Small-Screen Jabber 8-14 September


black earth rising bbc2

An international war crimes tribunal is the unlikely but gripping setting for writer/director Hugo Blick’s eight-part thriller Black Earth Rising (Mon, BBC2, 9pm), which stars Michaela Coel as Kate Ashby, child victim of the Rwandan genocide, adopted in the UK as a refugee by lawyer Eve (Harriet Walter) and now a lawyer herself. When Eve starts a prosecution case for an African militia leader, Kate’s life is turned upside down as her past traumas resurface, including the loss of her Rwandan given name and thus identity. Black Earth Rising takes on huge questions about the West’s relationship with Africa, issues of identity, loyalties and morality, it has fabulous locations and the grit of courtroom dramas such as Judgement at Nuremberg. John Goodman co-stars.

strangers itv 2018 cast

I have mixed feeling about Strangers (Mon, ITV, 9pm), which stars John Simm as Jonah Mulray, a professor who discovers his wife Megan (Dervla Kirwan) has been killed in a car crash in Hong Kong and has to conquer his fear of flying to go there to identify her body. Naturally, nothing is as it seems – Jonah uncovers dark secrets about Megan’s life in the Far East and she may possibly not have died by someone else’s hand. Conspiracy thriller then. It’s nowhere near as compelling as the current Bodyguard, or even Black Earth Rising, which it goes head to head with. But the twist at the end of episode one may haul you back next week.

Trust FX bbc2 2018

Glamour, wealth and family dysfunction abound in Trust (Wed, BBC2, 9pm), a 10-part dramatisation of the tribulations of the Getty dynasty. It has pedigree – the director is Danny Boyle, the writer Simon “The Full Monty” Beaufoy – grandeur in its sweeping ambition and Hollywood cachet in the shape of Donald Sutherland. John Paul Getty Sr (Sutherland, bringing all his pompous magnificence to the role) – a manipulative, penny-pinching, cruel and egotistical – needs a new heir for his oil empire after his firstborn kills himself. But then his heroin-addicted grandson John Paul Getty III (Harris Dickinson), who has relentlessly tapped Getty Sr for money, is kidnapped in Italy. This is big, bold storytelling, with the abduction at the heart of the tragedies that befell the Gettys, and brave enough to include an episode entirely in Italian that tells the kidnappers’ side of the story. The cast includes Brendan Fraser as Getty Sr’s fixer and gofer James Fletcher Chace, Hilary Swank as JPG III’s mother Gail Getty and Anna Chancellor as Getty Sr’s mistress Penelope. Unmissable.

No Offence series three channel 4

A third outing for Paul Abbott’s No Offence (Thurs, C4, 9pm), his riotous, boundary-pushing and critically acclaimed police dramedy. DI Viv Deering (Joanna Scanlan) leads the Friday Street team again – Elaine Cassidy, Alexandra Roach, Will Mellor, Paul Ritter, Ste Johnston, Tom Varey, and Saira Choudhry – as they try to contain civil unrest in the Manchester neighbourhood of Cinderley, where a mayoral hustings between the soft liberal incumbent Karim Hassan (Ace Bhatti) is fighting off local lefty Labourite Caroline McCoy (Lisa McGrillis). The extreme right group Albion is trying to make political capital out of the election and as the violence spills over, the Friday street coppers discover they may also have a serial killer on the loose.


massacre at ballymurphy

Catholic families on the Ballymurphy housing estate in Belfast are still trying to uncover the truth about why the British army shot dead 11 innocent people over the course of three days in August 1971 - two years into the Troubles, only weeks into interment and barely known outside Northern Ireland. Award-winning documentary-maker Callum Macrae’s film Massacre at Ballymurphy (Sat, C4, 9pm) investigates the killings, using personal testimonies and reconstructions of the events in a powerful examination of why justice is still hard to access for many Northern Irish who were caught up in the conflict.


After a thrillingly diverse season, Last Night of the Proms (Sat, BBC2 then BBC1, from 7.15pm) wraps it all up until next year. Sir Andrew Davis conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with the BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus, plus guest performers baritone Gerald Finley and saxophonist Jess Gillam. Music includes Stanford's Songs of the Sea, a new commission by Roxanna Panufnik to mark the centenary of the end of the first world war, compositions by Hindemith, Berlioz, Saint-Saens and Rodgers and Hammerstein.

amy winehouse day she came dingle bbc

BBC4’s Amy Winehouse Night kicks off with the channel’s Classic Albums strand and a look at Amy Winehouse: Back to Black (Fri, BBC4, 9pm). The singer’s second album, produced by Mark Ronson, brought her global stardom in 2006 – her songs about the pain of love and rejection resonated widely. There is some rarely seen footage from the studio sessions in the US, while Ronson, Ronnie Spector and assorted friends and colleagues discuss Winehouse’s talent and troubled personal life. It’s followed by the BBC Sessions: Amy Winehouse at 10pm and then there’s a repeat of the Arena film Amy Winehouse – the Day She Came to Dingle at 10.50pm, a fabulous account of her acoustic performance at the 2006 festival there.


Concept artist Christo, most famous for wrapping iconic buildings, gets a well-deserved retrospective in Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Monumental Art (Sun, BBC4, 9pm). Jeanne-Claude is Christo’s wife and co-creator who unfairly rarely gets a mention or credit. The pair worked in London this year to create an artwork – the Mastaba – on the Serpentine in London's Hyde Park, made from 7,500 painted oil drums and weighing 600 tonnes. The creation of the Mastaba is the focus of this show, but it gives a good in to the duo’s back catalogue of provocative works of art, and how they fund their creations and get permission to work in public spaces. Journalists and creatives such as performance artist Marina Abramovic and architect Sir Norman Foster share their perspectives.


Polish that glitterball and dust off your sequins – Strictly Come Dancing (Sat, BBC1, 7.35pm) is back. This is the year that social media stars are in the celebrity lineup (YouTuber Joe Suggs, for example) as the Beeb chases the youth vote, and most of the rest are ex-pop stars, soap stars, newsreaders or TV presenters. No matter, this is the one talent show that is genuinely addictive – mainly for the fabulous professional dancing. 


We head to Newcastle and Gateshead for the Great North CityGames (Sat, BBC1, 1.15pm), which offers an afternoon of track and field events in the heart of the two cities. It’s your last chance to see long jumper Greg Rutherford before he retires, although Paralympic gold medallist Jonnie Peacock is back in action after a 12-month break. Still in Newcastle, next day it’s the Great North Run (Sun, BBC1, 9.30am), the world's biggest half-marathon. Mo Farah will be defending his 2017 title and hoping for an unprecedented fifth consecutive victory. Gabby Logan anchors the coverage for both events.

Meanwhile in New York, it’s the finals of the US Open tennis slam (Sat/Sun, Amazon Prime, from 5pm and 9pm). After Federer’s shock exit, Novak Djokovic is facing a showdown with Juan Martin del Potro in the men’s singles, while Naomi Osaki takes on Serena Williams, who continues her remarkable return to form and with a 7th title in her sights.

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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