Small-Screen Jabber 25-31 August



Forget power ballads, Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner – this Bodyguard (Sun, BBC1, 9pm) bears not even a passing resemblance to the cheesy 1992 film. Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio has crafted a fine, topical thriller that stars Keeley Hawes as ambitious home secretary Julia Montague, who has been assigned police protection officer David Budd (Richard Madden), a volatile former soldier whose political views are the total opposite of the politician he’s sworn to keep safe. The pair must somehow get along without clashing over their politics. Montague herself is a risk-taker when it comes to doing things her way, while also being a potential target as she aims to introduce a highly controversial, sweeping snooper’s charter opposed by her own staff, the PM and the anti-terrorism police. But before we meet her, you’ll be gripped by a 20-minute opening sequence (a Mercurio trademark is extended scenes) involving Budd and an unfolding crisis on a train. Gripping, provocative and not to be missed.

murder on blackpool express2

First shown on Gold last year, Murder on the Blackpool Express (Sat, Drama, 5pm), is a star-studded ensemble spoof of Murder on the Orient Express. Griff Rhys Jones stars as David van der Clane, a renowned crime novel author on a coach tour with a bunch of superfans who want to visit his books’ locations. At each stop, someone gets bumped off, hideously re-enacted in a scene from the book. As the body count rises and the police don’t seem interested in investigating, driver Terry (Johnny Vegas) realises it’s up to him to save the last few on board. And hopefully win the affections of coach tour operator Gemma (Sian Gibson) in the process. A bit daft but watchable. The cast includes Nigel Havers, Una Stubbs and Nina Wadia.


drinkers like me adrian chiles 

As Millennials eschew alcohol in droves, it’s mid-lifers who these days are most likely to be persistent heavy drinkers. Drinkers Like Me: Adrian Chiles (Mon, BBC2, 9pm) is a brave look at the affable TV presenter’s habitual drinking – 80 to 100 units a week – and his efforts to cut back and build a healthier relationship with booze. It’s full of useful insight and health info. Chiles has to face up to the shocking results of a health check, so if you don’t see yourself as a problem drinker, but may well have a problem with alcohol, this is one to watch.

Is there a science to success? Mathematician Dr Hannah Fry, who’s made some excellent documentaries on the algorithmic influences on our lives already, explores how to be happy and live a better life in The Joy of Winning (Tues, BBC4, 9pm). Fry dips into game theory to reveal all kinds of strategies for getting what you want through analysis and calculation of odds, even if it’s only to stop your kids whining in the back of the car – and why sometimes cooperation is more productive than competitiveness. She talks to leading scientists, and wittily demonstrates what links rapper Ludacris, a Kentucky sheriff, a Nobel Prize winner and doping in professional cycling. Oh, and Jasper Carrott. He plays a big part in this.

a week without lying

Lying might well play a role in winning (above), but A Week Without Lying (Wed, BBC2, 9pm) shows how difficult it is for us to avoid even telling an innocuous white lie to spare someone’s feelings. Three volunteers agree to be hooked up to body-worn, state-of-the-art lie detectors and go about their daily business, challenged not to tell any lies at all. The kit means not a single fib or whopper will go undetected and the volunteers really struggle to be totally honest. The results reveal investigate the impact lying has on our mental state, its consequences for our relationships and what it means for the state of the world we live in.

 No 5 War

For once the battle for the bottle isn’t about booze, but perfume. A repugnant tale lies behind Chanel’s biggest-selling scent in The No 5 War (Thurs, BBC4, 9pm), involving Nazis, the occupation of France and money. Coco Chanel launched her fragrance, arguably the world’s most famous, in 1921 and then spent the next 20 years involved in a battle with her Jewish financial backers to take control of the business, to which she had only licensed her name. The Wertheimer brothers were entitled to the biggest slice of the profits under the terms of the deal, but Coco – a known anti-Semite – used her Nazi lover Baron von Dincklage and Occupied France's anti-Jewish legislation to oust them after they fled the country for the safety of the USA. However, she was thwarted by the Wertheimers, who had temporarily given control of their share to a non-Jew. It’s a thriller of a story, tainted with the stain of Europe’s darkest hour.


Don’t miss the Leonard Bernstein special this weekend on the BBC. One of the most acclaimed and important composers of the 20th century, his first musical is played in full on BBC Proms: On the Town (Sat, BBC4, 7.30pm). Live from the Albert Hall, with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Wilson, On the Town is the story of three sailors on 24-hour shore leave in New York at the end of World War Two, and keen to enjoy everything the Big Apple has to offer. It’s followed by West Side Stories: the Making of a Classic at 9.50pm (first shown last year) and Leonard Bernstein at the BBC at 10.50pm – a clips compilation of 50 years’ worth of archived performances.


great british bake off 2018

The Great British Bake Off (Tues, C4, 8pm) returns for its seventh season in the famous tent and its second on Channel 4, where it has been possibly even more successful than when it was on the BBC. There are 12 new hopeful bakers, the return of Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood as the judges (with Prue being a lot more direct, shall we say, this year), plus Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding (whose shirts alone make it worth watching) as hosts. And all new challenges, too, including a vegan week where the bakers must make cakes without eggs, butter or cream.


Plenty of Brits will be playing at the US Open tennis tournament this year (from Mon, Amazon Prime, daily from 4pm). Andy Murray will be entering the men’s singles but may not last long, so watch out for rising star Kyle Edmund instead, currently ranked 16 and seeded 16. Novak Djokovic is the favourite to win. In the women’s singles, Johanna Konta remains the best hope for Britain despite a rank of 46 and no seeding.

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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