Weekly TV preview 15 - 18 Feb | Virgin Media
Weekend TV preview

Weekly TV preview: True crime, real science, great drama



Want to know what delights are in store on that magical box of colours that sits in the corner of your living room? We have all the best picks of unmissable TV for you to enjoy throughout the week.

The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Monday 15th February at 9pm on BBC Two (CH 102)


Travolta! Schwimmer! Gooding Jr! An unlikely bunch of A-listers populate this even unlikelier new drama, which goes behind the scenes of the most notorious trial of the past 50 years. And you know what, it looks rather good.

In a nutshell

The idea of the people behind American Horror Story giving us their take on the OJ Simpson trial seems like a bad joke, on paper. Surely the garish aesthetics and snarky dark humour of AHS, if applied to a real-life case of double homicide, would just result in a bad taste courtroom comedy? Also: David Schwimmer as Kim Kardashian’s dad? Some quarters in the reviewing world have already taken to describing his take on the character as Ross Kardashian.

But from the sounds of things, they’re actually playing this one straight. This promises to be a proper, serious examination of a defining cultural event of the 1990s: a case that blended the obsessions of the modern world (celebrity, race relations, political ideologies, gruesome violence) and played it out as a real-life legal thriller. The story begins tonight with the first pieces of the case against OJ taking shape, with American Horror Story regular Sarah Paulson as one of the major legal eagles preparing to do battle in the courtroom. Prepare to get hooked (and a little disturbed by John Travolta’s increasingly plastic-looking face).

What's the verdict?

What seemed like a trashy concept may well have resulted in the must-see TV event of 2016, and a reminder that the Americans do this sort of “event telly” so much better than us. We have no objections, your honours.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Tuesday 16th February at 8pm on ITV (CH 103)

The Last Leg Goes Down Under

Ben Miller promises this show will be “mind blowing” and “hilarious”. And given that it features the man himself being strapped to a wrecking ball, we’re inclined to take him at his word…

In a nutshell

Science – it’s great isn’t it? Especially when it’s being used to, say, explore the cosmos, save people’s lives, and subject TV presenters to ritual humiliations for our viewing amusement. Which brings us to It’s Not Rocket Science, a brand new show which sees three much-loved celebs being subjected to experiments in order to enlighten us (and make us snort into our tea).

We’ve got Ben Miller, alongside comedian Romesh Ranganathan (owner of the most unflinchingly deadpan expression this side of Jack Dee) and the unstoppably effervescent Rachel Riley. They’ve all got backgrounds in academia – Miller has a PhD in physics, Ranganathan is a former maths teacher, and Riley studied numbers at Oxford. But that won’t help them here, in a show which will feature Rachel being thrown throw a wall of flames, and Romesh coming at risk of being flattened by a fridge. All in the name of science, you understand.

What’s the verdict?

More than just a madcap romp, this series also promises to load us up with fascinating facts on how sugar affects the body, whether cars can be controlled by the mind, and how comedians cope when the threatened with serious injury on a primetime show. It’s enough to make geeks of us all.

One Child

Wednesday 17th February at 9pm on BBC Two (CH 102)

The Last Leg Goes Down Under

Harry Potter star Katie Leung takes on darker material in this big new drama that tackles some of the thorniest themes from Chinese history. Rest assured, you won’t want to miss this one.

In a nutshell

Proper, grown-up dramas that AREN’T about traumatised cops, harassed doctors and sword-wielding warriors are far too few and far between on telly. But every so often you get something like this: a complex, sprawling story which isn’t afraid to lay on the politics and history. In this case, the politics and history of China, whose “One Child” policy led many baby girls being abandoned by their families. One such girl is the hero of this tale – Mei –who was adopted by a Western couple as an infant.

But now she’s on her way back to China, called by the mother who gave her away. The reason? Her brother is on death row for a crime he apparently didn’t commit. So can Mei provide help? And will she even feel an emotional connection with a family and a culture she has never known? Questions will come thick and fast as she tackles her own mysterious heritage.

What’s the verdict?

As China continues to grow in stature on the world stage (and is looking like the superpower of the 21st Century), stories like this will become ever more essential. A tough watch, perhaps, but it’ll be worth it.

Putin’s Way

Thursday 18th February at 9pm on PBS America (CH 276)

Extreme Time Cheaters

Is Vladimir Putin really a Bond villain come to life? This documentary lays bare the irresistible rise and sinister secrets of the man who continues to make the world feel really rather jittery.

In a nutshell

Among the things currently troubling the world – climate change, North Korea, the ever present fear of bombs and bullets on Western city streets – Vladimir Putin occupies a special place in people’s minds. It’s probably because he’s just so cartoonish – a sort of real-life supervillain, a Russian Lex Luthor, a geopolitical Blofeld. It doesn’t help that he often sports the exact kind of smirk we’d expect from just such a malevolent force. And yet… many also believe he’s an admirably strong leader in an unstable part of the world.

This programme tells his whole story, from his earliest days as a KGB agent in the Cold War, through to his rise under Boris Yeltsin and his current position as an apparent, de facto dictator. The corruption behind the throne is a particular focus of the documentary, which will ask questions about the vast mountains of cash which have been apparently pilfered and hoarded, not to mention the shady foreign deals struck by Putin’s underlings. All in all, a fascinating if rather disturbing watch.

What’s the verdict?

Whether you think the threat of Putin has been overstated, or you fully believe he has an underground bunker filled with robot troops he’s soon to unleash on the world, this is a must-watch show about one of the world’s most divisive and formidable figures.