What’s on TV tonight: Warrior Women with Lupita Nyong’o, Grand Designs: House of the Year and more

Lupita Nyong'o visits what used to be the kingdom of Dahomey
Lupita Nyong'o visits what used to be the kingdom of Dahomey Credit: Sandstone/Channel 4

Wednesday 23 October

Warrior Women with Lupita Nyong’o

Channel 4, 10.00pm

The high profile of the presenter makes a striking contrast with the relative obscurity of the material in this one-off documentary, but that is not to gainsay Lupita Nyong’o’s absolute absorption in the subject matter, nor its considerable interest. Having discovered that her character in the film Black Panther was inspired by genuine historical figures, the Oscar-winning star of 12 Years a Slave travels to the former kingdom of Dahomey in west Africa (now modern-day Benin) to learn the true story of the Agoji, a 4,000-strong army of female soldiers who guarded both king and kingdom for three centuries until a crushing defeat by the French.

Nyong’o is carefully respectful throughout, occasionally loudly amused and eventually deeply affected as she meets descendants of both the Agoji and those they conquered, discovering that the history of the women fetishised by European visitors as exotic “Amazons” is a complex one of martial ferocity, cultural sensitivity, economic pragmatism and “hard, brutal truth”. It serves both as a tribute to the enduring power of forgiveness and a reminder that historical reality seldom conforms to preconceived narratives. GT

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Netflix, from today

Chrissy Teigen, Seth Rogan and Kate McKinnon are among the celebrities joining restaurateur David Chang as he explores cities and their cuisines. This first series includes trips to Phnom Penh, Marrakesh and Vancouver. GT

Dancing with the Birds

Netflix, from today

From the team behind the excellent Our Planet, this ravishing one-off film follows birds-of-paradise as they search for mates. Stephen Fry narrates. GT

Football: Ajax v Chelsea

BT Sport 2, 5.15pm; kick-off 5.55pm

Frank Lampard’s side travel to Amsterdam to face last season’s Champions League surprise package. Don’t change the channel: immediately afterwards, Liverpool pay a visit to Genk (7pm; kick-off 8pm).

Your Home Made Perfect

BBC Two, 8.00pm

The series concludes with architects Laura Jane Clark and Robert Jamison squaring off to win a commission to transform a garden room in a three-bed Victorian terrace: will separate spaces win the day over a more all-encompassing approach? GT

Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs

ITV, 8.00pm

The comedian returns to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home for another run of heartstring-tugging encounters, beginning with seven rejected Staffie puppies and a Jack Russell with small-dog syndrome. GT

Catching Britain’s Killers: the Crimes that Changed Us

BBC Two, 9.00pm

The final edition of a superb and illuminating series goes back to 1972, when three teenage boys were convicted of arson and murder after the death of a man in Catford, south London, in spite of retracting their confessions. The campaign to free them led to an overhaul of the law and police practices as evidence was given priority over confessions. GT

Grand Designs: House of the Year

Channel 4, 9.00pm

Kevin McCloud hosts his fifth annual competition. Five experimental homes feature tonight, including a stone cottage in Derbyshire, a “micro-home” in London and a low-energy house in Buckinghamshire. GT

Korea: the Never-Ending War

BBC Four, 9.00pm

This PBS-produced film offers an engaging and sometimes moving survey of the Korean conflict, which has often been overshadowed by the Vietnam War in the following decade. Yet the first major Cold War clash of superpowers was a pivotal moment in global politics, and soldiers, citizens and politicians alike here recall the impact. GT

Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) ★★★☆☆

Film4, 11.00am

George Roy Hill directed two of the most popular films ever: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973). But this indifferent Julie Andrews musical about the flapper era was first. There’s much to enjoy in the story of a naive woman who leaves her rural roots behind to seek fortune and love in Twenties New York. James Fox as a spiffy salesman is a particular highlight.

Firewall (2006) ★★☆☆☆

TCM, 9.00pm

Harrison Ford reprises his usual latter-day role of the paterfamilias who turns into Action Man when his family is threatened by villains. His wife, children and Rusty the dog are taken hostage by armed home invaders, thanks to his job as the security chief for a Seattle bank. But Ford appears to be exhausted from the get-go, and he hardly looks like a computer expert – nor like someone up to fighting Paul Bettany, a man half his age.

The Age of Shadows (2016) ★★★★★

BBC Four, 10.30pm

We’re amid the Japanese occupation of Korea, in which Lee Jung-chool (Song Kang-ho) is a Korean policeman who has been tasked with infiltrating his countrymen’s resistance movement. He makes his way towards Kim Woo-jin (Gong Yoo), a leading figure in the cause – but Lee finds his heart rebelling, and an elaborate shadow-dance begins. Don’t miss this beautiful period piece.

