Small-Screen Jabber 25 February – 3 March

Drama

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A middle-aged woman is brutally raped in the small Dorset seaside community of Broadchurch (Mon, ITV, 9pm) and DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) are called in to investigate. Thus begins the third series of the acclaimed drama and I’m pleased to report that Broadchurch is back on form after the erratic and frankly laughable aberration of season two. Hardy suspects a serial rapist is at large in the town, which is still fractured after the murder of young Danny Latimer five years earlier and the attack may be a weird legacy of that crime. Julie Hesmondhalgh is superb as victim Trish, battling with shock and struggling to understand why her. Many of the original cast are back – Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan (Beth and Mark Latimer), Arthur Darvill (vicar Paul Coates) and Carolyn Pickles (newspaper editor Maggie Radcliffe) – and are joined by a strong supporting cast of new faces that include Lenny Henry, Sarah Parish, Charlie Higson and Mark Bazeley.

Morven Christie and Vicky McClure star in The Replacement (Tues, BBC1, 9pm), a melodramatic potboiler that bears similarities to 90s films The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Single White Female in which one woman “steals” another woman’s life. In this case, architect Ellen (Christie) hires Paula (McClure) as cover when she lands a major contract then discovers she’s pregnant. Paula quickly moves in on Ellen’s friends, boss and clients, while Ellen frantically tries to hang onto everything she holds dear. If you can get past the tired tropes of female envy, rivalry and secret agendas, then this three-part psychological thriller is quite watchable, Christie and McClure both turn in excellent performances and there’s plenty of suspense in the opening episode – the tension is cranked up to 11 by the end of it.

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For many viewers, Helen Mirren IS detective Jane Tennison in the TV adaptations of Lynda LaPlante’s groundbreaking crime novels. It’s a bold move (but no doubt inspired by Endeavour) to put someone else in the role and dial back the decades to the start of her police career. In Prime Suspect 1973 (Thurs, ITV, 9pm), Stefanie Martini steps into Mirren’s shoes as the probationary WPC tackling her first murder investigation when the body of a teenage sex worker is found in the underground car park of a Hackney housing estate. On sight of episode one, it lacks the punch of Mirren’s series – it may just need time to bed in – and it’s a bit heavy on the pointers that scream “1973!” with cops that rough up suspects and policewomen dealing with chauvinism. Where it gets interesting is the back story that shows Tennison’s first steps to becoming a complex, caring yet formidable character with an alcohol problem.

Turning a successful film into a successful TV series is tricky. It worked with the Coen brothers’ Fargo; the conversion of the Lethal Weapon (Fri, ITV, 9pm) franchise is patchy, however. The roles of buddies LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh and ex Navy SEAL Martin Riggs, once occupied by Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, are now filled by Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford, who have great on-screen chemistry. That partnership and the quality of the production values are what drive this 18-part series. The supporting storylines are good on action, less on credibility. Strictly for fans.

Factual

I live within spitting distance of a skyscraper that is notorious for “singing” when there’s a gale blowing, and no one in my city knows why it does. But wait, there is enlightenment in Sound Waves: the Symphony of Physics (Thurs, BBC4, 9pm), which aims to explore the world of sound from the perspective of science. Dr Helen Czerski investigates how lasers can measure vibration to explain how certain sounds are made, using Big Ben as an example, before teaming up with opera singer Lesley Garrett CBE to examine how the larynx produces vocals. The footage of Garret singing inside an MRI scanner to reveal how her vocal tract resonates is fascinating. Czerski also looks at sounds that are beyond the range of human hearing and how black holes produce sound waves in space.

Current affairs

Whether you’re pro or anti, Brexit continues to vex everyone (except the government, it seems). Speaker’s House (Sat, BBC Parliament, 9pm) hosts a hard-hitting debate between Remainer and shadow Brexit minister Hilary Benn and Michael Gove, one of the most prominent Leave campaigners. The discussion takes place at the Westminster apartments of John Bercow, leader of the House. Ben will strike first with a lecture, before Gove responds.

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The Attack – Terror in the UK (Thurs, BBC2, 9pm) looks at what would happen if the terrorists were to mount what the security services call a Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack (MTFA) – a Paris-style mass assault in multiple locations that could result in hundreds dead. This dramatised documentary explores the challenges faced by counter-terrorism forces to keep such a threat at bay.

Music

Is there a formula for creating a hit record? Can data analysis of 50 years of chart-toppers reveal the algorithms for success? Professor Armand Lerol thinks he has the answers in The Secret Science of Pop (Tues, BBC4, 9pm) and teams up with award-winning record producer Trevor Horn to test his theory. Using machine-learning techniques, the pair use a song by unsigned artist Nike Jemiyo and see if they can make a potential chart-topper. Lerol also explores spikes in the evolution of pop, looking for those artists who transformed the musical landscape, with some startling outcomes.

Culture

Princess Diana was known as much for her style as her marital woes and Diana: Designing a Princess (Sat, BBC2, 8pm) is a brief look at some of her iconic outfits, ahead of a major exhibition of her clothes at Kensington Palace. Brenda Emmanaus looks at how Diana was acutely aware that fashion had the power to convey messages and how carefully she controlled her look. The theft in 1911 of what is now the most famous painting in the world is examined in Stealing the Mona Lisa (Sat, Channel 5, 10.30pm). Da Vinci’s artwork was much less well known at the time and Picasso was an early suspect in the Louvre heist, a theft that baffled French detectives. The reconstructions of the robbery are a bit naff but the tale itself is gripping.

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Polymath Maya Angelou died three years ago, but this week’s episode of Imagine... (Tues, BBC1, 10.45pm) delivers a star-studded profile of the trail-blazing civil rights activist, poet and writer. From impoverished beginnings and a traumatic assault, she rose to become a bold and inspirational champion of the African-American experience that redefined how we think about race and culture. This celebratory film includes footage that was shot of her before her death, rare archival material and contributions from Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton and her son Guy Johnson.

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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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