Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV.
Saturday 30th March
The Voice UK
Be it a good or a bad thing, The Voice UK returns to BBC1 tonight – along with the same Coaches (not “Judges”): The Script’s Danny O’Donoghue; The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am; Pontypridd’s very own, Tom Jones’; and Chadwell Heath’s finest, Jessie J.
If last year’s series is anything to go by, the coming few weeks’ Blind Auditions will be the highlight of the series – and then it will be downhill from there. The BBC have at least tried to improve this series (with the extension of the Blind Auditions round and halving of the number of Live Shows from six to just three) but whether this will make any difference remains to be seen.
It probably doesn’t help that the show is going up against Saturday Night Takeaway on ITV…
Also today: Doctor Who returns with guest star Celia Imrie (BBC1, 6:15pm); BBC2 screens a tribute to the late Richard Briers (BBC2, 7:00pm); after a week at the top of the charts, Ant & Dec welcome Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan, Michael Buble and Lewis Hamilton to their aforementioned Saturday Night Takeaway (ITV, 7:00pm); and the much-anticipated Life’s Too Short Special is on BBC2 at 10:00pm.
Easter Sunday (31st March)
An all-star cast led by Maxine Peake (dinnerladies, Silk) and John Simm (Life on Mars, The Lakes) feature in this six-part period drama set in a Derbyshire village.
Depicting the events of the mid- to late-1910s (but narrated from a present day perspective), The Village shows the austere times in which its central family, the Middletons, lived. Over the six weeks, we witness key events which shaped the lives of not just the inhabitants of the village but people nationwide – whether that be political changes or the alternative ways in which people began to view sex, religion and class.
With its amalgamation of the past and present, The Village seems, to me, quite similar to ITV’s Lightfields, which concluded last Wednesday. Whether it be Call the Midwife, Mr Selfridge or the irrepressible Downton Abbey, period drama is proving to be very successful at the moment – so The Village is already guaranteed to be something of a hit. Add to this the strong cast list which it boasts and we look set for a hugely enjoyable drama, filling the void recently left by the previously mentioned triad of programmes.
Also today: Michael Ball welcomes guests such as Nicole Scherzinger, Denise van Outen and Myleene Klass for Andrew Lloyd Webber: 40 Musical Years (ITV, 6:30pm); and, following on from yesterday’s tribute to Richard Briers, BBC2 repeats a documentary profiling one of the late actor’s biggest sitcom hits – All About The Good Life is on at 7:00pm.
Easter Monday (1st April)
Alan Davies dons the duffle coat once again as he is joined by a host of stars including Sheridan Smith, Joanna Lumley and Rik Mayall for an Easter special of David Renwick’s detective drama.
In this episode, a man’s body mysteriously vanishes from a locked room – much to the upset of his wife, Rosalind (Lumley). Jonathan is initially reluctant to get involved with the case but his intrigue gets the better of him and he is soon rejoined by Joey Ross (Smith) to try and crack the case. However, his old rival, DI Gideon Pryke (Mayall) is also back – having last been seen in the show’s 1998 Christmas special. So, the eponymous sleuth now not only has to try and solve the case of the disappearing body, but he also has to do so before Pryke can beat him to it!
Also today: there’s an extended episode of The Gadget Show (Channel 5, 6:55pm); and Hairy Bikers’ Best of British returns to BBC2 (7:00pm).
Tuesday 2nd April
Kay Mellor’s brilliant drama, following a group of northern hospital workers who win the lottery, continues.
The focus of tonight’s episode is Rose (Alison Steadman) who decides to use her windfall to get her knees treated privately. However, the pressures of the limelight get to her and she turns to Mandy (Siobhan Finneran) for help – but soon realises that she isn’t the only one with problems.
Also today: Claudia Winkleman hosts the first episode of The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC2, 8:00pm); we find out whether Sara will finally tell her parents she’s gay in the last in the series of Heading Out (BBC2, 10:00pm); and Ruby Wax, Alex Horne and Dave Gorman offer their nominations for unusual prizes in the hit-and-miss The Matt Lucas Awards (BBC1, 10:35pm).
Wednesday 3rd April
Hillsborough: Never Forgotten
In this one-off documentary, survivors and the families of victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster speak about the heartache they endured for over twenty years and how last year’s report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel impacted their lives.
