This week on TV I'll be watching... Peaky Blinders
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
Cillian Murphy's 1920s hood is back.
Once upon a time TV period dramas were lush, romantic, wishy-washy affairs in which women swooned and men got lost in their costumes, but Peaky Blinders is a little bit different. Season one of Steven Knight's series was set in 1919 and starred Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby, an Irish emigrant to Birmingham who returned home from the Western Front with anger in his heart and his eye on the main chance.
He set up a ruthless gang (based on a real one, by the way) who became known as the 'Peaky Blinders' due to their charming habit of sowing razor blades into the peaks of their caps, and soon became a force to be reckoned with in Birmingham. It got better as it went along, and was a proper, grown-up drama in the sense that Murphy made Thomas very hard to like.
In season two he's back, and prospering, and as the roaring 20s begin he sees new opportunities to expand both his legal and clandestine operations. Shelby tries to muscle in on the racetracks in the home counties, and is soon mixing with the upper echelons of London society. But he also faces an unprecedented threat from the capital's crime bosses. Back in Birmingham, meanwhile, members of his own family are beginning to grow restless in his absence.
Masters of Sex, Friday, RTE2, 11.15pm
Trials of a pioneering sexologist
I really enjoyed season one of Masters of Sex, a clever drama based on the story of 1950s sex researcher Dr. William Masters. In season one, Masters' groundbreaking studies of the nature of human sexuality got him fired from Washington University and left all sorts of personal chaos in his wake. Season two started on Channel 4 a little while back but kicks off on RTE2 this week, and sees Masters becoming a reluctant father, while Johnson's reputation is in tatters. Michael Sheen stars.
Portlandia, Netflix, anytime
Winningly surreal indie sitcom
This playfully eccentric sitcom is the brainchild of writers Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, and is set in the hipster Mecca of Portland, Oregon. In Portlandia, various politically correct characters bumble about fussily but never seem to achieve anything. The owners of a lesbian book store never sell a book but take offence at everything; and a couple in a restaurant insist on knowing the mood and temperament of the cow whose flesh they are about to eat. It's strange, but very funny.
Madam Secretary, CBS, 2015
A woman in Washington
There are rumours that the up-and-coming female politician played by Téa Leoni in Madam Secretary is loosely based on Hillary Rodham Clinton, but if so, Elizabeth McCord is a lot less scary. In this new series that began in the US last week and should appear here next year, Leoni's character is living a quiet life when she's unexpectedly appointed to cabinet by the President and gets mixed up in a Middle Eastern crisis. It sounds lively, if a little fanciful.