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 Tube: Going Underground
Monday 21st March at 9pm on Channel 5 (CH 105)
A hidden realm where Tolkien-esque hordes of angry, bitter, anxious people charge at each other in a state of near conflict, while intrepid keepers of the peace try to maintain order amid chaos? Yep, that’ll be the London Underground.
London isn’t one city, but two. The second one is underground, sprawling beneath the landmark-littered streets above, a maddening maze of intertwining railway lines which are guaranteed to baffle anyone new to the city (watch as they huddle by the maps, trying to work out which line is which, the poor things). Simply using the Tube as a passenger can be a mildly traumatising experience which leaves you with a shellshocked stare… but imagine actually working down there every day.
Well, this documentary – filmed over a long arduous year – shows us just what it’s like to be one of the brave souls who maintain the veneer of sanity on the Tube network. Among them is a lady called Charlotte, who is in charge of the Piccadilly Line (that’s the purple one, to Tube newbies), which is notoriously unreliable. We’re about to find out just HOW unreliable as we follow her at work, while over on the Northern Line we get to know Naeem, a new recruit who has to deal with very angry passengers in the wake of a strike. Yikes.
What’s the verdict?
If you’ve ever moaned about your work, then prepare to feel sheepish after seeing what the staff on the London Underground have to deal with every day. Showing the warts-and-all reality behind this ancient train network, this will be a bumpy, loud, nerve-jangling trip. A bit like a typical journey on the Central Line, then.
The A Word
Tuesday 22nd March at 9pm on BBC One (CH 101)
A drama about autism may sound like something worthy, earnest and low on entertainment, but The A Word promises to be an irreverent, multi-layered and downright gripping take on a subject too often handled with kid gloves.
Before we get onto the meat of The A Word, let’s just pause and feel collectively startled about the casting of Christopher Eccleston as… a grandfather. Yes, the former Doctor Who is technically old enough to carry that role. And if that isn’t enough to make the rest of us feel rather more “senior” than we’d like, nothing will. But this is more than a bit of stunt casting, because Eccleston is bound to be brilliant as the head of the Hughes family, a somewhat fumbling patriarch who gets things wrong all the time.
The real focus is on the other end of the Hughes dynasty – namely, the youngest, a lad named Joe whose fifth birthday brings various members of the quarrelsome clan together. Amid the bickering, they slowly realise that Joe’s emotional issues run deeper than they imagined, and that he’s actually autistic. This means they have to set aside all their petty disagreements and come together, which will be rather easier said than done. (Even if Doctor Who happens to be granddad.)
What’s the verdict?
This is being billed as a funny, warm, emotionally rich family saga, so it’s a lot more than just a single-issue drama written to tick boxes. With a superb cast and a gem of a central concept, it may just turn out to be the best new BBC drama of the year so far.
Wednesday 23rd March at 8pm on BBC One (CH 101)
Gregg Wallace says he’s ready to get fat again. And if watching that isn’t a spectator sport, we don’t know what is. Tuck in your napkins and grab your knife and fork for MasterChef 2016!
It’s time to ask a perhaps controversial question: should John Torode and Gregg Wallace be replaced as MasterChef judges? Not to say they’re not great and all. Torode is a reliably suave and knowledgeable presence (though he does have a disconcerting way of maintaining an utterly deadpan and stony expression even as he stuffs huge amounts of food into his face). And Gregg… well, he’s obviously highly irritating with his bolshy everyman bluster and permanent cat-that-got-the-cream smugness, but that’s part of his charm. Or something.
But really, they’ve been doing this for a long, long time now, to the point where every response they give, every facial expression they pull, has become a cliché to us MasterChef addicts. It’s time to shake things up, get some fresh blood in. You know, like when Marcus took over from Michel in The Professionals. But something tells us the BBC won’t do it – perhaps Gregg has the dirt on some high level executives, thus ensuring his bafflingly endless presence on our screens. Ah well, on the plus side: MasterChef is back!
What’s the verdict?
The first batch of intrepid/terrified newbies will be preparing their “Calling Card” dishes (always a hilarious round, this one) and then cooking for some past winners, and that’s our evenings basically sorted for the next several weeks. Even Gregg’s giant gurning face won’t keep us away.
Thursday 24th March at 9pm on History (CH 270)
Oil-splattered petrolheads get elbow-deep into old motors as the hilariously macho US reality show returns for a new run. If you’ve half an interest in all things auto-related, it’ll certainly get your engine revving.
If you ever watched American Restoration before, you may be a bit surprised at the current line-up. In a rare example of a reality show being completely rebooted, the show has been… well, completely rebooted. In place of the old rag-tag team of burly “up-cyclers” breathing new life into clapped out machines, the current incarnation of American Restoration has a completely different bunch of gritty blokes, working in five restoration shops across the United States. So, much larger in scope then, with much more of a competitive element.
This is a show aimed squarely at motor nerds who get unfeasibly excited at the very mention of words like “Pontiac” and “vintage fire engine” and “Harley-Davidson”. Speaking of which, this first episode of the new run features a rather handsome 1946 Harley which is due for a routine tuning – until one of the mechanics goes ahead and gives it a full-on overhaul. Meanwhile, another one of the grease monkeys has to handle a sticky situation when a customer decides to bring in a family relic dating back to the 1800s…
What’s the verdict?
Inventive, enlightening, and unexpectedly poignant in places, American Restoration is a reality show that’s actually worth watching. Which isn’t something you can say about… most reality shows.
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