What’s on TV tonight: Why Is My Car So Expensive?, Long Lost Family, and more

·21 min read
Motoring journalist Ginny Buckley - Channel 4
Motoring journalist Ginny Buckley - Channel 4

Monday 15 August 

Why Is My Car So Expensive?: Dispatches
Channel 4, 8pm
As the UK’s cost-of-living crisis really begins to bear down, Dispatches investigates the soaring cost of new and second-hand cars. Even with fuel prices at a record high, a Vehicle Excise Duty hike in April and climbing insurance costs, it is the staggering rise in the price of cars themselves that is inflicting the most pain in a market that has seen used car prices up by an average of 30 per cent over the last 12 months alone, with used electric runabouts listed for as much as £60k and even old bangers fetching unheard-of prices.

Motoring journalist Ginny Buckley goes behind the scenes to find out what has caused the unprecedented surge in prices. Can it really be put down entirely to global factors such as the war in Ukraine, Covid, semi-conductor shortages and other supply chain problems? Or have unscrupulous, opportunistic types in the British car industry deliberately set out to keep prices artificially inflated? Buckley also looks into knock-on effects such as the recent rapid rise in car-theft numbers, and she has tips on how to avoid getting royally ripped off if you have no choice but to buy or replace a car just now. GO

Long Lost Family: What Happened Next
ITV, 9pm
In this follow-up to the documentary series that seeks to reunite estranged family members, Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell revisit the story of Yasika Fernando, who is searching for her Sri Lankan birth mother. Meanwhile, they catch up with Paula Stillie, whose quest led to Native American aunts and uncles in Montana. GO

Running Wild with Bear Grylls
National Geographic, 9pm
Bear Grylls takes film star Natalie Portman to the Escalante Desert in Utah, to test whether the training she put in for the film Thor: Love and Thunder can withstand the demands of a real-life wilderness. GO

Day of the Dead
Sky Sci-Fi, 9pm
Syfy’s television homage to George A Romero’s vastly influential 1980s zombie flesh-eater shocker doesn’t add much – in tonight’s opening two episodes at least – other than youth and a tongue-in-cheek knowingness to its riff on the original story of six strangers trying to survive an invasion by an army of the undead. GO

Porn King: The Rise & Fall of Ron Jeremy
Channel 4, 10pm
Ron Jeremy claims to have appeared in more porn movies than anyone else in a career spanning 40 years. But his notoriety caught up with him in recent years, with many women accusing him of rape and sexual assault. The opening part of a documentary featuring exclusive access to some of his accusers looks at how Jeremy came to prominence in the fledgling porn industry of the 1970s. GO

The Sky at Night
BBC Four, 10pm
Following July’s spectacular first release of images from the James Webb Space Telescope, Chris Lintott meets scientists from Oxford, Cardiff and Bristol to see how they are using the new data while, in the studio, Maggie Aderin-Pocock takes another look at why the telescope is causing such a stir. GO

Red Rose
BBC Three, 10pm
This chilling eight-part horror (box set on iPlayer) taps into contemporary fears over the toxic influence of social media. After a spook-tastic jump start in Manchester the action swiftly moves to Bolton and a gang of teenagers led by Rochelle (Isis Hainsworth) and Wren (Amelia Clarkson). Having just finished their GCSEs, they’re anticipating a summer of fun until Rochelle downloads a sinister app called Red Rose on her smartphone. GO

The Princess (2021) ★★★
Sky Showcase, 9pm 
This new documentary about the life of Diana, Princess of Wales attempts to streamline the episodic scandal and clatter of her adult life into a single coherent portrait. Director Ed Perkins builds the entire thing from archive footage alone, and lets the pictures (and the juxtapositions between them) speak for themselves. It tells us nothing we don’t already know, but there’s bracing value in seeing it crisply spelled out.

The Evil Dead (1981) ★★★
Sky Sci-fi, 11pm 
This is classic cult horror: five college students holed up in a lonely cabin in the woods manage to release a bunch of evil spirits via a mysterious audio tape. The gory result is demonic possession for four out of the five friends – the only one unaffected, Ash (Bruce Campbell) is left to fight for his life against his nearest and dearest. It was written and directed by Sam Raimi and made his name. Ellen Sandweiss and Jane Levy are good in support.

Gloria Bell (2018) ★★★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm 
A sad but upliftingly beautiful remake from Sebastián Lelio of his Oscar-winning 2013 Chilean debut Gloria. Some Latin American specificity is inevitably lost in the move to Los Angeles, but Julianne Moore’s shimmeringly poised turn as a middle-aged divorcée navigating singledom makes the project worthwhile. It’s a richly satisfying story of life – and romance – after love. John Turturro and Jeanne Tripplehorn also star.

