What's on TV: the best TV programmes on BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin, BT Vision, satellite and cable, as chosen by the Telegraph's critics
Tuesday 21 March
BBC Two, 9.00pm
As Making the Murderer and OJ: Made in America have proved, true crime is in vogue, and if it’s American, all the better. British directors Jonathan Taylor and Arthur Cary jump on the bandwagon with this three-part series examining the US justice system. The film follows the work of tough-as-nails state attorney Angela Corey in Jacksonville, Florida, and her re-election campaign – which is becoming increasingly bitter – rumbles along in the background. What it shows is that justice is never easy.
Two cases form the backbone of this opener. The first is the double-murder of a man and his niece. The second is a genuine head-scratcher: a man, Trey Wright, is charged with the murder of his cousin – even though the cousin was killed by someone else. The prosecution claim that because Wright was committing a robbery with his cousin at the time, he must pay the price for the death.
With either the death sentence or life without parole as the options in both cases, there is plenty at stake. Following the cases from the crime scene through to verdict, it’s a compelling if depressing snapshot of a system under extreme stress. GT
Back to the Land with Kate Humble
BBC Two, 8.00pm
Kate Humble and Geetie Singh-Watson head to the Lake District to follow the progress of six young rural businesses, including a wool composter and a muesli-making company. GT
Yorkshire: A Year in the Wild
Channel 5, 9.00pm
Beginning in spring, this new series tracks the fauna of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks as the brief breeding season begins, migrating birds arrive and the residents look to supplement winter’s slim pickings. GT
Inside No 9
BBC Two, 10.00pm
Felicity Kendal and Fiona Shaw join Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith at the opening of an art exhibition with – you guessed it – a sinister twist. This is the final instalment of a comedy horror anthology that has gone from strength to strength, which has resulted in its most confident and consistent series to date. GT
How Police Missed the Grindr Killer
BBC One, 10.45pm; N Ireland, 1.40pm; BBC Two Wales, 11.15pm
Stephen Port date-raped and murdered four young gay men in east London in 15 months. Previously shown on BBC Three, Steven Grandison’s excellent documentary explores how the Met Police repeatedly missed chances to stop Port in his tracks. GT
Primodos: The Secret Drug Scandal
Sky Atlantic, 8.00pm
This documentary examines the 40-year fight for justice by women who believe their children died or were born with deformities as the result of taking a hormone-based pregnancy test. Prescribed in the 1960s and 1970s, Primodos contained the equivalent of 13 morning after pills. It was taken off the market in 1978, but the manufacturer Schering (now Bayer) has always denied any association between the tablets and birth defects. As a government inquiry draws to a close, this emotional documentary wonders if the risks were known all along? SH
Sky Living, 10.00pm
Shonda Rhimes romantic crime drama following private investigator Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos) and the master con man she loves, Ben Jones (Peter Krause), returns. In the series opener, Ben is in jail, and confronting his criminal past. Meanwhile, Alice’s firm is being investigated by the FBI. As ever, though, she has a plan. SH
Boyhood (2014) ★★★★★
Richard Linklater’s real-time depiction of a boy growing up over 12 years received the biggest Oscar snub of recent years, winning only one award, for Patricia Arquette. From 2002, Linklater spent a few days each year filming the same actors to chart Mason’s (Ellar Coltrane) ordinary life – in what is an extraordinary, beautiful and moving string of small, everyday moments.
Ransom (1996) ★★★★☆
A year after crying freedom in Braveheart, Mel Gibson showed his scary side in this gripping Ron Howard thriller – a remake of the 1956 Glenn Ford film. Here, Gibson plays a millionaire who turns the tables on the gang that kidnaps his son (Nick Nolte’s son Brawley). He offers the ransom as bounty on the kidnappers’ heads, leading to a vicious game of cat and mouse. Gary Sinise makes a good foil.
As Good as It Gets (1997) ★★★★★
Sony Movie Channel, 11.15pm
Seldom has Jack Nicholson been more misanthropic on screen than in this smart, Oscar-winning romcom. He plays Melvin, a pulp novelist who suffers from a bad case of OCD – eg he only lets one waitress (Helen Hunt) serve him. But when she can’t make it into work, he realises just how important their daily interactions – characterised by his cantankerousness and her wit – are to him.
Neighbors (1920, b/w) ★★★☆☆
Sky Arts, 11.40pm
Buster Keaton and Virginia Fox play lovers, akin to Romeo and Juliet, whose tenement homes back onto each other. Their families feud over the lovers’ relationship, resulting in much mayhem and slapstick including banana skins and a human ladder. The stunts in the opening segment are tremendous and Keaton’s real-life father plays his father here, too. This is a good introduction to silent film comedy shorts.
