Small-Screen Jabber 9-15 December


bancroft sarah parish

The advertised Hatton Garden, which was scheduled to run across four evenings this week, has been pulled at the eleventh hour and replaced with new detective series Bancroft (Mon-Thurs, ITV, 9pm), which had been due to air on ITV’s Encore in the new year. It’s a rule that TV coppers must be mavericks, tormented by a dark past and with a possible addiction. And so it is with DCI Elizabeth Bancroft, played by Sarah Parish. She’s well respected, in line for promotion to superintendent and running a complicated investigation that should bring down a violent gang that is dealing in illegal arms. But Bancroft isn’t averse to breaking the rules when it comes to crime-fighting (drink!) and she’s hiding secrets from her past (drink!) – what really happened at a murder 27 years earlier? Parish is on top form as the cast lead in this compelling thriller, supported by Adrian Edmondson, Faye Marsay, Kenneth Cranham and Linus Roache.


The #MeToo spate of revelations about sexual violence in the cultural world have rightly filled the press and TV news. Less well-known is that 1 in 6 rape victims are men and very few report their attack to the police. At the root of non-reporting lies not just the shame, or the fear of not being believed but also the fear of being seen as gay because we live in a society that still struggles to deal with its homophobia in a culture of toxic masculinity. These issues are explored frankly but sensitively in the harrowing Male Rape: Breaking the Silence (from Sun, BBC3 online), in which three men waive their right to anonymity and speak candidly about their traumatic experiences of male-on-male sexual assault.  

wormwood errol morris

The truth is out there somewhere, and Wormwood (Netflix, from 15 December) follows one man’s quest to find it. “It” being the truth about the apparent suicide of biochemist Fred Olsen in 1953. Olsen’s son is determined to uncover the facts in this six-part docudrama, which examines the connections between Fred Olsen and the CIA’s secretive experiments with LSD in the 1950s – the notorious MK Ultra programme, in which the CIA explored mind control on unconsenting guinea pigs, using torture as well as psychotropic drugs. Peter Sarsgaard stars as Fred Olsen in the dramatised sections, which are based on interviews with some of those who were involved and have now broken their silence. Errol Morris of The Thin Blue Line is the director of this eerie conspiracy series. Netflix has gained a justifiable reputation of late for its true crime documentaries – this may be their finest yet.


roy orbison love hurts

Roy Orbison was one of pop’s pioneers, racking up hit after hit with songs like Pretty Woman, Only the Lonely and Crying in the 1960s. Yet his private life was riven with tragedy – his wife Claudette was killed in a road accident and his two eldest sons died in a house fire. Music was his salvation, as he sought to rebuild his career after a decline. Roy Orbison: Love Hurts (Fri, BBC4, 9.30pm) is an extraordinarily intimate family portrait laced with never before seen home movies and interviews with his three surviving sons – Wesley, Alex and Roy Jr. They draw a picture of a loving and devoted father, driven by both talent and determination to create a stable home underpinned by creative success and the financial security it brought. This is a deeply personal tale of love and loss and what it means to know a parent through their creative legacy.


peter blake pop art life

Artist Peter Blake, famous for his cover of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album, is profiled in Peter Blake: Pop Art Life (Sat, Sky Arts, 9pm). The programme’s title is apt – music was his inspiration and he went on to work with many other rock stars, including Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Suggs and Bob Geldof who share insightful anecdotes about their collaborations with Blake. Gallagher is particularly good value here as a talking head, even if prone to saying “iconic” in almost every sentence. And of course there are Blake’s gorgeous artworks at every turn.

Also getting a (well overdue) profile is the British-born, Mexico-based surrealist Leonora Carrington, who was unjustifiably barely recognised until after her death at 94 in 2011. Her extraordinary life and talent is captured in Leonora Carrington: the Lost Surrealist (Sun, BBC4, 9pm), from her refusal to be a debutante, her escape to France where she actively participated in the Surrealist movement of the 1930s, her struggles with her mental health and her arrival in Mexico where she helped found the country’s modern feminist movement.


john noakes tv hero

Viewers over 40 will recall the early Blue Peter on the BBC in the 60s and 70s, and one of its most popular presenters. John Noakes: TV Hero (Sat, BBC2, 5.30pm) pays homage to a true original following his death last May. Renowned as much for his catchphrase “get down, Shep!” (to his boisterous collie) as his anarchic and sometimes accident-prone adventures, Noakes can be seen in full flow here in some splendid clips. Noakes’ co-presenters Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves and Lesley Judd share their memories. Don’t feel excluded if you’re under 40 and missed Noakes’ heyday – it’s a great peek into classic kids TV from yore.

Christmas cheer

nigella christmas table

Tis the season to be cooking, and first out the trap is Ms Lawson, with Nigella’s Christmas Table (Mon, BBC2, 8pm). There are lots of ideas here for stylish table decorations, a proper party spread replete with heaving platters of roast duck and posh canapés, a Moroccan-style vegetable casserole and cocktails. Best of all, if you’re at best iffy about sprouts, Nigella has a recipe that looks edible.


It’s not long until the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will take place in South Korea. Skiing is the headline sport at these games and where better to scout out possible medallists than Ski Sunday (Sun, BBC2, 5.15), which will cover some of the bigger championships before we head to Pyeongchang in February. This week there’s an interview with Team GB’s James Wood, free skiing star, who hopes to collect gold, while the action is in France and a visit to the World Cup Slalom in Val d’Isère, where our own Dave Ryding will be honing his chances.

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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