Friday 30 October
“Loneliness can make people do desperate things.” Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s eight-part horror comedy follows Frost’s broadband engineer-cum-amateur ghost hunter, Gus, accidentally stumbling upon genuine paranormal goings-on, but Truth Seekers is at its most effective as a melancholy, poignant portrait of grief and loss. Each of its central quartet nurses deep pain – Gus (a career-best portrait of bearish stubbornness and inner turmoil from Frost) has lost his wife, his father-in-law (Malcolm McDowell) a daughter, while siblings Samson Kayo (as Gus’s new colleague) and Susan Wokoma are covering up their own family traumas – and the general tone is pleasingly subdued. Sharing the DNA of the “Cornetto Trilogy” of films made with Edgar Wright, its concerns are initially parochial, before its sprawling ambition becomes clear.
That said, it is funny. Pegg’s cameos as Gus’s absurdly bewigged boss are good value, and guest appearances from the likes of Kevin Eldon, Morgana Robinson and Kate Nash add to the fun. The scares also land well, not least with the recurring and genuinely spooky motif of a Second World War call sign. A slow-burn triumph. GT
Arguably the best Star Wars incarnation since the original trilogy, The Mandalorian returns for a hotly anticipated second season as the eponymous gunslinger (Pedro Pascal) and the Child (better known as “Baby Yoda”) continue to negotiate a galaxy still reeling from the break-up of the Empire. Expect to see the excellent ensemble further enhanced by the likes of Timothy Olyphant, Rosario Dawson, Michael Biehn and Temuera Morrison, the latter playing the son of his character in the prequels: Mando’s agelessly cool and all-too-familiar fellow bounty hunter, Boba Fett.
Somebody Feed Phil
A fourth series for this light-as-a-soufflé conceit, in which Phil Rosenthal, all-round nice guy and creator of sitcom and Channel 4 daytime mainstay Everybody Loves Raymond, travels the globe to sample various cuisine and chat to locals.
Between the Covers
BBC Two, 7.30pm
Sara Cox’s amiable, approachable celebrity book group gathers Andi Osho, Adrian Edmondson, Jo Brand and Will Young to talk about their sometimes unlikely favourite novels (tonight including Spike Milligan’s Puckoon and a Red Dwarf spin-off) and the book of the week, Louise Hare’s This Lovely City, a love story set in post-Windrush London.
Sammy Davis Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me
PBS America, 8.45pm
Sam Pollard’s profile of one of the great song ’n’ dance men is all the better for acknowledging the controversies as much as it celebrates the successes. In the view of his Rat Pack compadre Frank Sinatra, “your talent is the hero and your excess is the villain”, and we see plenty of both as Davis negotiates appalling racism, political missteps and addiction, en route to a very moving tribute just months before his death.
Later: with Jools Holland
BBC Two, 10pm
Jarvis Cocker is the headline act on tonight’s mix of chat and music, with R’n’B artist Greentea Peng and New Order-ish electronica outfit Working Men’s Club also performing.
The Graham Norton Show
BBC One, 10.45pm
There may be less Hollywood gloss on tonight’s show, but Jessie Buckley leads what should be an entertaining line-up, with Bill Bailey talking Strictly, David Walliams plugging his new children’s book and Dermot Kennedy performing his latest single. GT
13 Ghosts (1959, b/w) ★★★
Horror Channel, 1pm
Forty years before Haley Joel Osment could “see dead people” in The Sixth Sense, there was this schlocky scare-fest from William Castle, in which a family move into a quite obviously haunted old mansion, populated by a baker’s dozen of ghouls. The neat trick was that the Zorbas could only see the ghosts when they put on a special pair of glasses – something cinemagoers at the time could do too. Donald Woods and Margaret Hamilton star.
Sicario (2015) ★★★
Film4, 9pm Denis Villeneuve’s (Blade Runner 2049) drug-war thriller opens with a bang but loses its way in the world of the Mexican cartels. Emily Blunt stars as an FBI agent recruited by a government official (Josh Brolin) to head up a kidnap-response team. She’s completely in charge of the role, but it’s Benicio del Toro’s twitchy former prosecutor who’s centre of attention, while rising star Daniel Kaluuya injects vital humour into the dynamic.
Red Eye (2005) ★★★★
Wes Craven’s comeback movie is a Learjet amongst thrillers: lean, mean and very, very zippy. Rachel McAdams stars as the hotel receptionist who flirts with nice Cillian Murphy at the airport check-in then discovers he’s not all he seems 30,000ft up. The mile-high stuff is tremendously exciting, but the bookends at ground level work well, too. Brian Cox, as McAdams’s dad, has shockingly little to do, but the leads give it their all.
