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 the big charitable TV sporting event of the year, and fascinating documentaries on everything from Adolf Hitler, Jesus and one of nature’s monster animals.
Sport Relief 2016
Friday 18th March at 7pm on BBC One (CH 101)
Gary Lineker, David Walliams, Eddie Izzard, Bradley Wiggins, and – let's just cut to the chase here – every other celebrity ever will be putting on a show that even sports-phobics will want to limber up for.
So how about seeing Andrew Flintoff and Steve Redgrave do battle in five epic sporting events, while captaining two teams of plucky celebs? Come on, that’s sold it to you, even if you usually have about as much interest in sport as… someone who doesn’t have much interest in sport. Or perhaps you’re more interested in the comedy aspect of the night, in which case the prospect of David Walliams reprising Little Britain’s Emily Howard should bring a sadistic smile to your face. Especially as the likes of Peter Crouch, Micky Flanagan and the England women’s football team are all involved.
Meanwhile, in what may well be the chucklesome highlight of the whole extravaganza, Michael Crawford will be giving us Frank Spencer all over again. Given that we now tend to think of him as a grand theatrical star rather than a telly sitcom buffoon, it should be quite a surreal sight – particularly as Frank will be crossing paths with cycling superstar Bradley Wiggins. He won’t know what’ll hit him – literally.
What’s the verdict?
A grab-bag of comedy, music and people making "ooh" faces as they're subjected to sporting sadism for our viewing pleasure, this will be a night to remember. Don't forget to make a donation – it'll make you 10% fitter. That's why it's called Sport Relief, right?
Friday 18th March at 9pm on Yesterday (CH 245)
If you never thought you’d see the words Jamie Theakston and Adolf Hitler in the same sentence then here you go. Jamie Theakston delves into the death of Adolf Hitler, asking the question: did the Fuhrer actually survive World War Two?
Who’d have thought the Theakston, whose very name basically yells “light entertainment”, would make such a fine host for a history series? Of course, it helps that this particular history series focuses on the juiciest and most tabloid-worthy subjects, such as the lost Ark of the Covenant, real-life vampires, and – in this episode – the theory that Hitler faked his own suicide to live out a glorious old age in sunny Argentina.
Not a very palatable idea, and the documentary features plenty of historians who dismiss the ideas as pure fantasy. But on the other side of the debate is the author of a book on Hitler’s apparent escape, who maintains that the Fuhrer was indeed whisked to South America by submarine. Various bits of “evidence” are presented, including testimony from the SS officer who claims he’d flown Hitler out of Berlin, as well as FBI reports on possible Hitler sightings. Ultimately, it won’t be enough to convince most viewers that Hitler didn’t in fact kill himself in the bunker, but this is still a hugely enjoyable analysis of a controversial theory.
What's the verdict?
With Jamie Theakston nodding and asking questions like an incredibly earnest schoolboy, plus a curious blend of serious historical insights and outlandish conspiracy theories, this is another engrossing episode in a series that always sucks us in.
Follow the Money
Saturday 19th March at 9pm on BBC Four (CH 107)
We bet you never thought you’d want to watch a programme about Danish economics. But, if you found yourself hooked on the likes of Borgen and The Bridge, then you definitely do.
There was a time when subtitles were regarded as a turn off for audiences. But who could ever have predicted that the opposite would one day be true? That, in the 21st Century, the presence of subtitles, not to mention obscure actors, murkily complex plots, and slow-burning story arcs requiring serious brainwork on the part of the viewer, would all make a show a must-watch?
It’s all thanks to the trailblazing success of The Killing, although even that show seems positively conventional now, with its whodunit angle and range of juicy suspects. Since then the field has opened up, to the point where even arcane European political wranglings made for gripping entertainment in Borgen. Now we’ve got Follow the Money, which has a dreadful title, and is about Danish corporate types making financial deals, but which will inevitably become a monster hit anyway. Following a world-weary cop who investigated a murder and gets suckered into a web of corrupt business types, epic greed and, er, wind farms, it should tick all the boxes when it comes to unlikely Euro-dramas we can’t help but love.
What’s the verdict?
Coming to us from the people behind Borgen and The Legacy, and featuring a detective who – in the words of the producer – is a “sort of hero, seeking justice in a universe where there isn’t any”, this promises to be the most gripping drama ever made about the Danish financial world. We mean that in a good way.
Man Eating Super Croc
Saturday 19th March at 10pm on Animal Planet (256)
Think of Jaws, but replace the giant rubber shark with a giant, extremely real crocodile. In fact, make the whole thing real, and you've got the makings of what has to be the scariest wildlife documentary we’ve seen in a long while.
In a nutshell
Comparisons to Jaws aren't being made flippantly here. All the basic elements are in place for this documentary. A wild, over-sized predator killing kids and fishermen, a terrorised community, a veteran hunter determined to catch the beast, and an arduous quest against the odds. The croc in question truly is a monster: over 20 feet in length and literally weighing a ton, it has the deaths of a young girl and other Filipinos laid at its fearsome feet.
Luckily, our hero – a crocodile hunter called Ronnie Sumiller – doesn't get spooked too easily. The programme follows him and his huge team as they track down the creature through murky creeks and woodland, but there is a twist in the tale when closer examination suggests the animal he finally nabbed ISN’T the one responsible for the killings, and fingers are pointed at crocs that are even larger and more terrifying, and every bit as real. So much for harmless local folklore, then.
What's the verdict?
You may have seen crocodile docs before, but nothing like this. A real-life horror story crossed with an exhilarating journey into the wilds of the Far East, it is frankly unmissable stuff for armchair adventurers. Pity about the very, very silly title, mind.
Sunday 20th March at 9pm on Discovery (107)
Whether you’re a true believer or a jaded atheist, this documentary about six legendary artefacts connected with the life of Jesus should be heaven sent for history buffs.
In a nutshell
Are “codes” still a thing? A decade ago everything was about hidden codes and historical enigmas and ancient messages lost in time, and it was all thanks to Mr Dan Brown. But it now seems like a very Noughties sort of obsession, like the Blair-Brown rivalry, the Iraq war, and The Strokes. Or so we thought. Looks like Discovery thinks the subject still has legs, so now we’ve got Jesus Code, and you know what? It looks pretty darn irresistible.
Perhaps it’s because we just can’t get enough of quasi-conspiracy theories about iconic figures from the past. Even hardened cynics can’t help be drawn in, especially when state-of-the-art science and archaeology, not to mention cheesy reconstructions, are all put into the mix. This series looks at the life of Jesus through six venerated objects, including pieces of the True Cross, the gospel of Mary Magdalene, and – in this opening episode – the reliably controversial Shroud of Turin. It may feel like it’s 2005 all over again, but we defy you not to be sucked in.
What’s the verdict?
With experts from such esteemed establishments like Yale and Harvard chipping in to give this a veneer of credibility, Jesus Code should be a rather enjoyable take on the mythology around Christ, and a story which will never cease to fascinate us.
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