What’s on TV tonight: The Cleaner, Yellowjackets and more

Charlie Rawes, Greg Davies and Harriet Walter in The Cleaner - BBC
Charlie Rawes, Greg Davies and Harriet Walter in The Cleaner - BBC

Friday 24 March

The Cleaner
BBC One, 9.30pm
The second series of Greg Davies’s The Cleaner is just as delightfully dark and playful as the first. Based on German comedy Der Tatortreiniger, it stars Davies as Paul “Wicky” Wickstead, a droll crime-scene cleaner who specialises in getting blood out of carpets. In this opening episode, he is called to the aftermath of a grisly pub brawl, where one man stabbed another, leaving behind a right ol’ gory mess. If it wasn’t for his promise to his new girlfriend to lay off the booze, it would be his ideal office. Still, there’s a jukebox, and a severed ear to use as a microphone.

For a man so physically imposing (weaponised to great effect in shows such as Taskmaster and The Inbetweeners), there is a gentleness to the 6ft 8in Davies that makes him a perpetually endearing performer. His scenes here with landlady Lisa (Harriet Walter), a cynic who has lost her young lover in the fight, are as softly touching as they are hilarious – a highlight being Wicky’s tongue tying itself in knots while he tries to guess Lisa’s age. There is also the comically terrifying Cuddles (Charlie Rawes), a brawny barman who talks with the deep, menacing voice of a Rottweiler. Yet, like Wicky, he’s actually a big softie at heart. SK

Part survival epic, part psychological horror, Yellowjackets’ first series flicked back-and-forth between a group of American teens, stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash, and the ill-adjusted adults they become. Series two shines welcome attention on the ostensibly supernatural Lottie, now a cult leader played by Simone Kessell.

Locked Away: Our Autism Scandal: Dispatches
Channel 4, 7.30pm
Autistic filmmaker Richard Butchins explores what life is like for autistic people within the UK’s healthcare system. Secretly recorded videos from inpatients reveal mental health units that are unfit for purpose, while Butchins himself describes how he avoided medical help for fear of being locked up.

Beyond Paradise
BBC One, 8pm
Finally, a murder! A man has been discovered dead in a mysterious crop circle on a local farm, with reports of strange lights in the sky the night before. Kris Marshall’s detective can barely contain his excitement. Was the murderer extraterrestrial? And why the Dickens does the victim have a page of Great Expectations in his sock? The truth is out there… somewhere.

ITV1, 9pm
Redemption continues to burn slow, but Paula Malcomson’s steely performance as detective Colette keeps it ticking along. Tonight she heads to the hospital where her late daughter Stacey worked to find out more about why she was suspended. Meanwhile, she must also solve the grim case of a teenage boy who has been stabbed.

Amazing Railway Adventures with Nick Knowles
Channel 5, 9pm
This week Nick Knowles is in Vietnam. He starts in the striking misty mountain of Sapa, before heading south by train to the capital of Hanoi. Expect some light, cheesy puns: when Knowles tries to cross a street buzzing with speeding scooters, he deplores: “It is slightly Han-noying.”

Drift: Partners in Crime
Sky Atlantic, 9pm & 10pm
This slick German thriller is an action-packed treat. It follows ballsy detective Ali (Ken Duken), whose reputation is ruined when a prisoner transport goes wrong. To clear his name, he teams up with his estranged brother Leo (Fabian Busch), a fellow cop. It premieres tonight with two episodes of cinematic shoot-outs and car chases.

The Black Phone (2021) ★★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere, 8pm 
Scott Derrickson’s terrifying 1970s-set horror was a surprise box-office smash, taking $161.4 million globally. Based on Joe Hill’s (Stephen King’s son) short story of the same name, it centres on The Grabber (Ethan Hawke), a child killer who snatches teenage boys. When Finney (Mason Thames) becomes the next abductee, trapped in a soundproof basement, he begins to receive phone calls from The Grabber’s previous victims.

Shakespeare In Love (1998) ★★★★★
BBC One, 10.40pm  
Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow make a handsome couple in this John Madden-directed, Oscar-snaffling reimagining of the Bard’s life when he was writing Romeo and Juliet, written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. Packed with amusing theories about Shakespeare’s personal life, along with much of the Nineties’s British acting scene, this is a merry yarn. Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth co-star.

Identity Thief (2013) ★★
ITV1, 10.45pm  
Melissa McCarthy started out in TV’s Gilmore Girls, but gained notoriety with Bridesmaids. She’s now a mainstay of comedy films, and beneath her self-deprecating shtick, she’s a shrewd and subtle actor. But she does need the right showcase – and this isn’t it. McCarthy is deployed as Diana, a conniving nutcase up to her neck in credit-card fraud; Jason Bateman is her latest victim, who must chase her across the US to rectify the crime.

