Eight Days

Sky Atlantic, 10.10pm

It was Clint Eastwood, back in the magnificent Outlaw Josey Wales, who famously stated that “Dyin’ ain’t much of a living.” But things have changed since then. These days, imminent extinction is big businesses.

The end-of-the-world genre is thriving like never before, as demonstrated by a litter of recent shows that have run the gamut all the way from the glumly mediocre (BBC One’s new War Of The Worlds, and the big international co-production adapted from the same novel that recently debuted on French TV, and will no doubt arrive here after the red dust from the BBC series has settled) to the glumly bloody awful (Hard Sun, the 2018 mega-stinker the BBC doesn’t like to talk about now). Honestly, looking at all the large-scale carnage, impending death and rising disorder breaking out on screen in the name of entertainment, a psychiatrist might almost conclude we were subconsciously worried about the planet facing some kind of cataclysmic catastrophe while utter chaos breaks out on every other front.

Eight Days, a serviceably glum German drama about an impending fatal asteroid strike, is the latest entry in the bustling annihilation stakes. The show resembles a humourless death-metal cover of Deep Impact, the already humourless 1998 Hollywood disaster movie in which, faced with the prospect of life as we know it being wiped out, humankind put its fate into the hands of a Robert Duvall armed with atomic weapons – a debatable choice, but you have to admire the cut of the jib. (Not to be confused, of course, with Armageddon, the 1998 Hollywood disaster movie in which, faced with the prospect of life as we know it being wiped out, humankind’s fate was placed in the hands of Bruce Willis.)

As Eight Days begins, a similar attempt by American astronauts to deflect the fast-approaching meteor with nukes has already failed. There's no hope, the rock is still coming, and it’s going to hit in, well, eight days. Predicted to smack down onto a picturesque spot in France, the kill zone will extend across the whole of Europe, and not even leaving the EU will save us, because the meteor doesn’t care.

In the face of this, some people are trying to escape: there’s a chance the US might survive, although borders everywhere are closed, and no one knows just what “surviving” might look like, anyway, once the resulting dust cloud envelops the planet. Many others, though, are simply behaving as if the end of the world is upon them and there will be no more tomorrows: drinking, doing drugs, fighting, having sex, burning stuff, stealing, causing traffic jams – all in all, exactly like closing time on Friday nights along Sauchiehall Street, except with more German being spoken.

The series kills time by following some of those trying to get free, throwing themselves into the hands of predictable people-traffickers, as the terminal party of despair unwinds. It lifts a lot from the grimmer-glummer survivalist sections of The Walking Dead, the show that set the bleak blueprint for all contemporary end-of-the-world wallows, but without the joyful respite of seeing putrefying living corpses popping up every now and then to eat someone’s brains.

Watching all the pain, betrayal, bickering, regret, martial law, despair and abuse unfold like clockwork raises profound questions about humanity, about what truly matters, and about living each day as though it were your last, not least of which is this: If there really were only eight days left until apocalypse, is there a single person who would spend eight hours of that time watching something like this?



Kill Your TV: Jim Moir's Weird World Of Video Art 9pm, BBC Four As with his previous documentaries on Dada and Bauhaus, this film by Jim Moir – the mild mannered alter ego of the superhero Vic Reeves – considers a subject close to his heart: certainly, you can see the influence of the kind of video art he talks about here on the daft DIY films that have always littered Reeves And Mortimer’s programmes. He traces the form’s Big Bang to the 1960s, when artists got their hands on the portable video equipment that had previously been affordable only to corporate media, and, as they began hacking those tools beyond the instruction manuals, found a kind of control and immediacy not possible with film. Weird, wild and funny, particularly when he gets to performance art. Stay tuned afterwards for a repeat of the excellent Secrets Of British Animation documentary (10pm). Vic Reeves will return. On Wednesday.



9pm, Sky Atlantic

Following last week’s excellent, unexpected reconstruction of the climax of the original 1980s Watchmen comic, the most extraordinary drama on TV delivers another fantastic episode, this one entirely of its own devising. Angela (Regina King), aka Sister Night, has swallowed a bottle of the “Nostalgia” pills that belong to her 100-year-old grandfather, Will (Louis Gossett Jr) – essentially, his crystallised memories in tablet form. Now, as she lapses into an overdose coma, her mind is bombarded with his life’s story, a tale mired in American racism, from his childhood as a witness to the 1921 Greenwood Massacre, through to his part in the death of police chief Judd Crawford (Don Johnson). It’s a wildly bold hour, stylish, pointed and angry, and it works some quite audacious spins on Watchmen’s inner-history.


Vic And Bob's Big Night Out

10pm, BBC Four/

The Irishman


Returning for a second series, the new Big Night Out is the most utterly thrown together thing Vic and Bob have ever done, but it’s the combination of sheer slack shamelessness, stoopidity, and underlying brains that makes it. Had me laughing more than most comedies this year, anyway. And anyone who watched Mortimer And Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, and knows about the recent stresses on Bob’s heart, will be mightily impressed/ worried at the way the throws himself at it. Highlights include a Soft Cell tribute, the return of Judge Nutmeg, and Jeremy Paxman’s arms. Meanwhile, there’s the return of more familiar faces on Netflix, with the long awaited arrival of Martin Scorsese’s new gangland epic The Irishman: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel reconvening for three and half hours of mobsters, hitmen and union strife. Happy days.



10pm, Sky Atlantic/


Apple TV+

In Upright, Tim Minchin plays Lucky, a clearly troubled soul, who, as we first meet him, is driving across Australia on the 2,500-mile journey from Sydney to Perth –dragging with him a battered old upright piano, for reasons yet to be explained. Out on a desert road, he (almost literally) runs into Meg (Milly Alcock), a teenager brimming with attitude and problems of her own, and unexpectedly finds himself sharing his long journey with her. It’s a downbeat, gradually uplifting road trip comedy that fans of The End Of The F***ing World might dig, but it has a character of its own. Elsewhere tonight, Apple’s TV app plays home to Servant, a creepy new horror overseen by gloomy twister M Night Shyamalan, about a morose young couple struggling with recent trauma, and the new nanny hired to care for their, uhm, beloved baby.


Country Music By Ken Burns

9.30pm, BBC Four

The first of tonight’s two instalments from Burns’s epic documentary covers the immediate post-war years, 1945-1953, to consider how country music reflected and responded to changes in society. As the USA hit a boom period, the music began to holler faster, with the arrival of bluegrass pioneers like Flatt and Scruggs, and drink more, with the emergence of the honky tonk sound personified by the “Hillbilly Shakespeare.” Hank Williams. The following episode moves to cover 1953-1963, to consider the role country had to play in getting together with blues to produce rock’n’roll, and the golden years of Memphis’s Sun studio, crucible of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Contributors tonight include Kris Kristofferson, Brenda Lee, Charlie Daniels, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash, Merle Haggard, Elvis Costello and the late great producer and label owner, Fred Foster.


Seamus Heaney: The Music Of What Matters 9.45p, BBC Two A moving profile of the great Irish poet, who died in 2013. Heaney first came to attention in 1966, with the publication of his debut collection, Death Of A Naturalist, and his reputation grew until he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. But how did the boy who was born the son of a cattle dealer in 1939 become one of the finest poets of his generation, considered by many the greatest his country had produced since Yeats? Here, his wife and children talk about their life together and read some of the poems he wrote for them. And for the first time, Heaney’s four surviving brothers remember their childhood and the shared experiences that inspired some of his finest poems, underlining the abiding influence on his work of the landscape in which he grew up.