Small-Screen Jabber 14-20 October

Factual

chris packham aspergers and me

Naturalist Chris Packham goes on a mission to explore his autism in Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me (Tues, BBC2, 9pm). His recentish diagnosis of autism helped him understand better what he calls his “weirdness” – he talks frankly about why he struggles to connect to people and his need to live alone in a forest. But he also looks at scientific advances in the USA that could lead to a “cure” and questions whether curing neurodiversity is a good idea when its traits have so many positives for society.

What is the future for the British Army in an unstable and changing world? That’s the big question that Army: Behind the New Frontlines (Wed, BBC2, 9pm) attempts to answer and it’s not easy. Britain’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have been controversial and heavily criticised by the public. Government funding cuts have also left a mark, with troop numbers at their lowest in 400 years. This three-part film examines the challenges currently facing the leaders of the military to provide defence on a budget and play a suitable international role. Part one follows events in Mosul, Iraq, as units prepare for battle and train local Kurds to fight Islamic State.

gordon ramsay on cocaine

Chef Gordon Ramsay has a drugs problem – it’s rife in the kitchens of his restaurants, where it has wrecked people’s careers, and his brother has been an addict for years. He has even been asked by diners to dust a dessert with cocaine. In Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine (Thurs, ITV, 9pm), a two-part investigation into the coke trade, he looks at how Britain has become the cocaine capital of Europe then heads to Columbia to see how the drug is produced and then dealt and couriered. Recreational use might be glamorous in the boardroom, but Ramsay shows its production is anything but glamorous. If you’ve ever snorted a line of coke, this punchy documentary will make you think twice – the destruction of the environment is just one casualty.

Current affairs

With Harvey Weinstein dominating the headlines, you could almost be forgiven for forgetting America’s other dynamite. Trump and Russia: Sex, Spies and Scandal (Wed, C4, 10pm) digs deeper into the alleged links between Trump’s associates and the Kremlin. Reporter Matt Frei goes to both Moscow and Washington DC to examine the evidence that has emerged so far as to whether last year’s presidential election was manipulated by Russian agents. Frei’s investigations read like a John Le Carré thriller full of intrigue, glamorous models, spies and technological crimes.

Music

george michael freedom c4

The tragic death of George Michael at 53 on Christmas Day last year meant the documentary he was narrating about his life and career was dropped. However, Channel 4 (which had commissioned it) has now re-angled George Michael: Freedom (Mon, C4, 9pm). The 90-minute film, introduced by model Kate Moss, covers the five-year period around his early solo work, his notorious fight with his record company and personal turmoil and tragedy. It also now contains much previously unseen footage and Michael’s narration peppers this final project of his. It’s a lovely tribute – a warm, intimate portrait in which the artist is disarmingly frank, witty and delightfully self-deprecating. Co-directed by Michael and his long-time friend and collaborator David Austen, it contains contributions from Elton John, Liam Gallagher, Stevie Wonder, Nile Rodgers, Mary J. Blige, Tony Bennett and about a zillion others.

Over the last decade, the BBC’s Introducing initiative has uncovered much unsigned musical talent – Jake Bugg, Everything Everything, Florence and the Machine, The 1975… To celebrate this, highlights of a special gig at Brixton Academy feature in Ten Years of Finding the Next Big Thing (Fri, BBC4, 10pm). There are sets from Blossoms, George Ezra, Slaves, Big Moon and more, with an unannounced appearance from Jake Bugg. Introduced by Huw Stephens.

Drama

the white queen

Another chance to see: The White Queen (Sun, Drama, from 4pm). An adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s trilogy about the Wars of the Roses. Three women are on a quest for power, as the Houses of York and Lancaster battle for the throne. Rebecca Ferguson stars as Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s consort.

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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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