Essential catch-up TV: Simon Amstell, Cardinal Burns, Peter Cook and more

Nothing to watch on TV? Try our pick of the best stuff on iPlayer and elsewhere


1. The Graham Norton Show iPlayer
Corking edition of the all-at-once sofa chat, with Jessie J clearly straining every sinew not to stand up and shout “OH MY GOD I HATE THE BLOODY VOICE WHAT WAS I THINKING”, but then chipping in well as Julie Walters and Simon Amstell sit there being very funny indeed. After half an hour Graham slightly confusingly brings on the man John Motson calls “DDA Drog Bar” – Chelsea striker Didier Drogba – as an impact substitute. He and Graham dance.


2. Parkinson: the Interviews – Peter Cook iPlayer
Parky introduces (in 1995 – yes, this is a repeat of a clips show from 17 years ago. What of it?) a selection of his interviews with the great man. Cook is a coiled spring, relaxed – occasionally, on the face of it, drunk – and given to rambling, but always a flash of the eye away from saying something devastating. He’s even better when interviewed in conjunction with Dudley Moore, who constantly undermines him by being funnier while Cook’s trying to hold forth. Best of all is the opening clip with all four of Cook, Moore, Bennett and Miller, bristling with verve and ideas.

3. Long Lost Family ITV Player
Come on, let’s all have a good cry. Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall are telling more stories of extreme joy and despair in the second series of their relative-reunion show. Often the tales are of cruel, sudden abandonment, leading to decades of cherished memories or burdensome resentment – when the programme swings in to provide relief, if your heart’s not made of wood it will be wrung out. The show’s not afraid to feature cases where there can be no happy ending, either.

4. Cardinal Burns 4oD
A sketch show by and with Seb Cardinal and Dustin Demri-Burns, which quickly establishes them as imaginative but controlled writers and bold, confrontational performers. They’re best when vomiting, punching bystanders in the face or miming being abused by giant hawks, but can easily pull off subtler, static character comedy, too. Familiar set-ups, such as TV detective spoofs or office scenes, have new colours playfully splashed across them. Cardinal Burns have faces for comedy — Mother Nature’s make-up artist has already made them funny and a little menacing — and they have the skills to squeeze extra drops of comic blood from a sketch.

5. Shakespeare in Italy iPlayer
Francesco Da Mosto takes his rich carbonara of an accent to the cities that inspired William Shakespeare’s most famous plays. To Padua, scene of The Taming of the Shrew; Verona, the backdrop of Romeo and Juliet that still attracts letters from heartbroken lovers across the world; to Venice (“Venezia! Venezia!“) for the real story behind Othello; to Sicily, where Emma Thompson offers guidance on Much Ado about Nothing. Meanwhile, tourist-board shots of the cities and their treasures glide past. It’s all an enormous, artery-blocking, finger-kissing indulgence, but that’s rather the point.

Plus one from the archive…
The IT Crowd 4oD
All four series! Hoorah!

One on radio…
Desert Island Discs iPlayer
The Australian comedian Tim Minchin’s startling twin gifts for words and music have found a new audience in the past year, via his songs for the stage musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. As he talks to Kirsty Young, we of course learn about his creative influences via his chosen records (which include gospel and show tunes) – but Minchin is also a prominent atheist/rationalist, and it’s this that provides the most stimulating conversation.

A movie…
Papillon iPlayer
Steve McQueen tries to get out of a hard-as-pickled-nails French penal colony in this old-fashioned bit of, well, escapism.


And the moment of the week…
The Voice iPlayer
Danny O’Donoghue’s “white man’s groove” reaction shots are a constant highlight of BBC1’s square singing contest – a trend that reached a peak of cringe/LOL as Ruth Ann St Luce eliminated herself with a spectacular pile-up of all the wrong notes, twice, in the wrong order. Watch (and re-watch) in awe as Danny closes his eyes and makes like he’s hearing Elvis and Aretha jamming with Jesus.