TV and Radio

TV Choice: w/c Saturday February 11

TV Writers, Press Association

Saturday 11/02/23

The BRIT Awards 2023 (ITV, 8.30pm)

Rachael Popow

Mo Gilligan is no stranger to Saturday night music shows – he can currently be found trying to work out who is hiding under various elaborate disguises on The Masked Singer. Tonight though, he's also taking charge of another, very different show as he hosts the BRIT Awards 2023.

Luckily, Gilligan should know the ropes as he also presented last year's ceremony and is very glad to be back. He says: “Hosting the BRITs last year was one of the most phenomenal moments of my life. I've been so honoured to get to know the incredible team behind the biggest night in music and so proud to bring our amazing audiences even closer to their favourite artists. I promise you, we're going to go even bigger this year… Let's go!”

He's not the only person making a return appearance. Among the performers this year is Lewis Capaldi, who says: “Last time I played The BRIT Awards I was so scared that I had a panic attack before I went on, and then got hammered afterwards. Looking forward to more of the same this year.”

Hopefully it will take some of the pressure off Capaldi to know there are plenty of other stars in the line-up tonight. Harry Styles, Lizzo, Stormzy, Sam Smith and Kim Petras, Wet Leg, Cat Burns, and David Guetta with Ella Henderson and Becky Hill are all due to perform.

That might not be the only time some of them take to the stage, as many of the acts are also in contention for awards.

Boyband member-turned-international solo sensation Styles and indie favourites Wet Leg lead the pack with four nominations each, although they'll only go head-to-head for Best Album. Stormzy and Burns are hot on their heels with three, while Smith and Lizzo have two. Guetta is in the running for Best International Song, while Hill has been nominated for Best Dance.

Other acts who have picked up multiple nominations include Aitch, Arctic Monkeys, Beyoncé, Dave, Ed Sheeran, Eliza Rose, Nova Twins and Taylor Swift.

While that's an eclectic list, there has been some backlash about the nominations this year, most centring on the fact that, after scrapping the Best British Female and Male Solo Artist categories last year in favour of a gender-neutral category, the 2023 British Artist of the Year nominees are all men.

A spokesperson for the awards admitted this was disappointing, but said: “We also have to recognise that 2022 saw fewer high-profile women artists in cycle with major releases as was the case in 2021…”

“[I]f, over time, a pattern emerges, then this puts the onus on the industry to deal with this important issue – and the BPI is already carrying out a major study to identify barriers that may inhibit more women becoming successful in music, so that there can be solutions that result in meaningful change.”

Will that be the only controversy tonight, or will it be another incident that gets viewers talking? After all, it wouldn't be the BRITs without a few surprises.

Sunday 12/02/23

The Gold (BBC One, 9pm)

Sarah Morgan

We're all mourning the loss of Happy Valley, right?

Sally Wainwright's gripping, gritty and unforgettable drama reached its conclusion last weekend and, we're told, there won't be a fourth series. So, how are we going to fill our Sunday evenings from now on? How can the Beeb possibly fill the enormous gap left by Sarah Lancashire and co?

Well, by replacing it with another new six-part crime series, perhaps. Whether The Gold will prove as popular as the sordid goings-on in the Calderdale remain to be seen, but it can at least boast a plot based on fact and a cast to die for. It's been written by Neil Forsyth, whose previous projects include Guilt and Eric, Ernie & Me, and is directed by Aneil Katia, who won an Oscar for his work on Riz Ahmed's short film The Long Goodbye.

“The fact that we have assembled such a talented and exciting ensemble cast is testament to Neil's incisive interrogation of one of the most infamous robberies in British history and the remarkable events which came in its wake,” claimed Tommy Bulfin, the BBC's Commissiong Editor, when the project was announced last year. “And to have the brilliant Aneil Karia join fresh from his Oscar win is the icing on the cake. The BBC One audience are in for a real treat when this hits the screen.”

Hugh Bonneville, Dominic Cooper, Jack Lowden, Charlotte Spencer and Emun Elliot are among those taking lead roles in the dramatisation of the Brink's-Mat robbery. It was a shocking crime that stunned the world when the truth eventually came out – that six armed men had broken into the company's security depot near London's Heathrow Airport before making off with gold bullion then worth £26milion, as well as cash and diamonds.

It was, at the time, the largest theft in global history, while it's believed trying to make the loot untraceable created the world of large-scale money laundering we know today while helping to fuel the London Docklands property boom. Despite this, and the fact that murder and mayhem ensued after the heist took place, only two people have ever been convicted for their part in the event; the money has largely vanished too.

