Appetite for Distraction

What to watch and listen to this week: From Middle Earth to a galaxy far, far away

Fantasy heavyweights dominate streaming channels this week, while TV explores culture from Fingal to Greenland, and Jeremy Paxman bids farewell to University Challenge

Diego Luna in Andor, a new story from the Star Wars universe, streaming this week on Disney+. Picture: Des Willie/Lucasfilm

Previews and reviews by Emmanuel Kehoe, Nadine O’Regan and Jenny Murphy Byrne


John Creedon explores Irish place names in his Atlas of Ireland, Sunday on RTÉ One

Creedon’s Atlas of Ireland, Sunday, 6.30pm, RTÉ One

John Creedon continues his agreeable series dealing with the origins of Irish place names. In this episode, he visits the Lost Valley in Mayo to meet Choctaw scholar Claire Young and Hothouse Flowers singer Liam Ó Maonlaí for a discussion about how cultures can reach back to their roots. On Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands with its many stone walls and Blue Flag beach, Creedon talks to poet Dara Ó Conaola and his son. EK

Presenter Aoife Ní Bhriain with the Fingal Mummers at Ward’s Farm Kilsallaghan, in Cúltír, Sunday on TG4

Cúltír, Sunday, 9.30pm, TG4

Pauline Scanlon and Aoife Ní Bhriain visit Fingal, a county all to itself north of the Dublin metropolis. Here there is a hankering for cricket and people once spoke Fingallian, a language that blended Irish and Middle English to produce a regional patois which survived into the 18th century. This expedition explores the area’s culture and music, including a visit to the Irish Institute of Music and Song in Balbriggan. EK

An appealing vista: A Greenland Story, Monday, RTÉ One

A Greenland Story, Monday, 10.35pm, RTÉ One

This documentary follows the 2019 journey of an Irish-crewed yacht from Galway along the western coast of Greenland. There are no roads to link its towns, and most trips are undertaken by air or sea. Climate change is forcing changes to Greenlanders’ traditional ways of life and here they tell their stories. Directed by Vincent Monahan and Marieke Lexmond. EK

Jeremy Paxman will present his final University Challenge, Monday, BBC Two

University Challenge, Monday, 8.30pm, BBC Two, followed by University Challenge at 60, 9pm, BBC Two

Jeremy Paxman, mostly famous for pressuring politicians on Newsnight, has been presenting the institution that is University Challenge since its revival in 1994. The new series is Paxman’s final outing, as he has announced his retirement and is being treated for Parkinson’s disease. He will be succeeded by the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan, once a contestant himself. Tonight’s show is followed by a documentary celebrating 60 years of the enduring third-level quiz. EK

David Dimbleby in Days That Shook the BBC, Tuesday BBC Two. Picture: James Parris

Days That Shook the BBC, Tuesday, 9pm, BBC Two

The BBC must still be a little green around the gills from last month’s payout and apology to former royal nanny Alexandra Pettifer (known as Tiggy Legge-Bourke), an innocent victim of Martin Bashir’s path to securing his 1995 interview with Princess Diana. In this new three-part series, veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby revisits various crises that have threatened the BBC’s independence, as well as mistakes such as giving carte blanche to the serial abuser Jimmy Savile. EK


Jude Hill in Belfast, Friday, Sky Cinema Premiere

Belfast, Friday, 10pm, Sky Cinema Premiere

Kenneth Branagh’s beautifully shot film makes it onto the small screen on Friday. This drama of a young family mired in the Troubles in Belfast at the end of the 1960s is strongly influenced by Branagh’s own childhood and features sterling performances from Ciaraán Hinds and Jamie Dornan among others. NO’R


Jason Momoa in the third season of See, Apple TV+. Picture: Steve Wilkie

See, Apple TV+

In the third season of the dystopian drama See, almost a year has passed since Baba Voss (Jason Momoa) defeated his brother Edo and retreated from his family to live in the forest – but now a new and devastating form of sighted weaponry has been developed, meaning Baba must return to his homeland to protect his tribe once more. The final season of the highly acclaimed drama, which features cast and crew who are blind or have low vision, seems set to be thrilling. NO’R

Diego Luna in Andor, from Wednesday, Disney+. Picture: Lucasfilm

Andor, from Wednesday, Disney+

A new story from the Star Wars galaxy, focusing on rebel pilot Cassian (Diego Luna) as he travels down a path that will see him become a hero in the struggle against the evil Galactic Empire. NO’R

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, from Friday, Amazon Prime Video

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, from Friday, Amazon Prime Video

Based on the works of JRR Tolkien, this new series is set in the Second Age of Middle-Earth, thousands of years before The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. It opens next Friday with the first two episodes before switching to one a week for the remaining six. With a budget of more than a billion dollars over five seasons, showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay reportedly wanted to produce an “uplifting” epic fantasy that would contrast with Game of Thrones and its new prequel House of the Dragon. The cast includes Morfydd Clark as the Elven queen Galadriel (played by Cate Blanchett in Peter Jackson’s film series) and Lenny Henry as Harfoot Sadoc Burrows. EK


Stray on the PS4/PS5 and PC: magnificent gameplay

Stray, PS4/PS5 and PC

When Stray was first revealed to the world in 2020, there was an overwhelming feeling that it was going to be a gimmicky game, the gimmick being that you play as a cat. But Stray is much more than its premise suggests. Now available on PS4, PS5 and PC, your cat self has been separated from its family, and you must navigate through a post-apocalyptic world filled with robots, machines, and mutant bacteria. The gameplay is truly magnificent and has set the bar for future platformer video games. From deftly leaping across surfaces to knocking over paint cans and being a total nuisance, the developers brilliantly capture the core characteristics of being a cat. JMB