What’s on TV tonight: Franklin, Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers and more

Michael Douglas plays Benjamin Franklin
Michael Douglas plays Benjamin Franklin - Rémy Grandroques/Apple TV+
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Friday 12 April

Apple TV+
Michael Douglas co-produced and stars as Benjamin Franklin in this slick biopic of the inventor, polymath and, last but not least, US Founding Father. It’s based on Stacy Schiff’s book, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, and tells how in December 1776 Franklin travelled to France on a secret mission for his new nation. Remarkably, Franklin convinced monarch Louis XVI to support America’s budding democracy as he negotiated the Franco-American alliance of 1778 – key to America winning the Revolutionary War.

Franklin is presented as a popular hero – “They think I invented electricity,” he tells grandson Temple (Noah Jupe) of the Parisians who mob his carriage – but also as a canny negotiator with the French court, which includes Thibault de Montalembert (Call My Agent!) as minister Comte de Vergennes. Douglas plays the hero as a twinkly grandad, but you’ll certainly learn about a momentous period of history from the other side, as it were. Daniel Mays (as a foppish Edward Bancroft) and Eddie Marsan (John Adams) also star. VL

Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers
BBC Two, 7pm; not NI
“Scotland is famous for its rain, which falls 250 days a year,” says Paul Murton by way of introduction. That rain flows into the country’s mighty rivers, and in this new series he follows some of them from source to sea; starting with Aberdeenshire’s 81-mile Don. Along the way he meets Highlanders, artists and black bees.

Amerigo Vespucci: Forgotten Namesake of America
PBS America, 7.05pm
You will have learnt about Christopher Columbus at school but, the chances are, not about the 15th-century Italian explorer and navigator Amerigo Vespucci, who gave his name to North and South America. This informative documentary  tells the story of his life and how Vespucci discovered the Americas by accident while searching for Asia’s spice islands.

Beyond Paradise
BBC One, 8pm
The winning mix of sleuthing, soap and slapstick continues to make Beyond Paradise a hit. Tonight, DI Humphrey (Kris Marshall) investigates the disappearance of a Catholic priest from a boarding school, as he and Martha (Sally Bretton) await the outcome of their fostering application. Anne (Barbara Flynn), meanwhile, is getting to know her new flame Richard (Peter Davison).

The Coastal Map of Britain
Channel 5, 8pm
This breezy documentary runs through how Britain’s maritime history has shaped our coastal map – from the first international traders arriving in Cornwall to source its precious tin, to the Romans, who established London as a key port.

Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales
BBC Two, 9pm
The seven celebrities head towards Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island), where some wet Welsh weather gives space for extra penance – not to mention the fast that some choose to partake in to mark a special Jain festival.

Late Night Lycett
Channel 4, 10pm
A second helping of Joe Lycett on this channel tonight (he is joined by fellow comedian Jessica Fostekew in Travel Man: 48 Hours in Lanzarote at 8.30pm) with a new, six-part series of his free-form celebrity chat show. Expect more silly pranks and daft challenges as the chaos comes live from Birmingham.

Film of the Week: Oppenheimer (2023) ★★★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere, 8pm; and NOW
“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” is the Sanskrit teaching that haunts J Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb”. His work on the Manhattan Project during the Second World War resulted in the total destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagaski, changing the world forever. British director Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk, The Dark Knight trilogy) finally won his first Oscar for Best Director at this year’s ceremony for his dazzling biopic of the theoretical physicist. The film swept the board, winning a total of seven awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (for Cillian Murphy) and Best Supporting Actor (for Robert Downey Jr). Murphy manages to convey every ounce of Oppenheimer’s regret, guilt and fear at the fruits of his genius with just a blink of his eyes or soft gesture. The explosions are stunningly, terrifyingly realised, but it’s the tense courtroom scenes – with Oppenheimer on trial for supposedly “anti-American” views – that keep the film ticking. Other highlights come courtesy of Ludwig Göransson’s gorgeously relentless score, and Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh’s stellar turns in support.

Wedding Crashers (2005) ★★★
ITV2, 9pm  
A romcom that’s heavier on the com than the rom, thankfully, because what there is of the rom is a bit wet. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play full-time bachelors who gatecrash weddings on a hunt for one-night stands, but eventually find they yearn for true love. Part-goofy, part-deadpan, it makes for perfectly easy going fun to kick off the weekend, and features a scene-stealing turn from Isla Fisher.

The Heat (2013) ★★★★
BBC One, 10.40pm  
Bridesmaids director Paul Feig brings back one of that hit film’s stars, the reliably hilarious Melissa McCarthy, as a foul-mouthed Boston cop whose policing style makes Dirty Harry look like Thumbelina. She’s paired with a goody-two-shoes FBI agent (Sandra Bullock, reminding us what a pro she is at comedy). Together, they’re dynamite; on top of that, the film also has an emotional clout that hits you from nowhere.

