The best TV to watch tonight

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


Hokusai: Old Man Crazy to Paint


9pm, BBC4

The British Museum’s current exhibition is named “Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave” because for most of us, rightly or wrongly, that vivid image will be the only one we know by one of Japanese art’s great masters. 

Watch this loving documentary, though, and you might come away with a new favourite. There’s plenty of choice, but for me it was a hanging scroll from 1849 (when Hokusai was in his late 80s), which features the saddest, most tormented expression you’ll ever see on the face of a dragon. 

“Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice,” Hokusai claimed, though Patricia Wheatley’s profile takes us briskly through the stages of a career in which apart from anything else, he more or less invented the graphic novel and the visual style of animation. Among those singing his praises here are Maggi Hambling and David Hockney.


9pm, BBC2

“We are living in a golden age of more and more cancer drugs being available,” says Imperial NHS Trust’s most senior cancer specialist, Dr Katie Urch. However, with an estimated deficit of £850 million across England’s hospitals alone, the health service faces growing ethical challenges over how to treat patients needing expensive or unproven drugs. “How do you cost life? It is very, very difficult,” says Dr Urch.

Two case studies in this programme make the point. Glendon from Preston believes an immunotherapy drug might shrink his brain tumour – but it is unproven and costs £30,000. Meanwhile, Nicky from Devon is attempting to crowdfund the £60,000 she needs for a promising drug to treat her ovarian cancer.


9pm, BBC1

Fr Michael has faced several harsh dilemmas in this series. Playing him, Sean Bean is good at getting across the sense of a man on whom moral responsibility weighs like a sack of potatoes, his whole face sagging with the woes of the world. 

Michael is an instinctively compassionate person, but that doesn’t help when he has to choose between two proud men who are both, to varying degrees, in the wrong. 

In this episode, the uncle of dead teenager Vernon arrives from Trinidad, full of righteous religious conviction, and when gay neighbour Carl pays a call to leave flowers, the two of them clash. Ned Dennehy as Carl more or less hijacks the drama, which turns into a thoughtful meditation on tolerance – or the lack of it.

Don’t Deport Me, I’m British


How does it feel to come to Britain as a child, grow up here, feel British and then, as an adult, discover that the state doesn’t want you? This documentary meets three young men who are about to be deported or already have been – why?

Donnie Brasco

11.40pm, Sony Movie Channel


In this 1970s-set crime drama, Al Pacino stars as a sleazeball who inducts young Brasco (played by Johnny Depp) into the codes and “family” values of organised crime. In fact, Brasco is an FBI undercover agent whose job threatens his marriage to Anne Heche as well as his life. In a way, it’s a curious reversal of Pacino’s earlier role in Serpico, in which his character went under cover. Directed by Mike Newell – a change of pace from Four Weddings and a Funeral – it’s pitched midway between the epic Godfather and the flash GoodFellas, and develops nicely as Depp finds himself becoming rather fond of his monstrous mentor. The period setting – a world of tacky shirts, fur collars and plastic lawns – is also beautifully evoked.