John Byrne’s TV choices for the week ahead (Dates covered: Saturday Mar 5-Friday Mar 11)
There's a brand new period drama with a fantastic cast and a fascinating new sci-fi show from the makers of Misfits, while it's cheerio to Mr Selfridge and Don't Tell the Bride. And that's just for starters . . .
Pick of the week
Doctor Thorne, Sunday, UTV Ireland
Sunday night period drama, anyone?
Tom Hollander, Rebecca Front and Ian McShane star in this adaptation by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes of one of his favourite novels, written by Anthony Trollope.
The cast also includes Alison Brie (Mad Men and Community), Richard McCabe (Indian Summers, Peaky Blinders), Phoebe Nicholls (Fortitude, Downton Abbey), Gwyneth Keyworth (Game of Thrones, Misfits), Kate O’Flynn (No Offence, Ordinary Lies), Edward Franklin (The Brain Hack, Doctors). Impressive.
Tom Hollander takes the lead role of Dr Thomas Thorne, who lives in the village of Greshamsbury in Barsetshire with his young niece, Mary (Stefanie Martini), a girl blessed with every gift except money.
Mary Thorne has grown up alongside the Gresham family, whose house, Greshamsbury Park, and status dominate the county. But as Francis Gresham Senior (McCabe) has frittered away the family fortune, their pile is in danger.
Meanwhile, Doctor Thorne acts as both physician and business advisor to railway millionaire, Sir Roger Scatcherd, in whose hands the fate of Greshamsbury lies, and who is rapidly drinking himself into an early grave.
Starting this week
The Aliens, Tuesday, E4
This very promising sci-fi series, from the producers, of Misfits, is set 40 years after an extra-terrestrial craft crash-lands in the North Sea. The survivors were initially accepted into British society, but are now ghettoised.
Once Upon a Time, Saturday, RTÉ2
This most bonkers of fantasy shows is back for a fifth season. In the opening double bill there's a big Camelot vibe as the Storybrooke residents seek a way to bring back Emma Swan.
Sensitive Skin, Thursday, Sky Arts
Kim Cattrall is back for a second season as Davina, the former model and actress who's going through a midlife crisis, in this so-so Canadian black comedy.
Thirteen, Sunday, BBC Two
Jodie Comer stars as a woman who has spent half her 26 years imprisoned in a cellar. In this opening episode she escapes and returns home. How will she cope?
The Story of Cats, Sunday, UTV Ireland
The series sets out to offer an eye-opening and entertaining insight into the relationship between big cats in the wild and our domestic pussycats and the feline species’ journey from the jungles of South East Asia to the African savannah and ultimately into our homes.
The Toughest Trade, Tuesday, RTÉ2
A kind of Trading Places for sportspeople, starting with Tipperary hurler Brendan Maher swapping codes with former England cricketer Steve Harrison. Should be fun if they swap a swimmer with an archer.
Famous, Rich and Homeless, Wednesday, BBC One
Four celebrity volunteers - snooker player Willie Thorne, TV cleaner Kim Woodburn, TV presenter Julia Bradbury and comedian Nick Hancock - sleep rough for six nights.
Criminal Minds, Monday, Sky Living
It’s back to business for the BAU after the winter break. As the team find a break in the Dirty Dozen case, they hatch an elaborate plan to eliminate the hitman syndicate once and for all.
Ending this Week
Call the Midwife, Sunday, BBC One
As cosy as this show may be, it never flinches away from the harsh realities of working-class London life in the 1950s and 60s. Here, Dr Turner is forced to deal with the unintended consequences of his actions, when the shocking explanation for the number of babies born with limb deformities is unearthed.
Mr Selfridge, Friday, UTV Ireland
The last ever episode of this frothy period drama sees Harry on the ropes more than ever as a tabloid frenzy develops and his empire looks like it's about to be lost.
Room to Improve, Sunday, RTÉ One
Dermot Bannon revisits three of his favourite builds from earlier seasons of the show. The locations are in Longford, Cork and Dublin.
Don't Tell the Bride, Thursday, RTÉ2
In the show's first ever same-sex wedding, Irishman Mark and his Venezuelan other half Kerwin close this run and typically they have contrasting visions. Kerwin wants a white wedding and Mark's got the daft notion of everyone dressing up like 1916 Rising volunteers.
EIPIC, Thursday, TG4
It's the final episode of this quite surreal show about a group of bored teenagers who have taken over a disused post office and formed a band.
Mary Berry's Foolproof Cooking, Monday, BBC Two
Last on the menu are a Thai chicken curry, ham hock terrine, goat's cheese salad and a summer party cake.
The Jump, Sunday, Channel 4
Davina McCall presents the grand slam live from Austria as the celebs take on another winter sporting event.
The Secret Life of the Zoo, Tuesday, Channel 4
It's the final visit to Chester Zoo and the focus is on breeding some endangered black rhinos, while there's a baby orang-utan on the way.
Eco Eye, Tuesday, RTÉ One
Duncan Stewart takes a look at Croke Park, the world's first carbon-neutral stadium, as well as the Irish Defence Forces and the charity Camphill Communities.
Prey, Thursday, RTÉ One
Why would a blemish-free prison officer risk everything he's worked for, just for a prisoner? Tonight, DI Susan Reinhardt finds out.
Drama of the week
Quantico, Thursday, Alibi
I wouldn't expect anything like innovation with this new drama, but it should offer a decent adrenaline rush. It's basically about Alex Parrish (Bollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra on a mission to break America), an FBI agent who is suspected of being a terrorist.
The series follows a group of young FBI recruits. Flashbacks provide background detail, while the recruits battle their way through training at the academy in Quantico. So how come one of them ends up being suspected of masterminding the biggest terror attack on New York City since the September 11?
Comedy of the week
Girls, Monday, Sky Atlantic
This week's episode takes a trip to Japan to check in with Shoshanna and her new life. Things seem to be going well so far, with new friends, a cute crush and a good job. That can't last.
Back home, Hannah is dismayed to discover sexy photos of Fran’s ex-girlfriends on his phone. Predictably, it doesn’t take Hannah long to get her kit off and take some naughty pics of her own.
Meanwhile, Adam gets his TV acting break in a Lucy Liu-starring crime procedural.
WARNING: this trailer contains adult content:
Documentary of the week
Murder in Melbourne, Monday, RTÉ One
The dream of a life down under turned into a nightmare for three Irish families when their loved ones were brutally murdered in Melbourne, all within the space of a year and all by men who had previously been convicted of serious crimes.
Brotherhood, Friday, Sky Box Sets
A sub-Sopranos' delight, this. The Caffee brothers, Tommy (Jason Clarke), a rising politician desperate for re-election, and Michael (Jason Isaacs), a hardened criminal returning from seven years on the run, fight for survival in the city of Providence on opposite sides of the law.
The Rhode Island accents are almost as great as the acting, with Isaacs in DeNiro-esque form as the sociopathic Michael. Look out for Fionnula Flanagan as the deliciously malicious matriarch, and Brian F O'Byrne, who joins in season two as Colin, a Belfast cousin with a neat line in scary.
Film of the Week
The Bourne Legacy, Saturday, Channel 4
The Romanista in me would recommend the visually glorious La Grande Bellezza (Sunday, Film4), but fun always wins out in our house and this film is great craic.
There's no Matt Damon, but Jeremy Renner does just fine as black ops agent Aaron Cross, just one of many agents targeted for extermination. The film rattles along and bears all the hallmarks of a franchise that rewrote the dynamics of the spy movie genre.