Small-Screen Jabber 4-10 February


A coastal town in tropical South India is the exotic setting for The Good Karma Hospital (Sun, ITV, 9pm). Junior doctor Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia) arrives in search of a job at the rundown, understaffed hospital and is quickly stripped of her illusions about a glamorous life recuperating from a heartbreak. The hospital is run by the eccentric Dr Lydia Fonseca (Amanda Redman), who turns no one away. Fonseca also has a love interest in the shape of Neil Morrissey’s barman, Greg. This is feelgood Sunday night fare – Casualty on the subcontinent, if you like – and an enjoyable distraction if you’re not watching the gripping Apple Tree Yard over on BBC1.

the moorside pageThe real-life kidnapping of nine-year-old Shannon Matthews from a west Yorkshire council house in 2008 shocked the country when it was revealed her mother Karen had done it to make money. The Moorside (Tues, BBC12, 9pm) dramatises the unfolding events in a gritty, kitchen-sink style with a terrific script by Jeff Pope and Neil McKay. Gemma Whelan is excellent as the conspiring, hard-faced Karen Matthews, but it’s Sheridan Smith who carries this tale of a working class community on its uppers as Julie Bushby, who campaigns tirelessly to keep Shannon’s disappearance on the front pages. My drama of the week.

roots pageRemake of the week is Roots (Wed, BBC4, 9pm), based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. This 2016 miniseries is glossier than the original of 1977, what with its $50m budget, but no less compelling. And as slavery remains all over the globe its stark horrors deserve a retelling. Malachi Kirby stars as Kunte Kinte, a proud Mandinka warrior on the brink of adulthood, kidnapped from his West African home and shipped to 18th-century America as a slave. Laurence Fishburne narrates, in the role of real-life descendant Alex Haley, and the A-list cast is a veritable feast – Forest Whitaker, Anna Paquin James Purefoy and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Unmissable.  

Dorothy and Toto are swept up once again in a tornado and land in Oz, but this time things are very different. Emerald City (Wed, 5 Star, 9pm) is a dark and bold reimagining of The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy (Adria Arjona) becomes a headstrong heroine in biker jacket and skinny jeans who holds the fate of the corrupt Oz in her hands and Toto is now a fierce alsatian. Don’t expect jolly songs and ruby shoes in this fantasy epic. This classic story is bang up to date and co-stars Vincent D’Onofrio as the Wizard. It features a largely British cast that includes Joely Richardson and Gina Bellman.


The Brink’s-Mat gold heist in 1983 was one of the biggest, most audacious robberies of modern times. Britain’s Biggest Armed Robbery (Sat, Channel 5, 10.30pm) revisits the violent events that unfolded when a gang stole gold bullion, cash and diamonds worth £26 million (£79m today) from a Heathrow depot in a military style raid. The criminals left a trail of death and the spoils have never been recovered. This documentary revisits what happened, interviews detectives who worked on the complex investigation and examines the awful legacy of murders and underworld recriminations.

sas rogue warriors bbcThe story of one of the most famous elite combat forces in the world, with its legendary motto, “Who Dares Wins”, is unveiled in the three-part SAS: Rogue Warriors (Mon, BBC2, 9pm). Its beginnings have been kept a closely guarded secret until now, but presenter Ben Macintyre has been given exclusive access to the crack unit’s archives to reveal how it was formed during the British campaign in north Africa in World War Two. This thrilling documentary uses secret files, never before seen footage and exclusive interviews with its founder members – “rogues and misfits” – to explain how they got the job done against the odds and the wishes of the military command back home.

Channel 4’s week-long mini-season on fake news explores the world of tabloid celebrity  photography in Confessions of the Paparazzi (Mon, C4, 9pm). Freelance photographer George Bamby shamelessly reveals how celebrities and the paparazzi indulge in a game of set-up photo opportunities where the lucrative rewards for the right photo are split between them. Bamby has a good store of anecdotes and reveals some of the dark arts of the paparazzi as he sets off in pursuit of Britney Spears, Wayne Rooney, Katie Hopkins and Judge Rinder, laying bare a world where public interest, morality and privacy laws butt against each other.

Current affairs

Welcome to my new category, as the world becomes an increasingly uncertain place. And where better to kick off than After Brexit: the Battle for Europe (Thurs, BBC2, 9pm), a documentary that raises one of the most important questions of our time in terms of alliances – is the EU about to collapse? Katya Adler examines how the 60-year-old institution is creaking badly at the seams, what with us clamouring to get out and the far right on the rise across the continental mainland as ordinary voters, like in the UK, are angry at seemingly no longer being in control.


alone chrissie hyndeThe great Pretender gets a long overdue profile by Arena in Alone with Chrissie Hynde (Fri, BBC4, 9pm). It’s a rare glimpse into the very private life of the self-confessed rock chick from Ohio who took the UK by storm in the post-punk new wave. Intimate, revealing and thoughtful, this portrait shows Hynde hanging out with friends Peter Tosh, Sandra Bernhard and Dan Auerback, preparing for a London gig and enjoying Parisian shopping sprees. The most interesting section is her return to her hometown, Akron, where she shows us her teenage haunts and snapshots of her childhood. Hynde’s charisma comes over in bucketloads, still the sassy frontwoman with a look unchanged since the 70s – floppy fringe and eyeliner – and sharp views on animal rights.


It was only a matter of time before Have I Got News For You got updated for the post-truth age. Stephen Mangan hosts Fake News (Mon, C4, 8pm), supported by a panel comprising Richard Osman, Richard Ayoade, Jon Richardson and Katherine Ryan. The team dissect the week’s “alternative” facts, viral clips, bizarre headlines and historical outlandish stories. The big question is, does Russia really have a compromising video of Donald Trump engaging in a piss fetish in a Moscow hotel? Perhaps the panel can shed some light.


A juicy sporting weekend beckons for rugby and tennis fans. The Six Nations is back with three matches: Scotland v Ireland (Sat, BBC1, 2pm, KO 2.25pm), England v France (Sat, ITV, 4.10pm, KO 4.50pm) and Italy v Wales (Sun, ITV, 1pm, KO 2pm). John Inverdale is anchoring the BBC coverage – over on ITV, your presenter is Mark Rougach, with Jonny Wilkinson and Lawrence Dallaglio. Over in Ottawa, it’s Davis Cup time as GB take on Canada. The two nations have only played each other once before, in 1967 – GB beat Canada soundly, but can they do it again? The doubles match is on Saturday (BBC2, 6pm), while Sunday’s reverse singles – if they take place – are only viewable online or on the red button.



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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