Wednesday 22 March
The Royal House of Windsor
Channel 4, 9.00pm
The penultimate episode in this surprisingly intimate and revealing royal series focuses on what is acknowledged as the House of Windsor’s roughest patch since the Second World War. That period covered the 16 years or so from the engagement of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 to the aftermath of her death in a car crash in Paris in 1997. This film also takes in the troubled marriages of the Queen’s other two children, her “annus horribilis” in 1992 when a large section of her beloved Windsor Castle burned down, and more.
But it is Diana, Princess of Wales, who appears to be one of the greatest thorns ever to lodge in the Royal family’s side. Papers from the archives at Windsor Castle record in impressive detail the Royal family’s anxiety over her transition from the shy and naive 19-year-old who was thought to be a suitable match for the Prince to the uncontrollable global celebrity who all but eclipsed them. It is such a well-known story, yet there are plenty of surprises here regarding how Diana shook the House of Windsor to its foundations and left a legacy not just in her sons William and Harry, but in changing the way that the British monarchy is viewed. GO
The House That £100K Built
BBC Two, 8.00pm
Many of us dream of building our own ideal home, but it only becomes a reality for a few. In the fifth episode of the series, couple Kevin and Lesley are building an eye-catching house on the Isle of Sheppey. Elsewhere, farmers Sue and Tim are completing their cantilevered home. CM
Hidden Restaurants with Michel Roux Jr
Channel 4, 8.00pm
Michel Roux Jr visits the West Country and Wales in episode three of his quest to find secret eateries. There, he finds, among other things, a restaurant inside a garden shed and meets a couple who want to turn a barge into a fish restaurant. CM
DIY SOS: The Big Build
BBC One, 9.00pm
In this episode of the emotive, life-changing series, Nick Knowles and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen make a new home for a Warwickshire woman who is suffering from mastocytosis. It is a rare genetic disorder, which has forced her to reside in her living room since her diagnosis at the age of 18. CM
Incredible Medicine: Dr Weston’s Casebook
BBC Two, 9.00pm
Gabriel Weston hears more wonderful tales of the human body. This week, she meets a woman who became pregnant with twins, but in two separate wombs, and a woman with a memory disorder that means she can get lost in her own home. CM
Deadliest Place to Deal
BBC Three, from 10.00am
When firebrand politician Rodrigo Duterte came to power in the Philippines last year, he declared that he was “happy” to slaughter” the country’s drug addicts. In the past eight months, 7,000 people have been killed. In this effective documentary, presenter Livvy Haydock joins the police as they go on drugs raids, before meeting human rights investigators and relatives of the victims who claim that police and vigilantes are shooting unarmed people. SH
Dr Christian Will See You Now
Embarrassing Bodies presenter Dr Christian Jessen begins a new series about how declining health can affect relationships. He explores a variety of conditions, and we follow the process from the consultation through to the treatment. Jessen begins with a woman whose low self-esteem is putting a strain on her marriage, and another who suffers from mood swings. SH
Billy Elliot (2000) ★★★☆☆
BBC Four, 9.00pm
Stephen Daldry made his film debut with this stirring British drama set during the 1984 miners’ strike. Combining realism with uplifting sentiment, the film follows young Billy (Jamie Bell), who is encouraged by a chain-smoking dance instructor (the wonderful Julie Walters) to take up ballet. His father (Gary Lewis), struggling to raise his motherless son and on the picket line, is less keen on the idea.
The Back-up Plan (2010) ★★☆☆☆
New York pet-shop owner Jennifer Lopez (who has starred in interesting films such as Out of Sight) gets artificially inseminated in the opening scene of this chick-flick, only to then meet an eligible cheesemaker played by Alex O’Loughlin. This romcom struggles to erect obstacles between the lovers to lend the story a semblance of drama, but falls back on old clichés of vomiting and eating for two.
Young Adult (2011) ★★★★☆
Charlize Theron is magnificent as a writer of young-adult fiction who sets about winning back her former sweetheart, even though he’s happily married with a baby. Jason Reitman’s wicked comedy flips the romcom genre on its head with an uncompromising portrait of a self-centred, alcohol-addled and deluded anti-heroine, while Patton Oswald, as the one ex-classmate who understands her, is the perfect foil.
Scum (1979) ★★★☆☆
London Live, 11.00pm
Roy Minton’s brutal but intelligent picture of a young offender (played by Ray Winstone) fighting his way to supremacy inside a British borstal packs more than a punch. It was intended as a Play for Today, but due to its extreme violence the BBC turned it down. Indeed, even campaigner Mary Whitehouse took Channel 4 to court for first showing the film on television in 1983.
Thursday 23 March
Syria’s Disappeared: The Case Against Assad
Channel 4, 10.00pm
Since the Arab Spring swept Syria in 2011, tens of thousands of people have disappeared in President Assad’s secret prisons. Many have died in custody. The systematic torture and murder continue tothis day, amounting to state terrorism.
