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TV PREVIEWS: Paul Whitelaw’s highlights for the week ahead, including Michael Ball travelogue and NHS documentary

Our NHS: A Hidden History.
Our NHS: A Hidden History.

Our NHS: A Hidden History – Thursday, BBC Two, 9pm


In this thoughtful documentary, historian David Olusoga unpacks the stories of people who migrated to Britain to work for the NHS. From day one, the NHS owed its survival to the recruitment of doctors and nurses from around the world. They were needed, but – to put it mildly – weren’t always treated with the respect they deserved. Olusoga makes the point that one of our most beloved national institutions is intrinsically linked with one of the most divisive political issues of the last 70 years: immigration. He speaks to several first-generation migrants and the descendants who have followed in their footsteps. It’s both a proud celebration of unsung NHS heroes and a despairing indictment of racial prejudice.

Kathy Burke: Money Talks.

Kathy Burke: Money Talks – Monday, Channel 4, 10pm

In the concluding episode of her acute and generous study of wealth inequality in Britain, Burke shifts her attention to people living in poverty. She visits Jaywick, the most deprived area in England, and drops in on a food bank – “they shouldn’t exist in this country, it’s disgusting.” She also addresses the way in which poor people are negatively stereotyped in the media. Burke, who is entirely self-aware, worries that the Slobs sketches she made with Harry Enfield may have contributed to this demonization. “The majority of people who are poor, it’s not their fault,” she says. “But they’re always told by society and the media, ‘Oh, anyone can get a job.’ It’s such a crock of sh*t.”

The Dog Rescuers with Alan Davies.

The Dog Rescuers with Alan Davies – Tuesday, Channel 5, 7pm

Warning: this series contains scenes of dogs in distress. It’s not gratuitous, the whole thing is handled sensitively, but it may prove upsetting to some viewers. In the latest episode, Davies presents another tranche of bittersweet stories. The centrepiece involves an RSPCA inspector who is concerned about William, an overweight black Labrador with a large painful tumour on his paw. William’s elderly owners have refused further treatment following a dispute with their vet. They’re not cruel people at all, but initially they don’t quite grasp how serious the situation is. The RSPCA inspector must tread gently yet firmly. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by revealing that things do get better for William. It would be unbearable otherwise.

Ronnie Corbett/

The Two Ronnies: Ronnie Corbett’s Lost Tapes – Wednesday, STV, 9pm

Messrs Barker and Corbett (a soubriquet always bestowed upon them by TV continuity announcers) were BBC men through and through, so one wonders why this documentary has ended up on ITV. They’re presumably hungry for some of that hot Ron dollar. I haven’t seen the programme, it wasn’t available for preview, but failing to highlight it would be a dereliction of duty. We’re promised unprecedented access to Corbett’s home movies and some rare behind the scenes footage. It also features contributions from his widow, Anne, his daughters Emma and Sophie, plus celebrity friends and admirers such as Rob Brydon, Harry Hill and Jimmy Tarbuck. In short (pause; adjusts glasses), an affectionate tribute to a master comic. Sounds lovely.

This Way Up.

This Way Up – Wednesday, Channel 4, 10pm

Aisling Bea’s comedy-drama about a young woman gradually recovering from a nervous breakdown is charming and frank. It’s not plot-driven as such, the hook is the relationship between Aine (Bea) and her protective older sister (co-producer Sharon Horgan). Bea and Horgan share a warm, natural chemistry, they’re entirely convincing as a pair of siblings with years of history behind them. Some of their dialogue sounds improvised; a typical episode involves the sisters just hanging out and talking nonsense. But it never comes across as a self-indulgent vanity project. The characters are likeable and amusing, it’s a pleasure spending time with them. Before series two begins, I recommend catching up with the first one on 4oD.

Can I Improve My Memory?

Can I Improve My Memory? – Thursday, Channel 4, 8pm

Sandi Toksvig hosts this new series in which five celebrities from various age groups attempt to sharpen their powers of recall. Each week they’re tasked with mastering general knowledge topics they previously knew nothing about. The celebs are boxer Chris Eubank, Love Island winner Amber Gill, hoofer Len Goodman, TV presenter Anna Richardson and actor Nina Wadia. Eubank is ordered to learn about dinosaurs; Gill gets to grips with great British birds; Goodman throws down with 1990s American hip-hop; Richardson investigates the solar system; and Wadia embraces the human skeleton. They’re coached by a memory man who clearly regards himself as a bit of a character. Memorising facts isn’t the same as learning, though, is it? Think on.

Michael Ball’s Wonderful Wales.

Michael Ball’s Wonderful Wales – Friday, Channel 5, 8pm

This week, Britain’s second favourite amplified Welshman – Sir Tom will always reign supreme in that hotly contested niche – pitches up in southwest Wales, a part of his homeland he’s never visited before. While striding along the Pembrokeshire coastal path, he visits a protected haven for seals and seabirds, delves into some local history and ancient myths in the company of a charismatic storytelling tour guide, and rustles up a soufflé with a French chef who moved to Wales to improve his English. He also meets two direct descendants of Dylan Thomas (Ball is a big fan). And yes, it concludes with another lusty hillside musical performance. A standard-issue travelogue, the show fulfils its utterly harmless, gentle brief.