Eaten By Lions (2018) ★★★★
BBC Two, 11.35pm  
Jason Wingard’s sprightly comedy drama stars Antonio Aakeel (who also appeared in TV’s Bafta-winning Three Girls) as a teenage boy on a mission to find his biological father, accompanied by his half-brother, played by Jack Carroll. Their exotic destination? Blackpool – a deliciously seedy vision of seaside decline inhabited by tarot readers, mouthy cabbies and Johnny Vegas in a wig. It’s a likeable, multicultural delight.

Historian Alice Roberts explores Britain's fortresses - Connor Harris/Channel 4
Historian Alice Roberts explores Britain's fortresses - Connor Harris/Channel 4

Saturday 25 March

Fortress Britain with Alice Roberts
Channel 4, 8.30pm
“Britain may be an insignificant little rock in the North Atlantic,” begins Prof Alice Roberts, punchily, “but for centuries the island we call home was coveted by foreign powers, making fear of invasion a fact of life.” In this four-parter, Roberts and others explore how that threat of invasion has left its mark on our landscape – most notably, through the remnants of its defences.

Tonight she begins with Henry VIII, whose famous decision to break from the Catholic Church and divorce Catherine of Aragon effectively made England a 16th-century pariah state. The king, fully aware of his unpopularity in Europe, prepared for invasion. In Kent, Prof Danielle George visits the elaborate castles that Henry VIII built to defend the nation’s southern coast. His favourite, in Deal, has a tight geometric design that afforded it 360° firepower. She also learns how cast-iron cannons gave the king’s army an edge, and witnesses an explosive demonstration for herself. Finally, Dr Onyeka Nubia visits the wreckage of the Mary Rose to learn how Henry VIII’s preparations paid off in the Battle of the Solent, where his fleet repelled invaders from France. SK

Charles & Harry: No Way Back?
Channel 5, 6.05pm
It is no secret that the relationship between the King and his son, the Duke of Sussex, is in a sorry, fractured state. First airing in 2021, this updated documentary charts their growing estrangement from its earliest days, beginning with the break-up of the King’s marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.

The MI5 Spy and the IRA: Operation Chiffon
BBC Two, 7pm; NI, 9.50pm
BBC reporter Peter Taylor tracks down and interviews the MI5 officer simply known as Robert. He is the elusive spy who was at the heart of Operation Chiffon: a top-secret back-channel of communication between the UK Government and the IRA. The operation is considered instrumental to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Although, as Robert reveals, it only happened because he disobeyed orders.

Bettany Hughes’ Treasures Of The World
Channel 4, 7.30pm
Bettany Hughes continues her hunt for ancient treasure with a trip to Albania, once known as the land of Illyria. She digs deep into the country’s ancient history, although the highlight concerns something more recent: a visit to the secret underground bunker of former communist dictator Enver Hoxha.

Big Night of Musicals 2023 by the National Lottery
BBC One, 7.50pm
Comedian Jason Manford hosts a dazzling buffet of blockbuster musicals, ranging from the sublime (Hamilton, Matilda, Les Misérables) to the ridiculous (Shrek the Musical), from Manchester’s AO Arena.

Challenge Anneka
Channel 5, 8.30pm
Anneka Rice faces her second challenge of the revived series: to transform a run-down neighbourhood hall in Stockton-on-Tees into a brand new home for local food-hub charity Sprouts.

Andrew Lloyd Webber at the BBC
BBC Two, 9.25pm; NI, 10.55pm
Musical behemoth Andrew Lloyd Webber celebrates his 75th birthday with a nostalgic journey through the BBC archives. Sharing stories from behind the music, he looks back on when brilliant singers such as Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross performed some of his biggest hits. It’s followed by a repeat of Alan Yentob’s 2018 Imagine interview with Webber at 10.55pm (not NI).

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) ★★★
BBC Two, 2.30pm  
Norman Jewison’s classic adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock musical tells the story of the week before the Messiah’s crucifixion through the eyes of Christ’s betrayer, Judas. Ted Neeley stars as Jesus, while Carl Anderson is the Biblical bad egg. As with the original musical, the film attracted a raft of criticism from religious groups. The soundtrack, including hit song I Don’t Know How to Love Him, won a Bafta.

Luzzu (2021) ★★★★
BBC Four, 9pm  
Named after the colourful boats of Maltese fishermen, this tender, moving portrait of a world battling between the traditions of old and the promise (and dangers) of new is anchored by a brilliant lead performance from Jesmark Scicluna. He’s a man who risks everything to provide for his wife and newborn baby by getting involved with Malta’s black-market fishing industry. Sensitively directed by Alex Camilleri, and subtitled.

Elvis (2022) ★★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere/NOW, 8pm
Austin Butler might have missed out on the Best Actor award at this year’s Oscars for his all-encompassing turn as the King, but it’s still a fantastic performance that will have you shaking your hips and singing along. Even now, the former Disney Channel star still talks with a Mississippi twang, so intense was his commitment to channelling the spirit of Presley. Director Baz Luhrmann steered this biopic in an enthralling direction filled with bright lights, big cities and even bigger characters; in one case literally, concerning the cartoonish portrayal of Presley’s greedy manager Colonel Tom Parker (played here by Tom Hanks). The script covers Presley’s entire life, all of the hits are on display (including a few controversial updates) and the costumes and cinematography are gorgeous, but this is, above all, Butler’s time to shine.

