ABC Comedy, 9.30pm
"Don't waste your love on someone who doesn't value it." So writes Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet and, with a little tinkering, it could be applied to this purported new comedy about the Bard by Ben Elton. So, how about, "Don't waste your time on Ben Elton, for he clearly doesn't value it" or "Don't waste your time on this bit of comedy rubbish, it's about as funny as the on-purpose bad comedy When the Whistle Blows in Ricky Gervais' actual comedy Extras". Honestly, what has happened to Elton? It's incredible to believe the man responsible for The Young Ones and Blackadder could be behind this. Or maybe not. His recent output has been ropy at best. Perhaps even more baffling are the actors who signed up. David Mitchell, who plays Shakespeare, knows funny. He's starred in Peep Show, written the Mitchell and Webb sketch series and is a regular panellist on QI and Would I Lie to You? Throw in Liza Tarbuck (who, in a weird bit of symmetry, starred in When the Whistle Blows), British national treasure Harry Enfield and Game of Thrones' Gemma Whelan and you have at least four smart people who read the script and thought, "Yep, this is quality TV". Maybe I'm being too harsh, maybe people want fart jokes and gags about "strumming lutes" and "master baiters". But it's 2018, shouldn't we expect more? (Sure, it was made in 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, but the point still stands.) It's probably best to end with the Bard himself: "O teach me how I should forget to think … for the sooner I forget this abomination of a comedy, the better I will be."
Movie One Direction: This Is Us (2013)
A historical document now that the phenomenally successful British boy band have splintered into solo careers, this tour documentary offers a patina of revelation while shining the official spin. There is much clowning backstage from the quintet, endless declarations of their since-failed camaraderie, and a decent amount of self-deprecating humour as they play arenas that are seemingly full of screaming teenage girls. Boy bands pull a far more diverse audience – gay men, for example, are integral to any pop act's following – but Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock doesn't appear too interested in digging into the layers of cultural obsession. Any hint of Spinal Tap self-delusion (Zayn Malik's "graffiti room" has great potential) is nipped in the bud, and it's soon apparent that the impish Harry Styles has a yen for the camera that will one day deliver more than the shirts-off carousing offered here.
Born to Be Blue (2015)
The prevailing image of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, who died in 1988 at age 58, as a talented young 1950s musician with matinee idol looks whose life was laid low by heroin addiction was formed by Bruce Weber's stylised 1988 documentary Let's Get Lost. That film was a homage to tragic beauty, whereas writer/director Robert Budreau's fictionalised biopic, set mainly in 1966, deals with the burden Baker carried due to his own legend. With his face battered by thugs to the point where he can't play, and with a probation officer to answer to, Ethan Hawke's Baker is barely able to survive. His past haunts him – he's hired to play himself in a cheap biopic – and there's a tenderness to his nascent relation with Jane Akuza (Carmen Ejogo), a co-star turned supportive partner whose own work nonetheless wanes in a story where creativity and responsibility are corrosively connected.
PayRome: Empire without Limits
Friday, History, 9.30pm
With the Romans running amok in Britannia (Monday, Showcase, 8.30pm), it's a fine time for a rapid recap of Roman history with Cambridge classicist Mary Beard. Infectiously enthusiastic and resolutely daggy, Beard sets off at a gallop and doesn't let up: this first hour takes us all the way from the myth of Romulus and Remus right through to Augustus. The Punic Wars flash by in just a few minutes, Beard being less interested in explaining how they unfolded than in what they represented, the emergence of Rome as a seriously expansionist military power. But it's no dry lecture; numerous interesting excursions include Beard visiting marine archeologists on the job and getting to touch history itself in the form of a Roman naval ram still clutching timber from a Carthaginian ship it took to the bottom of the Mediterranean more than 2000 years ago. Marvellous.
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter