What’s on TV tonight: Inside Man, Trouble at Topshop and more

·20-min read
Stanley Tucci in BBC drama Inside Man - BBC
Stanley Tucci in BBC drama Inside Man - BBC

Monday 26 September

Inside Man
BBC One, 9pm
After years of eye-catching excellence in the worlds of Doctor Who, Dracula and Jekyll, Steven Moffat’s first sui generis drama series in decades was always going to be event television, and Inside Man showcases everything about his work that wows and infuriates, sometimes simultaneously. The narrative threads are diffuse, at least initially. Lydia West’s wily journalist is saved from harassment on the Tube by Dolly Wells’s decent, quick-thinking maths tutor, who herself is en route to help the feckless son of David Tennant’s well-liked, big-hearted local vicar. And across the Atlantic, Stanley Tucci’s Lecter-esque killer awaits execution on Death Row, whiling the days away by bringing his brilliant mind to bear on thorny legal cases that take his idiosyncratic fancy.

Outrageous and absurd, confounding and virtuosic, Inside Man certainly doesn’t want for ambition or confidence as it brings the quartet together through the spiralling consequences of one catastrophic misjudgment. The leading actors are clearly enjoying themselves and, if the plotting and motivations remain oblique for now, Moffat’s dialogue and Paul McGuigan’s directorial flourishes ensure it is impossible to take your eyes off it. Continues tomorrow. GT

House of the Dragon
Sky Atlantic, 2am/9pm
The action leaps forward several years, so we say goodbye to Emily Carey and Milly Alcock, who have been excellent as Alicent and Rhaenyra. You’ll soon forget them: Olivia Cooke and, particularly, Emma D’Arcy are superb as the adult versions of the childhood friends turned political adversaries. GT

The Perfect Pitch
Channel 4, 5.30pm
A second series for the amiable teatime beanfeast, with Joanna Page again narrating as three sets of campers tour several campsites in one region of Britain before picking the best. We begin in North Yorkshire for some glamping, sailing and welly wanging. GT

Channel Crisis: Can People Smugglers Be Stopped?
BBC One, 8pm; NI/Scot/Wales, 10.40pm
All change at the Home Office, but thus far there is no sign of a change in the deeply contentious Rwanda policy. Jane Corbin considers the impact of the plans on both people smugglers and asylum seekers who, in spite of it, continue to attempt the desperately perilous Channel crossing. GT

Trouble at Topshop
BBC Two, 9pm
Topshop makes as good a case study as any of the ebbs and flows of the British high street, and Kate Scholefield’s two-part documentary (continuing next week) deftly charts the rise and fall of the fashion giant from its launch in 1960s Sheffield through its global expansion in the 2000s to its demise under the questionable ownership of a certain Philip Green. GT

The Suspect
ITV, 9pm
This entertainingly labyrinthine, sporadically implausible thriller has successfully rebooted Aidan Turner’s public image from smouldering heartthrob to smouldering enigma. But can it stick the tricky landing? Dr Joe O’Loughlin (Turner) faces a race against time after finding out the truth about the killer – but with the line between friend and foe still blurred, it will be an uphill task to clear his name. GT

BBC Two, 10pm/10.15pm
A belated debut for this spiky, sour sitcom of relationship stasis plays Dylan Moran’s lugubrious, exhausted cynicism (he plays a redundant jingle writer) off against Morgana Robinson’s wry restlessness (she is a New Age therapist), both of them naggingly aware that there could be more to life than stale cohabitation. GT

Nashville (1975) ★★★★
Sky Cinema Greats, 3.35pm
One of cinema’s all-time great satires, Robert Altman’s film follows various people involved in the country and gospel music businesses in Nashville, Tennessee, over a period of five days, leading up to a glitzy fundraising concert for a populist politician. The sprawling ensemble cast features Keith Carradine, Lily Tomlin and Karen Black. It’s a timeless romp that still provides easy laughs – and a cracking soundtrack too.

Snatch (2000) ★★★★
Film4, 9pm
Director Guy Ritchie may now have revisited his London crimeland niche a few too many times, but when this follow-up to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels first appeared, it was an original, high-octane gangster flick. Brad Pitt proves an inspired piece of casting as a hell-raising Irish traveller, while the insane plot and comic machismo are memorable. Jason Statham, Stephen Graham, Benicio del Toro and Vinnie Jones co-star.

