Small-Screen Jabber 26 August – 1 September

Drama

BBC2’s Performance Live series has been a bit hit and miss but Get a Round (Sat, BBC2, 10pm) is definitely worth catching. First a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, and part comic drama, part cabaret, it’s about three Mancunian women (played by Sara Cocker, Lowri Evans and Leonie Higgins) enjoying a raucous night out down the pub. Yet it’s political, exploring feminism, the growing divide in austerity Britain and the uncertainty of Brexit, and asking the audience to consider how we should reconnect.

strike cuckoo calling burke

JK Rowling’s first non-Harry Potter novel, The Casual Vacancy, was successfully adapted for TV in 2015. Now it’s the turn of her Robert Galbraith novels, the first of which is Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling (Sun, BBC1, 9.05pm. The Strike of the title is Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke), a skint private detective and ex-military police officer. He also has a prosthetic leg, after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan, and his rock star dad is calling in the loan that funded Strike’s agency. He’s called upon to investigate the death of supermodel Lula Landry, who allegedly killed herself by jumping off a balcony. Her brother thinks otherwise. It’s a sleek and well-written production, with Burke turning in a fabulous performance as the down-at-heel PI and a cast that includes Martin Shaw and Tara Fitzgerald.

Victoria Season 2 jenna coleman

Head to Head with Strike is Victoria (Sun, ITV, 9pm), series two of the drama about the eponymous queen. The story picks up from the first season with Victoria (Jenna Coleman) resuming the job of ruling the nation after giving birth and finding herself sidelined by Albert (Tom Hughes), the prime minister and others who seemingly believe a new mum is a delicate thing. Steely Vic starts to fight back. This is the kind of easy period fluff that’s perfect for a relaxing Sunday night, and it looks sumptuous, but it’s lifted by Coleman’s acting and a reasonably accurate portrayal of the facts. (My money’s on Strike, though.)

Factual

in solitary anti social experiment

I often find presenter George Lamb too lightweight, but kudos to him for agreeing to be locked up in In Solitary: the Anti-Social Experiment (Mon, Channel 5, 9pm). Along with Lamb, three volunteers agree to spend five days in an isolation pod while psychologists monitor their behaviour to examine the effect isolation can have on the personality. Now, I’m quite happy in my own company for days at a time but humans are social creatures and lack of contact can be seriously damaging, especially as we are so rarely truly alone. The volunteers can leave if they really need to get out, for this is a serious experiment and mental health is paramount. It’s very revealing – two of them go off the rails, unsurprisingly, and the other two learn some startling truths about themselves

Music

There’s a rip-roaring double BBC Proms bill to savour this week. First up is Prom 57: Swing No End (Fri, BBC4, 8pm), in which two big bands do battle with a stunning set list from the back catalogues of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Mary Lou Williams. The two bands are led by Guy Barker and Winston Rollins. Singers include Clare Teal and Vanessa Haynes. Second is Prom 65: Stax Records: 50 Years of Soul (Fri, BBC4, 10.15pm), in which top artists pay tribute to the iconic soul label. Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra are at the helm, with legendary guests from Stax itself – Booker T. Jones, Sam Moore William Bell, Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd. Sir Tom Jones, who has covered many a Stax tune, also appears alongside Beverley Knight, James Morrison and Ruby Turner.

robert johnson

Sky’s new season on rock music, the unimaginatively titled Rock and Roll (Fri, Sky Arts, 9pm), charts the history of rock not by era but by subject and the opening episode looks at death. In particular, the personal conflicts between religion and the music that musicians experienced, with the likes of Robert Johnson and Jerry Lee Lewis believing they would burn in hell for playing. The approach of this series of ten films has not been explored much before, but it brings some really interesting insights to the fore that reshape the stories of many famous artists that scratch well below the surface.

Culture

With the highly successful adaptation of her dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale still being talked about, Imagine... Margaret Atwood: You Have Been Warned (Mon, BBC1, 10.30pm) is a timely profile of the Canadian author. Alan Yentob interviews Atwood about how her upbringing – partly in the Canadian wilderness and partly in Toronto – inspired her prolific output. Atwood is frank, provocative and no-nonsense, and the sections where she dismissively bats away some of Yentob’s dafter questions (there are more than a few) are a joy. This study of her life and work reveals why she is universally acclaimed as Canada's greatest living writer.

frank lloyd wright

America’s most famous architect, responsible for shaping much of the “look” of 20th century buildings in the USA, is profiled in Frank Lloyd Wright: the Man Who Built America (Wed, BBC4, 9pm). Jonathan Adams, himself an architect and imbued with much passion for his hero, treks across America to visit some of Lloyd Wright’s most iconic designs, from public buildings to private commissions. Adams explores the work ethic and personal beliefs that drove Lloyd Wright while touching on his sometimes tragic life.

Entertainment

channel 4 GBBO 2018

So, was it worth the £75 million poaching fee? Watch the Great British Bake Off (Tues, C4, 8pm) and find out. Actually, not much has changed – it’s still a tent in the middle of a field and 12 contestants. And Paul Hollywood. Prue Leith fills Mary Berry’s role well and Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding, while they lack the cosy chemistry of Mel and Sue, do a decent enough job as the presenters with the comic touch. Actually, Fielding is rather good – it’s a pleasure to see him being himself rather than zany comedian. The challenges are all unchanged too. No soggy bottoms in sight.

Sport

The Women’s Rugby World Cup (Sat, ITV4, 7.15pm) is live from Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium as England try to beat New Zealand. Kickoff is at 7.45pm. The last tennis grand slam of the year, the US Open (from Mon, Eurosport 1/2, from 3.30pm), will see Andy Murray attempt to finally recover his lost form, Federer attempt to win his 20th slam championship and everyone else try to beat them and Nadal.

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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