Sunday, February 23
Bunkers, Brutalism and
Bloody-mindedness: Concrete Poetry
9pm, BBC Four
Part two of Jonathan Meades's massive selfie, with a little bit of architecture thrown in. Among the muscular philosophy, the sentences that begin "One might take a cue from André Gide…" and the overwhelming purring sound of a man licking himself all over to taste just how very clever he really is, Meades's impassioned but deadpan defence of massive, awesome, senses-altering sculptural brutalism continues with a consideration of the late work of Le Corbusier, in brilliant buildings like the Marseilles housing block Unité d'Habitation and the chapel at Ronchamps. From here, an erudite canter through the projects such work inspired around the globe, and another hysterical lambasting of the intellectual pygmyism and aesthetic impotence of anyone and everyone who doesn't like the style. Meades ends with a quick round up of a new generation of artists and photographers who challenge the received wisdom that all that massive grey concrete was a big bad thing. The glimpses of the buildings being discussed, however, remain frustratingly fleeting.
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Monday, February 24
9pm, BBC One
It's really great to be able to see Maxine Peake storming away right at the centre of a mainstream TV show, but it's a shame she's not being employed in something that might push us just a little bit more than Peter Moffat's well-groomed legal drama. Still, her very presence makes this programme seem sharper than it is, especially when, as tonight, she gets all boozed up and starts doing the Ian Curtis dance to "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Returning for a third series, we find Peake's belligerent QC Martha Costello battling through a trial that hits very close to home. The son of her head of chambers has been arrested for assaulting a policeman during a demonstration - and the policeman has died. Looks like her beau, Clive (Rupert Penry-Jones), picked the wrong night to try and celebrate earning his Silk.
Tuesday, February 25
9pm, BBC Three
I know what you've been thinking. "Sure," you've been thinking. "I've been watching all these competitions where just ordinary humble little people do amazingly interesting things like bake cakes and sew things and sing adequately and stuff, while brilliant amazing expert judges judge them. But what I really want to watch is a show where just ordinary humble people CUT HAIR while brilliant expert judges judge them." Well, all your hirsute wishes come true tonight with this tonsorial new series, in which eight hopefuls with scissors compete to become Britain's Best Amateur Hair Stylist, while saying things like, "This means so much to me," and "Hair is my life." Tonight, they are assigned the hallowed task of erecting the perfect quiff, measuring a height of 7cm (King Kurt fans will mock at the lack of ambition.) The models look nervous, but, all in all, it's nowhere near as funny as Celebrity Scissorhands was when Steve Strange got going with his clippers.
Wednesday, February 26
Inside No. 9
10pm, BBC Two
Just to vary things a little, Reece Shearsmith sits out from performing in the latest of the nicely nasty little one-act plays he and Steve Pemberton have written for this beguiling series. Set inside a bright suburban house, Pemberton and Sophie Thompson play the parents of a terminally ill little girl, nervously preparing for a charitable birthday visit from a glittering pop singer, Frankie J Parsons (David Bedella). There are balloons a-plenty, but, not long after the arrival of the singer and the charity representative (Tamsin Greig), things take a catastrophic turn, and the question becomes how to make the best out of a bad situation. It's the weakest of the stories so far, more sketch material than anything, but the cast stick with it, and it gets by on the general sense of wrong-ness.
Thursday, February 27
Storyville: Coach Zoran And His African Tigers
10pm, BBC Four
If you were to mash Nikita Khrushchev together with Brian Glover's immortal performance as the PE teacher in Kes, then toast the result under Alex Ferguson's hairdryer, you would be left with something that looks like Zoran Djordjevic. Although it might not be quite as loud.
A footballing man out of Serbia, Djordjevic is the star of director Sam Benstead's charming, funny, but ultimately poignant documentary, in much the same way that the earthquake was the star in the old disaster movie with Charlton Heston. In his youth in the former Yugoslavia, Djordjevic played midfield, but turned to coaching in his late twenties. Now 62, he has a track record of managing very small footballing nations across the Middle East and South Asia, and, in 2010, earned a reputation as a minor miracle worker by leading Bangladesh to victory in the South Asian Games.
Benstead started filming him in 2012, shortly after that, Djordjevic was appointed as the new manager of South Sudan's national side. On taking the position, Djordjevic made a bold promise: his team would qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil - a spectacularly audacious claim, given South Sudan had itself existed for less than a year by that point, since formally separating from Sudan in July 2011, following the bloody civil war that stretched over 50 years and claimed some 2.5 million lives.
Benstead's idea to be there filming beside Djordjevic as he began trying to build a South Sudanese team was an inspired one, and not simply because Djordjevic himself is such a character - although he is just that, an abrasive, blustering, boorish, bullying, big baby dictator with a macho win-or-die philosophy and a spectacularly foul mouth, who can also be also emotional, teary, selfless, passionate and fiercely loyal. And whose best friend in the whole world becomes a little South Sudanese sheep he names Champion.
Benstead's film is unshowy, but it is about much more than Djordjevic and his excellent sheep. It is about football - the dreams it inspires, the great cruelty with which it crushes them, and the layers of cash, rottenness and bureaucracy on top - but only glancingly. Above all, it is about the short, bright, optimistic moment when this new country struck out on its own and dreamed of a better future, and the frustration, betrayal, in-fighting and pain that followed quickly after.
It is some measure of the enormity of his task that Djordjevic's first job is actually to visit a welder and get him to build the national team some goalposts, because they don't have any. But it's when the government shuts down oil production over a dispute with the north, and the already impoverished country is crippled under extreme austerity measures as a result, that things really get tough.
In trying to inspire his team, Djordjevic speaks the language of Rocky movies and Chariots Of Fire. But as he tours the malaria-ravaged landscape scouting players, and rages against the officials and politicians whose easy promises of money, support and glory come to nothing, the reality more resembles a footballing Dad's Army, written by Graham Greene. Hope and pluck give way to farce, then tragedy. In observing Djordjevic's quest up close, Benstead captures in curious microcosm what was happening to the precarious, impoverished country itself, and some intimations of what lay ahead. Today, two and a half years on from its independence day, South Sudan has degenerated into full-blown civil war.
Friday, February 28
9pm, BBC One
What's this, another new series of Sherlock already? He's looking a bit puffy these days is he not? Ah, no, it's that other one. There has been the odd special here and there (most recently, last Easter) but this is the first full series for Alan Davies's reluctant, rumpled prestidigitatious detective for 10 years. In the first of three spirited cases written and directed by creator David Renwick, we find Creek happily married and quite unwilling to return to sleuthing. But when the star of a West End musical is found stabbed inside a locked dressing room from which it seems no assailant could possibly have escaped, who they gonna call..?
Saturday, March 1
9pm, Sky Atlantic
Episode two, and the hypnotic series starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey just gets weirder, deeper and better. The narrative continues to shiver unreliably between 1995, as our mismatched cops Hart (Harrelson) and Cohle (McConaughey) investigate the grotesque murder in deepest Louisiana, and 2012, as other cops interview the now-retired pair about it. Back then, the seemingly ritualistic killing has become a political football, as the local powers pile on the pressure to make a showcase out of "anti-Christian crimes." Meanwhile, as they trace the movements of the dead girl to a backwoods brothel and a burned-out church, the duo continue to needle each other, and we learn a little more about the secret life of each - including Cohle's dark past undercover, and his hallucinatory visions.