By Louise Bolotin
Frances McDormand heads the cast as the eponymous Olive Kitteridge (Sun/Mon, Sky Atlantic, 9pm), HBO’s mini-series of Elizabeth Strout’s Pultizer Prize-winning 2008 novel. Set in a fictional coastal town in Maine, the gentle but very watchable tale focuses on the life of Olive, a misanthropic retired schoolteacher and her strained marriage to pharmacist Henry, as she copes with depression, bereavement, jealousy and her fractious relationships. Charlie Brooker’s superb dystopian series returns for it’s Christmas special – Black Mirror: White Christmas (Tues, C4, 9pm). Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, Oona Chaplin and Rafe Spall star in this creepy morality tale about “blocking” people in real life as well as social media and the detrimental impact of gadgetry. Brooker is an expert in throwing up tough questions about modern life – unmissable.
Stephen Fry and Kiefer Sutherland star in Marked (Thurs, Sky Arts 1, 10pm), a quirky and heartwarming festive tale. James is a debt-ridden dead-beat dad and husband at breaking point. Desperate for cash, he agrees to do a hit for his unpleasant next-door neighbour on his wife’s secret lover. But things aren’t quite as they appear and James unexpectedly encounters the last person he expects to see – Father Christmas. Seasonal fluff, but great to see Fry back in a comic role at last and he sparks off Sutherland beautifully in their big scene together.
Another chance to see: United (Sat, Drama, 9pm). Chris Chibnall’s TV film about Manchester United's "Busby Babes" and the aftermath of the 1958 Munich air disaster. Stars David Tennant as assistant manager Jimmy Murphy and Dougray Scott as Matt Busby.
In an hour-long special, Panorama scrutinises the world’s biggest company in Apple’s Broken Promises (Thurs, BBC1, 9pm) and it’s not a pretty sight. An undercover reporter films inside a Chinese factory turning out the iPhone 6, and there’s an investigation into the hazardous Indonesian tin-mining industry, where children mine for one of the metals that makes a smartphone work. Conflict minerals and production line conditions raise uncomfortable human rights issues for Apple, whose luxurious HQ in Cupertino, California, is a world away.
The divine Miss M belts out her big hits and new material in Bette Midler: One Night Only (Mon, ITV, 9pm). It’s her first-ever UK TV special, somewhat belated after nearly half a century in showbiz. In between her Grammy-winning bestsellers, she cracks jokes, shares memories and shares gossip and chat with host Joanna Lumley. The Joy of the Bee Gees (Fri, BBC4, 9pm) profiles the hit-making trio of brothers and their extraordinarily lengthy career. From the 60s pop hits to superstardom with their Saturday Night Fever disco soundtrack and the solo careers, it’s all here. Surviving sibling Barry Gibb is interviewed and there’s a fabulous array of luminaries chipping in to analyse their success – songwriter Guy Chambers, rock critic Alexis Petridis and even that old punk John Lydon. It’s followed by a Bee Gees clips compilation from the BBC archives. And the unlikeliest duo ever, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live (Fri, BBC1, 11.55pm) (above) work their way through a set of jazz and swing standards. Bennett was previously well matched with the late Amy Winehouse but it’s interesting to see how Gaga reconnects with singing rather than aiming to be a walking art installation. A shame it’s been dumped in the midnight slot, when it’s worthy of an earlier airing.
We had a taster last week of the nominees and now it’s time to see the gongs handed out in The British Comedy Awards (Wed, C4, 9pm). There’s an impressive list of contenders, among them Lee Mack, Katherine Parkinson and Matt Berry, whose Toast series is also nominated. Other shows lined up for prizes are Rev, The Wrong Mans and Monty Python Live (Mostly). Jonathan Ross hosts and there are more laughs and awards on E4 straight after.
Last week, on BBC Question Time, Russell Brand dubbed Nigel Farage “the poundshop Enoch Powell”, rather accurate in my view. But when Steph and Dom Meet Nigel Farage (Mon, C4, 10pm) the politician gets a much softer ride. The two posh Gogglebox stars grill the Ukip leader during a booze-filled evening. Hideously compelling, whatever your views on Ukip, so book that seat on your sofa. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood get cooking in The Great British Bake Off Christmas Masterclass (Tues, BBC2, 8pm), with an array of sweet festive treats including a mouth-watering ginger cheesecake. TV goes introspective with The Fight for Saturday Night (Wed, BBC4, 9pm), in which Michael Grade explores how TV stations go head to head for the all-important ratings battles. So far ITV is winning, although X Factor has been nudged out by Strictly, and there’s a look at the BBC’s recent turkeys. Tune in to find out the ingredients of a hit entertainment show.
The betting odds are on for either Lewis Hamilton or Rory McIlroy to win Sports Personality of the Year (Sun, BBC1, 8pm) – Hamilton took F1 championship for the second time, while McIlroy won two major golfing championships. Clare Balding shares hosting duties with Gabby Logan and Gary Lineker, live from the SSE Hydro in Glasgow.