Rocketman (2019) ★★★★★
Film4, 9pm  
Dexter Fletcher’s deliriously entertaining musical biopic frames Elton John’s life story with a 1990 rehab confessional. Taron Egerton, who has Elton’s mannerisms down to a tee, reflects on the life choices that brought him to rock bottom. There’s a swathe of his top songs: Tiny Dancer is brilliantly transformed into a heartbreaking torch song, while a flash-mob scene centred on Saturday Night’s Alright is a gem.

Game Night (2018) ★★★★
BBC One, 10.35pm  
With a starry ensemble cast, Game Night is the perfect Saturday-night flick. It centres on a group of friends – Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler – who regularly meet up for drunken game nights; their latest is all going to plan until they become embroiled in a real-life mystery when one of the gang’s brothers is kidnapped by gangsters. Silly and funny rather than filled with high-stakes thrills.

Olivia Colman takes on Miss Havisham in Steven Knight's spin on Great Expectations - Pari Dukovic/BBC
Olivia Colman takes on Miss Havisham in Steven Knight's spin on Great Expectations - Pari Dukovic/BBC

Sunday 26 March

Great Expectations
BBC One, 9pm
For those who think that Dickens needs a bit more oomph, Steven Knight – the writer who brought us Peaky Blinders and SAS: Rogue Heroes – brings his signature high-octane, brutalist style to one of literature’s best-loved tales. As such, it’s likely to have Dickens purists pulling their hair out at the roots. Magwitch’s opening scene is, for instance, embroidered and extended into an indulgently violent mud and blood-soaked set-piece.

For all the punch-ups, swearing and murk-filled interiors, the six-part series does have a driving energy and a strong cast including Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham, Matt Berry as Mr Pumblechook, Shalom Brune-Franklin as Estella and Ashley Thomas as Jaggers. Tom Sweet excels in the opening episodes (he’s succeeded later by the also excellent Fionn Whitehead) as Pip, the young blacksmith’s apprentice whose encounter with an escaped convict in the marshes of the Thames estuary and, then, the tragic Miss Havisham, resets the course of his life. Colman’s first appearance, enveloped in what appear to be cobwebs and a dried cottage-border headdress, is most certainly unforgettable. GO

The Boat Races
BBC One, 3.30pm
Over four-miles of tidal water faces the elite rowing teams from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge for another furious dash down the Thames. The 77th women’s race will start at 4pm; the 168th men’s at 5pm – can Cambridge claw it back?

Wild Isles
BBC One, 7pm
Britain’s wild grasslands manage to sustain an extraordinary diversity of wildlife – despite being under threat. Whether it’s boxing hares in the Hebrides, stallions battling for alpha status in Cambridgeshire or the egg devouring caterpillars of the large blue butterfly, this edition of David Attenborough’s series illustrates the wealth of natural wonders on our own doorsteps.

The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up to Cancer
Channel 4, 7.40pm
More oven-ready entertainment as another four stars – presenter AJ Odudu, reality TV star Gemma Collins, actress Jessica Hynes and comedian Tim Key – take to the tent. Signature sandwich cakes and technical treacle tarts are among the bakes that await, but it’s the memory-based choux bun showstopper that cooks up the biggest challenge – and the most laughs.

ITV1, 8pm
After last week’s gruesome serial-killer shenanigans, DS Roy Grace (John Simm) has a quieter case on his hands, investigating a hit-and-run traffic incident involving the death of a cyclist. Or so it seems. Little does he know the victim’s sinister connections will unleash a wave of fresh violence on the mean-ish streets of Brighton.

Tempting Fortune
Channel 4, 9pm
12 competitors embark on a gruelling 18-day trek across South Africa with only the most basic survival equipment. The prize is a share of £300,000. The catch? How many contestants will be able to resist the temptation to reduce the prize pot by buying “luxuries” (such as a shower for £1,000) along the way. Paddy McGuinness hosts.

Escaping Death Valley with Nick Knowles
Channel 5, 9pm
Another fact-packed episode finds Knowles battling rattlesnakes, tamarisk plants and heatstroke in Death Valley – and celebrating one of the area’s successes: date plantations. He also visits a ghost town left behind by a brief gold rush in the 1900s and checks out the tiny Amargosa Opera House.

The First Great Train Robbery (1978) ★★★
BBC Two, 1pm  
This comedy-crime heist is directed by Michael Crichton and based on his own novel dramatising the first hold-up of a moving train, in 1855. With Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland as the two main conspirators who plan on stealing a shipment of gold from the London to Folkestone train, to get (even) richer, (even) quicker, the result is a film that’s dramatic, jolly family entertainment.