In what is bound to be a poignant, thought-provoking film, The Right Rev James Jones (The Bishop of Liverpool and leader of the Independent Panel) discusses how he and his colleagues gathered evidence for and managed to produce the verdict which quashed the original – that citing ‘Accidental Death’.
Also today: Nick Crane returns with a brand new series of Coast on BBC2 at 8:00pm; and Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are back as sleuths Rachel and Janet in the third series of Scott & Bailey (ITV, 9:00pm).
Thursday 4th April
As much as I adore others listed in this post (The Syndicate, Call the Midwife, Downton, etc.), I struggle to think of any TV drama of recent years which has gripped, intrigued and entertained me quite as much as Julie Gearey’s Prisoners’ Wives.
I find it quite difficult to express my love for this programme. Everything about it is special: the writing, acting and direction are as close to perfection as you can get. Regardless of whether you like or dislike a character, you cannot help but be drawn in by their individual story – whether it’s how a prisoner is coping with life on the inside or how their families are coping with life without them on the outside.
The story of Harriet and her troubled son Gavin is particularly heart-wrenching. Such is the intense concoction of love and distrust in their relationship, I know someone who finds it disturbing to watch. This storyline (which sees Harriet finally find love while worrying about her fragile son being pressurised into converting to Islam) has triumphantly showcased the wonderful talents of Pippa Haywood and Adam Gillen. I now neither think of the former as ‘Helen from The Brittas Empire’, nor the latter ‘Lesley’s son from Benidorm’. I regard them as highly competent performers who, as well as making us cry with laughter, can also make us do so with sadness.
There are a lot of loose ends to be tied up in this final episode of the criminally short second series. Will Francesca clear her name? Will Aisling make it down the aisle? Will Kim and Mick move on from her infidelity and his imprisonment? And, most importantly, will Harriet finally be happy?
Also today: former Dragons’ Den investor Hilary Devey helps a group of teenagers find work in The Intern (Channel 4, 9:00pm); Peter Andre: My Life is back on ITV2 at 9:00pm; and Leo Maguire’s True Stories documentary premieres on Channel 4 (10:00pm) as he investigates the appeal of ‘dogging’ – and there isn’t a canine in sight…
Friday 5th April
Not Going Out
A lot of BBC1’s top comedy output returns tonight but the series which I am most looking forward to is undoubtedly Not Going Out.
Now into its sixth series (despite having been axed after its third), Lee Mack’s fast-paced, gag-packed sitcom is still going strong – and remains head-and-shoulders above its contemporaries. Over its seven-year run, the RTS Award-winning sitcom has seen many characters come and go – from Megan Dodds’s Kate, to Simon Dutton’s Guy and, of course, Miranda Hart’s hilariously lazy Barbara. However, this new series sees its biggest departure yet: Tim Vine (who played Lee’s best mate…Tim) has now left the show to concentrate on other things. Now, exactly what those other things are – except his 2012 teatime ITV gameshow, Don’t Blow the Inheritance – I have no idea, but I wish him luck. It seems, though, that a huge Tim-shaped hole will be present over the next eight weeks – and it remains to be seen whether Mack has decided to fill it with a new face or not (although he did tell the British Comedy Guide that a new character will be introduced at the end of the series).
Nevertheless, some of our favourite characters are still popping up in the show: level-headed landlady Lucy and Tim’s girlfriend Daisy are still there as feeds to Lee’s perfect witticisms. Old favourites who are also back in this series include Lucy’s conservative parents Geoffrey and Wendy, as well as Lee’s liberal dad, Frank (played by the brilliant Bobby Ball).
In this episode, Lucy has run-over a hugely important client’s pet rabbit – so she enlists Lee’s help in order to get her off the hook.
Also today: Stephen Mangan is in the host’s chair for the beginning of the forty-fifth series of Have I Got News For You (BBC1, 9:00pm); The Apprentice’s Karren Brady is grilled by Piers Morgan in the last in the series of Life Stories (ITV, 9:00pm); Channel 4 show that they are milking the Alan Carr brand as much as they can in his Grand National Specstacular (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and The Graham Norton Show demonstrates how to launch a new series with guests including Tom Cruise, Gerard Butler and Olga Kurylenko (BBC1, 10:35pm).
Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me about this or any other TV show – @UKTVReviewer