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

Including Andrew Trimble’s look at identity in For Ulster and Ireland, while comedians Deirdre O’Kane and Emma Doran take the High Road, Low Road and more

Andrew Trimble: For Ulster and Ireland

Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

With the DUP agreeing to return to powersharing, many are hoping that the disparate Northern Irish voices can find some harmony. In this special documentary, Ulster and Ireland rugby star Andrew Trimble explores how he has reconciled his Ulster-Scots origins with his Irish identity, wearing the green jersey for Ireland and the red-and-white for Ulster with equal pride. Trimble looks at how tribalism takes root within communities, and how identities in the North can be complementary rather than conflicting.

Michael Longley: Where Poems Come From

Monday, BBC One, 10.40pm

We stand in awe of poets and their ability to encapsulate the human condition in just a couple of stanzas. Where do the great poems come from – and what inspires the great poets to write their killer lines? Belfast poet Michael Longley offers some insight into the eternal mystery, recalling how he found his poet’s voice, how he met his wife, the author and literary critic Edna Longley, how his friendship with Seamus and Marie Heaney developed, and how the Troubles sparked some of his more powerful poems.

High Road Low Road

Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm

Comedians Deirdre O’Kane and Emma Doran had a tough time of it trying to keep a poker face on the recent Amazon series Last One Laughing Ireland, so they deserve a bit of a holiday to relax their sore faces. The pair are heading off to Singapore, but only one of them will get to have a luxury break with all the extras, including a yacht trip and a skydiving experience; the other will have to slum it in this vibrant city, exploring the place on shank’s mare and eating street food. But which of the two will have the biggest laugh?

Inside Penneys

Tuesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm

It’s the final episode of this fly-on-the-wall series, and time for the big reveal, as the hard-working staff of the Irish department store learn who is going to be the new design collaborator for the global Primark brand. It is none other than pop star Rita Ora, who has designed a funky range that includes micro shorts and sequinned trousers. But can global trend lead John McCormack and trading director Mary Lucas convince Ora that they are committed to sustainable fashion?


Home Grown

Wednesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm

Springtime is coming, and that means Kitty Scully and Colm O’Driscoll will once again be popping their heads up from the hedgerow to talk about horticulture and all things flowery and fresh. Throughout this second series, the pair meet green-fingered folk from around the country to see how their gardens, vegetable patches and orchards grow. Episode one features Colm in Adare Manor, Co Limerick, who explains how horticultural knowledge is crucial to getting the golf course Ryder Cup-ready, and Scully visits top baby leaf salad grower McCormack Family Farms in Co Meath.

Book Club

Wednesday, RTÉ One, 10.35pm

Rule one of Book Club: you must talk about books. Rule two of Book Club: you must talk some more about books. Rule three of Book Club: you must only hit each other with hardbacks (that last rule may not be true). The new book review series, formerly known as Page Turners, features book clubs from around the country chatting about their favourite books, new, old or somewhere in between. In episode one, Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght’s Aisling Ever After and Claire Keegan’s So Late in the Day are among the featured books, along with Elizabeth Gilbert’s classic Eat Pray Love.

Gerald Dawe: Out of the Ordinary

Thursday, BBC Two, 10.40pm

It’s raining poets on BBC this week, and in this documentary, part of the BBC’s Season of Arts, Gerald Dawe returns to his hometown of Belfast, and revisits the sights, sounds and places that shaped his poetry. He recalls growing up in a nonsectarian household full of women, listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Van Morrison and The Small Faces, and seeing the grim reality of sectarianism in 1975 when a fellow young poet, Gerard McLaughlin, was murdered.

Slammed: The Eighties

Thursday, BBC Two, 11.15pm

In the run-up to the Six Nations clash between Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium on February 24th, here is a docuseries charting the rise of the Welsh rugby team during one of the most turbulent decades for the squad – and for Wales itself. As industries fell away during the Thatcher era, ordinary folk looked to their national rugby team to bring them hope, but the great side of the 1970s had given way to a younger, untested squad. Did they live up to fans’ expectations?

My Uni Life

Friday, RTÉ One, 8pm

What do college students get up to within the hallowed halls of their university? It’s not all rag week stunts and hanging out at the students’ union bar, you know. In the second series of My Uni Life, we look in on students from around the country as they take part in various third-level activities, including University College Cork final-year student Thérèse, who is performing with the college’s choral society, and Maynooth student Mary Kate, who is also an All-Ireland winning footballer with Meath.


Friday, Virgin Media One, 9pm

It might be unlucky for some, but Brenda Blethyn is celebrating her 13th outing as detective Vera Stanhope, who loves her job so much she just cannot get around to retiring. Stanhope might dress like a bag lady, but her mind only gets sharper as she gets older, and in this new series, she has to unravel a complex mystery after a local market trader is found dead on a quiet country lane. Blethyn, who is now 76, also cannot seem to get around to hanging up her Stanhope trench coat, and says she will keep playing this beloved character as long as she is able.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist