The best TV to watch tonight

Your indispensable guide to the best things on the box...

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MasterChef

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BBC1, 8pm

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Don’t you just love it when a contestant announces, oh-so-seriously, “I don’t think I’ve really shown my full potential,” after they’ve just served a car crash of a meal to John Torode and Gregg Wallace? It’s as if their experimental combination was just a little quirky rather than downright revolting. 

And there’s more than one disaster of a dish in this edition, often the result of unattractive presentation. “You need to learn to plate,” John tells one cook after surveying an unappetising mess that looks more like a Jackson Pollock reject than food. “Perhaps try not doing it from the top of a stepladder.”

Fortunately there is some terrific cooking for the trio of guest judges (all competitors in 2011), although they have a heated discussion on whether or not you should describe perfectly cooked meat as “soft”. Coincidentally, it’s one of Gregg’s favourite descriptions.

Reported Missing

BBC1, 9pm

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Two desperately worried mothers, two missing children. Twelve-year-old Joshua, who has learning difficulties, vanished from his home in Darlington after a row with his mum. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Katie, unhappy at school after being bullied, left a disturbing note hinting at suicide before she disappeared.

This gripping documentary follows Durham Police as they launch huge searches for these vulnerable children. Police scour parks looking for Joshua, while a mountain rescue team helps to comb a huge area of woodland for Katie. 

Everybody wants reassurance, but it’s simply not something the police can give. A liaison officer keeping Katie’s family up to date won’t waste empty words, even though he wonders, “How do you fill the silence?”

The Knowledge: World’s Toughest Taxi Test

Channel 4, 9pm

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“If it’s not taking over your life, you’re not doing it properly.” So says one of the examiners for the Knowledge, the infamous test of London’s 25,000 streets that would-be cabbies must take before they can become human satnavs. 

We see several candidates sweat through the one-on-one examinations they have to sit. These ought to be tedious to watch: they’re just a recital of routes (“Comply Greenford roundabout, leave by Western Avenue, bear left first slip, left Argyle Road, right Teignmouth Gardens…” and so on) but they have the tension of a high-stakes quiz show or one of those evil spelling tests on Child Genius. 

The candidates have sunk years of their lives and thousands of hours of study into mastering this. When they stumble, you feel their pain; when they cross the final hurdle, it’s emotional for all concerned.

Down the Mighty River

iPlayer

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Steve Backshall displays his all-round naturalist action-man credentials in a romp down the Baliem river in Western New Guinea: he kayaks, treks, climbs, converses with tribespeople and flirts with dangerous animals. It’s quite the adventure.

Pride & Prejudice

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Film 4, 6.30pm

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It must have been daunting to bring Jane Austen’s period drama to the big screen for the first time in 65 years. Not only is the 1940 Laurence Olivier/Greer Garson version seen as a classic, but it was also followed by a number of revered TV adaptations – notably the 1995 BBC production starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. So it’s to his credit that debut director Joe Wright does such a beautiful job with his gutsy and less idealised interpretation. Focusing on wit and intellect rather than heaving bosoms, he presents his Regency heroine Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) as a waspish tomboy, able to run rings around sullen bachelor Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) with her spirited ripostes. Though mournful Macfadyen can’t match Firth’s scorching magnetism, Knightley is a memorable leading lady, as delightful to watch as her well-shot surroundings. The support cast is strong, too, with Brenda Blethyn and Donald Sutherland particularly exceptional as Lizzie’s marriage-obsessed mother and doting father.