The crime has been delved into on film and TV before, but rarely in so much microscopic detail.

“This is so much more than the story of an armed robbery,” claims Piers Wenger, director of BBC Drama. “The Gold looks beyond the auspices of the theft itself to explore how the case united the criminal underworld with corporate finance, caused personal tragedy and spawned one of the most shocking, influential and mysterious cases in British criminal history.”

Bonneville plays veteran Scotland Yard cop DCI Brian Boyce, who's brought in to lead the investigation, and while there are insights into the case from the police's point of view, we also get to see how the ringleaders behind the theft went about their business.

Forsyth says simply of the project: “The story of the Brink's-Mat gold is a thrilling, surprising and tragic story and I am excited to be able to tell it.”

And we can't wait to see the fruits of his labours. Who knows, perhaps Boyce could replace Happy Valley's Catherine Cawood in our hearts?

Monday 13/02/23

Better (BBC One, 9pm)

Sarah Morgan

Take a great concept, two skilled screenwriters, a Bafta-nominated star and a prime-time Monday night slot, shake them all up, and what have you got?

In a nutshell, Better, a new Yorkshire-based drama whose makers, production company SISTER, promise will keep us on the edge of our seats for the next five weeks.

It's the brainchild of Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent. The duo have been best buddies since they were at school together and have since worked on a number of projects, including Spooks (both the small and big screen versions), Hotel Babylon and Humans.

“We're delirious and feel incredibly fortunate to have assembled – with SISTER and the BBC – such a gifted group of people to tell this story in the great city of Leeds, with a wealth of local Yorkshire talent on and off camera,” claimed the duo as filming began. “This incredible cast are exciting us every day, pushing the show's exploration of morality and redemption to ever more thrilling, surprising, and yet darkly funny places.

“With any luck, we've got enough brilliant people to make ourselves look good.”

Taking the lead role is I Hate Suzie's Bafta-nominated star Leila Farzad. Here she plays DI Lou Slack, a confident, well-liked and seemingly dedicated copper who followed her respected father into the police force almost 20 years ago. However, Lou is hiding a dark secret.

During her rookie days, she was fiercely ambitious, but at her lowest ebb, succumbed to the charm of Irish underworld operator Col McHugh (Andrew Buchan). They struck a deal she's lived to regret, despite the fact it's brought her professional success – in return for him tipping her off about various crimes, she turns a blind eye to the activities of his citywide drug trafficking gang.

But that could be about to change. Another personal upheaval – this time involving a family tragedy – prompts Lou to re-evaluate her life. And despite knowing that bringing Col to justice would expose her own lies, she's determined to seek redemption so she can live a guilt-free ‘better' life.

“Better is a brilliant fresh take on the morality tale,” says Farzad. “I am excited to have the opportunity to play Lou Slack, the vehicle through which we explore the multivalent layers of good and bad. A complex, flawed yet utterly human character. I feel very lucky to be a part of such a wonderful show with an incredibly talented team attached to it.”

“Not anyone could evoke the complexity of unconventional hero Lou Slack – morally complicated and challenging yet with huge heart,” add the head honchos at SISTER, who are adding another potentially classic show to their roster, which already includes Chernobyl, The Split, Gangs of London and This Is Going to Hurt. “And bringing an entirely new perspective on the modern crime boss is the equally brilliant Andy Buchan as Col McHugh.

“We are delighted to have these two extraordinary actors anchoring this complex thriller with lead director Jonathan Brough at the helm, bringing the streets of Leeds to life in a new and exciting way.”

With a pedigree like that, nothing can surely go wrong. As for Lou and Col's lives, well, that's another matter…

Tuesday 14/02/23

First Dates Valentine's (Channel 4, 10pm)

Rachael Popow

It's the most romantic date in the calendar, so where to better to spend it than in the First Dates restaurant, as Fred Sirieix and the staff serve up a Valentine's special?

The first diner to be seated is ‘clubbing queen' Amanda who usually finds that men are bit too keen, too soon. Will former club rep Ryan take a liking to her without coming on too strong?

Businessman Brendan is no stranger to dates – the 48 year old thinks he's been on around a thousand of them, and has invested a lot of time and money in his attempts to find love.

It initially seems that all that experience is paying off when he bonds with Swedish cakemaker Agneta over their shared love of singing and ballet. But will asking her questions about her choice of underwear and toothbrushing habits prove a little too personal for a first date?

