Time with Jodie Whittaker, Mary Makes It Easy with Mary Berry and Stand Up to Cancer: TV highlights this week
Survivor (Saturday 28/10/23, BBC One, 8.35pm)
A year before I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! became one of the most watched shows on TV, there was another reality series in which people were stranded in an exotic location and faced with a range of physical and mental challenges.
Survivor ran for two seasons in 2001 and 2002, and although it was quickly axed by ITV, it was actually was watched by more viewers than other reality series at the time, including the massively popular Big Brother.
The Survivor format was created by Charlie Parsons and has gone on to become a television phenomenon, with over 50 adaptations around the world. It was even named Best Reality Show of All Time by Variety.
Since 2017, rumours have circulated that the series would be revived in the UK, and now, 21 years after it last aired, the BBC has picked up the show.
In February, the identity of the show’s new host was revealed, just ahead of filming in the Dominican Republic.
The Masked Singer UK’s presenter Joel Dommett is the new man at the helm and he said: “A huge thank you to the BBC for trusting me with this. It’s such a hugely popular format all over the world and I’m super excited to help bring it to our sweet little country. Let the tribal councils BEGIN!”
For those unfamiliar with the concept of Survivor, it sees 18 people from across the UK marooned in a tropical location.
After arrival, they are divided into two tribes, and compete against each other in a range of physical and mental challenges for reward or immunity.
One by one, players are voted out of their tribes at the iconic Tribal Council until the two tribes eventually merge and the game becomes a head-to-head battle. Ultimately only one person can triumph, winning the cash prize of £100,000 and the title of Sole Survivor.
Charlotte Hobrough and Jonny Gibb were the series winners back in the day, so who are the contestants taking part this time?
First up, there’s Christopher, a singer/songwriter from Bridgend who says he has the “competitive spirit to outwit, outplay and outlast”, while Hannah, a footballer based in London is a fan of the other Survivor shows, and Lee, a Belfast boxer who says he hasn’t seen the programme before.
Brand strategist Ashleigh describes herself as a “very upbeat and positive person”, Scottish flood risk consultant Doug is hoping to put his 6ft 4in height to good use, London model Jess is looking to do something wild as she approaches 40, and entrepreneur Laurence says he has bought a flint to practice lighting fires.
The line up is completed by barista Leilani; hospitality worker Matthew; fitness instructor Nathan; surf school owner Pegleg; insurance handler Rachel; personal trainer Rach; Shai, a finance risk manager; charity founder Sabrina; professional roller skater Tinuke; network data scientist Ren; and Richard, a pension manager.
The competition starts tonight (and continues tomorrow) as the two tribes are pitted against each other in their first reward challenge – retrieving basic supplies.
The tribes also compete in their first immunity challenge, an intense feat of endurance.
For the losing tribe, it means a sunset showdown at Tribal Council where they must vote off one of their own.
Will any of them already be thinking “get me out of here”?
Time (Sunday 29/10/23, BBC1, 9pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
In 2021, BBC One brought viewers the prison drama Time, starring Sean Bean as a new inmate and Stephen Graham as a prison officer torn between his principles and his family.
With that cast – and the fact that it came from Jimmy McGovern, the writer whose hugely impressive CV includes Cracker, The Street and Accused – expectations were high, but Time more than managed to live up to them. The series attracted a hugely impressive average of 11.6 million viewers across its three-part run, won the 2022 BAFTA Television award for best mini-series and was roundly acclaimed by viewers and critics alike.
So, it was almost inevitable that there would be a second series, but the new run doesn’t just pick up where the original show left off. This time McGovern and co-writer Helen Black, whose credits include the BAFTA-nominated Life and Death in the Warehouse, are taking viewers into a women’s prison and introducing us to a new set of inmates.
While the characters may be new, they are played by some very familiar faces. Former Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker, from Yorkshire, is coming back down to Earth by taking a starring role.
She’s joined by Bella Ramsey, who has been having quite a year. The actor, who identifies as nonbinary, first caught many viewers’ attention in Game of Thrones and went on to win acclaim in the 2022 film Catherine, Called Birdy.
Then earlier this year, they starred alongside Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us, which confirmed their status as a rising star.
There’s also a key role for Tamara Lawrance, who has previously appeared in No Offence and The Long Song, and is certainly thrilled to be playing a prisoner in Time.
She says: “Being a part of women-centred stories and productions is very important to me, as well as projects that challenge a prejudice. Time series two humanises a sector of society that is too often and easily vilified by elucidating the layered reasons why people end up in the criminal (in)justice system.