Thursday 24 October

Sarah Lancashire and Joanna Scanlan in The Accident Credit: Channel 4

The Accident

Channel 4, 9.00pm

If the opening episode of Jack Thorne’s newest drama, the final part of his “blame trilogy” (after 2016’s National Treasure and 2018’s Kiri), is a hard watch, it’s largely because it’s so believable. Thorne, who’s half-Welsh, has said that he wanted to set a drama in the sort of Welsh town that has been largely abandoned by one government after the next. The result is a carefully drawn portrait of Glyngolau, a struggling but close-knit community that’s desperate for signs of regeneration. The Light, a building project, offers, as local politician Iwan Bevan (Mark Lewis Jones) puts it, a future for the area. That is, of course, until the accident of the title happens – an explosion that seemingly comes out of nowhere, leading to a number of deaths and ripping the heart out of the town. 

Powered by a strong central performance from Sarah Lancashire as local hairdresser Polly, and backed with strong support from Joanna Scanlan, Sidse Babett Knudsen and Genevieve Barr, the opening episode carefully sets up the traumas to come. As the long-held secrets of the town begin to bubble to the surface, Thorne offers us a harrowing picture of a community that struggles to remain together even as it’s being torn apart at the seams. SH

Daybreak

Netflix, from today

What if the apocalypse arrived and all adults became zombies? That’s the premise behind this teen-focused take on the end of the world, in which Colin Ford’s Josh and his misfit gang traverse a world that’s The Warriors crossed with Mad Max. SH

Golf: Zozo Championship

Sky Sports Main Event/Golf, 4.00am

After Monday’s Japan Skins competition, get up early to see the US Tour, still in Chiba, embark on the Zozo Championship. Stay tuned for the European Tour’s latest tournament, the Portugal Masters (11.30am).

The Dog House

Channel 4, 8.00pm

The most heart-warming show on television comes, alas, to an end. Luckily, we bow out with a cracking episode in which the team search for a home for a lurcher with a broken tail. SH

Giri/Haji

BBC Two, 9.00pm

It’s impossible to watch this thriller without wondering how it ever got made. The gangster bits are ridiculous, the great Takehiro Hira is wasted and Will Sharpe’s rent boy is the only interesting character. It’s a complete misfire that clearly wanted to be Eastern Promises but feels far closer to Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla. SH

Prince Charles: Inside the Duchy of Cornwall

ITV, 9.00pm

Given the unprecedented access granted to the makers of this new series, it’s no surprise that it’s a bit of a puff-piece. That said, despite the soft touch, it’s an interesting portrait of both the hands-on Prince of Wales (and Duke of Cornwall) and those who work on the Duchy’s lands. SH

Catherine the Great

Sky Atlantic/Now TV, 9.00pm

The tone of this four-part mini-series has occasionally wandered, but tonight’s conclusion helps to rectify the issues. As the elderly Catherine, desperately trying to retain power, Helen Mirren is superb, and the ending provides a gravitas that makes the journey worthwhile. SH  

Bill Turnbull: Staying Alive

Channel 4, 10.00pm

This documentary by the BBC presenter Bill Turnbull about his incurable prostate cancer is one of the most moving things on television this week. The 63-year-old clearly explains what his diagnosis means and is frank in his discussion of how he tackles his plight. SH

On the President’s Orders: Storyville

BBC Four, 10.00pm

It feels closer to fictional thrillers such as City of God, but James Jones and Oliver Sarbil’s film about Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” is compulsive viewing. Shot largely on the streets, the level of access is as impressive as the tale is harrowing. SH

The Go-Between (1971) ★★★★☆

London Live, 1.00pm

Harold Pinter’s adaptation of L P Hartley’s novel reflects tidily on the impact of class divisions. Young Leo (Dominic Guard) spends his summer at a country house, and ends up as a messenger in a “go-between” involving Marian (Julie Christie), who loves a farmer (Alan Bates), but is already engaged to another. Pinter’s dialogue is whip-smart, and a raft of terrific performances from the whole cast heighten the poignancy of the tale.

A Taste of Honey (1961, b/w) ★★★★☆

Talking Pictures TV, 6.00pm

Shelagh Delaney adapted her own 1958 play for the silver screen, and in doing so she produced one of the finest examples of cinematic kitchen-sink realism. Jo (Rita Tushingham) is the 17-year-old daughter of Helen (Dora Bryan), living in run-down Salford. When she meets a young black sailor (Paul Danquah), she soon becomes pregnant. It’s stirring stuff, honest without being too facile or “on-message”.

