Small-Screen Jabber 29 September – 5 October


albert power behind victoria

There’s a fresh crack at telling the story of the most famous prince consort in Albert — The Power Behind Victoria (Sat, Channel 5, 8.35pm). Gareth David-Lloyd stars in this decidedly less saccharine version of events, compared with ITV’s Victoria, and considerably more factually accurate. Samantha Bond narrates this drama-doc, which portrays Albert as a man who was effectively king to Victoria’s queen (played by Olivia Hallinan), in a relation that when not marked by power struggles and fierce arguments was passionate and loving. He’s also shown here as the foreigner who fought for better conditions for workers during the industrial revolution and helped influence events in the British empire.

the cry

A squally baby disrupts a flight to Australia with his constant screaming, distressing already knackered mum Joanna (Jenna Coleman. Partner Alistair (Ewen Leslie), a smooth-talking spin doctor, is hoping to get custody of his teenage daughter while out there, but then three-month-old Noah goes missing. The Cry (Sun, BBC1, 9pm) is a psychological thriller adapted from Helen Fitzgerald’s novel and with a massive police hunt for Noah underway, Joanna starts to wonder if Alistair is behind his disappearance. There are shades of the dingo baby case, with both Joanna and real life mother Lindy Chamberlain (portrayed by Meryl Streep in A Cry in the Dark) judged on their parenting by the media, and global interest in the outcome. It’s imaginative, gripping and has plenty of unexpected twists.

Sorry for Your Loss

You may have already heard of Sorry for Your Loss (available now on Facebook Watch), a drama series created for the social media channel Facebook. Elizabeth Olsen stars as a young, recently widowed journalist who is struggling to cope with the death of her husband and moves in with her mother Amy (Janet McTeer) and sister Jules (Kelly Marie Tran). It’s well written and could sit as easily on Netflix as it does on Facebook’s attempt at TV streaming, which was previously full of filler but is now maturing somewhat. Olsen is very watchable and there’s a strong cast of characters – friends, colleagues and relatives – in this occasionally comedic but otherwise quite tough but thankfully nuanced and sensitively handled exploration of grief and its impact.


Drowning In Plastic

David Attenborough’s documentary on plastic in our oceans shocked everyone – Drowning in Plastic (Mon, BBC1, 8.30pm) follows up on that. Presenter Liz Bonnin meets scientists working in various Pacific locations to study the damage to wildlife, include coral reefs. It’s no longer fish but marine birds too – Bonnin discovers that chicks are inadvertently fed up to 200 pieces of micro plastics by the parents. It’s heartbreaking, and not an easy watch for 90 minutes. But there is good news too as Bonnin looks at the solutions to cleaning the oceans that are coming into play, and new kinds of biodegradable packaging.

Ten years on from the financial crash, The Bank That Almost Broke Britain (Tues, BBC2, 9pm) looks at how the Royal Bank of Scotland came within a whisker of crippling the economy when it ran out of cash. This was a year after the run on Northern Rock, the first indicator of the looming crisis, and the government was forced to step in and buy 58% of RBS as it was deemed “too big to fail”. Despite the dry subject matter, this has the nature of a thriller as the Treasury raced to prevent disaster and CEO of RBS Fred Goodman was unveiled as the reckless orchestrator of RBS’s downfall.


My Favourite Sketch gold

The Fast Show’s Paul Whitehouse is the guest in the first episode of My Favourite Sketch (Fri, Gold, 10pm), as he picks his choice comedy sketches for host Sally Phillips. Some good ones, too – with a peep at Fry and Laurie and Laurel and Hardy, the latter almost never seen on TV now. The other five guests over the next few weeks are Jessica Hynes, Jason Manford, Johnny Vegas, Bob Mortimer and Sue Perkins, and part of the appeal of this clips show is that the cast of seven recreate a classic sketch each week. The other appeal, obviously, is to enjoy sketches that sometimes were last aired decades ago.


the big audition

“How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2.30pm on a Friday?” This was a real interview question and may well seem pointless and designed to catch out the interviewee. So get ready for more bizarre questions when panels try to find the right employees for them in The Big Audition (Fri, ITV, 9pm). Over six episodes, hopeful applicants try to get picked for roles as diverse as playing Henry VIII at Hampton Court, shopping channel presenter and even a hand model. The show comes from the producers of First Dates but aims to show what happens behind closed doors during the interview process. You won’t see anyone trying to land a top office-based job but the programme is certainly revealing.

great model railway challenge

Model railway enthusiasts tend to be seen as rather nerdy but I kind of hope The Great Model Railway Challenge (Fri, Channel 5, 8pm) will debunk that – it has certainly grabbed my attention. It’s competition to find the country’s top modellers, and the opening heat features three teams tasked with creating a train layout based on a classic film. The creativity is as good as you’d find on Bake Off, and the same spirit of support even in the throes of fierce rivalry. Some of the set-ups are jaw-dropping in their detail and the tension as the builds begin to take shape will have you cheering the teams on.

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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