Peaky Blinders – 9pm, BBC One

Sanditon – 9pm, STV

Whispering Tommy Shelby is back and he has the massed pistols, shotguns and razor blades of his feral family behind him. But have the Peaky Blinders finally met their match? Because this time, the flat capped Brummie gangsters must go head to head in a battle to the death with their most dangerous rival yet, a foe more fearsome even than Adrian Brody overacting with a toothpick: a well-mannered young woman in a big bonnet from the 1800s.

That must be autumn in the air, because the BBC and ITV are suffering an attack of the seasonal fevers, and embarking on a bloody ratings war for Sunday night, even though no one actually cares. Up against the return of Peaky Blinders, ITV is offering Sanditon, a new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel you’d be forgiven for never having heard of, written for the screen by Andrew Davies, a man who knows possibly too much about all her books.

You can tell the Beeb is nervous about ITV pulling such a full-blooded costume drama on them, because they’re whipping out the big guns in response, pairing the launch of the Peakies’ new series with the last ever episodes of Poldark (which, like Peaky Blinders, gets two episodes this week, Sunday and Monday). In truth, though, they have little to fear. Even though Peaky Blinders remains humourless and essentially duff, it’s still far more entertaining than Sanditon.

Rose Williams stars as the be-bonneted Charlotte Heywood, plucky daughter of a lowly but upstanding family in the sweeping English boondocks, who comes to the rescue when a passing carriage loses a wheel. Its passenger is Tom Parker (Kris Marshall), an ambitious developer who, with backing from the haughty Lady Denham (Anne Reid), hopes to make the new town of Sanditon “the finest seaside resort on all the south coast,” if you can stand the excitement.

To thank Charlotte for her kindness, Parker invites her to come sample Sanditon’s bright lights, giddying social swirl and daring nudie sea-bathing as his guest. And so, breath bated, she journeys there, with her father’s advice ringing in her ears: “these seaside resorts can be odd places…the normal rules of conduct tend to be relaxed.”

That said, the normal rules of conduct for a Jane Austen adaptation are stringently observed. Before long, Charlotte is charting the mild hypocrisies of the community, while surrounded by scheming sorts, and unsuitable men in britches, and sometimes out of them.

Jane Austen died before finishing this book, and, twenty minutes into episode one, I knew exactly how she felt. By the time a big set piece ball scene started, my central nervous system had no choice but to go rogue, seize control and force me into an induced coma simply for its own protection. But the dancing was still going on when I came to three weeks later. Sometimes, I feel it will never end.

Meanwhile, in Peaky Blinders, two years have passed. Now firmly ensconced as an MP, Tommy makes stirring man-of-the-people speeches in the House, while secretly presiding over an empire that has vast investments across the ocean in the USA. All that is about to change, however. It is October 1929, and when the New York stock market crashes, it takes Shelby’s fortune with it. Meanwhile, as Tommy is haunted by ghosts of the past, dark new forces are gathering, both in the brick lanes of gangland, and in the whispering corridors of Parliament, where he encounters a pale politician called Oswald Mosley. There will be blood. And people walking in slow motion for absolutely no reason at all.




8.30pm, BBC One

Just a reminder to the Poldark faithful that, for reasons best known to them, even though the whole experience of this show has been utterly and inextricably linked to the ritual of watching it with biscuits on a Sunday night since it first started, the BBC are shoving the last ever episode out on a Monday at half past eight because mumble mumble something to do with Peaky Blinders. Hounded by powerful enemies, risking denouncement as a traitor in league with the invading French, Ross is in a life-or-death situation, and must gamble everything – even though it means putting his relationship with Demelza on the line. Could it be that Evil George Warleggan will finally get one over on his hated rival? Dream on, George. It’s a nice touch to see 1970s Poldark Robin Ellis back again to see it off into the sunset.


Franco Building With Jonathan Meades

10pm, BBC Four

There’s a new series of The Great British Bake Off landing tonight (8pm, Channel 4), which is all well and good, but there’s a new series of that every other day, and you already know exactly what it’s going to be like. Slightly less predictable, however – leaving aside that you know it’s going to be dense, fast, barking mad and crotchety – is the latest essay/diatribe from the inimitable Meades, this time sounding off between whacked out graphics about the tourist-friendly fascist architecture produced in Spain under the dictatorial reign of Francisco Franco. Meades gets going by kicking the boot into the Generalissimo’s ultra-religious upbringing, before applying his critical wrecking ball on the skyscrapers of the costas, finishing up with a spree in Benidorm. Livelier than thirteen decorated fruit cakes, anyway, and probably better for your brain.


Who Do You Think You Are?

9pm, BBC One

It’s Paul Merton’s turn to explore the family history, and while the comedian brings his usual no-fuss approach, it only makes this fascinating episode all the more moving. Merton was close to his parents, but admits the family didn’t talk much about themselves, and so he knows barely anything of his family tree. His mother was fostered in Ireland as a baby after both her parents died; the only thing Meron knows for sure is that her father died at sea. As it turns out, though, even this is not quite correct. Armed with little more than a photograph, Merton uncovers a startling amount about his maternal grandfather and his personality, a story that travels across a large part of the globe, participates in the most momentous episode of Irish history, and winds up closer to home than he ever knew.


China: A New World Order

9pm, BBC Two

As the world watches events unfolding in Hong Kong, and the sabre rattling of the trade war with the US grows louder, a very timely three-part series on the political mindset and economic and military power of present day China, and how it has been shaped under the leadership of Xi Jinping – by some reckonings the most powerful individual in the world today, yet a man few in the west had even heard of until he became his country’s president in 2012. Director Richard Cookson explores Xi’s controversial six-year rule by stressing the man as a product of China’s postwar Communist Party. The period that saw the country’s rise as economic superpower was driven largely by private enterprise, but since becoming leader, Xi has reasserted party control of state firms – a policy principle also being applied to the media, technology, and Hong Kong.



10.30pm, BBC Scotland

A repeat showing for this tense black comedy, a mix of Agatha Christie, Deliverance and The League Of Gentlemen, set amid the heathery desolation of the bleak Scottish Highlands. Originally shown in 2016, the three-part series follows the obnoxious idiots assembled for a deer-stalking expedition, booked as part of the Stag weekend celebrations of Jonners (Stephen Campbell Moore). Reluctantly joining the groom and his odious gaggle of loud-mouth friends is his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Ian (Jim Howick), a mild-mannered teacher who holds blood sports in the contempt they deserve. As their unwisely dressed and ill-equipped trip wears on, the remote wilds grow increasingly claustrophobic as sordid secrets and festering grudges come out…And then the killing starts. Directed (and co-written, with George Kay) by Jim Field Smith, the terrific cast includes Reece Shearsmith, James Cosmo and Tim Key.


Darkness: Those Who Kill

9pm, BBC Four

Patience: Series Seven of the magnificent Spiral has been circling the BBC Four subtitles strip awaiting permission to land for months, but they’re still making us all wait for the nights to get a bit darker. To kill more time, tonight sees the launch of this standard Scandi cop show, a loose, belated follow-up to the original series from 2011. When a young woman goes missing from a Copenhagen suburb, lead detective Jan Michelsen (Kenneth M Christensen) spots similarities with a grim case from a decade before, and so turns to an expert in serial killers, psychologist (Natalie Madueño). As their investigation unfolds, another young woman goes missing, and with the clock ticking, the pair try to predict the killer’s next move. The eight-part story is going out in the traditional Saturday night double bills.