Television choices: Setting the gold standard for drama and treachery at the National Theatre


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week: Arena: the National Theatre

Thursday 9pm & 2.40am BBC4

One British arts institution, BBC's Arena, salutes another, the National Theatre – on the occasion of the NT's 50th anniversary. Everyone who has been anyone in this story reminisces on camera – the deceased obviously (Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Tynan and the architect Denys Lasdun) in archive form, although Lady Olivier, Joan Plowright, is on hand to put the knife in for her late husband. It was "treachery of the highest order", says Plowright, of her husband's successor, Peter Hall, being chosen behind Olivier's back – and the first of two films concentrates on the Larry years, and the founding artistic director's relationship with the "necessary irritant", Tynan. Jonathan Miller, Tom Stoppard and Maggie Smith also contribute.

MOBO Awards 2013 – Live

Saturday 9pm BBC3

The somewhat meaningless, not to say patronising Music of Black Origin awards come from Glasgow this year, with nominees and performers including Tinie Tempah, Rudimental, Iggy Azalea, So Solid Crew, Laura Mvula, Fuse ODG and Naughty Boy. And to celebrate the awards' 18th birthday, there are clips of "memorable" moments from the ceremonies since 1996.

Toast of London

Sunday 10.40pm Channel 4

Matt Berry's bombastic actor Steven Toast gets a welcome full series in which to humiliate himself in this funny sitcom written by Berry (The IT Crowd) and Father Ted co- creator Arthur Mathews. Doon Mackichan resumes her role as Toast's unhelpful agent, and in this opener Emma Fryer plays a Telegraph hack who's also an alcoholic extreme-hoarder.

Iceland Foods: Life in the Freezer Cabinet

Monday 9pm BBC2

Malcolm Walker, founder and CEO of Iceland foods, home of frozen sandwiches and the chilled doner-kebab pizza, may not be as extreme as "Big Nev" from The Call Centre, but he's still a television natural. The toothy chairman admits to the company's image problem, and to being worried by incursions from the giant supermarkets.

The Great British Bake Off – The Final

Tuesday 8pm BBC2

An all-female Bake Off climax sees Ruby, the youngest finalist, take on "consistent and steady" Kimberley and "quirky, creative" Frances in rounds that involve a savoury picnic pie, pretzels and a wedding cake. Not that Ruby thinks much of weddings: "an exercise in narcissism... I can't be bothered". Mary Berry is among the judges.


Wednesday 9pm BBC2

Starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb, and written by James "Rev" Wood, this new comedy about embassy staff in a fictional central Asian republic promises slightly more than it delivers. Mitchell is Her Majesty's ambassador to Tazbekistan, Webb is his assistant and Keeley Hawes plays his wife. The plot involves vodka, human rights and a dead ibex.

Killer Whales: Beneath the Surface – Natural World

Friday 9pm BBC2

Killer whales, as their common name suggests, were once considered rather mindless hoodlums – predators of the deep – until one was studied in captivity in 1964. This revealed the marine mammal's profound intelligence, social interactions and parental instincts, and this film shows how modern studies continue to surprise.