What’s on TV tonight: Brian Cox – How The Other Half Live, 1899 and more

Kevin, Michelle, Natasha & Damion - Pete Dadds/Channel 4
Kevin, Michelle, Natasha & Damion - Pete Dadds/Channel 4

Thursday 17 November

Brian Cox: How the Other Half Live
Channel 5, 9pm
Cashing in on the Scottish actor’s newfound headlining status as Logan Roy, the creative team behind this two-part documentary have decided to both examine the theme and riff on the theme tune of Succession. The result is an intriguingly off-kilter documentary, Brian Cox’s inexperience and occasional discomfort as a presenter and “intrepid reporter” making for an affecting and occasionally apoplectic hour.

This first part takes him to Miami, London and his old stomping ground in east Scotland, where he is appalled to see evidence that “Dundee has gone pretty much full circle” with the poverty of his childhood once again widespread. In Miami, he is dismayed by the cheek-by-jowl living of the super-rich and desperately poor, as property developers force local people out of their communities. London, meanwhile, offers the chance to meet the UK’s 115th richest man, a 70-year-old tech billionaire whose good intentions Cox isn’t really given enough time to fully interrogate. But Cox is an engagingly heart-on-sleeve frontman, as forthright with his director Tristan Quinn as he is with all his interviewees, whichever side of the wealth divide they fall. GT

Emily Beecham and Aneurin Barnard lead a multinational cast in this lavish German-made mystery-horror which follows the migrant passengers on a steamship from London to New York after the discovery of an apparently abandoned ship called – never a good sign, this – Prometheus. Bearing the technical excellence and occasional narrative shortcomings of Dark, with which it shares a creative team, 1899 is an overblown treat.

Dead to Me
Award-winning and unusual, the third and final season of the black comedy, pairing brooding Christina Applegate and optimistic Linda Cardellini as two grieving widows bonding through therapy, begins with a bombshell and yet another hit-and-run.

Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?
Cindy Crawford and Stormy Daniels’s lawyer Michael Avenatti are among the unlikely cameos in this uproariously entertaining documentary, telling the story of two men as they take an absurd mid-1990s advertising gambit at face value: earn 7 million “Pepsi Points” and win a fighter jet. Scams and court battles follow.

The Secret Genius of Modern Life
BBC Two, 8pm
Hannah Fry analyses the success of food delivery apps from Deliveroo to Just Eat; the approach is a little like Inside the Factory (blissfully shorn of Gregg Wallace) – big on technical detail and history, lighter on wider, more problematic issues. But it is a lively and fun piece of popular science, nonetheless.

Oti Mabuse: My South Africa
BBC One, 9pm; not Wales
Unsinkably effervescent and positive company, former Strictly pro Oti Mabuse makes a fine guide to her native South Africa in this one-off film where she meets inspirations past and present, considers the long shadow of apartheid and does a lot of dancing.

The English
BBC Two, 9pm
An expert at allowing plots to unravel before pulling all the strands tight at the end, Hugo Blick has pulled off another triumph with The English. This second episode follows Eli (Chaske Spencer) and Cornelia (Emily Blunt) northwards where they encounter farmers and refugee children. Thomas Trafford (Tom Hughes), meanwhile, turns to dodgy local sheriff (Blick regular Stephen Rea) for protection from homesteaders. Thrillingly smart, this is TV drama at its peak.

Aisha (2022) ★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere, 8pm
With a stellar cast that includes Black Panther’s Letitia Wright and The Crown’s Josh O’Connor, Frank Berry’s drama is a devastating insight into immigration and hope forged against the odds. Wright plays Aisha, a woman caught up in the labyrinth of Ireland’s immigration system, who develops a close bond with former prisoner Conor (O’Conner). However, their tender friendship is soon threatened by officials.

Philomena (2013) ★★★★
BBC Four, 9pm
This true story is based on the work of journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), who worked with Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), an Irishwoman then in her seventies, as she searched for her son, Anthony, whom she was forced to give up for adoption as a toddler. Stephen Frears’s film delivers some savage emotional blows, as well as a number of harsh, necessary truths about the historical influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

A Little Chaos (2014) ★★★
BBC Four, 10.30pm
Alan Rickman turned his hand to directing (for the second, and final, time, following 1997’s The Winter Guest) for this period drama, set during the reign of France’s King Louis XIV. It follows architects André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) as they attempt to design the grand Gardens of Versailles for the King. It’s a little soppy in places, but the sets and costumes are opulent and gorgeous.

