What’s on TV tonight: The Absolutely Fabulous June Whitfield, Strictly Come Dancing, Rosemary's Baby, and more

·29 min read
The Absolutely Fabulous June Whitfield
The Absolutely Fabulous June Whitfield

Saturday 1 October

The Absolutely Fabulous June Whitfield
Channel 5, 8.45pm
Whether you know her as Jennifer Saunders’s mother in Absolutely Fabulous or Terry Scott’s doting wife in Terry and June, you’re sure to remember the hilarity and warmth that made June Whitfield, who died aged 93 in 2018, one of Britain’s most beloved comedy actors. This documentary features contributions from Whitfield’s family, friends and colleagues, such as Jane Horrocks, Stephanie Beacham and Rory Bremner, as well as loyal fans, and shows us the woman behind the laughter – and how she diligently kept working well into her nineties. But although her personal life was mostly trouble-free, thanks to a happy marriage that lasted more than 50 years, her career wasn’t always plain-sailing: rarely the leading lady, she often played a range of supporting roles as the daughter, mother, wife or, in later life, grandmother of the (usually male) protagonist. This show succeeds in making us understand that these roles were never a source of regret for Whitfield, who lit up every performance with wit and wholesome humour. It’s a heartwarming look not only at Whitfield herself, but how age need be no barrier to success. PP

The Hit List Celebrity Special
BBC One, 5.40pm
Episode two of the  musical quiz features more celebrity pairs: comedians Rachel Parris and Marcus Brigstocke, Loose Women’s Judi Love and Charlene White, and Emmerdale’s Danny Miller and Adam Thomas all put their knowledge to the test in an attempt to win £10,000 for charity.

Strictly Come Dancing
BBC One, 6.30pm
The second week on the glitziest dancefloor in Britain sees the celebs face a new challenge: the public vote. Will Mellor and Hamza Yassin wowed the judges last week, but former footballer Tony Adams must improve if he’s to be saved from relegation. He will be dancing a Charleston to My Old Man’s a Dustman. Oh well. Good luck, Tony.

The Masked Dancer
ITV, 6.30pm
It’s another week of mystery celebrities dancing in an array of embarrassing costumes, and it’s more high-stakes than ever thanks to a double elimination. Will the judges actually recognise everyone inside the costumes this week? A night of entertainment continues with The Voice UK at 8pm.

Robbie Williams: Reel Stories
BBC Two, 8.45pm; Wales, 10pm
In 1997, Robbie Williams vowed to entertain you; now, 25 years later, the former Take That golden boy is sitting down with Dermot O’Leary to look back on whether or not he achieved it. Radio 2’s celebration of the performer is long overdue – from the breakup of the boy band (and their later reunion tour) and going solo at Glastonbury to his seminal Knebworth show – and makes for informative, sometimes emotional, viewing.

KaDaWe: Our Time is Now
BBC Four, 9pm & 9.50pm
This drama, set in the German Weimar Republic, picks up pace in its third and fourth instalments as Fritzi (Lia von Blarer) faces up to the devastating realities of her gender and sexuality: unable to carry on the family business or be with the woman she loves.

Later: With Jools Holland
BBC Two, 9.30pm
Gen Z’s favourite band, The 1975 – who have become one of Britain’s biggest acts after years spent packing out arenas and headlining festivals – take to Jools’s stage as the live music show reaches its 61st series. Joining them are Self Esteem, US soul group Ural Thomas and the Pain, and singer-songwriter Victoria Canal.

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) ★★★
BBC One, 3pm
Jack Black returns to voice the high-kicking panda Po, still prone to the odd gaffe despite being the most fearsome martial artist in the animal kingdom. He’s tasked with training up a group of clumsy pandas to face the chi-stealing yak Kai (JK Simmons). The first two films laid down a visual template which this pushes further into trippy, sliced-and-diced abstraction, nodding to the techniques of wuxia (think: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) ★★★★
Channel 4, 8.45pm
JJ Abrams takes over as director for this sequel set 30 years after the first trilogy. Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) are back, and there’s a new generation of rebels with them. Heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) and ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) take on the forces of malevolent warrior Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Later sequels and spin-offs have offered diminishing returns but this one is worth watching.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) ★★★★★
Film4, 11.05pm
Roman Polanski’s satanic horror is one of the finest of its kind, as well as being enormously influential. A film about sexual politics, trust, paranoia and manipulation, it is brilliantly woven together as Polanski mixes morbidity and sly humour. Mia Farrow is terrific as a naive housewife who believes she has been impregnated by the Devil via her husband, after she begins to suffer from bizarre symptoms and hallucinations.

