The definitive weekend TV guide - what to watch Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Pat Stacey chooses the best of this weekend's TV so you don't have to trawl the listings all by yourself...
Appropriately, given the demonic nature of lead character Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, the fourth season of House of Cards arrived on Netflix on the stroke of the witching hour.
Having clawed his way to the presidency of the United States once, Frank is seeking the Democratic nomination a second time. He’s more than a little distracted, though, as his cool, calculating wife Claire (Robin Wright) appears to have walked out on him. But Frank’s reliable fixer, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), is very much around as chief of staff.
Deliciously enjoyable, and given the Trump insanity infecting American presidential politics at the moment, it’s difficult not to think of House of Cards as a documentary and real life as a piece of ludicrously OTT fiction.
A straightforward sitcom, something featuring an actual plot on which to hang the jokes, seems to be currently beyond the powers of the contributors to the revived Comedy Playhouse (BBC1, 10.45pm).
Come to that, so does the ability to write actual jokes. Last week’s dire offering, Hospital People, was yet another wearisome mockumentary (enough already!). This week’s, called Broken Biscuits, written by The Royle Family’s Craig Cash and Phil Mealey, takes the form of straight-to-camera monologues by a variety of characters played by, among others Timothy West and Alison Steadman.
It sounds an awful lot like Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. Sadly, not every writer has Bennett’s deft touch.
I couldn’t work up much enthusiasm for bleak thriller Shetland (BBC1, 9pm). Maybe I was put off by the fact that it’s based on novels by Ann Cleeves, whose books are also the foundation of ITV’s dreary Vera. It has its fans, or else it wouldn’t have lasted three seasons. In the finale, DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) discovers the murderers he’s been hunting are closer to home than he thought.
Closer to our home, Live League of Ireland (RTE2, 7.30pm), ahem, kicks off with Cork City v Bohemians at Turner’s Cross.
If you think you’ve listened to, watched and read everything there is to consume about The Who, think again. The Who Live at Shea Stadium (Sky Arts, 9pm) is the first complete release of the band’s electrifying gig at the famous New York venue on October 13, 1982.
This was the last full concert performance featuring Keith Moon’s replacement, Kenney Jones. The former Small Faces man is a great drummer but never clicked with Roger Daltrey, who felt his style wasn’t right for the band (Pete Townshend begged to differ). The film features restored footage and newly-mixed sound.
Judging from the comments on social media, I’m not the only person who found The Late Late Show’s handling of Richard Gere’s appearance last week watch-through-your-fingers embarrassing. Having two giddy women in the audience serenade him with the song from An Officer and a Gentleman was a mortifyingly amateurish misjudgement.
A slightly bemused-looking Gere, who’d flown in from America and must have been exhausted at the end of a long day, did indeed prove to be a gentleman (if not necessarily an officer) and treated it all with grace and good humour, even promising to return when he wasn’t jet-lagged and play the piano.
There’s unlikely to be any of this kind of nonsense when Gere appears on The Jonathan Ross Show (UTV/ITV/Ireland, 10pm). The other guests are Jack Black, Roisin Conaty and Motown founder Berry Gordy.
As a primer for the return of Line of Duty later this month, here’s another chance to see the brilliant second season (BBC2 11,30pm), being shown two episodes at a time. If you’re watching Line of Duty for the first time, I envy you the tension that awaits.
Anyone expecting The Roast of Donald Trump (Comedy Central, 10pm) to feature comedians ridiculing Trump for his incendiary outpourings on the campaign trail will be disappointed. The programme, hosted by Seth McFarlane, dates from 2011, when Trump was still just a self-aggrandising buffoon, rather than a self-aggrandising buffoon who might be the next president of the US.
The superlatives for The Night Manager (BBC1, 9pm) have been flying so thick and fast that we’re in danger of running out of them. Every single one is deserved, though, because this adaptation of John le Carré’s novel really is thrilling television in every respect: writing, directing, photography, score and, without which none of them would mean anything, performances.
Tonight, Roper (Hugh Laurie) offers Pine (Tom Hiddleston) a job in his organisation, having dug deep into the latter’s elaborately mocked-up past. However, Roper’s diminutive but dangerous sidekick Corky (Tom Hollander) is still deeply suspicious of the newcomer, putting Pine’s mission to feed information back to Burr (Olivia Colman), along with his very life, in jeopardy.
Tom Hollander, by the way, must be fuming with ITV... and thanking his lucky stars there’s an ITV +1. In one of those scheduling conflicts actors dread, Hollander is in direct competition with himself as Doctor Thorne (UTV/ITV/UTV Ireland, 9pm), an adaptation by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) of Anthony Trollope’s 1856 novel about a village doctor who raises his late brother’s illegitimate niece (Stefanie Martini) as though she were his own daughter.
And would you believe, there’s a bit of double-jobbing for Olivia Colman, too. She pops up in new series The Story of Cats (UTV/ITV/UTV Ireland). Only as narrator, mind you.
The one doing the front-of-camera work is lion expert Kevin Richardson, who compares the behaviour of domestic felines to big cats in the wild, offering an insight into feline communication. He also witnesses the climbing skills of sabre-toothed wild cats that hunt in the jungles of South East Asia, and how Namibian caracals are able to jump over three metres and catch birds in flight.
I imagine the contestants on The Jump (Channel 4, 7.30pm) would happily forego catching birds in flight in return for just making it off the ski slope, into the air and back onto solid ground with all bones intact.
This the final and the favourite is Tom Parker from boy band The Wanted. Let’s hope he’s not left wanting the services of a medic at the end of it.