The best TV to watch tonight

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

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Against the Law

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9pm, BBC2

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Journalist Peter Wildeblood steels himself to go into a gay pub. It’s the early 1950s and gay men were routinely denounced as “evil” and “perverted”. Homosexuality was illegal, men were jailed and so-called aversion therapy was brutal, inhumane and humiliating. 

Wildeblood (Danny Mays, who is so heartbreakingly good as a man who refuses to feel ashamed) announces to a friendly fellow drinker, “I am a homosexual.” The other man laughs, “I thought that was just something doctors call us.”

Brian Fillis’s thoughtful film, interspersed with testimony from elderly gay men who lived through the years of repression and fear, accompanies Wildeblood (who later wrote the book Against the Law, on which the film is based) as he’s arrested for “gross indecency”, among other charges. Watch out for our guest editor Mark Gatiss as a weary prison doctor. 

Wildeblood is imprisoned but the trial and its aftermath proved a landmark and a turning point – change was coming, in the form of Wolfenden Committee.

Long Lost Family

9pm, ITV

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Marion and James met when they were seven years old. As teenagers in 1960s Catford, they started going out, and a year or so later Marion became pregnant. 

In 1970 Andy was born and for the first few months of his life, Marion looked after him as best she could. But things became tough for them and when she asked if they could live with her grandparents (who had raised her), the response from her nan was brutal: “You can come home, but you’re not bringing it with you.” 

They were forced to give the baby up for adoption, a decision that has haunted them for 46 hears, and seeing them talk about it now is heartbreaking. “The guilt sometimes, its unbelievable,” says James, his voice shaking. But that’s the kind of tragic wrong this series exists to put right, and once again Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall deliver stories of love and loss with an empathetic touch.

Don’t Tell the Bride

9pm, E4

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Don’t Tell the Bride is, undisputedly, the jewel in any schedule’s crown, so it’s baffling that it keeps switching channels. Back, thank heavens above, on free-to-air TV after a dalliance with Sky last year, this opener has all the trappings of a classic, and does rather prove true the old adage, “Don’t get engaged to a manchild”. Thirty-year-old Rebecca hands over to Carl, eight years her junior, who has not only never planned a wedding, but has never been to one, either, but he’s got a solid idea of what he’s dealing with – “Chips, dips, and a load of little tealight candles. That’s all the key things.” 

It’s as satisfyingly predictable as ever – she wants tradition; he wants banana boats in Torremolinos – but no guilty pleasure will sufficiently fill the hole left by Love Island this summer.

Show Me a Hero

Now TV

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An overlooked 2015 mini-series by David Simon, creator of The Wire. Based on fact, it features Oscar Isaac as the late-1980s mayor of Yonkers, NY, who is forced by court order to build the affordable housing that rich white residents fear. Tough moral questions don’t obscure the fine storytelling.

Bad Neighbours

9pm, E4

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High School Musical heart-throb Zac Efron continues to dirty up his image (after The Paperboy and That Awkward Moment) by playing Teddy, the neighbour from hell, in this outrageous comedy. It’s business as usual for co-star Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) playing new dad, Mac, who needs to let go of his youth. But it’s difficult, as Teddy heads a college fraternity and hosts loud parties with neon lights and naked girls. Apart from keeping the baby up, it’s a rude awakening for Mac and his missus (Rose Byrne), who discover they’re just not cool any more. So, after initial failed efforts to be down with the kids, the couple begin a campaign of lowdown dirty tricks in an attempt to shut the frat house down. The friction between Rogen and Efron is bitterly amusing, especially because Efron remains a likeable guy, and Byrne is amusingly crazy, too. Director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek) pushes too hard against the boundaries of taste and logic, though. Instead, the big laughs more often come when he just stands back and lets the actors bounce off each other.