Great British Bake Off, The Long Shadow and Mrs Brown's Boys: TV highlights this week

The Great British Bake Off hosts Paul Hollywood, Alison Hammon, Prue Leith and Noel Fielding. Credit: Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions/Channel 4.
The Great British Bake Off hosts Paul Hollywood, Alison Hammon, Prue Leith and Noel Fielding. Credit: Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions/Channel 4.

Kylie Live in the Park (Saturday 23/09/23, BBC2, 10.05pm)

Words by Scheenagh Harrington

If you were lucky, lucky, lucky enough to have been at Radio 2 in the Park in Leicester, then you will have seen Kylie Minogue in her first UK full concert performance for more than four years.

Katherine Kelly as Emily Jackson in The Long Shadow. Picture: ITV plc.
Katherine Kelly as Emily Jackson in The Long Shadow. Picture: ITV plc.

Not that the Australian star has been out of the limelight, far from it. She scored a hit with Padam Padam earlier this year, the latest in a string of musical bullseyes.

But what would we expect from a woman who has barely put a foot wrong in the 37 years since she burst onto screens as feisty Charlene Robinson in Aussie soap Neighbours.

Kylie quickly became a favourite among the show’s fans who were briefly devastated when she left the show two years later to launch her singing career.

Teaming up with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, she topped the charts with I Should Be So Lucky, and the joined forces with on-screen husband Jason Donovan for the slushy ballad Especially for You.

But Kylie wasn’t content with staying squeaky clean for long. Like her American counterpart Madonna, she took control of her image and career, reinventing the way she looked and sounded again and again.

Her romance with INXS frontman Michael Hutchence and collaboration with Nick Cave enabled her to go in different creative directions, experimenting with different sounds and genres.

At the same time that her music career was taking off and evolving, Kylie continued to act, making her big-screen debut in 1989 drama The Delinquents, which was a hit with her fans, and later opposite Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme in Street Fighter, which wasn’t a hit with the critics.

It didn’t put her off from appearing in a 1999 performance of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest in Barbados, before she once again focused on her music career.

The new millennium brought more success with global dance floor hits I’m Spinning Around and Can’t Get You Out of My Head, while her eighth studio album, Fever, notched up over six million worldwide sales.

Workaholic Kylie was forced to rest in 2005, when a shock breast cancer diagnosis led to her cancelling her Showgirl: The Greatest Hits Tour.

She picked up where she left off in November 2006 with the renamed Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour, which was wildly acclaimed, and released her 11th studio album, Aphrodite four years later.

There were still worlds for the diminutive Australian to conquer: in 2019 she made her Glastonbury debut and, in November 2020, with the release of Disco, Kylie became the only female artist to achieve a number one album in five different decades, from the 1980s to the 2020s.

This evening of programmes featuring the singer brings us right up to date, with her performance at Radio 2 In The Park, where she showcased tracks from her latest album Tension, as well as plenty of classics.

Then, there’s a whistle-stop journey through her CV in Kylie at the BBC (11.05pm), from her girl-next-door years with Stock, Aitken and Waterman to her sexy, boundary-pushing dance sounds of the 1990s, Noughties and beyond. Keep your eyes peeled for some of Kylie’s biggest collaborators too, including Robbie Williams, the aforementioned Nick Cave and – especially for us – Jason Donovan.

Hamza: Strictly Birds of Prey (Sunday 2409/23, BBC One, 7pm)

Words by Richard Jones

Since Hamza Yassin rose to fame by winning the 20th series of Strictly Come Dancing alongside dance partner Jowita Przystal in December, fans have been wondering what the likeable wildlife cameraman would do next.

On a personal level, the Sudan-born 33-year-old, known for his role as Ranger Hamza on CBeebies show Let’s Go for a Walk, as well as his dance moves, has said that he would love to have children, but his busy work schedule means he is too busy for dating.

He said: “I am 100 per cent broody. I’m broody in a nice way in that I would love to have a family one day.

“It’s in the natural world. A silverback gorilla is a silverback because he wants to be the head of the family because he gets the pleasure of having offspring.

“I am hoping one day that I’ll find somebody and settle down with little mini Hamzas.

“I’m okay being single at the moment trying to improve my life and my career.”

And speaking of his work, Hamza’s first big project since lifting the Glitterball trophy arrives on our screens tonight, as he returns to two of his passions – wildlife filming and Britain’s birds of prey.

The months spent on gruelling training inside a London studio for Strictly clearly made Hamza’s desire to be outdoors stronger than ever, and in this film he is reunited with some of the videographers who he worked with on BBC One’s Wild Isles last year.

They include his friends and mentors, camera operator and presenter Simon King and wildlife filmmaker John Aitchison.