Old Boys (2018) ★★★★☆

Sky Cinema Premiere/NOW TV, 9.40pm

Which 18-year-old boy wouldn’t want to impress a worldly (and gorgeous) French girl his age? Alas for poor Amberson (Alex Lawther), he’s only the messenger, helping big, dumb Winchester (Jonah Hauer-King) to win the heart of Agnes (Pauline Etienne) with sweet nothings that his friend could never invent. It’s a high-school version of Cyrano de Bergerac: cute and simple.

Friday 25 October

The hitherto underappreciated weasel Credit: Robert E Fuller

Weasels: Feisty and Fearless

BBC Two, 8.00pm

Weasels have a bad reputation, as befits their status as shorthand for slippery, devious wrong-doing. Narrated by Julie Walters, this documentary attempts to rehabilitate them by demonstrating the remarkable capabilities and resourcefulness of weasels and their fellow mustelidae – ferrets, stoats and wolverines among them. The focal point is a Yorkshire garden in which owner and wildlife photographer Robert E Fuller has built a habitat for stoats and weasels, and rigged it with nearly 50 cameras. When first-time mother Bandita gives birth to four kits, the dangers they face while hunting and foraging are made clear, whether it’s ever-present predators or the familiar problem of trying to deal with four recalcitrant children.

Elsewhere, experts test out the ingenuity of a South African honey badger whose escape bids went viral, a wolverine with an extraordinary sense of smell and a ferret that can bend its body 180 degrees both vertically and horizontally. This edition of Natural World treats the science with a typically light touch; it’s fascinating and also, when Fuller rescues an abandoned kit, very cute. Don’t underestimate these much-maligned but truly intriguing creatures. GT

The Kominsky Method

Netflix, from today

The cast outshine the material once again in the second series of the sitcom that pairs Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin as an actor-turned-acting coach and his agent. Jane Seymour and Paul Resier guest-star in this new eight-episode run. GT

Pennyworth

Starzplay, from today

The DC Comics universe expands with a prequel that tells the origin story of Batman’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon), as he and billionaire Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) battle a Right-wing cabal in Sixties London, led by Paloma Faith’s fearsome Bet Sykes. GT

World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys

Channel 5, 8.00pm

Bill Nighy narrates another of Channel 5’s forays into the world of beautiful railways: this is the first of a six-part series that looks at trains crossing Canada. GT

The Name of the Rose

BBC Two, 9.00pm

William of Baskerville (John Turturro) gets closer to the heart of the mystery, but he may need to hasten his progress: the papal delegation is still advancing, and with deadly force as well. GT

Gogglebox Celebrity Special for SU2C/The Last Leg: SU2C Special

Channel 4, 9.00pm/10.00pm

This is a double-header of one-off charity shows. We start in front of the box, with celebrities including Nick Grimshaw and his mum, Emilia and Laurence Fox, Gyles Brandreth and Sheila Hancock, and Chris Eubank père et fils, as they watch and critique the week’s television. Then comes a Last Leg special featuring guest comedians Kathy Burke and Harry Hill. GT

K-Pop Idols: Inside the Hit Factory

BBC Four, 9.30pm

It may still seem fairly unfathomable to those who aren’t in the know, but the phenomenon of Korean bubblegum pop has been global for some years, with boy band BTS selling out Wembley Stadium for two nights this year. Journalist James Ballardie takes a closer look. GT  

Harry Hill’s Clubnite

Channel 4, 11.05pm

From Tea Time to Alien Fun Capsule, Harry Hill has yet to find a post-TV Burp vehicle that wins both ratings and critical acclaim. His second TV appearance tonight may do it, as he introduces his favourite stand-up acts – which this week include Bridget Christie and Spencer Jones – alongside the usual music, sketches and general silliness. GT

Dolemite is My Name (2019)

Netflix, from today

Plenty of biopic dramas claim to be “larger than life”, “stranger than fiction” and so on, but this Eddie Murphy vehicle has a real claim to those taglines. Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, the actor, comedian and cultural hand-grenade whose most famous character, Dolemite, was a pimp in the blaxploitation movie of the same name. As we see Moore struggling to make that film, it’s hard not to be swept up in his camply hilarious madcap energy.

Spy (2015) ★★★☆☆

Film4, 9.00pm

Melissa McCarthy’s bid to be 008 is a feminist action-comedy spoof of the least feminist genre in film. She plays a CIA analyst, who’s given a mission of her own – and all of a sudden, wouldn’t you know, her inner secret agent is out. Without ever reaching the heights of Bridesmaids, this McCarthy vehicle chugs along entertainingly thanks to her killer comic timing and the witty use of Jason Statham as a meathead.

The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆

Horror Channel, 9.00pm

Thanks to its hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale that trembles with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a memorable performance in his first film post-Potter, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread.

Television previewers

Vicki Power (VP), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Gabriel Tate (GT), Sarah Hughes (SH), Toby Dantzic (TD), Clair Woodward (CW), Catherine Gee (CG)