Marley & Me (2008) ★★★
ITV1, 2.45pm  
David Frankel’s enjoyable romcom, based on John Grogan’s autobiography, follows a pair of newlywed journalists (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) who move to Florida and pursue jobs at rival papers. Wilson’s John buys his wife a hard-to-control labrador, Marley. Remembered mostly for its ability to have you sobbing into a clutch of Andrex tissues – yes, their branded pooch could be Marley’s twin – this is a good one for the whole family.

Darkest Hour (2017) ★★★★★
BBC One, 10.30pm  
Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill is one of those casting picks that sells itself, but Joe Wright’s blustery political thriller has more up its sleeve. Set in the panic of the 1940 Nazi march through Europe, and built around three of the wartime Prime Minister’s most famous speeches, it’s a gripping portrait of leadership in a time of crisis. And Oldman inhabits the politician with eerie accuracy, proving himself as a British acting great.

French Connection II (1975) ★★★
Talking Pictures TV, 11.45pm  
Picking up where the last film left off, NYPD detective “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) is still obsessively chasing drug lord Frog One (Fernando Rey), who eluded him in New York. He heads to Marseille where he stumbles into the French operation and finds himself in a sticky situation. Not on par with the original, but a crowd-pleasing action drama nonetheless, filled with strong performances.

Who will Logan (Brian Cox) finally decide deserves the keys to Waystar? - HBO
Who will Logan (Brian Cox) finally decide deserves the keys to Waystar? - HBO

Monday 27 March

Sky Atlantic, 2am & 9pm
Refusing to outstay its welcome, Jesse Armstrong’s awards-sodden comedy-drama reaches its fourth and final season, with only 10 more delicious episodes of exquisitely awful executive skulduggery for us to savour. Series three ended with a bang – patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) doing the dirty on his children and rewriting his divorce settlement to rob them of boardroom power at the family firm, just as they were about to wrest control from him. And, the kicker, he was able to do it thanks to the duplicity of son-in-law Tom (Matthew Macfadyen). It felt like the declaration of all-out war.

Series four, however, begins in relative tranquillity: Logan, the old bear, is still planning to sell up to Swedish tech guru Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård); his kids – Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) – are in harmony, cooking up a new whizzbang media company; and even half-brother Connor (Alan Ruck) seems (relatively) content, playing at politics as the election looms. It doesn’t last. When the knives are drawn, they are sharper than ever, and this sensational final season features moments that will make fans’ jaws drop. CB

Rabbit Hole
Kiefer Sutherland plays a mastermind in the world of corporate espionage who is framed for murder in this stylish, suave thriller; he must prove his innocence and get back at the wrong ’uns trying to do him over. Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance is brilliantly chilling, as ever, in support. The first two episodes are released today, then weekly.

Jamie’s £1 Wonders
Channel 4, 8pm
The affable chef’s laudable mission to get bellies full for less continues. Tonight sees Oliver dig through the freezer to find common ingredients we all have knocking around (frozen cauliflower, bits of bread, potato skins) to make a yummy fish pie and more.

Blue Lights
BBC One, 9pm
Don’t be put off by the thought that this Belfast-set series is just another police drama; it is utterly gripping, spearheaded by a fantastic performance from Sian Brooke. She plays PC Grace Ellis, a single mother and new recruit who finds herself in hot water after getting too personally invested in her charges; this first episode (full series on iPlayer) also follows fellow newbies Tommy (Nathan Braniff) and Annie (Katherine Devlin) as they get to grips with life in the force.

Great British Menu: The Finals
BBC Two, 9pm
Finals week on the prestigious cookery competition – this year intended to celebrate children’s illustration, as Paddington turns 65 – gets underway. Tonight, eight chefs must create delicious vegan starters to impress the judges, including actor Kulvinder Ghir, who has lent his voice to children’s favourites such as Postman Pat and Thomas & Friends.

ITV1, 9pm
ITV’s finest police procedural has settled into a steady groove since Sinéad Keenan took over the top job. In this fifth episode, Jess (Keenan) and Sunny (Sanjeev Bhaskar) get closer to the truth on what happened on the night of Precious’s murder – until an anonymous phone call throws an unwelcome spanner in the works.

Rise and Fall
Channel 4, 10pm
Channel 4 were obviously hoping this reality-game show, hosted by Greg James, would be their own Traitors. But its premise – contestants split into “Rulers” and “Grafters”, like some sort of televisual serfdom, who must compete to win a slice of a £100,000 prize – is offputtingly mean-spirited. Continues all week. PP

The Chain (1984) ★★★
Talking Pictures TV, 11.15am  
This classic British comedy spawned spin-off TV series Moving Story in the 1990s. Written by Jack Rosenthal, it tells the story of seven households who are all either moving house or employed as removal workers; each household represents one of the seven deadly sins. As many of us will know, envy, laziness and pride lurk behind every packing box. Bernard Hill, Warren Mitchell and Maurice Denham star.

