What’s on TV tonight: Murder in Mayfair, Bear Grylls Meets President Zelensky and more
Tuesday 28 March
Murder in Mayfair
BBC Two, 9pm
The reliably fascinating This World strand presents a story 15 years in the making, but one which has lost none of its power to enrage. In 2008, 23-year-old Norwegian student Martine Vik Magnussen was killed in a flat near Mayfair. The prime suspect was Farouk Abdulhak, son of a Yemeni billionaire and the last person seen with her. Shortly after her body was discovered, he was found to have fled to his home country, which has no UK extradition treaty.
BBC correspondent Nawal Al-Maghafi has been on the case ever since, along with Martine’s redoubtable father, Odd Petter Magnussen. For years, Abdulhak’s impeccable connections made him impossible to reach. But the Yemeni civil war has seen his allies fall from grace while he forged a new career in cryptocurrency. Al-Maghafi eventually establishes contact over Snapchat (the film-makers make a virtue of the innate tension of online messaging), and their exchanges prove illuminating, infuriating and shocking. Almost equally intriguing are the fleeting insights offered into how a documentary such as this is put together, as the journalist confers with producers and commissioners on how best to proceed. GT
Mae Martin: SAP
Fresh from the triumph of their sadcom Feel Good and with an imminent slot on Taskmaster, the brilliant Mae Martin’s breakthrough is surely confirmed by this one-hour stand-up special. Brimming over with their trademark wide-eyed, frantic self-analysis, topics include the gender spectrum, hot dogs, tree sap and a meeting with a moose.
Love Your Garden for Less
ITV1, 8pm; UTV, 11.25pm; Wales, 11.30pm
With more people staying put and the cost-of-living crisis biting, is a garden makeover possible on a relatively tight budget? Katie Rushworth and David Domoney meet two couples with £3,500 to spend and very different ideas of how they want to spend it.
Bear Grylls Meets President Zelensky
Channel 4, 8pm
While circumstances may prevent him from “running wild” with Bear Grylls, Volodymyr Zelensky has invited the adventurer to Kyiv for a face-to-face interview. Along the way, Grylls encounters citizens and soldiers, but the main man himself is worth the trip, with the effortlessly charismatic Ukrainian president on open and engaging form.
Anton & Giovanni’s Adventures in Sicily
BBC One, 9pm
All the while walking a tightrope between endearing and irritating, Anton Du Beke and Giovanni Pernice continue their journey across the Italian island. This week includes paddleboarding, zip wires, helicopter rides and a yomp up Mount Etna in the company of Rose Ayling-Ellis.
Following her revelatory recent return to the South Africa of her childhood, Oti Mabuse ropes in big sister Motsi for a trawl through their family history – a tougher assignment than it would be for many, with accurate records for black South Africans extremely hard to come by. Yet the ensuing hour brings links to royalty, musical prodigies, war heroes and equal doses of joy and pain.
Channel 4, 9pm
With the good cause of Stand Up to Cancer to spur them on, 10 celebrities are paired up and sent on the run, aiming to remain at large for 14 days. Among the famous faces are Strictly’s Katya Jones, actors Nikesh Patel and Nicola Thorp and, pushing the format to its limits, comedians James Acaster and Ed Gamble.
Hobson’s Choice (1953, b/w) ★★★★
In this adaptation of the 1915 Harold Brighouse play of the same name, hero Willie Mossop (John Mills) finds, after long enduring the tyranny of his boss Henry Horatio Hobson (Charles Laughton), that he does have a choice over how he’ll conduct his life after all (despite the film’s title). The winner of Bafta’s 1954 Best British Film Award, Hobson’s Choice also features Prunella Scales in one of her first film roles. A Great British classic.
Paul (2011) ★★★
Comedy Central, 9pm
Here’s another solid comedy from Shaun of the Dead dreamteam Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. They’re two geeks who set out on a cross country road trip; Seth Rogen, transformed through motion capture, is the friendly alien they find along the way. But when the Secret Service starts sniffing around the extraterrestrial, the two best friends must help him escape. A clever, charming send-up of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., among other science-fiction films.
Meet Joe Black (1998) ★★★
BBC One, 10.40pm
Brad Pitt heads up this three-hour remake of the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday. Death visits Earth by possessing the body of a handsome man (Pitt, as charismatic as ever), but soon falls in love with the daughter (Claire Forlani) of New York media tycoon Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins). This is a bittersweet romance with a winning cast and an enchanting score, but the characters are far too idealised.
