New Blood, Thursday 9th June, 9pm, BBC One
You’re in India. I mean, you’re not, obviously. It’s summer and you’re in a sweater, a cardigan and a scarf, of course you’re not in India. But imagine you are. Someone comes up to you with a leaflet, asking you if you want to earn a bit of extra money, by taking part in a medical trial, where you’re injected with some untested substance to see what it does to you. You’re not likely to say yes, right? I mean, you’ll always get those who will argue that it’s an easy way to make a few quid, but I’d rather forego the money, safe in the knowledge that I’m not likely to grow a leg out of my forehead anytime soon.
The drugs trial is a starting point for a new seven-part drama from award-winning author and playwright Anthony Horowitz. Something goes wrong in the trial. Whodda thunk? You can tell it’s going to go wrong because (a) This is a drama, and Murphy’s Law always applies in dramas; (b) the trial is being overseen by a sinister-looking man in spectacles; and (c) it’s an unregistered drugs trial in Mumbai – what part of that sounds safe to you?
Anyway, six years later, back in London. Someone has taken the direct route down from the roof of a tall building. Suicide, says the fat, grumpy CID officer (Mark Addy). Not so, says uniformed rookie Rash Sayyad (Ben Tavassoli). Because he’s discovered a clue. He impresses the powers that be, and soon he’s seconded to CID, working alongside the hardened, jaded, fat, grumpy one who (you’re not gonna believe this) doesn’t want to work with a rookie. This is a shocking turn up for the books, notwithstanding the fact that it’s happened in every police drama ever made. All we need now is a wizened old pro to mutter “I’m getting too old for this…” and we can call ‘house’ and go home.
Meanwhile, Stefan Kowolski (Mark Strepan) is working for a health trust. His boss calls him in and makes some lewd suggestions that aren’t exactly from the NHS manual of good management. When Stefan demures, the boss goes nuts, satisfyingly establishing his baddie credentials. But what’s this? Stefan’s more than just an NHS wage drone. He’s an undercover agent, working for the Serious Fraud Office. Woo hoo! And then it all really kicks off…
Whether or not you enjoy this first episode depends upon how much credibility matters to you. There are enough seriously implausible incidents to make Ghostbusters look like a documentary. But there is also the nucleus of an intriguing drama here, and Horowitz drip-feeds information, while withholding enough to keep the viewer guessing. Good, daft fun.
Euro 2016, on ITV and BBC One for a month from Friday 10th June
Yippee! That glorious quadrennial tournament, that festival of football, that celebration of nationhood, that destroyer of marriages the European Championships is back. And not before time, too. This will be almost two whole weeks since the football season ended. It’s positively inhuman to force us to go so long without the beautiful game. But now it’s here, for a whole, delirious month/30 flipping days (delete according to how much the idea of over 50 games of live football on terrestrial TV in the next month makes you want to throw your TV and/or partner out of the window).
The BBC’s coverage will be fronted by – you’ll never guess – former newsreader Jan Leeming. Don’t be daft, it’ll be Gary Lineker, alongside Alan Shearer, Rio Ferdinand, Gianluca Vialli, Thierry Henry, and the injured Belgium captain Vincent Kompany (quite a coup, that…) ITV’s coverage will be helmed by Mark Pougatch, who succeeded Adrian Chiles as the broadcaster’s head sports chappy last year. He’ll be joined by Slaven Bilic, Lothar Matthaus, Emmanuel Petit, Christian Karembeu, Louis Saha, Glenn Hoddle, and Ian Wright.
So, what to expect? I, for one, am sorely tired of getting excited about England’s chances, only to see them get absolutely walloped by a small, landlocked republic I’ve never heard of. So, much as the squad boasts some thrilling and dynamic talent, especially the attacking triumvirate of Alli, Kane and Vardy, I’m not going to allow myself to get too excited. Particularly with what looks like a distinctly threadbare – and rather slow – defence.
