Small-Screen Jabber 21-27 May

Drama

Fans of Kenneth Branagh can enjoy a double bill of his talents this weekend. He plays the title role in Shackleton (Sat, More4, 9pm), the true story of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s failed expedition to the Antarctic in 1914, on the ship Endurance. First shown on Channel 4 in 2002, it won a clutch of Baftas and Emmys and the cast includes Kevin McNally, Lorcan Cranitch, Danny Webb and Phoebe Nicholls. Charles Sturridge’s biopic uses first-hand accounts by those on the expedition – the narrative is a bit sluggish to start, as Shackleton tries to raise funds for the expedition, but you’ll quickly be lost in its grip. Thick sea ice traps the ship and Shackleton races the clock to undertake an epic trip to South Georgia to send a rescue party for his men. Branagh is also Wallander (Sun, BBC1, 9pm), playing the morose Swedish detective for a final series of three feature-length episodes. In this opener, Wallander is in South Africa for a conference and is called in to help when a Swedish woman goes missing in Cape Town. He is soon embroiled in what turns out to be a complex conspiracy that threatens his life.

the catch small screen jabber 21 may 2016 embedNovelist Kate Atkinson came up with the idea behind Shonda Rhimes’ brand new US crime thriller The Catch (Thurs, Sky Living, 10pm). Alice Vaughn (Mireille Enos) is a smart, successful fraud investigator, but has just been conned out of millions herself by her fiancé Benjamin (played by Peter Krause), who promptly disappears. Alice vows revenge and sets out to find him before her career is derailed. A slick and glossy crime caper, the plotlines are too often easily signposted but it’s an enjoyable romp with shades of The Thomas Crown Affair.

Factual

On the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, Jutland: WW1’s Greatest Sea Battle (Sat, C4, 8pm) re-examines what happened in an attempt to challenge the accepted version. In the two-day sea battle off the coast of Denmark's Jutland peninsula, thousands of British sailors lost their lives under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, versus the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet. Jellicoe’s grandson Nick uses state of the art sonar scanning to explore the wrecks on the seabed to piece together clues from the debris. He also investigates how in the aftermath of the loss, the recriminations saw documents tampered with, signatures forged and Jellicoe’s reputation trashed in the Navy’s official report. A paean for a vanishing community is at the heart of Last Whites of the East End (Tues, BBC1, 10.45pm). The London borough of Newham, one of the UK’s most ethnically diverse areas, now officially records the lowest percentage of white Britons in its population. Among the few white working class still living there are those trying to escape to build a better life elsewhere (Newham is also one of the UK’s most impoverished boroughs) and a handful trying to hang onto a vanishing world of boxing clubs, tea dances and working men’s clubs. A thoughtful look at how radically the East End has changed.

Arts

The life of one of our most prolific yet under-recognised directors is profiled in From EastEnders to Hollywood: Antonia Bird (Sun, BBC4, 9pm). She worked across the board, bringing a raw edge to working-class dramas as well as enjoying acclaim at the Royal Court Theatre. This profile gives a great flavour of the scope of her work and is nicely bookended by, first, the legendary EastEnders two-hander between Den and Angie Watts as divorce looms, and secondly a re-showing of Care, a harrowing tale of abuse in a children’s home starring Steven Mackintosh, from 2000.

Comedy

The goings on of lower league football is the premise for Rovers (Tues, Sky1, 10pm), in which struggling Redbridge Rovers dream of making it to the Evo-Stik Premier league. Among its loyal fans are Pete (Craig Cash, who also directs), who is obsessed with match statistics, and club matriarch Doreen (Sue Johnston) who runs the clubhouse bar and likes a good gossip. Written by Joe Wilkinson and David Earl, and co-starring Steve Speirs, Seb Cardinal and Diane Morgan, this down-to-earth sitcom holds much promise.

Sport

fa cup final small screen jabber 21 may 2016 embed2Two big sporting finals loom this weekend. Crystal Palace take on Manchester United in the FA Cup Final (Sat, BBC1, 4.15pm), live from Wembley. Crystal Palace are the underdogs – can they do a Leicester and pull off a surprise win? Gary Lineker anchors the commentary and kick-off is at 5.30pm. Across the border, Rangers go head to head with Hibernian in the Scottish Cup Final (Sat, Sky Sports 1, 2pm). With a kick-off at 3pm, this is a match made interesting for two reasons – both teams are in the second league and Hibs last lifted the trophy in 1902. Second seed Andy Murray is in terrific form to go all the way in the French Open (from Sun, ITV4, from 9.30am). He beat his nemesis Novak Djokovic in the Rome Masters only a week ago and with Federer withdrawing due to injury, he must stand his best chance yet at Roland-Garros. John Inverdale anchors all the live coverage for the next fortnight.

Politics

With barely a month until the EU referendum, Boris v Dave: the Battle for Europe (Wed, C4, 9pm) explores the rivalry between two of the UK’s most high-profile political leaders – one heading the Brexit campaign, the other not only making the case to remain but trying to hold together a party split on the issue since forever. Both educated at Eton and Oxford (and members of the notorious Bullingdon Club), their parallel lives part company on Europe. Michael Crick looks at their strengths and weaknesses and what the outcome of the referendum will mean for each of them whichever way the vote goes. Victoria Derbyshire hosts a live studio debate among an audience of under-30s in How Should I Vote? The EU Debate (Thurs, BBC1, 8pm). They’ll be throwing questions on a wide range of issues to a panel of senior politicians.

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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