The Power of the Dog (2021) ★★★★★
BBC Two, 11.05pm  
Out on the vast Montana plains live the Burbank brothers: George (Jesse Plemons) and older, nastier Phil (a terrifyingly excellent Benedict Cumberbatch); plus Phil’s new wife Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and her shy son Peter (Kodi Smit- McPhee). Jane Campion deservedly won the Best Director Oscar for her searing Western, while Cumberbatch is electrifyingly cast against type.

American Pie 2 (2001) ★★★
Channel 4, 11.05pm  
Set one year after the original hit comedy, the high-school students are now home for the summer. The gang – Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott and the rest – decide to head to Stiffler’s summer house for a non-stop party. Cue wild sex jokes, copious alcohol consumption and outrageous revelations in a film that is both raunchy and gross. Alyson Hannigan and Shannon Elizabeth also return as Michelle and Nadia.

Saturday 13 April

BBC Two dedicate an evening to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain
BBC Two dedicate an evening to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain - Frank Micelotta Archive/Hulton Archive

Kurt Cobain: Moments That Shook Music
BBC Two, 9.25pm
A suitably moody look back at how the suicide of Nirvana frontman and godfather of grunge, Kurt Cobain, impacted his family, his fans, his home city of Seattle and the world, back in April 1994. News clips, home-movie footage and interviews help to build a picture of a major talent struggling to cope with his success and his fragile mental health – and a picture, most pointedly, of the day he took his own life. In the end, it is his wife Courtney Love’s angrily accusing reading of his suicide note to a gathering of fans at a vigil in Seattle that becomes the real emotional core of this film.

There’s a chance to see the band in action – and to remember Cobain as a musical genius – in the UK from their debut 1989 tour to headlining Reading Festival in 1992, in the documentary When Nirvana Came to Britain (BBC Two, 10.10pm) and there’s lots more from Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, too, in the concert film that follows, Foo Fighters at Reading 2019 (BBC Two, 11.10pm), and also in Foo Fighters and More: Live Lounge Special (BBC Two, 1.10am), which also features performances by the Script, the xx and Chris Martin. GO

Katie Piper’s Breakfast Show
ITV1, 8.25am
Piper’s show returns for a third run, and now on Saturdays as well as Sundays. Today she is joined by Jo Brand, Anita Rani, entertainment reporter Elle Osili-Wood and aerial dancer Molly Whitehouse.

Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway
ITV1, 7pm
Expect a finale unlike any Takeaway has ever done before as the series comes to a close (for an indefinite length of time) in a spectacular two-hour special – with a guest list that’s almost as long as the show, including Girls Aloud, Simon Cowell, Alison Hammond, Gino D’Acampo, Olly Murs, Davina McCall, Rylan, Craig David, Tony Hadley and Kaiser Chiefs… among others.

Bettany Hughes’ Treasures of the World
Channel 4, 7pm
Professor Hughes is in Estonia, at a burial site on the island of Saaremaa where she unearths evidence of ancient human sacrifice. From there it’s on to explore churches, paintings and maritime history in the capital Tallinn, before heading west to visit the breathtaking boglands of Soomaa.

Our Dream Farm with Matt Baker
Channel 4, 8pm
The competition to win a 360-acre farm tenancy on the National Trust’s Wallington Estate in Northumberland is really ramping up. The hopefuls battle plummeting temperatures while juggling challenges from creating a shed and paddock for newly arrived Tamworth pigs, to preparing a secure 60-acre enclosure to reintroduce beavers to the estate.

How ABBA Won Eurovision
Channel 5, 9pm
Another celebration of the 50th anniversary (which was actually last Saturday) of Abba’s Eurovision win. Former Pop Idol judge Nicki Chapman is among many contributors sifting through the archive clips to explore Abba’s early-years struggle to find fame before Waterloo sent them stratospheric in 1974.

BBC Four, 9pm & 9.45pm
Just when you think the Scandi-noir tide has turned, brooding Norwegian detective William Wisting (Sven Nordin) returns for another moody homicide investigation. Tonight’s opening episodes of series three find him searching for a missing child after a babysitter is killed – though, as ever, Wisting’s troubled and troublesome offspring take up at least half the storyline.

Argylle (2024) ★
Apple TV+  
Reclusive author Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) churns out non-stop bestselling espionage novels about a secret agent named Argylle (played here by Henry Cavill) who’s on a mission to unravel a global spy syndicate. But when the plots of her books start to mirror real life, fact and fiction begin to blur. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman, Kick-Ass) brings his typical machismo and OTT action, but it falls flat.

Film of the Week: The Kid (1921, b/w) ★★★★★
Sky Arts, 1pm; Sunday, 8pm
Rightly remembered as one of the greatest films of the silent era, Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length feature (as director) isa timeless marvel borne from his own personal trauma. In October 1918, Chaplin had hastily married 17-year-old Mildred Harris, decrying himself to a lifetime of domestic and creative boredom. But when their young son died after only three days, Chaplin, mad from heartbreak, thought up The Kid, wanting to depict the relationship between father and son. In the film, Chaplin plays the Tramp, a down-on-his-luck figure who roams the streets in messy clothes searching for food – until, one day, he happens upon an abandoned baby, left by his impoverished mother. Chaplin finds the boy (played as he gets older by Jackie Coogan, the era’s first child star) and decides to raise him. It’s touching and tender in parts – try your hardest not to tear up when the Tramp is reunited with his prodigal stepson in the grounds of a wealthy home, both of their lives changed forever – but still chock-full of Chaplin’s typical slapstick humour. As well as starring and directing The Kid, the peerless English actor also wrote, produced, edited, and composed the score. Truly a singular talent.