The Hill (1965, b/w) ★★★★
5Action, 1.35pm  
Sidney Lumet directs Sean Connery as one of five new inmates at a military prison in the Libyan desert, alongside Ossie Davis as a (non-PC) West Indian. Ian Hendry is the sadistic sergeant who forces the prisoners to run in the blistering heat. Ray Rigby adapted his screenplay from the stage play based on his own time spent in prison, but there’s nothing theatrical about this tightly wound critique of British class and bureaucracy.

Risky Business (1983) ★★★★
Sky Cinema Greats, 9.45pm  
This slick fantasy for adolescent males brings together a union of sex and money so brazen that it now seems a little distasteful. Tom Cruise scored his first big hit as the ambitious Chicago teenager who turns his house into a brothel for wealthy pals while his parents are on holiday. Most memorable is the scene featuring Cruise boogying around the house in his shirt and Y-fronts to Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger.

Nawal Al-Maghafi and Odd Petter Magnussen - Bard Gundersen/BBC
Nawal Al-Maghafi and Odd Petter Magnussen - Bard Gundersen/BBC

Tuesday 28 March

Murder in Mayfair
BBC Two, 9pm
The reliably fascinating This World strand presents a story 15 years in the making, but one which has lost none of its power to enrage. In 2008, 23-year-old Norwegian student Martine Vik Magnussen was killed in a flat near Mayfair. The prime suspect was Farouk Abdulhak, son of a Yemeni billionaire and the last person seen with her. Shortly after her body was discovered, he was found to have fled to his home country, which has no UK extradition treaty.

BBC correspondent Nawal Al-Maghafi has been on the case ever since, along with Martine’s redoubtable father, Odd Petter Magnussen. For years, Abdulhak’s impeccable connections made him impossible to reach. But the Yemeni civil war has seen his allies fall from grace while he forged a new career in cryptocurrency. Al-Maghafi eventually establishes contact over Snapchat (the film-makers make a virtue of the innate tension of online messaging), and their exchanges prove illuminating, infuriating and shocking. Almost equally intriguing are the fleeting insights offered into how a documentary such as this is put together, as the journalist confers with producers and commissioners on how best to proceed. GT

Mae Martin: SAP
Fresh from the triumph of their sadcom Feel Good and with an imminent slot on Taskmaster, the brilliant Mae Martin’s breakthrough is surely confirmed by this one-hour stand-up special. Brimming over with their trademark wide-eyed, frantic self-analysis, topics include the gender spectrum, hot dogs, tree sap and a meeting with a moose.

Love Your Garden for Less
ITV1, 8pm; UTV, 11.25pm; Wales, 11.30pm
With more people staying put and the cost-of-living crisis biting, is a garden makeover possible on a relatively tight budget? Katie Rushworth and David Domoney meet two couples with £3,500 to spend and very different ideas of how they want to spend it.

Bear Grylls Meets President Zelensky
Channel 4, 8pm
While circumstances may prevent him from “running wild” with Bear Grylls, Volodymyr Zelensky has invited the adventurer to Kyiv for a face-to-face interview. Along the way, Grylls encounters citizens and soldiers, but the main man himself is worth the trip, with the effortlessly charismatic Ukrainian president on open and engaging form.

Anton & Giovanni’s Adventures in Sicily
BBC One, 9pm
All the while walking a tightrope between endearing and irritating, Anton Du Beke and Giovanni Pernice continue their journey across the Italian island. This week includes paddleboarding, zip wires, helicopter rides and a yomp up Mount Etna in the company of Rose Ayling-Ellis.

DNA Journey
ITV1, 9pm
Following her revelatory recent return to the South Africa of her childhood, Oti Mabuse ropes in big sister Motsi for a trawl through their family history – a tougher assignment than it would be for many, with accurate records for black South Africans extremely hard to come by. Yet the ensuing hour brings links to royalty, musical prodigies, war heroes and equal doses of joy and pain.

Celebrity Hunted
Channel 4, 9pm
With the good cause of Stand Up to Cancer to spur them on, 10 celebrities are paired up and sent on the run, aiming to remain at large for 14 days. Among the famous faces are Strictly’s Katya Jones, actors Nikesh Patel and Nicola Thorp and, pushing the format to its limits, comedians James Acaster and Ed Gamble.

Hobson’s Choice (1953, b/w) ★★★★
Film4, 11am  
In this adaptation of the 1915 Harold Brighouse play of the same name, hero Willie Mossop (John Mills) finds, after long enduring the tyranny of his boss Henry Horatio Hobson (Charles Laughton), that he does have a choice over how he’ll conduct his life after all (despite the film’s title). The winner of Bafta’s 1954 Best British Film Award, Hobson’s Choice also features Prunella Scales in one of her first film roles. A Great British classic.

Paul (2011) ★★★
Comedy Central, 9pm  
Here’s another solid comedy from Shaun of the Dead dreamteam Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. They’re two geeks who set out on a cross country road trip; Seth Rogen, transformed through motion capture, is the friendly alien they find along the way. But when the Secret Service starts sniffing around the extraterrestrial, the two best friends must help him escape. A clever, charming send-up of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., among other science-fiction films.

