By Louise Bolotin
Michael Palin (left) hangs up his hiking boots to return to thesping in Remember Me (Sun, BBC1, 9pm), a spooky three-part ghost story set in a care home. Gwyneth Hughes’ tale is twisty, genuinely scary and shocking to the point you’ll want to leave the bedroom light on as you sleep. What joy to have Palin acting again – here an irascible elderly Yorkshireman who witnesses a violent death. No sign of his real life genial everyman persona. This is perfect Sunday night fare as winter draws in and we’ve not yet reached Christmas programming. Palin’s supporting cast includes Mark Addy and Julia Sawalha. Unmissable. Danish drama doesn’t belong only on BBC4, as The Legacy (Wed, Sky Arts 1, 10pm) attests. It’s a family saga premised on the unfolding of events after a mother dies and her estate is divided among her four adult children. As dysfunctional families go, this one has rich seams to mine as the siblings start ripping into each other and revealing their fractured relationships with their mother. A quality serial, with classy Scandinavian production values.
Even if you’re not a sci-fi buff you will be glued to The Unearthly History of Science Fiction (Sat, BBC2, 9.45pm), because sci-fi is one of the most boundary-crossing and innovative creative genres ever. This four-part, yes four, series is big on entertainment and dense on the details. Historian Dominic Sandbrook, who presented 2012’s nostalgia series The 70s, presents a sweeping and thoroughly comprehensive overview of the genre’s evolution in literature, film and TV. There’s a simple theme to each episode, starting with space, that knits all the strands together while an A-list roster of writers and screen stars lines up to share their views – Neil Gaiman, Richard Dreyfuss, Ursula K Le Guin and William Shatner are just a few. There’s also red button action straight after. Programme of the week.
From the future to the past, and Woolly Mammoth: the Autopsy (Sun, C4, 8pm). This particular beast died a gruesome death some 40,000 years ago in Siberia and then lay frozen, in remarkably good nick, under the permafrost until it resurfaced last year. The autopsy is fascinating in its detailed revelations, right down to blood found in organ tissue. Beyond the mortuary slab, controversy lies – that blood is now the subject of cloning techniques aiming to bring ancient mammals back to life. Ah, money. Or the lack of it. TV’s not yet tired of its poverty porn trope, following those pesky benefit scrounging claimants as they duck and dive to survive, but now it’s swinging the other way into prosperity porn. And here they are on the same evening in a perfect clash of rich v poor. Skint (Mon, C4, 9pm) heads to Grimsby to document the lives of the long-term unemployed in a town that has seen its marine-based industries decimated in recent decades. It’s considerably less prurient than the ghastly Benefits Street of earlier this year, and does attempt to ask searching questions about the abandonment of working class communities. Going head to head is Posh People: Inside Tatler (Mon, BBC2, 9pm), possibly the poshest magazine in the world, run by and sold to Britain’s wealthy elite – both old money and nouveau riche. Now here’s some real poverty porn, as editor Kate commissions a “ let’s visit a pound shop” feature. Cringeworthy in the extreme. Watch both – set your PVR for one or the other and judge for yourself who is more likeable.
There’s a Pink Floyd theme running through BBC4’s Friday music specials, starting with A Pink Floyd Miscellany: 1967-2005 (9pm) – a trip through the film archives with concert performances and videos – followed later by a rerun of Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (11pm), about the making of their ninth studio album. But the meat and bones is the middle is the glorious Play it Loud: the Story of the Marshall Amp (10pm). It’s the guitarist’s must-have bit of kit, and any axeman worth their salt will have at least one of them. The Marshall is a design classic that first went on sale in the 1960s, revolutionising the British rock scene with its scale for loudness. In the 70s the Marshall stack was the mainstay of gigs everywhere for bands that wanted to crank their sound up to the max. Motorhead’s Lemmy, Pete Townshend and Slash are among the legendary guitarists discussing why the Marshall was, and is, a game-changer.
The One and Only Mike Leigh (Tues, BBC1, 10.35pm) is the subject of Alan Yentob’s Imagine strand this week. The film-maker discusses how his warring parents triggered his creativity in childhood, leading him to make groundbreaking TV plays such as Abigail’s Party and award-winning films like Secrets and Lies. His improv technique is what draws many top actors to work with him – Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent and Timothy Spall are among his long-term collaborators, here sharing their thoughts. Leigh, fresh with the acclaim of Mr Turner, also talks frankly about his struggle to make films on his own terms.
Some of our finest female comedians are on display in Psychobitches (Tues, Sky Arts 1, 9pm), in a second run of the sketch show based around the idea of putting famous women on the therapist’s couch. In the first episode, Michelle Gomez, seen recently as Missy in Doctor Who, pulls off a fine impersonation of Margaret Thatcher, nailing the former PM’s disdain with aplomb. Sharon Horgan delights as Tammy Wynette while Kathy Burke’s take on the queen – as a sweary, leery reprobate – is worth the satellite subscription alone.
Victoria sponge or Dundee? Nigel Slater’s Icing on the Cake (Thurs, BBC4, 9pm) explores the history of British cakes, our teatime rituals, the cultural importance of a slice of lemon drizzle with a cuppa and why we have become so obsessed with American-style cupcakes. Slater does these light-hearted incursions into our food culture so well, mixing factual exploration with indulgence. Put your feet up, cut a slice of coffee and walnut, sit back and enjoy.
As dripping water in a cave gradually produces stalactites, so does women’s football slowly, slowly gain its deserved coverage on our screens. Because let’s face it, the women’s England team has been way more successful than the men’s of late. It’s also selling more tickets at Wembley for the England v Germany friendly (Sun, BBC2, 2.45pm) than the men’s forthcoming match against Norway. This is a warm-up for next year’s Women’s World Cup but you’re pretty much guaranteed a thrilling match. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Best of the rest
Most of us are still struggling with the pincers of austerity. Thank goodness for Mr Money-Saving Expert. The Martin Lewis Money Show (Fri, ITV, 8pm) is back for a nine-part run and if you’re watching your wallet you’ll not want to miss it. Lewis will be sharing his expert knowledge on budgeting and spending for Christmas, offering his predictions for when flash sales are likely to happen and giving sound advice on managing financial expectations.