Elizabeth Is Missing

9pm, BBC One/


9pm, BBC Scotland

The first time we see Maud (Glenda Jackson), the unforgettable 83-year-old protagonist of Elizabeth Is Missing, she is singing. “Make up your eyes with laughter” she mutters and trills as she bustles around her empty house. “Whistle a tune of gladness.”

The song, still imprinted on her memory 71 years after she first heard it as a girl, is “Powder Your Face With Sunshine,” a hit for Evelyn Knight in 1948, and a perfect example of the plucky, determinedly happy tunes they wrote back then to banish war and turn to the future. Yet the longer we spend with Maud, the clearer it becomes that, while she still has pluck and determination in spades, the future didn’t leave her much to be happy about at all. Even this little song she can’t get out of her head turns out to be rooted there by pain. Still, on she goes. Just another old woman. Just an ordinary old woman. Just a tragic old woman. Just magnificent.

Elizabeth Is Missing is based on Emma Healey’s bestselling novel, and, as the title suggests, there’s a mystery at its heart. The eponymous Elizabeth is Maud’s best pal, the only person left who’s truly happy to give her the time of day. But one day, Elizabeth fails to turn up for their planned shopping trip, and when Maude goes round to her house, there’s no sign of her. Maud is convinced something sinister has happened, but no one seems to want to listen – not her adult children, not the police – and so she turns detective, resolving to find her friend herself.

Her investigation is complicated by two factors. First is the way Elizabeth’s disappearance unleashes flurries of memories about another unsolved disappearance that has haunted Maud her entire life: that of her older sister, Sukey, who vanished in 1949 and was never heard from again. The second is how Maud’s memory works, or, rather doesn’t: because Maud is slipping deeper and deeper into dementia. As she strives to uncover Elizabeth’s fate, constantly scribbling notes to herself, reminders not to forget, the main shadowy, violent villain opposing her is her own Alzheimer’s, wiping away all the clues she gathers before she can piece them together. Wiping her away with them.

Brilliantly adapted by writer Andrea Gibb and director Aisling Walsh, the ninety-minute drama has style to spare, albeit subtly applied: most beautiful is a motif of broken pieces – scattered jigsaws, shattered ornaments, a smashed plate and a smashed record – echoing throughout to mirror the fragmentation in Maud’s mind. But all the style is put to the service of Maud’s story, which becomes the story of her illness.

The script is excellent in the details and character of Alzheimer’s, in the ways people deal with it and fail to. There are flashes of hard-won humour, but it gets tough, and in places is a hard watch indeed. But I suspect anyone with any experience of dementia will appreciate every second of it.

All its power, humour, fragility and strength come from Glenda Jackson. Famously, this giant left acting for 23 years, and when she returned to the stage in 2016 at the age of 80, it was to play King Lear. That was only a practice run for what she does here. I’ll say it again: she’s magnificent.

For another example of an artist at work, try to see Prophecy, an incredible documentary following Glasgow’s Peter Howson as he creates a single painting. Beginning with delivery of the blank canvas, director Charlie Paul perches on Howson’s shoulder while he wrestles the piece of the title into existence: a monumental apocalyptic scene. Howson’s style is not for everyone, but anyone who watches this mesmerising, intensely intimate, plain-speaking film will come away with new appreciation for his craft. This is a rare thing, one long privileged moment.




9pm, Sky Atlantic

Last week’s episode, with its unexpected trapdoors, even less expected elephants, Jeremy Irons farting, and surprising use of a hammer, confirmed this Watchmen thing as the craziest drama on TV at the moment. Tonight’s penultimate instalment demonstrates that it is also the most heroically uncompromising when it comes to ignoring thoughts of “mass appeal” and speaking directly to its core base of hardcore fans of the original comic – and then completely screwing with their preconceptions. Flashing back and forward in a manner that is entirely fitting, the episode finally re-introduces Dr Manhattan, the god-like superhero at the centre of the Watchmen mythos, to explore his impact on society, examine jis character, and reveal where he has been hiding himself the past three decades, while everyone thought he was on Mars. Keep up at the back! It’s amazing stuff.