Meet Joe Black (1998) ★★★
BBC One, 10.40pm  
Brad Pitt heads up this three-hour remake of the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday. Death visits Earth by possessing the body of a handsome man (Pitt, as charismatic as ever), but soon falls in love with the daughter (Claire Forlani) of New York media tycoon Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins). This is a bittersweet romance with a winning cast and an enchanting score, but the characters are far too idealised.

Chris O'Dowd stars in charming comedy The Big Door Prize - Apple TV+
Chris O'Dowd stars in charming comedy The Big Door Prize - Apple TV+

Wednesday 29 March

The Big Door Prize
Apple TV+
One morning, seemingly out of nowhere, a mysterious machine appears in the grocery store of a small American town. It is called Morpho and, as the community soon discovers, it is able to accurately predict a person’s “life potential” – the best possible life they could or could have achieved. One man gets magician, a talent that he had given up on. Others get cards reading biker, storyteller, male model, hero, royalty. That is the playful idea at the heart of this charming 10-part comedy, adapted from the eponymous book by MO Walsh, and featuring a charismatic lead performance from Chris O’Dowd. But beneath the absurdity there is also a profound and affecting story about the existential angst of middle age.

Take Dusty (O’Dowd), a 40-year-old teacher who, before Morpho, was seemingly content with an ordinary life as a family man. But that all changes when he and his wife, Cass (Gabrielle Dennis), receive their cards. His suggests a life that will ultimately amount to nothing more than it already is; hers reveals a life that could have been vastly different. It is a smart and wonderfully imaginative way to explore happiness and regret. The first three episodes arrive today (Wednesday). SK

In this eight-part adaptation (confirmed to be the sole series) of Octavia Butler’s 1979 novel, young black writer Dana (Mallori Johnson) keeps finding herself pulled back and forth in time between modern-day Los Angeles and a 19th-century plantation. Johnson is terrific, even if the adaptation itself is unwieldy.

There’s a dry, caustic wit to this eight-part Australian comedy, which follows hard-partying food critic Liv (Celeste Barber) as she tries every wellness fad possible – from colonic cleansing to naked therapy. The gags are fairly hit and miss, although Barber’s performance as a human tornado is wonderful.

The Repair Shop
BBC One, 8pm
The most poignant arrival in the barn this week is a tiny pair of children’s shoes, once worn by 83-year-old Nechama from Tel Aviv. They have been cut open at the toes: her parents’ way of making them last longer. Can cobbler Dean Westmoreland repair them?

Race Across the World
BBC One, 9pm
Zainib and Mobeen are this week’s stars, having embraced the Canadian culture of ride-sharing to make their way 2,000km north to Dawson City. It is a quirk that introduces us to a range of colourful locals. Even if – in the words of Claudia – it can prove “soul-destroying” for any reserved Brit.

Glenda Jackson Remembers... Elizabeth R
BBC Four, 10pm
Glenda Jackson reflects on playing Elizabeth I in the landmark 1971 period drama Elizabeth R – a show that proved so popular with audiences that the BBC repeated it in full a week after it had finished. She recalls preparing for the role, and how she came to have huge admiration for the real-life Elizabeth. This is then followed by Elizabeth R itself, which airs with a double-bill afterwards at 10.10pm.

Dating, Halal Style: Love, Faith & Me
BBC One, 10.40pm; NI, 11.10pm
This week the religious documentary series joins recent Muslim convert Chiedza as she dips her toe into the strict world of Islamic dating. Like other modern-day singletons, she soon becomes addicted to dating apps; except these ones are Muslim-only and feature chaperones. It is a fascinating insight into the faith, where dating is motivated by the end goal of lifelong marriage above all else.

The Sapphires (2012) ★★★
AMC, 5pm  
This sparkling Australian musical-comedy is based in hard truth, but it’s been sufficiently softened for a family audience. Set in 1968 and bursting with enough newsreel footage to make sure we know it, Wayne Blair’s debut feature centres on three Aboriginal sisters and their Melbourne cousin who form a soul quartet, based on a real-life group, under the bleary auspices of Chris O’Dowd’s (see Feature, p24) whisky-sozzled impresario.

Coogan’s Bluff (1968) ★★★
ITV4, 10.15pm  
In this early Clint Eastwood outing, the young actor is an Arizona cop (deputy sheriff Walt Coogan) sent to New York to collect a killer (Don Stroud). He soon gets into a string of scrapes when the convict keeps managing to escape and the hero, too stubborn to return home empty-handed, must wearily set out to track him down. Eastwood may be playing to type here, but he’s nevertheless very watchable as the tough small-town cop.

The Great Gatsby (2000) ★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm  
Paul Rudd stars as naive young bonds salesman Nick Carraway, with Mira Sorvino as his wealthy and careless cousin Daisy Buchanan, and Toby Stephens as Jay Gatsby, the mysterious millionaire determined to win back her heart, in Robert Markowitz’s bold but stilted adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel set in the money and murk of 1920s New York. Despite the fine cast, it doesn’t really manage to convince.