Sweet Charity (1969) ★★★★
BBC Two, 1.20pm  
Shirley MacLaine shows charisma in this endearing musical about a dancer who longs to find love despite a string of failed relationships (including one boyfriend that robbed her and pushed her off a bridge). Bob Fosse brings his cool choreography to the screen in his directorial debut. With numbers such as (Hey) Big Spender and If My Friends Could See Me Now, it’s the performance of MacLaine’s career. Also on Thursday (BBC Four, 9pm).

Free Guy (2021) ★★★★
Channel 4, 9pm  
Ryan Reynolds is turbo-charged and hilarious in this surprisingly smart tale, a candy-coated mix of The Matrix and It’s a Wonderful Life. His eponymous “Guy” is a video-game character who gains self-awareness after encountering the woman of his dreams, played by the magnetic Jodie Comer. But under all the visual effects and quick-fire dialogue, Free Guy has something all too rare in the tentpole-movie era: a soul.

Ghost Stories (2017) ★★★
BBC One, 11.50pm  
Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s so-so anthology horror, based on their 2010 stage play of the same name, features three main stories: that of Alex Lawther’s edgy, stranded driver; Paul Whitehouse’s depressive nightwatchman whose life has fallen apart; and Martin Freeman’s shotgun-toting toff who is terrorised by a nursery poltergeist. Though not short of ambition and possessing a fantastic cast of comic talent, it still falls disappointingly short.

Sunday 14 April

Neil Dudgeon and Nick Hendrix in Midsomer Murders
Neil Dudgeon and Nick Hendrix in Midsomer Murders - ITV

Midsomer Murders
ITV1, 8pm
Series 23 begins with the end of the world. A paranoid doomsday prepper called Warren (Aran Bell) receives the radio transmission that he has been waiting for: the nuclear weapons have launched, armageddon is upon us. He rushes to his bomb proof bunker, leaving his long-suffering wife behind. What he finds there however is not salvation, but an elaborate hoax perpetrated by a killer – one who suffocates Warren by sucking all of the air out of the room. It is the kind of bombastic plot that the detective drama does so well: with a knowing nod and a playful wink.

“He could have opened a fortune cookie and believed it,” says Warren’s wife, Clodagh (Sonita Henry), referencing her husband’s penchant for conspiracy theories. He was part of a prepper group, who would meet in the village pub to discuss their plan for surviving the apocalypse. What intrigues Neil Dudgeon’s DCI John Barnaby, however, is why none of Warren’s fellow survivalists responded to his panicked summons. It is all good fun, of course, although there are interesting themes at play about the dangers of paranoia and fatalism. After all – the world may end, but it also may not. SK

BBC One, 7pm
“The deep ocean,” purrs David Attenborough. “For mammals it is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth.” This week’s stirring edition dives into the alien world of marine mammals. Best moment:some extraordinary footage of six calculating orcas coming up against the might of a humpback whale.

The Great Celebrity Bake Off
Channel 4, 7.40pm 
This year’s final quartet of celebrity bakers include Heartstopper star Joe Locke, Reverend Richard Coles, presenter Sara Cox and The Last Leg’s Adam Hills. The highlight is the Showstopper, where they must recreate a famous friend. Brace yourself for Sara Cox’s “Jeremy Vine on a Penny Farthing” cake.

This Town
BBC One, 9pm
The fourth episode of Steven Knight’s moody drama sees the reluctant Bardon (Ben Rose) pulled deeper into the machinations of the IRA. An opening sequence in which he is tasked with driving a truck full of explosives is particularly stressful. Elsewhere, poetic oddball Dante (Levi Brown) finds a warehouse that could kick-start his dream of recording an album.

Big Zuu Goes To Mecca
BBC Two, 9pm
Chef Big Zuu examines what it means to be a good Muslim in this illuminating meditation on culture and faith. It is themed around his first pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, in Saudi Arabia. The show swerves the knottier questions about the country, but Big Zuu himself is an endearing, introspective guide.

Sir Neville Marriner at the Proms
BBC Four, 9pm & 9.55pm 
The late Neville Marriner was generally considered one of the world’s greatest conductors. Here are two of his finest concerts: a 1983 Proms performance of Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony and Schubert’s Symphony No 10 from 1988. Both by the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields orchestra.

The Olivier Awards 2024
ITV1, 10.10pm
Hannah Waddingham once again hosts this year’s prestigious theatre awards (shown here as highlights). Up for honours are David Tennant for Macbeth, Sarah Snook and Andrew Scott for The Picture of Dorian Gray and Vanya, respectively, and Joseph Fiennes for his uncanny take on Gareth Southgate in Dear England. The cast of Guys & Dolls also perform.