Gold Digger

9pm, BBC One

This is one of those series where the BBC put all six episodes on iPlayer at once, so it’s weird to realise it’s still dribbling away weekly on proper telly. The thing was so mesmerisingly awful I downed the entire lot in two shocked sittings, just to get it over with, like taking medicine. It’s the penultimate episode tonight, and taking centre stage from the revolving turntable of characters it’s scientifically impossible to care about is Poor Julia’s pampered boy, Leo. It’s his 25th birthday, and he remains in a huff because mum’s taken up with drip-dry younger man Benjamin. But there’s a surprise with the arrival of Benjamin’s brother – he told Julia he was an only child! Secrets! Lies! Revelations! Could their wedding plans be off? Well, no, because we’ve already seen a flashforward to the wedding day. The tension.


Vic & Bob's Big Night Out

10pm, BBC Four

You can hardly blame Vic and Bob for taking it easy with this series – when they do put in serious graft and craft and make something like their masterpiece Catterick, hardly anybody wants to watch. When they jump around being stupid with celebrities on Shooting Stars, they get their biggest ratings hit. This current run of Big Night Out is the most shamelessly thrown-together series they’ve ever made, and tonight’s episode is the most brazenly ramshackle of the lot. Still: miles funnier than anything Gavin And Stacey ever managed, and, in election week, it makes a whole lot more sense than most things on telly. As ever this series, the filmed bits are the best bits, and things hit a peak tonight with the welcome return of the Free Runners, protesting and fighting the system in the community urban environment. Banksy! Graffiti! Bollards!


Election 2019

From 9.55pm, various channels

Listen to them. The children of Election Night. What music they make: “…cuuurt-isss…Cuuurt-ISSS…CUUUURT-ISSSS!” Finally, the evening has arrived, when legend says that the great master of all poll-analysing prophets, John “The Cult” Curtice, is destined to reveal himself once more, and tell us who has won this year’s X-Factor: The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If he does appear, it’s most likely to be as part of the BBC’s Election Wing Ding, helmed by Huw Edwards in the BBC News mothership, with Glenn Campbell hosting the Scottish coverage on BBC One from 9:55pm. Elsewhere, Sky News has the coup of the year, with ex-Speaker Jon Bercow among its commentators. Meanwhile, Channel 4 revels in the ha-ha funny side of things with its ha-ha Alternative Election Night coverage, featuring Clare Balding, the laughs don’t stop.


Barbra Streisand: Becoming An Icon 1942-1984 8pm, BBC Four If Barbra Streisand ever feels lacking in self-confidence and belief, she could do worse than fire up this often-breathless documentary profile, which, from the title on, doesn’t stint on ladling on the praise. Still, her early years do present a pretty great story of a rags-to-riches rise, and of a young woman struggling against the odds with nothing but her own talent and formidable determination. Born poor in a hardscrabble neighbourhood of Brooklyn, her father died when she was very young, and after the loss her grief-stricken mother barely managed to go on. A stellar student at highschool, Streisand gambled on rejecting the college place she could have won to instead pursue her dreams on Broadway. She won her first stage role at 16, but it was two years later, when she started to sing, that the career caught fire.


Rod Stewart Night

9.10pm, BBC Two

Almost three hours of hot legs syndrome as BBC Two turns the schedules over to the man they call Mod. First up is Reel Stories, as presenter Dermot O’Leary chats with Stewart about his six-decade career while the pair look through a film archive of some of its pivotal moments. The evening’s highlight, though, is a repeat of the 2013 Imagine profile (9.40pm), as Alan Yentob travels to LA to interview Stewart amid the animal-print fabrics of his palatial LA home. Stewart is uncharacteristically engaged throughout, and there’s a terrific section as Ronnie Wood joins him to chew over The Jeff Beck Group and The Small Faces. Due honour is given to Stewart’s essential 1976 single The Killing Of Georgie, too. The night ends with Live At Hyde Park (11.05pm), a 2015 concert featuring Georgie itself, plus Gasoline Alley, and the Faces’ Ooh La La.