Small-Screen Jabber 12-18 August

Drama

A tsunami washes over the British Isles and what happens next is explored in Performance Live: Flood to the Sea (Sat, BBC2, 1pm). A woman is found alive by a fisherman, who has caught her in his net. Is she a survivor, a migrant who has somehow found her way to England’s shore, or something else? This specially commissioned post-apocalyptic play by James Phillips was recorded during its performance on a floating stage in Hull docks as part of the city’s year-long Capital of Culture.

valkyrien embedFrom Nordic Noir to Scandi Surgical, the Norwegian Valkyrien (Sun, C4, 9pm) is a taut eight-part medical thriller set in Oslo, where respectable doctor Ravn Eikanger (Sven Nordin) has opened an illicit hospital hidden below the metro station of the show’s title. He has financial problems, hence illegally treating patients “off-grid” for a fee, no questions asked. He also has an estranged daughter and a wife presumed dead, but actually in a coma caused by a terminal degenerative disorder. Sidekick Leif finds Ravn’s customers, as seen in the opening sequence where a bank robber is shot in a botched raid but escapes wounded. Valkyrien has a suspenseful, subversive and paranoiac edge, and explores pertinent issues about rationed state healthcare provision. It also won a clutch of awards when it screened in Norway earlier this year. After the opening episode, you can find the whole boxset on All4 in the Walter Presents section.

Factual

kim jong nam airportAs Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un square up to each other over nuclear missiles, North Korea: Murder in the Family (Sun, BBC2, 9pm) is a timely look at some of the goings on in Pyongyang. In February, the dictator’s half-brother Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur airport using a lethal dose of a nerve agent and the shocking attack was captured on CCTV. This This World documentary reveals how the Kim dynasty has stayed in power for 70 years and the family feud that means some members are kept under constant surveillance by secret agents and then killed.  

The frustration with Catching the Tax Dodgers (Mon, C4, 10pm) is it only covers half the truth. There’s an intriguing look at the various methods HMRC uses to figure out who’s fiddling their tax returns and how they gather evidence to prosecute them. It’s not just the “little people” – the tax office’s new Affluence Unit targets wealthy individuals using avoidance schemes and companies that make fraudulent VAT and duty declarations. But, what of the global corporations who get to bargain over how much (or rather how very little) corporation tax they pay? Not a word. Nada. And it raises questions yet again about the pressure HMRC is under to prosecute individuals but are seemingly powerless against the big boys.

Equality from birth is under the microscope in No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? (Wed, BBC2, 9pm). The idea of raising children in a gender-neutral manner has been around for a while but is gaining a lot of traction right now as more young people identify as gender-fluid or trans and are pushing back against the binary concept. With children so subtly steered from their earliest years by the pink/blue conditioning, some parents are now actively looking to bring up their offspring in ways that won’t limit their development. In this two-parter, Dr Javid AbdelMoneim challenges the norm with some eye-opening experiments that show how damaging gender expectations can be and what can be achieved by making even simple changes in primary schools.

Current affairs

trump secrets silicon valley fake newsBarack Obama was elected US president by pulling in the vote through the nascent social media. Part two of Secrets of Silicon Valley (Sun, BBC2, 8pm) reveals how Donald Trump also exploited the internet to gain power, but in nefarious ways such as fake news. Pertinently, presenter Jamie Bartlett investigates the specific connection between the Silicon Valley giants’ claim to connect the world and the resultant disruption to democracy. Political forces have figured out how to subvert the openness of the internet in ways that the big tech companies cannot control. Scary stuff, and essential viewing.

Comedy

quacks bbc2Rory Kinnear stars as an arrogant Victorian surgeon in Quacks (Tues, BBC2, 10pm), set in the 1840s when medicine was starting to get scientific and pioneers were experimenting to find ways to save lives. There are plenty of gags about amputations and anaesthetics in a show that depicts how operating theatres were a public spectacle where surgeons would compete over their showmanship. Writer James Wood co-created the award-winning Rev and his clever script suggests this will be just addictive. Watch out for the scene-stealing Rupert Everett as the head of the local asylum.

Entertainment

With Bake Off poached (geddit) by Channel 4 (and on your telly very soon), The Big Family Cooking Showdown (Tues, BBC2, 8pm) is what the BBC hopes will fill its void and even steal back viewers. It’s a simple premise – each week family teams cook up their signature dishes and get judged by chef Giorgio Locatelli and the slightly scary cookery school supremo Rosemary Shrager. Zoe Ball and 2015 Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain present, but have little to do apart from chat with the contestants. It lacks the chemistry of GBBO’s Mel and Sue, and Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, but as it runs over 12 weeks it may prove (geddit) to be a ratings recipe for success. A more predictable option is Celebrity MasterChef (Wed, BBC1, 8pm), back for its 12th series. This year’s contestants include Olymoic swimmer Rebecca Adlington, comedian Vic Reeves, opera singer Lesley Garrett and the lovely Debbie McGee.

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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