Small-Screen Jabber 21-27 October

Drama

Gunpowder harington cullen

Remember, remember the 5th of November and don’t forget to watch Gunpowder (Sat, BBC1, 9.10pm), screenwriter Ronan Bennett’s gritty yet somehow glamorous take on the Catholic plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Guido (Guy) Fawkes (Tom Cullen) was just a front for the real plotter, Robert Catesby (Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, who just happens to be his direct descendant), as revealed in the first episode of this three-parter. Bennett’s screenplay delves meticulously into the treasonous plot, which Catesby drew up after a mass he was attending was broken up violently by the King James’ Protestant troops. Harington is just one of an A-list cast that includes Liv Tyler, Peter Mullan and Mark Gatiss as the king’s spymaster. The cinematography is dark and intense, and you can expect fireworks aplenty as the cat and mouse game unfolds.

Music

As a young prodigy, cellist Jacqueline du Pré held audiences the world over spellbound until she was forced to stop playing at the age of 28 by the onset of multiple sclerosis. Friend and film director Christopher Nupen made a number of film about her during her meteoric career – Jacqueline du Pré: a Gift Beyond Words (Sun, BBC4, 8pm) paints a portrait of her compiled from those earlier documentaries. It’s slightly skewed in that du Pré is shown as flawless, with no mention of the affair she had with her brother-in-law, but is redeemed by the abundant footage of her exquisite playing.

elvis costello spinning songbook

Elvis Costello currently prefers to perform solo, but Sky is premièring a film from his last tour with a band back in 2011. Elvis Costello and the Imposters: the Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook (Sun, Sky Arts, 9pm) was filmed at the Wiltern in Los Angeles and features a range of songs from the eponymous album in the title, plus some old hits and surprising covers. Costello remains a consistently strong live performer, and renowned as much for how he connects to audiences as for his musicianship. If you haven’t seen him live of late, be sure not to miss this.

Stereophonics top the bill in Later Live…with Jools Holland (Tues, BBC2, 10pm) and showcase tracks from the latest album. Also performing are folk guitarist Richard Thompson and retro rockers Hurray for the Riff Raff.

sounds like friday night

If you’re old enough to remember Channel 4’s live 80s music show, The Tube, and you still miss Top of the Pops, stop right there as the Beeb is dipping its toe into live music again. Sounds Like Friday Night (Fri, BBC1, 7.30pm) is presented by Radio 1’s Greg James and Dotty from 1Xtra, with a different guest host every week too – starting with R&B singer Jason Derulo. At half an hour and in a pre-watershed slot (not that that bothered The Tube), don’t expect anything edgy. This is just straightforward performances, no cutting-edge interviews. Its saving grace might just be its weekly comedy sketch, the first star to participate being Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters.

Factual

calais end of jungle bbc

The notorious Jungle camp in Calais was where refugees and migrants congregated in the hope of somehow finding a way to get to the UK illegally. It was also the scene of violence (from police, the far right and internal power struggles) and humanitarian support from hundreds of volunteers. A year on from its destruction, Calais – the End of the Jungle (Tues, BBC2, 9pm) examines its last days, when the numbers living there were swelled by those escaping the horrific civil war in Syria. It looks at the tough decision by the French police, who had to manage the area, to dismantle it and the resulting chaos as 10,000 people were moved on and tents and possessions were torched. It’s a hard-hitting documentary in which the film-makers shoot extraordinary footage of the nightly mass runs to get onto lorries or the Eurostar trains heading to the UK. And they return a few months later to discover, with no great surprise, that many of the evicted are still in Calais, only now they are sleeping on the streets in the town.

Comedy

tracey breaks news

Impressionist Tracey Ullman’s new sketch show, Tracey Breaks the News (Fri, BBC1, 9.30pm) is short but highly topical. She’s turned her take-off of Angela Merkel into something of a signature character, so you’ll enjoy seeing how well she can skewer Theresa May, as the pair haggle over Brexit. Brace yourself too for her impersonations of France’s president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte. Then brace yourself some more for… Jeremy Corbin. Scenes are being filmed right up to the wire, to keep up with real events. A treat.

Sport

It’s been dubbed the most potentially decisive race of this season, with Lewis Hamilton tipped to win and with a 59 point lead over his nearest rival, Sebastian Vettel. Formula One: United States Grand Prix Live (Sun, C4, 7.35pm) takes place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and Steve Jones anchors the live coverage.

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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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