The best TV to watch tonight

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The Real Marigold Hotel

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BBC1, 9pm

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It’s been delightful seeing the celebrity seniors embracing such a different lifestyle and culture. But I question whether it’s a realistic portrait of retirement when they’ve had the luxury of being chaperoned, guided and chauffeured in a way non-TV folk wouldn’t. They’re unlikely to retire to India but as a travelogue-with-a-difference it’s been fun. 

In this final episode Sheila Ferguson gets emotional over an alternative therapy session, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor take a slow train to Ooty, and Bill Oddie invites Rustie Lee and Miriam Stoppard on a wildlife expedition. All of them have realised that getting older is no barrier to enjoying life, while good company and having a laugh is definitely the best medicine.

Midnight Sun

Sky Atlantic, 10pm

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A man is woken by the noise of machinery. As the camera pans up we see he is tied to one of a helicopter’s three rotor blades, which begin to rotate. It doesn’t end well. So begins an eight-part Scandi-noir that combines the current twin fads of eerie remote location (mountainous Kiruna in Sweden) and bi-national policier (it’s a Swedish-French co-production).

The victim is identified as a French national, so Parisian homicide cop Kahina (Leila Bekhti) is sent to help the local investigation headed by jaded prosecutor Rutger (Peter Stormare) and his timid deputy, Anders (Gustaf Hammarsten). 

Despite the baroque prelude and a later, equally outré dispatching, it’s to the drama’s credit that the co-operators’ private lives are every bit as intriguing. Cinematically filmed, it’s simultaneously otherworldly and somehow very human.

Mystery of the Man on the Moor

Channel 4, 10pm

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On a chilly December day in 2015 a man was found dead, killed by strychnine poisoning, on bleak Saddleworth Moor near Oldham. But police could find no clue as to his identity, despite huge international press appeals. 

This thoroughly engrossing and poignant documentary follows Greater Manchester police as they painstakingly spend a year hunting for leads. One officer goes through hundreds of hours of CCTV: “It’s not like in the films, like The Bourne Identity, where straight away you see the right person.”

For the entire team the need to find a name for the man they called “Neil Dovestone”, after the spot where he was found, became personal. “It touched our hearts,” says one of the detectives.

The Wedding Day

All 4

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Sometimes a one-off documentary hits you in unexpected places. From the title of this one you might expect butterflies, mild panic and then pure joy; yes, but the camera’s eagle eye catches a wide range of honest emotions among the bride and groom’s relatives.

The Descendants

More 4, 9pm

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Director Alexander Payne has past form (Sideways, About Schmidt) finding moving pathos in older men coping with stasis. Here, it’s George Clooney’s Hawaii-based lawyer, whose unfaithful wife is in a coma after a boating accident. Playing against his usual dashing persona, Clooney is greying, baggy and uncool in tucked-in shirts and pumps as he tracks down his wife’s lover while stoically processing his own grief. He also must try to connect with his daughters and juggle a family land inheritance deal that draws on Hawaii’s strong sense of genealogy. Clooney’s awkward running style seems to typify the film’s sense of absurd tragedy, its sense of melancholy enhanced by the soundtrack of traditional Hawaiian music. Meanwhile, Payne’s skilfully rationed moments of humorous relief play out against a surprisingly precipitous but verdant landscape, little seen in US cinema and gorgeously shot by Sideways cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. Warm, subtle and gentle, The Descendants demonstrates what can happen when indie talent is nurtured to mainstream success.