We're also introduced to Annie, who works in recruitment – which may be why she decided it was wise to call in the specialists in her attempts to find the perfect man. Now 42, she had an arranged marriage at an early age and has been out of the dating game for a decade. Can 50-year-old Dave encourage her to open up and show the vulnerable side beneath her glamorous image?

Finally, special effect make-up artist Erin gets plenty of attention on Instagram, but many of her suitors disappear when she mentions her cerebral palsy. Will chef Andrew prove that he has the recipe for a lasting romance?

Perhaps one of the reasons the singletons have decided to take a chance on First Dates is that it's proved to be one of the sweetest dating shows on TV. While others have sometimes felt like they were more interested in making viewers laugh – or cringe – then helping the participants to find love, First Dates wears its heart on its sleeve.

In fact, Siriex has previously said that if he was in the market for a date, he'd give the show a whirl: “Why not? At least you know you're in the right hands. People who care and will do all they can to get you matched with the right person. That's what we do.”

It also explains why he's still putting in an appearance now, even though his own TV career has taken off over the past few years. When he's not in the restaurant, he's made a string of travel documentaries with Gordon Ramsay and Gino D'Acampo, hosted the series Snackmasters and Remarkable Place to Eat, and even cropped up on Celebrity Gogglebox.

But it seems First Dates still has a special place in his heart. He told Huffington Post: “What I'm [most] proud of is the stories and how real it is. Whenever you watch it, it makes you feel good, it makes you smile. It's not set up, it's not for the cameras, it's real and it's true.”

Wednesday 15/02/23

The Piano (Channel 4, 9pm)

Rachael Popow

Not content with already co-hosting one of the biggest shows on TV, Strictly Come Dancing, in November of last year, Claudia Winkleman also presented viewers with The Traitors.

Although some viewers may have been sceptical at first, it soon had audiences hooked and became one of the most talked-about series of 2022. So, is she about to work her magic again and score another hit with The Piano?

The formats are very different, but like The Traitors, there is an element of subterfuge to The Piano, although it's all in a much more heart-warming cause.

Essentially, it sees amateur musicians being invited to sit down at pianos in London St Pancras, Leeds, Glasgow and Birmingham train stations so they can share their stories and music with the great British public.

The players are a diverse bunch. They range from 12 year olds who are playing in public for the first time and people who decided to teach themselves a few tunes to pass the time during lockdown, to ninetysomethings who have been tickling the ivories for 80 years or aspiring composers who have created pieces based on their own life experiences.

What they have all have in common is a love for music – and the ability to stop commuters in their tracks with heartfelt and uplifting performances.

The pianists are under the impression they are taking part in a documentary, and the makers do think that the series will offer a fascinating snapshot of Britain and demonstrate the power of music.

However, there's a twist. The musicians don't know that they are also being observed by Lang Lang, who is widely regarded as the greatest classical pianist of the modern era, and platinum-selling pop superstar Mika.

They will pick the best performer from each location and give them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the more formal surroundings of London's Royal Festival Hall.

Producer Richard McKerrow believes this series will strike a chord with the public, although rather than talking about The Traitors, he has been drawing comparisons to The Great British Bake Off – and he should know, as he was one of the original executive producers on that show too.

He's certainly enjoyed conducting The Piano on to the screen, saying: “The making of this brand-new series has been a creatively exhilarating and uplifting experience. We've been able to work with such a broad and diverse range of pianists bravely expressing themselves in such a passionate heartfelt way on public pianos in railway stations across the country.”

McKerrow also has nothing but praise for the presenters, saying: “Looked after so generously by Claudia Winkleman and observed by the extraordinary Mika and Lang Lang, this remarkable trio bring a magical, soulful quality to this television series which we hope feels rare and unusual.”

Now there's a chance for viewers to find out if they agree as we gather around the old Joanna for the first episode, which comes from in King's Cross St Pancras.

Thursday 16/02/23

Prue and Danny's Death Road Trip (Channel 4, 9pm)

Richard Jones

In November last year, Dame Prue Leith called on the UK Government to give “proper time” when considering changing the law to allow medically assisted dying.

The Great British Bake Off judge, who turns 83 on Saturday and is a member of the Dignity In Dying campaign group, believes the law should be changed to help those who want “medical assistance to die when they have ‘absolutely had enough of life'”.

One person, who famously doesn't agree with Prue is her son, the Tory MP for Devizes, Danny Kruger.

As Chair of Dying Well, the All Parliamentary Group, he is also campaigning, but to prevent any change to the law.

Prue appreciates that her son has a “principled stand” on the topic as he feels there is a danger it will lead to people feeling pressurised into an assisted death.

