By Louise Bolotin
If ever there was “event TV”, then surely it is Doctor Who (Sat, BBC1, 7.50pm). I for one can’t wait to see the brilliant Peter Capaldi (left) in the role – judging by the teasing trailers (I do believe the Ed has a full review here), he will not disappoint. I’m loving his tailored costume, a marked contrast to Smith’s bonkers professor look. The 80-minute opening episode (actually a two-parter concluding next week) focuses on the regenerated Doctor figuring out who he is and getting used to the new body he’s inhabiting. And while he’s doing this, he’s also investigating why a dinosaur is on the loose in Victorian London while Clara frets about how their friendship might change. Regular sidekicks Madam Vastra, Jenny and Strax give the doctor a helping hand.
Want more? An Adventure in Space and Time (Sun, BBC2, 10pm) is a rerun of last year’s feature-length drama about the creation of Doctor Who, written by Mark Gatiss. David Bradley inhabits the role of first Doctor William Hartnell perfectly and producer Verity Lambert is played by Jessica Raine. It’s affectionate, as you’d expect from a superfan scriptwriter, and captures the sense of being on the brink of creating a radical show at a still rather fusty BBC. It’s a Jane Austen weekend (Sat, Drama, from 1pm) – all six episodes of the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice back to back, followed by all three episodes of Death Comes to Pemberley. The latter is a marvellous spoof whodunit based on the imagined married life of the Darcys, spoiled only by the lack of on-screen chemistry between the two leads, Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Goode.
The Stephen King sci-fi drama Under the Dome (Mon, Channel 5, 10pm) returns for a new series. In the opening episode the dome turns into a giant magnet, sucking up cars, scrap, household appliances and knives, while the Chester’s Mill residents try to decide if it’s trying to converse with them.
If you’ve been watching The Mill on Sunday nights, The Real Mill with Tony Robinson (Sun, More4, 9pm) sees the presenter explore the real Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire where the drama is set, from the harsh life of the workers to the pampered owners Gregs, who treated them better than mill workers elsewhere. The stunning Taj Mahal is the splendid setting of Hotel India (Wed, BBC2, 8pm), a four-part look at life within the palatial hotel it has now become. A destination for the wealthy, whose every whims are catered for by the staff, who include a British butler and a barman who has worked there for 42 years stocking up the bedroom minibars. Allergies: Modern Life and Me (Wed, BBC2, 9pm) is a Horizon investigation into the rising number of people developing allergies and how this epidemic might be halted through new treatments and lifestyle changes.
Good to have David Attenborough back on our screens. The veteran naturalist’s latest offering is Attenborough’s Fabulous Frogs (Thurs, BBC2, 9pm), in which he takes us on a fascinating trip through all things amphibian after confessing frogs were his first pets as a boy. There are toads too. Some of these creatures do amazing things – changing colour, secreting their own suntan lotion in arid climates, freezing itself then thawing again… Prepare to be enthralled. The invasion of the American prom goes under the microscope in Prom Crazy: Frocks and Ferraris (Thurs, ITV, 9pm). I remember when I was lucky to get a pound off the parents to buy lemonade at the school disco at the end of term, but the shocking sums parents now spend on designer outfits, stretch limos and beauty salon treatments for their 16-year-olds is an eye-opener in this documentary. The cameras follow four teenagers as they get ready for the big night.
Blondie’s New York (Fri, BBC4, 9pm) tells the story of how the NY punk-pop band broke through into the big time in 1978 with their third album Parallel Lines. With two critically acclaimed but little-bought albums already under their belt, the pressure to write a hit record was immense. Terry Ellis of Chrysalis Records bought out their existing contract for $1 million then sent them into the studio to recoup his investment. There’s some great archive footage of their studio time with Australian producer Mike Chapman, as they wrote songs about the poverty, crime and drug abuse in downtown New York. Debbie Harry also discusses her song-writing, the media’s obsession with her looks and her relationship with then-boyfriend, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein. It’s followed by an hour-long show of their appearance at Glastonbury Festival this year.
David Walliams’ comic drama Big School (Fri, BBC1, 9.30pm) is back. Walliams stars as hapless head teacher Mr Church, now trying to salvage his relationship with Miss Postern (Catherine Tate) after a misunderstanding puts romance further out of his reach. The strong cast includes Philip Glenister, Frances de la Tour and Daniel Rigby although the writing never quite hits the heights. An undemanding and cosy show for a Friday night on the sofa but don’t expect more. By far the better option is Josh (Fri, BBC3, 11pm), a 15-minute sitcom pilot starring standup Josh Widdicombe that debuted on iPlayer. After his fiancée dumps him, Josh moves back in with his his friends but sympathy for his breakup is in short supply as flatmates Owen and Kate are busy pursuing their own love interests. He heads to the pub, where he hangs out with Geoff the landlord (Jack Dee) and the barmaid.
Peter Capaldi, now the Doctor but so good as The Thick of It’s Malcolm Tucker and Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers earlier this year, presents The Cricklewood Greats (Mon, BBC4, 11.10pm), a spoof documentary first shown in 2012 and written by Tony Roche. It’s the tale of a fictional film studio, possibly based on Elstree, and the contributions its output made to cinematic history. Terry Gilliam also stars, as the high-spending director who pushed Cricklewood to bankruptcy. 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy (Mon, Sky1, 9pm) takes the bucket list concept to the extreme when Irish TV presenter Baz Ashmawy takes his 71-year-old mother on a US road-trip to do things she’d never do in the comfort of her Dublin home. The TV gongs get handed out at the 66th Annual Emmy Awards (Tues, Sky Living, 8.30pm). British shows Sherlock and Downton Abbey are nominees, up against smash hits Breaking Bad and True Detective. James Corden’s sporting challenge show, A League of Their Own (Fri, Sky1, 9pm) returns for a new series, testing celebrities’ skills against the professionals. Guests in the opening show include Frank Lampard and Judy Murray.
Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers go head to heads in the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final (Sat, BBC1, 2.20pm). Kick-off is at 3pm at Wembley Stadium. The smart money is on the Tigers – the Rhinos have lost all six of their last cup finals.
Best of the rest
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond faces off Alistair Darling, frontman for the all-party no campaign, in round two of Scotland Decides: Salmond versus Darling (Mon, BBC2, 8.30pm). Expect 90 minutes of fierce debate as the referendum is only three weeks away. The pair’s last encounter was only viewable in Scotland but as a split would affect the rest of the UK it’s only right the rest of us get to hear the arguments. Darling won last time, narrowly. Can he convince voters not to break away this time round?