Saturday September 22

New Order: Decades

9pm, Sky Arts

In summer 2017, after thirty-three years of seeing them whenever they came near me, I made the pilgrimage to see New Order on their home turf, in Manchester. The band were playing five nights as a special event at the heart of that year’s pulsing, defiant Manchester International Festival, under the algorithmic title ∑(No, 12k, Lg, 17Mif) – a faintly chemical equation that generates an enigmatic atmosphere, yet is really pretty straightforward, which is a decent summary of New Order themselves.

Certainly, for these shows, conducted in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing, the group seemed engaged in weird alchemy. The gigs were housed inside Manchester’s former, once-iconic Granada TV headquarters, then in a quasi-derelict state, being ripped out and refitted for a gentrified tomorrow, but still recognisably the abandoned television studios: like a building caught flickering between its own past and future. On the way in, I suddenly realised I was walking over the old Coronation Street cobbles, and had a sense of ley-lines converging beneath my feet.

Ghosts were summoned. The soundstages once played home to Granada Reports, the regional news show on which, four decades earlier, Joy Division – the group New Order once were, until the death of singer Ian Curtis – made their first television appearance. Their performance was introduced that night in 1978 by presenter Tony Wilson, who would soon sign Joy Division to his now-fabled independent label Factory Records, whose chaotic, unlikely, unwanted influence, by slow osmosis, eventually encouraged Manchester to reassess itself, and who himself died in 2007.

For these 2017 shows, New Order were digging deep with a set largely composed of songs they don’t usually play, including Joy Division tracks. With so much past around, it might seem the stage was set for nostalgia. That would’ve been okay. Yet instead, aided by the “Lg” and “12k” elements of that mysterious equation, they conjured something new and restless.

“Lg” was artist Liam Gillick, who co-designed the stage setting, with the band playing before an imposing grid structure of twelve blank squares (two high, six across). Inside each cubicle, part-hidden, then part-revealed by louvered slats, the members of the “12k” were gathered over keyboards: a dozen young students from the local Royal Northern College Of Music, assembled as shadowplayers in a “synth orchestra,” taking deconstructed elements of New Order’s music and combining them into a colossal new sound. When it all started going, the sum of veteran band, young collaborators, and all the old and recent history in the air, was surging, alive, and unexpectedly moving.

New Order: Decades is a film about those performances. Except, it isn’t. Given that they are a group built from contradictions, this is fitting. But it’s also what prevents a fine music documentary from being a great one.

Director Mike Christie didn’t catch the creation of the Manchester event. Instead, he filmed two reprise versions of the show performed a few months later by invitation in Vienna and Turin. Christie gets great access to the group and associates in rehearsal, performance, and discussion, as they chew over the technical, musical and logistical challenges, and possible “meaning,” of the gigs.

But this comes as retrospect, missing the actual heat and struggle, frustration and breakthrough that went into their original creation. It gets the spirit of these shows, but misses some of the feeling. If it had caught that alchemy, this might have been one for the ages, rather than simply the best music documentary in months. Still, when it all gets going, when they start playing “Decades” – one of those Joy Division songs that comes from another place, rendered in a version that make would Ennio Morricone sit up – it’s the only show in town.

Sunday Sept 16


9pm, BBC One

It’s the penultimate part of the BBC’s much buzzed-about thriller hit, and, after the twists and turns of recent weeks, tonight’s episode is a relative moment of calm, as David Budd (Richard Madden) seeks to put the broken pieces together in his stunned, jangling head. His suspicion that the attack on Julia was the result of a conspiracy orchestrated by the security services in collusion with some very high-ranking politicians seems to be on the money. But his time on the case could be running out, as colleagues and the suspicious cops investigating him both begin to insist he needs some time off to get over recent traumas. Meanwhile, Budd’s focus falls on discovering the identity of the mysterious “Longcross” who met secretly with Julia. But who’s pursuing who?