She told Times Radio: “Whereas, I keep saying to him, when you get to my age you speak about death quite a lot.

“I just feel it's my life and if I want to end it – which I don't by the way, I'm really keen on my life – but I would like to have the option.”

“I think the law should change. I think we should be allowed to ask for medical assistance to help us die when we've absolutely had enough of life.”

Prue also recalled how she watched her elder brother David die in pain from cancer, saying: “He just had the most awful, awful, awful death and it's true that palliative care can be really great but the truth is it's not great in this country.

“And there are some cancers and some complaints, the drugs just do not touch.

“There are something like 7,000 people who die in unrelieved pain.”

In this documentary, the pair who are on opposing sides of a deep ideological divide, travel around the United States and Canada, where more than 25 per cent of the population now have the option of assisted dying.

They begin in Seattle, where Prue encounters a situation that she'd like to see in the UK, meeting Sher Franzen whose parents died together, holding hands, at a time of their choosing.

Then, on Vancouver Island, Prue and Danny visit Dr Stefanie Green, one of Canada's leading practitioners of MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying), who has already helped more than 300 people to die and sees no conflict with her duty as a doctor: ‘to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always'.

Canada is proposing allowing MAiD for people with just a mental illness, and the pair also meet Dr Ramona Coelho who believes that the Canadian legislation has gone too far and is resulting in the disabled, vulnerable and old to be offered MAiD inappropriately.

Finally, Prue and Danny go to meet John Scully, a former BBC journalist who has suffered extreme depression and PTSD for 30 years.

He wants to be allowed an assisted death when it becomes legal.

At the conclusion of their tour, Prue and Danny debate what they have seen, and whether or not it has changed their minds – and helped them resolve their mother-and-son differences on the matter.

Friday 17/02/23

The National Comedy Awards for Stand Up to Cancer 2023 (Channel 4, 9pm)

Richard Jones

It may seem like there's not much to make you raise a smile, let alone a laugh, during this cold, dark night in mid-February.

So if you need a bit of cheering up at the moment, those taking part in this year's edition of The National Comedy Awards for Stand Up to Cancer should do the trick.

The public have voted, the red carpet is in place, and the UK's biggest comedy stars want to find out if they've scooped a prestigious gong – as well as raising a few giggles along the way.

Channel 4's comedy game show Taskmaster leads the nominees with seven.

It has been shortlisted for best comedy entertainment show, while hosts Greg Davies and Alex Horne also have nods, as do contestants Fern Brady, Judi Love, Sarah Millican and Munya Chawawa as comedy entertainment personalities.

Ghosts, After Life and Derry Girls are next in the league table, with four nominations apiece, while other hits Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, The Graham Norton Show, Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, The Chris & Rosie Ramsey Show, Mock The Week, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown, QI and Would I Lie To You? are also in the running.

Those out to claim an individual comedy lead acting award are Rose Matafeo, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Sharon Horgan, Charlotte Ritchie, Daisy May Cooper, Dylan Llewellyn, Ricky Gervais, Joseph Gilgun, Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Stephen Merchant.

The shortlist for best stand-up show will be announced closer to the ceremony, with votes taking place live during the show.

However, the organisers have already named the three recipients of the comedy breakthrough star awards.

There is Susan Wokoma, who first came to prominence in Chewing Gum in 2015 and has now been cited for starring in the BBC's Cheaters.

Meanwhile, Jordan Gray was a breakout star of last year's Edinburgh Fringe with her show about being transgender entitled Is It A Bird?

And finally, 13-year-old child actor Lenny Rush, who received praise for stealing scenes opposite Daisy May Cooper in Am I Being Unreasonable?, will also be handed a trophy.

The National Comedy Awards were relaunched last year after an hiatus of eight years, and the host Tom Allen must have impressed bosses as he has been asked back to front the show live at London's Roundhouse.

When asked about returning to host, he joked: “How did you get this number? I thought I was unlisted. Is this another prank call?!

“I'm the host of the National Comedy Awards for Stand Up To Cancer, I'm a very big deal, I can't have people just calling me willy-nilly.

“Now excuse me, I have to prepare a show celebrating the brilliant funny people working on telly, on tour and online.

“Stop that heavy breathing, you should be ashamed of yourself. Good day to you!”

So, as Channel 4 says: “Expect surprises aplenty, more glitz than a Liberace concert, and some typically hilarious acceptance speeches.”

Surely all that should be enough to release those endorphins and raise your spirits.

They do say laughter is the best medicine, after all.



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