Small-Screen Jabber 17-23 March

Drama

the durrells

The delightfully cosy and humorous The Durrells (Sun, ITV, 8pm) has been rewarded with a third series. The cast have been outstanding to date, particularly Keeley Hawes as mum Louisa and Daisy Waterstone as the brilliantly dippy Margo. There are eight new episodes based on Gerald’s memoirs of growing up in Corfu in the 1930s. Aunt Hermione has arrived, intending to install herself at the family cottage indefinitely, while Louisa decides to abandon her search for a suitable man – she needs to open her eyes and look at her friend Spiros…

Also back is The Good Karma Hospital (Sun, ITV, 9pm). My view is the first series was a bit patchy, but 5m viewers can’t be wrong, so perhaps series two will be a bit more consistent with the writing. Amanda Redman returns as Dr Lydia Fonseca in this tale about a cottage hospital in southern India. As a hospital soap it’s no Casualty, but the exotic setting means it fares well as easy Sunday night viewing.

13 commandments

Walter Presents has come up trumps, if neither of those appeal, with 13 Commandments (Sun, C4, 10.05pm), a Belgian crime thriller. (Belgium is knocking out some excellent dramas right now.). The title alludes to the biblical commandments (yes, there are more than 10 – do keep up), and like David Fincher’s Se7en, there are 13 crimes, over 13 episodes. A slow burner set in Flanders, this one kicks off with the brutal throat-slitting of a Turkish teenage girl, in what seems to be an honour killing. Step in, police detectives Vicky Degraeve and Peter Devriendt, who are tasked with solving her murder and soon discover their nemesis is a man called Moses. No, not that one. But like the Moses of yore, he appears to believe that Belgium has become a nation of sinners who need teaching a lesson or 13. Like Se7en and Messiah, there is a lot of gore and it’s disturbing in its own way. All 13 episodes can be watched on All4 after this first one airs.

SEAL team

SEAL Team (Thurs, Sky 1, 9pm) is Sky’s new military drama, from the makers of Homeland. Madmen’s Jessica Paré and David Boreanaz star as a CIA liaison officer and the workaholic head of the Bravo unit of the SEALS elite taskforce. The opening episode (of 22) sees Mandy Ellis (Paré) discovering that ISIS terrorist Abu Samir has been located in West Africa. Jason (Boreanaz) needs to take his unit into Liberia to capture Samir, while coping with the loss of a team member. But stay tuned because halfway through the series, SEAL Team moves from being single episodes about on on-the-ground missions to simulating a real two-month deployment, and depicting the emotional stresses that ensue.

Stephen Hawking

the theory of everything

I rarely cover films but in an uncanny act of timing to coincide with Hawking’s passing, ITV3 is screening The Theory of Everything (Sun, ITV3, 10pm), in which Eddie Redmayne IS the eminent cosmologist. Redmayne is astonishing in how he inhabits Hawking, but Felicity Jones also turns in a wonderful performance as his wife Jane. This is a story of love more than scientific discovery, and it’s touching, funny and life-affirming. Read our review of The Theory of Everything.

Factual

 the funeral murders

One of the darkest periods of The Troubles in Northern Ireland is revisited in The Funeral Murders (Mon, BBC2, 9pm). Vanessa Engle’s film examines the background to and events triggered by loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone’s bombing of an IRA funeral. Three IRA members had been shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988 for planning to bomb a military parade. Stone’s attack was revenge, killing three and wounding 60 more. Then at another IRA funeral just days later, the crowd beat to death two British army corporals, mistakenly believing they were loyalist paramilitaries. Engle takes a coolly sympathetic look at the wave of bloody violence, with the hindsight of 30 years and some of those involved share moving testimonies for the first time.

contagion bbc4 Pandemic

It’s a bit late in the season, but there’s always next winter – Contagion! The BBC4 Pandemic (Thurs, BBC4, 9pm) looks at how flu could spread so quickly that it could cripple the country. Mathematician Dr Hannah Fry uses an app that models people’s movements and social interactions to monitor how the virus can spread (confession – I took part in the experiment) then analyses the results. We are long overdue a pandemic, and this show goes a long way to educating us on how to stop spreading our germs around and why you should get vaccinated.

Entertainment

Manchester’s MediaCityUK is hosting the biennial Sport Relief (Fri, BBC1, 7pm) for the first time, with assorted hosts (Davina McCall, Ore Oduba, Claudia Winkleman and Freddie Flintoff, for starters) introducing the fundraising entertainment. There’s a Strictly Come Dancing special featuring some star footballers at Wembley, there is live music from Kylie Minogue and top BBC and ITV stars go head to head in a celebrity boat race. Celebrities such as Hannah Spearritt and Wayne Bridge are getting into the boxing ring and Robbie Savage’s all-star five-a-side team will be attempting 12 hours of non-stop play.

Sport

six Nations rugby

It’s the finals of Six Nations Rugby (Sat, ITV/BBC1, from noon), with all the teams looking to secure vital points to lift the trophy. The matches are Italy v Scotland (kickoff 12.30pm on ITV), England v Ireland (kickoff 2.45pm on ITV) and Wales v France (kickoff 5pm on BBC1). Ireland are way ahead at 19 points, so favourite to win the championship.

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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