CripTales – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, BBC Four, 10pm
Curated by the actor Mat Fraser, this absorbing series of six short monologues is written and performed by disabled artists. Their goal: to challenge perceptions of living with a disability. Fraser begins by reliving some of the best and worst auditions he’s had over the years. That’s followed by Liz Carr as a woman planning to expose a neighbour for benefit fraud, Ruth Madeley as a wheelchair-user in 1968 who has become pregnant following a brief romance, Robert Softley looking forward to greater independence when his parents buy him a self-operated wheelchair, Jackie Hagan playing someone who is about to have a leg amputated, and Carly Houston in a dark tale about a supposed carer.
Food Unwrapped Investigates, Monday, Channel 4, 8:30pm
Social media platforms have recently come under fire for promoting bogus weight loss supplements. In the latest episode of this commendable series, Kate Quilton exposes a money-making racket specifically targeted at vulnerable young people.
“At best,” says one expert, “these products and services do nothing. At worst, they’re potentially really harmful.” When Quilton sets up Instagram accounts for fake teenage girls and starts following some celebrity influencers, the feeds are bombarded with adverts for ‘miracle’ products. She also reveals how easy it is for kids to buy diet pills from Amazon, who decline her request for an interview. This half-hour report only scratches the surface, but it does succeed in drawing attention to an important issue.
Deliveroo: Secrets of Your Takeaway – Monday, Channel 4, 10pm
Will Shu, the co-founder of Deliveroo, will be delighted with this piece of free publicity. Shu noticed a massive gap in the UK’s food delivery market when he moved from Chicago to London a few years ago: there was no centralised courier network linking customers with independent restaurants. His brainwave planted the seeds of a multi-billion pound food delivery empire. The programme gains exclusive access to Shu, his posh staff and some of their self-employed couriers. At no point does it mention the controversy surrounding the couriers’ low wages and lack of basic benefits. Instead it highlights all the good work Deliveroo did during lockdown. I daresay that’s true, but this is a tactless, vexing documentary.
Life – Tuesday, BBC One, 9pm
One of 2020’s best TV dramas reaches a fairly satisfying conclusion when most of the characters gather for Hannah’s wedding. It’s a day of reckoning. There are separations, reconciliations and important realisations. Writer Mike Bartlett has tapped into some raw emotional truths in Life. It’s been thoughtful, moving. It featured standout performances from Alison Steadman, Peter Davison and Victoria Hamilton. When it comes to expressions of silent anguish, Steadman has few peers. I’ve also admired Davison’s ability to be detestable and pitiable simultaneously, and I’ll miss Hamilton’s affecting blend of cynicism and neurotic vulnerability. My only complaint is that Adrian Lester was wasted in a relatively minor role, and his storyline was rather silly. A fine show otherwise.
Children in Need: 40 Fabulous Years – Wednesday, BBC One, 8pm
Ade Adepitan hosts this tribute to the annual charity telethon. As well as looking at some of the great things it’s achieved, he also presents highlights such as that mind-bending occasion when characters from EastEnders and Coronation Street intermingled in a special crossover episode. But was it canonical? The debate rages on. We’re also reminded of the sketch in which Jon Culshaw delivered his Tony Blair impression to the actual Tony Blair, and that time when Eddie Redmayne appeared on The One Show and bamboozled Alex Jones with his bizarre behaviour. It turned out he was receiving instructions from some children via an earpiece. You know, for charity. The programme also contains plenty of Wogan, which is always welcome.
The Emily Atack Show – Wednesday, ITV2, 10pm
As evinced by her memorable stint on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, actor Emily Atack is a smart, likeable, naturally funny person. But being smart, likeable and naturally funny doesn’t automatically guarantee that you can perform comedy successfully. This threadbare compendium of stand-up and sketches is a minor embarrassment. Her stand-up is trite, her sketches laboured. The overarching theme in episode one is dating, an exhausted comedy topic. Or rather, it’s a topic that can only work in the hands of a comedian with some fresh perspective. Atack is talented. She can act, she’s a good mimic, but that’s all for naught without strong material. I hope she finds a more suitable vehicle one day.
Royal History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley – Friday, BBC Two, 9pm
The genial historian returns with a series in which she exposes falsehoods which have been widely reported as historical fact. Her starting point is the French Revolution. Was Marie Antoinette really the cause of all that trouble? No, she was used as a convenient scapegoat. What’s more, the people’s revolution was actually started by wealthy members of the bourgeoisie. And it wasn’t all anarchy and guillotines either, the revolt led directly to some key scientific breakthroughs. Worsley’s lesson is so engaging, I can almost overlook my annoyance at the ingratiatingly twee use of ‘fibs’ in the title. And yes, she does get dressed up in period garb at one point. That’s just a harmless facet of her otherwise straightforward shtick.