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Paul Whitelaw: Extraordinary stories are the pick of the TV crop this week

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Storyville: On the Morning You Wake (to the End of the World) – Tuesday, BBC Four, 10pm

On January 13 2018, the people of Hawaii awoke to a terrifying emergency alert: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” It turned out to be a false alarm, but for 38 minutes those poor people – some of whom contribute to the film – endured a waking nightmare. They were about to be annihilated in a nuclear attack. This haunting documentary, which is adapted from a Virtual Reality experience, unfolds in more or less real time. It captures a sense of mounting panic, as parents send tearful messages to loved ones while hiding their children in storm drains. Sensitively entwined with memories of Hiroshima, it’s an impassioned, clear-eyed plea for nuclear disarmament.

Queen of Trucks – Monday, BBC Three, 8pm

HGV Training Midlands Owner, Shannan Paterson.

Shannan runs an HGV driver training firm in the West Midlands. “Our ambition is to shake up the trucking scene,” she declares during this upbeat documentary. Shannon is trying to gain her own HGV licence, which she feels will make her look more credible to the young learners who flock to her business. Dad Trevor, a veteran instructor, is showing her the ropes. A few years ago, Shannon’s mum passed away. Trevor had to step down as boss in order to become a full-time dad to his daughters. He’s immensely proud of what Shannon has achieved. The programme doesn’t add up to anything particularly special, but that’s fine. It’s a nice little glimpse into the lives of others.

24 Hours in Police Custody: The Murder of Rikki Neave – Monday and Tuesday, Channel 4, 9pm

In 1994, six-year-old Rikki Neave from Peterborough went to school one foggy November morning and never came back. His murder remained unsolved for 28 years. This special two-part edition of Channel 4’s venerable true crime series foregrounds the police unit who reopened the case. Rikki lived on a disadvantaged council estate. His aggressive mother wasn’t popular with the neighbours. The finger of blame instantly pointed towards her. I’m loath to go into any more detail, not least because it’s all too bleak for a column such as this. However, in typical 24 Hours in Police Custody style, this isn’t a prurient or exploitative endeavour. It reports the terribly sad facts without recourse to sensationalism.

The Extraordinary Life of April Ashley – Monday, Channel 4, 10pm

 April Ashley, 34, pictured at a press conference in London where Justice Ormrod had given his reserved judgement in a nullity action in the Divorce Court.

April Ashley, who died last year at the age of 86, was one of Britain’s most prominent transgender women. This documentary celebrates her trailblazing achievements. Preview copies weren’t available at the time of writing, but it sounds absolutely fascinating. Ashley’s highly eventful life took her from the slums of wartime Liverpool to the star-studded heights of Knightsbridge society. She was a globetrotting model, dancer and restaurateur who was one of the first people in Britain to have gender reassignment surgery. She was eventually awarded an MBE for her services to transgender equality. A remarkable woman. The programme is showing as part of Channel 4’s current season marking 50 years of Pride in the UK.

Pictures from Iraq – Tuesday, BBC Scotland, 10pm

David Pratt returns to Iraq to give his insight into the current state of the war-torn country.

Esteemed Scottish author, journalist and war photographer David Pratt has been covering the conflicts in Iraq for over three decades. In this illuminating documentary, he returns to Iraq – a country he loves – to give his personal perspective on the ongoing situation. He examines the violent tribal divisions which have caused so much suffering over the years, while interviewing people such as a benign Iraqi general who describes the brutal ways in which ISIS continues to operate. Pratt also visits a training camp for female members of The Kurdish Freedom Party. Iraq is still politically unstable, but Pratt succeeds in making the point that it’s a beautiful country full of generous, resilient people. There is some hope amidst the darkness.

Ghislaine Maxwell: The Making of a Monster – Tuesday to Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm

Ghislaine Maxwell with Jeffrey Epstein.

This three-part series follows hot on the heels of BBC Two’s horribly riveting House of Maxwell (which is still available on iPlayer). It inevitably goes over some of the same ground, but it provides a more acute character study of Ghislaine Maxwell. Filtered through the memories of some of those who knew her well, a portrait emerges of a spoiled, entitled heiress with a total lack of empathy: a power-hungry, insecure narcissist who revelled in cruel power plays. But even those associates who didn’t particularly like her were shocked when she was exposed as a serial sex offender who trafficked underage girls. Ultimately, it’s a stark indictment of wealthy elites who believe themselves to be above the law.

George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations – Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm

Paul & Imogen with Presenter George Clarke outside Butchershop property they  hope to transform.

Britain is full of abandoned buildings, which is a shameful state of affairs for reasons I needn’t elaborate upon. A recent relaxation in planning laws has apparently made it easier to convert these derelict spaces into private homes for wealthy people. So that’s nice. As this standard-issue lifestyle series returns, Channel 4’s softly-spoken Renovator in Chief and top Bernie Winters lookalike George Clarke visits a Sussex market town, where he meets a couple attempting to restore some ancient conjoined buildings which were once comprised of a slaughterhouse, a butchers, a pub and a blacksmiths. They want to build a spacious new home for themselves and their three teenaged daughters while respecting the integrity of the buildings.

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