The Finest Hours (2016) ★★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm
Based on the historic true story of the 1952 US Coastguard’s rescue of the crew of SS Pendleton, after the ship split apart off the coast of New England, this Disney action film is largely enjoyable, although it makes the classic decision of omitting accuracy for thrills. Still, it supplies old-fashioned entertainment, aided by spectacular special effects, and the stellar cast includes Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Holliday Grainger.

Tuesday 27 September

Make Me Prime Minister
Channel 4, 9.15pm
This new game show is basically The Apprentice for politicos, with 12 contestants competing to become the nation’s “alternative Prime Minister”. Featuring advice from Tony Blair and David Cameron, and judged by former Labour spin-doctor Alastair Campbell and former Conservative Cabinet minister Sayeeda Warsi, it is an impressively well-produced format, even if the blurring of politics and reality TV can feel cynical and cold. The contestants themselves populate a broad political spectrum, but have obviously been picked for optimum culture-war drama. Student Alice, for example, is a hardcore Brexiter, while Caroline is a member of Extinction Rebellion. The line-up also features Jackie Weaver, whose “you have no authority here” parish council Zoom meeting went viral in 2021.

Split into two teams, their first task is to come up with a new policy for primary school education. One team settles on giving children more choice in what they’re taught; the other’s big idea is one lesson outside a week. They then have to pitch the policy to the public, but not before presenting themselves for a grilling from political journalists, who maul the contestants over their ridiculous ideas. SK

Rise of the Billionaires
This four-part documentary series (all episodes available now) charts the growth of the success of tech giants such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. It examines the moral complexities of so much wealth being held by so few. SK

The Great British Bake Off
Channel 4, 8pm
It is bread week in the tent, which means it’s time for weird and wonderful pizzas (anyone with me for a slice of  Full English Breakfast?). The highlight this week, however, is the showstopper round, which involves baking a smörgåstårta, a fantastically elaborate Swedish sandwich cake. SK

Sensationalists: The Bad Girls and Boys of British Art
BBC Two, 9pm
This excitable three-part series is hooked on the 25th anniversary of Sensation, the controversial exhibition of Charles Saatchi’s private collection of contemporary art (which included imagery of Myra Hindley). It is regarded as a landmark for British art, and the opening episode traces its origins to the punk ethos of 1980s art-school students. SK

Michael Palin: Into Iraq
Channel 5, 9pm
Michael Palin continues his perilous journey through Iraq with a visit to Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, where 1,700 Iraqi cadets were murdered by Islamic State in 2014. It’s a brutal reminder of the nation’s troubles, but Palin later finds wonder in the spectacular mosque of Samarra, before heading to bustling capital city of Baghdad. SK

And Still I Sing: Storyville
BBC Four, 9pm
This haunting film follows Zahra and Sadiqa, two female singers who are competing on TV talent show Afghan Star. Yet just as Zahra and Sadiqa are on the cusp of achieving their dreams, the 2021 US withdrawal from Afghanistan leaves them fearing for their lives; the only thing the Taliban seem to hate more than women is music. SK

BBC One, 10.40pm
The compulsive financial drama returns for a second series of sex, drugs and investment banking. Picking up after Covid, Harper (Myha’la Herrold) struggles to readjust to the cutthroat world of office life, while Yasmin (Marisa Abela) transforms from bullied to bully when a graduate starts in her department. The series will air weekly, but will also be available tonight as a box set on the BBC iPlayer. SK


Scotland v Ukraine
Premier Sports 1, 7pm

Northern Ireland v Greece
Premier Sports 1, 7pm

Ice Station Zebra (1968) ★★
TCM, 6pm
Largely panned by critics, John Sturges’s espionage thriller – loosely adapted from Alistair MacLean’s 1963 novel – follows a range of military figures as they attempt to rescue the survivors of a mysterious disaster in the Arctic, after a satellite capsule hits a British weather station. Patrick McGoohan brings some much-needed star power as a James Bond-type intelligence agent, but the rest of the film falls disappointingly flat.

Rams (2020) ★★★★
Film4, 9pm
We’re not often treated to comedy films from Down Under, but this is a gem. It follows estranged brothers Colin and Les (Sam Neill and Michael Caton, who starred on 1976 TV series The Sullivans) as they are forced to work together to save their sheep farms, whose flocks have been ordered to be culled by authorities. Can they get over their differences to save their family’s livelihood and their community?