“I’m excited for us to platform the complexity of these characters and their experiences.”
The first episode introduces us to their characters, who are drawn into each other’s orbit when they arrive at Carlingford prison on the same day.
Single mother Orla (Whittaker) is trying to keep her children out of care and is desperate to get her life back on track, while young heroin addict Kelsey (Ramsey) faces a difficult decision.
Meanwhile, life Abi (Lawrance) may seem tough, but she has a sinister secret that threatens to put her safety at risk.
And anyone who is still wondering how the new run of Time will live up to the first may be glad to know there is one returning character – prison chaplain Marie-Louise, played by Happy Valley’s Siobhan Finneran.
She says: “I am delighted to be returning for Time two. It was a privilege to be involved in the first series and to be asked back is an honour, the scripts are again heartbreakingly brilliant.”
Rhod Gilbert: A Pain in the Neck for SU2C (Monday 30/10/23, Channel 4, 9pm)
Words by Richard Jones
They say laughter is the best medicine.
And on that basis, if anyone is emotionally equipped to deal with a serious medical condition, it could be popular Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert.
Ever since he was diagnosed with stage four head and neck cancer caused by a virus known as HPV in July 2023, Rhod has bravely tried to keep a smile on his and his fans’ faces, as well as using his celebrity profile to raise awareness of the disease.
Campaigning for cancer charities is nothing new for the Carmarthen comic, who turned 55 a fortnight ago.
In fact, he even saw the irony in and funny side of his life-changing diagnosis, saying: “I’ve led five fundraising treks all over the world, I do stand-up comedy nights to raise money, I hosted quizzes… it’s been a big part of my life for the last 10 years, so imagine my surprise when I was diagnosed with cancer.
“Which p***ed me off no end, because I thought I’d have life-long immunity! Apparently not.”
Rhod, who was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2008 and has appeared numerous TV and radio panel shows, has been treated at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, where he had been a fundraising patron for a decade before.
“Apparently you’re just as likely to get cancer even if you spend your time fundraising for a cancer hospital,” he added.
“Anyway, I did get it, and it turns out it can come for anybody.
“The other irony is that I was in Cuba on a trek, fundraising for this cancer centre when the first lump popped up in my neck. I left as a patron and came back as a patient.”
“I had to have chemotherapy in a room with pictures of me on the way in! Grinning down at myself like, ‘Come on, you can do it!’, which was a bit odd.”
This intimate, inspiring and, at times, humorous documentary shown as part of the Stand Up to Cancer season, follows Rhod through 18 months of hope and hell as he confronts his illness.
It powerfully captures the raw reality of living with a little-known cancer, shedding light on the challenges and raising awareness of the condition.
Rhod shares his daunting journey from diagnosis, through initial surgery, to chemotherapy and radiotherapy with remarkable openness.
Through intimate video diaries, we accompany him on all the ups and downs, share in the triumphant moment when he rings the end-of-treatment bell, and then the agonising wait to find out if his treatment has worked as he tries to pull his life back together.
On top of everything he’s dealing with, the Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience star and former The Apprentice: You’re Fired! host undertakes a personal challenge, not only to raise awareness of his condition and how it can be prevented in the future, but also to raise funds for the hospital that played a pivotal role in saving his life.
As this week’s programmes in aid of SU2C show, absolutely no one is immune from this cruel disease.
But fair play to Rhod, he’s not admitting defeat – he has his heart set on helping others, while continuing to make people laugh.
Banged Up (Tuesday 31/10/23, Channel 4, 9.15pm)
What do EastEnders actor Sid Owen, Gogglebox star Marcus Luther and Conservative MP Johnny Mercer have in common?
They are among the unlikely group of seven famous faces at the centre of this fascinating four-part constructed documentary series.
Cameras will follow them while they are locked up for eight days in decommissioned HMP Shrewsbury, to find out what life is really like behind bars.
The celebrity inmates will rub shoulders with a variety of real ex-criminals, including those who have served long sentences for serious crimes.
All of them are now reformed and have agreed to re-enter prison specifically for this series, for one very important reason. Their famous cellmates, who will all be living by current UK prison rules, will have the opportunity to talk to them about their experiences in jail, as well as their former crimes, to get a true assessment of what impact the system had on them – for good or ill.
The estate will be run by a former prison governor with 20 years’ experience in some of the UK’s toughest prisons, while everyone is overseen by former prison officers.
EastEnders actor Sid Owen is first to arrive in this opener. Both of his brothers and his dad, who was a bank robber, spent long stints behind bars.