Saturday 31 October
A Big History of America
Channel 5, 9pm
Perhaps “Brief” would have worked better than “Big” for this documentary about America’s rise to global prominence. Attempting to condense over 500 years of history into two hours is a ludicrous undertaking, and Laura Nash’s film glosses over centuries of significance and focuses to excess on already well-documented chapters, from the World Wars to the Civil Rights movement. But taking a thematic rather than a chronological approach is sensible, and a formidable phalanx of experts have been assembled to provide pithy context to the fast-moving narrative; “If you don’t know who you’re fighting, how do you know when you’ve won?” feels like a definitive summary of the American tendency to bellicose paranoia.
That said, each topic (including racism, wealth, war and the frontier) could have easily – and indeed has – sustained its own series. But for all its overreaching, A Big History of America is never frivolous and carefully avoids short-changing the lives and sacrifices of the many people it touches upon. There are few revelations beyond some nice anecdotes (the story of Coca-Cola’s rise to global dominance is a good one), but it is an impressive act of curation and concision. GT
Rugby union: Six Nations final round
BBC & ITV
The 2020 Six Nations was shaping up nicely when the pandemic hit. Eight months later, and still in the absence of crowds, the final round of fixtures commences, with Ireland, England and France in contention for the title. It’s simple for Ireland; if they beat France in Paris with a bonus point, they’ll be champions (BBC Two, 7.30pm). It’s more complicated for Les Bleus, who must win while bettering England’s result. The English face Italy in Rome (ITV, 4pm) and – are you taking notes? – will take the title if they can beat the Azzurri with a bonus point and Ireland lose. One more – should Ireland beat France without a bonus point, England can take the title on points if they secure a big win. Only one thing for it then, England – lots and lots of tries. Don’t go thinking of Wales v Scotland (BBC One, 1.45pm) as a dead rubber, either. Both sides are desperate for a win.
Boxing: Oleksandr Usyk v Derek Chisora
Sky Box Office, from 7pm
Derek Chisora faces the technically brilliant Oleksandr Usyk. The Ukrainian looks set to challenge Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua at the top of the division.
Strictly Come Dancing
BBC One, 7.10pm
Week two sees the couples dancing for their futures for the first time – Jacqui Smith looks vulnerable already, while HRVY and Maisie Smith look set fair for lengthy stays in the contest. The first results show airs tomorrow at 7.15pm.
UK ITV, 9pm
Almost eight months since the competition started, The Voice will finally reach a conclusion this month. Bringing us back up to speed, Emma Willis presents a handy refresher profiling the remaining eight contestants from their very first auditions.
Long Hot Summers: the Story of the Style Council
Sky Arts/NOW TV, 9pm
For so long the runt of Paul Weller’s litter, The Style Council appalled many hardcore fans of The Jam, mistaking their smooth pop smarts for shallow selling-out. This documentary recasts the band as representing some of his most vital work: formed with keyboardist Mick Talbot, they were musically sophisticated, politically engaged and surprisingly influential.
Sky History/NOW TV, 9pm
Malcolm Venville’s docudrama is a serious-minded, informative consideration of the unlikely legend of Ulysses S Grant, Civil War hero and 18th President of the USA. Blending drama (starring Justin Salinger as Grant) with analysis from historians, part one follows the journey of the belittled child of a tanner to promising army horseman, then through the disgrace brought by his drinking to the possibility of redemption offered by a man called Abraham Lincoln. Frequently fascinating and certainly never dull.
Spitting Image: US Election Special
from the morning While the content has split opinion, there is no denying the technical and logistical achievement behind Spitting Image. With this two-part special and the ever-changing nature of the presidential battle, the team have set themselves a formidable challenge. ITV is only airing the first part, with both episodes available on BritBox earlier in the day.
The Kennedys: Money, Murder & Marilyn
Channel 5, 10.55pm
Probably best not to expect too much serious analysis from this lengthy documentary of archive footage and interviews, which makes its priorities – raking over the so-called Kennedy Curse – clear in the title. GT
Make Up (2020) ★★★★★
BBC Two, 9.45pm
This sexy, eerie Cornish creeper is the best British film of 2020. Debutante director Claire Oakley has devised a ripplingly eerie and sensual psychological drama which unfolds in a rain-lashed caravan park on the Cornish coast, where 19-year-old Ruth (a superb Molly Windsor, from the BBC drama Three Girls) finds herself roiled by unfamiliar forces and suspecting that her boyfriend (Joseph Quinn) is cheating on her.