Spartacus (1960) ★★★★★
ITV4, 5.15pm  
Stanley Kubrick’s epic, opulent story of gladiators earned four Oscars (Peter Ustinov won one of them for his role as gladiator school boss Batiatus), though it deserved more. Kirk Douglas plays the eponymous hero, an escaped slave who leads a rebellion against Laurence Olivier’s Roman senator Crassus. A cornerstone of American cinema history, President Kennedy crossed McCarthyite picket lines to watch this film.

Frost/Nixon (2008) ★★★★
Sky Cinema Greats, 8pm  
Peter Morgan adapted his hit West End show, about David Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal, for the big screen, starring Michael Sheen (on particularly excellent form) and Frank Langhella. The film recreates one of the most candid political interviews of modern times, as well as the power struggles between man and media going on behind the scenes, and received a string of Oscar nominations.

Free Solo (2018) ★★★★
BBC Two, 10pm  
Ascending alone and unassisted by ropes, but followed by a crack camera crew who fear for his life at every stage, intrepid climber Alex Honnold plots his defeat of Yosemite’s terrifying El Capitan rock face. This enthralling, Oscar-winning documentary digs into the psychology of thrill-seeking. Watch it through your fingers, praying for Honnold to a) make it back safely and b) get really into knitting, instead.

The Duchess (2008) ★★★★
BBC One, 11.35pm  
Saul Dibb’s film tends to simplify the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, focusing almost exclusively on her turbulent love life, with nods and winks to the Princess Diana story, and offering a rather sanitised view of 18th-century England (definitely not warts and all). Keira Knightley, however, gives a nuanced, often moving performance, and the cinematography and costumes are gorgeous.

Monday 15 April

Martin McCann and Siân Brooke return for the second series of Blue Lights
Martin McCann and Siân Brooke return for the second series of Blue Lights - Christopher Barr/BBC

Blue Lights
BBC One, 9pm
It takes only minutes of this second run to be reminded why the BBC has renewed the Northern Ireland-set Blue Lights for not one but three more series: rookie police officers Grace (Sian Brooke), Tommy (Nathan Braniff) and Annie (Katherine Devlin) are besieged by a mob in their RV, facing bricks and petrol bombs. It is but a taster of what awaits.

One year after the murder of veteran cop Gerry (Richard Dormer), the gang responsible has been largely neutered while loyalist factions battle over filling the vacuum in the Belfast drugs trade. As crime rates soar, Frank Blake’s constable, affiliated to Desmond Eastwood’s shifty intelligence officer, is drafted in to assist, motives shifty and torso rippling. A still fragile Jen (Hannah McClean), meanwhile, is now a trainee solicitor taking on the historic case which has so traumatised lovable rogue Happy (Paddy Jenkins) and brings her into contact with a retired army special branch officer (Derek Thompson in his first post-Casualty gig) with his own agenda. Social commentary is front and centre now, but not to the detriment of the layered character work or high-wire thrills of this excellent show, box-setted on iPlayer. GT

Jamie’s Air Fryer Meals
Channel 4, 8pm
Uncharacteristically slow to jump onto the bandwagon, Jamie Oliver presents his wheezes for the latest British home-cooking craze. Among his recipes are savoury scones, chicken curry, sweet and salty pork, and a peach Alaska.

Springtime on the Farm
Channel 5, 8pm
As reliable a sign that we are deep into spring as bluebells and cherry blossom, Channel 5’s trip to Yorkshire’s Cannon Hall Farm features the glories of the dawn chorus, plenty of lambs and, rather unexpectedly, some baby tigers as the vets venture further afield. Helen Skelton, Jules Hudson and JB Gill are the hands-on presenters, with the series running all week.

Pompeii: The New Dig
BBC Two, 9pm
Balancing its awe at the expertise of archaeologists with wonder at their discoveries, this fascinating three-parter follows a major new excavation of the ancient city through its participants and some rather nifty animations inspired by Roman frescos. Among their discoveries are further bodies (the diligent work to fill in their life stories is riveting) and a bakery which, it is believed, contains the earliest Roman image of a pizza.

Martin Clunes: Islands of the Pacific
ITV1, 9pm
Martin Clunes has covered the most picturesque corners of the globe in his jollies to meet horses, dogs and manatees. With his first jaunt around the Pacific Islands halted by the pandemic, he is back for another three-parter, beginning on Papua New Guinea and the Trobriand Islands. Understandably, he looks like he cannot believe his luck.

Murder Case: the Digital Detectives
Channel 4, 9pm
Documenting the relatively new front in crime-fighting, this revealing series follows a trio of murder investigations conducted via smart technology, social media and cameras. The first case is the fatal stabbing of a 17-year-old in Nottingham, taken on by members of the local digital forensics unit who bring their expertise in online research to bear.

Accused: Did I Murder My Child?
Channel 5, 10pm
This harrowing film takes the perspective of a woman standing trial for murder under controversial “failure to protect” laws designed to tackle child abuse.

