Television Choices: Challenging the ideal in a Tom Stoppard adaptation
TV pick of the week
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.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Amy Winehouse statue unveiled in Camden
- 2 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 3 George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
- 4 Headaches, fry ups, and hair of the dog - why do we get hangovers, and is there such thing as a 'cure'?
- 5 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
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Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Scottish independence: Britain faces 'constitutional crisis' at next election
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly