Small-Screen Jabber 1–7 December

Drama

the sinner

In psychological thriller The Sinner (Sat, BBC4, 9pm) Jessica Biel stars as Cora Tanetti, who is seemingly happily married to Mason and mum to toddler Laine, but not far below the surface things are not quite right with her. On a trip to a nearby lake with her family, she decides to drown herself but after changing her mind she explodes into an unprovoked violent rage and randomly stabs a doctor called Frankie who was kissing his girlfriend. Det Harry Ambrose, slightly weird and a man with a habit of visiting a dominatrix, is assigned to the case and Cora pleads guilty to murder. Just before the court hearing, Harry discovers Cora’s disturbing background of religious fundamentalism and mental illness that continues to have serious repercussions. This US drama first aired over there last year – Biel is mesmerising, while co-star Bill Pullman excels as Harry. It’s taut and well-polished, with more twists than a Blackpool rollercoaster.

Plan Coeur the hook up plan netflix

French eight-part rom-com The Hook Up Plan (from Fri, Netflix) looks at modern dating, in what’s clearly a nod to Love, Actually. Set in Paris, Elsa has been dumped yet again and is struggling to get over her ex, not to mention figuring out why she’s unlucky in love. Her best friends Emilie and Charlotte secretly hire a male escort, with the aim of helping Elsa to move on and regain her confidence by having some great no-strings sex. However, the handsome Jules and Elsa hit it off romantically – not quite what Charlotte and Emilie planned. Can Jules restore Elsa’s faith in relationships? In French, with English subtitles.

Factual

Darcey Bussell dancing to happiness

Dancing isn’t just for Strictly celebrities or professionals, or to keep fit – it’s also good for your mental health. In Darcey Bussell: Dancing to Happiness (Sat, BBC2, 9pm), the Strictly judge explores how dancing can alleviate loneliness, improve Parkinson’s and banish depression. She tours the UK to visit projects helping teenage girls discover their confidence through dance as therapy and older people with dementia, while a scientist uses cutting-edge research to show how dancing can ease physical degenerative illnesses too.

gun no 6 bbc2

Gun crime is, thankfully, still rare in the UK and weapons are hard to come by because of our strict gun laws. This means that illegal guns tend to change hands a lot, and the story of Gun No 6 (Sun, BBC2, 9pm) explores the lifecycle of Britain’s most wanted deadly weapon. Gun No 6 – a 9mm automatic pistol – has been used in 11 shootings and three murders by various criminals over a decade, all in the West Midlands. The first time was an armed raid on a village post office in 2009. None of the criminals who had used Gun No 6 to kill or maim were willing to appear in this hard-hitting film, so it makes clever use of dramatic reconstructions, as well as testimonies from the victims’ families, to depict the realities of modern gun crime.

north korea life inside the secret state

It’s not so long since Michael Palin had a bit of nosey there, but North Korea: Life Inside the Secret State (Wed, C4, 10pm) is less cosy (but fascinating nonetheless) travelogue, more a hard-nosed look at what’s going on below the surface that Palin was permitted to film. This is a Dispatches film, and they’ve been filming defectors who have stayed in contact with their families there after fleeing to the south. The result is a devastating documentary based on those phone calls and secret cameraphone footage that reveals the realities of living under Kim Jong-Un – starvation-level food shortages, hatred of the dictatorship and smuggling, but also the stirrings of dissent as technology chips away at the regime. Compelling viewing.

Music

barbra streisand becoming an icon bbc

An overblown but accurately titled Barbra Streisand: Becoming an Icon 1942-1984 (Fri, BBC4, 9pm) examines the actor and singer’s rise to stardom. It’s a proper rags to riches story – she was brought up in a poor working-class Jewish neighbourhood in Brooklyn by her single mother, after her dad died when she was just one. She landed her first acting role at 16, but when she started singing at 18 at clubs her career suddenly rocketed. This documentary covers Streisand’s heyday, when she was knocking out hit movies and major record hits, and looks at how she subverted stereotypes and broke through more than one glass ceiling to become a global star. Streisand doesn’t appear herself, but there are some revealing clips from an interview with David Frost from 1971 to be enjoyed.

Sport

wilder vs fury bt sport

Game for a massively hyped fight between two boxing giants? Boxing: Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury (Sat, BT Sport Box Office, 11.30pm) comes live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles in what’s been billed as by far the biggest fight of 2018. Wilder is defending his WBC world heavyweight title and is the bookies’ favourite, but Fury has defied predictions before. The fight start time is predicted to be around 4am Sunday.

As part of the run up to BBC Sports Personality of the Year on 16 December, Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill fronts 2018: A Great Sporting Year (Tues, BBC1, 10.45pm). She looks back at the top events of this year’s sporting calendar and meets some of the athletes who hit the headlines in their sport. It was an unforgettable year, what with England’s thrilling run to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia, the Winter Olympics in North and South Korea, and the Commonwealth Games in Australia, plus all the exciting events that took place here in the UK.

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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