Small-Screen Jabber 28 May – 3 June


There are two trips this week to 17th century Paris. First up, the third, and alas final, series of The Musketeers (Sat, BBC1, 9.30pm). We’re four years on from last year’s action. Ladies man Aramis has exiled himself to a monastery, but trouble comes literally to his door and he rejoins D’Artagnan, Athos and Portos to do battle with a mercenary. As usual, our leather-clad heroes are buckling plenty of swashes, but check out Rupert Everett, who joins the cast as the dastardly, scheming and thoroughly corrupt Marquis de Feron, governor of Paris – with him on board, this series should be a real delight. As part of the BBC’s extensive Shakespeare season, reviver of Doctor Who and writer of Cucumber Russell T Davies tackles with gusto and daring the Bard’s most accessible play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Mon, BBC1. 8.30pm). This comedy of errors about mismatched, mixed-up couples in love looks nothing like you’ve seen it before. Visually sumptuous, with stunning CGI, it is darker and scarier, with menacing undertones. Maxine Peake, Matt Lucas and John Hannah head the cast.

versailles small screen jabber 28 may embedMeanwhile, back in 17th century Paris, Versailles (Wed, BBC2, 9.30pm), which stars George Blagden (left) as the Sun King, threatens to be dafter and kitscher than Eurovision rather than the glossy series with a nod to serious history you might expect. This camp French production – in English – has a thoroughly soapy feel, full of lumpen dialogue, heaving bosoms and cartoon violence. And there’s a lot of bare-bottomed sexual shenanigans among Louis XIV’s court. An acquired taste.

A better bet for new foreign drama is Dicte: Crime Reporter (Fri, More4, 9pm) and this one’s properly foreign, in Danish with subtitles. Crime journalist Dicte Svendsen (Iben Hjejle) quits a national newspaper in Copenhagen to return to her hometown and its local paper. She brings all her Fleet Street-style underhand tactics, employed to get the story, to her new job and quickly makes some serious enemies as a result. But she also nurses a dark secret – she’s back to trace her long-lost child, whom she was forced to give up for adoption in her youth. It’s a new take on the flawed maverick detective schtick, but well done. As a character, Dicte is annoying and hard to like at first, but she’ll grow on you. Trust me.


Perhaps the most shocking statistic of The Secrets of Growing Old (Wed, ITV, 9pm) is that human longevity is getting ever longer – some babies being born now could live up to double our three score and ten. Martin Clunes presents, throwing out an array of scientific facts about the ageing process, while a raft of very active 80+ year olds, many of whom have no plans to stop working, discuss how growing older means happier, smarter, more creative and more exciting. With identity theft and cyber crime, the fastest growing threat to personal security, Fraud – How They Steal Your ID (Fri, ITV, 9pm) takes a sobering look at how the con artists can raid your bank accounts. The current popular con is telephone banking fraud, using stolen credit card details bought on the internet’s dark web. Some £30 million was stolen this way last year alone. Detectives reveal how one fraudster, dubbed Mr Posh, stole astonishing sums by posing as the card owners and ringing their banks to persuade them to transfer funds to him.


top gear small screen jabber 28 may embedMinus Jeremy Clarkson and co, Top Gear (Sun, BBC2, 8pm) finally returns to the screen, dogged by a drip-drip of negative press coverage for weeks. Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc, the new presenters, will have their work cut out to live up to their predecessors. The Stig is still around but the other feature slots are mostly different. This week’s celebrity drivers are chef Gordon Ramsay and US actor Jesse Eisenberg.

Utter fluff, but if like me you sometimes wonder what happened to the stars of yore, look no further than Where Are They Now? The Reunions (Sun, ITV, 7pm). Child 80s reggae troupe Musical Youth are all grown up now but are they still playing? The Bay City Rollers are, as we watch them play a home gig in Edinburgh. Back on their beach are the red-swimsuited Baywatch cast and the Oxo family (minus Lynda Belligham, sadly). Hold your schadenfreude, you at the back there.


Ian Hislop and conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner unravel The Secret of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Sat, BBC2, 9pm), one of the composer’s most well known and most important. It had a lacklustre début at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, but despite its acclaim as one of the greatest classic pieces of all time its inspiration was unclear, unlike his other symphonies. The pair explore the idea that Beethoven‘s republicanism and support for the French Revolution were encoded in the score. Later you can watch Gardiner conduct it in Playing Beethoven’s Fifth (Sun, BBC4, 7pm). Several documentaries have been made already about Karen Carpenter’s shocking early death at 32, brought on by anorexia. Karen Carpenter: Goodbye to Love (Fri, Channel 5, 9pm) aims to shed further light on what triggered her illness – her overly controlling mother and a complicated relationship with brother Richard. This biopic uses rare archive footage, interviews with those who knew her and some scripted dramatisation based on first-hand accounts.


Channel 4’s Comedy Gala (Sun, C4, 9pm) offers a two and a half hour showcase fundraiser for Great Ormond Street Hospital. Among the stars strutting their funny stuff include Warwick Davis, Alan Carr, Russell Kane, Sean Locke and Shappi Khorsandi.

Another chance to see: Let’s Do It: A Tribute to Victoria Wood (Sat, ITV, 10pm). If you missed it earlier this month, this fabulous compilation of her best clips is accompanied by stars of stage and screen paying their respects to her prodigious talent.

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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