TV preview, Love Island final - hellish reality show comes to an end

Plus Travels in Trumpland with Ed Balls and the return of ‘Orange is the New Black’

The former shadow chancellor crosses new frontiers in this amusing travelogue
The former shadow chancellor crosses new frontiers in this amusing travelogue

Can we all agree that Love Island is utter bilge? Admittedly, watchable and addictive (and record-breaking) bilge, but bilge that leaves you asking, “Why oh why did I just spend an hour of my life watching two people fight over a fake lie detector test?”

Seeing these tanned twenty-somethings “crack on” with each other (the parlance of the show’s contestants) these past few weeks has been one of the low points of my life but, thankfully, the hellish venture comes to an end on Monday. And, quite frankly, the live final will be the talking point of every office’s kitchen come Tuesday as fans (and non-fans alike) discuss how fan favourites Jack and Dani Dyer – daughter of Eastenders actor and top geezer Danny Dyer – came to win the heart of a nation. (If they do not win, then expect riots in the streets.)

Once the reality TV show comes to an end, those millions of viewers who were chained to a television screen every weekday (and Sunday) night can return to watch good television once again, and this week that’s certainly in no short supply of that. On Netflix, Orange is the New Black returns, the critical consensus being that the sixth season marks another stellar set of episodes. The prison drama – which has won multiple Emmys and a Peabody Award, and was probably one of the reason you were duped into subscribing to the streaming service – sees the inmates locked up in a new location and promises a more focussed season.

Back on the Beeb, the latest series of Poldark concludes tomorrow night with a devastatingly sad episode that sees everyone return from London back to Cornwall. And while George must face facts about Valentine, drama occurs as Elizabeth attempts to convince Ross that the child is his. Fans be warned: keep the Kleenex nearby, as after this you will be waiting another year until the next batch of episodes.

Over on Channel 4, at the same time as Poldark, you can get another spoonful of sadness with The Handmaid’s Tale. This second season has been particularly bleak and this episode acknowledges as much with June’s fourth-wall breaking line: ”I’m sorry there’s so much pain in this story ... but there’s nothing I can do to change it.” Things do not end as horribly as they could have this time, and the episode – a slow-burner – makes for an extraordinary, cinematic hour of television. If you have not caught up, you probably should.

‘Orange is the New Black’ returns for a sixth season – by all accounts, another stellar set of episodes

Speaking of terrifying dystopias, why not head to BBC2 where Ed Balls (yes, former Strictly contestant and shadow chancellor) heads to America for Travels in Trumpland with Ed Balls. Starting as a serious look at the current climate in the US, the show eventually dissolves into a leotard-filled set piece with Balls pitted against the pro wrestlers of Southern Legacy. Silly? Sure, but before those final moments, the capable host asks some difficult questions that lead to some revealing answers.

Another Brit trying to find answers across the pond is Sacha Baron Cohen, whose series Who is America? continues on Monday. Last week’s episode has led to the resignation of a Georgian lawmaker thanks to an utterly terrifying segment that saw the “victim” shout the N-word multiple times in an attempt to repel terrorists. While we have not been able to preview the upcoming episode, future guests teased by Cohen include Sarah Palin and OJ Simpson, so expect some equally controversial scenes to come.

Equally terrifying (depending on your age), is that Dad’s Army – one of the many pinnacles of British television – turns 50 years old. BBC2 is celebrating the golden anniversary today with an evening dedicated to the beloved series. Beginning in the afternoon with Victoria Wood’s 2000 tribute Don’t Panick! The Dad’s Army Story, two regular episodes will then be broadcast, followed later that evening by We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story, a comedy drama about the show’s origins. Then, to cap everything off, another classic episode at 8.30pm.

Later in the week, two documentary programmes make for must-watch viewing. First, on Monday night at 9.00pm (BBC1) is Who Do You Think You Are? with Strictly judge Shirley Ballas. After claiming that great-grandmother Clara was a party animal, she soon discovers quite the opposite and that, actually, she had quite a tough upbringing. Ballas also travels to South Africa to discover some very surprising heritage.

Mark Kemode’s Secrets of Cinema continues on Tuesday, this time delving deep into coming-of-age movies. The critic begins with the classics, such as Rebel Without a Cause and Kes, before breaching newer territory, including last year’s Oscar-nominees Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird. A treat for cinefiles of all ages.

Rounding off the week, the European Championships begin broadcasting on Friday. For anyone with a World Cup and Love Island-shaped hole in their TV-watching schedules, the mini-Olympics should keep you occupied for at least another eleven days.

Love Island (ITV2, Monday 9pm), Orange is the New Black (Netflix), Poldark (BBC1, tomorrow 9pm), The Handmaid’s Tale, (Channel 4, tomorrow 9pm), Travels in Trumpland with Ed Balls (BBC2, tomorrow 9pm), Who is America? (Channel 4, Monday 10pm), We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story (BBC2, today 7.30pm), Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1, Monday, 9pm), Mark Kemode’s Secrets of Cinema (BBC4, Tuesday 9pm), European Championships​ (Friday, BBC1)

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