Spoiler Alert (2022) ★★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere, 4.05pm  
Based on Michael Ausiello’s novel of the same name, this tender romcom uses fresh experiences and hearty characters to inject some life into the much-treaded genre. Writer Michael (Jim Parsons) is taken to an NYC gay club by his best friend, where he meets the potential love of his life, Kit (Ben Aldridge). However, insecurities and jealousies arise, threatening their future.

Hulk (2003) ★★★★
ITV4, 9pm  
Ang Lee’s dark and stylised take on the not-so-jolly green giant, in which split frames ape the panels of a comic-book page, is strangely underrated; the special effects are bold and well-realised, Hulk himself fully fleshed out. Eric Bana plays Bruce Banner, a scientist who’s exposed to gamma radiation and becomes the Hulk. It was Bana’s sole outing as the Hulk, with Ed Norton then Mark Ruffalo playing him in later films.

Nowhere Special (2020) ★★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm  
James Norton is fast establishing himself as one of Britain’s most exciting actors, mostly through his terrifying turn as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley (and, it’s rumoured, he could even be the next Bond, if Aaron Taylor-Johnson hasn’t pipped him to it). This affecting indy film sees Norton play John, a single father who must reckon with a devastating diagnosis, leaving him just months to live – and to find his son a new family.

Tuesday 16 April

Michael Palin visits Nigeria for the first time
Michael Palin visits Nigeria for the first time - Channel 5

Michael Palin in Nigeria
Channel 5, 9pm
The former Python turned travelogue master makes a welcome return to our screens with this engaging three-part series about Africa’s most economically powerful country, where 60 per cent of the population are under 25. It’s his first time in Nigeria, a country which has long fascinated him, and he’s keen to “understand how it all works”. Palin starts in the capital of Lagos, Africa’s largest city, and it’s a baptism of fire as soon as he steps off the plane – all noise and chaotic traffic. “It’s like having a few thousand volts put through you,” he says.

He describes a land of contrasts: visiting Makoko, often described as the continent’s largest slum, before later crossing Lagos to sip cocktails in the luxury bars of Lekki. As ever, he casts a keen eye – and doesn’t shy away from addressing Nigeria’s political problems (and ripe corruption), nor its colonial history. The latter is explored when he travels to the coastal town of Badagry, which was once a slave port. Through his 1,300-mile journey around Nigeria as a whole – reaching far beyond the metropolis – he also appraises its stunning nature and rich culture, where East and West, and Islam and Christianity meet. VL

For the Love of Dogs with Alison Hammond
ITV1, 8pm; UTV, 11.10pm
Hammond certainly has big shoes to fill after the death of former host Paul O’Grady last year. Happily, she’s just as in love with the furry charges at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, where she bottle-feeds a three-day-old puppy found abandoned in a bin and meets a toy-obsessed terrier in training to be a sniffer dog.

Changing Ends
ITV1, 8.30pm
Alan Carr and the late Simon Carlyle’s (Two Doors Down) semi-autobiographical series about Carr’s childhood, growing up gay as the son of a Northampton football manager in the mid-1980s, is a gem. Carr stars as himself, while newcomer Oliver Savell plays him in his youth. Originally shown on ITVX last year.

It’s Showtime!
ITV1, 9pm
This heartwarming one-off documentary is about eight working-class friends from Darlington who bought a racehorse costing a paltry (in racing terms, at least) £8,000 – which went on to be a winner. Although ostensibly about the horse’s success, it’s also a refreshingly positive tale about the fruits of male friendship.

BBC Three, 9pm & 9.25pm
Created by Matilda Curtis and Ashley Storrie, this sparky new (box-setted) comedy stars Storrie as Nina, a Glaswegian palaeontologist living with her sister, Evie (Kat Ronney), who announces she’s engaged to a bloke she’s just met; as Nina has autism, this news drives a cart and horses through her ordered life. There are good gags – and you’ll learn a lot about living with the condition.

Danny Dyer: How to Be a Man
Channel 4, 10pm
Uber-geezer Danny Dyer takes on modern masculinity in this two-part documentary (concluding tomorrow). Asking if there’s currently a “war on men”, the actor meets “ordinary blokes” with different insights on gender. However, the most interesting exchange comes from his younger brother Tony, as the pair reflect on the impact of their absent father.

Imagine... Pet Shop Boys: Then and Now
BBC One, 10.40pm
Alan Yentob joined the synth-pop duo on their recent Dreamworld tour (and in the studio, while they were recording new album Nonetheless). Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe prove to be entertaining, thoughtful interviewees, as they look back on their illustrious 40-year career at the forefront of British pop music.

Midnight Run (1988) ★★★★
Comedy Central, 9pm  
Robert De Niro is on fine form playing bounty hunter Jack Walsh in Martin Brest’s comic action film. He takes custody of a bail-skipping criminal (Charles Grodin) at the airport who says that he doesn’t fly as he suffers from claustrophobia. The lugubrious Walsh suggests he should be more worried about “fistophobia”. Expect high jinks and one-liners as they embark on an unusual road trip filled with plenty of self-discovery – and disaster.