Hamza says: “All my life I have had a passion for birds of prey, so this documentary film is a dream come true for me.

“It’s an opportunity to share more of the joy I experienced on Wild Isles while I film my top 10 of Britain’s birds of prey.”

“Birds of prey are powerful, majestic, beautiful, charismatic, intelligent. What I think of when I wake up, what I dream about.”

Beginning on the remote Ardnamurchan Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands and travelling the length and breadth of the UK, Hamza’s will try and film a selection of birds.

He sees hen harriers in the Cairngorms, white-tailed eagles in his back garden in the Ardnamurchan Peninsular, hobbies and marsh harriers over the Somerset Levels, and urban peregrine falcons nesting in Ealing Hospital in West London.

And, along the way, he meets a host of old friends – dedicated conservationists and fellow filmmakers whose love for the natural world shines through, and whose stories are insightful, incredible and inspirational.

In total, Hamza captures nine fantastic birds of prey – some of which you might even find living near you, if you just look up.

But will he manage to see his personal favourite, the golden eagle?

Hamza started this particular journey at the beginning of this year with a desire to film his 10 favourite raptors.

He finishes it with hopes for the future, both for the birds he’s documenting, and what will surely be a long and successful career in whatever field he decides to pursue.

The Long Shadow (Monday 25/09/23, ITV1, 9pm)

Words by Richard Jones

As a society, we are obsessed with true crime. But there is one case that continues to capture the nation’s imagination, arguably above all others.

Between 1975 to 1980, Peter Sutcliffe killed 13 women.

During their investigation into the murders, the police made mistake after mistake as they chased the killer, interviewing Sutcliffe nine times over five years.

This desperate cat-and-mouse hunt for the serial killer has been chronicled no end of times in print and on the screen.

But now ITV are airing a meticulously researched true-crime drama which promises bring to a new perspective to the well-documented story.

Based on Michael Bilton’s critically acclaimed account of the case, Wicked Beyond Belief, The Long Shadow places the victims, their families, survivors and police officers at the heart of the story, rather than fixating on the graphic murders and glorifying Sutcliffe’s violence.

Written by award-winning screenwriter George Kay and directed by Sherwood and Des’s Lewis Arnold, the seven-parter has a superb ensemble cast including Toby Jones, David Morrissey, Lee Ingleby, Katherine Kelly, Daniel Mays and Jill Halfpenny.

Writer Kay, whose previous work includes Hijack and Criminal: UK, says: “The case of Peter Sutcliffe – never before fully dramatised on television – is a story about far more than a murderer and his unprecedented number of victims. Its legacy and its effects, which changed British policing forever, are much more far-reaching.

“There are the victims, whose lives were ended; the surviving victims whose testimonies were never believed; and the victims’ families, whose lives were ruined by the loss of their mothers, sisters and daughters.

“And then there are the detectives. While old-fashioned, unpalatable, misogynist attitudes were ever-present and contributed to the many missteps that drove the flawed investigation, not all were the blinkered misogynists that many might believe them to be.”

In tonight’s first episode, Wilma McCann’s four young children wake up to find their mother missing.

After her body is discovered not far from her house, DCS Dennis Hoban (Jones) takes charge of the investigation.

Conscious that young women, of what the police would term ‘loose morals’, do not often inspire public sympathy, Hoban directs media attention onto her role as a mother, and on her children who have been taken into care.

Meanwhile, across Leeds, Emily (Katherine Kelly) and Sydney Jackson’s (Daniel Mays) marriage is faltering in the face of financial hardship.

With Christmas looming, she is desperate to scrape together some money, and when a man mistakes her for a sex worker in a pub, she sees no other way to keep the family afloat.

As Hoban continues to be frustrated in his efforts to find Wilma’s murderer, Emily tentatively begins sex work on Spencer Place.

While an arrest is made, Emily gets into an unknown car that drives off into the night.

This drama is a reminder while one murder has the power to cast a long shadow, the infamous case of the Yorkshire Ripper plunged a whole society into darkness.

The Great British Bake Off (Tuesday 26/09/23, Channel 4, 8pm)

Rachael Popow

When Alison Hammond took part in The Great Stand Up to Cancer Bake Off back in 2020, she admitted her skills were a little rudimental.

She said: “I’m not gonna lie, I’m not really a baker. I just can’t be bothered to measure. I do know that 4oz of sugar, butter and flour, and two eggs, makes a really good sponge. I know that off by heart, from home economics at school.”

Alison ultimately lost the star baker apron to Joe Sugg, but it seems the show’s bosses decided she did belong in the tent, even if at one point she got confused by the oven doors.

So, when Matt Lucas announced he was standing down as the co-host of The Great British Bake Off, the producers knew who they wanted to step in.

