10pm, Sky Atlantic

The kids aren’t alright. But were they ever? Like its cast of solipsistic Californian teenagers, the eight-part HBO drama Euphoria comes on like their growing pains, screw-ups, ground-down feelings and fleeting moments of release are something new in this rotten old world. Which is only natural, because, for them, they are.

But despite declarations of square-peg status, the series slots neatly into a long line of dramas about broken suburban teenagers that runs back through TV shows like Skins to movies like Kids, all the way to James Dean rolling in the gutter in Rebel Without A Cause.

The trappings and traps of the society around them may change – instead of ducktail haircuts, bullying and boozed-up chicken runs come facial tattoos, revenge porn, pills and brutal dating-app hook-ups – but the underlying despair and desires, the sense of confusion, and of knowing it all, are eternal. Then again, in this respect, perhaps the pressure surrounding Euphoria’s post-millennials is of a new intensity. They may be “digital natives,” but at a time when advances in technology are outstripping our psychology, they're still lumbered with the same old mammalian brains, thin skin and fragile hearts.

The disastrous non-hero floating at the centre of the swirl is Rue (Zendaya), a 17-year-old who never asked to be born, but found herself being squeezed out three days after 9/11, the atrocity which, “as grief turned to numbness” set the pace for her life. A doctor eagerly diagnosed her as a young child with “anxiety, OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder,” but the turning point came when she started having panic attacks aged eleven and was treated with the nothingness of Valium: “the feeling I’ve been searching for all my life.”

And so, as her mental health issues have developed, that search has continued. As the series begins, Rue is a chronic drug user, leaving rehab after several weeks, with no intention of staying clean. She’s not really chasing a high, nor seeking self-destruction; more simply trying to erase herself.

Around her we encounter a soapy circle of familiar highschool types going through their own angsts and issues, with various 2019 spins, and regular parties: a messed-up football jock with a repressed father; the gossips; the “ugly” girl; and the new face in town, a transgender girl called Jules (Hunter Schafer).

The success of any teen drama is measured not only by its attraction to the teenage audience whose experience it seeks to reflect (or flatter), but also by the moral outrage it inspires among their elders – and the more it shocks the old folks, the more the kids will want to see it. On that score, Euphoria, which features frequent male and female nudity, sex, violence, and plentiful substance abuse, has already scored a hit in the US by upsetting something called The Parents Television Council.

Yet, while ostensibly going after a grim melancholy, the show’s creator, Sam Levinson wraps Euphoria in a seductively pretty surface, all photogenic faces, glitchy style, crazy-drug-trip camerawork, and thick, pulsing neon colours by night, like a music video were about to break out. In this, it’s more old-fashioned than something like Kids, Larry Clark’s infamous 1995 movie, with its grungy, detached, near documentary look. Equally, in comparison with Clark’s largely inexperienced teen cast, Zendaya is a Hollywood pro – at 22, she’s several years older than her character, and has been acting since 2010.

But she is also absolutely terrific, particularly in her scenes with Hunter Schafer’s Jules. As this kaleidoscope of modern day horrors blurs faster around them, their tentative, turbulent relationship is Euphoria’s sweet, sad, solid spine. They might seem to come from different planets, but looking out from the shelter of their empty 1950s swimming pool, James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo would still recognise them as kindred spirits.



Arena: Stanley And His Daughters

11.25pm, BBC Four

Originally shown in 2018, this extraordinary documentary works on several levels: not only as a profile of the artist Stanley Spencer; but as a portrait of life in old age; a study in the emotional price often paid by the families of great artists; and of the catastrophic damage parents can do to their children. At the heart of the film are Spencer’s daughters, Unity and Shirin, aged 87 and 91 at the time of filming, and only just reconciling after a very long estrangement. As they pack up their dad’s old drawings and letters, the film charts his chaotic private life: he left their mother for a catastrophic relationship with a neighbour, Patricia Preece, seemingly unaware she was lesbian, and had a talent for manipulation. It’s a sometimes painful, achingly poignant piece of work.


