Big Little Lies – 9pm, Sky Atlantic

Year Of The Rabbit – 10pm, Channel 4

Back again to the idyllic, ultra-rich community of Monterey, a place where even the honey-coloured sunsets look more expensive, but ugly things still beneath that sleek veneer: lies and jealously, frustration and abuse, violence and murder.

Fronting a strong female ensemble, including Reese Witherspoon as buzzy queen-bee Madeline and Nicole Kidman as damaged ex-lawyer Celeste, Big Little Lies was one of the richest TV indulgences of 2017, a glossy mix of catty soap and murder mystery. Based on Liane Moriarty’s novel, at first it seemed a sly satire, skewering the dream-home-and-yoga lives of wealthy west coast wives. But as it unfolded, it added unexpected touches, and probed characters until they became less cartoonish.

Centred around the school their children attend, it started as a war-of-the bitches, when lowly newcomer Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) son was accused of bullying the daughter of Silicon Valley shark Renata (Laura Dern). But it ended with the women united – all the above, plus Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz), new partner of Madeline’s ex-husband – coming together around the killing of Celeste’s secretly monstrous husband, Perry.

With that cast, the temptation to return for more is understandable, but, as this second series begins, it’s debatable whether a second helping is necessary. The story resumes in the aftermath of Perry’s death. No one has actually said “murder,” but the women are the subject of gossip, dubbed “The Monterey Five,” and regarded with curiosity and suspicion. Some are handling it better than others, and their troubles are compounded by the arrival of Perry’s unpredictable grieving mother, Mary Louise (Meryl Streep).

Written again for the screen by David E Kelley, working from an as-yet unpublished story by Moriarty, the show gets the gang back together, but the first episode doesn’t exactly leave you on the edge of your seat. With all the star power, soft California rock and perfect light on perfect skin, the effect is like having the pages of Vanity Fair magazine shredded, doused in an unfeasibly exclusive eau de parfum, and then blown gently at you by a giant fan set to the “warm summer breeze” setting: pleasantly seductive at first, it soon grows faintly annoying.

The glaring casting of Streep – giving a very Streeply performance through wig and glasses – seems dictated mostly by the desire to add another strong, intergenerational female star name. Still, there are reasons to be hopeful. For one thing, the series is directed by another newcomer to the team, Andrea Arnold, the British filmmaker behind sharp-edged films like Red Road. For another, it’s the only place in town to see the peerless Laura Dern. She’s not given much to do, but does it all magnificently. Once again I was left mourning the demise of her own series, Enlightened – a show ten times more interesting than Big Little Lies, and a thousand times less talked about.

If, under strict laboratory conditions, you were to try and create a series that was the exact opposite of Big Little Lies, you might wind up with Year Of The Rabbit, the latest from our reigning king of glorious thundering stupidity, Matt Berry. Essentially, it’s the Ripper Street spoof you didn’t know you needed, with Berry as Victorian cop Inspector Rabbit, chasing foul murder around the fetid brick-and-cobble alleys of spicy old Lahndahn town. The show has fun with the setting: urchins stand on corners pedalling unexpected things like jars of fog and – unless I misheard, because I was sniggering – lungs. Mostly, though, it’s just Berry being Berry. Except with one eyebrow. A good thing.



The Handmaid's Tale

9pm, Channel 4

The adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel returns for a third series. When it first appeared in 2017, the show – set in a near-future America that has become “Gilead”, a totalitarian fundamentalist Christian theocracy in which women are stripped of all rights – was enthusiastically seized on as a commentary on Trump’s America. If anything, given recent moves toward criminalising abortion in the US, it’s even more relevant now. The last, heavily grim, series ended with rebel handmaid Offred, aka June (Elisabeth Moss), choosing not to escape into Canada, but to stay in Gilead to search for her daughter, Hannah, and help the resistance. In this, she’s aided by an unlikely ally, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), wife of Offred’s high-ranking master, Fred (Joseph Fiennes). Meanwhile, fellow handmaid Ofglen/ Emile heads for the border, hoping to escape with June’s newborn baby daughter, Nicole.


