John Byrne’s TV choices for the week ahead (dates covered: Saturday Jan 10 – Friday Jan 16)
There are loads of new and returning shows, with Nicky Byrne, Harry Hill and Lena Dunham just three of the faces to look out for in over the coming days.
Pick of the week
Ascension, Friday, Sky 1
Here's a new sci-fi series based in the 1960s and initially full of Star Trek optimism – until a dead body turns up unexpectedly. All is not as it seems in this twisting three-part event drama starring Tricia Helfer - Cylon Number Six from Battlestar Galactica - and Brian Van Holt (Cougar Town). It’s 1963 and US President John F Kennedy is so convinced the Cold War is going to culminate in the destruction of the Earth that he sends 600 men, women and children out into space to find a new world to populate, in order to secure the survival of the human race.
Fast-forward 50 years into the century-long voyage of the residents of Ascension, not that you’d know it from their Mad Men-esque fashion sense, which, understandably, hasn’t moved on much. Everyone knows their place on the ship, from the bottom deck dwellers to Captain William Denniger (Van Holt) and his wife Viondra (Helfer), who ride high at the top, but things start to go awry when a young girl is murdered.
Star of the week
The Mentalist, Tuesday, RTÉ One
Back for a seventh and final season, this show is nothing without the charm of Australian actor Simon Baker in the lead role of Patrick Jayne, a former mentalist who uses his skills of perception to help catch murderers. As we rejoin the gang for the final run, Jane and Lisbon decide to keep their new relationship a secret from their colleagues as they investigate the murder of an undercover agent.
Starting this week
The Million Euro Challenge, Saturday, RTÉ One
Nicky Byrne hosts this latest incarnation of the National Lottery's Saturday Night TV game show. Three scratch card winners, each joined in-studio by a family member or friend, play original and exciting Lottery games, culminating in one lucky player getting the chance to play for the hefty top prize of €1,000,000.
Bones, Wednesday, Sky Living
The long-running crime drama returns for a tenth run. Picking up three months after the shocking events of season nine, FBI special agent Seeley Booth is in prison, wrongly charged with the murder of three colleagues. His wife, Brennan, and the team at the Jeffersonian Institute meanwhile work tirelessly to prove there’s a government conspiracy at work.
At Your Service, Sunday, RTÉ One
John and Francis Brennan are back problem-solving and come to the help of Johnny Hassett who owns the Ballyhannon House Riding School in Quin, Co Clare. The Brennans want Johnny to diversify and make the most of his facilities, which include stables, a disused hayloft and an intriguing gazebo in the garden.
Norah's Traveller Academy, Thursday, RTÉ 2
In this new series Norah Casey mentors four young traveller women in the world of business, giving them access and insights and developing their skills to hopefully help them succeed in their new business ventures.
Togetherness, Monday, Sky Atlantic
Fingers crossed this 'non-traditional relationship comedy' from HBO lives up to the tag as it explores the dreams and disappointing realities of four adults nearing 40. From the outside, life appears to be pretty perfect for married couple Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey) and their two super-cute kids. But it never is, is it?
Trailer Time: Warning: there's the odd swear word here
Harry Hill's Stars in Their Eyes, Saturday, UTV Ireland
This revival of the hit show will see Harry Hill hosting as members of the British public take to the stage in a brand new arena, having been morphed into global music icons by the industry’s leading make-up and wardrobe stylists. On the first show there's a dog groomer, a barmaid and electrician, a nurse, a labourer and a Bread Demand Planner, whatever that is.
Food Unwrapped, Monday, Channel 4
Jimmy Doherty, Kate Quilton and Matt Tebbutt return, travelling the globe to reveal what's really in the food we eat. In this first episode they ask: is there any goodness left in tinned tomatoes? What part of the pig makes our chewy sweets so chewy? And how do prebiotics work in our gut?
Brooklyn Nine Nine, Friday, Channel 4
Season two of the US comedy about a group of New York City police detectives, starring Andy Samberg. Peralta's undercover FBI operation ends in a successful mass arrest but he has to enlist Boyle's help to track down one missing criminal.
Spiral, Saturday, BBC Four
The French legal drama returns for a fifth season. Following the death of Sami, Captain Laure Berthaud is trying to cope as best she can. But her personal life, already a mess, threatens to be derailed further when she receives some unexpected news.
Neven Maguire: Home Chef, Wednesday, RTÉ One
Season seven begins with a visit to the Aviva stadium where Neven Maguire finds 80 chefs busy at work.
Ending this Week
We Need to Talk About Porn, Monday, RTÉ One
The second and final part of this two-part, eye-popping, jaw-dropping documentary series looks at the scale and impact of pornography consumption in Ireland and asks what it might mean for both adults and young people.
David Attenborough's Conquest of the Sky, Thursday, RTÉ One
The legendary David Attenborough concludes his expedition into the world of flight with a look at the creatures that dominate modern skies. He starts with the vast bird family, enjoying a spot of scavenging with a group of vultures and some dive-bombing peregrine falcon-style, before moving on to the floating forests of Ecuador and on to Borneo.
Drama of the week
Blue Bloods, Wednesday, RTÉ 2
Tom Sellick and co return for more Reagan family fun fighting bad guys in the Big Apple and arguing over Sunday dinner at the Da's gaff on Staten Island. After a female officer is ostracised for testifying against her partner, Jamie decides to stands up and volunteers to ride with her for a week, despite facing the wrath of his own partner and fellow cops. Meanwhile, Erin and Danny clash when a settled case becomes a new homicide.
Here's a peek at the upcoming 100th episode:
Comedy of the week
Girls, Monday, Sky Atlantic
With a fifth season already announced, fans of Lena Dunham's gloriously self-effacing show can enjoy this fourth knowing it's not going to be the last. But how will things be for the gang after so much changed at the end of the third run?
As well as developing slightly healthier eating habits – Hannah's now a devout grape-eater - the aspiring scribe has moved on to pastures new and enrolled in a writers’ workshop at the University of Iowa, which is as far removed from Brooklyn as is possible. Everyone else, though, has stayed put in New York, including Hannah's actor boyfriend Adam. Needless to say, making a long-distance relationship work proves tricky for the pair. As for the rest of the ragtag group, Marnie is in the throes of an ill-advised love affair with musician Desi, who very much has a girlfriend, while Shoshanna receives a reality check as she tries and struggles to find a job. Jessa, meanwhile, is busy being, well, Jessa: Crazy English Person.
Trailer time: Warning: adult content
The Walking Dead, Fox
If you missed out on this smash-hit drama following a group of survivors battling to navigate a world stalked by zombies, now your chance to see it all from the start, including the first part of season five.
Documentary of the week
Sound of Song, Friday, BBC Four
Composer and musician Neil Brand hosts a new series that explores the magical elements that come together to create popular songs. Episode one delves into the very beginnings of recording and how Thomas Edison’s invention of it in 1887 ultimately changed the way people experience music. If the trailer's any indication, this will be brilliant.
Film of the Week
Me and Orson Welles, Sunday, RTÉ One
Fun period piece set in 1937 with a great performance from Christian McKay as a teenager who gets to work with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. Particularly appealing if you're into what goes on backstage with thespian types. Turn off your phone, put up your feet and enjoy.