Sunday’s TV tips

The spoiler-free guide to the things appearing on your audiovisual receiving box.

Sunday’s TV tips

FILM: Beetlejuice (Channel 5, 7.15pm)

(1988) A recently deceased couple come to terms with ’living’ in the afterlife. However, they find there’s no rest for the wicked when an obnoxious family move into their old abode.

With the aid of ’bio-exorcist’ Beetlejuice, they attempt to get rid of the invaders.

Despite a wafer-thin premise, this is huge fun. Michael Keaton - who appears for just 17 minutes – steals the show as the eponymous slobbish spook; Tim Burton’s direction is superb, and the bouncy Danny Elfman score keeps things ticking over nicely.

Starring: Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara

NATURE: Wonders of the Monsoon (BBC2, 8pm)

The fascinating series comes to an end with a look at the people who inhabit the monsoon regions, and their relationship with the nature around them.

One plant more than any other has shaped life in these areas – rice. But just because it’s the perfect monsoon crop doesn’t mean the farmers don’t face challenges, as we see farmers in Assam, India, trying to keep a herd of hungry elephants away from the paddies.

The programme also looks at how organised religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism have affected the environment. Both faiths incorporate a deep respect for nature, which has resulted in thousands of ’scared groves’ being preserved across India, helping to protect the biodiversity of the subcontinent.

However, those spaces are now under threat as forests are cleared to make way for cash crops, damaging the habitats of species ranging from the Siamese crocodile to the Bengal tiger.

Luckily, this series won’t end on a completely depressing note, as we discover how local people are finding sustainable ways to meet the global demand for timber and crops.

MOTORING: Speed with Guy Martin (Channel 4, 8pm)

No wonder Channel 4 was so quick to sign up Guy Martin for a second series - he’s a TV natural who manages to make the need for speed seems accessible to people who usually break out in a cold sweat at the idea of going above 50 miles per hour.

However, this week Guy is the one with reason to be feeling nervous as he prepares to compete in one of America’s oldest auto races, the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb. Also known as the Race to the Clouds, it sees riders competing against the clock on a mountainside track that finishes over 4,000 metres about sea level.

If he’s going to be in with a chance, Guy needs more than just horse power - he’s also going to have to get used to dealing with high altitudes.

Can a trip to the Shelsley Walsh hill climb in Worcestershire and fitness tests in a hypoxic chamber ensure that the thin air doesn’t interfere with his cognitive performance and send him driving over a cliff?

CULTURE: The Secret Life of Books (BBC4, 8.30pm)

Halloween has become a weekend-long extravaganza on the BBC – even BBC Four is getting in on the act, as The Secret Life of Books concludes with a reappraisal of a horror classic.

More than 200 years after its publication, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein still has a powerful hold over the public imagination. Even if the iconic movie image of a shambling monster with a bolt through his neck doesn’t give you nightmares, the idea of science run amok might – as Professor Alice Roberts points out, the name Frankenstein is still used as short-hand for ethically questionable developments.

However, Roberts argues that the book is more nuanced than its reputation suggests as she looks at how it raises and critiques some very complex ideas.

The presenter also takes a look at the earliest surviving manuscript of the book to see what it can tell her about the fascinating nature of the author’s literary and personal relationship with her poet husband, Percy.

DRAMA: Homeland (Channel 4, 9pm)

Carrie has made a lot of questionable decisions over the course of Homeland, from getting romantically involved with a suspected terrorist to periodically coming off her medication. In season three, Quinn even resorted to shooting her in the arm to make her follow orders for once.

But arguably nothing she has done has been quite as shocking as the moment in the second episode of this latest run when she briefly contemplated drowning her baby daughter. As well as proving that Homeland can still produce moments of extraordinary tension, it has left us wondering yet again whether Carrie is really the right person for such a high-ranking and responsible job.

She’d better have her wits about her this week, as she receives a tip from Redmond regarding Quinn’s lead.

At least Saul should be his usual steady self as he calls in a favour from an old friend in the Pakistani military, but Fara has reason to be feeling jumpy as she uncovers a conspiracy. Watch out for a guest appearance from Art Malik.

DRAMA: Downton Abbey (UTV, 9pm)

They may look prim and proper, but the ladies of Downton Abbey have some pretty racy secrets _ on Channel 4’s recent Celebrity Gogglebox, Kate Moss and Paul O’Grady were both scandalised when Mary dumped Gillingham after sleeping with him.

They weren’t as shocked as Gillingham himself, who refused to accept that a well-bred lady could do such a thing, but this week Mary and Blake seize the opportunity to send him an even stronger message.

There are more secrets in danger of being exposed, as Rosamund turns up at Downton in the wake of Edith’s departure, although Rose is probably hoping the skeletons stay in the cupboard just a little longer as she prepares to introduce Atticus and his family to the Abbey.

In below-stairs news, Anna and Bates consider making a fresh start, Molesley is concerned to see Daisy’s disillusionment with her studies, and even Violet gets dragged into a war between the servants.

FILM: The Cabin in the Woods (Channel 5, 9pm)

(2012) Bookish college student Dana is looking forward to a jaunt into the great outdoors with blonde friend Jules, her jock boyfriend Curt, and bong-smoking slacker Marty.

Curt invites along his shy, sensitive buddy Holden, principally as a date for Dana, and the five thrill-seekers head into the mountains to a remote log cabin.

Meanwhile, deep within an underground bunker, scientists Richard Sitterson and Steve Hadley stare at CCTV screens, which seem to be following the progress of the students towards a grisly fate.

This meta chiller attempts to reinvigorate the horror genre with a slick tale of college kids in peril that is three parts bonkers to one part twisted genius.

For the opening few minutes, making sense of the madness in Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s hare-brained method takes up most of our attention – the sudden opening titles are a hoot.

Though the various elements don’t quite gel, this is still one of the most inventive fantasy movies of recent years.

Starring: Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Brian White

FILM: Shame (Channel 4, 10pm)

(2011) Brandon Sullivan is a sex addict who has carefully structured his life around his compulsion, constantly pursuing one-night stands and keeping everyone at arm’s length emotionally. When his equally troubled sister turns up unexpectedly, he is forced to face up to his demons as his world starts to unravel.

It might sound like a titillating drama, but Steve McQueen’s critically acclaimed offering is anything but. A brilliantly acted piece with a top turn from Michael Fassbender, it’s a bleak study of one man’s obsession which spirals down into ever more depressing misery.

Arguably the best moment is in the first few wordless minutes when Brandon seduces a woman on a subway train with just a few looks.

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie, Elizabeth Masucci, Mari-Ange Ramirez, Alex Manette, Hannah Ware.

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