Small-Screen Jabber 24-30 June


If you missed Spies of Warsaw (Wed, BBC4, 9pm) back in 2013, then be sure to catch this classy two-part thriller starring David Tennant and Janet Montgomery and set in the period between October 1937 and May 1938. Tennant plays Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, a military attaché at the French embassy in Warsaw, who becomes drawn into a world of abduction, betrayal and intrigue in the city’s diplomatic salons and back alleyways. Mercier buys information from the Germans and soon discovers that the Nazis are planning to invade Poland. With time running out, he sets out on a mission to find a contact who can help him avert disaster.


the week the landlords moved in bbc

The horror of the Grenfell Tower fire still fresh in our minds, it’s easy to forget that tens of thousands of the UK’s 12 million renters live in substandard accommodation. If I buy bread and it’s mouldy, there is consumer redress. If your tenanted home has mould, tough – you could even be evicted for complaining about it. The Week the Landlords Moved In (Wed, BBC1, 9pm) is a five-part series that will see letters do just that – move into the dumps they rent out as fit for habitation when they’re clearly not. As so many landlords are at a remove, using agencies to find tenants, they are in for some nasty shocks as they discover not only vermin and squalor, but also start to understand the impact of gentrification, house price bubbles and the lack of rights for Generation Rent.

horizon dawn driverless car

Google has been mapping the planet with driverless cars for years, but we are now on the brink of a radical change in how we use our private vehicles. Dawn of the Driverless Car (Thurs, BBC2, 9pm) peeps into the future, where we are merely passengers in self-driving cars run on green technology. It sounds great – no more exhaust fumes, no more road rage, not even a driving test... But as this Horizon documentary shows, it’s legally fraught. Who is responsible if two driverless cars crash? And people who drive for a living – cabbies, truckers, chauffeurs – what happens to their jobs? The ethical questions around letting computers drive us are explored in not enough detail, but it’s a start.


The Glastonbury festival (Sat-Sun, BBC2/4, from 5.30pm) continues apace, with Jo Whiley, Lauren Laverne and Mark Radcliffe anchoring the coverage. The big names playing on Saturday are headliners the Foo Fighters, Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, Katy Perry. Reggae legends Toots and the Maytals and the Jacksons. On Sunday, Ed Sheeran is the headline act, but look out also for Bee Gees legend Barry Gibb, Nile Rodgers and Chic, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, the Courteeners and Haim. There’s also full coverage on the BBC’s Glastonbury website with webcams and the red button.

When homosexuality was finally decriminalised 50 years ago, it marked the tentative coming out of musicians alongside the political struggle for gay rights. Pop, Pride and Prejudice (Sat, More4, 9pm) explores the vital role of pop music in the social, sexual and cultural revolution that followed. David Bowie’s legendary TOTP appearance in 1972 in which he put his arm around Mick Ronson, signalling to young men everywhere that it was ok to be gay, shows up here. Artists such as Dusty Springfield, Boy George and George Michael also helped normalise gay identity and culture. This quality documentary has a truly fabulous soundtrack and features contributions from Holly Johnson, Jake Shears and Skin.

bbc tokyo girls embed

And in what’s turning out to be a great week for rockumentaries, check out Tokyo Girls (Tues, BBC4, 10pm), which takes a look at the phenomenon of Japanese girl groups. These young women and teenagers perform within a national culture obsessed with young female sexuality, which can seem creepy through western eyes. The stars also contend with male superfans who track their every move across YouTube and social media. The focus of this intriguing film is how the Japanese pop music industry, which focuses on traditional beauty ideals, is confronted by the changing nature of gender dynamics and the growing disconnect between men and women in hypermodern societies.


The Queen’s tennis tournament (Sat/Sun, BBC1, from 1.15pm) comes to a head with the semi-finals and final this weekend. The field is wide open, with the top three seeds Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic all dumped out in the first round and no guarantee either of the last two seeds will be in these matches. And in the last warm-up tournaments before Wimbledon, Tennis from Eastbourne (from Mon, BBC2, from 2pm) is notable this year for Novak Djokovic entering as a wildcard in a bid to improve his recent poor form. And with the women’s draw already underway, Britain’s Jo Konta will also be looking for a title here.

The Fifa Confederations Cup contest continues with Germany v Cameroon (Sun, ITV, 3.30pm), with the kickoff at 4pm the eight-team championship that is a warm-up for next year’s World Cup. The semi finals are on Wednesday and Thursday, draw yet to be determined, with both kickoffs at 7pm on ITV.

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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