By Louise Bolotin
Scandi-Noir season is upon us once again. Lap it up while you can, if rumours of BBC4’s closure are to be believed. The Bridge is returning in October, but first let’s hear it for Beck (Sat, BBC4, 9pm). This police procedural series draws on the Martin Beck novels by Swedish writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlööl. Naturally, there’s a good cop, bad cop element, with the methodical and cautious Beck partnered with his more flighty and grouchy sidekick Gunvald Larsson. The feature-length episodes, set in a gritty-looking Stockholm, are each based on a different Beck adventure. In Swedish, with English subtitles. Indeed, it’s a good weekend for quality drama. JB Priestley’s period whodunnit, An Inspector Calls (Sun, BBC1, 8.30pm), is a fine adaptation – gripping and well-cast (starring Ken Stott, Miranda Richardson and David Thewlis). Aristocratic family the Birlings are celebrating their daughter’s engagement until the police arrive. A young woman has killed herself and left an incriminating diary – one by one, devastating family secrets are bared. Thewlis (left) is outstanding as Inspector Goole, whittling away for the truth and exposing a nasty slice of class hypocrisy.
Going head to head is the equally brilliant This is England ’90 (Sun, C4, 9pm), Shane Meadows’ final instalment of his quadrilogy about a gang of Nottingham teenagers. The opening sequence leaves you in no doubt they’re embracing a new decade, as Meadows masterfully weaves archive clips of the Poll Tax riots and a contemporary soundtrack. There are nods to Madchester and the era’s counterculture in what is undoubtedly a grand finale over four episodes. Unmissable. Feature-length drama The Gamechangers (Tues, BBC2, 9pm) stars Daniel Radcliffe in a cracking tale about the creation of video game Grand Theft Auto. Radcliffe plays the game’s inventor Sam Houser, a creative genius who pulled no punches about GTA’s violent content, while Bill Paxton plays the US attorney who went after Houser in a campaign to get it pulled from the shelves. No previews were available but with the cast leads and Rev’s scriptwriter James Wood on board, it holds much promise.
Gonzo GP Michael Mosley turns medical David Attenborough in Countdown to Life: the Extraordinary Making of You (Mon, BBC2, 9pm). Over three weeks he looks at the development of the foetus, from conception to birth and how much is down to the combination of parental genes and chromosomes. The first episode explores the first eight weeks, where even just 15 days in, things like hair colour are determined as are tiny genetic mutations that cause disabilities. It’s fascinating stuff, with Mosley’s entertaining yet no-nonsense delivery (pardon the pun) of the unfolding facts striking the ideal note. With so much press coverage of radicalised British Muslims joining Isis in Syria, little attention has been paid to the other exodus from our shores. In Frontline Fighting: the Brits Battling Isis (Wed, C4, 10pm) the cameras follow three ex-soldiers who’ve entered Isis-held territory to fight the extremists. As volunteers, they’ve given up a lot for their principles of “standing up to pure evil”, as one of them says, knowing they may not see their families again. It’s a brave and revealing window on a side of the war you’re unlikely to see on the news bulletins.
The first lady of the digital age gets profiled in Calculating Ada: the Countess of Computing (Thurs, BBC4, 9pm). Ada Lovelace was both poet Byron’s only child and a mathematical genius. In the 1840s, as a woman struggling for professional recognition in the male-dominated Victorian era, she was already writing algorithms for the computers that hadn’t yet been invented but that she envisaged would one day dominate the world. Puts Alan Turing’s astonishing achievements into perspective. Unquestionably my documentary of the week, for paying tribute to an extraordinary woman who gave much to our society for little reward.
After a so-so season, it’s time for Last Night at the Proms (Sat, BBC2, 7.15pm). Marin Alsop, 2013’s (and first female) conductor returns to lead the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and the BBC Singers. The programme includes some Puccinia arias sung by German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, Strauss’ Till Eulenspiel, Arvo Part’s Credo and Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, played by British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor. Chuck in some Grieg and Gershwin and it’s a good all-rounder. Potentially controversially, Kaufmann will sing Rule Britannia to close. Katie Derham presents, live from the Royal Albert Hall. Later... with Jools Holland (Wed, BBC2, 10pm) returns for another eight weeks of eclectic musical offerings, starting with pop veterans Squeeze of the catchy tunes and clever lyrics. Holland, of course, was their keyboardist for their early successes. Enduring folkie Rickie Lee Jones and indie rockers Foal, here showcasing tracks from their new studio LP, also head the lineup.
Theme tunes, like advertising slogans can stick in your head forever and where better to prove it than one of those “the nation’s favourite...” shows. Victoria Wood narrates us through the top 20 countdown in The Sound of ITV: the Nation’s Favourite Theme Tunes (Wed, ITV, 8pm). It’s a quick trot through them - it's only an hour long and there's a lot to cram in - and it’s ITV so you won’t be getting any of those EastEnders doof-doofs (for shame!). What you will get are Dennis Waterman singing the Minder song he wrote, Tales of the Unexpected’s catchy electronic piano, complete with silhouetted dancing lady, and, for the older viewers who may remember it, that Simon Parks brassy little number. A light-hearted trip down the lane commonly known as nostalgia.
It’s the finals of the US Open tennis championship (Sat/Sun, Sky Sports 1/3/4, various times) this weekend, with the women’s singles on Saturday and the men’s on the Sunday. It’s a fair bet Serena and Djokovic will be on the courts, with Serena hoping to complete a calendar slam as well as her second Serena slam. The Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony (Fri, ITV, 6.45pm) launches this year’s championship, with the first match – England v Fiji – airing immediately after, live from Twickenham. The Davis Cup (Fri, BBC2, 1pm) also resumes at the end of the week as Team GB go head to head versus Australia. The Aussies have a so-so lineup, the Brits have Andy Murray who will be playing one of the two singles rubbers on the opening day at Glasgow Commonwealth Arena.