Weekly TV preview 29 - 03 Mar | Virgin Media
Weekend TV preview

Weekly TV preview: Novels, actors and whodunnits

29/02/2016

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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.

Giles Coren: My Failed Novel

Monday 29th February at 9pm on Sky Arts (CH 122)

X-Files

Acid-tongued critic and TV presenter Giles Coren tackles his own literary failure head on in a programme that’s bound to be a rude awakening for any would-be scribblers out there.

In a nutshell

Giles Coren is a successful man. He presents major TV shows, like the one about the family living in different eras across British history. He also strikes fear into chefs across London with his famously acerbic restaurant reviews. And yet, despite having an often lethal way with words, his novel flopped. Not about to take this lying down, the stubborn Coren is now out to find out just WHY it flopped, in a kind of extended televised post-mortem.

What this means is he’ll be pondering the publishing industry and meeting up with writers who made it work, from the infamous Jeffrey Archer to the acclaimed Hanif Kureishi, author of The Buddha Of Suburbia. Will the interviews be awkward? Enlightening? Probably a bit of both, as Coren comes to term with the fact that it’s the hardest business in the world to make a living with. Even if you happen to be Giles Coren.

What’s the verdict?

Many of us harbour idle fantasies of churning out novels and becoming rich and famous. We think of J.K. Rowling, in her little café, writing the first Harry Potter. But the fact is, such monumental success is vanishingly rare. Prepare for some home truths…

David Harewood’s F Word

Tuesday 1st March at 9pm on Sky Arts (CH 122)

The Last Leg Goes Down Under

The “f word” is failure, and it’s a fact of life for most actors. Now, David Harewood – a TV star who knows the f word only too well – delves into the question of success (and lack of it) in showbusiness.

In a nutshell

Before David Harewood landed his part in Homeland, he had £80 in his bank account and was so fed up with things that he almost didn’t bother auditioning. And when he DID audition, he did it via his iPhone without even bothering to put on an American accent. This is how the arduous, gruelling world of showbiz can beat all the enthusiasm and energy out of you. Now more secure thanks to roles in shows like Supergirl and The Night Manager, Harewood has made this documentary about the weird world of actors, and how long stretches without work are utterly ordinary. Even for big names.

Olivia Colman is one of the stars he chats with, and she’ll be revealing that she didn’t work for over six months after Broadchurch. That’s right: a major British name, fresh out of the biggest TV show of the year, couldn’t find work for half a year. Harewood also hobnobs with fellow Homeland alumnus Damien Lewis, who opens up about his own past failures, including the movie Dreamcatcher, while the likes of Eddie Izzard and Naomie Harris also reveal the truth behind the glamorous façade of the Hollywood dream machine.

What’s the verdict?

What is success? What kind of mindset is necessary to overcome relentless failures? These are the questions David will be tackling in this sure-to-be-fascinating film. And it’ll make the rest of us feel a lot better about not being cool actors ourselves.

Grantchester

Wednesday 2nd March at 9pm on ITV (CH 103)

Brit Awards

So James Norton has been playing an evil crazy psycho on Happy Valley, but here he is back in his dog collar as crime-solving vicar Sidney Chambers. Which will take a few moments to get used to, it has to be said.

In a nutshell

In recent years, crime shows have undergone a renaissance, or revolution. We've had the unashamedly complex and slow-burning Nordic noir sagas. We've had the national phenomenon that was Broadchurch. And we've had grit-fests like Line of Duty as well. Game-changers, all of them. Or so we thought until ITV gifted us with Grantchester: a whodunnit so staggeringly old fashioned and quaint and cosy, so magnificently indifferent to the changing telly landscape, that it makes Lewis look like Luther.

We've got a sleepy 50s setting. We've got a vicar-turned-sleuth, a concept that goes right back to the very beginnings of crime fiction. And we've got gentle banter about sherry and extra-marital affairs. Admittedly there’s now a slight frisson from the fact that the main star, James Norton, plays vicious villain Tommy in Happy Valley. He couldn’t be more different here as the fine, upstanding vicar Sidney, who has to prove how fine and upstanding he is after getting arrested in tonight’s episode. Luckily, he has Robson Green to help him clear his name. Robson Green makes everything better.

What’s the verdict?

Yes, it's about as cutting edge as your gran's tea cosy, but Grantchester is exactly the right show to curl up in front of as the winter lingers. So put aside your Killing boxset, open a packet of digestives, and let yourself be charmed.

Murder

Thursday 3rd March at 9pm on BBC Two (CH 102)

Sex Survey

Returning for a full (ish) series after its mega-acclaimed debut back in 2012, this may be a crime story, but it’s a far cry from all the generic whodunnits strewn around the telly schedules.

In a nutshell

The first edition of Murder bagged a Bafta, and it’s easy to see why. It used a unique formula for telling the story of a killing, having the characters take turns telling us their stories in a series of harrowing monologues. Which could very easily have seemed contrived or just plain dull, but actually elevated the whole thing into the realm of “art” (albeit, art with cops and corpses). Now it’s back for a mini-series, so prepare to be pummelled. Emotionally speaking.

We’re not kidding. We’re not in Midsomer or Lewis territory here. It’s not even “dark” in the cartoonish way of Luther. This is an achingly “real” take on crime and punishment, with full emphasis on the emotional fall out of violence. In that sense, it owes more to Nordic Noir than any homegrown shows. Tonight we’ll be presented with the case of a man found stabbed in a river, and the struggle of the lead detective to unravel the bad relationship between the victim’s sister and her husband.

What’s the verdict?

Bereavement, family trauma and longstanding pain – no, this isn’t going to be an easy watch. But anyone who likes their crime dramas to come with a bit more than the usual mismatched duo and Poirot-like array of celebrity guests will relish this refreshingly profound take on the genre.