Wondering what to watch this week? TV critic Paul Whitelaw recommends documentaries Don’t Exclude Me and 28 Up: Millennium Generation, with a little bit of light relief courtesy of Hitmen Reloaded.
Don’t Exclude Me – Thursday, BBC Two, 9pm
The rate of UK school exclusions for five to six-year-olds has doubled in the last three years. This sensitive new series visits a primary school which, like so many schools, struggles to cope with the extreme behaviours of certain pupils. Enter the aptly-named behavioural expert Marie Gentles, who has spent the last ten years working with excluded children. She gradually forms close professional relationships with the kids, their parents and teachers, in the hope of making life better for all concerned. The children she meets come across as bright and sensitive, but they’re prone to sudden angry outbursts; no one so far has been able to explain why. Gentles, a beacon of kindness, works realistic wonders.
The Goes Wrong Show – Monday, BBC One, 8:30pm
The Mischief Theatre company are renowned for their knockabout send-ups of incompetent amateur dramatic productions. I’m reliably informed that their live shows are great fun, but my only exposure to them has been via these middling TV adaptations. Something has been lost in translation. It’s a purely theatrical conceit, ill-suited to the necessary constraints of being filmed in a television studio. The blatantly tweaked audience laughter track doesn’t help. I don’t want to be too down on this utterly harmless show, it’s an agreeable piece of family entertainment written and performed by a capable cast. Unfortunately, for me, the joke wears thin in this context. It’s like an overextended Crackerjack sketch. Great. I feel terrible now.
24 Hours in Police Custody – Monday, Channel 4, 9pm
Please take heed: this is a particularly gruelling episode of a series that’s seldom upbeat at the best of times. It chronicles the case of a man who, in broad daylight, invaded a house and brutally assaulted the inhabitants: a woman, her daughter and teenage grandniece. The police captured a clear image of the attacker on CCTV: a brothel owner and human trafficker with a string of GBH offences. They also had his fingerprints. Unfortunately, the investigation was placed in jeopardy when an understandably angry and entirely well-meaning family member shared the CCTV footage on social media. He also offered a £20,000 ransom award. Naturally, the attacker fled the country. An uncomfortable hour of television. Don’t have nightmares.
28 Up: Millennium Generation – Wednesday, BBC One, 9pm
A 21st century spin-off from Michael Apted’s seminal 7 Up project, this valuable social document has reached its fourth chapter. You know the premise: British kids from various walks of life are filmed at seven-year intervals; an anthropological study that tells us something about the ways in which society has changed during their lifetimes. Episode one catches up with Sanchez, who is now a Black Lives Matter campaigner and a DJ for BBC Leeds. We also reconvene with Gemma, a disabled woman who works with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and Courtney, a trainee teacher devoted to pupils with additional needs. Call me a pie-eyed optimist if you will, but they provide some hope for the future.
Hollington Drive – Wednesday, STV, 9pm
Set in an idyllic suburb where most of the dwellings look like luxury show homes, this psychological thriller stars Anna Maxwell Martin and Rachael Stirling as sisters with a tense, brittle relationship. When a 10-year-old boy goes missing from the neighbourhood, Theresa (Maxwell Martin, excellent as always) begins to suspect that her son might be involved. This is one of those chilly dramas in which no one really seems to like each other. That constant buzz of passive-aggression is quite exhausting. Despite the sombre subject matter and gradual drip-feed of murky secrets, it’s curiously opaque and uninvolving. Imagine an unusually depressing episode of Knot’s Landing, then decide if that’s something you want to watch.
Hitmen Reloaded – Sky Showcase, 9pm
The cuddly comedy duo of Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins playing killers-for-hire is a daft, intriguing premise, and it was exploited to reasonable effect in series one of this sitcom. And now they’re back for another run. A black farce with a dash of warmth, it posits Mel and Sue as assassins who treat their job as exactly that: a workaday way of paying the bills while dealing with the far bigger problems in their personal lives. Mel and Sue are a likeable team who’ve developed a natural chemistry after years of working together. They convince as daffy old middle-aged pals, because that’s what they are. And Sue is a surprisingly effective kick-ass action hero.
Richard Osman’s House of Games Night – Friday, BBC One, 8:30pm
An early evening cult hit of sorts on BBC Two for the last few years, Richard Osman’s House of Games is an inoffensive fancy in which celebrities compete via ‘esoteric’ trivia rounds. Last year during lockdown it filled an emergency gap on BBC One, which was presumably successful enough to warrant another series. So here he is, the enormous funster presiding over the likes of Dara O’ Briain and Sian ‘Car Share’ Gibson as they attempt to answer questions about the unrelated provenance of test tube babies and the Teletubbies. It is what it is: a cheap, cheerful Friday night parlour game wreathed in whimsy. And well done to those of you at home who get the right answers.