What to watch on TV INSTEAD of the World Cup

RT’s experts dig through the summer TV schedules for some juicy alternatives to wall-to-wall sport


As a month of World Cup 2018 football beckons, Radio Times editors Kasia Delgado, Terry Payne and Alexia Skinitis suggest their TV picks for summer – with no sport in sight.



Picks by Kasia Delgado

The sardonic, grumpy and very funny Romesh Ranganathan won hordes of fans for his BBC3 series Asian Provocateur, in which he travelled to Sri Lanka with his mum to discover his ancestral home. In his attempt to avoid upsetting her, he found himself in all sorts of awkward cultural situations he’d never experienced in his native Crawley — but the laughs were always on him rather than the Sri Lankans he met.

Now the 40-year-old comedian has again catapulted himself out his comfort zone for BBC2’s Romesh Ranganathan’s Really Rough Guide, in which he spends time in beautiful places that many people wouldn’t naturally choose for a holiday because, well, they’re not entirely risk-free.

From Ethiopia to Haiti, he gives us an insider’s guide to countries unspoiled by tourists, meeting locals and finding out if there are really good reasons why most of us give these places a wide berth. You might want to reconsider your choice of summer holiday destination after seeing Romesh’s jaunt around Albania.

There’s more hilarious travel in the third series of The Real Marigold Hotel on BBC1, where a clan of famous pensioners try out retirement together in Udaipur, a lovely city of lakes in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. The show is gentle, warm and full of fun as Stanley Johnson, Selina Scott, Susan George, Stephanie Beacham, Ian and Janette Tough (The Krankies), Syd Little, Peter Dean and Bob Champion entice us to India. No one will top Miriam Margolyes (star of series one), but Johnson and his counterparts provide plenty of eccentricity.

Real Marigold Hotel

Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain is a TV star we’re lucky to have — she radiates warmth and humour, challenges stereotypes about the British-Bangladeshi community and even baked the Queen’s 90th birthday cake. In the eight-part BBC2 series Nadiya’s Family Favourites, she shows us the dishes she makes for her loved ones, whipping up meals to suit weeknights and languorous Sundays. The thought of ghee potatoes and baked pear marzipan crumble should have you salivating…


Picks by Terry Payne

If it’s possible to suffer from a summer malady known as football fatigue, there must be a queue forming of those complaining of Trumpitis. Eighteen months into the Donald’s reign and it feels like we’re at the penalty shoot-out stage — just close your eyes and hope for the best. But the journalists at The New York Times are eyes very much wide open reporting on a man who’s described them as “the enemy of the people”. And their efforts really do deserve our attention.

BBC2’s four-part documentary The Fourth Estate pivots on the first 12 months of Trump’s presidency and provides a revealing and engrossing snapshot of newsroom life. There’s tension, some tantrums and extreme physical exhaustion as the reporters attempt to keep ahead of a story that’s as unpredictable as Trump’s own coiffured head.

It’s now in its 15th series, but BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are? shows no sign of running out of steam. Michelle Keegan was the curtain-raiser; soon Olivia Colman, Lee MackShirley Ballas and Boy George will be among those meandering into their family past. For Colman, it involves the tearful acknowledgement of an orphaned ancestor. Mack discovers a great-grandfather who found room for comedy on the First World War frontline.


It was Compleat Angler writer Izaak Walton who said of fishing: “Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery elements are made for wise men to contemplate and for fools to pass by without consideration.” Those enchanted by the attraction of line and lure know what he’s talking about. Comedian Paul Whitehouse is one such man. In a new six-part BBC2 series Mortimer & Whitehouse Gone Fishing, he takes lifelong pal Bob Mortimer to riverbanks around the country where they swap stories of their show business past, discuss the meaning of friendship and confront the reality of their own mortality.

Drama series

Picks by Alexia Skinitis

With the world outside going football crazy, what better escape than retreating into an engrossing TV drama? There will be drama on the pitches of Russia, but will it be as enthralling as these fictional treats?

Having ditched the power suits that garnered her mixed reviews in The Split, Nicola Walker returns in a role that won her universal acclaim, as DCI Cassie Stuart in Unforgotten. It’s back for a third series on ITV, co-starring Sanjeev Bhaskar as DI Sunny Khan, alongside a great supporting cast: Alex Jennings, hot off his brilliant turn in A Very English Scandal; Neil Morrissey, whose last outing in a crime drama, Line of Duty, was a revelation; as well as Kevin McNally and James Fleet.

Nicola Walker in The Split on BBC1
Nicola Walker in The Split on BBC1 (BBC)

The new series should prove just as absorbing and stands alone from the previous two with a new cold case being re-opened. If you’d like to catch up (or fancy enjoying them again), both series of Unforgotten are now available on the ITV Hub as a box set.

Another excuse to draw your curtains is series four of The Affair, the classy American drama on Sky Atlantic starring Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. It gripped audiences by splitting the narrative between the central characters and telling the same story from different perspectives. If you haven’t seen the first three series, fear not — they’re all available to binge-watch on Sky Box Sets.

For something new, Picnic at Hanging Rock is coming to BBC2. Originally made for Australian TV (and a cult 1975 movie), the series, set in 1900, is an adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s novel about the mysterious disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher following a Valentine’s Day picnic. Game of ThronesNatalie Dormer leads the cast as Hester Appleyard, the prim English headmistress.

Aidan Turner in Poldark series 4

And surely Poldark fans are just as vocal as football supporters. They’ll be cheering that Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson are back on BBC1 for a fourth series this Sunday. Demelza is still being pursued by her poet and Ross is heading for parliament. Enjoy the summer of high drama!

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