The Romantics and US with Simon Schama
BBC Two, 9.00pm; not BBC Scotland
Simon Schama explores the powerful legacy that the Romantics have left on our modern world, from popular revolt to the obsession with the self, even to modern nationalism. Throughout this new three-part series he will look at painters such as Gericault and Caspar David Friedrich, musicians such as Chopin and Schumann and poets including Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley.
In this first episode, Schama starts by looking at the great icon of revolt created by Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, which was painted after the July Revolution of 1830 in Paris and brought an end to the Bourbon monarchy in France. Schama then shifts focus to one of the forefathers of Romanticism, the visionary poet and artist William Blake. Looking at his work from the early 1790s, Schama and hip-hop artist Testament (a glorious pairing) explore how Blake’s ideas continue to resonate. Then it’s on to Mary Wollstonecraft as Harriet Walter performs extracts from her moving letters, while the latter part of the film tells the stories of Percy Bysshe Shelley in England and Theodore Gericault in France, artists both fuelled by injustice and who created two of the greatest achievements of Romantic art. RW
Catastrophe, Breeders Motherland – the downsides of middle-class parenthood is the default these days for TV comedy. So comedian Katherine Ryan’s new sitcom in which she plays a “disruptive single mother” comes with some apprehension. It’s a heightened version of Ryan’s own life and it’s loud, brash and only mildly entertaining.
BBC Proms 2020: Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason
BBC Four, 8.00pm
Star cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his 24-year-old pianist sister Isata perform a recital of Beethoven, Barber and Bridge, concluding with Rachmaninov’s post-Romantic Sonata in G minor, a full-blooded cornerstone of the cello/piano repertoire. Why Women Kill Alibi, from 9.00pm This new drama series from Desperate Housewives’s Marc Cherry examines how the roles of women have changed over time, though it doesn’t have much to say.
Channel 4, 9.00pm
As a nation, we’ve watched more TV during lockdown than ever, so the gang should be primed and ready to offer their own interesting and amusing opinions as a new series begins.
Atlantic: A Year in the Wild
Channel 5, 9.00pm
It takes tenacity to survive in the vast, wild and unforgiving Atlantic Ocean. Each episode of this new series documents a season in and around the Atlantic, through the lives of the animals that live there. We start with winter, the biggest challenge but also a time of new life. Dolphins head to volcanic islands to hunt and otters emerge in Shetland.
It’ll Be Alright on the Night
David Walliams presents a new six-part series of out-takes. In this first episode we are privy to Olly Murs being attacked by a fly on The Voice, a goat running wild in Judge Rinder’s court and a desperate dog relieving itself on Paul O’Grady.
Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience
BBC Two, 10.00pm; BBC One Wales, 9.30pm
Comedian Rhod Gilbert is nothing if not game and this series has seen him take on all manner of jobs including police work and wedding planning. Tonight he braves back-ache and joins a crew of road workers in south Wales to help maintain the highways and byways. RW
In Which We Serve (1942, b/w) ★★★
BBC Two, 2.30pm
Playwright Noël Coward turned to young film editor David Lean to co-direct this thrilling story of the sinking of HMS Kelly as a morale-booster during wartime, highlighting national unity and social cohesion – a film for current times, perhaps. Coward heads the cast as the captain, while a 17-year-old Richard Attenborough makes a strong impression in his first film role as a cowardly young stoker. Lean achieves some stunning sequences.
Le Mans ’66 (2019) ★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere/NOW TV, 8.00pm
Le Mans ’66 is about men, cars, and men crying in cars. It follows driver Carroll Shelby’s (Matt Damon) and racer-engineer Ken Miles’s (Christian Bale) efforts to hand the Ford Motor Company its first win at Le Mans in 1966, ending a smug six-year run of Ferrari victories with a show of American industrial might. As a character study it has plenty going for it, but lacks pace and is a bit cheesy.
Lucy (2014) ★★★★
Scarlett Johansson stars in this Luc Besson thriller as Lucy, a young woman whose drug-addled brain begins to surpass our usual (reputed) 10 per cent level of grey-matter use. A leading neuroscientist (Morgan Freeman) helps her understand the mind’s latent power. What happens at 100 per cent? “We just don’t know…” Lucky for us, Besson has a few loopy, exhilarating ideas, and a cinematic style to match.
Chris Bennion (CB), Catherine Gee (CG), Michael Hogan (MH), Sarah Hughes (SH), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Gabriel Tate (GT) and Rachel Ward (RW)