What's My Name: Muhammad Ali

9pm, Sky Atlantic

We aren’t short of documentaries about Muhammad Ali, but what makes director Antoine Fuqua’s new two-part film sing is how he allows the fighter to narrate his own story, weaving together quotes drawn from a vast array of archive interviews. The title is well-chosen: “What’s my name” is – infamously – what Ali demanded of opponent Ernie Terrell after every other punch while systematically destroying him in 1967, vicariously hitting back against all the critics who had rounded on him following his name change and conversion to Islam. This was the era that made him The Greatest, when Ali fought to come back against an establishment that was happy to have him as polite Olympic champion Cassius Clay, but outraged by the Vietnam-protesting Ali, as much an icon of social change and civil rights as of boxing. Collaged from evocative footage, it’s a thrilling ride.


Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese Netflix Rolling Thunder was the name given to the rag tag tour a reignited Bob Dylan assembled to roll around the USA in winter 1975 – a travelling circus of musicians and artists (including Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Mick Ronson, Sam Shepard and Allen Ginsberg) that avoided stadiums, preferring smaller halls in smaller cities. Dylan filmed almost every step for his infamous four-hour movie Renaldo & Clara. But for this new film, he’s given all that vivid footage, including copious unseen stuff, to Scorsese, who previously crafted the essential Dylan documentary, No Direction Home. Sadly, preview material wasn’t available in time, but, with the addition of new interviews, Scorsese seeks to consider not only Dylan’s strange, surging mid-1970s renaissance, but the tour’s ambition in the America of the time. “It wasn’t a success,” Dylan says now. “Not if you measure success in terms of profit.”


Who Should Get to Stay in the UK?

9pm, BBC Two

This documentary series explores the UK’s immigration system through the stories of several people hoping to be given permission to stay, and the lawyers helping them navigate Home Office regulations. In the opening episode we meet people applying for a variety of reasons, and with varying degrees of urgency. Among them is Valeriya, a 27-year-old Russian, who must convince her lawyer that her plan to launch a fashion label, funded by her father, will meet the Home Office’s requirements for an entrepreneur visa. At the other end of the scale is Dillian, who fled Trinidad and Tobago seeking asylum and claims his life would be in danger should he return. Meanwhile, in Scotland, Ajmal is hoping to expand his restaurant business, but finds he’s unable to obtain the visas for the specialist chefs from India he needs.


Too Old To Die Young

Amazon Prime Video

In a move filled with enigmatic macho, only episodes 4 and 5 of this 10-part series from Drive director Nicholas Winding Refn were made available for preview, so it’s impossible to say how it begins. What can be said, though, is that its slow, stylised neo-noir doom will not tickle everyone. Set against neon-soaked LA nights, we follow taciturn LA cop Martin (Miles Teller) who, following some violent episode, has started moonlighting as a righteous Ronin-like hitman for a shadowy underground, violently executing horrendous criminals who’ve evaded the law. Filled with men staring at each other, Refn appears to be after some brute, brooding, metaphysical nihilism, and a visual mix of Malick, Lynch and Kubrick. But while there are many weighty big silences, there is, as ever, zero humour – a real shame as the brilliant John Hawkes co-stars.


Killing Eve

9.15pm, BBC One

With the entire second series now available as a box set on the BBC iPlayer, there’s a fair chance that committed fans have already hoovered up this second episode. But there must still be some people watching it in the old-school terrestrial weekly broadcast chunks, if only because drawing it out that way means there’s actually something decent waiting on TV on a Saturday night. Badly wounded, and still wearing her astonishing borrowed pyjamas, the Killer Villanelle, on the trail of MI6 agent Eve (“my girlfriend”), has secretly arrived in the UK, leading to the show’s most audacious title card yet: BASILDON. Needing a place to rest and recover, she encounters a mild-mannered guardian angel, Julian (an excellent Julian Barratt), who offers shelter at his house in the suburbs. What could go wrong?