Small-Screen Jabber 11-17 August

Drama

mamas angel3

Israeli thriller Mama’s Angel (Sun, C4, 10.20pm) is set in an affluent suburb of Tel Aviv, where prison therapist Yael Tamir’s life is turned upside down when her seven-year-old son disappears and is found brutally murdered in the neighbourhood. In a gut-punching twist, she has been assigned to a prisoner who murdered his own children. Detective Benny Mendelovich is the old-school copper in charge of solving the case and he arrests Ethiopian graffiti artist Rafa, seen at the spot where the boy’s body was found. Rafa has seemingly been singled out because of his skin colour and because he is preparing to study abroad so he can avoid the Israeli draft. One of the CSI team is certain the wrong man has been picked up. Could the killer in fact be Amnon, a young man who is mentally damaged? Mama’s Angel’s core characters are all women, in what is a very dark psychological whodunnit that explores grief, motherhood and institutional racism. After this first episode airs, all 10 will be available on All4. In Hebrew, with English subtitles.

on the edge

The work of upcoming female writers and directors of diverse backgrounds is showcased in On the Edge (Tues/Wed, C4, 10/10.30pm), a trio of short dramas on the theme of criminal justice. Each focuses separately on a criminal, a witness and a victim, whose individual stories unfold on a backdrop on contemporary issues around chaotic lives and how they intersect with the justice system. The new talent behind these plays have created bold work, and the cast includes top names such as Wunmi Mosaku, Alexandra Roach, Chanel Cresswell, Craig Parkinson and Ria Zimitrowicz.

disenchanted

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s animated fantasy comedy-drama Disenchantment (from Fri, Netflix) (pictured top) is aimed squarely at adults and is clearly taking a humorous pop at Games of Thrones. It follows the adventures of Princess Bean (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) and her sidekicks Elfo (Nat Faxon) and Luci (Eric Andre). It’s set in the medieval kingdom of Dreamland, with a raft of witches, wizards, trolls, ogres and idiot humans. Bean is hard-drinking, unladylike and bored, and trying to avoid her father King Zog trying to marry her off to a dim-witted prince in order to seal an alliance. Like the Simpsons, it explores some profound human truths about life, love, sex, death, but not politics – if you’re looking for a show that is blissfully free of unintentional allegories about the Trump-Brexit times we live in, this is it. The voiceover cast includes Brits Matt Berry and Noel Fielding, plus John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille and Maurice LaMarche.

Factual

The BBC has just launched an Indian season, and it’s packed with quality documentaries. Aside from Anita Rani’s Bollywood docu (below), look out for A Passage to Britain (Tues, BBC2, 9pm), which explores the history of migration from the Indian subcontinent, using passenger lists to trace their arrival and reveal their life stories. A fascinating jumping-off point into how Indian immigration helped shape 20th century British life. Historian Dr Yasmin Khan kicks off with the 1933 voyage of luxury liner RMS Viceroy of India and the writer, nanny, civil servant and two students who were aboard and planning new lives in the UK.

Music

there we were now here we are making oasis

There’s probably not much new to say about the rise of Manchester Britpop band Oasis, but There We Were – Now Here We Are: the Making of Oasis (Sat, Sky Arts, 9pm) has a good try. Director Dick Carruthers interviews both Liam and Noel Gallagher in this hour-long documentary, with contributions from assorted friends, musicians, critics and superfans, all nicely stitched together to portray how the band’s swagger and songs pulled them above their peers to become – for a while – the biggest group in the UK. It’s not as comprehensive as Asif Kapadia’s superior, two-hour Oasis: Supersonic, but it’s not a bad shot and if you stay on Sky Arts it’s followed by some of the band’s concerts.

There’s Only One Madonna (Fri, BBC4, 10pm) looks at the Material Girl’s career from the mid-80s, up to her 2001 Drowned World tour, where the cameras track a bunch of her British fans who are heading to Barcelona for the first night of the tour. Madonna has always been huge in the UK and these fans discuss what she means to them – as an artist, a gay icon, an outspoken person on issues of sexuality and gender politics, an influence on fashion and music, and more. The profile includes contributions from Spice Girl Mel C, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, actor Rosanna Arquette and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter.

Culture

sylvia plath inside bell jar

Poet Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar is examined in Sylvia Plath: Inside the Bell Jar (Sat, BBC2, 9pm). The book continues to speak to generations of women who identify with its big themes of sexual identity, mental health and women’s place in a make-dominated world. Plath’s daughter Frieda Hughes and some of Plath’s friends share their memories of her, while actor Maggie Gyllenhall reads extracts from the novel, her diaries and letters, in a tribute that sheds new light on Plath’s talent and personality.

bollywood worlds biggest film industry

Journalist Anita Rani heads to India to explore the phenomenon that is Bollywood: the World’s Biggest Film Industry (Mon, BBC2, 9pm). Employing some 250,000 people, it dwarfs Tinseltown. Rani travels around the country to meet stars such as Ajay Devgn and Anil Kapoor in the main production centres and she learns how the big all-singing all-dancing set pieces are created and what makes a great sword fight. These are things that are filmed anywhere actually, not just a mainstay of Bollywood films, but the energy, colour and spectacle of a typical Bollywood production can set them apart. Rani brings her enthusiasm to this two-parter, getting stuck in with gusto and lifting the lid on an industry that knocks out more than 1,000 films a year.

Entertainment

jamie cooks italy

Jamie Oliver heads back to the country whose cuisine has obsessed him for two decades, in Jamie Cooks Italy (Mon, C4, 8.30pm). Here, he’s passionate about home cooking, which is what Italian food is all about and what his own style is. Pairing up with his pal, Italian chef Gennaro Contaldo, they meet up with the nonnas – Italy’s grandmothers. The ones who are still cooking standard recipes handed down by their own grandmothers and passing on to their daughters and granddaughters. Nonna knows best. It’s also true that nonnas’ recipes vary wildly, as Jamie discovers when he cooks dishes with them. (I swear everyone in my family has their own best way to cook shepherd’s pie.) They head to the Aeolian islands north of Sicily for their first stop in this eight-part series, where the nonnas show him the best way to cook squid and rabbit. Yum.

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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