Tuesday 16 August

Bob Odenkirk stars in Better Call Saul - AP
Bob Odenkirk stars in Better Call Saul - AP

Better Call Saul
It’s the end of the line for Bob Odenkirk’s shabby attorney Saul Goodman in this series finale. The quirky crime drama has been a resounding success since spinning-off from Breaking Bad in 2015, but will Goodman meet the same miserable fate as his old associate Walter White? A few years after the events of Breaking Bad, Saul has skipped town and is using the alter ego Gene Takavic to pull cheap cons on unsuspecting civilians. JT

The Billion-Pound Savings Scandal
BBC One, 9pm
There aren’t many more contemptible ways to get rich than draining the life-savings of ordinary folk. But that, claims this grim edition of Panorama, didn’t stop Blackmore Bonds investment fund. This investigation examines the tactics employed by glossily marketed investment schemes who promised inexperienced investors marvellous returns before, it claims, making off with their pensions. The total estimated to have been taken from the pockets of working people is upwards of £1 billion – though Blackmore denies any wrongdoing in the programme.

The film follows the plight of those it says were stung by Blackmore in their search for justice, such as John Robbins who says he lost his entire RAF military pension. We also meet finance expert Paul Carlier, who shared office space with a marketing firm employed by Blackmore and who witnessed the “aggressive” cold-call tactics he says they used to sell the risky “mini bond” – which the Financial Conduct Authority insists should only be sold to “sophisticated” investors. Except when Carlier raised his concerns with the FCA, they apparently took no action. It’s a distressing, important watch about a shockingly widespread problem. JT

Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist
In 2012, American football prodigy Manti Te’o had the world at his feet. Until, that is, a secret online relationship began to unravel in the most public and humiliating way. This melodramatic film tells the story of a very modern romance conducted entirely over social media, following the usual Netflix formula of archive footage, shadowy talking heads and an edgy string soundtrack. JT

The Art of the Garden
Sky Arts, 7pm
“Emplacement” is the secret to a beautiful garden, according to landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith, “making a place feel like the natural coming together of its context.” This insightful documentary, part of a strand spotlighting some of Britain’s most esteemed garden designers, follows Stuart-Smith as he reflects on his most recent project, the Gallery Garden at Hepworth Wakefield, and discusses the importance of classical music to his creative process. JT

Celebrity Masterchef
BBC One, 8pm
Choirmaster Gareth Malone, former boxing champion Chris Eubank, actor Cliff Parisi, musician Melanie Blatt and reality star MoJo face an invention test using a mystery ingredient hidden under a cloche. Edge-of-your-seat stuff. JT

The Spying Game
PBS America, 8.30pm
There’s little more to be said about the period of high espionage that followed the Second World War, but this three-parter does a solid job of summing it up. The first episode traces the ideological tensions that sucked America and the Soviet Union into the Cold War, and profiles Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were executed for spying on behalf of Moscow. JT

Secrets of the Spies
ITV, 9pm
The spyfest continues with a close-up look at the art of assassination and the distressing poisonings in 1978 of Georgi Markov, Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, and Sergei and Yulia Skripal in 2018. JT

Masters of the Universe (1987) ★★★
Film4, 12.45pm 
Gary Goddard’s 1980’s superhero flick was a flop at the box-office, but won a cult following thanks to its flamboyant, and deceptively funny, tale about a pair of teenagers who stumble across the awesomely powerful, and incredibly sexy, He-Man (Dolph Lundgren). It’s slapdash and silly, but Frank Langella is a genuine delight as the apocalyptically minded Skeletor. Courteney Cox also stars.

Kevin and Perry Go Large (2000) ★★★
Comedy Central, 9pm 
Harry Enfield’s moody teenager makes his big-screen debut in this absurd coming-of-age comedy, starring Kathy Burke as his faithful sidekick Perry. Desperate to show off their budding musical talent and, of course, to lose their virginities, the pair head to Ibiza for the summer of their lives. The plotting is bad, but Enfield and Burke make it work with two virtuoso comic performances.

The Conversation (1974) ★★★★
BBC Two, 11.15pm 
Francis Ford Coppola’s thriller centres on private investigator Harry Caul (Gene Hackman, on impressive form), who is forced into confronting the consequences of his spying when he witnesses a potential murder. Released just months after the Watergate scandal, it captured the mood of itching suspicion and the paranoia of surveillance. The shifty camerawork and squirrelly piano score create a cloying sense of unease.

