Television choices: Return of the living dead, this time with added brains


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The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week: The Returned

Sunday 9pm Channel 4

Shaun of the Dead aside, I tend to give a wider berth to zombie dramas than I probably would to actual zombies – even I could outrun the undead. This haunting new French drama is something else. Channel 4's first subtitled series in 20 years begins with a bus carrying schoolchildren inexplicably swerving off an Alpine road, killing all on board. Then, four years later, with the town still grieving, the mainly teenage victims start turning up at their old homes, un-aged and oblivious of their fate. Excellent performances, an atmospheric soundtrack (by the rock band Mogwai), and a well-paced narrative that favours the realistic over the fantastical, means this is a zombie drama you can watch with your intelligence and emotions switched on.

Arne Dahl: Europa Blues – Part Two

Saturday 9pm BBC4

The Fall has been criticised for its glamorisation of violence against women, and it's instructive to compare it to this Swedish drama. In the second half of the last episode, we discover what links the Ukrainian sex-workers and the murdered neurosurgeon, as Soderstedt (Niklas Akerfelt) visits Italy to quiz a crime boss.


Monday 10pm Channel 4

Will Mellor and Oona Chaplin play the opening couple in Bryan Elsley's new series of loosely inter-linked short dramas that follows online dates and their aftermath. It's not the most appealing first episode of a series that really hits its stride tomorrow with Sheridan Smith and Neil Maskell, but the two-hander drama is a refreshing rarity on television.

Agnetha: Abba & After

Tuesday 10.35pm BBC1

Agnetha Fältskog – aka "the blonde one" – has tended to be seen as backing-singer eye-candy to Björn and Benny's masterful compositions. But Fältskog was writing hit songs as a 15-year-old, and was already a pop star long before Abba ruled the world. This profile nails a few other myths as well, including the one that Fältskog had become a Garbo-like recluse.

The Iraq War

Wednesday 9pm BBC2

With sectarian violence now reaching the levels of 2006-07, the final part of this series revisits those bloody years when Shia death squads roamed the streets. The Americans vested their hopes in new prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the sobering conclusion here is that, after 170,000 deaths, the US has merely managed to replace one tyrant with another.

Compare Your Life

Thursday 8pm Channel 4

"It's never too late to lead the life you want," is the not-strictly true slogan of a new reality show in which people buy businesses instead of properties – the aim being to lift themselves out of a rut and into profitable self-employment. Carlton Hood, ex-CEO of, is the mentor, as Ann Marie and Martin ponder a future as restaurateurs/shopkeepers.

Charles Bradley: Soul of America

Friday 10pm & 1.55am BBC4

The extraordinary story of a singer (and professional James Brown impersonator) who didn't find success until retirement age, after a hardship-filled life in a Brooklyn housing project. Bradley's big break came courtesy of his magnificent voice, and Daptone Records, the soul revival label best known for working with Amy Winehouse.