Wednesday 29 March
The Big Door Prize
One morning, seemingly out of nowhere, a mysterious machine appears in the grocery store of a small American town. It is called Morpho and, as the community soon discovers, it is able to accurately predict a person’s “life potential” – the best possible life they could or could have achieved. One man gets magician, a talent that he had given up on. Others get cards reading biker, storyteller, male model, hero, royalty. That is the playful idea at the heart of this charming 10-part comedy, adapted from the eponymous book by MO Walsh, and featuring a charismatic lead performance from Chris O’Dowd. But beneath the absurdity there is also a profound and affecting story about the existential angst of middle age.
Take Dusty (O’Dowd), a 40-year-old teacher who, before Morpho, was seemingly content with an ordinary life as a family man. But that all changes when he and his wife, Cass (Gabrielle Dennis), receive their cards. His suggests a life that will ultimately amount to nothing more than it already is; hers reveals a life that could have been vastly different. It is a smart and wonderfully imaginative way to explore happiness and regret. The first three episodes arrive today (Wednesday). SK
In this eight-part adaptation (confirmed to be the sole series) of Octavia Butler’s 1979 novel, young black writer Dana (Mallori Johnson) keeps finding herself pulled back and forth in time between modern-day Los Angeles and a 19th-century plantation. Johnson is terrific, even if the adaptation itself is unwieldy.
There’s a dry, caustic wit to this eight-part Australian comedy, which follows hard-partying food critic Liv (Celeste Barber) as she tries every wellness fad possible – from colonic cleansing to naked therapy. The gags are fairly hit and miss, although Barber’s performance as a human tornado is wonderful.
The Repair Shop
BBC One, 8pm
The most poignant arrival in the barn this week is a tiny pair of children’s shoes, once worn by 83-year-old Nechama from Tel Aviv. They have been cut open at the toes: her parents’ way of making them last longer. Can cobbler Dean Westmoreland repair them?
Race Across the World
BBC One, 9pm
Zainib and Mobeen are this week’s stars, having embraced the Canadian culture of ride-sharing to make their way 2,000km north to Dawson City. It is a quirk that introduces us to a range of colourful locals. Even if – in the words of Claudia – it can prove “soul-destroying” for any reserved Brit.
Glenda Jackson Remembers... Elizabeth R
BBC Four, 10pm
Glenda Jackson reflects on playing Elizabeth I in the landmark 1971 period drama Elizabeth R – a show that proved so popular with audiences that the BBC repeated it in full a week after it had finished. She recalls preparing for the role, and how she came to have huge admiration for the real-life Elizabeth. This is then followed by Elizabeth R itself, which airs with a double-bill afterwards at 10.10pm.
Dating, Halal Style: Love, Faith & Me
BBC One, 10.40pm; NI, 11.10pm
This week the religious documentary series joins recent Muslim convert Chiedza as she dips her toe into the strict world of Islamic dating. Like other modern-day singletons, she soon becomes addicted to dating apps; except these ones are Muslim-only and feature chaperones. It is a fascinating insight into the faith, where dating is motivated by the end goal of lifelong marriage above all else.
The Sapphires (2012) ★★★
This sparkling Australian musical-comedy is based in hard truth, but it’s been sufficiently softened for a family audience. Set in 1968 and bursting with enough newsreel footage to make sure we know it, Wayne Blair’s debut feature centres on three Aboriginal sisters and their Melbourne cousin who form a soul quartet, based on a real-life group, under the bleary auspices of Chris O’Dowd’s (see Feature, p24) whisky-sozzled impresario.
Coogan’s Bluff (1968) ★★★
In this early Clint Eastwood outing, the young actor is an Arizona cop (deputy sheriff Walt Coogan) sent to New York to collect a killer (Don Stroud). He soon gets into a string of scrapes when the convict keeps managing to escape and the hero, too stubborn to return home empty-handed, must wearily set out to track him down. Eastwood may be playing to type here, but he’s nevertheless very watchable as the tough small-town cop.
The Great Gatsby (2000) ★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm
Paul Rudd stars as naive young bonds salesman Nick Carraway, with Mira Sorvino as his wealthy and careless cousin Daisy Buchanan, and Toby Stephens as Jay Gatsby, the mysterious millionaire determined to win back her heart, in Robert Markowitz’s bold but stilted adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel set in the money and murk of 1920s New York. Despite the fine cast, it doesn’t really manage to convince.
Thursday 30 March
Get On Up: The Triumph of Black America
BBC Two, 9pm
British actor David Harewood, who rose to global prominence starring in the hit US TV series Homeland, has been living, working and succeeding in America for over a decade now and witnessing “at first hand the extraordinary influence that African-American culture has had on popular culture”.