Halloween (1978) ★★★★★
What better way to celebrate Hallowe’en than to watch Jamie Lee Curtis and chums being stalked through an Illinois town by a psychopath in a William Shatner mask? Don’t let all the iffy sequels blind you to the quality of John Carpenter’s classic low-budget original. By today’s standards, it’s not gory or very violent, but thanks to Carpenter’s cunning use of widescreen it will make you bite your nails as you wait for the maniac to leap out.
Poltergeist (1982) ★★★★
BBC Two, 11.10pm
There’s no shortage of frighteners in this week’s schedules. Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) tones down the gut-churning horror but still ramps up the tension in this cracking Steven Spielberg-produced chiller. It has one of cinema’s most spine-tinglingly scary moments: “They’re here,” a little girl sing-songs, kneeling before the TV. “They” are the spirits, at first playful then malevolent, who terrorise a suburban family.
Sunday 1 November
Totally Under Control: Trump and Covid 19 / American Nightmare: Trump’s Breadline Kids
BBC Two, 9pm / Channel 4, 10pm
Ahead of the US presidential election’s climax this week, there’s some hard-hitting Trump-focused documentaries. In BBC Two’s pandemic-focused contribution, Alex Gibney scrutinises the US response to the virus, comparing it with South Korea’s more effective measures (both countries logged their first cases on the same day in January, yet their death rates have been vastly different). There’s also shocking evidence from health officials of incompetence and a lack of leadership in Trump’s administration.
On Channel 4, Brian Woods’s gentler film takes a more oblique approach, exploring issues of race, economic hardship and the pandemic through the eyes of children in the key battleground state of Ohio, a vital win for Trump (no Republican has won the presidency without taking it) in 2016. Finally, Exposure: Muslim in Trump’s America (ITV, 10.50pm), sees Deeyah Khan investigating what it’s like to live in a country where many feel you don’t belong, filming with right-wing militia groups and conspiracy theorists as well as Muslims whose lives have been shattered by violence and hatred. GO
Formula 1: Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Sky F1, 10.30am (race start 12.10pm)
Lewis Hamilton broke Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix victories last week in Portugal, and is streaking away with this season’s championship. One upside of the current restrictions is the litany of neglected European tracks that Formula 1 has been forced to visit: this week, Imola.
Cricket: Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals
Sunday, Sky Cricket, 2pm
The thrills and spills continue in the UAE. The play-offs loom at the end of the week and these two star-studded sides are still scrapping to make it. Plenty of England interest – Eoin Morgan and Tom Curran for Kolkata, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes for Rajasthan. Expect sixes.
Football: Women’s FA Cup final - Everton v Manchester City
BBC Two, 2.05pm (kick off 2.30pm)
An echoing Wembley Stadium plays host to the 50th Women’s FA Cup Final. Everton and City have lifted the trophy twice each, but it’s the big-spending Sky Blues who are firm favourites to celebrate for a third time.
Countryfile Ramble for BBC Children in Need
BBC One, 6pm
Coronavirus gets its hooks into the outdoor charity ramble, with the usual chatty and informal group walks exchanged for a format where Countryfile presenters set out from locations around the UK for one-on-one yomps with individuals supported by Children in Need-funded charities.
5 Gold Rings
Phillip Schofield puts two teams through the hoops as the game show with a £50,000 top prize returns. This week’s guest captains are Corrie’s Simon Gregson (who plays Steve McDonald) and Emmerdale’s Matthew Wolfenden (David Metcalf).
BBC One, 8pm
There’s an all-electric theme for this series finale. Paddy McGuinness invites Freddie Flintoff and Chris Harris for a trip out in his all-terrain ice cream van before they put three battery-powered “hot hatches” through their paces at Alton Towers.
BBC One, 9pm
David Hare’s political thriller is very stagy. Most of the characters speak in sermons and overact horribly. Yet Roadkill is also infuriatingly watchable, largely thanks to Hugh Laurie’s unshowy central performance. After last week’s sensational cliffhanger crash, events take an unexpected turn as the fallout from an arms scandal puts PM Dawn Ellison’s (Helen McCrory) premiership at risk.
The Pride of Britain Awards 2020
The awards that celebrate community-spirited heroes are back – in a reassuringly Covid-secure format – with a host of big names (the Prince of Wales, Katherine Jenkins, David Beckham and many more) handing out awards and telling tales of courage and commitment. Carol Vorderman and Ashley Banjo host.
Final Ascent: The Legend of Hamish MacInnes
BBC Four, 9pm
He climbed the Matterhorn aged 16, led two Everest expeditions, designed the first all-metal ice axe and is acknowledged as the father of mountain rescue in Scotland. But in his eighties, psychiatric illness robbed Hamish MacInnes of all that. This uplifting documentary combines the story of his achievements with that of how he conquered his biggest challenge yet, rescuing his mind using a personal archive of photographs, films and writings. GO
Nanny McPhee (2005) ★★★
Emma Thompson wrote and stars in this sweet and old-fashioned fantasy film, based on Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda books. She plays an old and battle-hardened nanny who finds that the children of a widower (Colin Firth) are a challenge, even for her. Poised between the grittiness of Lemony Snicket and the syrup of Mary Poppins, the film has moral messages to impart, but luckily not at the expense of an enjoyable, magical tale.
