Small-Screen Jabber 7-13 October

Drama

snowfall embed

John Singleton, of Boyz N the Hood fame, is the producer behind Snowfall (Sun, BBC2, 10pm), a punchy, in your face drama about the beginnings of the crack epidemic in 1980s Los Angeles. Teenager Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) lives with his mum and is planning a good future, but he’s also a small-time cannabis dealer and a chance encounter at a party leads to him selling huge quantities of cocaine. It changes his life, and his city. Meanwhile, CIA agent Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson) senses an opportunity to boost his career when he discovers a colleague has died from a cocaine overdose but was also secretly running a drug cartel. Beautifully shot on location in LA, the bright colours and sunshine belie this dark tale.

Michelle Keegan reprises her turn as military doctor Georgie Lane in Our Girl: Nepal Tour (Tues, BBC1, 9pm). Her unit, 2 Section, has been sent to Nepal to provide humanitarian relief following an earthquake. First, though, she’s in Syria on a rescue mission, where she bumps up against confrontational new recruit Maisie Richards. In Nepal, danger looms from the locals, her dodgy squaddie ex Elvis (Luke Pasqualino) turns up with his own unit and she’s tasked with mentoring Maisie (who will surely turn out to have a heart of gold later on). Soapy and sentimental, it’s Keegan who makes Our Girl watchable.

Mindhunter embed

Silence of the Lambs put the spotlight on FBI profilers and has inspired Mindhunter (Netflix, from 13 Oct), a thriller produced by 7even’s David Fincher and actor Charlize Theron. It is based on the true story of FBI agent John Douglas. Set in 1979, two FBI profilers, Holden Ford and Bill Tench (Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany) spend their days interviewing imprisoned serial killers in an attempt to understand how their minds work. With ongoing cases piling up – many of the murders hideously grim - they race the clock to apply their insights catch more killers.

Factual

Heroin addiction, sex trafficking and murder are out of control in the USA’s big cities and creating devastating crises. In Louis Theroux: Dark States (Sun, BBC2, 9pm), Theroux visits three different cities trying to reduce both the crimes and their impact. In the first episode, he goes to Huntington, West Virginia, to examine Americans’ dependency on prescription painkillers. New restrictions on prescribing mean many people are now turning to heroin instead – cheap, easy to get hold of and now killing more people than car accidents or gun crime. In Huntington, one in 10 babies are born addicted and the fatal overdose rate is 13 times the national average. Theroux meets addicts and follows the emergency services as they struggle to cope with multiple overdoses each day.

The Russian revolution was one of the most defining events of the 20th century and, 100 years on, continues to have an impact on global geopolitics. Russia 1917: Countdown to Revolution (Tues, BBC2, 9pm) dramatises the Bolshevik trio of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin’s emergence as the power players who transformed one of the largest countries on earth into a people’s state. No previews were available but historians and writers, including Simon Sebag Montefiore, Tariq Ali and Martin Amis, debate what the revolution meant and how it shaped the world we live in today.

hour catch killer

More real-life crime. The so-called “golden hour” is the initial period of the investigation into a murder, when decisions made by the lead detectives can affect how quickly the killer is caught, if at all. An Hour to Catch a Killer with Trevor McDonald (Thurs, ITV, 9pm) follows the detectives of Northumbria police as they arrive at the home of 24-year-old Alice Ruggles, who had her throat cut and is found by her flatmate. This documentary is graphic in its close-ups, but also as gripping as it is grim. McDonald interviews Alice’s parents, while the cops leverage that golden hour and soon make an arrest.

Music

XTC this is pop

One of the smartest pop bands to emerge in the 1970s is profiled in XTC: This is Pop (Sat, Sky Arts, 9pm). It explores the early years of the quintessentially English Swindon band, why they stopped touring, their later resurgence and the breakdown of the relationship between the writing team of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. All the band members appear in this feature-length film, except Barry Andrews, and it’s peppered with live footage, video clips and quirky re-enactions of certain events using animation, bespectacled potatoes and action figures.

Culture

basquiat rage to riches

The rise and fall of a Brooklyn graffiti artist who became a star before succumbing to an early death by drug overdose is unveiled in satisfying detail in Basquiat: Rage to Riches (Sat, BBC2, 9pm). A skull painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat recently sold at auction for more than £100 million, putting him up there with the likes of Picasso; his art sells as much for his mythology as his extraordinary talent, Basquiat’s art dealers explain. They, plus Basquiat’s sisters (on camera for the first time) and intimates speak frankly about his life, work and troubles – his life was dogged by racism and then heroin, but the art is what always shines through.

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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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