Television Choices: Challenging the ideal in a Tom Stoppard adaptation


TV pick of the week

Parade's End

Friday 9pm BBC2

Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End – actually a quartet of novels written between 1924 and 1928 – is one of the forgotten masterpieces of 20th-century literature – and it's adapted here in five episodes by Sir Tom Stoppard, his first work for the BBC in more than 30 years. Scheduled to run before the returning juggernaut of Downton Abbey, this is a more intelligent and demanding period drama, following the fortunes of morally upright Christopher Tietjens, a brilliant government statistician. Tietjens's "parade" is tested by the First World War, his promiscuous wife (Rebecca Hall) and a burgeoning love for a young suffragette (Australian newcomer Clemens).

The X Factor

Saturday 8pm ITV1

BBC1's copycat show, The Voice, having failed to capture the nation's imagination, the way is clear for the returning The X Factor. Nicole Scherzinger replaces Kelly Rowland (no great loss) and joins Gary Barlow, Tulisa and Louis Walsh on the judging panel, and this year's contest is open to anyone over the age of 16 – even if they have, or have had, a management deal.

The Last Weekend

Sunday 9pm ITV1

Mick Ford delivers a sensitive adaptation of Blake Morrison's novel about male competitiveness and an August bank holiday from hell. Ian (Shaun Evans) and Ollie (Rupert Penry-Jones, above, with Evans) met at university, but one is now a school teacher and the other a wealthy QC. A reunion in the countryside soon turns dark and twisted as old animosities re-emerge...

Toast of London

Monday 10pm Channel 4

My pick of C4's Funny Fortnight is Arthur Mathews and Matt Berry's sitcom pilot about an actor (Berry – Douglas Reynolm in The IT Crowd, but a revelation here) whose career sinks after appearing in a vilified West End play. It's as expansive and surreal as you'd expect from the creator of Father Ted, and I loved the audition (for a director in jail for Holocaust denial) in a prison visiting room.


Tuesday 9pm BBC1

After last week's eye-catching Sean-Bean-in-drag opener, a more low-key instalment of Jimmy McGovern's drama. Anne Marie Duff and Olivia Coleman star as Mo and Sue, beauty salon owners who ill-advisedly fail to close their salon out of respect for a murdered local gang member. Retribution follows, but it's Mo who ends up in the dock.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Wednesday 9pm BBC1

Looking like someone has just burnt his favourite pudding, the MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace heads to Plymouth in search of a great-grandfather who supposedly abandoned his wife and children – including Wallace's grandfather. His face softens when he realises this ancestor was a greengrocer, while a twist in the tale suggests he might also be the injured party.

Just Around the Corner

Thursday 10.35pm Channel 4

A climate-changed, bank- collapsed England of the near future, where the Dutch are the despised immigrants (Holland having disappeared under water), is the subject of this Funny Fortnight sitcom pilot from Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin (Outnumbered and Drop the Dead Donkey). A promising scenario delivered by James Fleet and James Bolam.

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