Thursday 29 June 2017

12 great things to watch on TV this weekend - including The Roast of Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe takes a barrage of affectionate abuse like a man in Comedy Central's The Roast of Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe takes a barrage of affectionate abuse like a man in Comedy Central's The Roast of Rob Lowe

TONIGHT

1. The highlight of the evening, and maybe the whole weekend, is The Roast of Rob Lowe (Comedy Central, 10pm). You know the drill by now: willing celebrity cringes as their friends and peers subject them to a string of vicious, near-the-knuckle, but essentially affectionate put-downs. All good, filthy fun.

Not on this occasion, though. Lowe may be the official butt of the joke, but the real target on the night turns out to be obnoxious ultra-conservative commentator and darling of Fox News Ann Coulter, a woman so utterly repellent, she almost makes Katie Hopkins seem like a functioning human being.

Coulter turns up to help roast Lowe, and ends up having her own feet to the fire. A sample of some of the milder savagings: “How do I roast somebody from hell?”

“Ann has written 11 books — 12 if you count Mein Kampf.”

“Ann’s been called things like a racist,

anti-Semitic, homophobic, a white supremacist. The only person she will ever make happy is the Mexican who digs her grave.”

And we can’t even print what Jimmy Carr says about her.

Coulter doesn’t seem to understand

how the show works and sits with a stupid, uncomprehending smile fixed to her face.

When it’s her turn to speak, she tries to plug her book on Donald Trump — to a chorus of loud booing from the audience. Her embarrassingly pathetic attempts at delivering some barbs of her own are met with stony-faced silence. Like a lot of right-wing blowhards, she seems to have absolutely no sense of humour.

Even Lowe himself has a pop: “You know, Ann, after seeing your set tonight, I think we’ve all witnessed the one bombing that you can’t blame on a Muslim.” Not to be missed.

2. On a less provocative note, We Love Sitcom (BBC1, 9pm), an hour-long quiz to tie-in with the Beeb’s sitcom season, shows how little some people who make a living from comedy actually know about its history.

Ben Miller hosts, and the starry line-up struggling to find the right answers includes Stephen Mangan, Jessica Hynes, Lee Mack and Jennifer Saunders.

3. Saunders’s Absolutely Fabulous co-star Joanna Lumley is now queen of the TV travelogue to Michael Palin’s king. In her latest jaunt, Joanna Lumley’s Japan (UTV/ITV/UTV Ireland, 9pm), she travels 2,000 miles across the country, having a moving encounter along the way with a man who stayed in Fukushima, site of the devastated nuclear power plant, to look after pets.

4. Rob Brydon’s Would I Lie To You? (BBC1, 8.30pm), one of the better panel shows, returns for a 10th season. Team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack (yes, again!) are joined by guests including Michael Smiley, Diane Morgan (her third TV appearance this week) and the incomparable Bob Mortimer, who’ll be riffing on 1980s haircuts.

TOMORROW

5. Jonathan Ross has been forced to play second fiddle to Graham Norton since he moved from the BBC to ITV. But with Norton still in repose, The Jonathan Ross Show (UTV/ITV, 9.30pm; UTV Ireland, 10pm) gets to steal a march. The better-than-usual line-up includes Bridget Jones’s Baby stars Renee Zellweger and Patrick Dempsey, and the immensely watchable, if astonishingly right-wing, John Malkovich.

6. Prior to Ross, puppet satire Newzoids (UTV/ITV, 9pm) returns, once again trying to recapture the brilliance of Spitting Image — and inevitably failing.

That said, it has its moments and it’s certainly far funnier than previous attempts, including the dismal 2D. It will be interesting to see what it does with Donald Trump, whose campaign already threatens to render satire redundant.

The world hardly needs reminding that Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

7. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of Henry Singer’s feature documentary The Falling Man (More4, 9pm), which was originally shown on Channel 4. It tells the story behind photographer Richard Drew’s horribly iconic photograph of a man plummeting from the North Tower.

His identity has never been authoritatively confirmed, although the film strongly suggests it was Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old audio technician with Windows on the World. Whatever the truth, a riveting, moving film.

8. There’s another outstanding item from the archives in The Running Mate (TG4, 10.20pm). First shown in 2007, this excellent four-part political drama slipped under the radar of viewers who seem to have an inbuilt resistance to watching Irish-language drama, no matter how good it is, yet will slavishly tune in in their hundreds of thousands to watch rubbish like The Ray D’Arcy Show or Operation Transformation.

The Running Mate, a rare example of a fictional drama that uses the names of real political parties, is very good indeed. Dennis Conway plays publican Vincent Flynn, a lowly but decent and honourable Fianna Fail footsoldier who, appalled by the antics of corrupt FF TD Paudie Counihan (Eamonn Hunt), decides to run against him as an independent.

Don Wycherly is also excellent as the booze-pickled journalist who gets behind the underdog. Worth your time, believe me.

SUNDAY

9 and 10. It seems the battle between Poldark (BBC1, 9pm) and Victoria (UTV/ITV/UTV Ireland, 9pm) wasn’t as clear-cut as we’d expected. Both ended up with five million-plus viewers last week. In this era of +1 channels and catch-up viewing, though, ‘live’ ratings are not longer as crucial as they used to be.

11. If you don’t fancy either, the Horizon special Jimmy Carr and the Science of Laughter (BBC2, 9pm) offers a fascinating alternative. With the help of scientists, the rapid-fire funnyman with the envelope-

pushing one-liners tries to find out why we laugh, why we enjoy it so much and what it has to do with comedy.

12. For an alternative to the alternatives, Blondie: Song by Song (Sky Arts, from 9pm) gathers together four half-hour programmes offering detailed analysis of four of the band’s hits, each of which marked a significant professional or personal turning point for them.

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