Happy End (2017) ★★★
BBC Four, 10.20pm
Michael Haneke’s latest film has all his signature ingredients, most notably a family of moneyed French haute-bourgeois types, headed by Georges Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who has just passed his construction business on to his daughter Anne (Isabelle Huppert). Their lives are disrupted by the arrival of 12-year-old Eve (Fantine Harduin), Anne’s troubled niece. It’s part thriller, part satire on European wealth, part despairing family soap.
Beatriz at Dinner (2017) ★★★★
BBC Two, 11pm
This refreshingly subtle and well-executed satire of Trump’s America, directed by Miguel Arteta, stars Salma Hayek as Beatriz, a Mexican holistic healer and masseuse living in California, who accidentally finds herself marooned at the dinner party of wealthy client Cathy (Connie Briton) and her none-too-pleased husband Grant (David Warshofsky). Mike White’s accomplished screenplay muddies any easy moral binaries.
Monday 2 November
Don’t Rock the Boat
The celebrity endurance challenge is a familiar reality trope, and ITV’s new series Don’t Rock the Boat lives up to its title in that sense. Nonetheless, it’s an entertaining addition to the genre, thanks to good casting and a genuinely gruelling task. The central one, as set by hosts Andrew Flintoff and AJ Odudu, is for two teams of six to row from Cornwall to northern Scotland. Four members of each team take to the seas for more than 24 hours, rowing the first leg from St Ives to south Wales in dismal conditions, while the two pairs left on land must forward-rappel down cliffs to earn a night in a luxury hotel.
“If this doesn’t kill me it might just save my life,” reckons Red Dwarf actor Craig Charles, and there is no gainsaying the effort that he and his fellow rowers put in, nor the indignities they endure as seasickness spreads, “number twos” are done in buckets and tempers fray. Among Charles’s team-mates are former Labour MP Tom Watson and ex-Olympian Victoria Pendleton, while their rivals count gold-medal winning Olympic heptathlete Denise Lewis, The Chase’s Shaun Wallace and Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt among their number. Running across the week, it is a good-natured distraction. GT
Job Crisis: Dispatches
Channel 4, 8pm
A smart conceit to explore an unprecedented situation: Dispatches follows applications for one job advert for a minimum wage role in a Manchester restaurant. As the field is narrowed from almost 1,000 hopefuls, we get to know their stories, each one packing a punch.
Who Do You Think You Are?
BBC One, 9pm
Best known as Silent Witness’s sardonic lab assistant Clarissa, Liz Carr is initially delighted to discover a criminal act in her family history. Further investigations, however, turn up a startling and affecting story of injustice and vigilantism on her father’s side, while her mother’s ancestors endured wars and workhouses before redemption in a touching love story.
Channel 4, 9pm
A rude awakening for the remaining team members in the final episode: former colleague Luke has sold out his friends for £10,000 and sabotaged their efforts, leaving their success more unlikely than ever. The scoundrel!
Sky Atlantic, 9pm
David E Kelley’s pulp thriller continues to intrigue and amuse. With husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant) still missing, news breaking of Elena’s murder and the rumour mill in violent motion, Grace (Nicole Kidman) makes a series of shocking discoveries.
BBC Four, 10pm & 10.15pm
Each of these half-dozen monologues is written and performed by disabled artists and actors. We begin with Mat Fraser’s wry, angry autobiographical piece filtered through his experiences in life, education and the industry, before Liz Carr takes the fictional role of a woman preparing to shop a neighbour for suspected benefits fraud, only to receive a rude awakening. Crucially, while disability is central, the stories are universal.
Deliveroo: Secrets of Your Takeaway
Channel 4, 10pm
Excellent access comes with a dismaying lack of curiosity in this revealing but frustrating documentary. Deliveroo owner Will Shu is enlightening on the early years of his disrupter par excellence, and the featured restaurateurs are frank on the toll that Covid-19 has had on their businesses. But the “one happy family” tone doesn’t ring true and the many shortcomings of the gig economy are touched upon rather than explored. GT
Richard Jewell (2020) ★★★★★
Sky Movies Premiere, 8pm
Richard Jewell is the security guard who was wrongly implicated in the 1996 Atlanta terrorist attack. In Clint Eastwood’s drama, he becomes the latest in a long line of misunderstood American heroes. Paul Walter Hauser plays him as helplessly deferential to authority, complying with Jon Hamm’s acrid FBI agent instead of his lawyer (Sam Rockwell), who is the film’s mouthpiece for raging against the government. Kathy Bates co-stars.