The Gift (2015) ★★★★
Great! Movies, 9pm
Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut serves up a chilling slice of incel thrills. He also steps in front of the camera to star as Gordon “Gordo” Moseley, a lonely high-school dropout stalking a successful couple, Simon and Robyn Callem, played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall; Gordo claims to be a figure from Callem’s past. His incursions begin with unsolicited gifts – and then ramp up terrifyingly. It’s a shiversome anti-bullying parable.

Wednesday 28 September

This England
Sky Atlantic, 2am/9pm
Michael Winterbottom’s six-part drama overview of the government’s response to Covid is guaranteed to be one of the year’s biggest talking points, most likely prejudged in accordance with one’s political persuasion. Taken in isolation, it is a propulsively edited precis of a chaotic couple of years, with a cast of thousands and a parade of controversies which, given the pace of events, are now only dimly remembered (eugenicist Andrew Sabisky, Home Office bullying, floods).

Kenneth Branagh largely gets the Boris Johnson mannerisms and voice right while looking unsettlingly like neither man, and the fictionalised elements draw effectively upon such recognised character traits as the relentless boosterism and the deferment of delivering bad news. Ophelia Lovibond is an impressive Carrie Symonds, and their relationship is portrayed sympathetically. But few punches are pulled during those early months of Covid, as the government makes blunders which, even given the unprecedented circumstances, felt bewilderingly self-inflicted at times. Essential viewing and, while we await the official enquiry, a compelling first draft of history, released today as a box set. GT

The Old Man
Jeff Bridges transcends some workaday material in this new series as Dan Chase, a former CIA operative. Teased out into the open after years under the radar when an attempt on his life brings him to the attention of John Lithgow’s FBI bigwig, he faces down an assortment of other adversaries with long memories and deep grudges. GT

Electric Cars: Which One Should You Buy?
Channel 5, 8pm
Alexis Conran assesses the frontrunners of the still young and increasingly affordable technology of electric cars, taking test drives in city runarounds, superfast sports cars, luxury vehicles and family saloons, as well as advising on a few to avoid. GT

Doc Martin
ITV, 9pm
Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicol guest stars as a woman suffering debilitating migraines whose reluctance to give up coldwater swimming is connected to personal loss, while the misguided advice of a visiting herbalist (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) gives the good doctor (Martin Clunes) one more reason to be mildly exasperated. GT

Sky Sci-Fi, 9pm
Sky Sci-Fi premiers this noirish detective series as a box set, with ultra-professional cop Seo Do Won (Yoon Shi-yoon) seeking the killer of his wife all the way into a parallel universe, where secrets about his father spill into the open. Occasionally baffling, but made with verve and confidence, this is another excellent advertisement for the ongoing boom in Korean television. GT

Nine Perfect Strangers
Channel 4, 10pm
After The Undoing and Big Little Lies, David E Kelley and Nicole Kidman reconvene for another adaptation replete with mystery, psychodrama, silliness and rich people behaving badly, first shown on Amazon Prime Video. Nine people (among them Melissa McCarthy’s writer, Michael Shannon’s dullard and Luke Evans’s lawyer) arrive at a retreat run by the ethereal Masha (Kidman). Weirdness ensues, although it pales in comparison to the conceptually similar The White Lotus. GT

Blonde (2022) ★★★★
It’s destined for controversy, but Andrew Dominik’s experimental study of Norma Jeane (turned Marilyn Monroe) is thrillingly bold. This decade-in-the-making adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s 2000 novel stars Cuban-American actress Ana de Armas (No Time to Die) as the troubled Hollywood icon, and has a number of difficult scenes – including a particularly shocking one with US President John F Kennedy.

The Hunt for Red October (1990) ★★★
5Action, 9pm
Adapted from Tom Clancy’s Cold War novel, this is a corny but compelling submarine thriller from Die Hard director John McTiernan. Sean Connery plays a Russian sub commander, heading for the USA with plans to defect. The CIA, however, thinks he’s a madman who aims to start a nuclear war. A young Alec Baldwin stars as a fresh-faced Jack Ryan, the CIA agent who works out the truth.

Harriet (2019) ★★★
BBC One, 10.40pm
Harriet Tubman is one of America’s greatest heroes: born into slavery, she escaped captivity and made numerous rescue missions on the Underground Railroad. This biographical film had been long in the making, with Cynthia Erivo playing Tubman; she was subsequently nominated for Best Actress at the 2020 Oscars for her performance. Leslie Odom Jr, Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters and Janelle Monáe are among the supporting cast.

