Stuck for what to watch on the box this weekend? Here’s a handy guide to the best of the unmissable TV coming up, including stunning documentaries, gripping dramas and the return of the wit of Stephen Fry.
Thailand’s Hidden Wilderness
Friday 12th February at 8pm on Nat Geo Wild (CH 264)
Feeling the February blues? This lush documentary provides just the right amount of escapism, taking us amid the teeming wildlife of Thailand.
Look out there – grim, isn’t it? OK, so sometimes you get daggers of bright winter sunlight that light up the streets and fool you into thinking it’s a nice day. But step outside and you realise it’s cold enough to make your nose fall off. Or it’s weirdly warm, and you start sweating helplessly in the many layers you mistakenly robed yourself in. And the next day you wear less, only to realise it’s gone freezing again and now you’ve got some kind of frostbite.
We can draw two conclusions from this state of affairs. First, it’s far better to stay in whenever possible, at least until May. Second, you should try to watch more shows like Thailand’s Hidden Wilderness. A ravishing exploration of a sun-soaked land of natural wonders, it’s the perfect antidote to dishcloth-grey British skies and bone-chilling winds. We’re talking dense rainforests, dazzling plant life, and some of the most majestic beasts of the Earth, including agile tigers and vast elephants. Winter? What winter?
What's the verdict?
The ideal thing to zonk out to on the sofa when the outside world just gets too much, this is an immersive odyssey across some of the most beguiling landscapes imaginable. The elephants are good, too.
Daniel And Our Cats
Friday 12th February at 10pm on Animal Planet (CH 266)
Have the hankies handy for a story of unlikely love, incredible animals, and sudden tragedies, all set against the epic backdrop of Namibia. We do mean it about the hankies, by the way.
It’s hard to talk about this documentary without giving away too much of what happens. A sense of trepidation and mounting angst is part of its power. But even the spoiler-free version of events should get viewers intrigued. This is the story of a woman called Catherine who went to Namibia in search of big cats – a kind of bucket list adventure, in a way. What she didn’t expect was to fall in love with a local man, Daniel, and end up adopting the world’s most amazing pets – namely, a black-maned lion, and two leopards.
What should have been an idyllic, if unexpected new pastoral existence soon transformed without warning, though, as their beloved cats were confiscated by the authorities without warning. What ensued was a battle to reclaim their cats, but still more traumatic events were on the horizon. This is their story, a poignant and inspiring and ultimately heartbreaking story of two people who made their dream come true, but didn’t live happily ever after. Blub.
What’s the verdict?
Gorgeous animals, fascinating people, and the fickle nature of fate all figure in this film which will make part of you want to give it all up and head for a new life in Africa, and part of you grateful to live a more ordinary and risk-free life instead.
Saturday 13th February at 9pm on BBC Four (CH 107)
You’ve been engrossed in Nordic Noir, but how about Icelandic Noir? Wrap up warm, because things get very, very chilly in this dark new drama that’s sure to become the talk of Twitter.
Much as we love the new breed of ultra-gritty, unashamedly complex and grown-up crime dramas that have sprung up over the past half-decade or so, they do tend to inhabit the same kind of universe. That is to say, urban sprawls, where lonely citizens try (and generally fail) to connect with each other while dealing with all the corruption and angst of modern life. But this new drama from Iceland is different. It marries the storytelling of a great crime saga with the context of a high concept Hollywood blockbuster.
The crime saga side of it goes like this: a body is found in a fjord. Potential suspects are served up and clues are sifted through. So far, so familiar. But here’s the big twist: the town suddenly gets engulfed by an immense blizzard, which completely cuts it off from the outside world. The townsfolk are trapped. And the killer is trapped there with them. See what we mean about the Hollywood blockbuster angle? Yep, the BBC must be rubbing its hands with glee, because this one should be big.
What's the verdict?
Offering all the murky intrigue you’d expect from a European mystery series, but in an epic, icy backdrop, Trapped is going to be a must-watch for crime buffs. Just have a mug of something hot to hand.
Steven Avery: Innocent or Guilty?
Saturday 13th February at 10pm on Discovery (CH 250)
Hooked on the Steven Avery case? Then you’ll want to make time for this documentary, which is jam-packed with expert insights and delves even deeper into his now-infamous conviction for murder.
If you’re one of 97% of everyone right now, you’ve been addicted to the Netflix series Making A Murderer. It’s the show that everyone’s talking about, from Nigel in HR to celebrities on Twitter. And with good reason: it’s a story almost too incredible to be true. The gist, if you’ve been under that proverbial rock: a man is released from prison after serving nearly two decades for a brutal sexual attack which he definitely did not commit. Only to get re-arrested, and re-convicted and re-sent to prison – this time for murder.
Advocates of Steven Avery say that he was framed for the killing, perhaps by sinister forces in the Establishment who wanted to protect themselves from his legal action regarding the earlier miscarriage of justice. But sceptics say Avery is indeed guilty. Brilliant as Making A Murderer is, the ambiguity is still painful to contemplate, so will this more recent documentary shed any more light on the case that has had people’s blood boiling?
What's the verdict?
The story of Steven Avery is still being played out in the media, and the dense thicket of facts is enough to trap anyone in an agony of indecision about his guilt or innocence. Where do you stand?
British Academy Film Awards
Sunday 14th February at 9pm on BBC One (CH 101)
Never mind the Oscars – it's time for the stars to assemble for the British Academy Film Awards, with Stephan Fry bringing his signature brand of voluptuous wit to the glittering ceremony.
With the A-listers all decked out in posh ball gowns and penguin tuxedos, these awards always promise to be a spectacle as we find out which stars have practiced their best loser face successfully in the mirror and which ones will be carrying home more ornaments for the mantlepiece. OK, so it's essentially a dry-run for the Oscars, and our gleaming BAFTAs will never have the same global reputation as the Stateside statuettes, but who cares? We've got Stephen Fry on hosting duties, and more than enough A-list super-celebs, waiting to hear their name called out.
So all eyes will be on Leonardo DiCaprio, who is clearly still in rehearsals for his eventual and inevitable (?) Oscar win for The Revenant. To some, no matter how much effort he puts into such dramatic roles, he’ll only ever look like an overgrown boy grimacing for the camera, but hey – this could well be his year. Eddie Redmayne, Cate Blanchett, Maggie Smith and the Fassbender are among the other names in contention for things, while the spotlight will also be on Spotlight, one of the best and most grown-up films of the year.
What's the verdict?
Dare we say that our film awards are a teeny bit more interesting and less predictable than the Oscars? Well, in any case it's the most glittering night of the movie-land calendar on these shores, so pop a bottle of bubbly and join in from the comfort of the sofa.
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