Small-Screen Jabber 26 May – 1 June 2018

Drama

king learAnthony Hopkins stars in the title role of King Lear (Mon, BBC2, 9.30pm), a very modern reworking of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy about an ageing monarch who foolishly divides his kingdom according to how much affection his three daughters have shown him, with resulting chaos and enmity. Richard Eyre’s adaptation is set in present-day Britain, with obvious hints at the UK’s current divisions, post-Brexit. The star-studded cast counts Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Florence Pugh as daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, plus Christopher Eccleston, Jim Broadbent and Andrew Scott.

Factual

jonathan meades jargon

If you have a seagull for a boss, hate collateral damage and wonder what a political ground war is, you need cultural commentator Jonathan Meades on Jargon (Sun, BBC4, 10.30pm) to help you unpick them. Meades is an expert in cutting through the red tape of language in sport, politics, the workplace, sport and the media to demonstrate how words are used to obfuscate and confuse. He’s particularly good on the sort of official language used by the civil service that is often deployed to mislead the public and can actually damage democracy, but this witty, wide-ranging and provocative lecture also punctures plenty of balloons elsewhere.  

3 men and a baby

It’s an act of altruism to help out infertile couples, but there’s something also slightly queasy about 4 Men, 175 Babies: Britain’s Super Sperm Donors (Tues, C4, 10pm). I mean, that’s a lot of masturbation, but also a touch of arrogance about their fecundity. This film follows the four donors over the course of a year as they donate their semen outside the regulated system – they make contact with childless women via Facebook groups and websites, then travel all the country to help out with their “doorstep deliveries”. It’s a flourishing practice, as many women are turned down by regulated clinics. There’s also a look at the legal and genetic minefields of what happens when babies are conceived this way.

Music

The four-city The Biggest Weekend (Sat-Mon, BBC1/2/4, from 4.30pm) continues, with performances in Belfast, Swansea, Perth and Coventry. Top names on the stages include Liam Gallagher, Noel Gallagher (alas, not on the same stage as Liam), Ed Sheeran, Florence and the Machine, Taylor Swift, Paloma Faith, Neneh Cherry, Simple Minds, Franz Ferdinand, Stereophonics and Rita Ora. Phew! And that’s just a snapshot. There’s more on the red button, and it’ll be on iPlayer too if you miss your favourites.

africa a journey into music

Despite the popularity of world music, much of the rhythms of Africa remain largely unknown in the UK and Africa: a Journey into Music (Fri, BBC4, 10pm) is a welcome window into the joys of afrobeat. Africa is far too big and far too diverse to cram an entire continent into three episodes, so presenter DJ Rita Ray (former singer with Darts) sensibly narrows down the locations to Nigeria, Mali and South Africa. She kicks off in Nigeria, where King Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti pioneered the afrobeat sound, an infectious blend of polyrhythmic drumming, hi-life, rock and reggae, and looks at how Yoruban drumming was transported to America by the slave trade and formed the roots of jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. This is an absolute delight of a series – a serious look at modern African music, delivered with panache and authority by Ray, that will send you rushing to the nearest record shop.

Culture

today bill grundy sex pistols

Presenter Bill Grundy was sacked from Thames TV after his notorious live interview on Today with the then barely known Sex Pistols in December 1976. The punks were filling in after Freddie Mercury cancelled and Grundy provoked them into a swearfest that seems mild now but was a total no-no on TV back then. Anarchy on Thames (Thurs, Sky Arts, 9.30pm) revisits those fatal (for Grundy, who was allegedly drunk) 90 seconds, with some of the former Pistols recounting their memories and a look at the tabloid hysteria that followed and turned a tiny regional event into a national scandal.

Comedy

how the young ones changed comedy

It’s incredible to think one of the most game-changing sitcoms of the 1980s ran for only 12 episodes. How the Young Ones Changed Comedy (Sat, Gold, 9.30pm) looks at why the show, about four students in a flatshare, was so radical. There are contributions from actors Nigel Planer and Alexei Sayle, writer Lise Meyer and producer Paul Jackson, while comics such as Richard Herring and David Baddiel reflect on how The Young Ones influenced their own comedy. There is some excellent archive footage and outtakes, and a chance to keenly mourn the loss of Rik Mayall again.

After the official unscripted episode earlier this month, it’s probably time to grab the Kleenex for Peter Kay’s Car Share: the Finale (Mon, BBC1, 10pm). This really is the end after two series and a couple of specials, but it’s time to find out if supermarket manager John (Kay) finally manages to get together with promotions rep Kayleigh (Sian Gibson). No previews were available, but Elbow frontman Guy Garvey pops up in a supporting role.

Sport

In the Champions League Final (Sat, BT Sport, 7pm) it’s Real Madrid v Liverpool, in what’s the last big football event before the World Cup gets underway next month. Kickoff is at 7.45pm. The French Open (from Sun, ITV4/Eurosport, from 9.30am) is the second tennis grand slam of the season. No Andy Murray this year, but leading the Brits will be Kyle Edmund, who has rocketed up the rankings since he reached the semis at the Australian Open in January – he’s now world no 17 and has been seeded 16 for the tournament. One to watch…  Also in France (well, technically) it’s the Monaco Grand Prix (Sun, C4/Sky F1, from 1pm). The race starts at 2.10pm).

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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