Her co-presenter Noel Fielding agreed that Alison, whose role on This Morning has made her one of the UK’s best-loved presenters, would be the perfect choice.

When the announcement was made he said: “I’m absolutely pumped we are working together. We are gonna spend the whole time giggling like naughty school kids. The bakers are gonna love you to bits.”

She’s introduced to the class of 2023 tonight, and Noel is probably right that if anyone can settle their nerves, it’s her.

However, the new bakers may have another reason not to feel quite as daunted as some contestants in previous years. Although they will still have to impress judges Paul Hollywood, with his famed steely gaze, and the straight-talking Prue Leith, we have been promised that this time around, the bakes should be a little more familiar.

The producers have picked up on the feedback from viewers that some of the challenges were getting a little too complicated – and that a few even committed the cardinal sin of being more about cooking than baking.

Paul Hollywood told The Guardian: “We chose this year’s challenges very carefully to be approachable. In a way, we’ve returned to the philosophy of the first three series. There are some beautiful classic ones and they’ve been a big success.”

Executive producer Kieran Smith also confirmed that nationality themed weeks have been ditched after some raised eyebrows at last year’s Mexican Week, and he believes that Alison’s presence has also helped restore Bake Off’s general sense of infectious joie de vivre.

He told The Guardian: “Alison gives it a real lift. It’s warmer, kinder, sillier. It’s one of the best series we’ve ever done.”

So, hopefully the bakers won’t be too on edge as they get stuck into the traditional opener that is cake week.

They’ll make a vertical layer cake in the signature challenge, whip up an iconic chocolate cake for their technical and then produce a sponge showstopper featuring a menagerie of animals. That will test their architectural skills as well as their baking, but on this show, the creations don’t just have to look good – they have to taste amazing too.

Grand Slammers (Wednesday 27/09/23, ITV1, 9pm)

Words by Scheenagh Harrington

Twenty years ago, Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Phil Vickery, Jason Robinson, Will Greenwood, Ben Cohen, Mike Tindall and Matt Dawson were among the England team that walked out onto the pitch at Stadium Australia in Sydney.

They would be part of an unforgettable World Cup final against Australia that culminated in England lifting the golden Webb Ellis trophy.

Now, as the latest staging of the showcase sporting tournament unfolds in France, cameras follow these former team members as they go behind bars for this two-part documentary, airing on consecutive evenings.

With the backing of governor, John Gormley, as well as the Ministry of Justice, the former players will enter HMP The Mount prison – home to one of the only remaining rugby pitches inside an adult male English estate – and attempt to build and train a team of inmates strong enough to compete against a formidable rival: the Australians.

Grand Slammers comes in response to statistics revealing that a staggering 50 per cent of all prisoners reoffend within 12 months of release.

The programme will explore how channelling their energy into a team sport can have a positive effect on the lives of prisoners, while also lowering their chances of reoffending on the outside.

Right from the off, it’s clear this is not going to be an easy task. The legends will experience clashes and confrontations, but must also show how their beloved sport could make a difference for young men who have made big mistakes: prove to them how the game they love can offer the possibility of taking positive steps to move forward.

“Everyone involved passionately believes that rugby is a sport that has the power to change people’s lives,” said Kitty Walshe, CEO Remarkable Factual. “What we see unfolding across the series is often raw with a range of emotions surfacing as our England legends bring their full commitment to their work with the inmates.”

They demonstrate to their charges the spirit of rugby and its broad appeal with all the camaraderie, intensity, emotion, buzz and laughter that comes with being part of a team focused on a common goal (beating the Aussies).

The World Cup winners will also open up to the men about how the game of rugby had a profound impact on them during formative periods and also helped give them a purpose in life.

The first episode kicks off as the England rugby legends reunite and decide to take up the challenge to train the inmates which leads to a match between prisoners and guards.

The last time it was played, three people ended up in hospital, so it promises to be a physical encounter.

The powerful documentary concludes with the finale of this unique prison challenge, culminating in a once-in-a-lifetime rugby match in which the veterans play alongside the prisoners they’ve trained, and recreate the historic rugby World Cup final from 20 years ago against a team of expat Australian rugby players.

It remains to be seen whether the legends can pull off a second against-the-odds victory, and restore their new team’s faith in themselves.

Sort Your Life Out with Stacey Solomon (Thursday 28/09/23, BBC1, 9pm)

Words by Scheenagh Harrington

There are many questions to be asked by anyone who watches this show regularly. Is more than 50 hats between seven really too many?

Do books really count as clutter? Surely they’re a necessary part of life, almost the property equivalent of a food group?

