Pat Stacey shares his top TV picks for the weekend
If we have to have fathers riding to television fame on the coat tails of their offspring, it’s better that it’s Michael Whitehall, dad of Jack, rather than Stanley Johnson or Thomas Markle.
Jack Whitehall’s Father’s Day (BBC1, 8.30pm) features the comedian and his dry-witted pop enjoying a socially distanced Father’s Day (two days before the real thing). They reminisce over family photos, cringe at old home videos and spin yarns about their family over a diverting half-hour.
Season two of the much-adored My Brilliant Friend (Sky Atlantic, 9pm, 10.10pm), based on Elena Ferrante’s equally beloved quartet of novels about two friends in post-war Italy, kicks off with the near obligatory double-bill. Lila (Gaia Girace) is already regretting her marriage to a violent man, while Lenu (Margherita Mazzucco) is struggling to handle school and romance.
Two excellent Netflix documentaries land today. Disclosure, looks at how movies have depicted transgender people, from the 1914 silent A Florida Enchantment through to Dog Day Afternoon and... well, a film I can’t name for fear of a spoiler.
Father Soldier Son, which was filmed over 10 years, focuses on US Army sergeant Brian Eisch, who returned from Afghanistan with life-changing injuries, as he tries to rebuild his life and relationships.
With Ryan Murphy’s alt-history fantasy stinker Hollywood fresh in the mind, along comes season two of his leaden satire The Politician (Netflix, from today). The obnoxiously entitled Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) has moved on from college politics and now has his eye on the Senate. Will his mother (Gwyneth Paltrow) wreck his chances?
Plastic Wars (PBS America, 8.30pm) investigates how the plastics industry may, in its attempt to make plastic recyclable, have actually ended up making more of the stuff that will end up in the world’s oceans.
The last time the BBC showed a live football match from England’s top flight was in 1988. Match of the Day Live (BBC1, 7.15pm) has the first of four games made available to it because of the logjam caused by the Covid-19 lay-off. Relegation-threatened Bournemouth host mid-table Crystal Palace. Kick-off 7.45pm.
The penultimate edition of the entertaining Alan Carr’s Epic Game Show (Virgin Media 1, 8.30pm) resurrects 1980s Michael Barrymore vehicle Strike It Lucky. The aim is to avoid the “hotspots” hidden among the show’s bank of TV screens, which make the set look like the front window of Harry Moore’s.
You know a documentary cost a lot to make when the dramatised sequences feature a big name like Alec Baldwin. He stars, as it were, in Framing John DeLorean (Sky Documentaries, 9pm), a lengthy account of the car manufacturer’s rise and spectacular fall over cocaine trafficking charges.
In between, of course, there was his infamous sports car, immortalised in the Back to the Future films. It looked fabulous — stainless steel body, gull-wing doors — but handled like a shopping trolley that’s missing a wheel.
It’s a terrific night for documentaries, actually. I Am Not Your Negro (BBC2, 9pm), directed by Raoul Peck, uses an unfinished manuscript by James Baldwin — an account of the lives and successive assassinations of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr — as the springboard for an examination of the black experience in America, covering everything from Hollywood stereotypes to police brutality.
Tying in with it is Simon Frederick’s superb 2019 documentary series Black Hollywood: “They Gotta Have Us” (BBC2, from 10.30pm). All three episodes are showing here, and a fabulous list of contributors includes Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Earl Cameron, David Oyelowo, Laurence Fishburne and John Boyega.
It’s an indication of how low the supply of new drama is running when something like The Luminaries (BBC1, 9pm) turns up in the prime Sunday slot. It may be based on a Booker-winning novel by Eleanor Catton, but this strange, dense six-part mystery, set in 19th-century New Zealand, would be more at home on BBC2 or even BBC4. Eve Hewson, daughter of Bono, plays an illiterate Irish immigrant in a cast that also includes Eva Green and Himesh Patel.
There’s more new drama in French thriller A Deadly Union (Channel 4, 9pm; entire series on All4), although there’s nothing new about the way the camera lingers a little too long on a naked female body on a mortuary slab. A woman, just back from Australia, investigates her sister’s death.
Lost Pyramids of the Aztecs (Channel 4, 8pm) sees a US experimental archaeologist trying to figure out how the Aztecs built their structures without metal tools, wheeled vehicles or horses, 20 years before the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 16th century.
Hamlet (BBC4, 9pm) offers a theatrical landmark: the first time a black man, Gangs of London’s Paapa Essiedu, played the prince in a RSC staging. The production is from 2016.