Inside No. 9 – Monday, BBC Two, 9:30pm
And they’re back. I didn’t enjoy last week’s clumsy series opener at all, but this episode is very good indeed. Steve Pemberton stars as the multi-award-winning creator of a Game of Thrones-esque fantasy series. Reece Shearsmith plays an obsessed fan who blackmails his hero into rewriting the show’s unpopular finale. Loosely inspired by Stephen King’s Misery, it’s a witty and smartly-plotted comment on the way a certain type of entitled fan feels they have the right to dictate how their favourite shows should be written. Pemberton and Shearsmith couldn’t have known this at the time, but it ties in neatly with the recent – and entirely warranted – disappointment surrounding the Line of Duty finale.
The Pact – Monday and Tuesday, BBC One, 9pm
Laura Fraser and Julie Hesmondhalgh star in this fairly enjoyable twist-strewn thriller about a close-knit group of Welsh brewery workers who find themselves embroiled in a waking nightmare. It all goes horribly wrong during a drunken work’s night out, when they decide to exact ostensibly harmless revenge on an obnoxious colleague. In the panicked aftermath of this ‘prank’, they decide to form a desperate pact of silence. To say any more would ruin the story, but writer Pete McTighe – whose credits include Doctor Who and the Prisoner Cell Block H reboot Wentworth – does a pretty good job of exploiting the fraught ramifications of his premise. The solid cast also includes Eddie Marsan and Adrian Edmondson.
Innocent – Monday to Thursday, STV, 9pm
Stripped throughout the week, Innocent is an utterly generic ITV crime drama elevated somewhat by sensitive performances from Katherine Kelly and Shaun Dooley. Kelly stars as a schoolteacher accused of murdering one of her pupils. After serving five years in prison, she wins an appeal and returns home to a frosty reception. Determined to prove her innocence, she offers her assistance to a police officer (Dooley) who is in charge of a reinvestigation. Innocent wants to make a serious point about people being allowed a second chance, but it gets bogged down in all the usual tropes. The dialogue is laughable: “I want my job back, or I’m going to get seriously legal on your ars*!” I mean, honestly.
Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer – Tuesday, BBC Four, 10:05pm
In this timely new series, historian David Olusoga and popular science author Steven Johnson celebrate the unsung heroes of global healthcare while asking what we can learn from previous global pandemics. They begin with the fascinating history of vaccinations, which naturally feeds directly into our current situation. It’s an episode populated by various pioneering medical scientists, whose bold experiments resulted in the eradication of formerly fatal diseases and an increase in life expectancy around the world. Olusoga and Johnson are clear-eyed guides, they knit the whole saga together with quiet authority. Their interviewees include Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci never expected to become ‘famous’, but 2020 changed all that.
A Very Royal Baby: From Cradle to Crown – Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
What does it really mean to be born into the Windsor dynasty? That’s just one of the many questions posed by this programme, which has been craftily scheduled to coincide with the imminent birth of Harry and Meghan’s second child. Preview copies weren’t available, but here’s the gist: via archive footage and interviews with experts, it examines changing attitudes and developments in protocol surrounding Royal baby stories. For example, how does the press intrusion into Princess Diana’s pregnancies compare to the way mother Meghan has been treated by the media? Has the coverage got worse? And are the old-fashioned ways of doing things now thoroughly defunct in an era of so-called Instagram Royals?
Escape to the Farm with Kate Humble – Thursday, Channel 5, 8pm
The latest episode of this green and pleasant series gets up at the crack of dawn to bask in birdsong. Humble teams up with an ornithologist neighbour to explain what those delightful chirrups and tweets actually mean: in short, sex and violence. No joke. She also visits one of her most cherished hidden spots on the farm, a wild garlic patch, looks on proudly as her favourite pig gives birth for the first time, and, as usual, gets busy in her farmhouse kitchen. This week, our genial host rustles up a lamb broth and “a proper British pesto.” Humble comes across as such a nice person, it’s impossible to resent this cosy celebration of her seemingly perfect life.
Subnormal: A British Scandal – Thursday, BBC One, 9pm
This damning documentary exposes a shameful chapter in British history. In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of black Caribbean children were officially categorised as ‘educationally subnormal’ and sent to schools for pupils deemed to have low intelligence. A blatant case of institutional racism, is was a deliberate method of removing black children from the mainstream education system. The programme features devastating contributions from some of the people who were mislabelled. They talk about how the whole experience instilled within them deep-seated feelings of shame and a terrible lack of self-esteem. They have struggled with that pain for decades. And this scandalous practice isn’t a relic from the past, it’s still happening now. Prepare to be appalled.