Small-Screen Jabber 14-20 July

Drama

killed by my debt

In these straitened times, the experts reckon we are all only three pay packets away from homelessness and destitution. And Killed by My Debt (Wed, BBC1, 9pm) is a sobering depiction of how that can play out. The dramatised real-life trauma of London teenager Jerome Rogers (Chance Perdomo), in 2015 he got his first job as a motorbike courier and then a couple of small traffic fines that he struggled to pay escalated to thousands of pounds and the bailiffs seized his bike so he couldn’t work and… you can see where that is going. As a drama, it is unbearably sad – the title tells you the outcome – but it should make us all angry too, that in our wealthy nation so many of us are crushed by poverty wages and get trapped in a spiral of debt and payday loans and zero-hours contracts. Newcomer Perdomo is excellent as the kid trapped between a rock and a hard place, and Craig Parkinson (“Dot” Cottan from Line of Duty) as the hard-line bailiff is a convincing baddie.

Factual

our guy in russia

Who knew Vladimir Putin had a motorcycle gang? Guy Martin gets to hang out with the Night Wolves and their bikes in Our Guy in Russia (Mon, C4, 9pm). He also meets the so-called “rooftoppers”, the Russian equivalent of urban explorers, who trespass on skyscrapers and scale them – the police have a tough time catching them, takes a trip through the Moscow subway (which was part designed by British engineers) and gets to fly a jet plane that had once done service in the Soviet Airforce. This is a three-parter so the ex-motorbike racer gets up to more derring-do in later episodes.

Music

reginald d hunter songs of border

In Reginald D Hunter’s Songs of the Border (Sat, BBC2, 9pm) the standup takes a trip along the length of the US-Mexico border to explore the shared culture of Mexicans and Texans that is underpinned by music. It’s a poignant journey along the so-called “iron curtain” – the 2,000-mile border already has a 650-mile chain link fence, with no-go zones either side, delineating how the separation of music, and food and shared identity, across the divide hurts both Americans and Mexicans. Mexican styles of music such as cumbio and conjunto pop up in the quintessential Tex-Mex sound. Hunter – engaging and engaged – looks at how the region is depicted as both dangerous and a romantic place of escape through the sounds of Ry Cooder and the Drifters. In reality, Tex-Mex is often topical – immigration and drug smuggling, unsurprisingly. Musical contributions come from Lyle Lovett, Los Tucanes de TijuanaCalexico, Carrie Rodriguez, Asleep at the Wheel, Los Texmaniacs, Eva Ybarra and even Mexican rapper Cecy B.

Culture

Only a couple of weeks ago the celebrated Glasgow School of Art (top) was almost destroyed in the second fire there in four years, so the timing of Mackintosh: Glasgow’s Neglected Genius (Mon, BBC4, 10pm) weighs heavily – comparing that smouldering heap with once-beautiful and intricately designed interiors is painful. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was probably Scotland’s most famous architect, both celebrated and underappreciated. This film by Glaswegian artist Lachlan Goudie explores his astonishing legacy of iconic buildings, paintings and design, and looks also at his personal struggle to maintain his career. It makes you weep all the more for the loss of the art school.

mark kermode secrets of cinema

What defines a film genre? Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema (Tues, BBC4, 9pm) seeks to deconstruct the conventions and motifs that signal “genre alert!” – the first one the congenial film critic looks at is rom-coms, which often (but not always) have a trajectory of boy meets girl, they hate each on sight or are wrong place/wrong time, date other people, get together properly. The good ones will have a decent twist. Kermode has a good rummage in the archives for clips that illustrate his arguments and reveals how casting must mean chemistry, the techniques directors use and some of the tricks that can make or break a rom-com. In subsequent episodes, Kermode unpicks the genres of science fiction, horror, coming-of-age stories and heist films.

Comedy

Channel 4 has sneaked Who Is America? (Mon, C4, 10pm) into a last-minute slot in the schedule, replacing the advertised Eight Out of Ten Cats, presumably to avoid a string of lawsuits – Sacha Baron Cohen, best known as Ali G and Borat, has donned a fresh set of disguises to prank famous politicians in the US (you’ve probably seen Sarah Palin complaining about being duped in the press a few days ago), as new character Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr, PhD, who runs a fake news website called Truthbrary.org. It’s a masterclass in satirising the current state of play of American politics. So far, much is still under wraps but Palin, Roy Moore, Dick Cheney and Bernie Sanders are slated to appear, and possibly even Donald Trump, who was duped by Baron Cohen several years ago.

Entertainment

japandemonium

Back in the day, Channel 4 did a nice line in bizarre Japanese entertainment shows, and here’s another – albeit on another channel. Japandemonium (Sat, ITV, 6.30pm) may be just the ticket if you’ve had sport overload. It’s a slick compilation of clips from a whole bunch of Japanese gameshows – they seem to specialise over there in torture-level endurance, slapstick and humiliation. Melvin Odoom narrates as someone opens a lift full of eels, people stick pipe cleaners up their nostrils and amateur explosions on beaches and in crotches. Yes, you read that right.

Sport

Sadly, we didn’t make it through the World Cup semi-finals, but there’s still a chance in the Belgium v England (Sat, ITV, 2.30pm) play-off to come third. The match takes place at St Petersburg’s Krestovsky stadium and kickoff is at 3pm. The final is France v Croatia (Sun, BBC1/ITV, from 2.55pm) with the kickoff at 4pm at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow.

Both matches clash with the Wimbledon finals, and will be switched from BBC1 to BBC2 once the football coverage begins at 3pm – if you want to keep watching, you’ll need to flip channel. The women’s singles final of Serena Williams v Angelique Kerber (Sat, BBC1/2, from 11am) is set to start at 2pm. Serena to win, given her extraordinary comeback. The men’s final is Kevin Anderson v either Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic (Sun, BBC1/2, from 11am), also starting at 2pm. The Nadal-Djokovic match was still not completed when this was published. My gut says Kevin Anderson to be... runner-up, but he may surprise again!

Louise Bolotin is Screenjabber’s TV critic. She has a penchant for quality drama and quirky documentaries, slums it with EastEnders and pities people who watch reality TV, which might be why she never writes about The X Factor.

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