Small-Screen Jabber 7-13 April


law and order 1978 bbc

It’s exactly 40 years since GF Newman’s acclaimed drama Law and Order (Thurs, BBC4, 10pm), about corruption in the criminal just system, was first screened but it’s no less resonant or powerful today. This is the first airing since then of the four 80-minute episodes, which at the time were so shocking MPs called for Newman to be arrested for sedition – it later led to wide-ranging changes on policing and criminal trials, including new laws on the handling of evidence. Visually, it looks dated – check out those ghastly 70s fashions and haircuts, and the clunky dialogue  – but the stories are gripping. There’s one crime – an armed robbery – told from four different perspectives: the police, the criminal, the solicitor and the prison. Derek Martin stars in the opening episode as corrupt detective DI Fred Pyall, a man determined to nick villains and put them away, and happily abusing the law in the process .

The new series of Lost In Space (from Fri, Netflix) is a 10-episode remake of the 1965 original, classic sci-fi show. The previous remake, a 1998 film starring Gary Oldman and William Hurt, was a flop but this one looks and feels a decent, modern take on the storyline. The Robinson family (yes, the original was a sci-fi take on The Swiss Family Robinson) are steering their spaceship, Jupiter 2, through the universe in 2046, with a full population on board as they hunt for somewhere to colonise. Then a hole in the space/time continuum causes them to crash on an unknown planet light years away from human contact. Toby Stephens stars as John Robinson, the expedition commander who must now manage the scary environment they have landed in. Co-stars include Molly Parker and Parker Posey.


The Secret Life of Owls

Wise, magical, a witch’s familiar – we imbue owls with all kinds of properties, but The Secret Life of Owls (Sat, Channel 5, 7pm) lifts the lid on their real lives in this charming two-part documentary. The cameras are in Essex, where five different species of owl have settled in and around a disused military airfield that was abandoned a century ago and has developed an eco-system that allows these magnificent birds to thrive. A barn owl named Missing Claw has plenty of drama in his life, with his on-off partner disappearing. And a pair of babies have to contend with an aggressive grey squirrel that has its eye on their nest.

jesus female disciples new evidence

Women are used to being written out of history, so it’s no surprise that a pair of theologians – Joan Taylor and Helen Bond – are punctuating the myth about the 12th Disciples and the subsequent domination of Christianity by men for the next two millennia. Jesus’s Female Disciples: the New Evidence ((Sun, C4, 8pm) argues very convincingly that at least half of Jesus’s followers were women and that they probably funded his movement, as well as performed roles such as preaching and baptising. Bond and Taylor explore ancient caves in Israel and Italy to dig up evidence, and in doing so challenge the very origins of the Christian faith.

More religion – this time pagan – is explored in Bacchus Uncovered: Ancient God of Ecstasy (Wed, BBC4, 9pm). Historian Bettany Hughes delves into the myths of the god of wine, revelry, excess and partying (bacchanalia, anyone?) and theatre. Much of the action is in Greece, as you might expect, as it’s where Bacchus originated, but Hughes also visits Georgia, land of the oldest wine production discovered (8,000 years ago). There’s a look at the god’s gender-fluidity and even the hippies of the 1960s, in what’s a playfully provocative documentary.


Catherine Tate hosts the annual theatre gong fest, The Olivier Awards (Sun, ITV, 10.20pm). As usual, musical dominate the nominations but not all are long-running versions of classics such as 42nd Street. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical Hamilton has picked up 13 nominations – more than any other show in any category. It’s likely to sweep the board, but it’s up against Follies, which has 10 nominations and big stars such as Imelda Staunton also up for decoration. Watch out too for Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman, set in The Troubles, and Girl From the North Country, inspired by Bob Dylan’s work.

monument to discoveries LB

If, like me, you enjoy culture on your holidays, tune into An Art Lovers’ Guide (Mon, BBC4, 9pm) which returns for a second run of three episodes. Art historians Janina Ramirez and Alastair Sooke head to Lisbon, Beirut and Baku. The latter two are of particular interest, being cities not readily accessible to tourists, but the opening episode in Lisbon gives a good flavour of what’s in store. The pair head up river to the magnificent medieval Belem Tower, which protected the capital from invasion, and almost next to it the stunning Monument to the Discoveries, funded by dictator Salazar and paying homage to Portugal’s great seafarers. Plus a look at the azulejo ceramic tiles that decorate many building frontages, Salazar’s impact on contemporary artists such as Paula Rego, street art and fado – the Portuguese equivalent of flamenco.


greg davies magnificent beast

Comic actor and standup Greg Davies, star of Man Down and other classics, returns to the stage in Greg Davies: You Magnificent Beast (From Tues, Netflix). This recording was made last year at the Hammersmith Apollo, part of a sell-out tour. Man-child Davies has a great childish silliness in a show that goes large to explore idiocy and the tribulations of daily life.

wannabe bbc

Lily Brazier, of the acclaimed People Just Do Nothing, returns to form in Wannabe (Fri, BBC1, 11.25pm), which she both wrote and stars in. Maxine is an ex-pop star – singer with girlband Variety, which never quite made the big time. Now she’s managing her own girl group, Sweet Gyal, at least until they drop her. Now a has-been rather than a wannabe, Maxine tries to round up her old Variety bandmates in the hope of a comeback that will revive her career. The title suggests it was inspired by the Spice Girls, of course, but this is a painfully funny look at the brief fame accorded to manufactured bands and how the members try to cling onto stardom when it’s on the wane. Look out for a cameo by ex-boyband singer Dane Bowers.

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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