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Paul Whitington's TV pick of the week: Normal People

Tuesday, RTÉ1, 10.15pm

Growing pains

Sally Rooney's journey to the top of the literary totem pole has been rapid. She was still completing her postgraduate studies at Trinity when her first book, Conversations with Friends, was published in 2017. Just a year later she released Normal People, which became a literary sensation, sold like hotcakes, was longlisted for the Booker Prize and was ranked 25th on the Guardian's best 100 books of the 21st century. Its funny, intricate account of the complex relationship between a young man and woman seemed to strike a chord with an entire generation, and Rooney cleverly used the mechanics of text, email and social media to embellish her depiction of a very modern friendship.

Now Element Pictures and director Lenny Abrahamson have brought Sally Rooney's story to the small screen in this ambitious 12-part dramatisation set during the last economic slump and adapted by Rooney herself, Alice Birch and Mark O'Rowe. Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) bond after a fashion while attending the same Co Sligo secondary school: he is handsome and popular; she stand-offish, excessively clever and unwilling to suffer fools. They start a relationship, which Connell keeps a secret from his friends out of shame, but when they both end up attending Trinity College together, they start seeing each other more regularly.

But while Connell was king of the heap at school, he struggles to adapt to life at university, and finds it increasingly difficult to fit in. Marianne, by contrast, now comes into herself, blossoming physically and making new friends. How they both react to this reversal of fortunes is revealing, and meanwhile their intimacy pushes long-buried trauma to the surface. Normal People was filmed in Sligo, Dublin, Italy and Sweden, and a strong cast includes Sarah Greene, Aislin McGuckin, Desmond Eastwood and Fionn O'Shea. The first two episodes will air as a double-bill and chart the couple's awkward first encounters at school.

Best Streaming

Les Misérables

Amazon Prime

Screened during the Dublin Film Festival, this gritty French thriller is not to be confused with the Victor Hugo novel, and certainly not the musical. During the stiflingly hot summer of 2018, as the French national football team are on the verge of glory in the World Cup, a police detective called Stéphane reports for duty in a tough and deprived Parisian suburb, and quickly realises that his flashy colleagues are corrupt.

Too Hot to Handle

Netflix

Ten good-looking young singletons - including Ireland's Nicole O'Brien - have come to a luxurious beach retreat to take part in a fiendishly themed competition. All 10 are not keen on commitment and prefer casual hook-ups, but they'll have to keep their pheromones in check because this is a contest that rewards virtue, and only the truly chaste will stand a chance of pocketing the $100,000 prize.

The Big House Quiz

RTÉ Player

Friends and families across the country are using the internet to stage virtual quizzes that can, in my experience, get pretty heated. On this RTÉ Player series, celebrities including Marty Morrissey, Vogue Williams, Amy Huberman, Nicola Coughlan and Deirdre O'Kane will take on the role of quizmaster and try to keep the peace in this interactive quiz.

Extraction

Netflix

Chris Hemsworth heads the cast of this big-budget Netflix thriller set in the murky world of weapons dealers and drug-traffickers. Tyler Rake is a fearless black-market mercenary who's hired by an imprisoned crime boss to retrieve his kidnapped son. But Rake's rescue goes spectacularly awry.

 

Best Movies

Comedy

The Big Short

Tonight, RTÉ2, 9.05pm

Betting on disaster

Adam McKay’s clever satire uses comedy as a means of explaining the subprime mortgage bubble that collapsed the US housing market.

 

Drama

The Elephant Man

Sunday, BBC1, 10.30pm

The outcast

David Lynch’s drama tells the story of John Merrick, a severely deformed Victorian man rescued from a freak show by a doctor. John Hurt stars.

 

Drama

Lincoln

Thursday, Film 4, 9pm

War and peace

Daniel Day-Lewis gives a masterful, Oscar-winning portrayal of arguably America’s greatest president in Steven Spielberg’s meticulous drama.

 

TV picks

Lifestyle

Cheap Irish Homes

Tuesday, RTÉ1, 8.30pm

Hot property

Maggie Molloy helps Limerick microbiologist Aisling fulfil her dream of finding an old house for herself and her dad that’s close to work.

 

Food

Paul Hollywood Eats Japan

Tuesday, Channel 4, 9pm

A nation’s cuisine

Lucky old Paul Hollywood begins his investigation of Japan’s rich and diverse cuisine in Tokyo, where he gets some stern lessons in dining etiquette.

 

Drama

Homeland

Thursday, RTÉ2, 10.30pm

The final curtain

In the last ever episode of the award-winning drama, Carrie and Saul race to prevent a simple helicopter crash from plunging an entire region into war.

Weekend Magazine