THE best TV shows and documentaries to watch this week, including the return of Idris Elba in Luther
“Maverick cop” may be a cliché – well, no “may” about it” – but Idris Elba’s performance as London detective John Luther showed there was a lot of life in that particular old dog. He’s brilliant, of course, but Luther tends to let his obsessions get in the way of his work – which can mean good people die. When last we saw Luther he’d been rescued from a typically sticky situation by pet psychopath Alice Morgan. Actress Ruth Wilson isn’t advertised as being in the latest two-parter from writer Neil Cross, but you can never anticipate what this drama has in store.
Certainly, she’s still haunting DCI Luther in this first of two episodes – the conclusion comes next week, don’t expect Christmas cheer – but she’s not the main event. There’s a cannibal killer on the loose, a miscreant so horrific the Met officers assigned to the case – played by series newcomers Darren Boyd and Rose Leslie – risk losing their lunch before they can follow the clues. Better call Luther, currently on a leave of absence after the terrible events of the last series.
Warren Brown looks to be back as the sweet DS Justin Ripley who, given he was slain awhile back, is either in flashback mode, or Luther’s very own Ghost of Christmas Past. Whatever the case, this will be unmissable.
Tuesday, BBC1, 9pm
LIFESTYLE: Back in Time for Christmas
The Robshaws’ time-travelling teatimes made for some of the best viewing this year– could mum Rochelle really be such a stranger to the toaster? – so it’s great to see them sampling festive fare from the Forties to the Nineties. And it’s not just food, as they hit more general nostalgic notes, such as the race for the 25 December Number 1 and the misery that is an EastEnders Christmas.
Tuesday & Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
DOCUMENTARY: Scotland’s Vital Spark: The Clyde Puffer
Neil Munro’s Para Handy tales made the Vital Spark perhaps Scotland’s most famous seafaring craft ever. Actor David Hayman sails through the history of one of Scotland’s most-cherished boats, talking to the men who worked on them and takes a trip out to sea on the last remaining steam-powered puffer.
Monday, BBC2, 9pm
ENTERTAINMENT: TFI Friday Christmas Special
Chris Evans, producer Will and pals are back with likely the loudest festive special this year. Expect daft games and inconsequential but entertaining chats with Jack Whitehall, Lee Mack and James Corden, and music from Sir Tom Jones, Bryan Adams and more. But we’ve saved the best for last – joining the (bottled) ginger one as co-host is Alan Partridge, who doesn’t have the best record in making successful Christmas TV – let’s hope he doesn’t punch anyone...
Friday, Channel 4, 7:30pm
SOCIAL HISTORY: Our Guy in Latvia
Telly mechanic and motorbike racer Guy Martin travels to Northern Europe to look into the life of his Latvian grandfather David Kidals, who was drafted into the German army to fight the Russians in 1944. Guy uncovers tales of prisoner of war camps and daring escapes under the constant shadow of death.
Monday, Channel 4, 9pm
FOOD: Simply Nigella: Christmas Special
Slurp. Wink. Lick... oh, you want more? Well, it’s lovely Nigella Lawson cooking Christmas comestibles for her “peeps”. We’re only jealous!
Monday, BBC2, 8pm