The definitive weekend TV guide – what to watch Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Pat Stacey has trawled the schedules so you don't have to...
Netflix is arguably doing more at the moment than any other broadcaster to push feature documentaries, for so long consigned to the festival circuit and a limited cinema release, to the forefront of the mainstream.
The latest addition to its ever-expanding catalogue is Jeff Orlowski’s Chasing Coral (Netflix, from today), winner of the Audience Award at Sundance back in February. It’s a sequel of sorts to his 2012 film Chasing Ice, which used time-lapse photography to show the speedy disappearance of Arctic glaciers.
This time, Orlowski’s subject is the effect of rising ocean temperatures on the world’s coral reefs. The result is a film that’s both visually stunning and deeply sad. Reading in a newspaper or on a website that 22pc of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef vanished in 2016 is one thing; seeing the before-and-after evidence with your own eyes is something else again. A picture really does paint a thousand words after all.
The streaming service hasn’t struck the same seam of gold with its comedies as it has with its documentaries and dramas. I haven’t watched a preview of Friends from College (Netflix, from today), but judging from the scorchingly negative reviews of American critics who’ve seen a few episodes, these friends are not the kind you’d want to spend much time with.
It’s an ensemble offering about a group of Harvard alumni who get back together at a reunion in New York City. By all accounts, the characters are hard to like, the situation an avalanche of familiar tropes and clichés, and the whole enterprise woefully short on laughs. Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders and Fred Savage lead the ensemble cast.
It’s the first day of the World Para Athletics Championships (Channel 4, 7.30pm), which means things have come more or less full circle for The Last Leg (Channel 4, 10pm), which began life as a companion show to the 2012 Summer Paralympics.
A mere two months after the BBC drama Babs, along comes The Barbara Windsor Story (Channel 5, 8.30pm), a 90-minute documentary on the blonde bomb-site, focusing particularly on her pre-Carry On and EastEnders fame.
Having pretty much exhausted the supply of top-notch Scandi noir, the Beeb turns to Spain for I Know Who You Are (BBC4, 9pm), a 10-part thriller about a 55-year-old man discovered staggering along a highway with no memory of who he is or how he got there.
Turns out he’s a successful criminal lawyer and university professor who’s married to a judge. When the wreck of his car is located, the police discover a mobile phone inside that belongs to his 23-year-old niece, who went missing the night he had his accident.
He immediately becomes a murder suspect, of course, and has to find a way of clearing his name. It all sounds intriguing enough, and it’s showing in two-episode chunks each week.
There’s a surfeit of sport today. As well as the penultimate day of Wimbledon (BBC1, 1pm; BBC2, 6.25pm), which begins with the Ladies’ Singles Final and continues into the evening with the Men’s and Ladies’ Doubles Finals, there’s Live Racing from both The Curragh (RTE2, 4pm) and Newmarket (TV3, 1.30pm), and more from the World Para Athletics (Channel 4, 7pm).
It’s a blessing and a curse, because it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for much else. But at least ever-loyal fans of Casualty (BBC1, 9pm), and there are plenty of them still out there, will be happy to get their teeth into a two-parter that sees Jez and Mickey’s relationship being put to the test.
If you don’t mind a repeat — and it’s kind of hard to avoid the bloody things right now — anyone who was riveted by drama series The Crown will surely be interested in Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King (More4, 9pm), which reveals the dynastic tensions that were unleashed when the future Queen fell for Phil the Greek, then a dashing young naval officer rather than the cranky old goat we know today.
It’s probably cheating a little to include Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic, 2am), since technically it’s a Monday programme, but there’ll be plenty of hardcore fans who simply won’t be able to wait for the second showing at 9pm on Monday.
Ross Kemp: Extreme World (Sky 1, 9pm) sees the EastEnders star-turned-risk-taking reporter journey to the West Bank, where a drug epidemic is ripping through Palestinian communities.
In Shuafat in East Jerusalem, he learns that use of a new synthetic drug far more potent and addictive than heroin is widespread, and tries to find out why leaders on both sides are failing to protect the West Bank’s population.
Having filled us in last Sunday on what happened to Luke, The Handmaid’s Tale (Channel 4, 9.30pm) is back in the now again, where the Commander surprises Offred by presenting her with make-up and a dress, and the news that they’re going for a night out. She’s right to be wary about what comes next.
The unremarkable Broadchurch-in-a-Kilt mystery The Loch (UTV/ITV, 9pm) reaches its end, having failed to depart from the formulaic or pose much of a ratings threat to Poldark (BBC1, 9pm).
In the latter, Ross, seized by the egalitarian spirit after his trip to revolutionary France, decides to gift some Nampara’s land to the peasants, so they can provide for themselves.
But he and Esmerelda soon learn that the one really in need of immediate care is Dr Enys, whose internment has left him suffering from what we’d now call post-traumatic stress disorder.
The late country singer John Denver was, throughout his career, about as cool as a man eating a chicken Vindaloo from a hotplate on a very hot day inside a sauna, while wearing an overcoat and some thermal underwear. Which is to say, he was the epitome of bland, sunny, smiley, non-threatening naffness.
But as John Denver: Country Boy (BBC4, 10pm), a sturdy PBS-made documentary reveals, he had a troubled side too, and resented the fact that he never got the critical acceptance he felt he deserved.