Dal y Mellt
Dal y Mellt

Sunday 2 October

Dal y Mellt
BBC iPlayer & S4C, 9pm
Adapted by Iwan Roberts from his Welsh language novel of the same name, Dal y Mellt (Catching the Lightning), there is a seductively scrappy energy about this six-part thriller which, while wildly derivative (Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino are clear touchstones), remains, somehow, still distinctly itself. Released as a box set on BBC iPlayer, it follows a rogue’s gallery of outsiders and wrong ’uns across Gwynedd, Cardiff, Dublin and Soho. They are all connected by something – a heist? A murder? – which only becomes apparent as the series goes on, and first impressions invariably prove deceptive: there’s Dyfan Roberts’s avuncular farmer with some dark secrets, Siw Hughes’s sweet old lady with a penchant for conspiracy theories, Mark Lewis Jones’s gnarled thug with a sensitive side and, above all, Gwïon Morris Jones’s Carbo, a smart-mouthed car thief drifting way out of his depth. Light on its feet and enjoyably slippery with its plotting, Dal y Mellt makes the odd misstep (occasionally leaden dialogue and a hackneyed nightmare sequence) but with the endgame so hazy and the performances full of mischief and menace – not least the ever engaging Carbo – it is never less than intriguing. GT

Galwad
Sky Arts, from 4.30pm
This epic blend of live performance and recorded drama, four-and-a-half hours in length, examines the implications if contact were made with people from the year 2052, overseen by Claire Doherty and with a cast led by Alexandria Riley, Matthew Aubrey and Nitin Ganatra.

Frozen Planet II
BBC One, 8pm
The mesmerising fourth instalment plants its flag in Antarctica, where killer whales hunt Weddell seals and icy lakes hide the bafflingly giant stromatolites, pulsing, strange structures that raise questions about life not only on Earth but beyond. Tonight’s real coup, however, comes with unprecedented footage of male Antipodean wandering albatross partnering up.

Karen Pirie
ITV, 8pm
ITV has found gold in this Val McDermid crime thriller, smartly adapted by (and co-starring) Emer Kenny. The investigation into the killing of St Andrews barmaid Rosie Duff tonight acquires new urgency when some of the prime suspects are attacked – as revenge or to obscure the truth?

Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy
BBC Two, 8.20pm
While he continues to chill in Steven Moffat’s deliciously dark Inside Man, here the actor Stanley Tucci is all about warming the heart as he begins a second series of gastronomic tours. In Venice, he samples sea cicadas in backstreet bars and prepares black ink risotto fresh from the market.

Bloodlands
BBC One, 9pm
The unjustly maligned thriller steps up a gear as coppers Birdy (Chris Walley) and Tom (James Nesbitt) interview Olivia (Victoria Smurfit). Meanwhile, Tom’s ongoing hunt for the hidden gold intensifies.

1978: Winter of Discontent
Channel 5, 9pm
With economic turmoil looming, strikes on the increase across the postal service and railways, and fuel prices rocketing, it could hardly be a more fitting time to look back on 1978’s Winter of Discontent. One of the most serious and significant periods of political and industrial disruption in living memory, the crisis saw Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan flounder in the face of walkouts and mutiny. Whether Esther Rantzen, David Hamilton and Carole Malone are best placed to analyse said events is questionable, but it’s another lively, fast-paced Channel 5 overview.