He wants to see what life was like from their perspective and experience the conditions he could have ended up in, had acting not changed his life.
However, being stripped of his home comforts and locked in a cell for more than 13 hours a day is harder than Sid ever expected, and forces him to take drastic action.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Johnny Mercer freely admits that he knows very little about the prison system. Growing up, he was a choirboy who went to a posh school.
He wants to find out for himself whether prison works. When he arrives, he meets Kevin, a convicted contract killer who describes how he used to run people over and why he believes his criminality is due to the fact that he didn’t have a father.
There’s also Tony, who used to take anything that didn’t belong to him. Pushed to his limits, and doing things he never thought possible, Johnny begins to question what the prison system is really out to do: punish or rehabilitate?
Marcus Luther, of Gogglebox fame, says he grew up in the ‘hood’, the same ‘ends’ as most of the people who commit crimes. But he made a choice not to break the law.
So why do these guys keep committing the same “dumb old crimes” that land them banged up? He hopes to find the answer during his stay at Shrewsbury.
Marcus steps onto the wing full of confidence, which is immediately dented when he’s surrounded by a gang of inmates who want him to ‘G check’ (bully) another prisoner.
Marcus’s response could see his card marked but also leave him open to retaliation. It will remain to be seen whether he stays true to himself or falls in line with the top dogs.
Shetland (Wednesday 01/11/23, BBC1, 9pm)
Words by Scheenagh Harrington
You have to feel sorry for fans of long-running TV shows, when the leading player decides the time has come to move on to pastures new, but it seems there’s always someone waiting in the wings.
Crime dramas are often – pardon the pun – victims of their own success.
John Nettles found fame as Jersey detective Jim Bergerac (and by being able to say Bureau des Etrangers without missing a beat) before making Midsomer his murder-prone stomping ground. When he stepped down after 14 years, Neil Dudgeon stepped smoothly in.
For three years, Ben Miller put on his best grumpy bloke act as DI Richard Poole in Death in Paradise, before being bumped off. Kris Marshall, Ardal O’Hanlon and Ralf Little were his equally popular successors.
So, while devotees of DI Jimmy Perez, AKA Douglas Henshall, may mourn the fact he is no more, there is good reason to cheer the return of this much-loved Scottish drama.
Its new leading lady is Ashley Jensen, whose CV is bursting at the seams with quality work (Extras, Ugly Betty and Catastrophe to name but three).
After 30 years away, Met detective DI Ruth Calder (Jensen) returns to Shetland on the trail of Ellen Quinn – the scared witness to a London gangland murder. Sadly, her family are the influential and notorious Bains, led by dominant matriarch, Grace.
Calder and DS Alison ‘Tosh’ McIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) discover her mother Stella and father Kieran haven’t seen Ellen since she left for London six months ago and are surprised to hear that she’s back in Shetland. Matters are made worse when armed London gangsters arrive on the Isles on a mission to silence Ellen.
On top of the twists and turns of the case, Calder is faced with figures from her past, including her ex-boyfriend Cal Innes and estranged younger brother Alan – now the minister of their late father’s old church.
As events gather momentum, Calder and Tosh are stunned by news of a brutal murder which has all the hallmarks of organised crime. However, there’s another shock in store for the team.
Ashley can’t hide her enthusiasm at the role. “I am absolutely thrilled to be joining Shetland as DI Ruth Calder,” she said.
“It’s such a hugely successful show and I am aware I have very big boots to fill since the departure of DI Perez, who was very much loved by fans.”
She was quick to ease fears about any changes to what makes the show such a hit with fans.
“There will be a different dynamic with Ruth amongst the regular characters and a few more new interesting characters to enjoy,” she said. “However, the integrity of the show and the world that has been created will remain very much in the same tone as the last seven seasons. It’s a real privilege to be asked to lead this show into a new chapter.
“I can’t wait to be working in Scotland again. I have missed it!”
Mary Makes it Easy (Thursday 02/11/23, BBC2, 7.30pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
There’s little doubt that Mary Berry knows her way around a kitchen.
She trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and Bath School of Home Economics, before becoming the cookery editor of Housewife magazine in the 1960s.
She made her TV debut in the early 1970s with Afternoon Plus with Judith Chalmers and went on to write numerous recipe books and launch her own cookery school.
Her role as a judge on The Great British Bake Off brought her to a whole new audience, and although she chose not to follow it when it moved from the BBC to Channel 4, she’s gone on to front her own series, including Mary Berry’s Simple Comforts and Mary Berry Love to Cook.
In 2021, she was made a Dame Commander for services to cooking, writing and baking.
