This week, Paul Whitelaw previews the final episode of the ground-breaking It’s a Sin and he finds Paul Merton’s tour of Scotland’s lochs rather more engaging than the raft of other travel-based programmes.
It’s a Sin – Channel 4, Friday, 9pm
Over the last five weeks, I’ve taken the unprecedented and frankly maverick step of choosing the same show as my highlight of the week. That’s because nothing has come close to It’s a Sin, the Russell T. Davies-penned drama about a group of friends dealing with the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. And now it comes to an end. Ritchie (Olly Alexander) is seriously ill at home on the Isle of Wight. His formidable mother (a strikingly layered turn from Keeley Hawes) struggles to cope with her pain, anger and confusion. A near-continuous shot through the corridors and wards of a hospital where patients are dying of AIDS is breath-taking.
It’s a Sin will linger for a very long time.
Jay and Dom’s Home Fix – BBC1, Monday, 3.45pm
During the pandemic, I’ve become mildly obsessed with the increasingly obvious ways in which TV has been forced to operate. This new series is a case in point. It stars Jay Blades and Dom Chinea from The Repair Shop, as they beaver away in their socially distanced workshop. Their M.O: provide some practical money-saving DIY advice, which is apparently easy to follow for viewers who aren’t, like me, incompetent Frank Spencer types. But their segments are padded out with emergency archive clips from gently hands-on lifestyle shows such as Flog It!, Gardener’s World and Big Dreams, Small Spaces. Yet despite its blatantly cobbled-together nature, it’s a perfectly pleasant distraction.
Joanna Lumley’s Home Sweet Home – ITV, Tuesday, 8pm
This week’s travel-heavy schedules feel like a sadistic joke orchestrated by a phalanx of ostensibly inoffensive celebrities hell-bent on reminding us of the wonderful world outside our hermetic lockdown bubbles. During the final leg of her random sojourn around Britain, Lumley and her spectacular array of scarves, snoods and sou’westers visit a Victorian slate-mining settlement in the misty mountains of Snowdonia. While travelling through Devon and Cornwall, she observes some Dartmoor druids performing an incantation, before ending with another member of the Windrush Generation. A 95-year-old former musician, he’s glad to have lived to see numerous positive changes in this country.
Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs – BBC1, Wednesday, 7.30pm
The permanently be-hatted, neckerchief-swaddled, backpack-laden and always engaging Paul Murton returns for another informative Loch-side ramble. He begins his latest series on the beauteous Isle of Skye, with ancient myths and legends coursing through his mind. He sows a neatly sprawling tapestry of plundering Vikings, ancient Highland bagpipe traditions, gruesome feuds and battles, and a beatific visitation from Donovan, who once owned three of the surrounding islands. Murton also touches upon the horrific story of the Hebridean slaves, that most extreme example of 18th century Scots being forced to leave their homes while under the governance of despicable land barons. I’m looking at you, Norman MacLeod.
Cornwall and Devon Walks with Julia Bradbury- ITV, Wednesday, 8pm
And those feet just keep on walking. This week, Bradbury’s never-ending hike takes her to a vineyard in Totness and a massive house in Dartmouth that once belonged to Agatha Christie. Yomping travelogues such as this have been parodied so often over the years – by Alan Partridge in particular – you would think they’d be dead in the water. But no, they march on undaunted, impervious to satire. What with this, Lumley’s programme and John Nettles’ preposterously narrated Channel 4 series, there can’t be a single square inch of Devon and Cornwall that hasn’t been explored on TV by now. Enough already. The logical next step: Gregg Wallace floating alone in the infinite depths of space.
Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig – Channel 4, Wednesday, 9pm
I wish I was making this up for hilariously satirical effect, but here’s yet another cosy jaunt around the British Isles. If you happened to read last week’s column, then you may dimly recall the drill: each week, Toksvig and a famous female pal visit remote British locations and stay in unusual lodgings. Toksvig provides a few pertinent historical titbits. Sometimes they drink cocktails. There is literally nothing more to it than that. Her minibreak companion this time around is Jessica Hynes. An affable duo, they luxuriate in a lovingly restored 19th century windmill, an 18th century farmhouse located in the middle of a nature reserve, and a stylish glass-fronted beach house. So that’s nice, isn’t it?
Later…with Jools Holland – BBC 2, Friday, 10pm
It is time, once again, to visit Holland’s south London recording studio, as he returns with yet another lockdown series of this unstoppable live music show. His first guest of 2021 is the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and poet Arlo Parks, who performs a track from her Collapsed in Sunbeams album while highlighting some of her musical influences via clips from the Later archive. Meanwhile, Kings of Leon perform some new material from their Nashville studio, and electro-punk duo Sleaford Mods provide a performance of their single, Mork n Mindy, which they describe as: “the sound of the central heating and the dying smells of Sunday dinner in a house on an estate in 1982.”