Small-Screen Jabber 24 February – 2 March

Drama

strike career of evil2

The first two adaptations of Robert Galbraith’s (aka JK Rowling) crime novels held up well on the small screen, and so there are high expectations for the third. Tom Burke is back as private detective Cormoran Strike in Strike: Career of Evil (Sun, BBC1, 9pm), along with regular sidekick Robin Ellacott (Holliday Grainger) – the pair have excellent chemistry. Someone has sent Robin a grisly gift of a severed human leg, along with some song lyrics. Now that’s two bizarre messages in one package, for how could the sender know that the lyrics were of a song Strike’s late mother enjoyed? The duo soon find themselves heading out of London to Cumbria as they follow the clues.

For some inexplicable reason Channel 4 put Electric Dreams (Mon, C4, 10pm) on hiatus last year when it was only two-thirds of the way through. Fans of Philip K Dick will be happy to see the remaining four episodes are finally being shown. Greg Kinnear stars in The Father Thing, as a dad who has been taken over by an alien. Only his son Charlie can tell and he must alert the world to the danger.

assassination gianni versace donatella

After a triumphal The People v OJ Simpson, which turned out to be a cut well above what could have been trashy tabloidese, the American Crime Story strand is back with The Assassination of Gianni Versace (Wed, BBC2, 9pm). At nine episodes this is milking events to the max in its portrayal of the shocking murder of the fashion designer in 1997. There’s no trial in this one, so the story focuses on the hunt for serial killer Andrew Cunanan and it’s as well scripted as it is ostentatious, with explorations of big themes such as ambition and what it meant to be gay in the late 20th century. Edgar Ramírez plays Versace, Penélope Cruz is his sister Donatella and even Latino popstar Ricky Martin is in the cast.

save me sky

Lennie James stars as Nelly Rowe in Save Me (Wed, Sky Atlantic, 9pm), a man-child wideboy with his eye to the main chance – he’s got a string of girlfriends, plenty of cash and spends his time hanging out in the pub with his mates. But then the police arrest him on suspicion of abducting his 13-year-old daughter Jody, whom he hasn’t seen since she was three and he split up with her mum Claire (Suranne Jones). Claire is convinced Nelly took Jody, so Nelly needs to clear his name fast and figure out who has set him up. A taut and suspenseful thriller written and produced by Lennie James, the cast includes Jason Flemyng, Stephen Graham and Susan Lynch.

Factual

hannibals elephant army new evidence

Scientists have challenged themselves to check out the veracity of Carthaginian general Hannibal’s legendary crossing of the Alps in Hannibal’s Elephant Army: the New Evidence (Sun, C4, 8pm). Hannibal was reputed to have taken 37 elephants, an army of 40,000 men and 9,000 cavalry across a treacherous route into Spain. The scientists use forensic techniques to examine the soil in the Alps and make some astonishing discoveries that reveal the truth of the trek, plus they look at why elephants were the beast of choice and try to get inside Hannibal’s mind to understand his motivations.

Efficient exercise is where it’s sat these days – with us all increasingly time-poor, finding the best way to work out as quickly as possible is a priority for many. How to Get Fit Fast (Tues, C4, 8pm) looks at the new trends and theories. Anna Richardson examines whether delaying breakfast until after an early gym session is worthwhile, while Amar Latif tries out carb-loading before tackling a muddy endurance course.

Culture

With the Baftas behind us, Film 2018 (Wed, BBC1, 11.15pm) starts a new five-part run with a look ahead to the Oscars next week and this year’s serious contenders. Nominated director Greta Gerwig talks about her film Lady Bird to temporary presenter Clara Amfo. Amfo is joined by Ellen E Jones and Larushka Ivan-Zadeh to look at hopefuls such The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water.

civilisations

The sumptuous Civilisations (Thurs, BBC2, 9pm) explores the story of art from the dawn of human history to the present day, around the globe. It’s bold and ambitious, with a nod to 1969’s groundbreaking series Civilisation with Kenneth Clark, who told the story of art but only from a western perspective. Presenters Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga examine the visual culture of societies from around the globe, from the landscape scrolls of classical China and the sculpture of the Olmecs to African bronzes, Japanese prints and Mughal miniatures. Across nine episodes, it’s absolutely packed with gems and a must for anyone interested in how culture both shapes and reflects societies. My documentary of the week, the whole series will be on iPlayer after the first episode airs.

Comedy

Jo Brand has carved out a successful acting career alongside the comedy and presenting. Her peers line up in Jo Brand: Secrets of Her Success (Fri, Channel 5, 10.30pm) but it’s the clips from her early standup days on the London circuit that show just how far she’s come, from period and knob jokes to national treasure. She riffs endlessly on the former, as well as cake, but behind the laconic sarcasm she is a gentle soul. Ross Noble, Alan Davies, Meera Syal and Morwenna Banks are among those paying tribute.

Entertainment

masterchef 2018

Another 56 hopefuls are lining up to compete in this year’s MasterChef (Mon/Thurs/Fri, BBC1, 9pm/8pm/7.30pm). John Torode and Gregg Wallace are certainly putting on the pressure, with three contestants from each group of seven being sent home immediately after the first challenge. And never mind that particular time challenge – the BBC needs consistency in its viewing times for each week’s heats.  

Sport

Some finals this weekend. In the League Cup Final (Sun, Sky Football, 3.30pm), it’s Arsenal v Manchester City. The kickoff is at 4pm and Channel 5 will have highlights at 8pm. The Snooker World Grand Prix final (Sun, ITV4, 12.45pm and 6.45pm) is live from Preston’s Guild Hall, as the finalists go head to head over 19 frames in two sessions.

The World Indoor Athletics Championships (from Thurs, BBC2, from 7pm) starts this week at Birmingham Arena. Among the GB entrants, Laura Muir will be aiming to win the 3000m on the opening night. Gabby Logan heads the coverage.

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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