Television Choices: Satire master Iannucci lays it on thick in his new comedy


TV pick of the week


Monday, 10pm & 2am Sky Atlantic

The writer/director Armando Iannucci shifts his satirical gaze beyond the Westminster goldfish bowl of The Thick of It and into the heart of the American Presidency – or rather a heartbeat away from the same. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Vice President Selina Meyer, a classic Iannucci politician, stuck between power and powerlessness and grabbing whatever initiative she can from a jealous Oval Office (embodied here by Jonah Ryan – the White House liaison officer who is this series' sort of Malcolm Tucker figure). It's sharp and funny, as you might expect – Louis-Dreyfus is perfect as the perpetually paranoid Meyer – as she frets over whether to wear glasses for a speech or not. She finally decides that they make her look weak: "Like a wheelchair for the eyes."

Emeli Sande & Ed Sheeran @ Hackney 2012

Saturday, 7pm, BBC3

The music festival season kicks off in east London and BBC3's weekend-smothering coverage begins with the R&B star Emeli Sandé (above) and the singer-songwriter Ed "A Team" Sheeran. Jay-Z is the main attraction at 9pm, unless of course you prefer Kasabian (8pm) or the X Factor winner made-good Leona Lewis at 11pm (but recorded earlier).


Sunday, 9pm, Channel 4

"Life began at 41," laconically observes one of the convicted murderers featured in this remarkable (especially in its access) documentary filmed inside HMP Gartree in Leicestershire, which houses the highest concentration of killers in the UK prison system. Describing how he stabbed a friend, one shows remorse. Others don't know the meaning of the word.

Line of Duty

Tuesday, 9pm BBC2

It's been 20 years since Between the Lines, the best most recent BBC drama about cops who police the police, so a warm welcome to Jed Mercurio's timely new series about an anti-corruption squad. It follows one multi-stranded inquiry over five episodes – so best to watch from the start, which is no hardship. Lennie James, Vicky McClure (above), Gina McKee and Neil Morrissey star.

The Strange Case of the Law

Wednesday, 9pm & 2.45am, BBC4

The last case of legal torture in Britain took place in 1640, according to the barrister Harry Potter (above) in the second part of his series about the origins of our legal system. When Oliver Cromwell wanted to put opponents on the rack he sent them to Jersey – "the 17th-century equivalent of Guantanamo Bay". Potter also looks at the trial of Charles I, or Rex vs Rex as it turned out to be.

Dead Boss

Thursday, 10.30pm & 1.30am, BBC3

Crime and punishment seems to be the theme of the television week, although this is from the (very) light-hearted end of the spectrum. On the whole I prefer Sharon Horgan's Pulling, but there is still a lot to be enjoyed in her new sitcom in which Horgan (above) plays the falsely imprisoned Helen. Frustrated by the lack of progress in her appeal, she decides to study law.

Quadrophenia – Can You See the Real Me?

Friday, 9pm & 1.55am, BBC4

The appeal of BBC4's music documentaries is largely dependent on what is being discussed – so I'm afraid I bailed 20 minutes into this film detailing the Who's double "concept" album about a bipolar mod-rocker (and the multiple personalities of the band). Others will be enthralled, as Pete Townshend (above) and Roger Daltrey contribute testimony.

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