Monday 17

Black Earth Rising

9pm, BBC Two

The first episode of Hugo Blick’s opaque, mesmerising political thriller ended with an abrupt, enigmatic shot that seemed to come out of nowhere: unknown people…in a strange room…doing…something. Picking up where that left off, Blick clinically spells out exactly what they are planning, and, as the lawyer Eve (a wonderful Harriet Walter) arrives to begin prosecuting her controversial case at the International Criminal Court, the tension grows almost unbearable. Meanwhile, having rowed with her adoptive mother over the case, Kate (Michaela Coel), begins to learn there is far more in play than meets the eye, and agrees to partner up with Eve’s boss, Michael (John Goodman) to investigate. Spiking the plot’s slow unravelling, and further complication, with humour, emotion and sudden set piece moments of action and suspense, it’s a dazzling hour.

Tuesday 18

The Circle

9pm, Channel 4

Tonight sees the launch of Channel 4’s heavily trailed new social-media reality competition, which, in television culture’s continuing cannibalistic knee-jerk copycat death spiral down into outright meaninglessness, is pitched as a cross between Big Brother and Black Mirror. Throw in Bake Off and Songs Of Praise, you might have got me. The idea is, the contestants never meet during the game. After moving into individual apartments in a specially fitted-out block of flats, they interact via their own social-media network, vying to become the most popular. Hidden behind avatars, they’re free to create fake identities, but run the risk of losing favour, or being blocked. Let’s just hope this turns out as exciting as watching people doing this on social media for real! Continues until Friday, then all next week, then until hell freezes.

Wednesday 19

Bad Move

8pm, STV

A second series for the throwback comedy starring Jack Dee that doesn’t do any harm at all, unless, that is, you’re left just faintly unsettled by the vague sense that you’ve been spirited to the early-1980s while it’s on. The situation is straight from the sitcom old testament: Steve (Dee/ Paul Nicholas) and Nicky (Kerry Goodiman/ Paula Wilcox) are a couple of your urban city-folk types, who have pitched up living in the country, hoping for a new life of rural idyll. But, d’oh, they can’t get them no peace! Much of the irritation they encounter is due to their horrendous, flittery snob neighbour, Matt (Miles Jupp/ Derek Nimmo.) The basic plot of this first episode sets the hellfire pace: Steve and Nicky have a hole in their roof, but can’t find a builder to fix it.

Thursday 20

Hyundai Mercury Prize 2018 Live: Album of the Year 9pm, BBC Four Annie Mac hosts coverage of this year’s much-debated awards ceremony, coming live from the Apollo in Hammersmith, London. A panel of artists, broadcasters and music industry players have drawn up the shortlist of what they believe to be the best albums from across the contemporary UK music scene, but the inclusion of some well-known names, and the not-quite-reflecting-all-across-the-UK nature of the list has already drawn comment. The nominees include Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds; Jorja Smith; Arctic Monkeys; grime guy MC Novelist; Florence + the Machine; Everything Everything; King Krule; Everything Is Recorded; Sons of Kemet; Wolf Alice; Lily Allen and singer-songwriter Nadine Shah. There will be special live performances, before the unveiling of this year’s winner.

Friday 21

The Good Cop/



Two new US series land on Netflix from tonight. An amiable, odd-couple cop comedy created by Monk’s Andy Breckman, The Good Cop’s main weapon is its central casting, with singer Josh Groban as earnest, uptight detective Tony Caruso opposite Taxi legend Tony Danza as his disreputable father, Tony Sr – a disgraced, man’s man, old-school cop, who never went by the book. It works much better than it might. Sadly, beyond trailers, no preview material was made available for Maniac, but it looks worth looking out for. Created by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective), it promises to be a stylised, dense, dark, sci-fi, reality hopping psycho-comedy, with Emma Stone and Jonah Hill as two volunteers on a drug trial overseen by shadowy scientist Justin Theroux. All this plus unexpected co-star Sally Field.