Small-Screen Jabber 17-23 February

Drama

troy fall of city trojan horse

The epic story of Paris and Helen of Troy and the subsequent attack on Troy by Greek soldiers hiding inside the legendary wooden horse is well known. Now, David Farr, who adapted John Le Carré’s The Night Manager for the BBC, has written the eight-part Troy: Fall Of A City (Sat, BBC1, 9.10pm). Herdsman Paris (Louis Hunter) falls in love with Helen (Bella Dayne), who is married to King Menelaus of Sparta. She elopes to Troy with Paris, triggering the Trojan War. As a co-production with Netflix, this has enjoyed a big budget (reputedly $70m) that can be seen in the high production values and sumptuous cinematography, and it explores the big themes of love, betrayal and revenge, alongside fabulous set piece scenes of battle. Definitely worth staying in for on Saturday nights, the cast includes Jonas Armstrong, David Threlfall, Frances O’Connor, Joseph Mawle and Chloe Pirrie.

Mosaic embed

Sharon Stone and director Steven Soderbergh join forces in Mosaic (Sat, Sky Atlantic, 10pm), a six-part crime thriller set in an affluent rural community in Utah. Stone is Olivia Lake, a successful children’s author who disappears in suspicious circumstances. The local residents are usually tight-lipped, to protect their privileged status quo, but unpleasant secrets and lies soon surface as the police begin their investigation and a couple of lovers are named as “persons of interest”. No previews were available but, intriguingly, HBO has created an app to go with the series that allows you to explore the characters in detail and examine unaired material.

Factual

the first brit2

You won’t have missed the news last week that Cheddar Man was black, in a startling revelation about the genetic make-up of the earliest inhabitants of Britain. The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man (Sun, C4, 8pm) reveals the research into the oldest complete skeleton found in the UK – dubbed Cheddar Man – and the DNA analysis carried out by a team of scientists at the Natural History Museum and University College London. This resulted in a Dutch team of expert model makers recreating the head and face of the skeleton, to provoke hilarious outrage among the UK’s right-wingers. This fascinating documentary explores how we need to rethink our idea of “Britishness” as well as being an exciting scientific programme in its own right.

The hideous decades of sexual abuse and harassment alleged by scores of actresses are put sharply in the spotlight in Working with Weinstein (Tues, C4, 10pm). Film mogul Harvey Weinstein is under criminal investigation in both the UK and US right now, and his fall has been swift, with expulsion from Bafta and the Academy in the US. Those who worked with him in Britain testify here and the programme also explores how Weinstein was supported by enablers, how he silenced his alleged victims and why it took so long for the scandal to break.

Music

Brit awards 2018

The biggest award ceremony in the UK for artists is undoubtedly The Brit Awards (Tues, ITV, 8pm), even if it’s not the coolest. Gorillaz and London Grammar are among the bands hoping to be named best British group, while the inevitable Ed Sheeran is up for best British male, but could be pipped by Liam Gallagher, for his acclaimed solo album. Best British female artist could go to Kate Tempest or Laura Marling. Jack Whitehall is hosting – his first time – from the O2, with performances from Rita Ora, Jorja Smith and Justin Timberlake. Tune into ITV2 before and after for red carpet and backstage stuff.

old grey whistle test live

Readers old enough to remember its heyday will love The Old Grey Whistle Test Live: For One Night Only (Fri, BBC4, 9pm). And if you aren’t? You’ll love the chance to see the stars of the past (now so-called “heritage” artists) in their heyday. It was a hugely influential programme that also featured up and coming bands and discussed music from a serious standpoint. It’s 30 years since the BBC retired OGWT from the airwaves and its presenter “Whispering” Bob Harris fronts this three-hour dip into the archives for some of the show’s finest performances. There are also live guests – assorted musicians, in the shape of Joan Armatrading, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, Chris Difford of Squeeze and Kiki Dee, and additional presenters Annie Nightingale and Andy Kershaw share their memories and there are live performances from Peter Frampton, Albert Lee and Rixhard Thompson.

Culture

imagine mel brooks

Film-maker Mel Brooks is profiled in Imagine…Mel Brooks Unwrapped (Sat, BBC2, 10pm). Alan Yentob’s film is comprehensive – the cameras follow Brooks at work, there’s a rambling (because anecdotes) but insightful interview (which Brooks was initially reluctant to do, fearing he would die soon after, like many of Yentob’s subjects) and lots of archive clips, including of Brooks’s defining films – Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Producers.

baftas 2018

The film award season is underway and it’s the turn of the British Academy Film Awards (Sun, BBC1, 9pm), with Joanna Lumley hosting in place of Stephen Fry at the Royal Albert Hall. No surprises to see Darkest Hour and Dunkirk among the nominees for best film, and Gary Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Hawkins among the Brits for best actor/actress gongs. The smart money says Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is likely to run away with the most trophies – it qualifies as a Film4 co-production.

Comedy

hold the sunset

Romance and retirement are on the menu in Hold the Sunset (Sun, BBC2, 7,30pm), a comedy drama starring John Cleese as Phil and Alison Steadman as his neighbour Edith. Both are in their 70s and in a relationship – they decide to get married, sell up and move abroad to somewhere warm and sunny. But then Edith’s 50-year-old son Roger (the scene-stealing Jason Watkins) arrives with his suitcases and shatters their plans. The emotionally stunted and demanding Roger’s not visiting either – his wife has dumped him so he’s moving in for good, with the hope of recapturing his happy childhood, and soon he and Phil are competing for Edith’s attention. Cleese is very watchable, in his first TV outing in years. Episode one is patchy, but stick with it as it warms up nicely.

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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