Frankie Goes to Russia

9pm, BBC Two

Tasking Frankie Boyle with casting a cynical eye over Russia’s physical, political and psychological landscape ahead of the 21st World Cup feels like a gleeful studs-up slide tackle before a ball has even been kicked. Instead of sending an actual team to the finals – something that in the past two decades has seemed perpetually beyond our capabilities as a country – why not dispatch our pre-eminent comedic flamethrower to score a few satirical points against a notably unscrupulous host nation determined to leverage the beautiful game as a global image-building exercise? With his rah-rah-Rasputin beard and oddly quavering Russian accent impression, Boyle seems like the perfect rouble-rouser to get under Putin’s skin, skilled as he is in delivering both acid-tipped stiletto satire and the bluntest of deadpan observations.

If the hope was for this one-man Tartan Army to be more Mad Monk than Philomena Cunk, the reality in this far-flung documentary is slightly more complicated. In the UK, Boyle’s interactions with members of the public tend to involve mercilessly flaying foolish hecklers from the stage. Yet the guy we hang out with in Russia – tightly wrapped up in a fur-trimmed parka and sporting the slightly shellshocked countenance of a Hoth rebel glimpsing his first towering AT-AT walker – seems rather more approachable. He still tosses hand grenades of heavy sarcasm via his links to camera, ladling scorn on the artless collusion between Fifa’s self-serving executives and the various tendrils of influence that enabled Putin to secure the hosting gig in the first place. But put him in a Moscow State University classroom with Russian teens being coached as ambassadors to assist bewildered international visitors and Boyle seems both receptive and a little humbled. Faced with this display of fresh-faced dedication, he turns his lacerating wit on himself rather than stamping all over their (admittedly state-sponsored) optimism.

A segment where Boyle visits the apartment of a motormouth Muscovite PR man who scripts the lurid graphic novel adventures of Super-Putin – in which a buffed-up, heavily-armed exaggeration of the oft-topless president wrestles with literal zombie liberals – is initially presented as just another wheeze: check out this crazy Ivan and his absurd fanboy comic! But when his host reveals a deep-seated and unsettling hostility to gays, Boyle shifts into a new mode, parking his usual jugular instincts and arguing politely but steadfastly against homophobia, like a more proactive Louis Theroux. There are notably no gags but it remains one of the most affecting moments in this opening episode.

Not all of Boyle’s interactions are quite so charged. After a 20-hour overland journey south to Rostov-on-Don, he falls in with Max, a sabre-rattling Cossack rapper and DIY portraitist. Max is a gregarious dude who – with his shock of red hair and love of blades and booze – would probably feel very at home in Rostov-on-Don’s twinned city of Glasgow. Bonding over their love of hip hop, Boyle and Max become fast friends, even though the teetotal Scot cannot match his hosts shot for shot at a traditional clan gathering. He may have travelled to Rostov-on-Don in search of the city’s notorious football hooligans but after loudly echoing the multiple vodka toasts to family and friendship, Boyle appears to have stumbled happily into a knockoff Fast and Furious movie. As episode one draws to a close, there’s a tangible sense that the scabrous standup is actually enjoying his cultural exchange despite the freezing cold and often bleak landscape. In a two-part documentary, can Boyle really hope to do more than scratch the surface of Max’s variegated homeland? Perhaps not, but you should see what he can do to an innocent cabbage with a traditional Cossack shashka sword.


Suffragettes with Lucy Worsley

8.30pm, BBC One

Love Island

9pm, ITV2

The BBC’s current Hear Her season marks 100 years since women got the vote and Lucy Worsley’s documentary on the trials and tactics of the Suffragette movement is one of its tentpoles. A veteran dressing-up box rummager, Worsley likes to insert herself into reconstructions like a snoopy time traveller, passing on what could otherwise be dry historical details in conspiratorial asides. This approach means she essentially embeds with Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters as they establish the militant Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903 and embark on a contentious campaign to win the right to vote that escalates from public defiance to bomb-making. A deluxe running time emphasises both how gruelling the campaign was and how committed these women were to the cause. Over on ITV2, there is voting of a different kind as the recently Bafta-winning Love Island returns for another long run of up-for-it babes and beefcakes attempting to rut their way to a £50,000 prize. Deeds, not words.


Hello Stranger

10pm, Channel 4

From summer-lovin’ marathon Love Island to the literal meat market of Naked Attraction, dating shows have had to adapt to survive in the age of Tinder. Channel 4’s latest wheeze is to find a long-term couple willing to have all memories of their beloved scrubbed from their brainpans via hypnosis before going on a (second) first date to see if the spark between them remains undeniable. Putting a relationship through such a hard reboot sounds challenging enough but there is the added wrinkle of the participants going on other dates with suspiciously attractive randoms. This is all presented as a fun social experiment but seeing George (24) and Lucy (20) have their minds wiped by slick hypnotist Aaron Calvert is actually rather unnerving. Can it really be so easy to have your memories redacted? The show works hard to make it all feel like a lark – one of Lucy’s hunky dates does his part by wearing a truly preposterous pair of jeans – but it never shakes off a disquieting existential undertow.


Scotland 78: A Love Story

9pm, BBC One

Catapult yourself into this time tunnel and be transported back four swirling decades to an almost unrecognisably buoyant era when the optimism surrounding our national football team seemed immeasurable. Scotland was the only home nation to qualify for the 11th World Cup in 1978 and confidence in wily manager Ally MacLeod and his gifted squad was so sky-high there was a massive pre-emptive party at Hampden to send them on their way. But after landing in Argentina, things rapidly got a little choppy. Captain Bruce Rioch, Lou Macari and the ill-fated Willie Johnson are among the players reminiscing on those tumultuous group games against Peru, Iran and Holland, bracketed by exuberant tales from some of the travelling Tartan Army determined to make it to Alta Gracia, Córdoba and Mendoza by hook or by crook. If you only remember one thing about that rollercoaster campaign, it is likely to be a moment of sheer transcendence from Archie Gemmill, a cultural touchstone presented here in suitably reverent, near operatic fashion.