The Mask of Zorro (1998) ★★★★
Channel 5, 1pm
Martin Campbell’s swashbuckling blockbuster made a star of Spanish actor Antonio Banderas. The film follows Banderas’s Zorro as he helps the original masked vigilante, Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), to avenge the death of his wife – while accidentally falling in love with his precursor’s daughter (Catherine Zeta-Jones). It’s dramatic and over-the-top fare – with just the right amount of romance – and entertaining enough for a Sunday afternoon.

Puss in Boots (2011) ★★★
Channel 4, 1.30pm
If the real Zorro isn’t your thing, this Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’ life before he became the green ogre’s trusty Spanish sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas, of course) becomes a hero after saving his town. The kids will love it, but sadly for adults, the animation is more impressive than the jokes.

The Ipcress File (1965) ★★★★
BBC Two, 2.05pm
This adaptation of Len Deighton’s novel is one of the best spy movies of the era, not just because of Michael Caine’s fine turn as counter-espionage agent Harry Palmer, but because it has more brains than any Bond managed to possess. Advertised, in fact, as “The Thinking Man’s Goldfinger”, it captures the moral ambivalence of espionage, asking whether information and national security can ever be worth a life. Nigel Green also stars.

Leanne Best and Stephen Graham in The Walk-In
Leanne Best and Stephen Graham in The Walk-In

Monday 3 October

The Walk-In
ITV, 9pm
Stephen Graham knocks another performance out of the park as he plays Matthew Collins, a reformed neo-Nazi now working for the anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate in Jeff Pope’s riveting five-part drama, based on real events. Using informants (or “walk-ins”), Collins tries to infiltrate National Action – the first far-Right organisation to be banned by the UK government since the Second World War – but isn’t having any success until, in 2017, a year after the horrific murder of Yorkshire MP Jo Cox, he receives an email from inside the organisation, telling him of a plot to kill Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper, and we see his attempts to prevent it. (Cooper has recently announced she is standing down from Parliament, acknowledging that the events had “taken their toll”.) The drama, which pulls no punches about what attracts some young white men to far-Right politics, plays out like a thriller. Games of Thrones star Dean-Charles Chapman plays National Action leader Jack Renshaw (a convicted child sex offender later jailed for life for plotting Cooper’s murder) and Andrew Ellis is Robbie Mullen, an easily swayed young loner who joins the neo-Nazi group but later becomes an informant for Hope Not Hate. VL

The Walking Dead
Disney+
The last eight episodes of Scott M Gimple and Matthew Negrete’s post-apocalyptic drama begin airing weekly from today. Last season’s multiple plots and subplots, involving Reapers, Stormtroopers and Alexandrians, all pointed to one thing: The Commonwealth is on the edge of collapse – the question is how, and how spectacularly, as we reach the finale.

House of the Dragon
Sky Atlantic, 2am & 9pm
Seven episodes into the Game of Thrones prequel and the jury’s still out as to whether it’s as good as the original – although it certainly has the same level of sex and gore and evil plotting among the murderous Targaryens, the brutish family that makes Dynasty look like The a play date for toddlers.

Inside Man
BBC One, 9pm
Steven Moffat’s closely plotted (but scarcely believable) thriller continues as journalist Beth (Lydia West) is warned off by one of Grieff’s (Stanley Tucci clearly enjoying himself as the criminologist on death row) helpers in the outside world, and vicar Harry (David Tennant) is increasingly out of his depth. In the cellar, meanwhile, Janice (Dolly Wells) tries to work out how she can escape. Concludes tomorrow.

Trouble at Topshop
BBC Two, 9pm
In the second of this fascinating two-part documentary about the demise of the iconic fashion chain, which closed its stores in 2020 and was formerly owned by the now disgraced Philip Green, we reach the late Noughties and see how a series of events – resignations by senior staff, 2008’s economic crisis and a changing high street – set the path of decline in motion.

24 Hours in A&E
Channel 4, 9pm
The endlessly fascinating fly-on-the-wall medical series returns to St George’s Hospital in London to document the emergency department. The people’s stories being told – including a motorcyclist who went over the handlebars at high speed and a 76-year-old woman with breathing difficulties – are marked with a mixture of pain, fortitude and humour by patients and staff alike.