Pale Rider (1985) ★★★
ITV4, 9pm  
This Western is produced, directed by and stars Clint Eastwood, who here draws on biblical ideas of Heaven and Hell. A struggling community of gold prospectors in California are beset by a powerful local mining boss (Richard Dysart) and his tyrannical son (Chris Penn). Eastwood gives an entertaining performance as a mysterious stranger who rides into town and turns out to be their only hope of salvation.

Dirty God (2019) ★★★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm  
This searing English language debut from Polish director Sacha Polak is a damning depiction of the real-life consequences of rampant violence against women. Newcomer Vicky Knight (chosen from an audition list made up of burns survivors) plays a single mother recovering from an acid attack by her ex-boyfriend and the father of her baby. Premiering at Sundance, critics praised its raw performances and powerful subject matter.

Wednesday 17 April

Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson in Feud: Capote vs the Swans
Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson in Feud: Capote vs the Swans - Pari Dukovic/Disney+

Feud: Capote vs the Swans
The star power and directorial punch of Feud’s second outing knocks its memorably catty opening season (about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford) out of the water. Writer Truman Capote’s (In Cold Blood) betrayal of the circle of ultra-wealthy New York women (he called them his “swans”) who adopted him and propelled him into the rarefied world of American high society is the subject of this extraordinary anthology series helmed by one of Hollywood’s most sophisticated directors, Gus Van Sant.

Tom Hollander puts in a typical powerhouse performance as Capote, sidestepping previous incarnations by Toby Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman to build up a richly layered portrait of the writer that balances his effusive charm with the icy knowingness of the shrewd observer and self-destructiveness of a burnt-out talent. Even so, it is the jaw-dropping supporting line-up – Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny, Calista Flockhart, Demi Moore and Molly Ringwald as the swans (not to mention Treat Williams and Russell Tovey) – and the glorious cinematic opulence of the direction, that really make this sing. Expect a raft of Emmy nominations next year. GO

Our Living World
Even by the exemplary standards of nature documentaries, this is a stunningly produced series taking a fresh look at the interconnectedness of the natural world. Over four episodes, the theme of how all life on Earth is linked by hidden systems of interdependency is illustrated with insight, imagination and eye-popping visuals. Cate Blanchett narrates.

Race Across the World
BBC One, 9pm
After last week’s chase through Japan, the race is now well under way with only five hours separating the teams. For tonight’s leg the pairs must find a budget-friendly way to cross the sea to South Korea, before taking on an even more complex – and gloriously scenic – dash across the Korean peninsula to reach the next checkpoint.

Professor T
ITV1, 9pm
Finally free after his spell in prison, Ben Miller’s criminology professor is keen to get back to work at the university. But it’s not long before the police are knocking on his door again, looking for urgent help with a stalled investigation into a catalogue of mysterious deaths.

BBC Two, 10pm
Imagine Ashes to Ashes’ DI Gene Hunt brought back to life as a PE teacher. That’s the concept behind this toe-curlingly funny comedy starring Mike Bubbins as a 1970s teacher reanimated 50 years after being buried by an avalanche while on a school ski-trip. All three episodes are box-setted on the BBC iPlayer.

Shoulder to Shoulder
BBC Four, from 10pm
A rare, 50th-anniversary airing for this brilliant but little-remembered 1974 drama series (three episodes tonight, the rest next week), telling the story of the role of the Pankhurst family – led by famous matriarch Emmeline (Siân Phillips) – in Britain’s women’s suffrage movement. Phillips and directors Waris Hussein and Moira Armstrong look back on the series beforehand.

Resident Alien
Sky Max, 10pm
Resident Alien’s shift from quirky “alien lands in a smalltown America” comedy to “existential battle for Earth’s survival” in season two wasn’t entirely comfortable, and sometimes felt forced. But if you bought in you won’t be disappointed by season three’s direction of travel, as Harry (Alan Tudyk) joins forces with General McCallister (Linda Hamilton) to take on the rival Grey aliens.

The Mask of Zorro (1998) ★★★★
Film4, 3.45pm  
Martin Campbell’s swashbuckling blockbuster made a star of Spanish actor Antonio Banderas. The film follows Banderas’s Zorro as he helps the original masked vigilante, Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), to avenge the death of his wife – while accidentally falling for his daughter (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Dramatic and over-the-top – but endlessly entertaining. It’s followed by 2005 sequel The Legend of Zorro at 6.25pm.

Glory (1989) ★★★★
Film4, 9pm  
The story of the first black regiment to fight in the American Civil War gets stirring treatment from director Edward Zwick. Matthew Broderick plays soldier Robert Gould Shaw (from whose letters this is adapted), while Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his performance as a runaway slave; Morgan Freeman and Andre Braugher are also terrific. For more Denzel, catch Deja Vu (2006) on Film4 on Thursday at 9pm.

Widows (2018) ★★★★★
Film4, 11.25pm  
Director Steve McQueen’s brilliant US update of Lynda La Plante’s 1983 ITV series sees widows Veronica (Viola Davis, never better), Linda (Michelle Rodríguez ) and Alice (The Crown’s Elizabeth Debicki) take over their late husband’s crime businesses and plot a risky heist to pay off a corrupt local politician. The drama is judged with expert pace and precision, while McQueen’s steely grasp of a high-stakes drama and tense settings never falters.

