What we're watching on TV this week

Albert (Allan Mustafa) and Natasha (Emer Kenny)

Albert (Allan Mustafa) and Natasha (Emer Kenny) in The Curse - Credit: Channel 4 / Ben Blackall

The Curse, all episodes on All4 

If ever you needed evidence of how incredible British comedy is right now, simply point your peepers at this Channel 4 crime-caper. 

The stars have literally aligned here, bringing together the immense Tom Davis (King Gary, Murder in Successville) and three of the People Just Do Nothing crew – interestingly both BBC shows. 

If you’ve not seen either of the above, and dig mocumentaries, I highly recommend both. 

The Curse sets out its stall in a crumbling Thatcher’s Britain, and an impoverished pocket of London where Albert and Natasha (Allan Mustafa and Emer Kenny) are doing their best to bring up their kids while running a greasy spoon that services everyone from coppers to crooks. 

Joey Boy (Abraham Popoola), a local thug, trying to pay his growing café tab with ‘off the back of a lorry’ salmon is the last straw for Natasha, who conspires behind Albert’s back to plot a gold heist with an unlikely crew of bandits, including Sidney (Steve Stamp) - who takes position as the ‘inside man’. 

From there on in begins one of the bungliest of bungled crimes, bringing the disparate band of thieves to the attention of the underworld. 

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Would-be gangster Phil (Hugo Chegwin) is as useful as a chocolate teapot. Weirdo Mick (Tom Davis) can’t read or write so records the location of the gold on cassette tapes. Albert accidentally kills someone with a spade. And Sidney is most put out when his mate Phil makes him dig his own grave. 

Can this unlikely lot really get away with the crime of the decade? You’ll have to watch and find out. 

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 23/12/2021 - Programme Name: Toast of Tinseltow

Aiden Turner in Toast of Tinseltown - Credit: BBC/Objective Fiction/Ben Meadows

Toast of Tinseltown, all episodes streaming on BBC iPlayer 

Since the start of the year, we’ve been totally spoiled for choice when it comes to watch on telly. But among the big, serious grown-up dramas which have dominated the schedules, there have been laughs too.  

And I’d really like to raise a glass to the return of Matt Berry’s hopeless thespian Steven Toast to our screens. 

Luxuriantly be-voiced and be-coiffed Toast, the creation of Berry and co-writer Arthur Mathews (whose credits include Father Ted), first appeared in several series of Toast of London on Channel 4. 

Now he’s been given an encore on the BBC, and, like many a British actor, he’s heading across the pond to try and make it big in Hollywood. 

And it’s as surreal and silly as ever. 

Toast of Tinseltown opens – joy of joys – with Toast back in the recording booth with hipster sound engineers Danny Bear (Tim Downie) and Clem Fandango (Shazad Latif), narrating an audiobook. And wham, there’s the series’ first starry cameo – none other than comedy legend Larry David, playing the book’s crotchety author. 

Next Toast’s hopeless agent, the fabulously beehived Jane Plough (Doon Mackichan), gets him an audition for a Hollywood film – where he’s up against his old adversary Ray “bloody” Purchase (Harry Peacock).  

But his anger management issues have made The Stage newspaper, so first he’s dispatched on a course to find his inner calm with guru Des Wigwam (played by Berry’s What We Do In The Shadows co-star Kayvan Novak – look out for Natasia Demetriou later in the series too).  

Many of the laughs come from the absurd character names – and there’s no sign of that well running dry. The film Toast is auditioning for is being produced by Neil Doobla-Decca and on the plane to the States, Toast meets Russ Nightlife (Saturday Night Live stalwart Fred Armisen), who becomes his new landlord.    

And Toast’s bizarre elocution is the other great joy. How will filming his role in “the new Star Wars moo-vay" as he deliciously pronounces it go? May the force – and farce – be with him.  

Emma Lee 

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/02/2022 - Programme Name: This Is Going To H

Ben Whishaw stars in This is Going To Hurt - Credit: BBC/Sister/AMC/Anika Molnar

This Is Going To Hurt, BBC1 Tuesdays 9pm and all episodes on iplayer. 

The first two words of the first episode are expletives. Many of the following words are too – and there is nothing unnecessary about the language. 

This Is Going To Hurt is a terrifying, horrifying, compelling, hilarious, angry and tender insight into life as a junior doctor in a hospital maternity and gynaecology department. The staff themselves call it brats and something unprintable.  

The plot is based on the diaries written in the few sleep-deprived minutes author and former doctor Adam Kay could snatch between emergency operations, nightmare shifts and multiple daily life-or-death decisions.  

“You are generally sailing the ship on your own, a ship that is massive and on fire and no one has time to tell you how to sail,” Adam said, in the asides which add even more depth to the drama of each scene.  

He turned his real-life experiences into a book, and now a seven-episode television drama. Adam himself is played, beautifully, by Ben Whishaw. He captures the precarious balancing act between sensitivity and decisiveness which must be essential in a doctor and sometimes careers into agony and arrogance. Even more junior doctor, Shruti, is played just as brilliantly by Ambika Mod. 

From second to second it is impossible to know whether to laugh or cry, the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, the horror comes thick and fast and often in the form of gushing bodily fluids. Little set-piece interludes reveal the sheer incessancy of it all. Clothes have to be changed over and over, pagers bleep, patients are not patient or pleasant or grateful. Between all of this Adam and his boyfriend are trying to maintain a relationship and social life.  

Oh yes, and he is also haunted by flash-backs to the day-to-day disasters which punctuate every shift. 

This is Going to Hurt is a drama not a documentary but is based on real, shocking experiences. Part of its genius of it is that it is also hugely entertaining, and very funny. 

Rowan Mantell