Saturday 19 October 2019

Need a break from elections? Here's the best of what's on TV tonight and Sunday

Renee Zellweger and Jane Levy (Netflix)
Renee Zellweger and Jane Levy (Netflix)
Renee Zellweger (Netflix)
Suranne Jones, left, and Sophie Rundle in Gentleman Jack (Matt Squire/BBC/PA)

Pat Stacey

The attractions of the anthology series, which has really come into vogue in recent years (True Detective, Fargo, American Crime Story et al), are obvious.

For viewers, a self-contained serial, spread over eight or 10 episodes, is often a more appealing prospect than a series that might demand years of commitment, only to end badly, leaving the audience annoyed (Sssh! Nobody mention G*** of T******).

For writers, producers and directors, meanwhile, telling a new story with new characters from one season to another gives them the creative freedom to try something different each time.

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Renee Zellweger (Netflix)

What/If (Netflix) is described as a neo-noir thriller anthology series about the moral consequences when people start to do unacceptable things. The person being unacceptable is Renée Zellweger as Anne Montgomery, a billionaire who makes an indecent proposal to a young couple who are looking for her to invest in their start-up. To be honest, it all sounds very like, well, the Nineties movie Indecent Proposal.

While Canada does a fine job of standing in for various US cities in a variety of American series (it’s much cheaper to film a show set in New York, for instance, in Toronto than in the real NYC), the country wasn’t always known for making quality TV of its own.

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Cardinal, BBC4

It’s made up for lost time with series like the blood-soaked thriller Cardinal (BBC4, 9pm and 9.40pm), which reaches the end of its current run with tonight’s double-bill. John (Billy Campbell) finally finds out what really happened to his late wife.

The Hit List (BBC1, 7.30pm) is basically Name That Tune with knobs on — and possibly with a few knobs among the contestants, too, who have to guess the song and artist from a short clip, in the hope of winning £10,000.

It’s hosted by married pop stars-turned-presenters Rochelle and Marvin Humes. Brace yourself for more whooping and hollering than a rodeo cowboy convention.

Compared to that, Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 8.15pm) looks like the final of Mastermind. This week’s teams are made up of TV doctors, real ones as well as the pretend kind.

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Britain's Most Historic Towns

Alice Roberts makes an uncomfortable visit to her home city of Bristol in Britain’s Most Historic Towns (Channel 4, 8pm). She clearly loves the place she comes from, but is less enamoured of its history as a major centre of slavery during the 18th century, when the British Empire was enjoying dramatic expansion.

As programme titles go, Miley Cyrus and Billie Eilish at Radio 1’s Big Weekend (BBC2, 9.30pm) is kind of self-explanatory. Also featured in this highlights package (there are two more, tomorrow and Monday) from the station’s weekend festival are Mark Ronson, Vampire Weekend and Mumford & Sons.

SUNDAY

You know summer has arrived when the likes of Britain’s Greatest Comedian (Gold, 8pm) fills up three hours of Sunday. A panel that includes Roy Hudd, Stephen Mangan and Ronni Ancona count down a list of 30 that’s sure to provoke arguments. That’s the point of it.

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Suranne Jones, left, and Sophie Rundle in Gentleman Jack (Matt Squire/BBC/PA)

In part two of the splendid Gentleman Jack (BBC1, 9pm), the formidable Anne Lister (a fantastic Suranne Jones) sets her laser sights on the pretty, but drippy, Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle). But old heartbreak returns to haunt her when she receives an invite to the wedding of her lost love Vere Hobart (Jodhi May).

If there’s a funnier comedy than What We Do in the Shadows (BBC2, 9.45pm and 10.10pm) around, nobody’s told me. In the first of tonight’s double-bill of misadventures with the hopeless vampires, Laszlo (Matt Berry) is irritated by werewolves despoiling his topiary garden. In the second, he and his housemates Nandor and Nadia (Kayvan Novak and Natasha Demetriou) go to a Manhattan nightclub.

The Zoo (RTE1, 7pm) follows keeper Gerry on location to India, where he witnesses the elephant conservation projects in action. Back home in Dublin, a giraffe gives birth and four young Indian tortoises get a habitat upgrade.

Read more: From What/If to Stranger Things - the best TV shows to fill the Game of Thrones void

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