Small-Screen Jabber 9-15 September


Robert Galbraith’s (aka JK Rowling) second Strike adaptation, The Silkworm (Sun, BBC1, 9pm) is a two-parter in which private investigator Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) is hired by Leonora Quine (Monica Dolan) to look into the disappearance of her notorious novelist husband Owen. Strike quickly learns how grubby, bitchy and venal the publishing world is, it seems the clue to Quine’s vanishing is embedded in his libellous and deeply unpleasant novel, Bombyx Mori, and there are some fairly disturbing scenes that include sadomasochism and self-mutilation peppering the narrative from the start. Burke is so watchable that you can forgive the gore, and the scenes with Strike’s and his assistant Robin (Holliday Grainger) are particularly good, their working relationship deteriorating because of her fiancé’s jealousy.

rellik richard dormer

There’s more crime drama in new six-part series Rellik (Mon, BBC1, 9pm). Richard Dormer, best known for Game of Thrones, stars as DCI Gabriel Markham who is trying to catch a serial killer. There’s only one problem. His team think they know the killer’s identity, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Scripted by Jack and Harry Williams, who wrote the two series of The Missing – with its confusing timelines – Rellik stands out for its plot device of the investigation being revealed in reverse (check that title, folks). It’s brilliantly bonkers, you daren’t blink in case you miss a clue and utterly, complexly compelling.

liar froggatt gruffudd

You may be torn between watching Rellik and Liar (Mon, ITV, 9pm), which was also written by Jack and Harry Williams and is being screened at the same time. In this thriller, Joanne Froggatt plays teacher Laura who has a first date with widowed surgeon Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd). The date goes disastrously for Laura, who ends up reporting her rape at the police station. Suave Andrew, however, claims they had consensual sex. So far, so “normal”. But this is a Williams drama, so it’s heavily layered and tense as the reported rape affects the two’s families and friends in the small seaside town where they live, and the police gradually uncover a nest of lies and secrets on both sides.

Another chance to see: War and Peace (Sun, Drama, noon). Tolstoy’s epic novel was remade in 2016, scripted by Andrew Davies and with lavish production values. The A-list cast includes Lily James, James Norton, Paul Dano, Gillian Anderson, Jim Broadbent and Stephen Rea. All the episodes back to back, great for a binge watch of this very fine remake.


We’re living longer, but with age comes the higher risk of dementia, cancers and other debilitating problems. How to Stay Young (Wed, BBC1, 9pm) aims to lift the lid on keeping fit and healthy past retirement age. In a three-part series, Angela Rippon and Dr Chris van Tulleken set up an age lab to examine some volunteers whose diet, stress levels or lack of fitness are causing them to age before their time. Is it possible to turn the clock back? The show follows the volunteers over three months to see if lifestyle changes can reverse the ageing process.


After an exciting and frequently innovative season, it’s time for the Last Night of the Proms (Sat, BBC1/2, from 7.15pm). Sakari Oramo conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus live from the Royal Albert Hall. The first half includes music by Wagner, Sibelius and Malcolm Sargent. Songs by Kurt Weill and Gershwin feature in the second half.

mercury prize album shortlist

Lauren Laverne hosts this year’s award for Best Album of the Year: Mercury Prize Live (Thurs, BBC4, 9pm), live from Hammersmith Apollo. The shortlist includes Ed Sheeran, Blossoms, Kate Tempest, Stormzy and The xx. The smart money is on Tempest. Some of the contenders will also be performing before learning who will pick up the gong for this prestigious award. (There’s a preview of all the acts and albums earlier in the week on Sunday, BBC2 at 10pm.)

marc bolan cosmic dancer bbc4

Best pick of the week is surely Marc Bolan: Cosmic Dancer (Fri, BBC4, 9pm), to mark two anniversaries – the original 20th century boy died, aged just 29, 40 years ago in a car crash on 16 September 1977, but he was also born 70 years ago this month. This very intimate film is narrated by Bolan himself from archive recordings and traces his rise to fame from teenage mod to the hippy frontman of Tyrannosaurus Rex before reinventing himself as a gender-bending glam rocker in the renamed T. Rex, a band whose music had a profound influence on the British rock scene. The documentary also includes previously unseen home movie footage shot by his producer Tony Visconti, who features here alongside Bolan’s partner and soul singer Gloria Jones and assorted friends, colleagues and family. They help paint a picture of a complex, driven man who believed he was predestined for fame.


Dust off your dancing shoes, for here comes the 15th series of Strictly Come Dancing (Sat, BBC1, 7pm). This is the launch show, when the celebs get paired with the pro partners and there’s a group performance – always good to spot who’s got potential. Head judge Len Goodman has been replaced by Shirley Ballas, a former queen of Latin – she’s got big shoes to fill. The series starts proper in three weeks’ time.


Mo Farah, having retired from the track, is now seeking to dominate road racing. You can catch him in action in The Great North Run (Sun, BBC1, 9.30am) and having lifted the trophy the last three times in Tyneside, he’ll be looking to make it a fourth. The 13-mile route starts in Newcastle and ends in South Shields. GB’s Jo Pavey will be hoping to win the elite women’s race, as will GB’s para-athlete Sammi Kinghorn in the elite para race. Coverage is anchored by Gabby Logan.

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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