Sunday 8 December 2019

The definitive weekend TV guide - what to watch Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Dermot Bannon with Leonard and Caroline Cullen in the finale of Room to Improve
Dermot Bannon with Leonard and Caroline Cullen in the finale of Room to Improve

Pat Stacey

Pat Stacey chooses the best of this weekend's TV so you don't have to trawl the listings all by yourself...


One of the none-too-surprising revelations in The Most Dangerous Band in the World: The Guns N’ Roses Story (BBC4, 10pm) is that guitarist Slash died for eight minutes after a drug overdose.

“No big deal,” says the band’s unimpressed bassist, Duff McKagan. “I’ve died three times.”

This pretty much sets the tone for this watchable, if doggedly conventional, history of the band that shook up the Los Angeles hair metal scene the 1980s and were so unstoppable in their pursuit of the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll lifestyle that they practically added an extra X to “excess”.

Relations between Axl Rose and Slash have long been strained. (AP)

Unfortunately, the fact that frontman Axl Rose has always been a fundamental orifice of incalculable diameter (ie, a massive arsehole) tends to overshadow their initial impact.

Neither Rose nor Slash feature in any new interviews and the film was completed before the recent announcement that the original core line-up are getting back together, making it feel ever so slightly out of date.

Poor James Nesbitt. If any actor deserves to benefit from US television’s long-standing fondness for awarding leading roles to non-American actors (Dominic West, Idris Elba, Damian Lewis et al), it’s surely the man from Northern Ireland.

Nesbitt himself has expressed a desire to crack the US, but I’d be surprised if the middling Lucky Man (Sky 1, 9pm), which is also being shown over there, is the series that does it for him. Tonight, DI Harry Clayton, owner of a charmed bracelet, investigates a daring jewel heist.

James Nesbitt in Sky One's Lucky Man

The story of Chris McCandless, the young hiker who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness with little food or equipment in 1992 and was found dead in a disused bus four months later, his decayed remains weighing just 30kg (66lb), has already been told in the book Into the Wild and the Sean Penn-directed film based on it.

But the reason he died such a terrible, lonely death has never been comprehensively established. Did he starve or was he poisoned by toxins? The documentary Return to the Wild: The Chris McCandless Story (PBS America, 9pm) sets out to shed some fresh light on a sad, sad story.



It’s time again for Six Nations Rugby (RTE2, 2pm; BBC1, 1.30pm), which gets rolling with France v Italy (2.25pm), followed by Scotland v England (4.50pm). Ireland, of course, are in action against Wales tomorrow, kicking off at 3pm.

Depending on which group of scientists you listen to, Ireland has either always been an island or was, a very long time ago, connected to Britain by a land bridge after water levels dropped.

What we know for certain is that such a bridge once connected Britain with mainland Europe, meaning early humans and woolly mammoths could walk wherever they pleased.

Ireland players warm-up during the squad’s open training at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Friday ahead of their Six Nations opener against Wales at the same venue next Sunday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy

In Walking Through Time (Channel 4, 8pm), Dr Tori Herridge investigates how a sudden flood 450,000 years ago spelled the beginning of the end for the original European Union. Fascinating stuff.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of the night’s viewing, which is as good an excuse as any to curl up with a good book/DVD/Netflix.

The last in the current series of The Young Montalbano (BBC4, 9pm), whose only advantage over the middle-aged Montalbano is a bit more hair on top and a bit less padding in the middle, is about as exciting as it gets — provided your idea of exciting is a tepid thriller plot blighted by ghastly “comedy” interludes.

It would require a very large land bridge indeed to connect the rest of us with the Italian sense of humour.



There's probably no other broadcaster in the world that would regard a home improvement show as a fitting replacement for a primetime Sunday night drama. But hey, welcome to the wild and wacky world of RTE scheduling, where nobody else’s rules apply. Actually, it sometimes appears no rules at all apply.

Plugging the hole left by the departure of the unloved Rebellion is Dermot Bannon — who, to be fair, seems to spend most of his working life plugging holes — with another series of Room to Improve (RTE1, 9.30pm). Tonight, he’s splitting a bungalow into two separate wings.

DG room 2.jpg
Dermot Bannon with Leonard and Caroline Cullen in the finale of Room to Improve

I know this has its fans (Mrs Stacey quite enjoys it sometimes), but come on: it’s 8pm on a midweek night fare.

Luckily, there’s still the finale of War and Peace (BBC1, 9pm). As Napoleon approaches Moscow, the Rostovs flee and Pierre (Paul Dano) finds his world view radically changed forever.

You can say what you like about the adaptation compressing Tolstoy’s brick-sized classic into just six hours (the Beeb’s 1972 version, starring Anthony Hopkins as Pierre, lasted 20), as a popular drama, this has been a rip-roaring success. And if it encourages some viewers to read the book, that’ll be a bonus.

Also winding down is James May’s Cars of the People (BBC2, 9pm), which has been enjoyable enough to make you wish May had chosen to forge a path of his own, rather than going off to Amazon to continue playing third fiddle to Clarkson and Hammond.

In this final instalment, May sets out to discover what happened to the cars of the future we were all supposed to be driving by now — you know, the turbo jet-powered ones that fly by themselves and will even mix you a stiff drink on the way home from work.

I find myself asking the same question whenever I wreck another tyre on another pothole on another of the rectal arteries we call tertiary roads in this country.

Finally, from horsepower to actual horses and the Storyville documentary Palio: The Toughest Horse Race in the World (BBC4, 9pm). It’s also the oldest, having been held twice a year in the Italian city of Siena since medieval times.

Each of the city’s 10 districts enters a rider, with deal-making and bribery as vital to success as good horsemanship. How Italian is that, eh?


Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top