Thursday 18 April

Finalists Phil and Joanne with Alan Sugar
Finalists Phil and Joanne with Alan Sugar - Ian West/BBC via PA

The Apprentice
BBC One, 9pm
While its glory days are now distant, Alan Sugar’s reality show concludes its eighteenth series in decent health, even as its host’s proclamations that it is a serious business programme ring ever more hollow. The final pits Phil, the perennial loser (or great survivor, depending on your perspective), against briskly efficient Rachel. The former hopes to continue in the family business and expand his small chain of pie shops, both physically and through a mail-order service. The latter hopes to open more gyms (sorry, “social fitness hangouts”).

To earn Sugar’s expertise and £250,000 investment, each must rebrand their business alongside creating a digital billboard and television advert, before pitching to experts. Offering questionable assistance are some of their former rivals, with Virdi and Raj wasting no time in locking horns (“You’re an actor, let me direct”), while Rachel’s own team are bewildered by her business name: Studio Build. While occasionally unwatchable (as they should be), their endeavours leave them well matched for the climactic boardroom, after which Tom Allen will be on hand for the customary debrief in You’re Hired (at 10pm). GT

Wildlife Rescue
Channel 4, 8pm
A pretty standard docusoap with added tension and cuteness, Wildlife Rescue follows a team from South Essex Wildlife Hospital as they rescue and rehabilitate wild animals ranging from a suffocating fox to a swan in life-endangering distress.

Nelson Mandela: A Life in Ten Pictures
BBC Two, 9pm
From a handsome, intense twentysomething to an elder statesman surrounded by a family shortly to go to war over his legacy, the life of Nelson Mandela is given plentiful new attention in another gripping instalment of this excellent profile series. Relatives, admirers and even a Robben Island prison guard assess the man behind the icon.

The Twelve
ITV1, 9pm
The built-in drama of the jury room has of late been profitably exploited both in comedy (Jury Duty) and documentary (The Jury: Murder Trial), but this imported Aussie drama has not reached the same heights. Despite Sam Neill’s best efforts as a defence lawyer, it continues to sink under the weight of its many subplots. Tonight sees Colby (Neill) working over Nathan (Matt Nable) on the witness stand, but the writers once again seem more interested in the jurors’ overstuffed private lives. Continues tomorrow.

Channel 4, 9pm
The lunacy intensifies amid “Irish handshakes”, pickled onions and the questionable use of a cardboard tube as Nick Mohammed pushes his luck and Sophie Willan meets her match. In short, brilliant – very funny – business as usual.

The Hotel Inspector
Channel 5, 9pm
Alex Polizzi arrives in rural Oxfordshire to find a business on the precipice: having staked six-figure sums and 10 years on five luxury lodges for her farm, Rachel’s enterprise is struggling. Can she revive the concept before it is too late?

Bottom: Exposed
Gold, 9pm
For all their individual endeavours, it was surely as a pair that Adrian Edmondson and the late Rik Mayall did their finest work. Exhibit A gets analysed tonight: Bottom was one of the most gleefully anarchic shows ever to grace a major broadcaster, running for only 18 episodes but leaving an almighty legacy. Edmondson, co-stars Helen Lederer and Kevin McNally, fan Chris McCausland and producer Ed Bye pay tribute to a true TV underdog.

Against the Wind (1948, b/w) ★★★
Film4, 12.55pm  
A high-octane Second World War drama from Ealing Studios, centring on a group of individuals who must parachute into Belgium behind enemy lines. These include priest Robert Beatty and the excellent Simone Signoret in her first English- language film role. There’s some pertinent use of documentary footage, though the fragmented plot zigzags too distractedly, proving Ealing was far better at comedy.

Sorry to Bother You (2018) ★★★
BBC Three, 10pm  
Widely hyped upon its release as the new Get Out, Sorry to Bother You stars that film’s brilliant Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius “Cash” Green, a down-on-his-luck black Californian telemarketer whose fortunes change when, on the advice of grizzled colleague Danny Glover, he adopts a “white” voice – but, unsurprisingly, things don’t quite go to plan. Rapper Boots Riley’s film has more than a tinge of Spike Lee about it.

River (2023) ★★★★
Film4, 11.25pm  
Japanese director Junta Yamaguchi crafts a beautiful time-loop romance here, like a mystical spin on Groundhog Day. In an historic region of Kyoto, young woman Mikoto (Riko Fujitani) whiles away her days in a dead-end job, until one afternoon she returns from her lunch break to find that she’s become trapped in an infinite cycle of repeated experiences. Can she find the man necessary to break the mysterious spell?

