The best TV to watch tonight

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

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RHS Chelsea Flower Show

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8pm, BBC2

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Even if you don’t know your hosta from your hebe, the annual Chelsea Flower Show is still one of the most glorious spectacles on TV. You can even kid yourself you have the greenest of fingers as you survey the prize-winning pelargoniums. Or are they penstemons? Whatever their names, the current trend for bright and cheery planting means we can expect to see splashes of vibrant colour among the more subtle hues.

The kings of TV gardening – Monty Don and Joe Swift – are our BBC2 hosts at Britain’s premier horticultural event at 8pm. But before that at 7.30pm on BBC1, Swift and Sophie Raworth introduce one of this year’s Radio 2 Feel Good gardens. Daytime viewers get an extra spadeful at 3.45pm on BBC1, with Nicki Chapman and James Wong placing their bets on which show gardens will win a medal.

Hotly tipped is James and Helen Basson’s garden (they’ve won gold two years running), but the pair will surely give a nod to the dramatic Chengdu Silk Road garden with its undulating canopy. And sure to get a mention is former Gardeners’ World host Chris Beardshaw, who is exhibiting again.
 

9pm, BBC2

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The magnitude of it is daunting. But also, very cool. To get an idea of the scale involved in building Crossrail, London’s new east-west artery, the numbers only get you so far – so this programme finds other ways to wow us. 

Like having Linda Miller, hard-hat-wearing project manager at Farringdon, point out that if you laid the Shard skyscraper on its side, the whole thing would fit inside her vast new station. 

She actually calls it “my Farringdon station”, and that’s one of the nice things we pick up on – the pride that engineers and builders take in “their” project. At Barbican – or under it – Gregg proudly shows how the track that he is laying, a mere 17 metres below the London Symphony Orchestra’s concert stage, sits on special “MagnaDense” super-concrete that “floats” on big springs so the rumble won’t disturb the quiet bits of Beethoven. Very cool.

The Trial: A Murder in the Family

9pm, Channel 4

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This is a make-believe murder trial, which means we are allowed to eavesdrop on what in real life is secret and sacrosanct, the jury room and the “jurors”, 12 members of the public chosen at random, as they start to form their opinions.

Could the accused man in the dock, Simon Davis, really have strangled his wife Carla, the mother of his two children? Listening to the jurors’ first impressions, formed from casual prejudices and their own life experiences, is fascinating. 

The courtroom action is sober and well-paced as witnesses drop emotional, surprising truth-bombs into what at first looked like a straightforward narrative. Continues nightly until the verdict is delivered on Thursday.

American Gods

Amazon Prime

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This visually stunning show does whatever the hell it likes. The first half of episode four is conventional, controlled drama telling us the back story of Laura (Emily Browning). Then it pirouettes gaily into gruesome but hilarious supernatural fantasy. Both are carried off with immense flair.

Django Unchained

10pm, Channel 5

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Director Quentin Tarantino follows up his Oscar-winning war homage Inglourious Basterds with this playfully audacious mix of spaghetti western lore, Teutonic legend, blaxploitation stylings and revisionist American history. It’s a wildly thrilling swagger through the good, bad and ugly sides of slavery, with Jamie Foxx as the slave-turned-bounty hunter who’s on a mission to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner (played by Leonardo DiCaprio on top villainous form). Ferociously overindulgent in that trademark Tarantino way, but acceptably so because he knows which genre movies to lovingly recycle (Blazing Saddles and Mandingo to name but two), the film is blessed with often enthralling dialogue, surreal plot twists, a film buff’s dream of a supporting cast and a soundtrack that acts as another melodious Morricone tribute. Christoph Waltz (who deservedly won an Academy Award) gives a brilliant performance of ruthless charm personified as Django’s German mentor, but the real surprise here is Samuel L Jackson’s skin-crawling portrayal of DiCaprio’s manipulative head servant.