Thursday 29 September

Fantasy Football League
Sky Max, 10pm
The fondly remembered sports show returns to our screens after 18 year away. Running from 1994 to 1996, then again for World Cup 1998 and Euro 2004, it marked the start of television’s love affair with lad culture as creators and presenters (and former flatmates) Frank Skinner and David Baddiel sat on a sofa and necked a few beers while choosing their dream football team and ribbing Statto (aka facts nerd Angus Loughran).

The reboot (sorry) is presented by Swansea City fan and Welsh football obsessive Elis James and Gooner Matt Lucas (with comedian Andrew Mensah in the stats corner), and recorded with a live audience close to transmission, so we’re yet to be able to give a verdict on the all-important rapport between the two football fanatics. James’s easy going manner, however, should contrast nicely with Lucas’s waspish humour. Each week two celebrity guest managers will join the pair to discuss the week in football and share their own fantasy team selections. This week’s guests are comedian Russell Howard (Liverpool FC) and actress Sally Lindsay (Manchester City); others lined up are Succession’s Brian Cox, presenter Rachel Riley and comedian Jennifer Saunders. VL

I Hate You
All 4
Robert Popper (Friday Night Dinner) turns his attention from family to friendship in this zany comedy about two twentysomething flatmates – Charlie is played by Sex Education’s Tanya Reynolds, while newcomer Melissa Saint is Becca. The leads bounce off each other to great effect via a sharp script. VL

My Grandparents’ War: Emeli Sandé
Channel 4, 8pm
The singer has a striking tale to tell about how the Empire has impacted her family. She learns about her maternal grandfather’s war service, which spanned the Second World War and the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya, while her paternal grandfather was caught up in the struggle for independence in Zambia. VL

Westminster Abbey: Behind Closed Doors
Channel 5, 8pm
A timely programme after the Abbey hosted Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral service. Recorded before recent events, we see site inspector Ian Bartlett dealing with a serious problem on the roof and his deputy Iain McDonald carrying out a survey of the Abbey’s Hawksmoor towers, which means abseiling 69 metres above the main exit. VL

DNA Journey
ITV, 9pm
A new series of the genealogical quest begins with comedians and best mates Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan delving into their family histories, where they discover an unexpected and genuinely affecting parallel between them. VL

Channel 4, 9pm
A welcome return for the show where five comedians perform daft tasks under the beady eyes of Greg Davies and Alex Horne (who devises the challenges). The 14th series has a strong line-up (Dara Ó Briain, Fern Brady, John Kearns, Munya Chawawa and Sarah Millican) and it will be interesting to see if the magnificently sweary Ó Briain’s science background stands him in good stead – and if Davies’s comment that “Fern’s early fury bodes very well” turns out to be true. Great fun. VL

All Creatures Great and Small
Channel 5, 9pm
The success of this veterinary drama is partly down to the quality of the source material, but also perhaps because it harks back to a time – the 1930s – when life was seemingly a little simpler. This week the ever irascible Siegfried (Samuel West) receives some bad news, but has the perfect distraction when he is asked to look at a difficult young racehorse. VL

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) ★★★
Film4, 6.45pm
In the halcyon days before romcoms fell out of favour with studio execs, Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey shone as an unlikely couple brought together by an unlikely scheme – respective bets made with colleagues that they could convince the other to fall madly in love. It’s a reminder that McConaughey, Hollywood’s golden Texan, is just as spellbinding in comedy films as emotive dramas.

LA Story (1991) ★★★★
AMC, 9pm
Harris K Telemacher (Steve Martin) is a “wacky weekend weatherman” for a local LA television station who is fruitlessly searching for meaning in the city of stars – but only starts to find it upon a chance meeting with Sara (Victoria Tennant), a British newspaper reporter in California for a story. One of the all-time great romantic comedies, with a welcome sprinkling of Shakespearean parallels to boot. Patrick Stewart is among the many cameos.

The Hurt Locker (2008) ★★★★★
BBC Four, 9pm
Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break) became the first female winner of the Best Director Oscar for this drama about a bomb disposal unit in Iraq. Jeremy Renner excels as a maverick who delights in putting himself in harm’s way, while Ralph Fiennes has a stellar cameo as a British mercenary group leader. The jittery cinematography stokes up the suspense to unbearable levels, and creates a properly thrilling piece of cinema.

Friday 30 September

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared
Channel 4, 11.35pm
How old is too old to enjoy a puppet show? Well, when they’re as dark and twisted as this, perhaps the sky’s the limit. The characters here look like counterfeit Sesame Street figures found on dodgy street corners, but the themes are far from childish: the first episode is about unemployment.

