Small-Screen Jabber 7-13 July

Drama

sharp objects

Amy Adams stars in psychological thriller Sharp Objects (Mon, Sky Atlantic, 9pm), based on Gillian Flynn’s novel, as crime journalist Camille Preaker. A self-harmer, she’s freshly released from a psychiatric hospital and returns to her hometown in Missouri to investigate the killing of two young girls. Her neurotic mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson) is the town socialite, a hypochondriac and highly critical of her daughter. This and their decidedly creepy family home force Camille to confront her demons, as she begins to identify with the two murder victims. In eight parts, the first episode gets off to a good start by building a tense atmosphere and setting out the story arc.

picnic at hanging rock

Joan Lindsey’s eerie novel about missing Victorian schoolgirls in the Australian outback was a highly successful film in 1976. Now Picnic at Hanging Rock (Wed, BBC2, 9.05pm) has been adapted, reimagined even, for TV in a gripping six-part series. Set in 1900, a class of teenage girls at the privately run Appleyard College set out for a summer picnic with one of the governesses. Three of them, and their teacher, disappear while climbing Hanging Rock, a fourth reappears disoriented and hysterical. They cannot be found and the event has a catastrophic effect on the town as locals suspect rape and murder, concerned parents take their daughters from the school and staff resign. A cracking new version of the tale that is at least as good as Peter Weir’s 1975 Bafta-winning film.

The third new thriller to start this week is Keeping Faith (Thurs, BBC1, 9pm). Eve Myles stars as solicitor Faith Howells, on maternity leave in her small Welsh village. Evan, her husband and business partner, leaves for work one morning but never arrives. His vanishing forces Faith back to work defending petty criminals and trying to find clues to Evan’s disappearance (and having to curtail her boozy nights out with her pals). The opening episode (of eight) is a mid-weight scene-setter – from then on, it’s a dark and twisty mystery full of red herrings, left turns and cliffhangers as secrets tumble out of closets and Faith starts to realise how little she knew her husband.

Factual

john curry ice king

Ice skater John Curry revolutionised his sport, winning Olympic gold at the Innsbruck winter games and, after his dad refused to let him do ballet as a kid, turned ice dancing into an art form. Behind the talent and acclaim, however, Curry was plagued with depression, loneliness, debt and toxic love affairs, and struggled with his sexuality. He died of Aids-related heart problems. John Curry: the Ice King (Mon, BBC4, 10pm) tells his compelling story using home Super-8 footage and Curry’s intimate letters to his friends. There are, naturally, clips of his stunning performances and recollections from those close to him.

Music

britpop now

Britpop Now (Sat, Yesterday, 7pm) is an hour-long roundup of BBC archive clips. Damon Albarn introduces a 1995 compilation of live studio performances from the 90s generation of British guitar-pop bands, featuring the first TV performance of Blur's Country House, plus Pulp’s Common People, Supergrass with Alright and Elastica’s Line Up. Also featured are classics from Sleeper, Gene, the Boo Radleys, PJ Harvey, Menswear, Marion, Powder and Echobelly. First shown on BBC4 in 2007.

The summer proms season is upon us. The First Night of the Proms (Fri, BBC2, 8.30pm) features an all-British programme live from the Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, National Youth Choir and Proms Youth Ensemble conducted by Sakari Oramo. The music is by Vaughan Williams (Toward the Unknown Region), Holst (The Planets) and Anna Meredith, whose specially commissioned work Five Telegrams draws on communications sent by young soldiers in 1918, taken from a British Field Service postcard. Presenters are Georgia Mann and Petroc Trelawny.

Culture

The oeuvres of leading film-makers are dissected in The Directors (Thurs, Sky Arts, 9pm). First up is Alfred Hitchcock, master of suspense and purveyor of distinct motifs in his films. Leading critics explore his back catalogue to determine which were his best – Psycho, Vertigo and The Birds are among those they rate. They also look at why Hitch always made a cameo appearance and the meaning of his recurring themes.

Comedy

Rik Mayall lord of misrule

Comic genius Rik Mayall died in 2014, and there’s another chance to see Rik Mayall: Lord of Misrule (Sat, BBC4, 10pm), first broadcast shortly after his death. The archive clips are a choice selection of his best work – the rocket-fuelled physical comedy, surrealism, subversive satire and pompous punk wit – in Blackadder, The Young Ones, Kevin Turvey, The New Statesman, Bottom... Those lining up to pay tribute are a veritable who’s who of British comic talent – they include Michael Palin, Simon Pegg, Lenny Henry, Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle, Christopher Ryan, Tim McInnerny, Jools Holland, Ruby Wax and Greg Davies. Simon Callow narrates.

Sport

Obviously, if you’re following the World Cup (and who isn’t, apart from me?) then you’ll be tuning into England v Sweden (Sat, BBC1, from 2.30pm). The teams go head to head in Samara, with a kickoff at 3pm. Bookies’ odds keep fluctuating, but suggest England are more likely to win. Let’s see if they’re right. The last quarter-final follows on ITV at 6.30pm with Russia v Croatia. Kickoff is at 7pm.

The Tour de France (Sat, ITV4/Eurosport1, from 9.30am) starts its three week-long odyssey around France, plus a tiny 15km detour to Spain. Stage 1 takes place in the Vendée on France’s Atlantic coast, which is windy and also prone to storms in the summer. This section of the race starts on the Ile de Noirmoutier and finishes 20km down the road at Fontenay-le-Comte.

strokes of genius federer nadal

Wimbledon (from Sat, BBC1/2, from 11.30am) continues. By now, all the fourth round matches should have been played, given an idea who might go all the way in the singles. Roger Federer is the obvious favourite, and if Serena Williams continues her astonishing opening salvos she must surely be a contender. There’s no play on the middle Sunday, but if you need a fix then Strokes of Genius: Federer v Nadal (Sun, BBC2, 6.20pm) revisits their long rivalry and the epic five-set final of 2008, when Rafa finally wrested the crown from Roger. Their coaches and tennis pundits from John McEnroe to Pete Sampras share their thoughts.

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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