Small-Screen Jabber 2-8 September


diana and i tamsin grieg

The coverage of Princess Diana’s death 20 years ago has hit peak mawkishness, but spare a moment for Diana and I (Mon, BBC2, 9pm), a charming feature-length drama about four people whose lives change when Diana dies. Jack (Nico Mirallegro), 19, shy and an only child, becomes orphaned when his adored mother dies the same night and he seeks solace with a neighbour. Florist Mary (Tamsin Greig) is struggling to make a living until she decides to sell flowers to the crowds of mourners. Yasmin (Kiran Sonia Sawar) ditches her husband in Bradford and heads to London to pay her respects. Journalist Michael (Laurie Davidson) is honeymooning in Paris and is soon on the scent of the story. These four tales are beautifully interwoven by writer Jeremy Brock and director Peter Cattaneo.

doctor foster series 2

Suranne Jones reprises her role as betrayed wife and doctor Gemma in Doctor Foster (Tues, BBC1, 9pm). The first series in 2015 was almost flawless, and neatly resolved at the end, so I had my doubts about a second run. However, scriptwriter Mike Bartlett has delivered a masterpiece of a sequel in which Gemma’s cheating husband Simon (Bertie Cavell) reappears out of the blue and starts ripping her barely healed emotional wounds open, manipulating her and plunging her into another paranoid nightmare. But Gemma is still nursing a dark hatred of her nasty ex and is plotting a cold-hearted revenge. The first episode deftly lays some fuzzy landmines that will detonate later, while Jones and Carvell deliver on performance again in what promises to be another rollercoaster.

The first series of Safe House (Thurs, ITV, 9pm) in 2015 was a genuinely tense thriller that was ultimately let down in the final episode by a daft denouement, so let’s hope that won’t be the fate of series two of the witness protection drama. There’s an all-new cast, led by Stephen Moyer in the role of ex-detective Tom Brook, who discovers that a violent kidnapper known as “the Crow” is apparently active again. The Crow’s signature is abducting women while their husbands look on helplessly. Now Brook must protect the last victim’s family in his safe house in the wilds of Anglesey. The top-notch cast includes Zoë Tapper, Dervla Kirwan, Jason Watkins and Sunetra Sarker.

The third drama returning for a second run this week is the revived Cold Feet (Fri, ITV, 9pm). The seven new episodes pick up the dangling threads from the end of last year’s series as the 50-somethings move forward with their lives – Karen is launching her new publishing company, Adam is developing his relationship with landlady Tina, David is now divorced and flogging dodgy life insurance policies to pensioners while toying with dating again, while Jenny and Pete are examining the state of their marriage. This series looks as sharp as last year’s, with some great writing and acting. There’s a lot of mileage in characters dealing with mid-life and this delivers aplenty.


trump war on border embed

“Build the wall” was one of the more unpleasant chants during last year’s US presidential campaigning. Trump’s War on the Border (Mon, C4, 11.05pm) examines the president’s threats to build a wall between Mexico and the US and what it actually means for everyone living along both sides of the border. Paul McGann narrates how Trump’s first 100 days in office played out on the frontline, in between interviews with enforcement officers who police the border, the vigilantes who try to catch illegal crossers and the Mexicans themselves. It’s a volatile and divisive topic, but Lee Phillips’ film reveals the subtleties of the apparently black and white reality.

brian cox 21st century race for space

When it comes to space exploration, we’re nowhere near the final frontier but the new pioneers are looking into space tourism, asteroid mining and colonising other planets. Brian Cox fronts The 21st Century Race for Space (Tues, BBC2, 9pm), talking to the billionaires whose private companies are pushing the boundaries. Cox has been given exclusive behind the scenes access at Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Spaceport America, and he interviews Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson to try to discover how they hope to overcome the technical challenges that may prevent them from turning their ideas into reality. Cox packs a lot of fascinating stuff into a mere hour, while making it easily accessible, and for anyone interested in space travel this is essential viewing.


whitney can i be me embed

The rise to stardom and early death of Whitney Houston is meticulously chronicled in Nick Broomfield’s documentary, Whitney: Can I Be Me (Sat, BBC2, 9pm). This feature-length film uses previously unseen footage, archive clips of live concerts and interviews to depict, much like Asif Kapadia’s film Amy does, how Houston succumbed to her addictions and was repeatedly let down by those who were supposed to love her. It’s heartbreakingly sad, not least because you know how it ends up, but you won’t see a finer music bio on film this year.


back channel 5

Peep Show’s David Mitchell and Robert Webb pair up again in Back (Wed, C4, 10pm), an acerbic sitcom about a dysfunctional foster family. When Stephen’s (Mitchell) publican dad dies, he’s set to take over the village pub at last and hopefully finally prove his worth after a failed career and a divorce. But then the charismatic former foster kid of Stephen’s parents, Andrew (Webb) shows up at the funeral, and Stephen hates and resents him all over again. Because charming as Andrew is, he’s also harbouring sociopathic tendencies and may be planning to oust Stephen from the inheritance. Simon Blackwell, who wrote Peep Show, delivers barbed one-liners with consummate deftness and Back has the potential to grow into a classic character-led sitcom.


Plenty of football this week for fans, what with the World Cup Qualifiers (Mon, times and channels vary). Here they are, all with a 7.45pm kickoff: England v Slovakia (ITV, 7.15pm), Scotland v Malta (Sky Football, 7pm), Northern Ireland v Czech Republic (Sky Sports Mix, 7.30pm).

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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