Courier TV critic Paul Whitelaw shares his top viewing picks for the week ahead, including an insight into life for Katie Price and her son Harvey, new quiz show Lightning and hard-hitting drama It’s a Sin.
Katie Price: Harvey and Me – Monday, BBC1, 8.30pm
Harvey Price was born with a rare genetic disorder. He is also autistic and has been diagnosed with several other behavioural and medical conditions. He has just turned 18. This intimate documentary follows Harvey and his mother, Katie, as they attempt to deal with a milestone in their lives. Like all parents of children with disabilities, she wants him to achieve as much independence as possible.
We accompany her during visits to various colleges, as she ascertains whether they can cater to his extensive needs. A poignant programme about a loving mother and child relationship, it also raises awareness of the opportunities available to young disabled adults.
Lightning – Monday to Friday, BBC2, 6.30pm
Here’s fun. A new early evening quiz show in which members of the public compete for a £3,000 jackpot. The set design and format are blatantly indebted to The Weakest Link, but it’s faster, friendlier. Host Zoe Lyons is an unobtrusive presence who keeps it all ticking along nicely. Six contestants wearing conspicuously massive nametags answer general knowledge questions in a bid to stay in the game. It couldn’t be more straightforward. Yes, there’s a curious interlude involving a hand-eye coordination game, but that’s a minor diversion. Like all the best quizzes, it encourages us to shout answers back at the screen. It’s something to enjoy while having your tea or staving off a nocturnal existential crisis.
Devon and Cornwall- Monday, Channel 4, 8pm
Time once again to bask in the Sunday-roasted narration of John Nettles, who stands astride this picturesque series like old King Neptune swigging ostentatiously from a flagon of Bishop’s Peculiar. Ah, Britain. It’s impossible to take Devon and Cornwall seriously. What should be a fairly inoffensive little programme about people living and working in a particularly beautiful corner of this country we call home is rendered utterly ridiculous by Nettles. Even Matt Berry would ask him to tone it down a notch. This week we meet a nice man devoted to cleaning up the shores from plastic pollution and, well, I must admit that Bergerac’s bombast made me laugh too much to focus on the rest. Comedy gold.
Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema – Monday, BBC Four, 9pm
In the final episode of the series, Kermode runs pell-mell into his wheelhouse: cult films. A broad church, admittedly, and it does feel like he’s mopping up films he hasn’t had a chance to talk about yet; but he weaves them into a persuasive critical narrative. “Films don’t become cult movies on purpose,” he says, “and filmmakers don’t decide which films fall into that category. We do.” This is a forum where the works of Kurosawa and Ed Wood are equally deserving of discussion. The series also proves that viewers are perfectly capable of enjoying no-frills televised lectures. Plus he celebrates one of my favourites, the surrealist 1960s Czechoslovak satire, Daises. Good man.
Secret Safari: Into the Wild – Tuesday, Channel 4, 8pm
Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy is an admirable place where some of the world’s most endangered species are allowed to roam free. It’s a non-profit organisation run by volunteers who devote their lives to looking after the welfare of 13,000 animals. Every day they have to decide whether to intervene or let nature take its course. Bathed in a golden glow, this captivating documentary follows the rangers as they sensitively uphold the divine rights of various lions, elephants and rhinos. They care and survey from afar, but they do have to step in at times. It’s never explicitly stated, but the sad irony of animals requiring rescue from the species that endangered them is there for all to see.
Back – Thursday, Channel 4, 10pm
As the second series of this very funny sitcom continues, Stephen (David Mitchell) encounters someone else who may well be his genetic father. He’s known as Charismatic Mike (Anthony Head), a self-styled free spirit who dresses like David Essex in roguish barge-owning mode. The pub locals love him, of course, much to the chagrin of gas-lighting Andrew (Robert Webb), whose carefully stage-managed status as empathetic village cool guy is threatened. Stephen laments that if Mike isn’t his dad, “It could be a bloke called Cheeky Pete who stabbed livestock.” This episode was written by Will Smith who, like series creator Simon Blackwell, cut his situation comedy teeth on The Thick of It.
It’s a Sin – Friday, Channel 4, 9pm
It’s 1984, and distant rumours of the AIDS epidemic are encroaching upon our character’s lives. Ritchie (a charismatic turn from Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander) still refuses to believe it. After all, media reports at the time were aggressively ill-informed. How can gay people trust a society that despises them? But Jill discovers the truth first-hand when she cares for a terrified friend with HIV. The second episode of Russell T. Davies’ striking drama reminds us of the fear, prejudice and paranoia which coursed through that not-so-long-ago age. His palpable anger strolls deftly hand in hand with characteristic wit and compassion. This is an impressive piece of work.