What to watch on TV this weekend

You'll never miss a thing with our indispensable guide to telly...

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Casualty

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9.05pm Saturday, BBC1

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Now here’s a bold piece of television, a Casualty episode filmed in a single shot. There are no cutaways, no edits, just a continuous stream of action from the second paramedic Jez bursts into a burning building to rescue a woman from the fire.

It’s an admirable wheeze, although it’s so incredibly frenetic I felt a bit seasick as the camera tracked remorselessly through the emergency department, following one character then swiftly changing paths to latch on to another.

But good on Casualty for shaking things up a bit for an end-of-series finale that throws us directly into the chaos of a front-line service. Notionally we follow two work experience girls, Diamond and Chloe, who shadow Duffy as she careers through her day.

And what a day… there’s a tragic outcome after the fire that sends Jez into a tailspin and the pace doesn’t let up. 

Queer as Art

9pm Saturday, BBC2

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This glance back at queer influence in British culture is a great watch, alive with insights and observations, with everyone from Sandi Toksvig to David Hockney to Richard Coles giving their take on the landmarks and tensions of the past 50 years. 

Bear in mind that, despite the title, it is mainly about pop culture, touching on David Bowie and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Larry Grayson and Queer as Folk. In the music sphere, Simon Napier-Bell argues that gay culture “is as influential in British pop music as black culture has been to American pop music” (Discuss). 

Then in a lovely unguarded moment Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw suggests (very plausibly) that, compared to the heyday of gay influence in the 1970s and 80s, pop culture is now generally blander or, as he puts it, “Everything has sort of been middle-of-the-roaded.” Then he adds anxiously “Oh s***, I can’t say that. I’ll be fired.” 

Poldark

9pm Sunday, BBC1

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You have to hand it to suave, brave, handsome Hugh Armitage – he knows how to treat a lady, arriving at Nampara unexpectedly with flowers for Demelza and the honeyed words: “A rare bloom for one still rarer.” Ooh, you silver-tongued charmer.

There’s clearly considerable sexual tension between the two of them, judging by the way Demelza’s face visibly softens every time Hugh strides manfully into view. Even Ross has noticed it, and he doesn’t notice much about his wife; he’s too preoccupied with business. 

Elsewhere in a penultimate episode roiling with emotion and dark shadows, ill-used Morwenna stands on a clifftop and considers her hellish marriage to that peeping Tom, toe-sucker and loathsome pervert Osborne. 

Meanwhile, the priggish and borderline insufferable Sam Carne is a bit discombobulated by the attention of a bosomy peasant girl, and Ross and Elizabeth are spotted in a country church… 

The Handmaid’s Tale

10pm Sunday, C4 (depending on Sunday’s Women’s Euro 2017 matches, this may be shown at 9.30pm)

Traditionally season finales are where writers of US dramas bring out the fireworks, go for broke. But when each beat of this extraordinary series has been so carefully controlled and measured in its drip-drip of anguish, surely they won’t cut loose now, will they? 

No, they won’t: instead the tale of handmaid June’s sufferings in the thuggish theocracy of Gilead takes on fresh angles, new ways to crush her soul, in a finale that does justice to what has come before (and tees up series two nicely.) 

As always, there’s saturated drama in each scene: a shocking ultimatum from Serena Waterford, who now knows of her husband’s sins; a detour to catch up with poor, ill-used Moira, now on the run; and one sequence, after June has to take a mysterious journey with Serena, that is so agonisingly sad it may trample your heart like a leaf. 

The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug

8pm Saturday, ITV

Martin Freeman soldiers on along a bumpy road as Bilbo Baggins, but is pushed even further into the background, in this second part of Peter Jackson’s long drawn-out adaptation of the JRR Tolkien classic. Even vengeful dwarf Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), who dominated the first film, is made to look one-dimensional on this leg of the journey.

The attention to detail is once again all in the visual realisation of Middle-earth and some extraordinary action scenes, including a sticky situation with giant spiders and Bilbo’s close encounter with the evil Dragon Smaug (boomingly voiced by Freeman’sSherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch). And, thankfully, Jackson has toned down the Day-Glo brightness of the first instalment for a softer, more traditional storybook aesthetic.

Evangeline Lilly is a welcome addition to the story as elvish warrior Tauriel, who brings some much needed heart and urgency to the story, caught between a brooding Legolas (Orlando Bloom, returning on good form) and flirty dwarf Kili (Poldark’s Aidan Turner). But the dramatic tension comes in fits and starts, and for that reason the film can be a frustrating watch, although Jackson does succeed in building anticipation for the final chapter. 

Daughters of Destiny

Netflix

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Shanti Bhavan is a school that plucks some of India’s poorest girls from their families and tries to effect a huge change in what they believe they can achieve. While its philanthropist headmaster lays down his vision for cultural revolution, this four-part doc takes time to explore the pupils’ backgrounds.