Small-Screen Jabber 11-17 March


Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård head a stellar cast in the TV adaptation of Big Little Lies (Mon, Sky Atlantic, 9pm), the Australia-set novel by Liane Moriarty. On-screen, the action has been moved to middle-class Monterey in California. This is a dark and comedic exploration of the implosions that occur in the community when an unknown victim is killed at the high school and all the pupils come under suspicion. Three of the mothers (Witherspoon, Kidman and Shailene Woodley) find their seemingly perfect lives start to unravel as dark secrets are exposed.

Midnight Sun Leila Bekhti Gustaf Hammarsten march11 embedSky’s new scandi-noir drama Midnight Sun (Wed, Sky Atlantic, 10pm) is set in the Swedish part of Lapland in the north of the country. A French citizen has been brutally killed (look away now if you are phobic about helicopters) in the small mining community of Kiruna and the Paris gendarmerie has despatched detective Kahina Zadi (Leïla Bekhti) to investigate. Zadi joins forces the local district attorney Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten), who is half-Sami, half-Swedish – they soon realise they have a ruthless serial killer in their midst who has a macabre agenda. There is some lovely cinematography in a beautiful landscape in this thought-provoking thriller that has a running theme of racism lacing it throughout.

Another chance to see: Line of Duty (Sat, BBC1, midnight). With series 4 due to start soon (no transmission date yet), here’s an opportunity to recap the whole of series 3 as AC12 investigate corruption in the ranks of the Met.


The endurances of Syrian children as they escape the horrors of war are heart-rending. Twelve-year-old Rawan tells how her family had to flee their comfortable home in Aleppo in War Child (Sun, C4, 10.30pm), while Emran, 11, explain why his dad sent him alone to Europe after the Taliban starting shooting children on their way to school. Film-maker Jamie Roberts, who won awards for his earlier documentary, The Jihadis Next Door, follows Emran and Rawan as they make a perilous journey to the west in search of refuge. A deeply moving and affecting account of what became of these two children.

Dogged investigation is what finally brought the killer of 13-year-old gymnast Yara Gambirasio to justice. Murder in Italy (Mon, BBC4, 10pm) tells the story of magistrate Letitizia Ruggeri’s determined four-year hunt, with only a small sample of DNA as a clue and no national DNA database in the country, after Yara’s body was found three months after she vanished in Bergamo in 2010. This extraordinary feature-length documentary reveals how Ruggeri, who built her experience investigating mafia killings, finally traced the man known as Unknown Male One.

tom kerridge cherry healey march 11 embedChinese, the post-pub kebab or a curry? The takeaway is a staple of our culinary life and behind every one that gets fined for mouse droppings and broken refrigeration is one that wins awards for quality that could rival a decent restaurant. Chef Tom Kerridge and presenter Cherry Healey travel the country to find The Best of British Takeaways (Tues, BBC2, 7pm) in a three-part series that kicks off with a look at the very un-British origins of fish and chips. What marks this series out is its exploration of the traditions and communities behind the takeaway shops. What’s disappointing is the cook-offs where they get the finalists to reinvent the dish. Curry powder and halloumi really have no place near a deep-fryer.

It’s quite the week for films on the forensics of identity. Mystery of the Man on the Moor (Wed, C4, 10pm) explores the secret history of an elderly man found dead on Saddleworth Moor among the hills above Manchester. With no ID to go on, and a post mortem that revealed the man had apparently killed himself with strychnine, detectives took a year to unravel who he was and why he had decided to end his life in such a remote place. The search for clues was almost personal once the police decided to nickname their unknown corpse, and after they finally made a breakthrough people who had known “Neil Dovestone” came forward to share their knowledge of his life.


American standup Rich Hall has fairly successfully reinvented himself as a presenter of quirky documentaries, often of a political bent. In Rich Hall’s Countrier Than You (Fri, BBC4, 9pm), his love of country music leads him to Nashville and Austin to explore the origins of this most American of musical genres. Bluegrass, Americana and swing have all influenced country, but Hall also shows how much it is a lifestyle too. Most intriguing is his dissection of the differences between the country of Tennessee and that of Texas – each has its own hallmarks and styles, from cosmic country and redneck country to the outlaw artists of the 1970s. Accompanied by some of country music’s top performers and producers, such as Michael Martin Murphey, Robbie Fulks and Ray Benson, Hall visits iconic recording studios and looks at some of the lesser-known artists who made unacknowledged contributions to the sound of the Deep South.


Barrister Robert Rinder, doyen of TV’s Judge Rinder court case series and breakout star of Strictly Come Dancing, gets serious in Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories (Fri, ITV, 8pm), a series of 30-minute reassessments of real life crime cases. As you might expect, it relies on reconstructions that don’t always quite work and Rinder can be a little tiresome every time he riffs on the clichéd “crime that shocked a nation”, but the cases he’s picked to re-examine are great examples of miscarriages of justice. In the opening episode he looks at why a man was jailed for 17 years for attempted rape even though he was at home miles away when the attack happened.

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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