Small-Screen Jabber 22-28 July


why its kicking off everywhere paul mason young vic

Journalist and activist Paul Mason stars in his own play Performance Live: Why It’s All Kicking Off (Sat, BBC2, 10pm), a dramatisation of his book of the same name. First performed at the Young Vic in the spring with a team of young actors, Mason explores how global protests of hope such as Occupy and the Arab Spring morphed into support for Trump and a new era of demagoguery. It’s not without its flaws but Mason does a fairly good job of analysing the shifts in popular movements and presenting them in an understandable way.

against the law embed

Daniel Mays stars as gay journalist Peter Wildeblood in Against the Law (Wed, BBC2, 9pm), a drama-doc about the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Wood was a key campaigner for the change in the law after he was imprisoned in 1954 when his lover Eddy gave evidence against him to save himself in the notorious Montagu Trial. Mark Gatiss plays the prison psychiatrist who wearily assesses the gay convicts in his care. Interspersed with the dramatic scenes are testimonies from men who were subjected to aversion therapy and police officers who were ordered to raid gay pubs and public toilets. It’s a powerful piece that demonstrates why the change in the law was so desperately needed.


For all the documentaries on various wars, the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s rarely gets coverage. Spanish Civil War With Michael Portillo (Sun, Quest, 10pm) should go some way to redressing that omission. Portillo has a personal interest here as his Spanish father fought against Franco during the conflict then fled to exile in the UK afterwards. This two-parter contains black and white archive footage that has been restored into colour, painting a vivid picture of events, and testimonies from families whose members were rounded up and killed or imprisoned by Franco’s forces.

spanish civil war michael portillo

Just last week a robot cop was found face down in a fountain (did it fall or was it pushed?) and there are increasing calls for robots to be fitted with black boxes that can track their decisions and explain their actions when accidents happen. Hyper Evolution: the Rise of the Robots (Wed, BBC4, 9pm) explores the growth of AI and the ethical questions raised when machines can outthink humans. Electronics engineer Prof. Danielle George and evolutionary biologist Dr Ben Garrod debate whether robots threaten our survival or can enhance our lives. They also look at our obsession with robots and explore our deep distrust of them.


Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley are some of the stars performing in The Songs of Scott Walker (1967–70) Prom (Fri, BBC4, 10pm), dubbed “the godlike genius of Scott Walker”. Walker, a 60s icon, moved from being a teenage heartthrob in the Walker Brothers to a highly respected avant-garde solo artist who influenced David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and many others. This prom features works from Walker’s four self-titled albums with live orchestral backing for the very first time.


dirty dancing

Thirty years after Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey played bad-boy choreographer Johnny Castle and would-be dancer Baby in the box office smash Dirty Dancing, The Dirty Dancing Story (Wed, Channel 5, 9pm) celebrates the tale behind it. This light-hearted look at the phenomenon revisits iconic scenes and delivers the dirt on what happened on set. Cast members Kelly Bishop, Lonny Price and Jane Brucker share memories and choreographer Miranda Garrison and writer Eleanor Bergstein discuss how the film was made – Bergstein's screenplay was based on her own experiences learning to dance at a Catskills resort. No one puts Eleanor in the corner.


Bake Off meets Sewing Bee meets Changing Rooms in Craft It Yourself (Tues, C4, 8pm), a six-part series on interior design that taps into the nation’s current keen interest into crafting – everything from knitting and quilting to marquetry and pot-throwing. Cake queen Clemency Green looks at the world of master craftspersons who deliver bespoke designs and investigates the latest trends and techniques. She and co-presenters Ant Anstead, who makes luxury cars, and Robin Johnson, who makes wooden furniture, will each week make over a room in a particular style – in this opening episode they’ll be jazzing up a dull dining room in a hot Cuban style.


The World Para Athletics Championships (Sat/Sun, C4, 7pm/6pm), the biggest games for disabled athletes since London 2012, concludes this weekend, live from the London Stadium. There is also daily live coverage online on All4 from 10am. Two football matches in the Women’s Euro 2017 (Sun, More4/C4, 4.30pm/7.30pm) feature British teams. First it’s Scotland v Portugal, with a kickoff at 5pm, followed by England v Spain, with a 7.45pm kickoff. The reverse Group D matches (Scotland v Spain and England v Portugal) are on Thursday, both at 7.30pm with 7.45pm kickoffs.

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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