Stuck
BBC Two, 10pm & 10.15pm; not NI
Dylan Moran’s lo-fi sitcom continues: Dan’s (Moran) insecurities come to the fore when girlfriend Carla (Morgana Robinson) bumps into an old flame (Eleanor Fanyinka) and invites her round to their flat to reminisce.

My Cousin Rachel (2017) ★★★
Film4, 6.50pm
“Did she? Didn’t she?” ponders stricken hero Philip Ashley (Sam Claflin) about the titular character (Rachel Weisz) and the possible murder of her husband/his cousin in this adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1951 novel of the same name. Claflin plays his wealthy heir convincingly, and the period setting is wonderfully designed and shot; but, unfortunately, Weisz’s turn as the beautiful wife never achieves the passion the role demands.

Aliens (1986) ★★★★★
ITV4, 10pm
James Cameron takes the reins from Ridley Scott in this all-guns-blazing super-sequel that prised open the nightmarish possibilities of the 1979 original, escaping its host like one of its iconic chestbursters. Sigourney Weaver reprises her iconic role as no-nonsense Ripley, who returns to face the alien creatures of the first film, with a crew of marines and an arsenal of weapons in tow. Still as fun as the first time you watched it.

Moonlight (2016) ★★★★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm
Barry Jenkins’s exquisite second film is a three-part story about a boy growing up black and gay in Miami, based on an unproduced play by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The cast are a mix of newcomers and familiar faces, and the tale they tell will hold you and then floor you, like a slow-motion judo throw. An unmissable and genuinely history-making film – both for its story and Oscar win, that birthed the infamous La La Land stage moment.

Jeremy Paxman - Peter Gray/ITV Pictures
Jeremy Paxman - Peter Gray/ITV Pictures

Tuesday 4 October

Paxman: Putting Up With Parkinson’s
ITV, 9pm
“I’m not living with it, I’m putting up with it.” Thus the title of Michael Waldman’s revealing documentary was born, from a characteristically cantankerous outburst from the 72-year-old presenter and journalist. Jeremy Paxman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in April 2021, and the cameras follow him as he grumpily engages in physiotherapy, reluctantly joins a dance class and bowls club, and meets doctors and fellow sufferers for insights and shards of hope regarding a future cure or treatments. A couple of get-togethers smack of filler that might not have made the cut on the BBC: meetings with John Lloyd in a pub, Paxman’s decaying Spitting Image puppet in tow, or with Michael Howard to trawl over their notorious Newsnight head-to-head. But there are also seldom-seen moments of reflection, vulnerability and introspection from Paxman, and coverage of some groundbreaking science (notably Joy Milne and her astonishing talent for “smelling” Parkinson’s). The show feels like an entirely unalloyed portrait of terminal illness with all the physical and psychological toll that entails, and for that both Paxman and Waldman deserve considerable credit. GT

Trawlermen: Hunting the Catch
BBC One, 8pm
With fish prices rising, there is much riding on the last voyage of the year. Documenting the boats as they negotiate wrecks, rough weather and onboard pranks, it offers an immersive and frequently tense insight into a world where the margins are as tight as the living quarters.

The Great British Bake Off
Channel 4, 8pm
Another first for the tent, as the remaining bakers face Mexican Week and another clutch of groanworthy gags from Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding. The challenges include sweet bread pan dulce, street food and tres leches cake.

Sensationalists: The Bad Girls and Boys of British Art
BBC Two, 9pm
This exhilarating series tracks the 1990s from the fall of Thatcher to the election of Blair, as the rise to notoriety of Tracey Emin, Damian Hirst and their fellow YBAs begins in earnest. Narrated by Keith Allen, it gives essential social, cultural and political context to the apparent shock tactics, along with peeks behind the artistic curtain.

Midwives: Storyville
BBC Four, 9pm
Thanks to One Born Every Minute et al, the work of midwives feels like familiar turf for British television. But this documentary from Burma, which follows a foul-mouthed Buddhist and her Muslim Rohingya trainee facing down criticism and worse as they work together, across the ethnic divide, in an ad hoc Myanmar clinic, is an important document of personal bravery and societal fragility.