Northern Ireland will simply be happy to have qualified for a major tournament for the first time in 34 years – a remarkable achievement, that has seen them rewarded with a difficult draw. Don’t expect them to qualify from a group including Poland, Ukraine and World Champions Germany.
Wales, meanwhile, have also done phenomenally well to qualify for only their second major tournament, 58 years after their first. But they can harbour more realistic hopes of progressing into the knockout stages, thanks to the nucleus of a good team emboldened by the stellar presence of the luminous Gareth Bale.
Ireland, too, are there, having turned in some impressive performances in qualifying, most notably beating Germany. But they have the misfortune to be in the tournament’s ‘group of death’, alongside Sweden, Belgium and Italy.
Scotland, meanwhile, will not be there – the only home nation to miss out – but that won’t dampen Celtic enthusiasm one jot. Expect sales of Slovakia, Russia and Wales shirts to be remarkably healthy north of the border.
If I were a betting man, I’d lump my money on France. They not only have home advantage, but the strongest and most balanced squad in the tournament. Plus, in Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba, they have two of the most dynamic and thrilling talents in world football. Actually, I am a betting man, and I intend to do exactly that – at least that way, I’ll have a continued interest in the tournament long after Roy’s boys have come home on the back of a narrow 4-0 defeat to the Republic of Trazpolonia. Sigh.
The best, and the rest
Saturday 4th June
The Derby, 1:30pm, Channel 4: Horses and tiny men go very fast around a big oval.
It’ll Be Alright on the Night, 9pm, ITV: Animals get intimate behind a local news reporter. Probably.
Sunday 5th June
Soccer Aid, 6pm, ITV: Gordon Ramsay and Robbie Williams’ mate have a big celebrity kickaround. For charity.
Escape to the Chateau, 7pm, Channel 4: Utterly charming series in which the man with the world’s biggest moustache and his wife buy a rundown chateau and attempt to restore it to former glories.
Read Benjie's review of Escape to the Chateau
Penelope Keith at Her Majesty’s Service, 8pm, Channel 4: Penelope Keith visits some of the Queen’s homes, in this delightful festival of poshness.
City in the Sky, 9pm, BBC Two: A three-part series involving aviation past, present and future.
Monday 6th June
Reg, 9pm, BBC One: Fact-based drama starring Tim Roth as the father of Lance Corporal Tom Keys, killed in Iraq, who becomes implacably opposed to the war.
Tuesday 7th June
George Clarke’s Old House, New Home, 8pm, Channel 4: Another property series. Thank heavens.
Cameron and Farage Live: The EU Referendum, 9pm, ITV: More Euro-chat. Still 16 days to go, people. Crikey!
Rich Brother, Poor Brother, 9pm, Channel 4: Ivan Massow is a hugely successful businessman. His brother David lives in a van and does odd jobs. A fascinating look at the paths we choose in life.
Big Brother, 9pm, Channel 5: It’s back. Don’t watch, it only encourages them.
Wednesday 8th June
Rescue Dog to Superdog, 8pm, Channel 4: Three-part series wherein dog trainers Nando (yes, really) and Jo-Rosie (yes, really) train rescue mutts to help people with various disabilities and conditions.
The Secrets of Growing Up, 9pm, ITV: Companion piece to last week’s doc about the glories of ageing, this week it’s the turn of the kiddywinks.
Power Monkeys, 10pm, Channel 4: Political sitcom from Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton, much of it filmed on the day of transmission to keep it current. Adventurous.
Thursday 9th June
The ITV Referendum Debate, 8pm, ITV: 14 days to go. Hang in there, people.
Inside Birmingham Children’s Hospital, 9pm, Channel 4: Deeply affecting documentary series. I defy you to watch this and not fall in love with the main family in tonight’s episode.
Friday 10th June
The Last Leg, 10pm, Channel 4: Jeremy Corbyn joins the boys on the sofa.