In this heartfelt two-part series (boxsetted on iPlayer), he explores how black American creatives have had a profound impact on his life and, more widely, broken down the barriers of racism to change the world, and the world of entertainment, for the better. Beginning his deep personal connection to Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, Harewood looks at the careers of the first black American stars – Sammy Davis Jr and Sidney Poitier – who showed that his career was possible. From there he looks back at the pivotal movements – Blaxploitation films, the rise of Berry Gordy’s Motown – when pioneering black American musicians, actors, film-makers and choreographers took on the mainstream and transformed the cultural landscape from the 1960s up to the present day, meeting many of his heroes en route. GO
An intense adaptation of Japanese author Hideo Yokoyama’s hit crime thriller, relocated from Tokyo to Glasgow. Kevin McKidd plays a jobbing detective and Vinette Robinson his wife, with a mysterious past, whose daughter disappears. It’s a tale so tangled that it can be off-putting initially, but it’s worth sticking with for the (boxsetted) long run.
The Dog Academy
Channel 4, 8pm
Can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Think again, as experts attempt to retrain some of the worst behaved dogs in Britain, led by Victoria Stilwell of It’s Me or the Dog fame. Tonight’s problematic pooches are a cockapoo that’s tearing its family apart and a chihuahua with aggression issues.
Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars
BBC One, 9pm
Gordon Ramsay’s derivative Apprentice-style cookery challenge returns for a second series, with 12 more of “the UK’s best up-and-coming food and drink entrepreneurs” competing to win an investment of £150,000. Things quickly go awry as the group goes head-to-head, split into two teams, tasked with creating five-star outdoor banquets in Ayrshire.
Jason & Clara: In Memory of Maudie
A deeply affecting film with actor Jason Watkins and his wife Clara Francis telling the story of their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Maudie’s sudden death from sepsis in 2011. More than a decade on, their pain remains palpable, but their determination to raise awareness of the condition is inspiring.
Channel 4, 9pm
Frankie Boyle, Ivo Graham, Jenny Eclair, Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Mae Martin are the comedians enduring various humiliations in pursuit of, as Greg Davies puts it, a “truly worthless” trophy, as the show reaches a remarkable 15th series. Alex Horne is on-hand, as ever, to organise the tasks, which tonight include dancing the best wedding dance ever and unwinding a ball of string.
Live: Vanished: The Hunt for Britain’s Missing People
Channel 5, 9pm
Following a one-off pilot in February about the search for Nicola Bulley in Lancashire, presenter Dan Walker goes on the trail of more people who have gone missing in the UK, with the help of families and friends left behind, police and missing persons charities.
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965, b/w) ★★★★
TCM Movies, 5.35pm
Martin Ritt’s brooding John le Carré adaptation earned Richard Burton his fourth Oscar nomination (one of seven the Welshman didn’t win). He plays Alec Leamas, a British secret agent who is marked out by the East German intelligence service as a potential defector. It’s a gorgeous, chilly and sad piece that seems as fresh today as upon its release, with support from Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner and Cyril Cusack.
Rambo (2008) ★★★
Vietnam, Afghanistan and now Burma: is nowhere on Earth safe from John Rambo and his distinctive (by modern standards, downright problematic) definition of what liberating a country might involve? Yet this fourth outing for Sylvester Stallone’s vengeful machete man works on its own terms – a film that knows what it is and a ready-made fan base to adore it. Here, the ageing warrior has to rescue a group of missionaries.
The Death of Dick Long (2019) ★★★
Daniel Scheinert, one half of recent Oscar-winning director-duo the Daniels, directed this black comedy just a few years before Everything Everywhere All at Once swept the Academy. Zeke (Michael Abbott Jr) and Earl (Andre Hyland) scramble to cover up the dodgy events that led to their friend’s death, but they soon realise that in small-town Alabama, there’s always someone snooping around.
Friday 31 March
Amazon Prime Video
Naomi Alderman’s 2016 novel was an ambitious reset of gender politics, exploring the repercussions of teenage girls across the world developing the power to generate and control electricity. Amazon’s nine-part adaptation is an accomplished and thoughtful combination of high-concept thriller and timely polemic, spanning the globe and deftly juggling numerous storylines and a big cast.