Michael Palin: Into Iraq
Channel 5, 9pm
Michael Palin concludes his journey along the Tigris River as he began it: thoughtfully and insightfully. His final encounters include Baghdad schoolchildren, Shia pilgrims at Imam Husayn and families living in the southern marshlands. An education and a pleasure.

Make Me Prime Minister
Channel 4, 9.30pm
Perhaps a little too frivolous for these deeply serious times, but Channel 4’s political Apprentice has its moments. Rather than considering the merits or otherwise of trickle-down economics, the 11 participants tonight turn their attentions to obesity, presenting their policy launches to an audience including the (admirably straight-faced) Labour MP Jess Phillips.

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) ★★★
Talking Pictures TV, 3pm
This woman-in-peril film noir packs far fewer narrative twists than we’re accustomed to nowadays, but it’s elegantly directed by Robert Wise, and the heroine is less of a passive victim than is usual in this genre. Valentina Cortesa plays a Nazi concentration camp survivor who moves to the US and adopts the identity of a dead friend in the hope of a better life, only to find that not everyone is happy to see her.

She Will (2021) ★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere/NOW, 9.45pm
Charlotte Colbert’s moody directorial debut has the makings of a solid revenge thriller: it follows Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige), a once-successful child actress turned recluse, as she travels to an occult wellness spa in the Scottish Highlands. Her stay is far from relaxing, instead presenting gossipy, twisted and misogynistic fellow guests (among them Malcolm McDowell and Rupert Everett).

The Color Purple (1985) ★★★★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm
Steven Spielberg’s masterly adaptation of Alice Walker’s classic epistolary novel is one of the most snubbed films in Oscar history: it was nominated for 11 but won none. Perhaps bad luck was to blame, as that year it was up against Sydney Pollack’s unstoppable Out of Africa. Whoopi Goldberg gives an exceptional performance as Celie, an abused Southern black woman. This story of love and perseverance is timeless, and still as powerful as upon its release.

Jeremy Allen White as Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto in The Bear - Frank Ockenfels/FX Networks
Jeremy Allen White as Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto in The Bear - Frank Ockenfels/FX Networks

Wednesday 5 October

The Bear
Disney+
It is rare to watch television as deliciously well-written, directed and performed as The Bear, the frantic culinary drama that has had American critics drooling since its US release in June. It stars Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a young chef who has forsaken the world of fine dining to take over his family’s Italian beef sandwich shop in Chicago. The restaurant was passed to him after the suicide of his older brother, who left behind sky-high debts, a dilapidated kitchen and a strong-willed staff of disobedient old-hands. It is not for the faint hearted. From the very first scene, in which Carmy jolts awake at work, the show immerses you in the intense, unrelenting stress nightmare that is running a busy kitchen. There is a compelling edge to the writing and direction (both largely handled by creator Christopher Storer), with the breathless lilt of the staff’s colourful, no-nonsense dialogue proving as elegantly musical as it is grounded and funny. The show’s other characters are to thank for this, especially Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), the shop’s street-wise front-of-house manager responsible for most of the show’s biggest laughs. The entire eight-part series is available now. Stephen Kelly

Portrait Artist of the Year 2022
Sky Arts, 8pm
It’s time to slip back into the soothing warm bath that is Portrait Artist of the Year. This ninth series of the painting competition opens with the contestants trying to capture the likeness of jockey Khadija Mellah, presenter Nick Grimshaw and podcaster and writer Elizabeth Day, who is moved to tears by their portraits.

Ralph & Katie
BBC One, 9 & 9.30pm
This spin-off from drama The A-Word pivots around the lives of breakout characters Ralph (Leon Harrop) and Katie (Sarah Gordy), a married couple with Down’s syndrome. Premiering with a double-bill – with each episode by a neurodiverse writer –  it is a charming, if saccharine romcom.

