Sunday 20 August 2017

Your definitive weekend TV guide – what to watch Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Madonna on Top of the Pops in 1984 singing Holiday
Madonna on Top of the Pops in 1984 singing Holiday

Pat Stacey

Pat Stacey has trawled the listings and found the TV gold so you don't have to. Here's what to watch this weekend:

FRIDAY

It’s June and we know what happens in June, don’t we? RTE gives a great big yawn and begins to go into hibernation for the summer.

No Late Late Show tonight, just another film (Philomena — again?), no Ray D’Arcy Show tomorrow, but another film (Boyhood — rather better). Truth is, though, it doesn’t really make a blind bit of difference to a lot of us. So business as usual on this page.

Top of the Pops: The Story of 1984 (BBC4, 9pm) may be little more than an excuse for the BBC to repurpose loads of archive performances we’ve seen many times before, yet these programmes have value as time-capsules of the larger social and cultural picture.

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Madonna on Top of the Pops in 1984 singing Holiday

The year 1984 turned out not to be a lot like what George Orwell predicted (2017 is a different matter), although it still had its horrors, such as people buying the pristinely soulless cocktail-lounge elevator music of Sade in worryingly large numbers. She features here, memorably misspelled in the chart countdown as “Slade”. Ah, if only it was the band of hearty Wolverhampton rockers.

Ruby Ridge (PBS America, 9pm) is the kind of thoroughly rigorous documentary you’d expect from this channel. It reflects on the 1992 siege by the FBI of the heavily armed Idaho farmstead of Randy Weaver, who was refusing to answer charges of supplying illegal weapons.

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VIcki Weaver with children Sam, Rachel and Sara. Credit: Sara Weaver, PBS

It would be eclipsed the following year by the even more brutal Waco stand-off, but stands as the first flowering of the gun-toting, conspiracy theory-laden madness that plagues America even more today.

In the final episode of A Life on the Road (Sky Arts, 9pm), Brian Johnson talks to Led Zeppelin screamer Robert Plant. Expect the recollections to be carefully sanitised.

The final instalment of excellent three-parter The Great Fire: A City Rebuilt (Channel 5, 8pm) reveals how close the Great Fire of London came to wiping the city off the map. If the worst fire in British history had reached the Tower of London, it would have ignited a huge stash of gunpowder, causing an explosion similar to that caused by a low-level nuclear device, 

The Secret Life of the Long-Haul Flight (Channel 5, 9pm) is an unexpectedly absorbing 90-minute documentary that analyses the nuts and bolts of a flight from London to Sydney in great detail.

It talks to those involved in making it happen — engineers, baggage handlers, cabin crew, cleaners et al — as well as to passengers. It’s a reminder of how complex and dependent on precision such an undertaking is.

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The Secret Life of the Long Haul Flight

 

SATURDAY

The BBC is giving over a massive amount of radio airtime this weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of the brilliant, game-changing Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, as indeed it should. Regrettably, it hasn’t put the same effort into a television celebration.

Still, the one big offering, Sgt Pepper’s Musical Revolution (BBC2, 9pm), looks absolutely terrific. Composer Howard Goodall explores why the album is still revered as an innovative, revolutionary and influential release.

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Sgt Pepper's Musical Revolution

With the help of out-takes and studio conversations between the band never before heard outside of Abbey Road, he gets “under the bonnet”, as he says, of the album, taking the music apart and reassembling it to reveal how producer George Martin and his team constructed the album, sound by sound, layer by layer. Normal now; revolutionary in 1967.

Sky Arts has a couple of programmes honouring The Beatles, if not directly focused on Sgt Pepper. In My Beatles Black Album (Sky Arts, 9pm), British composer Charles Hazlewood creates a compilation album using tracks made by John, Paul, George and Ringo following the break-up of the band in 1969.

The Beatles: From Liverpool to San Francisco (Sky Arts, 10pm) is a BBC documentary from 2005 charting their journey from the Cavern to world domination. An oft-told tale, but always worth hearing again.

In the last great football showpiece before the summer break, Juventus face Real Madrid in the Champions League Final (RTE2, 7pm) in Cardiff.

Can tonight be the night when Juve’s goalkeeper, the seemingly indestructible Gianluigi Buffon, ends his career by lifting the trophy that’s eluded him so many times? I hope so. Nobody deserves it more.

Cardinal (BBC4, 9pm) is the channel’s latest crime import, from Canada this time. Billy Campbell stars as John Cardinal, a disgraced Ontario detective who’s brought back into the homicide-squad fold when the body of a missing 13-year-old girl is found in the bay. The first two episodes are showing back to back.

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Cardinal

 

SUNDAY

In a late change to the schedules, there’s full live coverage of the One Love Benefit Concert (BBC1, 6.55pm) from Old Trafford cricket ground in Manchester, organised to raise money for those affected by last month’s Manchester bombing.

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Ariana Grande Picture: Reuters

The stellar line-up includes Ariana Grande, whose young fans in the Manchester Arena were the targets of one of the most heinous terrorist atrocities in living memory, Take That, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Pharrell and Usher. It’s bound to be a highly emotional evening.

Last week’s superb opening episode of The Handmaid’s Tale (Channel 4, 9pm) suggested this adaptation/expansion of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel is going to be one of the year’s drama highlights.

The Handmaid's Tale review: 'It succeeds spectacularly on every level' 

As the handmaids help with the delivery of Janine’s baby, Offred (Elizabeth Moss) recalls her own daughter’s birth and is gripped by dread when the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) summons her to a secret meeting.

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Paul Hollywood’s Big Continental Road Trip (BBC2, 9pm) sees the Bake Off judge swapping the pastry brush for a brush with German motoring history.

He spends six days exploring Germany in six different cars. After getting used to driving in Berlin, he visits a Cold War checkpoint and a nudist colony, and pits cars made in the 1970s on either side of the Berlin Wall against each other.

The trip ends at the Nurburgring racetrack, where he’s joined by comedian Al Murray.

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