Small-Screen Jabber 19-25 August

Drama

inspector montalbano series 4 embed

If you’ve been watching the junior detective exploits of the Young Montalbano, you’ll appreciate the return, after some four years, to Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano (Sat, BBC4, 9pm), with four new episodes based on his original stories. Luca Zingaretti reprises his eponymous role as the Sicilian detective alongside his team of regulars – deputy Mimi, Catarello, Fazio and Pasquano, plus girlfriend Livia. The opening feature-length episode, A Delicate Matter, sees Montalbano investigating why a 60-something sex worker was strangled in her home. The beauty of Sicily is a worthy backdrop – all lush scenery and mouthwatering meals over which Salvo ponders his evidence.

kosminsky the state c4 embed

My drama of the week is Peter Kosminsky’s The State (Sun-Wed, C4, 9pm), a complex and controversial exploration of why young British Muslims join Islamic State. Kosminsky has never been a writer to shy away from the difficult issues and this series works hard to tread a fine line between depicting the human reality of the lure of jihad and inadvertently glamorising terrorism. Set in 2015, Jalal heads for Raqqah, hoping to catch up with his brother, who has already thrown in his lot with IS. He and best pal Ziyaad are soon in training. The two women travelling with them are Shakira, a feminist doctor with a young son who wants to use her skills but soon discovers she’s expected to be a jihadi bride and nine-year-old Isaac is to be prepped for battle, and devout teenage runaway Ushna, who laps up living in the caliphate. Showing The State over four consecutive nights asks a lot of viewing commitment, but this is a highly rewarding if challenging drama series based on meticulous research. It pulls no punches, mind – expect graphic depiction of beheadings, rape, suicide bombings and sexual slavery.

Factual

silk road drugs death dark web

Buried deep on the darknet, the Silk Road black market website is the place to trade illegal drugs and turns over millions of dollars. Silk Road: Drugs, Death and the Dark Web (Mon, BBC4, 10pm) investigates the rise and fall of its founder, a mysterious, libertarian intellectual known only as Dread Pirate Roberts, or DPR. The Silk Road promised its traders total anonymity and freedom from any kind of regulation. Law enforcement agencies from around the world spent years trying to entrap DPR, until an IRS tax inspector finally unmasked him. This thrilling Storyville documentary reveals the cat-and-mouse hunt of the digital era, only missing testimony from DPR himself.

The Windsor princes have been very outspoken of late about the devastating impact of mental ill-health, so it’s not much of a surprise to see Prince William popping up in Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia (Thurs, C4, 10pm). Journalist Mark Austin fronts a very personal look at the eating disorder – his daughter Maddy, co-presenting, succumbed in her youth, and the pair examine whether the NHS is doing enough to provide practical care and psychiatric support. Prince William’s mother Princess Diana suffered from bulimia so speaks from his own experience about the need for more understanding. The Austins show how more than a million people in the UK have eating disorders and why treating them has reached crisis point, with long waits for beds and a postcode lottery for treatment. They also confront health secretary Jeremy Hunt about funding cuts.

Music

bbc prom charles mingus jules buckley

Jazz giant Charles Mingus gets his own prom at last on BBC Proms: Beneath the Underdog: Charles Mingus Revisited (Fri, BBC4, 7.30pm). Jules Buckley and his Metropole Orkest celebrate the life and music of this legendary composer, bandleader and bass-player, with tracks such as Better Git It in Your Soul, Moanin’ and Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Featured performers include singer Kandace Springs, saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings and Christian Scott on trumpet.

Kasabian at Reading Festival (Fri, BBC4, 10.30pm) sees the Leicester indie rockers headlining on the opening night, in their first appearance there for five years. Huw Stephens introduces their set, which is expected to be a mix of old favourites and tracks from their new album For Crying Out Loud. Fat Boy Slim, Lethal Bizzle, You Me At Six and Akala are among the many acts on Friday’s bill – many of these are screening live on iPlayer, plus you can find highlights of assorted performances from the two main stages on the red button.

Culture

In the footsteps of lectures in the name of Reith, the Royal Society and even John Peel comes an inaugural one for comedy – The Ronnie Barker Comedy Lecture with Ben Elton (Fri, BBC1, 10.35pm), the latest of the BBC's intelligent lectures on our culture. Here polymath Elton – standup, novelist, scriptwriter and motormouth – talks about TV sitcoms, their history and their cultural importance, as well as sharing memories about his friendship with Barker, who was surely the master of the genre. Delivered in front of a celebrity audience, Elton’s lecture punctures the snobbery that now surrounds the concept of sitcoms and argues his case well.

Comedy

ill behaviour bbc2

Cancer and how you treat it is the premise of three-part comic thriller Ill Behaviour (Sun, BBC2, 1pm), written by Peep Show creator Sam Bain. Joel catches up with two old schoolfriends, only to discover that Charlie has cancer and is treating it with a vegan diet. Cue Joel and Tess embarking on a plan to kidnap Charlie, buy life-saving medication with Joel’s multimillion-pound divorce settlement and force their friend to have chemo. Lizzy Caplan turns in a great performance as an alcoholic doctor with side addictions to sex and drugs, who is lured by Joel’s cash to help out. Joel (Chris Geere) is even more monstrously messed up and willing to plumb the depths of immorality in order to save Charlie, because he can’t accept that life happens to people. It’s blackly funny, deftly written and pushes a lot of buttons about a disease that is generally exploited for lazy plotlines in more serious dramas.

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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