Small-Screen Jabber 11-17 February

The Baftas

baftas columnIf I, Daniel Blake doesn’t lift Best Film at this year’s British Academy Film Awards (Sun, BBC1, 9pm) there is no justice. That said, Ken Loach’s polemical masterpiece is also up for Outstanding British Film. It’s facing off some strong contenders in both categories – Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, Fantastic Beasts and Denial. There’s a strong British showing this year - Emily Blunt is nominated for The Girl on the Train, Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge. Stephen Fry presents from the Royal Albert Hall.

Drama

Discworld author Terry Pratchett faced up to his Alzheimer’s and death with remarkable candidness and dignity. And two years after his death he’s still telling his story. Paul Kaye stars as the writer in Terry Pratchett: Back in Black (Sat, BBC2, 9pm) – an uncanny rendition from Pratchett’s signature look of beard and fedora to the lispy estuary accent. The script uses Pratchett’s own words from his unfinished autobiography – entertaining, funny, moving and imbued with a sense of his rage and frustration at those who tried to thwart his career. Daughter Rhianna, Neil Gaiman, Val McDermid and real-life fans at the Discworld conventions pop up to share their stories of Pratchett.

TheTeam more4 columnThe real Europol looks positively floppy compared to the fictional Europol’s elite crime-fighting unit The Team (Fri, More4, 9pm), the latest European crime thriller to hit UK screens. Three sex workers are found dead – each shot through the left eye and missing a finger. The twist is that the bodies turn up in Antwerp, Berlin and Copenhagen and Europol’s Joint Investigation Team, led by Detective Harald Bjorn (Lars Mikkelsen of The Killing), is assigned to solve the transcontinental case. Visually it looks fab – the three countries it’s set in offering pleasing contrasting locations – and there are plenty of plot twists to rack up the suspense levels, the investigation soon revealing the trafficking of sex workers and the involvement of organised crime. Plus, it soon becomes clear that police corruption is damaging the Belgian end. As Euronoir goes, this is tense, non-nonsense and satisfying. In Danish, German, Flemish and English.

Factual

However cynical or not you are about Valentine’s Day, putting someone’s nuptials under the microscope ahead of the big day is a risky business. And director Paddy Wivell’s sharp milking of emotions in The Wedding Day (Mon, C4, 10pm) is a gift. The engaged couple, Serena and Jordan, seem solid enough despite their big differences in home background. But their parents bring their own experiences to bear on their expectations of how young married life should be. Fear, disappointment, anger and doubt are all on show in this slightly uncomfortable documentary.

Brains are complicated. And when they go wrong the results can be devastating. Broadcaster Andrew Marr discovered this when he had a near-catastrophic stroke four years ago. In Andrew Marr: My Brain and Me (Tues, BBC2, 9pm), he attempts to understand how the brain works – for him, this is a crucial part of his recovery and the knowledge that the brain can create new neural pathways will, he hopes, help him regain the use of his arm. A cure may be further away, but his conversations with other stroke survivors reveal that treatments to restore some bodily functions can still be very hit and miss.

mafia women trevor mcdonald itv columnBroadcaster Trevor McDonald steps into risky territory with his latest project – interviewing the wives, girlfriends and daughters of mobsters. Mafia Women with Trevor McDonald (Thurs, ITV, 9pm) is an unflinching two-parter in which these women talk frankly about how private life butts up against organised crime, sometimes with appalling consequences. Often, they explain, the violence spilled over into the home – boyfriends beaten up, offers to murder a husband. But home was also where mafiosos would be loving fathers and spouses. McDonald’s candid interviewing reveals how their lives are nothing like The Godfather or The Sopranos, but often far worse.

Music

Opera North’s acclaimed productions of Wagner’s Ring Cycle (Sun, BBC4, 7pm) kick off with Das Rheingold, the prequel to the other three operas. Usually known for overblown theatricality, Opera North’s stagings are quite the opposite – sparse and restrained, with few props or scenery, to allow the works to stand on their own merits. In Das Rheingold, dwarf king Alberich (Jo Pohlheim) steals the magic gold of the Rhinemaidens, setting in motion a terrible chain of events.

bruce springsteen ties that bind columnThey call him The Boss and his iconic double album The River is the focus of Bruce Springsteen: the Ties That Bind (Fri, BBC4, 10pm). Recorded in 1980, Springsteen talks about how he came to make the album – his personal experiences, his working class roots and a number of events all conspired to influence the songs that made the cut. Springsteen is always insightful and eloquent when talking about his work and this is no exception – the bonus is he also plays acoustic versions of some of the tracks. The album was followed by the legendary The River Tour and if you stay tuned after, BBC4 is screening the concert recorded in Phoenix, Arizona in 1980.

Entertainment

True soap legends are few and far between – Elsie Tanner, Peggy Mitchell, Bet Lynch, Pat Butcher... and, of course, Dot Cotton. June Brown at 90: a Walford Legend (Thurs, BBC1, 8.30pm) pays homage to one of EastEnders’ most iconic characters, or rather the actor behind her. It’s staggering to think Brown is 90 and has been playing Dot for 30 years. This rather charming profile has stars past and present of EastEnders lining up to pay tribute, Brown herself shares some memories and we are promised that a few birthday surprises are in store (let’s hope it’s not her P45).

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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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