Friday 19 April

Michael Portillo tucks into local delicacies in Madrid, Spain
Michael Portillo tucks into local delicacies in Madrid, Spain - Channel 5

Michael Portillo’s Long Weekends
Channel 5, 9pm
After another week of train-based travelogues over on BBC Two (6.30pm), the ever-effervescent Michael Portillo is on the move again for Channel 5. In this absorbing three-part travelogue, he takes us on a trio of long weekends to some of his favourite European cities. Tonight’s first stop is the Spanish capital of Madrid: “A place that has set my heart racing since I was a boy.” Portillo revels in Madrid’s rich history and culture, sampling the restaurants, bars and landmarks it has to offer. The show’s charm, however, lies in its accessibility. Structured across three days, and filled with practical tips and recommendations, this is a trip that feasibly anyone could do.

Take Sobrino de Botín, officially the oldest restaurant in the world, which specialises in traditional suckling pigs; or the opulent Royal Palace of Madrid, home to almost 3,500 rooms, which is open to the public 360 days of the year. Even the Teatro Real opera house, which welcomes Portillo behind the scenes, is open seven days a week. What is not easily attainable however is Portillo’s emotional connection with Spain. He becomes visibly moved when he talks about how the Spanish Civil War tore his family apart. SK

Apple TV+
Colin Farrell’s hardboiled PI is sucked further into the seediness of Hollywood this week, as his investigation into the disappearance of Olivia (Sydney Chandler) strays into Harvey Weinstein-esque territory. Also on Apple TV+ today: episode four of Michael Douglas’s American Revolution drama Franklin and episode seven of Abraham Lincoln conspiracy thriller Manhunt.

Wetherspoons vs Toby Carvery: Which is Better
Channel 5, 7pm
“Posh food critic” Philippa Davis reviews food from Wetherspoons and Toby Carvery – two of Britain’s cheapest menus – “like she would a fancy restaurant”. Davis is a good sport, although she cannot hide her disgust of Toby Carvery’s mac-and-cheese Yorkshire pudding wrap.

Unreported World
Channel 4, 7.30pm
Reporter Kiran Moodley travels to Columbia University, New York, to find out how the war in Gaza has created a freedom of speech crisis in America’s universities. Pro-Palestinian students argue that Columbia banning protests means it is shutting down criticism of Israel. Those in charge, meanwhile, insist that they have a responsibility to all who study and teach on campus.

Beyond Paradise
BBC One, 8pm
A woman has been found wounded on the moors with an arrow in her back. The thing that mystifies Kris Marshall’s DI Humphrey, however, is how the attacker was able to shoot her in such a wide open space without being seen. The truth is hidden amid a feud about protecting the environment of local peregrine falcons.

Have I Got News For You
BBC One, 9pm
Alexander Armstrong returns to the hosting chair for a whopping 41st time. Could this make him the new Angus Deayton? He will certainly hope not. Fittingly, he will be joined by fellow regular Jo Brand, who is the runner-up with 28 appearances as host. Tonight, she is content to be a panellist.

Disclosure: Dead Man Running
BBC Two, 9pm; NI, 12.05am; not Wales
In 2019, an “eccentric” Inverness street trader called Kim Avis fled to the US before he could stand trial for charges of rape and sexual assault. A couple of days later in California he attempted to fake his death. This disturbing documentary, which originally aired on BBC Scotland, tells the story of how American police brought him to justice.

Asphalt City (2023) ★★
Amazon Prime Video  
Asphalt City follows Ollie Cross (Tye Sheridan), a young paramedic assigned to the NYC night shift with seasoned partner Gene Rutkovsky (Sean Penn). The dark nights reveal a city in crisis: crime, violence and death lurk on every corner. With Rutkovsky’s guidance, Cross tries to keep afloat. The lead performances are solid – Penn, as ever, is supremely watchable – but the dialogue is stilted and the premise rather dull.

Rebel Moon – Part 2: The Scargiver (2024)
Part one of Zack Snyder’s mega-budget sci-fi adventure may have been panned by critics, but the Justice League director doesn’t seem to care – according to him, it was more popular than Barbie. This sequel to the Stars Wars-lite tale follows the rebel agents as they gear up for battle against the evil forces of the Motherworld. Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou and Ed Skrein star. At least the special effects promise to be terrific.

BlackBerry (2023) ★★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere, 8pm  
Among Hollywood’s craze for origin stories (Tetris, Flamin’ Hot, Air), this drama about the rise and fall of the mobile phone company stands out in a flooded market thanks to sheer shock value. It kicks off with brothers Mike (Jay Baruchel) and Doug (Matt Johnson) pitching their tech; it descends into a story of hubris and warning, as the BlackBerry goes from the Noughties most coveted accessory to a mere relic in the post-iPhone era.

Dark Waters (2019) ★★★★
BBC Two, 11.05pm  
Mark Ruffalo really proved his chops in this pacy legal drama. He plays up-and-coming attorney Robert Bilott, a new partner at an old-school firm in West Virginia who becomes embroiled in a national scandal: a multi-million dollar chemical plant is polluting local rivers and farms and killing cattle. Think a male spin on Erin Brockovich; Todd Haynes (May December), who always directs with courage and verve, is at his best.

Television previewers

Stephen Kelly (SK), Veronica Lee (VL), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Poppie Platt (PP) and Gabriel Tate (GT

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