Small-Screen Jabber 20-26 January

Drama

The latest occasional outing in BBC2’s Performance Live strand is I Told My Mum I Was Going on an RE Trip (Sat, BBC2, 11.15pm). Actor Julie Hesmondhalgh introduces a series of vignettes on the experience of having an abortion. Four actors, including Derry Girls’ Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, perform the words of women who have terminated their pregnancy. Abortion remains a controversial topic, 50 years after it was legalised, but it’s a shame that this is being screened so late as one of its strengths is the very rounded portrayal of differing experiences and emotions, and the exploration of reasons why women choose to end a pregnancy.

call the midwife embed

Back for a seventh run, Call the Midwife (Sun, BBC1, 8pm) goes from strength to strength as a continuing drama, not least because it’s a female-led drama telling compelling women’s stories (which in 2018 shouldn’t be such a curiosity, dammit). Leone Elliott joins the cast as Nurse Lucille Anderson, just as Poplar is buried under a massive blizzard, which naturally means Difficult Births. Anderson is black, not so unusual in ethnically mixed east London generally, but uncommon for a midwife. Ever socially aware, Call the Midwife will be exploring the influx of Afro-Caribbean women into the NHS in the 60s through her eyes – there are some punchy episodes ahead.

Factual

obama president inspired world

Exactly a year to the day, since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the US, More4 is instead choosing to focus on his predecessor. In Obama: the President who Inspired the World (Sat, More4, 9pm), reporter Matt Frei looks back at Barack Obama’s rise from junior state senator (where he was compared to a charismatic rock star) to become the first black president of America. Frei’s absorbing documentary is a comprehensive examination of Obama’s life, career and political legacy and all the more poignant given the current chaos in the White House.

View of the Sea at Scheveningen

Stealing priceless artwork is increasingly difficult, as technology makes it ever easier to protect valuable artefacts. But in 2002 the world was shocked when two thieves posing as workmen raided Amsterdam’s renowned Van Gogh Museum and made off with two of the Dutch artist’s paintings worth £170 million. What happened next is depicted in Stealing Van Gogh (Wed, BBC2, 9pm), in which art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon shows how the robbers took less than four minutes to execute the heist and how it took the police years to catch them, despite offering huge rewards. He also travels across Europe to meet art experts and prosecutors and look at the relationship between criminal gangs and morally bankrupt collectors. And what happened to the paintings? Tune in to find out.

Culture

adventurers modern art embed

Paris in the early 20th century was the place to be for European culture – a hotbed for jazz, the birthplace of café society and home to a thriving arts scene. The so-called Années Folles (crazy years) were host to the surrealists, Dadaists and art nouveau. The Adventurers of Modern Art (Sun, Sky Arts, 6pm) explores one of the west’s most creative periods over the course of six episodes, dipping into movements such as cubism and Fauvism and presenting subversives and pioneers such Dali, Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Matisse and many others. The series make good use of not just archive material but clever animation and illustration to bring the era to life in all its wide-ranging glory.

Entertainment

The National Television Awards (Mon, ITV, 7.30pm) are the only prizes voted for by you, the viewers, and thus the winners rarely match the critics’ choices – this is why Mrs Brown’s Boys is a ratings hit that we never mention and Ant and Dec win the best presenter every year… But, as TV – particularly drama – goes from strength to strength, we are seeing new overlap, not least in the new crime drama award. Among the best actors and shows up for trophies are Doctor Foster (Suranne Jones), Taboo (Tom Hardy), Broadchurch 3 (David Tennant), Victoria (Jenna Coleman), GBBO and Line of Duty. There will be a tribute to Bruce Forsyth, whose name now graces the entertainment award, and it all comes live from the O2, with Dermot O’Leary handing out the gongs.

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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