Wednesday 17 August

Britain’s Secret War Babies - Channel 4
Britain’s Secret War Babies - Channel 4

Britain’s Secret War Babies
Channel 4, 9pm
This moving documentary follows a similar format to Long Lost Family, with the added twist that it concerns two British GI babies whose fathers were black. Mary and John, both 77, were born to white British mothers who’d had relationships with black American soldiers stationed in Britain during the Second World War. Both recount the racial abuse and isolation they suffered as the only children of colour in their communities; Mary was sent to live with her grandparents for good.

With their attempts to find out more about their fathers coming to nought, Good Morning Britain reporter Sean Fletcher takes up their case. He interviews Mary and John with tact when they show how deeply this gap in their lives has affected them. Fletcher also puts their predicament in a social context and digs up shameful official wartime documents outlining the British government’s fears about black men fraternising with white British women. After some digging, Mary and John gain closure about their uncertain heritage. There’s plenty of high emotion in a film that sheds light on the estimated 2,000 mixed-race British children born to black American GIs. VP

Test Cricket: England v South Africa
Wednesday-Friday, Sky Main Event, 10am
Ben Stokes continued his strong start as England Test captain last month when his all-action batting line-up, including a resurgent Jonny Bairstow, defeated India at Edgbaston. This three Test series is a chance to silence any remaining doubters. England are without seamer Jamie Overton, so Ollie Robinson is back after missing the past seven Tests with injury. South Africa are top of the World Test Championship table and are unbeaten in five of their last six series. On Saturday, the first round of the Women’s Hundred continues, with Manchester Originals taking on Trent Rockets at Old Trafford (Sky Main Event, 10.30am), before Welsh Fire play Birmingham Phoenix in Cardiff (2.30pm). VP

A neo-western saga that features Kevin Costner in a standout performance, it’s a mystery that this drama hasn’t caught on in the UK. The fourth season picks up in the middle of the series three cliffhanger, an attack on the Dutton clan that left patriarch John (Costner) and other ranch-dwellers for dead. It’s a gripping piece about a family power struggle, like Succession only with horses and guns.

The Repair Shop
BBC One, 8pm
Jay Blades welcomes a raft of unusual objects to the barn in a new run of the series. The most singular piece is a bulldog-shaped drinks table that belongs to Nigel, who is blind and likes its mix of textures. While repairing the table’s cracks, Kirsten Ramsay takes great care to ensure that it feels like it used to. VP

Changing Rooms
Channel 4, 8pm
The makeover show continues with an all-in- the-family revamp. Ann and Kevin have agreed to swap keys with their daughter, Hannah, and son-in-law, Chris, and redecorate each other’s rooms in Warwickshire, inviting designers Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Micaela Sharp to show off their “maximalist” designs. Christmas could be awkward this year. VP

BBC One, 9pm
The search for Connor becomes increasingly frantic and his father unwisely decides to do some illicit sleuthing that leads to a shocking disclosure, as the crime drama continues. DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) remains the still centre of this raging storm by calmly following his intuition, making him a welcome antidote to the TV cliché of maverick, ego-driven cops. VP

Hanif Kureishi Remembers: The Buddha of Suburbia
BBC Four, 10pm
Author Hanif Kureishi recalls the making of the 1993 TV adaptation of his bestseller, which is screened following this 10-minute interview. Kureishi is justly proud that it was one of the first TV series telling the stories of second-generation British-Asians like him and recalls the anxiety of working with David Bowie on the soundtrack. VP

The Great
Channel 4, 10.30pm
An entertaining push-pull between Catherine (Elle Fanning) and Peter (Nicholas Hoult) keeps things lively at the palace, as the period comedy-drama continues. When both royals vie for the Ottoman ambassador’s support tonight, it leads Peter to overstep boundaries in this vivid reimagining of Russian history. VP

Thursday 18 August

Charlotte, Leanne and Faye in A Farm Through Time - Daisybeck Studios
Charlotte, Leanne and Faye in A Farm Through Time - Daisybeck Studios

A Farm Through Time
Channel 5, 9pm
Where would Britain be without its farms? Well, as this light-hearted series makes clear, probably living under Nazi rule and eating Spam. The series follows farming brothers Rob and Dave Nicholson, guided by the eccentric historian Ruth Goodman, as they discover what farming was like at crucial points in British history, starting with the Second World War.