The Conjoined Twins: An Impossible Decision 9pm, BBC Two This tough, heartbreaking film introduces two-and-half-year-old twins Marieme and Ndeye, and their adoring father, Ibrahima, who, as he attempts to give them the best life possible, is facing a choice no parent should ever have to. Born conjoined, the girls beat the heavy odds that see most such twins dying soon after birth. But Marieme has a weak heart, and if she dies, Ndeye will too – yet separation would carry huge risks for both, particularly Marieme, who would be unlikely to live. Cameras follow Ibrahima and the team at Great Ormond Street as they struggle with the dilemma: is it right to perform an operation knowing one patient will not survive? From a distance, it’s an absorbing case study in medical ethics; but this moving, human film reminds you that the doctors are not dealing with examples in a textbook.


Der Pass

9pm, Sky Atlantic

We’re only on episode two, and this grimly gothic Alpine thriller spun off from The Bridge format is already near to choking on its own darkness. In the deep dark woods, weird, witchy, fetishistic assemblages of twigs and antlers stir memories of True Detective, while in recordings of their last moments, the brutally tortured and ritualistically posed murder victims that are beginning to litter the snowy border between Germany and Austria are heard screaming about hell and warning “the red time of year” is coming. Could it all be something to do with the mad, secretive apocalyptic cult that lives in the forest? Elsewhere, we get a further glimpse into the private troubles of the brooding Austrian slob cop, Winter. Meanwhile, a surviving victim of the killer lies traumatised in hospital – could she have seen something that will help the cops? Well…kinda.


This Way Up

10pm, Channel 4

This often downbeat new comedy-drama from writer/star Aisling Bea seems destined to get talked about as a post-Fleabag affair, but while there are some similarities with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hit, the underlying mood, attitude and sensibility lie closer to Sharon Horgan – who actually co-stars here. But above all, this is Bea’s show. Disconnected one second, burning the next, she’s excellent as Aine, who we first encounter as she leaves rehab after some kind of catastrophic breakdown, and tries to put her life back together, while clearly still troubled, and constantly in danger of slipping perilously back into bad old ways. Horgan plays her concerned sister, Shona, and while the tone is a little awkward to settle into at first, the writing and performance of their relationship make this definitely worth sticking with, as Aine’s story begins to come into focus.


Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing

8pm, BBC Two

This will always be one of the week’s highlights, but it’s maybe being broadcast on the wrong day this time round. The first series went out Wednesday nights, and floated there like a perfect little oasis of bliss, stupidity, and zen-like calm to clamber onto for respite in the middle of the week. That’s a wee bit wasted on a Friday night, but no matter when you catch it, this is a gem. Tonight, our plucky anglers take on the carp of Essex. More importantly, they (as ever) take on the subject of their ever-increasing age, with Bob again recalling when he was young and gorgeous, while persuading Paul to visit a cosmetic clinic to consider the options in Botox and hair transplant: “it’s not too late!” Meanwhile, Paul demonstrates his surprising suppleness, and there’s an educational interlude on scrambled eggs.


The Vietnam War

10.30pm, BBC Four

A repeat for this landmark series by the great American documentary maker Ken Burns. Ten years in the making, this lucid and tragic 10-part history covers not only the conflict itself, but the turbulent era it sparked in the US, and the scars it left on the country. Tonight’s double bill begins by stressing how, following the conflict, nobody in America really spoke about Vietnam for years – and although it has been covered exhaustively since, in some ways this still feels like the first time it's been talked about properly. Featuring contributions from all sides, and astonishing archive, episode one charts the war’s pre-history, from the 1851 French invasion of Vietnam, to the formation of the Viet Cong to overthrow colonial rule in 1960, as America looked on with increasing nervousness about the spread of communism.