Small-Screen Jabber 30 July – 5 August

Sharp-eyed readers may have already spotted TV is having a 1966 moment – it’s 50 years, after all, since that year marked a number of cultural and sporting upheavals. There’s a crop of very interesting documentaries marking this anniversary over the next few days. And enjoy this week of relative normal programming, for the Olympics begin on Friday and if you don’t like sport the next fortnight will offer sparse viewing.


small screen jabber 30 july 5 august 2016 world cup 1966 embedThe last time England won the World Cup was, yup, 1966. And in 1966: a Nation Remembers (Sat, ITV, 9pm) Terence Stamp narrates a fabulous oral history that includes memories from fans who were at the match, some of the players, even a policeman who was tasked with looking after the trophy. Companion show World Cup 1966: Alfie’s Boys (Sun, BBC2, 10pm) is a feature-length documentary on Alf Ramsay’s squad. It features lots of previously unaired archive footage, contributions from Bobby Charlton, Gordon Banks and other players, and is narrated by David Jason. Earlier, Tom Daley: Diving for Gold (Sat, ITV, 8pm) offers a portrait of the young Olympic star who has grown up in public, and how. Handsome, charming and open, he’s deceptively complex and, still only 22, there’s also a look at him perfecting a new dive as he trains for the Rio Olympics.

It’s the annual Cycling: Ride London weekend (Sat, BBC2, 6pm, and Sun, BBC1, from 10am). First is the women’s Classique race, which now has UCI World Tour status. The 5.5km circuit through central London starts and ends at The Mall, via St James’s Park, Big Ben, Whitehall, the Strand and Trafalgar Square. The men’s London-Surrey Classic sees 150 of the world’s top pro cyclists tackle a 200km route starting from Horse Guards Parade, St James’s Park in central London and passing through Richmond Park, Kingston upon Thames, Hampton Court Bridge and Dorking, before heading back to the capital past a host of famous landmarks. Britain's Team Sky should include Chris Froome, Christian Knees, Ian Stannard and Ben Swift.

British Olympic champion Mo Farah reveals the extraordinary sacrifices he’s made to become one of the world’s top athletes in Mo Farah: Race of His Life (Thurs, BBC1, 9pm). Here we see him running on a treadmill, a hi-tech oxygen mask strapped to his face, while at bedtime he sleeps with his head in an oxygen-depriving altitude pillow that aims to boost his red blood cell count, and for much of the year he trains in the harsh climates of Arizona and Ethiopia. Fellow athletes Haile Gebrselassie and Usain Bolt pay tribute to Farah’s achievements as he prepares for the Rio Olympics.

And so to Brazil. First, Olympics 2016: Countdown to Rio (Fri, BBC1, 8.30pm) sees Clare Balding and assorted guests preview the forthcoming games over the next two weeks. Expect to see some of Team GB being interviewed. Then it’s the Opening Ceremony (Fri, BBC1, 11.40pm). Brazil will be hard pressed to match Danny Boyle’s spectacular show at London 2012, but Brazilian film directors Daniela Thomas and Fernando Meireilles have been brought into choreograph the ceremony at Rio’s Maracana stadium that aims to display the country’s rich culture.


small screen jabber 30 july 5 august 2016 britains pompeii village lost in time embedAround 3,000 years ago, a stilted water village in Cambridgeshire Fens caught fire and all the structures collapsed into the peat below the water to be preserved forever. Archaeologists have been busy excavating Britain’s Pompeii: A Village Lost in Time (Tues, BBC4, 9pm), which has revealed astonishing treasures and information about Bronze Age settlements. Professor Alice Roberts guides us through the artefacts – fabrics, household utensils, weapons – and also looks at the evidence for arson, for the community’s farmers were wealthy enough to trade with France and Germany and their riches may have provoked envy.

After tackling the 1970s in 2012, The 80s with Dominic Sandbrook (Thurs, BBC2, 9pm) sees the historian explore the politics and cultural shifts of that decade. This was the age of Thatcherism and the radical societal changes she pushed through – the selling off of council housing, the credit boom that ushered in consumerism and the busting of the trade unions. Meanwhile, Labour tussled with hard-left entryism, becoming unelectable for the next 18 years. Delia Smith’s cookery programmes and satirical puppet show Spitting Image were the TV hits, and it was a golden age for post-punk pop from Kate Bush to synth bands via The Smiths. Sandbrook weaves all these disparate elements together with aplomb to produce a rich tapestry of one of modern history’s defining decades.


Brazil's most famous and enduring song, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s cool, jazzy number, was a global hit after Astrud Gilberto sang on the English-language recording. The Girl From Ipanema: Brazil, Bossa Nova and the Beach (Mon, BBC4, 9pm) uncovers the story of this bossa nova classic about a teenage girl passing by the beach in Rio de Janeiro every day. Katie Derham goes to Rio to meet the 1950s musicians who invented bossa nova and find out how the city, its landscapes and its urban culture influenced Jobim and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes.


small screen jabber 30 july 5 august 2016 versus life and films of ken loach embedAcclaimed British director Ken Loach – controversial, talented, political – released his debut film Cathy Come Home in 1966 and has continued to delight and infuriate since then. Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach (Sat, BBC2, 9.10pm) looks back at his half-century of film-making, with contributions from actors who have worked with him, including Cillian Murphy, Gabriel Byrne, Sheila Hancock and Ricky Tomlinson, plus director Alan Parker and critic Melvyn Bragg.

The cultural explosion of 1966 is documented in Generation 66 (Sun, BBC4, 9pm). A year when British pop music, fashions and, yes, that football match, were feted across the globe. Political events also shaped the year – the bills that paved the way in 1967 to legalise abortion and homosexuality were both passed in 66. Contributors include Michael Palin, Janet Street-Porter, Geno Washington and Peter Stringfellow.


Jackie Clune stars as hapless chief inspector Linda Proctor, head of a team of incompetent border control staff working in a busy airport in Borderline (Tues, Channel 5, 10pm). The six-part mockumentary is narrated by Ralf Little, who provides amusing commentary as the agents deal with implementing Home Office directives and screening immigrants. It’s the channel’s first foray into home-grown comedy, character-led and a safe bet that viewers will relate to most of the situations depicted. Episode one sees Proctor coping with a government instruction to racially profile passengers while the team moan about how much they hate their jobs.

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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