The best TV to watch tonight

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

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Three Girls

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9pm, BBC1

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A portly man known as “Daddy” takes an underage girl, Holly, into a fetid bedroom. After assiduously grooming Holly and her friends with kebabs, curries, vodka and cigarettes, he wants what he thinks is due to him: “When are you going to let me have sex with you?… I buy you things, I give you things, now it’s your turn to give something to me.” Then he rapes her. 

Nicole Taylor’s devastating script, a three-part dramatisation of the Rochdale child grooming and sexual abuse scandal, is coruscating, brutal and unflinching. Holly (an extraordinary performance from Molly Windsor), after a falling out with her parents, is vulnerable and easy prey for the mainly British-Pakistani men who pass her and their other victims around like lumps of meat. 

Her only ally is sexual health worker Sara Rowbotham (Maxine Peake), who builds up a picture of what the uninterested police call a “lifestyle choice”. It’s anything but. 

Long Lost Family: What Happened Next

9pm, ITV1

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One of my favourite tales from this series was the story of Sue and Chris, who were looking for the son they had given up for adoption 50 years previously as teenage lovers. They went on to get married, have five more children and move to Canada, but could never forget their firstborn, the baby Sue gave up at six weeks old.

The programme eventually found him and the moment when Sue and Chris first saw a picture of Andrew was a joy to watch: “I was kinda hoping he might have some hair,” said Chris, when he’d stopped sobbing. We now pick up the story as Andrew gets to meet some of his new siblings in Canada, for whom he’s an unexpected older brother. Luckily, they share a sense of humour, but as ever it’s emotional to watch and a great incentive never to take family for granted.

Horizon: Strange Signals from Outer Space!

9pm, BBC2

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The Lorimer burst. The Kardeshev scale. The Dyson sphere. ThisHorizon is full of cool technical terms, addressing one of the perennial favourites of popular science – the (so far fruitless) search for extraterrestrial intelligence. 

The odds appear to be in favour of there being some kind of technologically capable life on one of the 100 million trillion rocky planets orbiting stars around the universe, but the deafening lack of communications from any of them has become known as the Great Silence. 

A well-padded film talks to scientists who have made a career of scanning the heavens – and hoping that passing satellites or nearby microwave ovens don’t mess with their signals.

Hannibal

11:05pm, C5

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Since making an unforgettable impression in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, cinema’s favourite cannibal Hannibal Lecter has gnawed his way into the popular consciousness. But this long-awaited sequel didn’t have a smooth journey to the screen, with both original Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) and original director Jonathan Demme rejecting the project.

However, Anthony Hopkins does reprise his Oscar-winning role as Lecter, this time with his tongue firmly in his cheek. Top FBI agent Starling – played with creditable conviction by Julianne Moore in the absence of Foster – is faced with the aftermath of a failed drugs raid.

To escape the bad publicity, she’s sent to the house of a former victim of Lecter’s, Mason Verger (an extraordinary performance from an unrecognisable Gary Oldman), who hopes to revitalise her search for his attacker. Fans of the first film will be disappointed with the lack of mystery, suspense and psychological resonance here, but there’s loads more Lecter for the money (as the title suggests), and plenty of gory action and black humour.

The film was a huge hit when it opened in the States, taking $58 million in its first three days, which, at the time, was the third biggest in cinema history.

Anne with an E

Netflix

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This new take on Anne of Green Gables is a mite grittier than some versions: the orphan girl’s troubled past rears up in shocking flashbacks, resulting in a fiercer Anne. But it’s still a homely, nourishing coming-of-age story, starring Amybeth McNulty.