What to watch on TV this weekend

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Sgt Pepper’s Musical Revolution: with Howard Goodall


9pm Saturday, BBC2

If the Beatles’ defining album were a car, this would be the Haynes manual, an exploded diagram showing how all its many and beautiful parts fit together. Presenter Howard Goodall is a wizard mechanic, polishing up each chorus and key change so we appreciate it anew. 

To help him he has access to the original Sgt Pepper master tapes as well as unused takes and those scraps of Beatles-y backchat (“Ringo, keep it a bit straighter at the end”), the result being very much for the benefit of anyone interested in pop music’s perfect moment. 

We learn, for instance, that there are seven pianos and two organs playing that thundering final chord of A Day in the Life. Strawberry Fields Forever (not on the album, of course, but part of the same sessions) was apparently stitched together from takes recorded a week apart that used different instruments. George Martin sounds a little weary as we hear him say: “Strawberry Fields Forever take seven… remix from four-track take six.”

Doctor Who

7.35pm Saturday, BBC1

An arresting prologue introduces us to an altered, present-day Earth. One with a rewritten human history, and in which those cowled corpses the Monks are now our benefactors. And where the Doctor is behaving very creepily indeed.

Deniers are imprisoned in this new world order and Bill, who can see through the deception like the child in The Emperor’s New Clothes, is struggling to keep shtum. She even talks to her dead mother in a bid to stay sane.

It’s no bad idea to rewatch the end of the previous episode first, to grasp why we are in this dystopian hell. Toby Whithouse’s intense and twisty tale is a fine example of emo-Who, thanks to Pearl Mackie’s involving performance as Bill, going through untold agonies. Some of the unease is deflected by the cute comic timing of Matt Lucas as Nardole, and by some lovely lines of dialogue from Whithouse. And, finally, we see the Doctor open that mysterious Vault…


9pm Saturday, Channel 4

With a title connoting the pedestal on which it places its subjects, Legend stars Tom Hardy as East End gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Brian Helgeland fashions their reign of terror into a battle for Reggie’s soul between the wife who wants him above board and the unstable brother loath to lose his partner in crime. Reggie’s missus (Emily Browning) narrates and we see her “gangster prince” through her goo-goo eyes. Helgeland withholds the impact of the violence until the final act in an upbeat handling of his material which seems off. The approach is borderline deranged but it never makes the jump into parody, while the insight-free screenplay flirts with Martina Cole-esque crime clichés. Still, Hardy creates two distinct, compelling characters, although the relationship between them is somewhat lost in the trickery. His humorous delivery as Ronnie and the charisma he brings to Reggie means there’s much to enjoy, while the film’s length is easily worn. An entertaining showcase for its lead, if little more, Legend seldom fails to fascinate, even when it’s for the wrong reasons.

Britain’s Got Talent Final

7.30pm Saturday, ITV

Before this series of Britain’s Got Talent even began, judge Amanda Holden said she wanted to see a comedian win. Last year she stated that she wanted a magician to take the £250,000 prize money and a spot at the Royal Variety Performance, and magician Richard Jones duly did. So does “Mystic Mandy” (as she styled herself in a recent interview with Radio Times) still possess her powers? 

We’ll have to wait until the grand final to find out. Series 11 of BGT has been relatively free of controversy and has made headlines for the right reasons… until now at least. With Simon Cowell being “egged” during the 2013 final and the now infamous “double dog” controversy following Jules and Matisse’s win in 2015, anything can still happen…

The Handmaid’s Tale

9pm Sunday, Channel 4

A high-status woman offers Offred (Elisabeth Moss) a biscuit. “You shouldn’t spoil them – sugar is bad for them,” chides her mistress, Serena Joy, casually referring to handmaidens as children – or slaves. 

There are plenty of ugly echoes like that in this dystopian drama, but they’re not overdone. The allegory of religious oppression in a near-future America can hit hard, but mostly the horror is painted in delicate, Vermeer-style images that belie the pain involved. 

The main scene tonight is a childbirth ritual where Ofwarren (aka Janine, the handmaiden who briefly rebelled) goes through labour in a pristine mansion surrounded by other handmaidens chanting “Breathe!” or “Push!” in sinister unison. Meanwhile, her mistress, who isn’t pregnant, mimes the same process in the room next door. It could almost be comic, but it’s deeply creepy and strange.

The Leftovers

Now TV


When it launched, this US drama – about earth recovering from a supernatural event in which two per cent of people vanished – made little impact here. It had moments of deep beauty but no clear reason to stick with it. Those who did, though, will tell you it’s become uniquely powerful, and US critics are raving about the third and final season. Ahead of that, catch up with series one and two.