Head On: Rugby, Dementia & Me
BBC Two, 9pm
Former England rugby star Steve Thompson has been diagnosed with early onset dementia at the age of 44. In this moving documentary, he reveals the devastating impact that it’s had on his life (he remembers nothing from his career, for example), while trying to illuminate the disturbing correlation between unsafe rugby practices and a spate of former players suffering similar conditions.

Doc Martin
ITV, 9pm
Kenneth Cranham returns this week as Louisa’s dodgy, scheming father. He has been released from prison under compassionate grounds, but Martin Clunes’s grumpy doc has doubts about his apparently terminal illness. Elsewhere, there’s an amusing plot about Martin’s blood phobia, and a downright silly one where Bert (Ian McNeice) tries to sell a caravan.

The Body in the Bag
Channel 5, 9pm
In 2010 Gareth Williams, a GCHQ employee on secondment to MI6, was found dead inside a padlocked duffel bag in the bath of his London flat. This in-depth documentary seeks to disentangle the many threads and theories around his death, which range from Russian assassination to the Metropolitan Police’s odd conclusion that he had somehow locked himself inside the bag.

Kenneth Branagh Remembers: Billy Plays
BBC Four, from 10pm
Kenneth Branagh looks back on his part in Graham Reid’s 1980s trilogy of Billy Plays, which explored working class life in Troubles-era Belfast. Followed by a repeat of Too Late to Talk to Billy at 10.15pm and A Matter of Choice for Billy at 11.40pm.

Mr Harrigan's Phone (2022) ★★★
Netflix
The latest in a long, long line of Stephen King adaptations, this stars Donald Sutherland as the eponymous pensioner who leaves behind a labyrinth of mysteries for his teenage confidante (Jaeden Martell) to unravel after his death – including a text message seemingly delivered from beyond the grave. It’s as spooky and thrilling as one would expect from King’s work, with a dose of coming-of-age discovery thrown in for good measure.

Pretty in Pink (1986) ★★★★
Sky Cinema Greats, 1.50pm
This Brat Pack comedy classic from John Hughes stars Molly Ringwald, with whom he made three hit films in the 1980s. She plays Andie, a poor but fashion-conscious high-school student who falls for handsome rich boy Blane (Andrew McCarthy) – much to the distress of her long-time admirer Duckie (Jon Cryer). But pressure from their respective cliques keeps the lovers apart, as do their massive Eighties shoulder pads.

The Great Debaters (2007) ★★★
Film4, 9pm
An inspirational teacher at a historically black college in the US leads his charges to glory against the odds. The underdogs are a black debating team from 1930s Texas who fight to compete with the nation’s (white) finest. It stars Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker and, oddly, Denzel Whitaker (named after the former, no relation to the latter), and though the plot feels a little formulaic, this true story is a winner. Washington himself directs.

My Grandparents' War: Toby Jones - Channel 4/Channel 4
My Grandparents' War: Toby Jones - Channel 4/Channel 4

Thursday 6 October

My Grandparents’ War: Toby Jones 
Channel 4, 8pm
It strikes us as extraordinary today how little past generations spoke of their experiences during the Second World War. It’s a subject that the actor Toby Jones ponders deeply in this edition, while looking into the fascinating histories of his beloved maternal grandparents Reggie and Doreen “Dorki” Heslewood. Jones uncovers previously unknown information that he describes as “mind-blowing” – of Dorki’s experiences in France as a 21-year-old actress with the Entertainments National Service Association (sharing a stage with Gracie Fields, no less) and evacuation from Boulogne. And of Reggie’s rather darker experiences of jungle warfare in Burma, fighting with the Indian army against the Japanese in “hellish conditions” and his key role at the Battle of Imphal in northeast India. Fortunately, the military record-keepers, private diarists and photo-takers of the world were quietly working away as always, allowing the programme’s researchers to piece together a fascinating story that both sheds light on some of the less appreciated heroics of the war, but also on a loving bond, forged in conflict, that lasted a lifetime. GO

Unbreakable
BBC One, 8pm
Good ideas for fun light-entertainment formats are clearly thin on the ground at the moment, so instead we get this daft new series hosted by comedian Rob Beckett. In it, celebrities and their partners test their relationships through a variety of challenges – such as bungee jumping together from a 140-foot-high platform. Loose Women’s Denise Welch and Falklands veteran Simon Weston are among those taking part.