BBC Children in Need 2022 hosts Jason Manford, Mel Giedroyc, Alex Scott, Ade Adepitan and Chris Ramsey - Guy Levy/Ray Burmiston/BBC
BBC Children in Need 2022 hosts Jason Manford, Mel Giedroyc, Alex Scott, Ade Adepitan and Chris Ramsey - Guy Levy/Ray Burmiston/BBC

Friday 18 November

Children in Need 2022
BBC One, 7pm
The annual Pudsey Bear fundraiser, which has been going since 1980 and has raised more than £1.5 bn, comes live from MediaCityUK in Salford; sharing presenting duties are Ade Adepitan, Mel Giedroyc, Chris Ramsey and Alex Scott, with comedian Jason Manford appearing for the first time. The by-now established line-up includes sketches from popular BBC shows, including Blankety Blank, The Repair Shop and The Weakest Link, as well as dance and live music from Lewis Capaldi and – the BBC promises – a few big surprises on the night.

Call me heartless, but I’m particularly looking forward to a special edition of Graham Norton’s Red Chair, where celebrities are flipped if their anecdotes aren’t up to snuff. Michael Ball presents the Sir Terry Wogan Fundraiser of the Year Awards to honour the people who support the charity’s work, and we’ll see updates on two initiatives – the Rickshaw Relay with Matt Baker and DIY SOS with Nick Knowles – while Joe Wicks’s marathon walk today ends in the studio. The funds raised tonight will go to frontline support for children and young people across the UK who, during the cost-of-living crisis, need our help now more than ever. VL

Mickey: The Story of a Mouse
Jeff Malmberg’s naturally somewhat hagiographic documentary tells us how a simple sketch of three circles on a page in 1928 (by Walt Disney and fellow animator Ub Iwerks) has grown into a global enterprise jokily called the “House of mouse”. Malmberg recounts Disney’s history and its enormous cultural reach – it represents, one contributor says, “the innocence we eventually lose, and would like back”.

Reign Supreme
Want to know about French rappers NTM, the arrival of hip-hop in France in the 1980s and its influence on French culture? Then look no further than this subtitled six-part drama series (with, as you might expect, a booming soundtrack) starring Anthony Bajon and Melvin Boomer as the teenage friends who formed NTM in 1989 – and learn the very rude saying it stands for.

Three Mothers, Two Babies and a Scandal
Prime Video
In 2000 a Welsh couple, Judith and Alan Kilshaw, paid $12,000 over the internet to adopt twins from a young American mother, but then another couple claimed the babies had been kidnapped. Private pain became a public flaying as the story hit the tabloids; now this three-part documentary unpacks the shocking tale of “the first major scandal of the internet age”.

Susan Calman’s Grand Day Out
Channel 5, 8pm
The comic continues her travels in Yorkshire, where she visits the county’s largest lavender farm and positively squeaks with excitement when he reaches Oakworth Station and its steam railway; it’s the station where The Railway Children was filmed.

The Great Game
Sky Atlantic, 9pm & 10pm
A world involving multi million-euro deals and some of the world’s top footballers (and egos) proves rich pickings in this deliciously bingeable eight-part Italian drama. Francesco Montanari stars as discredited agent Corso, who begins to rebuild his career by competing against his ex-wife (Elena Radonicich) for football’s newest star.

The Last Leg
Channel 4, 10pm
After 10 years of this review of the week’s news, Alex Brooker still hasn’t quite mastered delivering “impromptu” gags off the autocue, but here’s hoping for this new series. Adam Hills hosts, with guests ex-footballer Peter Crouch, presenter AJ Odudu and reigning Strictly champ Rose Ayling-Ellis.

The People We Hate at the Wedding (2022)
Amazon Prime Video  
Based on Grant Ginder’s 2016 novel of the same name, this easy-going comedy centres on struggling American siblings Alice (The Good Place’s Kristen Bell) and Paul (Ben Platt) as they reluctantly agree to attend the wedding of their wealthy, aristocratic half-sister (The Rings of Power’s Cynthia Addai-Robinson) in the English countryside alongside their chaotic mother Donna (Allison Janney).

Spirited (2022)
Apple TV+
Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol gets its requisite annual makeover in this musical comedy that tells the classic story from the perspective of the ghosts, who are played by Will Ferrell, Sunita Mani and Loren G Woods. Children will love its riotous song-and-dance routines, and it might just get the Scrooges among us in the Christmas spirit bright and early. This imaginative update on the beloved tale also stars Ryan Reynolds.

Disenchanted (2022)
Fifteen years on from the release of fairy-tale hit Enchanted, Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey reprise their roles as Giselle and Robert; she’s a cartoon princess who fell to Earth by way of an NYC sewer and he’s a city man who happens to fall in love with her. Now, they’re living out in the suburbs for that idyllic family life – but Giselle, bored and restless, craves a bit of her former home’s beauty. Cue lots of magic and disastrous results. James Marsden co-stars.

Television previewers

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