Episode one rests on the shoulders of Ria Zmitrowicz (Three Girls) as Roxy, acknowledged but ostracised illegitimate daughter of Eddie Marsan’s north London gangster; Halle Bush as Allie, an abused foster child struggling to reconcile her new powers with her religious faith; Ted Lasso’s Toheeb Jimoh as Nigerian YouTuber Tunde; and Auli’i Cravalho, the voice of Disney’s Moana who here plays Jos, a disillusioned teenager struggling to be “normal”. Later episodes introduce older women for whom these events offer enthralling, terrifying possibilities: Toni Collette’s Seattle mayor (also Jos’s mother) and Tatiana (Zrinka Cvitesic), the trophy wife of a dictator. The thrill of discovery wrestles with suppression of the unknown in the opening hours as the patriarchy teeters; later on comes the reality. GT
A Kind of Spark
Bursting with charm and intelligence, this 10-part family drama (based on Elle McNicoll’s novel) starts on CBBC on April 17 and follows Addie Darrow (Lola Blue), an autistic teenager whose interest in medieval witch trials first offers escape from bullying peers and later a sense of mission.
BBC One, 8pm
The smash whodunit spinoff has settled on a neat formula to which tonight’s episode cleaves tightly: arcane, borderline-daft case, twinned with mild personal turmoil. This week, Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) tackles a series of arson attempts seemingly linked by the Three Little Pigs fairy tale, while Martha (Sally Bretton) worries over Archie’s (Jamie Bamber) reaction to her rejection.
Great British Menu
BBC Two, 9pm
A total of 32 chefs are now down to just four for the final banquet to celebrate the world of animation and illustration. Gathering at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion (featured in The Snowman), they must rustle up dishes for guests including Cressida Cowell (How to Train Your Dragon), Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) and Aardman co-founder Peter Lord.
Drift: Partners in Crime
Sky Atlantic, 9pm & 10pm
The solidly entertaining odd-couple police thriller continues. Straight arrow Ali (Ken Duken) and wild card Leo (Fabian Busch) come to realise that they are embroiled in a Europe-wide conspiracy as they join the dots between the bridge collapse, the weapons container and yet another close shave.
BBC One, 9.30pm
Simon Callow’s theatre manager is just one of the many obstacles to Wicky (Greg Davies) doing his job (crime-scene cleaner) tonight in this uncertain comedy-drama, when he arrives at a venue where a bloody brawl has interrupted a male strip show.
Late Night Lycett
Channel 4, 10pm
The dauntless Joe Lycett turns to topical chat and comedy in what sounds like a one-man, Birmingham-set blend of Graham Norton, Ant and Dec and The Mash Report. Lycett will be looking back at the week in politics, news and culture with celebrities and relatives, while also offering audience members the opportunity to win some of his own possessions. With equal potential for chaos and brilliance, only Lycett could conceivably pull this off.
Rocketman’s Taron Egerton (see Saturday) stars in this nostalgic gaming-drama based on the true story of American salesman Henk Rogers, who discovered Tetris – the addictive puzzle game created by Soviet engineer Alexey Pajitnov – in 1988. Before Rogers could turn the game into a global phenomenon, however, he had to reckon with the dangerous web of lies and corruption that lurked behind the Iron Curtain. Toby Jones and Roger Allam co-star.
Murder Mystery 2 (2023)
Murder Mystery starred Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston as a perfectly normal couple who get framed for murder while on the holiday of a lifetime. In this no-frills (and few laughs) sequel, the couple are now private detectives on the cusp of launching their own agency when a friend’s abduction lands them at the centre of an international crisis. It’s certainly not the pinnacle of cinema, but Sandler and Aniston’s natural charisma makes it worthwhile.
Pretty Woman (1990) ★★★★
BBC One, 10.40pm
Initially intended as a dark drama about prostitution in 1990s LA, this romcom has been an enduring success, with a spinoff hit West End musical and endlessly quotable material. Millionaire Edward (Richard Gere) takes a wrong turn while borrowing his friend’s Lotus and asks for directions home from call girl Vivian (Julia Roberts). She steers him back to his hotel, he pays her $3,000 to be his escort and, somewhat improbably, they fall in love.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) ★★★
East meets West in the third film in the lean, mean series as Lucas Black steps up as the car enthusiast, here sent to live in Tokyo where he discovers drift racing – a sport where the driver intentionally oversteers – and buddies up with Bow Wow as entrepreneurial youth Twinkie. Moving the action to Japan was a masterstroke, allowing the film-makers to explore the visually impressive city.
Chris Bennion (CB), Jack Taylor (JT), Veronica Lee (VL), Stephen Kelly (SK), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Poppie Platt (PP) and Gabriel Tate (GT)