Small-Screen Jabber 17-23 June


Poor old Ripper Street (Mon, BBC2, 9pm) – it flourished on the Beeb, was inexplicably axed, then picked up by Amazon who funded the next three series and sold it back to the BBC, before finally dropping it. Are you still with me? Anyway, this is series five, already aired late last year on Amazon Prime, and arguably the finest yet so it seems a shame the plug’s been pulled again. The last six episodes begin with Matthew MacFadyen’s DI Edmund Reid on the trail of a possible new serial killer on the streets of Whitechapel. And, still grieving for murdered colleague DI Drake (Jerome Flynn, who pops up again), Reid and his team find themselves being investigated by their own police station.

chance hugh laurie embed

Hugh Laurie stars as the eponymous Chance (Tues, Universal, 9pm), a middle-aged forensic neuropsychiatrist, Dr Eldon Chance, based in San Francisco. Chance is world-weary, sick of his job, battling a divorce and struggling to keep secrets. Sound familiar? Why, yes – Laurie’s is at least partly reprising House. But give it a go, as it’s actually pretty good. Chance falls in love with patient Jaclyn Blackstone (Gretchen Mol) – she’s manipulative, trying to leave an abusive relationship and entangled in police corruption. A slow-burner of modern noir tale, it has the feel of an arthouse movie with hints of Hitchcock, and Laurie is at the top of his acting game.

Another chance to see: Burton and Taylor (Wed, BBC4, 9pm). Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West play the film stars Elizabeth and Richard in a feature-length play about working together in the West End theatre after their divorce. The two leads are superb, as Noel Coward’s play Private Lives turns out to be a microcosm of their messed-up relationship.

Current affairs

It’s unfortunate timing for Theresa v Boris: How May Became PM (Sun, BBC2, 9pm), a drama-doc that purports to go behind the scenes of the schisms in the Tory party in the wake of the EU referendum and Cameron’s resignation. Unfortunate, because with two recent terrorist attacks and an unspeakably hideous and preventable inferno at Grenfell Tower, it hardly seems relevant right now to be poring over party leadership battles. Based on extensive research, first-person testimonies and key interviews with people who were intimately involved in the campaigns of the main contenders.

Theresa v Boris How May Became PM

Brexit Means Brexit (Wed, BBC2, 9pm), as we’ve been repeatedly told, while left none the wiser as to what it entails. Award-winning documentarist Patrick Forbes has pulled together an intriguing film of the last 12 months since the referendum, which explores the bitter politics that have since poisoned the UK as we finally start negotiations to leave the EU. Forbes asks whether Theresa May is up to the job of convincing the judiciary, opposition parties and the public to get a good deal. You can see where this is going when one of his interviewees notes “get this wrong and we will see another even bigger seismic change in this country's politics.”

hislop first great immigration row

And with immigration high on the Brexit agenda, Who Should We Let In? Ian Hislop on the First Great Immigration Row (Thurs, BBC2, 9pm). The journalist draws some highly entertaining parallels between the current row and who was welcomed into the UK a hundred years ago. Victorian policy didn’t differentiate between economic migrants and refugees, but rising immigration triggered the now familiar fierce debates on clashing values and economic anxiety. Hislop examines the role of the media, which stoked fear and prejudice against incomers, but also the humanitarian generosity towards asylum seekers fleeing antisemitic pogroms and the displaced after the First World War.


radiohead glastonbury bbc

Glastonbury (Fri, BBC2/BBC4, from 7.30pm) opens at the end of the week, with Jo Whiley, Lauren Laverne and Mark Radcliffe anchoring coverage of arguably the UK’s most important music festival. The big draws on the opening night are Radiohead, Kris Kristofferson, Blossoms and The xx, but look out for the Pretenders set too. There’s also full coverage on the BBC’s Glastonbury webpages and the red button. The highlight at 10pm is Radiohead, who first played at Worthy Farm in 1994 – there’s a look back at that gig, full coverage of this night’s set and a critical review afterwards.


biennale james richardson embed

Every couple of years established artists get to have a so-called pavilion at the Venice Biennale and represent their country with their art. Brenda Emmanus explores the event’s first ever diaspora pavilion, actually a very handsome palazzo, in The Venice Biennale: Sink or Swim (Sat, BBC2, 7.30pm) which showcases the work of a dozen emerging, diverse artists who hope to both gain critical approval and commercial success. The art world’s biennial gala can be somewhat insular, so this is a good move. Emmanus also looks at the mainstream shows on the opening night. James Richardson and his installations represent Great Britain in the main show.


Those of us old enough to remember the birth of Channel 4 will also recall the glorious Crystal Maze gameshow, hosted by a leopard-print clad Richard O'Brien. At last it's back, with Richard Ayoade taking on O'Brien's job as Maze Master. The Celebrity Crystal Maze (Fri, Channel 4, 9pm) will see five (moderately famous) celebrities - Strictly winner Ore Odube, athlete Louis Smith, The Last Leg's Alex Brooker and reality TV personalities Vicky Pattinson and Lydia Bright navigate the puzzles in the maze's four zones to win crystals and raise cash for a cancer charity.


It’s Fifa Confederations Cup weekend (Sat/Sun, ITV, 3.30pm), the eight-team championship that is a warm-up for next year’s World Cup. On Saturday it’s Russia v New Zealand, live from St Petersburg – the kickoff is at 4pm. On Sunday it’s Portugal v Mexico, which naturally star Cristiano Ronaldo. Kickoff is at 4pm.The rugby union is also international this weekend – Argentina v England (Sat, BBC2, 8pm) play in the South American team’s stadium in Santa Fe. Kickoff at 8.15pm.

The grass court tennis season, the pre-Wimbledon warm-ups, is already underway, with the trophy from Queen’s (Mon-Sun, Eurosport/BBC2, from 11.45am daily) the most prized. Andy Murray will be defending his record fifth title against a strong field that includes other UK players Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans, plus brother Jamie Murray in the doubles, and Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, Nick Kyrgios and Juan Martin del Potro.

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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