Created by Becky Sloan and Joe Pelling, who met at university, the horror-comedy series centres on three felt puppets: Red Guy (a crimson cross between Uncle Fester and a kitchen mop), Yellow Guy (a mustard figure with a blue mohawk) and Duck (just a duck). It started out as a DIY YouTube series in 2011, and amassed millions of viewers before being transferred to Channel 4. There’s an abundance of shots of raw meat and blood spurting out of severed fingers as the trio learn life lessons; it’s also a musical, and features a range of wacky songs, including one performed by Yellow Guy about memories that is so downbeat – covering medical issues, the military and heartbreak – that it makes Elaine Paige’s number in Cats look like a dancefloor filler. It’s a fascinating insight to the kind of fringe art the internet has made mainstream – and a reminder that TV execs still want to invest in the very weird, as well as the wonderful. PP

The Rings of Power
Amazon Prime Video
Jeff Bezos’s multi-billion dive into Middle-earth continues. Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) are still in Númenor, their sexual tension threatening to upend Tolkien’s PG rule, while a mysterious visit to the site of the comet’s collision signals danger. The episode opens with a Harfoots’ song, which sadly lacks the emotional punch of Sam, Merry and Pippin’s folksy tunes in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy. PP

BBC One, 8.30pm
The excellent sitcom continues as Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) has some old friends check in to the manor – but can their stay run smoothly? Not likely; cue the laughs. PP

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
BBC Two, 9pm; NI, 11.05pm; not Wales
We’re back with Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse and this time, their beloved terrier Ted, as the pair’s journey takes them to the River Thames to fish for perch. Comedian Richard Herring (see what they did there?) joins for dinner, where he bravely talks about his recent battle with testicular cancer. Heartwarming and, at times, heart-wrenching TV. PP

Professor T
ITV, 9pm
Cambridge’s most uptight professor returns for another stab at solving seemingly impossible crimes; in this episode, Jasper Tempest (Ben Miller) doesn’t let a stay in hospital deter him from investigating the murder of a wealthy couple. Was it their young son, straight-A-student daughter or a secret foe who pulled the trigger? PP

Paris to Rome with Bettany Hughes
Channel 5, 9pm
Historian Bettany Hughes travels across France and Italy to explore how food, culture and travel intersect to shape our lives. She starts her journey in Paris, where we’re treated to an enlightening trip to the Louvre, where Hughes has sight of Hellenistic masterpiece Venus de Milo, and an interview with iconic shoe designer, Christian Louboutin. PP

Munich Games
Sky Atlantic, 9pm
This fantastic thriller races towards the finish line, as the football game – held between German and Israeli players to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Massacre – is threatened by a last-minute enemy. Meanwhile, the Israeli clubs’ owner, Jackie (Doval’e Glickman), a Holocaust survivor, is blackmailed. PP

The Cruel Sea (1953), b/w ★★★★
BBC Two, 2.15pm
Based on Nicholas Monsarrat’s bestselling novel, this drama about life on an Atlantic corvette during the Second World War succeeds because it plays down the heroics, and instead dwells on the inner lives of the sailors. It’s emotionally smart, in a robust, mid-20th-century way, and its depiction of each rank is skilfully delineated. A fine cast includes Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden and Virginia McKenna.

Georgetown (2019) ★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere, 2.40pm & 10.05pm
Christoph Waltz’s crime drama, and medicore directorial debut, is based on the true story of the murder of Viola Herms Drath, an esteemed German-American socialite, journalist and diplomat who was killed at the age of 91 by her social-climbing second husband. Here, Drath becomes Elsa Brecht (Vanessa Redgrave), with Waltz himself playing the superficially charming con artist who woos her.

Cocktail (1988) ★★★
Channel 5, 10pm
Tom Cruise plays a tequila-tossing barman in this amiable romantic drama directed by Roger Donaldson, which cannily cashed in on his burgeoning heart-throb image. After leaving the army, Brian (Cruise) gets a job working in a Manhattan bar while attending business school. His Martini mentor is Doug (Bryan Brown), who soon teaches him the tricks of the trade, but when the pair fall out over a girl, Brian heads for the Caribbean.

Television previewers

Jack Taylor (JT), Veronica Lee (VL), Stephen Kelly (SK), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Chris Bennion (CB), Rachel Ward (RW), Poppie Platt (PP) and Gabriel Tate (GT)