Pride and Prejudice Sunday, 8.30pm, UKTV (103)
Marking 20 years since its premiere, the Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and
Prejudice will screen across the next six weeks. Yes, this is the version with Mr Darcy emerging from the lake in a clingy, white shirt. In 2013, this scene was voted (not by me) as the most memorable moment in British TV drama history.
Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo
Sunday, 8.35pm, Comedy (121)
I’ll keep this brief lest I begin mansplaining (a portmanteau of man and explaining, otherwise known as condescension. See? I’m doing it now). You won’t find a bigger female comedy star in the world right now than Amy Schumer: she won an Emmy this year for her TV show Inside Amy Schumer; she wrote and starred in the movie
Trainwreck; she recently hosted Saturday Night Live; and here she appears Live at the Apollo. Through her comedy she raises important and often uncomfortable issues such as sexism and gun violence. But she won’t be to everyone’s taste; a prominent exponent of gross-out comedy, her work is funny but full-on.
Sunday, 9.30pm, LifeStyle Home (128)
The cold, hard truth about Timber Kings is that we watch it hoping someone will get squished by a giant log. The producers know this. Right before each ad break, someone invariably yells out in alarm — but when the program resumes, no one has suffered so much as a splinter. Carver Kings, a spin-off from Timber Kings, will feature chainsaw carvers creating bespoke wooden art to adorn their clients’ log homes.
The Walking Dead
Monday, 1.30pm and 8.30pm, FX (119)
I can truthfully say I have seen every single episode of The Walking Dead, now approaching 70 hours worth of TV during the past five years. (Am I hungry for more? Hell yes.) There have been several constants across time: the undead are slow but relentless in their hunger for flesh, and the living struggle mightily with how to survive together in this dystopian world without becoming monsters themselves. There seems to be unlimited scope for storytelling within these parameters; much of it very visual, from the show’s comic book roots. But I have observed the zombies are a bit more tatty and mushy this season … will victory be decided by simple wear and tear? Last week saw flashbacks to last season’s finale, when Rick executed a civilian in the Alexandria compound — a new moral low. Perhaps this week will reveal who sabotaged the mission to drain the enormous pit of zombies.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Mon-Fri, 7.30pm, Comedy (121)
After the retirement of Jon Stewart, the man who turned satirical news into the trusted source of information for millions of American millennials, audiences are sizing up Trevor Noah, Stewart’s South African-born replacement. Only a few days into Noah’s tenure, the mass shootings at Oregon community college occurred. At the top of the episode, Noah stated he hadn’t had time to feel or think about it, and got on with the prepared material, including an extended — and very clever — comparison between Donald Trump and numerous African dictators. A couple of observations. Would Stewart have managed something extemporaneous about a mass shooting? Probably. Would audiences accept a real news anchor claiming they hadn’t emotionally processed an event? Absolutely not; a poignant example of where fake news fall short. Also, part of Noah’s schtick is his outsider status and African heritage. No doubt, this is being emphasised to introduce him to audiences. But how much demand there is for an African perspective on American affairs is questionable. A few years ago, Larry Wilmore, former “senior black correspondent” on The Daily Show, and one of several alumni of that show to host their own programs ( The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Comedy), made the following remarks about Africa. “I don’t have any romantic connection to Africa, I wasn’t born in Africa like the President (laughter) … Africa just makes me think: hot. And things that might eat me. And brothers who speak French, which I don’t think is in God’s plan, seriously.” And Americans can be prickly about being lectured by foreigners. John Oliver has done a remarkable job with Last Week Tonight
with John Oliver (Comedy). But Piers Morgan showed how easily a British accent can raise American hackles. So, in short, the jury is still out on Noah.
The Great Australian Bake Off
Tuesday, 8.30pm, LifeStyle Food (127)
I keep half-expecting a noisy horde of obnoxious anti-sugar activists (not naming names) to invade the set of this saccharine program. Maggie Beer singing about spoonfuls of sugar must be like fingernails on a chalkboard for the paleo crowd.
The Great Australian Bake Off is off to a terrific start. The hosts, comedians Claire Hooper and Mel Buttle, are nailing it. Beer and Matt Moran are great judges, though not all sugar and spice: some of the less successful offerings were described as “looking like someone dropped that one” and “like a doorstop”. (One fellow selfdescribed his offering as like “a Tarantino film”.) You do feel a little sorry for the contestants cooking in unfamiliar kitchens, which makes a big difference in the precise art of baking. But thank goodness we are not assailed with gratuitous hard-luck stories or heavily edited faux conflicts between contestants. In this second episode, filled biscuits and cannoli are on the menu.
Petra: Lost City of Stone
Wednesday, 7.30pm, History (611)
The looting and destruction of architectural treasures in the Middle East in recent years has been truly upsetting. Travellers interested in such things could be forgiven for having thought there was no special urgency about visiting them. Sadly, TV documentaries may be the only way future generations will experience them. Petra, located in modern-day Jordan, is a place perhaps best known for its Roman ruins. This documentary looks at the Nabataeans of Petra, a mysterious tribe who constructed a thriving city with spectacular temple-tombs carved into rosecoloured cliffs. Equipped with remote sensors and digital imagery, archeologists and engineers examine the historical evidence and join with sculptors to re-create a tomb in a sandstone cliff face. The Nabataeans, we learn, produced ingenious tunnels and cisterns that collected the scarce rainfall and distributed it through a vast network of gravity-fed pipes that were capable of filling bathhouses, fountains, and a massive central pool complex. All this in one of the driest locations in the world.
Friday, 8.30pm, BBC First (117)
What a pleasure to see Michael Palin in his first dramatic role in decades. Here, he plays Tom Parfitt, an elderly man who has lived alone — with nary a visitor — for as long as anyone can remember. Parfitt fakes an injury to gain admission to a nursing home, but supernatural trouble seems to follow him there, connected to photographs in his possession. Familiar techniques of the horror genre are well employed. Young carer Hannah (Jodie Cromer) fails to heed Parfitt’s instructions and puts herself in harm’s way. The tension is ratcheted up in increments; nasty fates have to be earned. It’s scarier than The Enfield Haunting, also screening (Friday, 9.40pm). The latter has a wonderful cast including Timothy Spall, Matthew Macfadyen and others, but fails to be scary. (The resident poltergeist is rather like an annoying house guest cum ventriloquist.)