The Children Act (2017) ★★★
BBC Two, 9pm
Emma Thompson is tremendous in Ian McEwan’s implausible legal drama – adapted from his own 2014 novel – about a High Court judge, Fiona (Thompson), who specialises in family law. She is handed the case of a 17-year-old leukaemia patient Adam (Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead, who the script makes oddly creepy), who is refusing a blood transfusion on religious grounds. Thompson’s comic nous and gravitas redeem an otherwise artificial set-up.
Life (2017) ★★★
Channel 5, 11pm
Daniel Espinosa’s Earth-orbiting suspense flick was released less than two months before Ridley Scott’s new chapter in his Alien franchise, and bears many of the same hallmarks. It’s also got a touch of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. Ryan Reynolds stars as one of a crew of astronauts aboard a space station conducting research into life on Mars. In terms of entertainment, the film does its job of getting you to chew your nails off. Jack Gyllenhaal co-stars.
Tuesday 3 November
Trump Vs Biden / US Election 2020
ITV from 11pm / Sky News & BBC One from 11.30pm
Obsessive politicos unwilling to miss a nanosecond of the US election have their pick of coverage this evening, since our three major news outlets are staying up all night to report on the Trump-Biden slugfest. ITV kicks off coverage first at 11pm, with Tom Bradby in the hot seat live from Washington DC, abetted by the ITV news team. At 11.30pm Andrew Neil and BBC World News America host Katty Kay will settle in for a reporting marathon on BBC One, the same time as Sky News begins coverage, with analysis provided by Economics Editor Ed Conway.
All US polling stations will have closed by 2am UK time, but there’s every chance that viewers won’t be the first to know the winner by staying up into the wee small hours. That’s because, with possibly 80 million Americans voting by post this year due to Covid-19 concerns and some states not allowing mail-in ballots to be counted until election day, the result may be delayed by several days. And it could drag on if President Trump loses and takes the legal action he’s repeatedly threatened. Still, nothing beats the thrill of watching a hotly contested election as it unfolds, and this one will be worth sacrificing a night’s sleep over. VP
The Great British Bake Off
Channel 4, 8pm
With temperatures soaring to 35 degrees inside the tent tonight, the bake-a-thon becomes an endurance test. Inside the confectionery sauna it’s Eighties Week and they’re asked to deep fry doughnuts and look out for soggy bottoms on their signature quiches.
BBC One, 9pm
Mike Bartlett’s charming soap opera reaches its climax at Hannah’s (Melissa Johns) wedding, with her neighbours all involved while struggling to resolve their personal crises. Although the twists are clichéd, Bartlett’s understanding of human nature illuminates each of his characters with witty dialogue, and the acting is superb, particularly from Alison Steadman. Can series two be far behind?
Aung San Suu Kyi: The Fall of an Icon
BBC Two, 9pm
Aung San Suu Kyi’s precipitous fall from grace is explored in this intelligent film. Featuring interviews with friends and diplomats, it asks why the Burmese leader moved from pro-democracy icon to a hardline ruler accused of brutality against Myanmar’s minority Muslim population.
Educating Greater Manchester
Channel 4, 9.15pm
The observational documentary series returns for a new run, filmed two years ago. Back at Harrop Fold School in Little Hulton, sunny headteacher Mr Povey cracks down on a black market in sweets and a naughty Year 7 intake. Celebrating the best of teachers and youngsters, the series warms the cockles. Episode two is tomorrow.
Leeds: United!: Play for Today
BBC Four, 10pm
Shot like a documentary, Colin Welland’s dramatisation of an unofficial 1970 strike by female textile workers in Leeds for equal pay is a gritty piece of kitchen sink drama. Director Roy Battersby crafts a verité-style piece in black and white and casts a young Lynne Perrie as the fiery seamstress Mollie, with Elizabeth Spriggs as redoubtable shop steward Maggie.