The brothers visit a living history museum at Tatton Park, “frozen in time” since the 1930s, where they learn that Britain imported most of its food via merchant ships – which the Nazis had a nasty habit of blowing up. Farms such as the one at Tatton Park were transformed into agricultural powerhouses with the capacity to feed the nation on home soil, driven by the switch from horse to tractor power. Rob and Dave are introduced to the plucky Fordson tractor, the unsung hero of wartime Britain, which increased productivity. The pair work up an appetite competing to plough the straightest furrow before sawing timber with the Women’s Land Army, but are confronted with the harsh reality of rations when dinner arrives – an anaemic Woolton pie. The boys banter away while Goodman keeps them in check; altogether a fairly pleasant formula. JT

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Tatiana Maslany suits up to play the dual roles of attorney Jennifer Walters and gamma green giant She-Hulk in this new series. Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is also on board to help Jennifer get a sense of her newfound abilities. The tone is fun and knowing – think Ally McBeal via Fleabag. JT

Sky Arts, 7pm
Some of the finest works of literature in the 20th century were written for children. This wonderful four-part series explores the inherent sadness that links them. Combining literary extracts, biography and academic criticism, the first episode focuses on Lewis Carroll, Arthur Ransome and AA Milne, each of whom created idyllic worlds which pivoted on their own troubled childhoods. JT

Who’s Polluting Our Water?
ITV, 8.30pm
Water companies are posting record profits, while customer’s bills are through the roof. Add to that the worst drought since 1976 and a pollution crisis across Britain’s waterways, and scrutiny is growing on whether private utility companies are up to the job. Joe Crowley investigates for Tonight, and asks what’s being done to keep our water clean. JT

BBC One, 9pm
By turns heart-warming, melancholic and high octane, the second episode of this series, now following the North East Ambulance Service, sees more heartwrenching cases for the paramedics. This is particularly true for Chris and Becca when they pick up a cheerful elderly chap called John, who becomes emotional when he opens up about his wife’s cancer. JT

Hotel Custody
ITV, 9pm; not STV
This intriguing series follows the opening of the Birchin Way Custody Facility in Grimsby, which is trialling a radical new way of dealing with those remanded in custody: to treat them as customers rather than criminals. With better welfare, facilities and even room service, the idea is that humanising rather than punishing inmates will reduce recidivism. JT

Football Dreams: The Academy
Channel 4, 9pm
There’s heartbreak afoot in this second episode of the documentary going behind the scenes at Crystal Palace’s Academy, which shapes the next generation of football talent. The focus, this week, is on the under-16 team as over four months the coaches decide which of the 18 boys will be allowed to stay on. Around a third of them won’t make it. JT

Empire of the Sun (1987) ★★★★★
BBC Four, 9pm 
Steven Spielberg directs Tom Stoppard’s excellent adaptation of JG Ballard’s autobiographical novel, which is set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the Second World War. A 13-year-old Christian Bale dazzles as a boy who finds himself separated from his parents and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, with John Malkovich as the American ship steward who manipulates him for his own ends. Miranda Richardson and Nigel Havers co-star.

Crimson Tide (1995) ★★★★
Great! Movies, 9pm 
A high point in the bombastic career of Tony Scott (brother of Blade Runner director Ridley), this mutiny-on-a-sub thriller doesn’t hold back, with its rousing Hans Zimmer score and a never-crustier turn from Gene Hackman as a nuke-’em-dead captain interpreting an interrupted order to mean fire at will. But it’s gripping and smart, too, with Denzel Washington upstanding as a peacenik – but ultimately mutinous – Lieutenant.

Saint Frances (2019) ★★★★
Film4, 11.15pm 
This is the type of American indie where you’ll barely recognise a soul in the cast, and quickly feel grateful for the fact. It teems with unusual characters who don’t feel like variations on anyone’s past work. They spring from the pen of Kelly O’Sullivan, the film’s breakout star. She plays Bridget, a 34-year-old deadbeat waitress, who surprises herself by taking on a nanny job one summer, which opens up a whole new lease of life.

Friday 19 August

Anne-Marie Duff, Saise Quinn, Sharon Horgan, Eva Birthistle, Sarah Greene and Eve Hewson in Bad Sisters - Apple TV+
Anne-Marie Duff, Saise Quinn, Sharon Horgan, Eva Birthistle, Sarah Greene and Eve Hewson in Bad Sisters - Apple TV+

Bad Sisters
Apple TV+
Created by Sharon Horgan, who also stars and co-writes, Bad Sisters is a dark comedy that plays more like a taut, stylish, feminist thriller. Based on the Belgian series TV Clan, it opens in Dublin, where the Garvey sisters, led by the heavy-drinking Eva (Horgan), are getting ready for the funeral of John Paul (Claes Bang), the monstrous husband of their long-suffering sibling Grace (Anne-Marie Duff). What becomes obvious, however, is that John Paul’s death was no accident. Unbeknown to Grace, her four sisters – played by Eve Hewson, Eva Birthistle and standout Sarah Greene as the tough, one-eyed Bibi – have a big secret.

