Henry VIII: Rise of a Tyrant
Channel 5, 9pm
“You might think you know everything there is to know about Henry VIII,” dares Jason Isaacs’s voice-over at the outset of this three-part series. It’s an attention-grabbing, challenging statement of intent, and although anyone with a deep knowledge of the Tudors may not find too many surprises, Rise of a Tyrant is still a cogent and compelling appraisal of a monarch who continues to fascinate down the centuries. Gathering a quorum of Tudor experts, including John Guy, Tracy Borman and Onyeka Nubia, its first chapter follows Henry from his unexpected elevation to heir following the death of his older brother, the 15-year-old Prince Arthur, through to the fall of his once-trusted adviser Cardinal Wolsey.
It tracks his decline from cheery charisma into brooding paranoia convincingly, with unusually accomplished, witty reconstructions (young Henry as the “cool king” is so daft that it works), while seldom-seen documents offer useful context to everything from Henry’s tumultuous relationship with Wolsey to what went on between his father’s death and his official accession to the throne. Another fine addition to Channel 5’s bulging portfolio of history documentaries. GT
Football: England v Denmark
Sky Main Event, 7pm (kick off 7.45pm)
The shine enjoyed by Gareth Southgate’s golden boys seems finally to have rubbed off, with a streak of dire performances followed by some very tabloid-friendly antics among the squad. They could be without Ben Chilwell, Tammy Abraham and Jadon Sancho for this Nations League fixture after the trio breached Covid-19 protocols. In the Women’s Super League, slow-starters Tottenham Hotspur face free-scoring Man United on Saturday (BT Sport 3, 12.30pm) – quite the reverse of their respective men’s teams.
Autumn at Jimmy’s Farm
Channel 4, 8pm
After the lockdown, the reopening: the ever-engaging Jimmy Doherty and his team prepare the farm and wildlife park for visitors, deal with a suspected tapir pregnancy and continue their efforts to contain Steve McQueen, the meerkat with wanderlust.
Inside the Tower of London
Channel 5, 8pm
The docuseries picks up in February, with visitors still flocking and guests including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. The cameras also follow the first black Yeoman Warder as he does the rounds, and chief curator Tracy Borman (who appears in tonight’s Henry VIII documentary), as she researches the life of Catherine Howard.
Portrait Artist of the Year 2020
Sky Arts, 8pm
Stephen Mangan returns sans Joan Bakewell for the seventh series of the delightful painting contest, with the first sitters including Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa, Cold Feet’s Fay Ripley and right royal gossip Lady Glenconner.
The Kennedys: Tragedy & Triumph
This four-part series walks well-trodden ground, exploring the legacy and impact of the Kennedy dynasty. The story begins with patriarch Joe Kennedy’s downfall for backing appeasement, and the heavy burden shouldered by the young John F Kennedy after the deaths of his two older brothers.
Dando: 20 Year Hunt for a Killer
Channel 5, 10pm
Marcus Plowright’s excellent 2019 BBC documentary, The Murder of Jill Dando, felt like the final word on a murder case most likely destined to remain unsolved. This film attempts to shed further light on the assassination of the Crimewatch presenter in April 1999.
Joan Rivers and Barbra Streisand: Urban Myths
Sky Arts, 10pm
Yes, Joan Rivers and Barbra Streisand really did share an off-Broadway stage for the calamitously poor Driftwood. This comedy drama is Sue Perkins’s interpretation, with Katherine Ryan a natural for the role of Rivers and The End of the F—ing World’s Jessica Barden unexpectedly effective casting as Streisand. It is hard to imagine the latter deferring to anyone these days, but here Streisand’s ambitions are hidden under a compelling veil of humility. GT
Home Again (2017) ★★★
Points to Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who both writes and directs here, for coming up with an original romcom plot in this day-and-age of cookie-cutter formulas. Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon), a 40-year-old would-be designer, leaves her husband and moves back to California. When she meets three would-be film-makers, she falls for one and invites the trio to move into her home. Professional and personal entanglements soon ensue.
Starship Troopers (1997) ★★★★
At first glance, this Oscar-nominated sci-fi action thriller based on Robert A Heinlein’s 1959 novel looks distressingly silly: in the distant future, a group of American high-school friends join the armed forces to do intergalactic war with some malicious insectoid aliens. The whole of humanity is, of course, at risk. Thankfully, director Paul Verhoeven deftly underpins the whole thing with wicked satirical verve and no-nonsense action.
Scream (1995) ★★★
Wes Craven rebooted the teenage-horror genre with Scream. It’s gory, but clever and funny, too, particularly in its own self-awareness: the characters talk constantly about being in a slasher movie. And Craven wrong-foots us with a terrific opening sequence that gleefully breaks the rules of film-making. Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell and David Arquette star. You can watch the sequel Scream 2 tomorrow at 10.00pm.
Thursday 15 October