this new six-part drama promises to show prison life as you’ve never seen it before: through the embattled characters who work there. The diverse team of officers in charge at Long Marsh men’s prison each have their own unique take on the job. Leigh Henry (Nina Sosanya) is a career prison officer who lives for her job but has lost faith in the system; so she circumvents the rules. But her position at Long Marsh is under threat – which doesn’t bear thinking about, especially as she appears to be secretly living on the wing. The arrival of mouthy young probationer Rose Gill (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) only adds to the pressure on Leigh, and so begins a high-stakes battle between the two officers.

Andy Warhol’s America
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
This three-part documentary series looks at the history of 20th-century America through the life and career of US painter, film-maker, author and leading figure in the Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol. The opening edition examines the artist’s childhood in Pittsburgh and his rise from poverty to wealth and fame in New York City in the 1950s. After working as a commercial artist for magazines and designing advertising and window displays, Warhol established his name by making everyday foodstuff the subject of his work. In turn, he created a sensation which propelled him to the A-list of American society.

Deargdhúil: Dánta Mháire Mhac an tSaoi
Thursday, TG4, 9.30pm
Welcome repeat of the riveting documentary on the life, work and sensual poetic imagination of the late revolutionary Irish poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi (1922-2021). Her story is set against a backdrop of a tumultuous century in Irish history, in which she and her family were centrally involved. It is told from an intimate perspective through dramatic representations of a sequence of poems reimagined and choreographed as short films intercut with her father’s home movies and the poet’s own commentary on her life and work. Featuring performance artist Maureen Fleming. Máire Mhac an tSaoi passed away in October. Go ndéana Dia trócaire uirthi.

Monty Don’s Adriatic Gardens
Friday, BBC Two, 8pm
When you think of Venice, gardens may not be the first thing that springs to mind. But in this new series, Monty Don is travelling through Europe to discover the influence of the Venetians on outdoor spaces, from their own city at the top of the Adriatic coast and on through Croatia and Greece. Along the way, he’ll find out how public and private gardens have been shaped by history, culture and climate change. He begins in Venice itself, where he visits some of the green spaces that are often hidden from view by high walls.

Death in Paradise
Friday, BBC One, 9pm
The gentle Caribbean-set detective drama is now back for an 11th series. New series of Death in Paradise tend to start in January, because that’s when we need them the most. It initially seems like Neville (Ralf Little) & co are being eased in gently with a seemingly simple kidnapping case. As viewers will have predicted though, the abduction eventually leads to murder. So, the cops must work out why the plan went wrong and who is responsible.

ON DEMAND

Action Pack
From Tuesday, Netflix
If any of the children in your life – or even yourself – are fans of Muppet Babies, Phineas & Ferb or the Disney Jr show Nursery Rhymes, then they will definitely want to check out this new animation series. It’s aimed at pre-schoolers, but there’s plenty here for viewers of all ages. Each episode follows the adventures of Treena, Watts, Wren and Clay, who have developed superpowers they use to take on any villains who make the mistake of turning up in their home town of Hope Springs. They also come in handy for implementing the lessons taught by their mentor, Mr Ernesto, at the Action Academy.

Rebelde
From Wednesday, Netflix
No, that’s not a misspelling. The title is the Spanish for “rebel”, and Rebelde is the of one of Mexico’s most popular telenovelas. The teen-oriented drama, which ran from 2004-2006, is back in a revamped version. The story takes place at the Elite Way School, aka EWS, an international boarding school that viewers will get to know very well over the course of eight enthralling episodes. Among the students are those desperate to win a Battle of the Bands competition – taking part could make or break their hopes for a career in the music industry. However, a secret society could ruin everything…

Contributing: PA



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