Catch Her If You Can
BBC One, 10.45pm
Suspicion swirls around Mariam Mola, a convicted fraudster who claims that she turned her life around to mentor youngsters. This documentary follows a woman who previously helped get Mola jailed for fraud and who is unconvinced by her alleged turnaround – and is looking for evidence to take Mola down again. VP
Zoolander (2001) ★★★★
Comedy Central, 7pm
This enjoyable, verging on cult satire on the fashion industry stars Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander, a three-time Male Model of the Year knocked off his plinth by the rising blond bombshell Hansel (Owen Wilson). The premise is silly (think The Manchurian Candidate crossed with the Marx Brothers’s Duck Soup), but there are some brilliant, genuinely memorable comic moments including a catwalk contest umpired by David Bowie himself.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) ★★★
In 17th-century Delft, Scarlett Johansson goes to work as a maid but ends up blinged-up and posing for her boss, painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth in a big blouse), which doesn’t go down too well with his wife. The dialogue and characterisation may be rudimentary, but every frame of Edward Serra’s cinematography resembles the work of a Dutch Master. There’s fine support from Essie Davis, too.
Girl with Green Eyes (1964, b/w) ★★★
Talking Pictures TV, 10pm
This small, rather sad film about the love affair in Dublin between young ingénue Kate and an older writer, Eugene, treads well-worn ground, but Rita Tushingham and Peter Finch bring an effective blend of naive passion and moth-eaten ennui to their pairing. When Kate’s horrified family learn of the affair and try to break it up, the pressure on the relationship proves too much for the weary Eugene.
Wednesday 4 November
The Disordered Eye
BBC Four, 9pm
Do you need good eyesight to make great art? Richard Butchins begins his absorbing documentary with a question to which the answer is an obvious (it’s being aired to mark tomorrow’s International Disability Day) and resounding: No! Happily Butchins goes beyond the obvious, exploring the impact of visual impairment on artists from Degas and Monet (did the fact that so many Impressionists were myopic change art forever?) to contemporary blind landscape artist Keith Salmon, whose exquisite painterly focus is the whole experience of landscape rather than what can only be seen.
Butchins interrogates the science and philosophy of vision, interviewing blind academics, sculptors and photographers, bringing to the fore the notion that the brain, rather than the eye, is the primary constructor of human reality. Ultimately, what almost all the artists he interviews say, especially those once-sighted but now blind, is that the “loss” of vision can be a hugely freeing influence when it comes to creating art. Also recommended are Thunderbox and Hamish, the third and fourth instalments of CripTales, from 10pm, the latter featuring a brilliant turn by Robert Softley Gale. GO
US Election 2020
BBC One/ITV/Sky News
The last polling stations don’t close in America until 2am UK time and the loser rarely concedes before 7am. Still the BBC, ITV and Sky are running through-the-night coverage: Andrew Neil for the BBC until 9am, when Matthew Amroliwala and Reeta Chakrabarti take over; Tom Bradby’s stint blends into ITV’s morning line-up from 6am; while Kay Burley joins Ed Conway’s overnighter for Sky News at 7am, rolling on until 10am.
Walking Britain’s Lost Battlefields
Channel 5, 7pm
Rob Bell strides out across the former battleground at Bannockburn, site of Scotland’s victory over the English, when King Edward II’s invasion force was routed by the army of Robert the Bruce in 1314.
Children in Need: 40 Fabulous Years
BBC One, 8pm
Since its inception the on-screen fundraising madness that is Children in Need has raised over £1 billion for British charities. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, presenter Ade Adepitan looks back though a virtual photo album at some of the most memorable moments down the decades.
On Board Britain’s Nuclear Submarine: Trident
Channel 5, 9pm
HMS Vengeance is one of four submarines carrying Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, home to a 160-strong crew working in complete secrecy. Here, the hearty Rob Bell (him again) gets access aboard for five days and nights at sea, diving deep into a normally off-limits world of high-tech monitoring equipment and devastating, controversial weaponry.
The Noughties: 2002
BBC Two, 10pm
Singer Kimberley Walsh and comedian Dane Baptiste cast their minds back to 2002. Among the topics: Michael Jackson dangling his baby from a window, the success of spy drama Spooks, Will Young and Gareth Gates’s big chart battle, and the ups and downs of being a member of the year’s other pop sensation, Girls Aloud.
Life & Rhymes
Sky Arts, 10pm
A new series of joyful performance poetry sessions led by Benjamin Zephaniah, recorded live before a Covid-conscious audience at the bandstand in Battersea Park, and featuring leading lights of the spoken word circuit including, tonight, Kid Anansi, Molly Case, Charles T Dale, Samira Rhymes and Simeon Farrar. GO
Funeral in Berlin (1966) ★★★
Spy Harry Palmer’s latest assignment is to smuggle a Russian agent (Oscar Homolka) who is defecting to the West across the Berlin Wall and back to England – in a coffin. Soon, however, Harry (a morose Michael Caine) discovers that the Russian may not be all he appears. It’s the second of three 1960s espionage films starring Michael Caine as Palmer, beginning with The Ipcress File (1965) and finishing with Billion Dollar Brain (1967).