9pm, Alibi

Poor Quantico. In 2015 it was one of the buzziest of the new intake of US TV dramas, a sleek vehicle for Bollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra. She played FBI wannabe Alex Parrish, a recruit on the run after apparently being framed for a terrorist attack. With a fashionable dual-timeline narrative, the first season detailed Alex’s attempt to keep one step ahead of her pursuers while also flashing back to her training days in Virginia to try and figure out which one of her FBI classmates was actually a sleeper agent. It was preposterous but exciting, like a hot-rodded version of Homeland, but after that propulsive start Quantico basically burned through its central mystery so quickly that there was nowhere else to go. Season two swapped in an almost entirely new cast around Alex but struggled to maintain momentum. A notably shortened season three launches in the UK tonight preceded by the news that the show has been cancelled. Still, it feels like go-for-broke fun, with Alex returning from sun-dappled retirement in Italy to tangle with international arms dealer The Widow.


Sense8 – Netflix

Cloak and Dagger – Amazon Prime

Streaming services are presumably anticipating a bump in usage as those citizens who do not give two hoots about fitba go in search of alternate entertainment after it all kicks off in Russia. Netflix may have cancelled Sense8 after two seasons of loopy, pansexual sci-fi but as a consolation prize to the show’s vocal army of fans, the moneybags network is debuting a new two-hour finale to wrap things up properly. Our eight “sensates” – a global grab-bag of heroes conjoined by telepathy and therefore usefully able to access each other’s talents – look to decisively take down the shady Biologic Preservation Organisation, with a returning cameo from Sylvester McCoy as the mysterious Old Man of Hoy. Meanwhile Amazon has picked up Cloak and Dagger, the latest in the apparent production line of series based on Marvel comics, for weekly episode updates. It’s the interlocking tale of two alienated teens in New Orleans who abruptly manifest contrasting powers of darkness and light but refreshingly seems more focused on character than whizzy special effects.

Take Me Out

8pm, STV

Why should those sleekit young airheads on Love Island have all the sun-kissed fun? This over-50s special of the Paddy McGuinness-hosted dating show convenes a raucous parliament of 30 women of a certain age, eager to cast their light-signal votes on three prospective suitors. The formidable female voting bloc includes a former 1980s Top of the Pops dancer, an avid hula-hooper and a glam queen in a blinged-out purple mobility scooter who declares she is on the prowl for husband number six. What will they make of their potential partners, a trio of cask-matured males finally ready to love again? There’s a dapper Zumba instructor with energy to burn, a rakish Billy Connolly lookalike with artistic aspirations and a roly-poly ex-copper who scuba-dives with sharks. There are giggles aplenty, and even McGuinness seems to modulate his end-of-the-pier innuendo to the extent that you might emerge from the torrid experience hoping this one-off format gets folded into the mothership.


Even at 80, Anthony Hopkins exudes such an imposing aura of gravitas-glazed ham that he can unbalance entire projects. Sometimes this is a good thing. In the deafening but banal 2017 blockbuster Transformers 5: The Last Knight, Hopkins steamrollers both a bewildered Mark Wahlberg and the 28-foot-tall mega-bot Optimus Prime as Sir Edmund Burton, a joyfully barmy historian with a sprawling country pile and a lethal clockwork butler. At other times, Tony in full unchecked flow can be a bad thing. In the first season of Westworld, he squatted at the middle of the show like a grouchy bullfrog, delivering unchallenged existential soliloquies about artificial life and gradually squeezing all the vitality out of what was already a very cold, clinical vision.

In King Lear (BBC2), a gloomy but gleaming modern reimagining of the storm-wracked family tragedy – a sort of Lear And Present Danger – director Richard Eyre looked to counterbalance the scene-stealing effects of Hurricane Hopkins by stacking the rest of the cast with notable names. They lined up like shock troops to engage with Tony’s self-satisfied Lear, here conceived as a military despot fortressed in the Tower of London. Emma Thompson was brittle and scathing as schemer-in-chief Goneril. Cuddly Jim Broadbent effortlessly made Shakespeare’s words sing as poor Gloucester. Emily Watson got her hands impressively dirty as the deceitful Regan while Outlander’s Tobias Menzies and his slide-rule cheekbones glowered tremendously. Amid this veteran squad of acting galácticos Christopher Eccleston ensured he stood out as fusspot Oswald by sneakily channelling Are You Being Served? while Sherlock’s Andrew Scott embodied poor Edgar as a sort of bespectacled activist hacker. This strategy of filling almost every secondary role with a face you might usually expect to be the headline star turned out to be a surprisingly effective. The blue-chip ensemble gave Hopkins – who one imagines has been tacitly permitted to do whatever the hell he likes since winning his Oscar for playing a certain sociopathic fava figure – something rock-solid to rage against, a sturdy sounding board for his sonic booms. It also helped that Eyre ruthlessly winnowed the running time to a brisk two hours. Even if that meant Lear’s tailspin from well-tailored autocrat to shopping-trolley-pushing, mouse-befriending jakey felt a little accelerated, it also ensured no-one – especially Hopkins – had time to wallow or, even worse, vamp.