Does watching too many episodes of presenter Stacey Solomon, organiser Dilly, carpenter Rob and cleaner Iwan, permanently skew your view of what’s an unacceptable amount of ‘stuff’?

The answer to that last one is a definite “possibly”… but there is no denying every episode is absolutely fascinating viewing.

For the uninitiated, cameras follow Stacey and her crew as they show a family how to transform their messy home via a life-changing declutter, budget-friendly makeover and supersized spring clean.

This week’s episode is a cracker, as the crack team of domestic organising fanatics challenge the Edgar-Whelan family to sort their life out in just seven days.

Single mum Claire looks after her family of five boys, who are aged between 13 and 24. Four of them still live at home, so it’s fair to say Claire has her hands full keeping on top of the everyday chores.

With Stacey’s help, the family starts packing all their worldly goods into boxes. Every single item is stripped from the family home, eventually revealing how much space there is under all that collective clutter.

Once the house is all packed up, the time has come for the Edgar-Whelans to see all their possessions laid out in a giant warehouse.

Sure enough, there’s the bonkers and the banal. The items include 95 bottles of cleaning products, 10 versions of the same board game, a staggering 234 pairs of shoes and more than 300 pieces of kids’ artwork.

With everything displayed in front of them, Stacey then asks the family to let go of half of their belongings in a bid to reorganise their life and home.

In the warehouse, Claire struggles with her self-confidence as she finds it hard to give up her things. Hankies on standby alert as, after an emotional heart-to-heart Claire decides the time has come to let go of some of her most treasured items, while the boys also promise to help mum more around the house.

It’s worth remembering that the items they do decide to get rid of will be put into piles to recycle, donate or sell, so nothing goes to waste.

Back at the house, carpenter Rob has been busy remodelling the living room so Claire can pursue her dream to run a hat rental business.

Cleaner Iwan has given the entire place a supersize spring clean, dishing out lots of useful tips for viewers along the way, and organiser Dilly reinstates the utility and turns the conservatory-cum-bedroom into a charming, grown-up space.

When the Edgar-Whelans are left with only their must-keep items, these are packed back up to the house before it’s stylishly refilled by Stacey and her team, ready for the big reveal.

Will their newly de-cluttered, cleaned and reorganised home meet with everyone’s approval? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

Mrs Brown’s Boys (Friday 29/09/23, BBC1, 9.30pm)

Words by Rachael Popow

It’s been a short run – just four episodes – but a lot of viewers have been glad to have Mrs Brown’s Boys back for its first ‘proper’ series in a decade. (The festive specials may have become an annual tradition, but the previous full season aired way back in 2013.)

Although it’s never really been a hit with the critics, the comedy has plenty of loyal fans – and they came out in droves when it was announced the show was returning.

Brendan O’Carroll, who created the show and plays the titular Mrs Agnes Brown, says: “It always feels like a compliment to me that we had four episodes to do, we had 400 seats in the studio so it gave (the BBC) 1600 tickets to give out, and we had 96,000 requests for tickets.

“It’s just incredible that people want the experience of just being at a Mrs Brown (recording) and it is an experience because we don’t stop, even when we’re not on camera, we don’t stop.”

It seems bringing the show back has also caused him to reflect on the character’s roots and come to a new conclusion about his inspiration.

Brendan says: “People would always ask, ‘Is Mrs Brown based on your mum?’ And I used to say, no, no, she’s not. Because my mum was quite extraordinary.”

He’s not exaggerating – his mother Maureen O’Carroll was a former novice nun, who decided the religious life was not for her. She subsequently became a politician, serving as the Irish Labour Party’s chief whip in the 1950s, and was also a mother to 11 children.

However, it seems lately he’s been releasing that Agnes and Maureen may have more in common than he previously thought.

He says: “The longer it goes on, I start to realise, Agnes is my mum, but without the education my mum had. My mum had a great education. Agnes didn’t, but she has the wisdom.”

Brendan adds: “I learned a lot from my mum. I’m the youngest of the 11 kids – she was 46 when I was born. By the time I got to formative years, the other family had either emigrated or got married. So, I had the uninterrupted attention of this genius of a woman. I soaked everything up from her.”

Agnes will need all of her natural wisdom in tonight’s series finale as Dermot and Maria decide to renew their wedding vows.

Normally, we’d expect Agnes to throw herself into organising it with gusto, but sadly she’s going to have a fellow planner to work with – her archnemesis Hillary, who seems to be expecting a high-society ceremony. Can they come up with something that brings the family together rather than driving it apart?

The mothers’ differences in opinion aren’t the only potential problem as Fathers Damien and Trevor go on a mountain pilgrimage that veers off course. Not only is it looking increasingly unlike that they’ll be home in time to officiate the ceremony, but there are fears they won’t make it back at all…