So, if you were facing a culinary dilemma, who else would you want to call?
In her new series, Mary Makes It Easy, the expert and all-round national treasure will be coming to the rescue of some well-known friends, both old and new, who need some assistance.
She’ll help them with their problems, and in the process, she’ll also hopefully inspire the viewers to try something new as she shares easy-to-follow recipes that will take some of the stress out of cooking without sacrificing flavour.
In the first episode, Mary is joined by a particularly dear pal, comedian and fellow Great British Bake Off veteran Mel Giedroyc.
If that didn’t bring back enough memories, it seems they’ll once again be sharing a tent – only instead of the huge Bake Off marquee, they are going on a camping trip. It turns out that the friends share a love of spending time with their families in the great outdoors, but Mel admits that when it comes to cooking for her loved ones, she’s stuck in a bit of a rut and needs some inspiration.
Fortunately, Mary has plenty of ideas for delicious weekend wonders. Once they’ve had a chance to catch up during a country drive, Mary shares her first recipe – a rich, creamy mushroom soup.
Mary also takes charge when it comes to setting up camp – Mel grapples with the poles, while her mate reads out the instructions. Fortunately, the teamwork pays off and the pair have time to enjoy a game of croquet before they get out the hot chocolate and head torches and slip into their sleeping bags.
And while for some people, camping food means heating up a pan of water of the fire for instant noodles or trying to find a pizza place that delivers to the site, Mary will be giving Mel a masterclass in making veg ragù, inspires with her hearty and wholesome chicken tartaflete, and shows us how to whip up a tasty Ciabatta tricolore.
There’s even dessert, as Mel has a go at making Mary’s simple, creamy raspberry parfaits.
Stand Up to Cancer: The Takeover (Friday 03/11/23, Channel 4, 7pm)
Words by Rachael Popow
One in two people will get cancer in their lifetime, which is a worrying statistic. The better news is that survival rates are increasing – in the 1970s, just one in four people diagnosed with the disease would survive, but that has now risen to two in four, and Stand Up to Cancer is hoping that it will be three in four by 2034.
To help achieve that goal, a host of stars are taking part in a fundraising night of programmes. It all begins at 7pm with The Takeover as Davina McCall, Adam Hills, Joe Lycett and Munya Chawawa broadcast live from the Francis Crick Institute, a renowned hub for pioneering biomedical research.
There, they will celebrate some of the breakthroughs that have been made possible by SU2C donations.
They’ll also be joined by comedians and celebrity supporters, including HRH the Prince of Wales, who pays a heartfelt tribute to Bowelbabe, the late Dame Deborah James, who documented her own battle with cancer prior to her death in 2022.
The Takeover is followed at 8.30pm by the first of two Celebrity Gogglebox for SU2C specials, and then at 9psm it’s time for Don’t Look Down: The Final.
Over the past few weeks, viewers have seen presenter Paddy McGuinness and celebrity volunteers Beverley Callard, Anton Ferdinand, Kimberly Wyatt, Chris Hughes, David Ginola, Charley Boorman, GK Barry, Fats Timbo and Victoria Pendleton preparing for a world-first relay highwire walk 100ft above the London Stadium. Now, it’s time for them to shake off their nerves and try defying gravity.
Paddy admits it’s going to be tense, saying: “I’m not worried about anyone not being able to balance, they’re all OK at that now. [But] on the night, when you’re at this landmark and people are there, and lights and cameras, your mind starts to wander.
“It’s alright out here in the Austrian Alps, beautiful, with no-one around, but when you’re in London and all eyes are on you, that’s different. We’ll just have to see.”
To add to the pressure, SU2C is a cause that is close to all the celebrities’ hearts. Paddy says: “Everyone’s there because they’ve either had cancer themselves, or their relatives have had cancer.
“My dad passed away from colon cancer and my brother had leukaemia. My thing with Stand Up to Cancer, especially with the raising money, is I hope – touch wood – that within all our lifetimes, they’ll have cracked the cure. I’m all about the research and the more money that can be pumped into that, the better.”
He adds: “Imagine waking up in the morning and just seeing that headline: They’ve Finally Found a Cure to Cancer. It’ll be mind-blowing. It’ll be amazing. I hope we get there. The more people chuck a little bit of money in, the better.”
That will be a thought on everyone’s minds as the night continues with the second part of Gogglebox, and The Comedy Roast for SU2C, a one-of-a-kind gala hosted by Rhod Gilbert which gives a who’s who of British comedy the chance to tell cancer exactly what they think of it.