The Invisible Man (2020) ★★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere, 8pm
This taut, paranoid thriller is inspired by the titular HG Wells’s novel but more closely resembles Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play Gaslight in its interest in the chilling drama of psychological abuse. After staging his own suicide, a crazed tech mogul and scientist (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) uses his power to become invisible and stalk and terrorise his ex-girlfriend, played by a fantastically embattled Elisabeth Moss.
World War Z (2013) ★★★
Directed by Marc Forster, this is a relentlessly ambitious zombie movie, with all the silly juice drained out of the can. Brad Pitt plays a UN investigator called Gerry Lane, who gave up his high-flying job to spend more time with his family. Then zombies attack his car in a traffic jam, and Lane’s family is locked in a UN secure facility, while he tries to solve the world’s minor problem with the undead. Genuinely frightening if formulaic.
Thursday 5 November
Being Frank: The Frank Gardner Story
BBC Two, 9pm
This intimate film about journalist Frank Gardner opens with him releasing a long and embarrassing blast of flatulence into the camera. Or, rather, his colostomy bag does. It’s a measure of how open the BBC’s Security Correspondent is about the physical limitations of disability that he is willing to be filmed in such moments as this. But Gardner admits that he’s been less able to express his feelings about the life-changing injuries he suffered when al-Qaeda gunned him down in the street in 2004 while he reported from Saudi Arabia. It put Gardner in a wheelchair for life, and in this film he says he wants to explore the emotional impact it’s had on him. But that doesn’t really happen – a stoic Gardner only gets misty and silent at one or two points, such as when visiting the hospital where he spent months recuperating.
Gardner, however, shows himself to be quick-witted as he commiserates with other wheelchair users, shows off his girlfriend, weather presenter Elizabeth Rizzini, and shares home movies as well as unseen footage of the seconds before his shooting. It’s uplifting, and Gardner provides a service in showing us what it’s really like to live with disability. VP
Carmel: Who killed María Marta?
Netflix continues to feed the true crime obsession by adding this Argentine murder mystery to its roster. The 2002 shooting of sociologist María Marta in her home has yet to be solved, though in a messy case plenty have been accused, and even convicted, with others yet to appear in court.
Discovering: Roy Scheider
Sky Arts, 7pm
The underrated Roy Scheider gets this well-deserved tribute by the film experts. Though best known for uttering “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” as the police chief in Jaws, they argue that Scheider shone in iconic Seventies films such as The French Connection thanks to a talent for combining subtlety and power.
BBC Two, 7.30pm
With its dry graphics and ceaseless statistics about the vastness of the Drax Power Station, Keeley Donovan’s documentary series has all the panache of a school video. Tonight, she sidesteps the controversy over the burning of biomass at Drax to focus on station refurbishment.
House Prices: Is the Boom Real? Tonight
ITV, 7.30pm; STV/Wales, 10.45pm
The temporary suspension of stamp duty and easing of lockdown (in some places) has fuelled a UK property boom, pushing house prices ever higher. The intrepid Helen Skelton investigates why so many are eager to move, although at least one answer is self-evident – the ability to work from home is driving an exodus to pastures new.
Channel 4, 9pm
Put seven competitive comedians in a studio together and even socially distanced they’re a hoot. Taskmaster continues bringing silliness to our living rooms with the contestants – a lively blend of old-timers and upstarts – challenged to attempt low-budget party tricks for points. Tonight, Daisy May Cooper flirts with a security guard and Johnny Vegas encounters some chickens.
The Russell Howard Hour: US Election
Special Sky One, 10pm
Never one to keep his antipathy towards politicians to himself, Russell Howard lets loose on the US election in a special edition of his newsy comedy show. A day after the winner is expected to be announced, Howard will pick over both campaigns and ask special guests to weigh in on the election results. VP
The Band Wagon (1953) ★★★★
BBC Four, 8pm
A tip-tapping treat featuring Fred Astaire as Tony Hunter, a movie star whose career is in the doldrums. He decides to perk it up by starring in a Broadway musical but is unprepared for its director to bring in the charismatic and particularly long-legged Gabby Gerard (Cyd Charisse) as his co-star. He thinks she’s too tall, she thinks he’s too old. But they patch up their differences in this surprisingly sophisticated musical comedy.
Pearl Harbor (2001) ★★★
It’s one thing to use artistic licence when dramatising a world event but it’s quite another to distort it. Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett play childhood buddy army pilots – and ultimately, of course, heroes – out to save America from the dastardly Japanese in this wildly inaccurate historical action flick; there is also a silly love triangle shoehorned in. It’s filmed with some style, though, especially the attack sequence. Kate Beckinsale co-stars.