This hard-hitting investigation tells the hidden story of the Syrian war: how men, women and children were seized by security forces in unprecedented mass arrests and have vanished without trace in the Assad regime’s network of clandestine detention centres. Some prisoners have smuggled out news, written in their own blood, while others have emerged with disturbing descriptions of the horrors that they witnessed. Meanwhile, investigators have unearthed damning intelligence documents and images that could help build a legal case against the war criminals.
Weaving together the testimonies of three survivors and evidence smuggled out of Syria to a secret location in Europe, the film follows victims, their loved ones and investigators as they campaign for the release of those still detained and fight to bring the perpetrators to justice. This is a worthy, well-crafted documentary that tells a vital story. MH
The Great Pottery Throwdown
BBC Two, 8.00pm
The 50 Shades of Clay puns are inevitable as the final three are challenged to sculpt the torso of French ice dancer Sylvian Longchambon. They must also throw as many Japanese lanterns as they can. RW
Great British Buildings: Restoration of the Year
Channel 4, 8.00pm
Kevin McCloud visits a Lyme Regis villa and a Cambridge watermill – just two of the buildings vying for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ Restoration of the Year award. RW
The Red Nose African Convoy
BBC One, 9.00pm
Russell Kane, Katy Brand, Reggie Yates, Michaela Coel, Hugh Dennis and David Baddiel travel from Kenya to Uganda to deliver aid and show how our donations are converted into supplies. They encounter elephant-size potholes and inquisitive baboons, but it’s the stories of the volunteers and the optimistic mindset of a group of HIV-positive mothers that strikes a particular chord. RW
Three Wives, One Husband
Channel 4, 9.00pm
“Relationships are my religion,” says Enoch Foster, a father of 16 who has two wives and is courting a 25-year-old nanny. This film details Foster’s family, just one in a Mormon community that practises a way of life that’s met with fascination and suspicion. RW
Sky Box Sets, from midnight
A chance to catch up on the previous four series of the country music melodrama ahead of its return for a fifth season this spring. There’s a distinct soap opera element to the show, but it’s the characterisation and the music that have ensured its longevity as we follow the ongoing rivalry between traditional country music star Rayna James (Connie Britton) and pop-country singer Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). SH
Britain’s Most Evil Killers
Some 23 years after the crimes of Fred and Rosemary West, their deeds remain shocking and chilling. Many people suspected that something was amiss in the West’s house in Gloucester, but the couple were still able to continue their killing. They were eventually charged the murders of at least 10 women. Chief Constable Tony Butler, who led the investigation against the Wests, recalls what happened and the impact of the case. SH
Top Cat Begins (2015) ★☆☆☆☆
Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm
When it was first broadcast by the BBC in 1962, the Hanna-Barbera series Top Cat was a certified hit. The 2012 film Top Cat: The Movie was unfortunately a thoroughly dismal film, so why this similarly low-grade cartoon, meant to be an origins story, was even made is a mystery. There’s only a reasonable amount of fun in seeing how Top Cat became the smooth-talking, hero we know and love.
About a Boy (2002) ★★★★☆
Hugh Grant gives an effortless performance in the Weitz brothers’ film
of Nick Hornby’s novel. Grant, seemingly cast to type (which means that he rarely gets the credit he deserves) as a wilfully shallow, commitment-shy bachelor, finds that posing as a single parent is the perfect way to meet women. But his self-absorption is punctured when he bonds with the son (Nicholas Hoult) of a suicidal mother (Toni Collette).
Internal Affairs (1990) ★★★★☆
Anyone doubtful of Richard Gere’s acting talents should take a look at Mike Figgis’s astonishing tale of LAPD corruption. As central cop Dennis Peck, he is a memorable personification of pure evil – womaniser, manipulator and crooked cop – and not appreciating it one bit when keen young officer Raymond Avila (Andy Garcia) starts investigating his shadier habits. Some of this is strong stuff, but it’s worth it.
Jaws 3 (1983) ★★★☆☆
Dennis Quaid plays the son of Roy Schieder’s police chief from the first two films in this sequel that dares you to go back into the water. As SeaWorld Florida prepares to open, a great white shark swims in from the sea and attacks the park’s employees. But is there a greater threat on the horizon? There’s some novel inside-the-mouth chewing shots, but this film was made in 3D and without the effects, it’s more decorative than scary.
