TV guide: 12 of the best shows to watch this week, beginning tonight

From starry espionage caper A Spy Among Friends to just-as-starry whodunnit Murder on the Blackpool Express

A Year on Planet Earth

Sunday, UTV, 8pm

There are 365 days in a year and, coincidentally, that’s the almost exact time it takes for the Earth orbit the sun. We do the round trip tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees, so that creates the seasons, and this has a huge impact on all life on Earth. Stephen Fry hosts this landmark new series, probably angling to be the next David Attenborough, exploring how the planet rolls through the changes as each year progresses. With winter descending on the northern hemisphere, we meet a polar bear teaching her cub how to survive, while in the south we watch as king penguins gather at Marion Island, between South Africa and Antarctica, to breed. In the tropics we see meet a baby African elephant at play in the rain.

A Spy Among Friends

Sunday, UTV, 9pm

Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce team up for this six-part espionage thriller telling the story of two British spies – Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby – whose close friendship is severed when Philby turns out to be the most notorious traitor and double agent in history. Elliott (Lewis) and Philby (Pearce) are lifelong friends working together in MI6 at the height of the cold war, but what Elliott doesn’t realise is that Philby has been betraying him, along with the entire British intelligence services. And when Philby absconds to Moscow to the protection of his real masters, the focus turns to Elliott and whether he helped Philby escape, was duped or was manipulating Philby.

RTÉ Investigates: Dairy’s Dirty Secret

Monday, RTÉ1, 9.35pm

You might pause for thought before you reach for that pint of milk to pour into your cornflakes. This RTÉ investigates series looks at the underside of Ireland’s dairy industry, where the welfare of the animals is overlooked in the interests of milking the most out of Ireland’s dairy boom. The industry is now worth billions but, as Fran McNulty and his investigative team soon learn, little value is put on the animals themselves, and with more than half a million unwanted bull calves born every year, there are some serious animal welfare issues to be addressed.

Long Lost Family

Monday, UTV, 9pm

In this week’s episode we meet Sara Hathaway, who has tragically lost her adoptive mother and older brother in the same year. This prompts her to begin the search for her birth family, but will her quest bring the healing and the closure she needs? She soon learns some shocking details about her birth mother’s life, and about the size of her birth family. We also meet Diane Kerridge, who became pregnant in her teens during the 1960s, and gave her son up for adoption. Now she’s trying to track him down, and her search brings her to the west coast of the US.


Mealladh na Mara

Tuesday, RTÉ1, 7pm

Many Irish people hear the call of the sea, but not all of them hear it in exactly the same way. In this new series exploring our relationship with the body of water that surrounds us, we meet three people who have felt the pull of the waves: GP Eoin McCarthy Deering, who balances his medical career with his passion for surfing; schoolteacher Niamh Ní Dhrisceoil, who has trained to become a skipper on a ferry; and retired teacher Conall Ó Domhnaill, who is as busy as ever in his role as a highly experienced search and rescue diver. All three talk about their own unique relationship with the sea, all set against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery.

Brave Britain with Fergal Keane

Tuesday, BBC1, 8pm

Britain has been through some tough times in the past few years, as successive Tory governments have chosen misplaced nationalism over the prosperity of the people, and Brexit, the Ukraine war and the cost-of-living crisis have seen poorer communities struggling to get by. In this documentary by Oscar winner Alice Doyard, journalist and broadcaster Fergal Keane revisits some of the areas he went to as a young reporter covering community issues, and finds out how they are faring in the new Britain, from shipyard workers in Glasgow to tenant farmers in Cornwall.

Murder on the Blackpool Express

Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm

A group of elderly murder mystery fans head off on a coach trip, visiting the places that inspired their favourite crime novelist, but it’s not long before the passengers are being picked off one by one. Johnny Vegas is coach driver Terry, and Sian Gibson is tour guide Gemma in this 2017 comedy whodunit packed with well-known names, including Griff Rhys Jones, Nigel Havers, Una Stubbs, Sheila Reid, Katy Cavanagh, Mark Heap and Kevin Eldon. Can Terry and Gemma catch the killer before they’re left with an empty coach?

Five Bedrooms

Wednesday, RTÉ2, 9pm

This Australian series has been a huge hit Down Under, so if you’re planning to visit the country any time soon, it might be worth watching so you can chat knowledgably about it in the local pub. Six cash-strapped friends pool their resources to buy a house together, and the scene is set for drama, romance and big life decisions. Liz, Ben, Heather, Ainsley, Harry and Simmo are back for a fourth series, and each housemate is caught up in their own crisis as they try to find a way to live their best life even under less-than-ideal circumstances. We’re promised a WTF moment on the romance front, plus a shock diagnosis.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Thursday, BBC1, 9pm

Broadcaster Dev Griffin delves into his family history, hoping to uncover some long-buried secrets and get a better insight into who he is. Griffin, born into Irish-Jamaican heritage, begins his journey of self-discovery with a trip to Ireland to learn about his great-grandfather Frank Weafer, and Frank’s brother Patrick, both of whom played a role in the War of Independence. Griffin also travels to Kilkee to learn about his great-grandfather Jame Griffin, who was active in the fight to preserve the Irish language. Then it’s off to Jamaica, where Griffin meets his long-lost aunt Viviene.

All Fired Up

Thursday, RTÉ1, 7pm

Chef Nico Reynolds is here to put a bit of spice into our traditionally bland diet, with some recipes guaranteed to get your taste buds firing on all cylinders. This week Nico is sharing some ideas for light bites, all easy to prepare and packed with healthy ingredients for guilt-free grilling. He starts out with a Middle Eastern classic, lamb koftas, each one served in cups made from crispy lettuce; this is followed by monkfish burgers with sweet potato bites on the side. Nico rounds it all off with a smoky veg tagliatelle, followed by a zesty dessert of watermelon lollipops with goat’s cheese and basil.

The Summer I Turned Pretty

From Friday, Prime Video

Lola Tung returns as Isobel “Belly” Conklin in series two of the teen romantic drama based on the novel trilogy by Jenny Han. Every year, Belly looks forward to spending summer vacation at her family friend Susannah’s house at Cousins Beach, but when she gets caught up in a love triangle with childhood friends-turned-hunks Conrad and Jeremiah, summer doesn’t seem so easy-going any more. In this new series, Belly is back for another summer vacation, only to find Conrad and Jeremiah still locked in a battle for her heart. She’s going to have to make a choice before things get out of hand. Worse still, Susannah’s cancer has returned, and the future of her beach house is threatened, so Belly is going to have to get everyone on board to help save the day.


From Friday, Apple TV+

For fans who want their sci-fi on an epic, galaxy-building scale, Apple’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s award-winning novels might just do the job. Jared Harris and Lee Pace lead the huge ensemble cast in this second series, which promises to leave you even more baffled and bewildered than you were at the end of series one. You know the story: visionary Hari Seldon (Harris), using a new algorithm called psychohistory, has predicted the fall of the Empire, and for his trouble is forced into exile, where he forms the Foundation with the goal of preserving civilisation over the next millennium. Talk about thinking ahead. In this new series, the Foundation faces a new crisis: all-out war with the Empire.