Homeland's David Harewood explores the impact black American's have had on his life and global culture - Ian Watts/BBC
Homeland's David Harewood explores the impact black American's have had on his life and global culture - Ian Watts/BBC

Thursday 30 March

Get On Up: The Triumph of Black America
BBC Two, 9pm
British actor David Harewood, who rose to global prominence starring in the hit US TV series Homeland, has been living, working and succeeding in America for over a decade now and witnessing “at first hand the extraordinary influence that African-American culture has had on popular culture”.

In this heartfelt two-part series (boxsetted on iPlayer), he explores how black American creatives have had a profound impact on his life and, more widely, broken down the barriers of racism to change the world, and the world of entertainment, for the better. Beginning his deep personal connection to Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, Harewood looks at the careers of the first black American stars – Sammy Davis Jr and Sidney Poitier – who showed that his career was possible. From there he looks back at the pivotal movements – Blaxploitation films, the rise of Berry Gordy’s Motown – when pioneering black American musicians, actors, film-makers and choreographers took on the mainstream and transformed the cultural landscape from the 1960s up to the present day, meeting many of his heroes en route. GO

Six Four
An intense adaptation of Japanese author Hideo Yokoyama’s hit crime thriller, relocated from Tokyo to Glasgow. Kevin McKidd plays a jobbing detective and Vinette Robinson his wife, with a mysterious past, whose daughter disappears. It’s a tale so tangled that it can be off-putting initially, but it’s worth sticking with for the (boxsetted) long run.

The Dog Academy
Channel 4, 8pm
Can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Think again, as experts attempt to retrain some of the worst behaved dogs in Britain, led by Victoria Stilwell of It’s Me or the Dog fame. Tonight’s problematic pooches are a cockapoo that’s tearing its family apart and a chihuahua with aggression issues.

Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars
BBC One, 9pm
Gordon Ramsay’s derivative Apprentice-style cookery challenge returns for a second series, with 12 more of “the UK’s best up-and-coming food and drink entrepreneurs” competing to win an investment of £150,000. Things quickly go awry as the group goes head-to-head, split into two teams, tasked with creating five-star outdoor banquets in Ayrshire.

Jason & Clara: In Memory of Maudie
ITV1, 9pm
A deeply affecting film with actor Jason Watkins and his wife Clara Francis telling the story of their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Maudie’s sudden death from sepsis in 2011. More than a decade on, their pain remains palpable, but their determination to raise awareness of the condition is inspiring.

Channel 4, 9pm
Frankie Boyle, Ivo Graham, Jenny Eclair, Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Mae Martin are the comedians enduring various humiliations in pursuit of, as Greg Davies puts it, a “truly worthless” trophy, as the show reaches a remarkable 15th series. Alex Horne is on-hand, as ever, to organise the tasks, which tonight include dancing the best wedding dance ever and unwinding a ball of string.

Live: Vanished: The Hunt for Britain’s Missing People
Channel 5, 9pm
Following a one-off pilot in February about the search for Nicola Bulley in Lancashire, presenter Dan Walker goes on the trail of more people who have gone missing in the UK, with the help of families and friends left behind, police and missing persons charities.

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965, b/w) ★★★★
TCM Movies, 5.35pm  
Martin Ritt’s brooding John le Carré adaptation earned Richard Burton his fourth Oscar nomination (one of seven the Welshman didn’t win). He plays Alec Leamas, a British secret agent who is marked out by the East German intelligence service as a potential defector. It’s a gorgeous, chilly and sad piece that seems as fresh today as upon its release, with support from Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner and Cyril Cusack.

Rambo (2008) ★★★
ITV4, 10.15pm  
Vietnam, Afghanistan and now Burma: is nowhere on Earth safe from John Rambo and his distinctive (by modern standards, downright problematic) definition of what liberating a country might involve? Yet this fourth outing for Sylvester Stallone’s vengeful machete man works on its own terms – a film that knows what it is and a ready-made fan base to adore it. Here, the ageing warrior has to rescue a group of missionaries.

The Death of Dick Long (2019) ★★★
Film4, 11.15pm  
Daniel Scheinert, one half of recent Oscar-winning director-duo the Daniels, directed this black comedy just a few years before Everything Everywhere All at Once swept the Academy. Zeke (Michael Abbott Jr) and Earl (Andre Hyland) scramble to cover up the dodgy events that led to their friend’s death, but they soon realise that in small-town Alabama, there’s always someone snooping around.

Toni Collette, John Leguizamo and Auli'I Cravalho star in Amazon's electrifying adaptation - Katie Yu/Prime Video
Toni Collette, John Leguizamo and Auli'I Cravalho star in Amazon's electrifying adaptation - Katie Yu/Prime Video

Friday 31 March

The Power
Amazon Prime Video
Naomi Alderman’s 2016 novel was an ambitious reset of gender politics, exploring the repercussions of teenage girls across the world developing the power to generate and control electricity. Amazon’s nine-part adaptation is an accomplished and thoughtful combination of high-concept thriller and timely polemic, spanning the globe and deftly juggling numerous storylines and a big cast.