The humour is pitch black – one scene involves an aroused corpse – but it never feels crude or contrived. There’s a breezy elegance to the script, which is at once hyper-real and painfully well- observed. In the present, the Garveys sweat from the detective work of flustered life insurance agent Thomas (Brian Gleeson, son of Brendan) and his brother Matthew (Daryl McCormack). But it is when the show flashes back to John Paul’s controlling treatment of Grace that the drama comes alive, with the shark-like Bang proving a delicious villain. The series premieres with two episodes and airs weekly thereafter. SK

Cycling: La Vuelta a España Eurosport 1, 4.45pm The second best race in cycling – a punishing jaunt over Spain’s mountains and coastlines – begins, oddly enough, with a team time trial in the Dutch city of Utrecht. SK

Desperate for more Killing Eve? Here’s a fizzy German-language thriller that may scratch the itch. Set after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it follows newly freed spy Kleo (Jella Haase) as she assassinates her way through everyone who betrayed her. SK

Our Lives
BBC One, 7.30pm; Wales, 8pm
This documentary series continues with the remarkable story of 33 families in Leeds who have decided, in response to soaring house prices, to build their own street. But it’s not easy. Every decision must be agreed, from sharing cars to what colour to paint the doors. SK

NYO Plays Gershwin, Ravel and Elfman at the Proms
BBC Four, 8pm
The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain returns to the Royal Albert Hall for a performance of Gershwin’s jazz-inspired composition Rhapsody in Blue and Ravel’s classic ballet Daphnis and Chloe. The concert will also feature the London premiere of Wunderkammer, a new work from Hollywood composer Danny Elfman. SK

Hobby Man
Channel 4, 8pm
The Last Leg’s Alex Brooker is on affable form in this new four-part docu-jolly set around the history and appeal of British hobbies. The comedian begins in Edinburgh, where he is joined by Scarlett Moffatt to discover the delights of competitive chess, home-brewed beer and suggestive birdwatching lingo. It can drag, but offers moments of surprising sweetness. SK

Jane Austen’s Sanditon
ITV, 9pm
There are kisses aplenty in the penultimate episode of this second series of the Jane Austen reimagining. The rivalry between Mr Colbourne (Ben Lloyd Hughes) and Colonel Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones) reaches a crescendo at a ball. Meanwhile, nasty Edward (Jack Fox) goes too far in his attempt to bring down Esther (Charlotte Spencer) and Alison (Rosie Graham) makes plans to leave Sanditon. SK

’Allo ’Allo!: 40 Years of Laughter
Channel 5, 9pm
Thanks to a never-before-seen interview, the late Gorden Kaye, René himself, leads a 40th anniversary celebration of one of Britain’s most beloved sitcoms. It’s fascinating to look back at the controversy that followed its premiere in 1982. While Herr Flick actor Richard Gibson reveals how he landed himself with even more scenes in stockings and suspenders. SK

Memory (2022) ★★★
Amazon Prime Video 
Liam Neeson changes it up by playing, get this, a hitman in this Martin Campbell directed thriller. The twist? This particular hitman has dementia and must go on the run after declining a contract to kill a young girl, chased down by a ruthless criminal gang. Will he remember what he’s running from? It’s a pale copycat of some of Neeson’s better action flicks, but ticks boxes in terms of explosive fight scenes and gravelly toned admonishments.

Point Break (1991) ★★★★
BBC One, 10.40pm 
Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s cult surfing noir, a landmark in homoerotic action, elevated Patrick Swayze’s status to true hero. Keanu Reeves plays Johnny Utah, an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a gang of bank robbing surfers led by the charismatic Bodhi (Swayze). The action heats up when Bodhi and Utah find they share a similar attitude towards danger. Lori Petty is the surfer who catches Johnny’s eye.

The Invisible Man (2020) ★★★★
ITV, 10.45pm 
Leigh Whannell directs one of the smartest and scariest films to roll off the production line at horror specialists Blumhouse. As the title suggest, it’s about a man who’s invisible. Or is it? That’s what Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) comes to believe after the apparent suicide of her Silicon Valley mogul boyfriend – a world leader in optical technology, and a world-class control freak. It’s a haunted house ride with more on its mind than up its sleeve.

Television previewers

Jack Taylor (JT), Veronica Lee (VL), Stephen Kelly (SK), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Vicki Power (VP), Gabriel Tate (GT), Daniel Brooks (DB) and Chris Bennion (CB)

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