Small-Screen Jabber 18-24 August


boy with topknot2

First shown last October, Sacha Dhawan stars as Times journalist Sathnam Sanghera in The Boy with the Topknot (Sat, BBC2, 9.45pm), based on the writer’s own memoir of growing up in Punjabi Sikh family in 1970s Wolverhampton. After graduating from Cambridge, Sathnam moves to London and begins a career in journalism. On a home visit, when he plans to tell his parents he won’t be having an arranged marriage as he’d fallen in love with an English woman, he discovers a disturbing secret about his dad that rocks the whole family. A deeply emotional and touching tale about love, family ties and mental illness.

the innocents

Teenage runaway lovers June and Harry (Sorcha Groundsell and Percelle Ascott) are tested to the limit in The Innocents (from Fri, Netflix) when Harry encounters a mysterious bearded man and it turns out that June has supernatural shape-shifting powers, which she cannot control. Feeling trapped and distressed as her world spirals out of control, she and Harry must trust the mysterious Professor Halvorson, played by Guy Pearce, to help them. Or can they? Set in the UK, The Innocents is moody and dark. Groundsell is excellent as the troubled June, while Pearce adds a touch of Hollywood class to the series.


follow this

If you enjoyed the BBC’s recent series on how the New York Times reported Donald Trump’s first year as president of the US, Follow This (from Thurs, Netflix) takes a lighter-hearted but no less serious look at modern journalism as it follows the staff at online platform Buzzfeed. The site  is aimed squarely at millennials and covers everything from long reads on topical issues to clickbait quizzes and recipes. Each episode (of 20) follows a different staff writer as they work on an article. The first episode sees a reporter investigating the strange phenomenon of ASMR.

Men’s mental ill-health has reached epidemic levels – taking your own life is the biggest killer of men under 45 years old in the UK. Dr Xand van Tulleken confronts the truths behind the shocking statistics in Horizon’s Stopping Male Suicide (Wed, BBC2, 9pm), exploring how a toxic combination of unrealistic representations of masculinity, economic pressures, the “stiff upper lip” that stops men expressing difficult emotions, can together trigger depression and suicidal thoughts. Essential viewing.


pump up the bhangra

The sound of Asian Britain is celebrated in Pump Up the Bhangra (Fri, BBC4, 10pm). BBC Asian Network DJ Bobby Friction tells the story of how an obscure north Indian folk genre arrived in Britain from the Punjab in the 70s and was reimagined by the second and third generation of Indian immigrants living in the West Midlands to find a voice and identity then spreading to become a UK-wide phenomenon for Asian youth. It’s a thrilling tale of DIY recording and production, an underground club scene, secret daytime gigs, generational culture clashes – and above all a style of music that has frequently outsold mainstream British artists while remaining unknown outside their community and uncharted or performed on Top of the Pops. Friction is an engaging guide, who shares his teenage experiences of bunking off school to go to bhangra events, meets some of the big stars and explores how bhangra finally crossed over to be sampled by trip-hop and rap artists.


dwarfs in art bbc4

Cultural representations of people with dwarfism (restricted growth) have down the centuries held them up as objects of ridicule, curiosities, freaks and even pets, but rarely as real people worthy of respect and dignity. Dwarfs in Art: a New Perspective (Mon, BBC4, 9pm) aims to redress the balance and shine a light on a hidden area of disability, exploring through representations in art how attitudes have shifted. Disabled film-maker Richard Butchins and artists and academics with dwarfism discuss everything from Peter Blake’s pop art, which heavily features dwarfs, and Velasquez’s masterpieces to the controversial Mini-Me character in Austin Powers.

Artist Grayson Perry tackles the big days of our lives and how we mark them in Grayson Perry: Rites of Passage (Thurs, C4, 10pm). Over four episodes, he explores our celebrations, ceremonies and rituals around birth, coming of age, marriage and death, many of which we commemorate with generic services and shop-bought cards. Perry looks at how we have lost our way in marking rites of passage in our predominantly secular society. The big taboo of death is his first target – he meets a man living with a terminal illness and a family whose son was killed by a drink-driver. And because he’s an artist he uses art to help Roch have the send-off he wants and Jordan’s family to create a fitting memorial for him, before creating his own artwork that speaks to grief and loss. Profoundly moving.


LennyHenry 60th birthday

If you can remember Lenny Henry in Three of a Kind in the early 80s, The Lenny Henry Birthday Show (Wed, BBC1, 8pm) might make you feel old. He’s turning 60, and from his fresh-faced standup debut on New Faces as a teenager to an acclaimed serious actor more recently (Broadchurch, Othello), he’s enjoyed a broad and gilded career. Here he returns to his comedy roots, discussing his work with Trevor McDonald, looking back clips at from Chef!, Comic Relief and Three of a Kind, plus some new sketches spooking rapper Stormzy and singer Stevie Wonder.

great news

Tina Fey pops up in a cameo role in journalism sitcom Great News (from Thurs, Netflix), which she executive-produced, as Diana St Tropez, the head of a broadcast news network who bears more than a passing resemblance to Vogue editor Anna Wintour, as a diva-esque control freak. Briga Heelan stars as Katie Wendelson, the producer of current affairs show The Breakdown, and finds herself floored when her mother Carol joins the programme as an intern. NBC inexplicably cancelled this cracking dramedy, which riffs off 1987 film Broadcast News, but all 23 episodes are now on Netflix.

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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