Common, The Nation’s Favourite Motown Song, the Lance Armstrong Story – best TV on tonight

A brand new series and two documentaries in tonight's top picks Sunday 6 July

Common – 9pm, BBC1


You may have read that Jimmy McGovern’s new drama tackles injustice in the legal system and your heart may not have leapt at the prospect. But pack your scepticism in a shoebox and put it away under the stairs, because McGovern is one of our very best TV dramatists and Common is a belter of a story. it reminds us that you don’t so much watch a McGovern drama as go a few rounds with it, to emerge battered and bruised. Seventeen-year-old Johnjo gives his cousin Tony and some friends a lift to a pizza parlour for food, unaware their real intention is to `sort out’ a local loudmouth. Things soon get out of hand, however, and an innocent bystander is fatally stabbed – and despite being in the car all the time, Johnjo finds himself charged with murder along with everyone else. Nico Mirallegro heads a cast that also includes Susan Lynch, Daniel Mays, Jodhi May, Robert Pugh and Michelle Fairley. It’s a tour de force and the social point McGovern makes is searing.

The Nation’s Favourite Motown Song – 9pm, ITV

From Dancing in the Street to I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Motown produced some era-defining music that still proves popular today. In this 90-minute special, Craig Charles counts down the Detroit record company’s greatest hits, as voted for by the British public. Founded by Berry Gordy in 1959, the legendary label launched the careers of superstars such as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, and this programme features the story behind 20 Motown classics as told by the men and women who made pop history. Don’t dismiss this as populist ITV fluff: like its predecessors on Abba and the Bee Gees, it’s a popumentary as rewarding as anything you’ll see on BBC4. The focus is on the people who made the records you love, and how they did it. Pointless celebs doling out fake memories are absent.

Storyville: The Lance Armstrong Story – 9pm, BBC4

Documentary about the Lance Armstrong scandal, when the seven-time Tour de France winner was revealed to be one of the most notorious drug cheats in sporting history. Featuring contributions from some of the cyclist’s former friends and team members, the film reveals how Armstrong’s cheating and bullying became more extreme until colleagues began to speak out against him. This is the clearest exposition yet of the vicious lie at the heart of his seven Tour de France wins.


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