TV not to miss

Des O’Driscoll rounds up the highlights of this coming week on TV

SATURDAY

Vera Drake - TG4, 10.10pm

Mike Leigh’s tale of a backstreet abortionist in England during the 1950s isn’t exactly a happy-go-lucky offering, but it is a typically robust attempt to portray some of the issues of the time. Stars, Jim Broadbent and Leigh regular Imelda Staunton.

SUNDAY

Disasters At Sea: Why Ships Sink - Channel 4, 8pm

The Titanic centenary is the ideal time to show this programme, while the Costa Concordia proved the point that such sinkings are still an issue. This show examines the complex web of design and construction weaknesses, navigational and human errors, and failures in evacuation plans, which contribute to maritime disasters.

Silent Witness - BBC One, 9pm

The long-running crime series is back for a 15th run, with the team of pathologists tackling a sex grooming ring, tracking down a female serial killer and investigating an exorcism. Concludes Monday at 9pm.

The Falkland’s Legacy With Max Hastings - BBC Two, 9pm

Max Hastings was the first journalist to enter Port Stanley with British forces near the conclusion of the Falklands War, and his time in the disputed islands was just one chapter in a long career as a war reporter. He’s also a prolific author of war books and in this documentary, he marks the 30th anniversary of the Falklands/Malvinas conflict by analysing its impact and legacy. For a time, the success of the last ‘imperial hurrah’ for the British provided a blueprint for other military actions in the era. As Hastings shows subsequent involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan heralded a different type of warfare.

Would You Believe - RTÉ One, 10.35pm

The Secret Peacemaker is the tale of Fr Alec Reid, the Tipperary priest best known for his role in bringing the Troubles to an end. Now 80 and in poor health he tells how the peace process in the North came about, while others such as Gerry Adams and Martin Mansergh reveal the importance of Reid to those early tentative steps that eventually put an end to the conflict. Of course, the iconic photograph of the priest is the one of him administering the last rites to a stripped and bloodied British soldier who had been attacked and killed by mourners at an IRA funeral in 1988, above, taken by David Cairns. Coincidentally, during that incident, he was carrying some of the first documents of what would eventually become the peace process. While contributors to the show are overwhelmingly positive about Reid, he isn’t without his critics. Some loyalists accused him of being an IRA lackey, and Alan McBride, whose wife was killed by the Provos in the Shankill fish shop bomb, talks about his outrage when Reid compared Unionist treatment of Nationalists to the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews.

MONDAY

Unsettled: From Tinker To Traveller - RTÉ One, 9.35pm

In 1972, two Californian anthropologists, George and Sharon Gmelch, came to Ireland to carry out one of the first academic study of Travellers. They lived in a barrel-top wagon on a halting site in Dublin for a year, sharing the lives of the extended families who also lived in Holylands. This engaging documentary follows them on their return to Ireland as they meet up with some of the people they knew back then. As well as an extremely warm welcome from Travellers who obviously thought very highly of the Americans, we witness some very revealing conversations about the way Traveller life has changed in the past 40 years. Parents talk about their fears for their children’s futures in the face of drug abuse and materialism. Poignantly, the Gmelchs also discuss suicide, a phenomenon almost unknown in Traveller families in the early 1970s that has now reached horrifying proportions. There’s also a moving scene when one Traveller man tells the couple how it was the kindness and respect that they showed him that inspired him to seek education for himself and his family. Well worth a viewing.

Damien Hirst: The First Look - Channel 4, 8pm

Love him or loathe him, Damien Hirst has certainly been one of the more interesting modern artists, and here he takes us and Noel Fielding on a guided tour of his major retrospective at the Tate in London.

TUESDAY

Triúr - RTÉ One, 10.15pm

For this documentary, Macroom director Dónal Ó Céilleachair follows the ongoing collaboration between three musicians — Peadar Ó Riada, Martin Hayes and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. It’s an effort that has already produced two albums, and this film offers insight into the process.

WEDNESDAY

The Fisherman’s Apprentice with Monty Halls - BBC Two, 7pm

The final episode of Monty Halls’ experiences in Cornwall has him trying to get a new scheme up and running where local fishermen would sell their catch to local people. Crucially, it would mean the consumers would have to be willing to try new types of fish.

THURSDAY

The Zoo - RTÉ One, 7pm

The keepers have to hand-rear another primate when a newborn baby pygmy marmoset is left behind by its mother. Plans are also underway for the impending birth of a baby giraffe, following a 15-month pregnancy.

Land of the Lost Wolves - BBC One, 9pm

Gordon Buchanan has become something of a celebrity wildlife cameraman in recent years, and this two part show takes him to the Cascade Mountains in Washington to document the lives of the first pack of wild wolves to inhabit this area in 70 years.

Laochra Gael: Dan Shanahan - TG4, 10pm

One of the most charismatic hurlers of the modern age, Dan Shanahan retired from inter-county hurling in 2010 with a tally of 21 goals. Séan Óg Ó hAilpín is among the contributors to a show that looks back on his career such as the epic battles with Cork.

FRIDAY

Muintir Maigh Eo ar an Titanic - TG4, 8pm

A documentary looking back on one of the most heartbreaking Irish angles of the Titanic disaster — how a party of 14 people from the village of Addergoole in Co Mayo travelled on the ship. Just three survived the voyage, and one of their grand-daughters is among those relating the tragic tale an event that rocked a small community.

Shameless USA - RTÉ Two, 9.40pm

First episode in the second series of the trans-Atlantic take on the Gallaghers.

Game Of Thrones returns for a second season to Sky Atlantic on Monday, and this year’s cast includes Irish actor Liam Cunningham. Picture: Helen Sloan


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