Ambulance
BBC One, 9pm
Another tough shift for the crews of the North East Ambulance Service, who have a swathe of emergencies to deal with – stroke victims, suicidal patients, elderly folk suffering falls – as the control centre comes under unprecedented pressure, registering a new call every 18 seconds.

DNA Journey
ITV, 9pm; not Wales
TV presenters Kate Garraway and Alison Hammond embark on a trip to find out more about their family histories using a mix of DNA and genealogy. Starting in Bristol, they travel down to London and then across the seas to Jamaica, encountering an unknown famous cousin and an unexpected family connection to James Bond.

All Creatures Great and Small
Channel 5, 9pm
More mild peril lies in wait for the vets working in the bucolic dales of 1930s Yorkshire. While James (Nicholas Ralph) struggles with the pressures of the TB testing scheme, Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) buys a car to help with errands at the practice – and to take his latest love interest, Florence (Sophie Khan Levy), out on a date.

The Antiques Yard
More4, 9pm
The curious world of a Norfolk antiques and reclamation yard comes to life through the eyes of owner Daniel Dawson-Gordon, who’s on a mission to buy up rusting, rotting and overlooked oddments of the past, restore them, and sell them on for profit. In this opener he splashes out on a dozen mini merry-go-round ponies and a motorbike that proved the ruination of its makers.

Jon Richardson: Take My Mother-in-Law
Channel 4, 10pm
The comedian embarks on a madcap road trip through Spain with his mother-in-law, Gill, in search of a retirement home where she can grow old disgracefully. Armed only with a GCSE in Spanish and the cheapest rental car available, it’s not long before they run into trouble.

The Yellow Balloon (1953), b/w ★★★
Film4, 5.05pm
J Lee Thompson’s classic drama, set in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, follows 12-year-old Frankie Palmer (Andrew Ray) as he goes from being a young boy worried about losing money from his father to a boy-on-the-run with a criminal (William Sylvester), after he accidentally pushes a friend to his death. What follows is a thrilling, terrifying game of hide-and-seek through the bombed out mean streets of post-war London.

City Slickers (1991) ★★★
Film4, 6.45pm
A cattle-driving holiday is meant to be a bonding exercise for stressed out trio Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stern in Ron Underwood’s amiable comedy-western. Jack Palance deliberately chews the scenery as Curly – a send-up of his hard bitten cowboy roles, such as his Oscar-nominated performance in Shane. It’s an entertaining blend of gags and sincerity, with solid performances from the main three.

Ali (2001) ★★★
BBC Four, 9pm
A typically tough film from Michael Mann (Heat) and an electric performance from Will Smith make this the best biopic of Muhammad Ali to date. The director covers 10 years of Ali’s life – from his capture of the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, his conversion to Islam and opposition to the Vietnam War to his infidelities. But in spite of its thrills, and Smith’s best efforts, you sense that Mann’s task was too vast to pull off.

A Friend of the Family - Peacock/Episodic
A Friend of the Family - Peacock/Episodic

Friday 7 October

A Friend of the Family
Peacock
A common criticism levelled at true-crime drama is that it exploits the harrowing, difficult experiences of real people in pursuit of popular entertainment. But this nine-parter dodges that accusation immediately. This nine-parter opens with a message from Jan Broberg, the victim behind this extraordinary tale, who tells viewers that she wanted her story dramatised “because so many people think that something like this could never happen to them – especially at the hands of someone they know and trust”. During the 1970s, Broberg (played here by Hendrix Yancey) was kidnapped multiple times by Robert Berchtold, a charismatic family friend who manipulated both her parents (Anna Paquin and Colin Hanks) through blackmail and seduction. Berchtold is played wonderfully by The White Lotus’s Jake Lacy, whose all-American “aw shucks!” veneer gives his actions a sinister edge. Premiering with three episodes, we’re shown how his obsession with 12-year-old Jan leads to him brainwashing her into believing that they have been given a special mission by aliens – one which involves getting married and having a baby. It is a wild and disturbing story – the kind that will have you checking every detail online (and finding them all true). SK