Episode one rests on the shoulders of Ria Zmitrowicz (Three Girls) as Roxy, acknowledged but ostracised illegitimate daughter of Eddie Marsan’s north London gangster; Halle Bush as Allie, an abused foster child struggling to reconcile her new powers with her religious faith; Ted Lasso’s Toheeb Jimoh as Nigerian YouTuber Tunde; and Auli’i Cravalho, the voice of Disney’s Moana who here plays Jos, a disillusioned teenager struggling to be “normal”. Later episodes introduce older women for whom these events offer enthralling, terrifying possibilities: Toni Collette’s Seattle mayor (also Jos’s mother) and Tatiana (Zrinka Cvitesic), the trophy wife of a dictator. The thrill of discovery wrestles with suppression of the unknown in the opening hours as the patriarchy teeters; later on comes the reality. GT

A Kind of Spark
BBC iPlayer
Bursting with charm and intelligence, this 10-part family drama (based on Elle McNicoll’s novel) starts on CBBC on April 17 and follows Addie Darrow (Lola Blue), an autistic teenager whose interest in medieval witch trials first offers escape from bullying peers and later a sense of mission.

Beyond Paradise
BBC One, 8pm
The smash whodunit spinoff has settled on a neat formula to which tonight’s episode cleaves tightly: arcane, borderline-daft case, twinned with mild personal turmoil. This week, Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) tackles a series of arson attempts seemingly linked by the Three Little Pigs fairy tale, while Martha (Sally Bretton) worries over Archie’s (Jamie Bamber) reaction to her rejection.

Great British Menu
BBC Two, 9pm
A total of 32 chefs are now down to just four for the final banquet to celebrate the world of animation and illustration. Gathering at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion (featured in The Snowman), they must rustle up dishes for guests including Cressida Cowell (How to Train Your Dragon), Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) and Aardman co-founder Peter Lord.

Drift: Partners in Crime
Sky Atlantic, 9pm & 10pm
The solidly entertaining odd-couple police thriller continues. Straight arrow Ali (Ken Duken) and wild card Leo (Fabian Busch) come to realise that they are embroiled in a Europe-wide conspiracy as they join the dots between the bridge collapse, the weapons container and yet another close shave.

The Cleaner
BBC One, 9.30pm
Simon Callow’s theatre manager is just one of the many obstacles to Wicky (Greg Davies) doing his job (crime-scene cleaner) tonight in this uncertain comedy-drama, when he arrives at a venue where a bloody brawl has interrupted a male strip show.

Late Night Lycett
Channel 4, 10pm
The dauntless Joe Lycett turns to topical chat and comedy in what sounds like a one-man, Birmingham-set blend of Graham Norton, Ant and Dec and The Mash Report. Lycett will be looking back at the week in politics, news and culture with celebrities and relatives, while also offering audience members the opportunity to win some of his own possessions. With equal potential for chaos and brilliance, only Lycett could conceivably pull this off.

Tetris (2023)
Apple TV+  
Rocketman’s Taron Egerton (see Saturday) stars in this nostalgic gaming-drama based on the true story of American salesman Henk Rogers, who discovered Tetris – the addictive puzzle game created by Soviet engineer Alexey Pajitnov – in 1988. Before Rogers could turn the game into a global phenomenon, however, he had to reckon with the dangerous web of lies and corruption that lurked behind the Iron Curtain. Toby Jones and Roger Allam co-star.

Murder Mystery 2 (2023)
Murder Mystery starred Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston as a perfectly normal couple who get framed for murder while on the holiday of a lifetime. In this no-frills (and few laughs) sequel, the couple are now private detectives on the cusp of launching their own agency when a friend’s abduction lands them at the centre of an international crisis. It’s certainly not the pinnacle of cinema, but Sandler and Aniston’s natural charisma makes it worthwhile.

Pretty Woman (1990) ★★★★
BBC One, 10.40pm  
Initially intended as a dark drama about prostitution in 1990s LA, this romcom has been an enduring success, with a spinoff hit West End musical and endlessly quotable material. Millionaire Edward (Richard Gere) takes a wrong turn while borrowing his friend’s Lotus and asks for directions home from call girl Vivian (Julia Roberts). She steers him back to his hotel, he pays her $3,000 to be his escort and, somewhat improbably, they fall in love.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) ★★★
ITV1, 10.45pm  
East meets West in the third film in the lean, mean series as Lucas Black steps up as the car enthusiast, here sent to live in Tokyo where he discovers drift racing – a sport where the driver intentionally oversteers – and buddies up with Bow Wow as entrepreneurial youth Twinkie. Moving the action to Japan was a masterstroke, allowing the film-makers to explore the visually impressive city.

Television previewers

Chris Bennion (CB), Jack Taylor (JT), Veronica Lee (VL), Stephen Kelly (SK), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Poppie Platt (PP) and Gabriel Tate (GT)