Pat Stacey shares his top TV picks for the weekend
If there’s an author other than Stephen King who’s enjoyed a particularly fruitful relationship with television in recent times, it’s surely Harlan Coben.
After Safe and The Stranger, six-parter The Woods (Netflix, from today) marks the third Coben adaptation by the streaming giant.
The action of the book, which flips between 2019 and 1994, has been shifted from America to Poland. Grzegorz Damiecki plays Warsaw prosecutor Pawel Kopinski, who’s never got over the disappearance of his beloved twin sister from summer camp 25 years ago.
When a boy is murdered, Kopinski begins to believe there’s a link between the two cases. Could his sister still be alive?
There’s more subtitled crime drama in Belgian series Code 37: Sex Crimes (More4, 9pm), back for a third season. Chief Inspector Hannah Maes (Veerle Baetens) is on the case when an award-winning writer is assaulted in an adult cinema.
Sex in Lockdown: Keep Shagging and Carry On (Channel 4, 10pm) is the elegant title of a Naked Attraction spin-off. Anna Richardson talks to various Britons to find out how their sex lives have been coming along (or not) during lockdown. Scientifical an’ that yeah, innit!
Some comedians have a gift for the unpredictable, mining laughs from the unlikeliest of places. Amiable as he his, Jason Manford is not one of those. His stand-up show Muddle Class (BBC1, 10.45pm), recorded in 2018, mulls over what happens when you grow up working class but end up middle class. Barn door-sized targets include Ryanair, parenting and quinoa.
With the summer’s music festivals and gigs wrecked by Covid-19, Isle of Wight Greatest Hits (Sky Arts, from 7pm) offers four hours of highlights from over the years. Now, doesn’t make you feel... even more depressed?
Sky Documentaries has been blowing every other documentary channel out of the water since its arrival, and it gives us another cracker in Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (Sky Documentaries, 10pm) a wonderful look back, two decades on, at the cult 1999 comedy film about a group of aliens who mistake the cast of a Star Trek-style TV series for real space explorers.
The stars, including Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver, talk about the film’s enduring appeal, the power of fandom and the loss of their co-star Alan Rickman.
First shown last year, David Olusoga’s superb documentary The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files (BBC2, 8.15pm) has assumed extra relevance in light of the ongoing anti-racism protests. Olusoga delves into official documents and human stories to show how the Conservative government’s despicable attempt to deport British citizens of the Windrush generation was the result of 70 years of policies, hostile to black people.
Francis Whately’s brilliant trilogy of films, focusing on crucial five-year periods in the career of David Bowie, are shown back-to-back. They are, in chronological order, Finding Fame (9.15pm), Five Years (10.45pm) and The Last Five Years (12.15am). Brilliant individually, together they add up to a stunning portrait of Bowie at his creative best.
Programmes reminiscing about glorious football moments have been a safety net for content-starved channels in recent weeks. Italia ‘90: Return to Turin (BBC1, 10.20pm) looks at how England came within a penalty shootout (against Germay, naturally) of reaching their first World Cup Final since 1966. Gary Lineker, Paul Parker and Terry Butcher are among those recalling the highs, the heartbreaks and Gazza’s tears.
It’s brave of a broadcaster to show a three-part drama about a public health emergency and spread it over consecutive nights, given the way things are. The Salisbury Poisonings (BBC1, 9pm) draws on witness testimony for an account of the 2018 attempt by Russian agents to kill spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent, putting thousands at risk. Rafe Spall and Anne-Marie Duff star. A lesser-known tale of skulduggery is told in the documentary The Queen and the Coup (Channel 4, 9pm). Recently unearthed documents from 1953 reveal how MI6 and the CIA jointly tried to draw the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth into a plot to destroy democracy in Iran.
If you consider 18 years’ worth of so-called highlights from a reality show about attention-seeking idiots living in isolation to be perfect lockdown viewing, “new” series Big Brother: Best Shows Ever (E4, 9pm) is just made for you — and may the pair of you be very happy together.
Getting to see live West End theatre has been a sliver of silver lining while we’re under the current cloud.
This week, it’s the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth (BBC2, 9.30pm).
Christopher Eccleston is the man himself and Niamh Cusack is Lady M in a production full of quirky touches: a Mastermind-style leather seat for a throne; giggling, pyjama-clad witches clutching dolls; a digital clock counting down to Macbeth’s death.
Oops, was that a spoiler? Sorry!