Friday 24 March
Red Nose Day 2017
BBC One, 7.00pm; 10.35pm/BBC Two, 10.00pm
The O2 in Greenwich is the venue for tonight’s charity beanfeast, anchored as always by Lenny Henry and Jonathan Ross and initially assisted by stars including Miranda Hart and Warwick Davis. There will also be sketches from French and Saunders and Matt Berry, Take That in Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, music from Rag ’N’ Bone Man, as well as appearances from Peter Kay and Alan Partridge. The centrepiece, however, is the much-anticipated Red Nose Day Actually, reuniting stars of the 2003 film Love Actually, including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson and Keira Knightley.
At 10.00pm, Greg Davies will be in his BBC Two hot tub with guests including the Smack the Pony team, and Richard Curtis meets the indomitably dim Philomena Cunk. Back on BBC One at 10.35pm, Graham Norton holds the fort while Kurupt FM (of BBC Three’s superb mock-doc People Just Do Nothing) duet with Ed Sheeran, before Russell Brand compères an hour of stand-up at midnight. Finally, at 1.0am, Jonathan Ross and Fielding look at 30 years of highlights. Clips illustrating the good causes supported will air throughout the night, so dig deep and enjoy. GT
Channel 4, 7.30pm
A troubling alliance of religion and nationalism is uncovered by Marcel Theroux in Russia, where state-sponsored TV and the Orthodox church promote an agenda of homophobia, anti-abortion and barely concealed misogyny in the guise of faith and “family values”. GT
Amazing Spaces: WWII Special
Channel 4, 8.00pm
In this special episode, George Clarke meets Jan Fursier, the daughter of a Japanese prisoner of war, Reg. Jan has discovered that her late father wrote an illustrated guide to building a caravan while in captivity. Will the team be able to turn Reg’s dream into reality? GT
Tony Robinson’s Coast to Coast
Channel 5, 8.00pm
The knight of the realm continues his cunning plan to walk from Britain’s west coast to the east, trudging through the Lake District and hoping to spot a red squirrel, as well as learning about the agricultural, industrial and culinary past and present of the area. GT
Wild Ireland: The Edge of the World
BBC Two, 9.00pm; NI, 1.15pm; not Scotland or Wales
Wildlife and natural-history cinematographer Colin Stafford-Johnson concludes his journey around Ireland’s Atlantic rim, catching sight of some spectacular wildlife, including golden eagles, whooper swans and pine martens. GT
BBC Young Dancer 2017
BBC Four, 8.00pm
The biennial contest returns to showcase the best of Britain’s dance talent, aged 16-21, in four categories – ballet, contemporary, street and South Asian. Anita Rani presents as the 20 dancers compete in the category finals; one winner will be selected in each category before a grand final at London’s Sadler’s Wells. Judges include Deborah Bull, former principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, while mentors for this first episode on streetdance include DJ Renegade. SH
Terror in Europe
PBS America, 9.00pm
This follow-up to the Frontline documentary The Rise of Isis looks at why Europe has become such a frequent target for terrorists in recent years. The film examines the missed warnings, the vulnerabilities of the EU, the problems with an “open-door” policy and what could have been done differently. The film also looks at the continuing refugee crisis and why it’s now a question of “when” another attack is likely rather than “if”. SH
Fury (2014) ★★★★★
Channel 5, 9.00pm
David Ayer’s study of the habits and habitats of the American killer male is an astonishing, stirring drama. It’s Germany 1945, and Sgt Don “Wardaddy” Collie (Brad Pitt) and his team are grinding towards Berlin in a battered M4 Sherman tank. There is no rescue mission, just an agonising rumble from one brush with death to the next. The set-piece battles are gripping, and the raw terror of war is blasted home.
Zoolander (2001) ★★★☆☆
This enjoyable cult satire on the fashion industry stars Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander, a three-time Super Model of the Year knocked off his plinth by the rising blond bombshell Hansel (Owen Wilson). The film’s premise is very silly (think The Manchurian Candidate crossed with the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup), but there are some brilliant moments including a catwalk contest umpired by David Bowie.
Schindler’s List (1993, b/w) ★★★★☆
Channel 5, 11.35pm
The Holocaust gets its most celebrated, if not its subtlest, Hollywood treatment with Steven Spielberg’s retelling of German businessman Oskar Schindler’s efforts to save the Jews who worked in his factories. Everyone’s a bit too handsome for plausibility and Liam Neeson’s Schindler is two-dimensional, but the story is profoundly moving and Ralph Fiennes gives a career-making star turn as a Nazi.
Good Will Hunting (1997) ★★★★☆
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won an Oscar for Best Screenplay with this stirring if occasionally gloopy story. Will Hunting (Damon) is a hot-headed, 20-year-old janitor with a photographic memory and an untapped genius for mathematics. Robin Williams plays the inspiring therapist who channels Will’s rage into solving quadratics, and Minnie Driver is his brainy, Harvard graduate love interest.
Catherine Gee, Michael Hogan, Simon Horsford, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward