Small-Screen Jabber 18-24 November


shes gotta have it embed

Film director Spike Lee has reworked his sharply observed 1986 comedy about Brooklyn resident Nola Darling’s complicated love life, She's Gotta Have It (Netflix, from 23 Nov). Now a 10-part series firmly updated for the Black Lives Matter generation, it has a vastly bigger budget and higher-end production values. Nola describes herself in this remake as a “sex-positive, polyamorous pansexual for whom monogamy has never seemed a remote possibility” and as modern relationships come in many flavours it’s to Lee’s credit that he’s moved away from the film’s debate about sex addiction and nymphomania into a vehicle that acknowledges women’s right to sexual self-expression. Newcomer DeWanda Wise is fabulous as Nola, a modern 20-something black woman trying to figure out who she is, making her a far more rounded character than in the film. You gotta watch it – it’s my drama of the week.

the white princess

Another chance to see: The White Princess (Sat, Drama, from 9pm). The adapted sequel to The White Queen, and part of Philippa Gregory’s trilogy about the Wars of the Roses. Jodie Comer stars as the young Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII, and trapped in a marriage in which neither trusts nor loves the other.


British cycling success has come under fire over the last year, with rival teams suggesting that drug cheating was the cause and Team GB’s managers insisting the “marginal gains” were scientifically worked out to coax the best from the cyclists. So which is it? In Britain’s Cycling Superheroes: the Price of Success? (Sun, BBC2, 9pm) team heads Sir Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton explain how they oversaw the biggest medals haul in the history of British sport, and claims that Bradley Wiggins exploited a medical exemption to win the Tour de France are examined.

drugsland bbc

The impact of street drugs is highlighted in Drugsland (Tues, BBC1, 10.45pm), a deeply disturbing look at Bristol’s addicts and the professionals who try to contain the damage. Episode one (of four) looks at how two very nervous undercover police officer try to catch a crack dealer, watching undercover and thus unable to stop some horrific violence, while treatment units argue the case for a massive change at government level on drugs policy.

Rape and sexual assault have barely been out of the news since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. With so many celebrities speaking up it’s important not to forget the non-famous who were violated. In Raped: My Story (Wed, Channel 5, 9pm), 10 survivors of rape waive their right to anonymity and talk frankly to camera about the destructive impact it had on their lives. It’s followed at 10.30pm by #MeToo: the Debate.

Current affairs

labour summer changed everything

Dubbed the finest election Labour won, when they didn’t, Labour: the Summer that Changed Everything (Mon, BBC2, 9pm) looks back at the snap election of last spring, when Theresa May was confident she could destroy Labour and use an increased majority to push through Brexit. The polls told a different story, of course, with Labour losing by a whisker. Film-maker David Model followed four Labour MPs before, during and after the election to examine how the party overcame in-fighting and poor public ratings.


The background to one of the defining albums of the 70s is explored in Pink Floyd: the Story of Wish You Were Here (Sat, Sky Arts, 9pm). A poignant tribute to former singer Syd Barrett, who’d been kicked out seven years earlier because of his drug problems, the band were on the point of splitting up at the time of recording. Featuring interviews with Nick Mason, David Gilmour and Roger Waters, plus many key persons involved in the recording and artwork, and Gilmour and Waters playing some of the tracks.


the History of Comedy

The eight-part series The History of Comedy (Thurs, Sky Arts, 9pm) should have been called The History of American Comedy, for it charts only the evolution of comedy in the US and not anywhere else. For all that, it’s a pretty comprehensive roundup, using archive footage and sharp commentary, to explore the underlying questions of what makes American people laugh, why and how humour has influenced the social and political landscape in the US. Each episode is based on a theme such as outrage, political humour and the psychology of tormented comics. The first part looks at women in comedy, from the early pioneering days of Jean Carroll and Gracie Allen to today’s female comedy titans such as Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman and Amy Poehler, and how they have dealt with sexism with, well, comedy.

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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