What to watch on TV this bank holiday weekend

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

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Inspector Montalbano

9pm Saturday, BBC4

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An accountant is found shot in the back in a new drain system after a thunderstorm and his libidinous wife has disappeared. A fat lad living nearby seems a bit simple, but may have a vital clue for Salvo Montalbano. Who was the man with a tattoo of a red sun? Corruption in the Sicilian construction industry is the backdrop here, with the title The Mud Pyramid symbolising the impenetrable monolith of the Mafia. Now the fictional Cuffaro and Sinagra families don’t even need to be seen to make their influence felt.

You have to love these rambling investigations. Most of the action and gruesome bits happen off screen, even Salvo acknowledges that the shreds of evidence are illogical, and the denouement is as flat as uncooked pizza dough. But what fans are here for is the amusing character interaction, Salvo bending the rules and oozing charm – almost directly inviting us to join him for a warm dip in the Med.

Festival Tales: Edinburgh at 70

9pm Saturday, BBC2

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Some stories from the Edinburgh Festival are probably not suitable for broadcast — even after the watershed on a Saturday night. But there are seven decades of fascinating history behind the festival, and this hour-long documentary charts its development, from humble beginnings in postwar Edinburgh to the cultural phenomenon that the Fringe has become.

The performers of today owe their thanks to the likes of Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore with their production of Beyond the Fringe in 1960, and the future Pythons who performed their surreal humour to packed audiences, helping to build Edinburgh’s reputation as the birthplace of experimental humour and burgeoning comedy careers.

Jack Whitehall is our host as contributors including Michael Palin, Ian McKellen, Shappi Khorsandi, Stephen Fry and Alexei Sayle share what the annual event means to them.

Victoria

9.05pm Sunday, ITV

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Queen Victoria is restless. She’s just had a baby but she’s being treated as if she’s an invalid, pushed around Buckingham Palace in a wheelchair, cocooned in blankets.

But Victoria is a modern woman and there are matters of state to attend to, as Daisy Goodwin’s hit drama returns. Victoria is as gloriously sumptuous to look at as it was the first time and the leading actors – Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes – are so pretty as the golden couple.

There’s trouble in paradise, though. Victoria feels sidelined by the men in her life, including her husband and her Prime Minster, Sir Robert Peel, and there’s a war on in Afghanistan where thousands of British troops are in peril.

But no one will tell Victoria what’s really going on because of some misguided idea that she needs protecting. Only the Duke of Wellington will give it to her straight.

Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling

9.05pm Sunday, BBC1

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A lovely young model leaves a showbiz party in snowy London (it never snows in London, but we’ll let that pass) and returns to her beautiful, luxurious flat.

The next we see of the woman, Lula Landry, she’s sprawled dead on the road, and burly, damaged private eye Cormoran Strike shuffles into our lives. Lula’s brother doesn’t agree with the inquest verdict that his sister killed herself and he wants Strike to uncover the truth.

Strike, created by JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, lost a leg while fighting in Afghanistan and lives a hand-to-mouth existence as a world-weary gumshoe with shoddy offices in the pulsing heart of the capital.

He’s played by Tom Burke, who is terrific, oozing Strike’s grubby charm, eloquence and kindness. Naturally he needs a good woman to take care of him, so it’s lucky he has a new assistant, the clever, capable Robin (Holliday Grainger).

Imagine – Margaret Atwood: You Have Been Warned!

10.30pm Monday, BBC1

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The Handmaid’s Tale author is often accused of making all the women in her novels suffer. “Most of the women I talk to seem to have suffered,” she answers crisply, as if there was no need to explain. And when asked how she can write about things she hasn’t experienced, she replies, “And did Agatha Christie commit all those murders?”

Alan Yentob takes us through Atwood’s unorthodox upbringing in the Canadian wilderness, where she was treated as an equal to her brothers (surely the root of her feminism, even though she shuns that particular label) and her early literary career before finding out what prompted her to write her dystopian bestseller in 1985. It’s chilling to realise she “put nothing into the book that had not already been done”.

She does reveal why she dressed the handmaids in scarlet outfits and made them wear those distinctive face-covering bonnets – whatever you think was the inspiration for the latter, it will be wrong.

In Solitary: The Anti-Social Experiment

9pm Monday, C5

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When was the last time you were truly alone for more than an hour or so? Three volunteers – and presenter George Lamb – spend five days in solitary, locked in a bland, windowless pod without any entertainment or sensory stimulation. They can press an emergency exit button (no need to yell “I’m a Celebrity!”) while a psychologist monitors and reviews their behaviour.

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This is no larking-about Big Brother situation: one only manages five hours while another displays disturbing levels of anxiety. However, two have a real epiphany during the experiment although who knows if they’ll act on their insights when they return to the real world?