WHAT’S that, Skippy? Something rotten in the state of Denmark? Well girl, it cannot be half as bad as what is going on in America if this week’s new crop of drama is any guide.

When last we left Frank and Claire Underwood in House of Cards (Netflix), the US president and Veep-wannabe had blood on their hands and were mired in scandal. Up guano creek without a paddle, the Lord and Lady Macbeth of Washington DC had resolved to use terrorism, real or spun, to send frightened voters rushing back into President Underwood’s arms and make them forget what he did to get the Oval Office. (Like they hadn’t seen series one to four. Duh.)

Series five began at full pelt, with Frank (Kevin Spacey), storming into the House to demand a declaration of war against a terror group. It must have looked like great theatre on the page, but on screen it came across as overblown and silly. Was this the moment the pride of Netflix, a pioneer in the world of subscription TV, jumped the shark? It’s too early to tell: showing the steely self-control for which I am far from renowned, I resisted binge-watching the entire series. But I have eyes on you, Mr President.

Man, yon Ewan McGregor has let himself go. Fat, balding, dress sense of a haggis, he might as well have stayed in Scotland instead of going to America to make it big. Oh, hang on, news just in: it’s acting. In the new series of Fargo (Channel 4, Wednesday, 10pm), the Trainspotting star plays brothers Emmit and Ray. Emmit (slim Ewan, dodgy perm) is the Parking Lot King of Minnesota and an all-American success story. Ray (blobby Ewan) is a parole officer dating one of his clients. After Emmit turns Ray down for a loan, little brother hatches a plan to even the score between them.

Three seasons in, Fargo is still going strong, staying true to the deliciously warped morals of the Coen brothers’ original while making sure the good guys (or in this case the good gal police chief) stay on top. McGregor looks as though he is having a ball, and with the quality of writing here what actor would not? And he got to be tubby for a while and get paid for it. Anyone know of any similar jobs going? Asking for a friend.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Channel 4, Sunday, 9pm) is set in a future America where religion rules, war is raging and poor women like Offred (Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss) are forced to have babies for rich barren ones. Margaret Atwood wrote the novel in 1985. The reward for her extraordinary prescience has been generations of grateful readers whose ranks will now swell as people rush to buy the book on the back of this adaptation by Reed Morano. Atwood’s other reward (aside from the adaptation fee), was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as a brutal guard. The direction and writing here is as good as any you will find in cinema, with Moss perfect as the handmaid who takes the Gloria Gaynor oath: “I will survive.” Get in early on this one, it is going to be a talker.

Given the smorgasbord of dysfunctionality on show in American drama, it was something of a relief to get back to the plain old British misery of Broken (BBC One, Tuesday, 9pm). This was the Blighty of I, Daniel Blake: a place of poorly paid jobs, barely getting by and benefit sanctions.

Sean Bean was outstanding as Michael Kerrigan, a priest who does not have his troubled parishioners to seek. Among them is single mother Christina (Anna Friel), a betting shop worker who cannot afford to fill the fridge but who has promised her daughter the First Communion dress she wants. In the hands of anyone other than Jimmy McGovern (Cracker, The Street) this could be a dispiriting watch, but because it is McGovern one knows humanity will find a way through the gloom.

It was back to America for the documentary Frank Skinner on Muhammad Ali (BBC One, Thursday, 9pm). The billing was telling, as though the definitive word on the heavyweight champ could only come from a likeable but lightweight comic from West Bromwich. Well, it couldn’t. While Skinner covered all the well-trodden points on the Ali tour there was nothing the fan would not have known, and one got the impression from the interviews that this was not the first time the protagonists had told these tales. Skinner’s wide-eyed wonder was endearing, but this was documentary as hagiography, and there ought to be a law that bans all documentaries about Ali that do not have Hugh McIlvanney as one of the talking heads. If Frank Underwood proposed that, why, even I might vote for the auld devil.