What a Crazy World (1963, b/w) ★★★
Talking Pictures TV, 10pm
Unemployed East End lad Alf (Joe Brown) dreams of breaking the music industry with a single song he wrote one idle night. Having little success, he spends his time drifting between an on-off relationship with his girlfriend Marilyn (Susan Maughan) and loafing around with anarchist chum Herbie (Marty Wilde). It ultimately turns into a cheerful musical nicely grounded in characterful London locations.
Friday 6 November
Royal History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley
BBC Two, 9.00pm
Historian Lucy Worsley raids the dressing-up box for three more episodes of her documentary series sniffing out untruths and half-truths about royal histories which have solidified into fact. In tonight’s opener, Worsley debunks some of the factoids accepted as gospel about the French Revolution, donning a powdered wig to pose as Marie Antoinette to make her point that the doomed Queen never said, “Let them eat cake.” Instead, she argues, the wife of Louis XVI was made a scapegoat by royal enemies for an ailing French economy. Worsley corrects the perception that the revolution was spearheaded by starving peasants – mais non, it was the bourgeoisie – and contends that the guillotine was invented as an egalitarian mode of execution rather than instrument of terror.
Worsley’s theatrics include an awkward scene of courtly dancing, which works less well than her straightforward conversations with experts and professors, but the impish historian’s passion for the subject is evident. She concedes that history is comprised of a cacophony of voices offering competing accounts. A compelling introduction that whets the appetite for a closer look. VP
The One Show
BBC One, 7pm
Erstwhile One Show host Matt Baker returns to the fold for Children in Need’s annual Rickshaw Challenge. Covid compliance means that Baker and six of the charity’s beneficiaries will cover the 332-mile Edinburgh-to-London route inside the grounds of the Goodwood Estate instead. Feelgood surprises are promised to make up for the lack of cheering crowds en route.
Punk/New Wave Years with Annie Nightingale
BBC Four, from 9pm
Annie Nightingale championed punk on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Tonight she returns to the genre and to new wave for a special celebration, talking us through long-forgotten clips of the Ramones, John Foxx and The Damned among others.
Sky Atlantic, 9pm
Long a base for British TV productions, South Africa is making a strong drama showing itself. This six-part thriller starts with a dizzying number of plot threads, but at its heart is Lemmer (James Gracie), a weary ex-cop now working security for smugglers in the bush. The Cape Town setting and stylish production values elevate this above standard fare.
Later: with Jools Holland
BBC Two, 10pm
Jools Holland’s packed archive brings depth to this Covid-era version of his music show. In his final sit-down, Holland meets Melanie C of The Spice Girls to view clips of her Later appearances and discuss her career. Mica Paris and upcoming musician David Balfe round out the impressively genre- diverse line-up.
The Last Leg: US Elegtion Special
Channel 4, 10pm
As the confetti settles in America, this special edition of the comedy chat show sees the trio of regulars cast a sideways glance at President Trump’s tenure. Depending on the election results, it’s likely laughs will come from combustible host Adam Hills unburdening himself in a minutes-long rant or shaving his hair into an appropriately unhinged style.
ICON: Music Through the Lens
Sky Arts, 10pm
Photographs of music stars are vital in curating their public images. This six-part dive into the history and cultural impact of music photography asks what makes a photo iconic and includes interviews with Gered Mankowitz, who snapped The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Alice Cooper. VP
Ghost (1990) ★★★★
Jerry Zucker, best known for co-directing comedy, went solo and played it straight with this well-crafted supernatural romance by Bruce Joel Rubin. The ghost of the title is Patrick Swayze, shot dead in a mugging near the start of the story. But his spirit has issues to resolve before it can go into the light, chief among them protecting his still-living girlfriend (Demi Moore) from the film’s villains. Whoopi Goldberg provides comic relief.
Suicide Squad (2016) ★★
In director David Ayer’s acid-palette adaptation of the DC Comics stories, the government assembles the world’s most dangerous villains to defeat another, even worse villain, figuring that they’ll all die in the process. Despite a sizzling cast that includes Will Smith, Jared Leto, a fabulously unhinged Margot Robbie and model Cara Delevingne, what should be a fun tale of superheroes behaving badly is merely an unholy mess.
The Homesman (2014) ★★★★
BBC One, 11.30pm
The great Tommy Lee Jones’s second film as director is a humane, wrenching and genre-bending Western built around women’s experience of frontier life, which is a part of America’s history that’s barely been touched on. Hilary Swank stars as farmer Mary Bee Cudder who saves a claim-jumper (Jones) and persuades him to help her escort three women who have suffered nervous breakdowns to a safe haven in Iowa.
Sarah Hughes (SH), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Vicki Power (VP) and Gabriel Tate (GT)