Munich Games
Sky Atlantic, 2am & 9pm
The tense finale of the multilingual thriller sees Maria’s (Seyneb Saleh) worst nightmare come true: terrorists have taken the Israeli football team hostage on the anniversary of the Munich massacre. She and Oren (Yousef Sweid), both trapped in the same building as the gunmen, must stop history repeating itself. But this is no Die Hard rehash – it’s welcomingly complex.

Dispatches: Britain’s Evicted Kids
Channel 4, 7.30pm
In the first three months of 2022, more than 25,000 families with children became homeless in England or were at risk of becoming so. Dispatches follows one such family, whose eviction from their two-bed flat leaves them cooped up for weeks in a hotel room and facing a battle to find a new home.

Ghosts
BBC One, 8.30pm
Charlotte Ritchie’s Alison, who up until now has had the patience of a saint, finally loses it with her home’s gaggle of dead, daft and often demanding housemates. It’s a particularly hilarious episode of the sitcom this week, as the ghosts come up with increasingly stupid ways to make it up to her, ranging from 1980s political slogans to writing a ludicrous Band Aid-style group song.

Have I Got News for You
BBC One, 9pm
This week’s guest host of the topical panel show is The Telegraph’s Saturday television columnist (and Only Connect host) Victoria Coren Mitchell. She’ll be joined by regulars Paul Merton and Ian Hislop to dissect the week’s news, along with the comedian Ivo Graham.

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
BBC Two, 9pm
One of the wonderful things about Gone Fishing is how it simultaneously functions as wholesome, light entertainment and a serious reminder to men of a certain age to look after themselves. Take this week, in which Bob and Paul head to a lake deep in the Surrey Hills to catch a big carp, and also meet Dr Anand Patel, who chats to Bob about the importance of looking after your weight.

Paris to Rome with Bettany Hughes
Channel 5, 9pm
Bettany Hughes takes her affable travelogue to Venice, whose canals and alleyways have charmed many a poet, artist and camera crew. She sees all of the usual sights, but also meets locals such as the granddaughter of Peggy Guggenheim to understand what makes the city so special.

Catherine Called Birdy (2022) ★★★★
Amazon Prime Video
Lena Dunham (Girls) replaces millennial New York with medieval England in this sparkling comedy, which is based on Karen Cushman’s 1994 novel. It follows Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey as she a) gets her period and b) attempts to get out of marrying a vile suitor. The rest of the cast is a veritable smorgasbord of Britain’s finest actors: Andrew Scott, Billie Piper, Joe Alwyn and Russell Brand all co-star.

Bridget Jones's Baby (2016) ★★★
Channel 5, 10pm
Helen Fielding was hardly the first writer to mine being unmarried, female and in your 30s for empathetic laughs, but Bridget Jones’s endless mortification struck a real chord in the 1990s. In this third film, after breaking up with Mark (Colin Firth), Bridget (Renée Zellweger) has a one-night fling with Jack (Patrick Dempsey). She finds herself pregnant, but who is the father? It’s not as effortlessly hilarious as the original, but still good fun.

Studio 666 (2022) ★★
Sky Cinema Premiere/NOW, 10pm
The nicest guy (and band) in rock can’t even save this half-witted horror-comedy from its own failings: Foo Fighters’ Studio 666 attempts to send them up but ends up being dull and repetitive. Even Dave Grohl projectile vomiting into a swimming pool and a cameo from Lionel Richie can’t rescue it. However, for their fans, it will be an emotional watch, due to the tragic death of drummer Taylor Hawkins in March. A rock ‘n’ roll curio.

Television previewers

Jack Taylor (JT), Veronica Lee (VL), Stephen Kelly (SK), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Chris Bennion (CB), Rachel Ward (RW), Poppie Platt (PP) and Gabriel Tate (GT)