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12 escapist TV picks

A dozen of our favourite new and returning TV shows to provide a bit of light relief and escapism from everything else that is going on right now, all of them available to watch now.

Meet the Richardsons – Dave

A very welcome return to the world of stand-up comics Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont, a showbiz marriage like no other (not least because we get to watch it every week on Dave).

It’s a mockumentary in which ‘half is real and half is engineered,’ says Richardson, from the couple’s comedy bickering to their relationships with their neighbours and celebrity friends.

Returning for a third series on Thursday 3rd March, it sees the couple moving to a house in Leeds and meeting their new neighbours, joined in the first episode by their new showbiz pals, David and Georgia Tennant.

What they say: ‘A brilliant, fictionalised (we hope) version of a showbiz marriage … The line between imaginary flashpoints and real-life domestics is hilarious hazy.’ Radio Times


Frayed - Sky Max

Sarah Kendall’s 1980s set dysfunctional family comedy drama began with rich London housewife Sammy Cooper (Kendall) returning home to Australia after her life is turned upside down.

The second series, which has just begun on Sky Max, sees Sammy back in the UK with her two teenage sons trying to make ends meet. But with police investigating the disappearance of her violent neighbour in Australia, it just got a whole lot more complicated.

Diane Morgan and Robert Webb co-star in the show created and written by Kendall. A bleakly funny watch.

What they say: ‘Anarchic and bittersweet, a prickingly funny comic drama … Masterful.’ The Age


Starstruck - ITV

It’s a superfan’s dream come true - the chance to be transformed into their idol and sing their heart out in front of the nation.

Four teams of fanatics are turned into their heroes by the show’s expert costume and makeup teams to perform in front of the panel of Adam Lambert, Sheridan Smith, Jason Manford and Beverley Knight.

All taking place under the expert eye of Olly Murs - who knows a thing or two about singing contests - each week’s winning contestant progresses to the final with a £50,000 grand prize.

What they say: ‘Superfans undergo the ultimate showbiz makeover to perform for a stellar line-up of judges.’ Radio Times

The Curse - Channel 4

Like a comedy ‘supergroup’, The Curse unites the creators of People Just Do Nothing and Murder in Successville for a riotous 1980s romp.

The comic thriller follows a band of hapless crooks in the east end of London whose bungling attempt at a heist inadvertently lands them with £30 million of gold bars.

But their wildest dream turns into their worst nightmare as the problems of how exactly to dispose of all that gold - and stay one step ahead of the police - begin to pile up.

What they say: ‘A sublime crime caper with an unfeasibly brilliant cast.’ The Guardian


The Holiday - Channel 5

It sounds like an enviable middle class idyll, a group of old university friends going on holiday together in a luxurious Maltese villa complete with their partners and children.

Except this perfect family holiday turns out to be anything but paradise, amid a furious flurry of secrets and lies, suspicions of affairs … and murder.

Jill Halfpenny stars in the four-part Channel 5 series based on TM Logan’s best-selling novel which is stripped across four nights this week, beginning on Tuesday 1st March.

What they say: ‘A thrilling slice of escapism.’ Radio Times


Billy Connolly Does… - Gold

It’s an absolute treat to spend an hour each week in the company of the great Billy Connolly in this new seven-part series on Gold.

The legendary Big Yin invites viewers to his Florida home to reflect on his extraordinary career and half-century in stand-up comedy.

Each week Billy takes a different topic, including work, sex, bad behaviour, childhood, parenting and marriage. Showcasing classic and hidden treasures of his stand-up routine, it’s an intimate, unprecedented - and hilarious - insight into his life and work.

What they say: ‘Plenty of the memories are as moving as they are funny … criminally entertaining.’ The Guardian

Resident Alien - Sky Max

Alan Tudyk is back as the alien who crash lands on earth and passes himself off as a human, disguised as a small-town doctor.

But whereas in the first series he was on a mission to destroy the human race, this time Harry (Tudyk) struggles to hold onto his alien identity and finds himself on a new quest - to save humanity.

Based on the Dark Horse series of comics and just back for a second series on Sky Max, the shape-shifting genre mash-up is just the extra terrestrial escapism we needed right now.

What they say: ‘An amusing trip to Spielberg country, where ETs live in our midst … I smiled, I laughed, I cared.’ LA Times


The Great Pottery Throw Down - Channel 4

It’s often remarked how many people in lockdown took up the opportunity to learn a new craft or hobby, and a very good thing that is too.

A less work intensive alternative is to watch other people show off their skills instead, and there are few better places to do that than Channel 4’s Great Pottery Throw Down.

The remaining three potters’ skills will be put to the ultimate test in the show’s grand final on Sunday 6th March. Expect tears, and not just from Keith Brymer Jones.

What they say: ‘Television’s most quietly radical show has kindness and representation at its heart … head and shoulders above your average crafts competition.’ The Independent


Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway - ITV

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of live TV and no-one does it better than Ant and Dec.

At the risk of making everyone feel very old - well, apart the ever youthful Ant and Dec - it is now 20 years since the first series of Saturday Night Takeaway began on ITV.

And its mixture of sketches, games, pranks and celebrity guest set pieces remains as fresh as ever, a traditional Saturday night recipe that also manages to feel bang up to date.

What they say: ‘Big, stupid and very smart, it is the only thing of its kind on TV … The gold standard in British light entertainment.’ iNews


Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable - Dave

The great Mel Giedroyc is our master of ceremonies for the panel show in which three contestants try to make the case that they are the most unforgivable person in the room.

This second series features a new batch of comedians and familiar faces including Rob Beckett, Rosie Jones and Bill Bailey, sharing hilarious tales of their most outrageous sins and morally bankrupt behaviour.

And it’s up to Giedroyc and her ‘dishonourable assistant’ Lou Sanders to judge who is the most unforgivable. A despicable delight.

What they say: ‘Delightfully daft, free-wheeling fun.’ Radio Times


Matt Baker: Our Farm in the Dales - Channel 4

Our Farm in the Dales follows the fortunes of presenter Matt Baker as he returned home with his wife and kids to help his mum and dad on the family farm on which he grew up.

It was More4’s biggest commission to date with the second series now being given a primetime run on Channel 4 before it returns for a third series later this year.

And there is plenty more of Matt Baker (and his family) to come with E4’s recently announced Matt Baker: Travels with Mum and Dad, a four-part trip around the breath taking scenery of the north-east of England.

What they say: ‘Powerful, tear-jerking … As stress-busting viewing, it went down a treat.’ iNews

Dancing on Ice - ITV

The Winter Olympics might be a memory but the ice dancing continues on ITV. With due respect to this year’s celebrity contestants, however, the ice is probably about the only thing they have in common.

Strictly Come Dancing’s Oti Mabuse joined the judging panel for this year’s show, with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean returning alongside MCs Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield.

The fifth series of the celebrity dance show since its revival by ITV in 2018 (and 14th overall), we are now nearing the business end of the competition as the final looms on the horizon.

What they say: ‘Thrills, spills and newly acquired skills.’ iNews

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