What’s on TV tonight: Spy Ops, Gogglebox, Mrs Brown’s Boys and more

Your complete guide to the week’s television, films and sport, across terrestrial and digital platforms

In Netflix's true-crime series, intelligence operatives share insider stories of spy craft, Cold War campaigns, and coups
In Netflix's true-crime series, intelligence operatives share insider stories of spy craft, Cold War campaigns, and coups Credit: Netflix

Friday 8 September

Spy Ops
Anyone who likes a good spy thriller should head to this documentary series, made by the producers of Spycraft, which delivers tales of derring-do from those involved in dangerous undercover operations. Officials and intelligence officers (some of whom worked behind enemy lines) from various agencies – including MI6, Russia’s SVR, Israel’s Mossad and America’s CIA – talk about the various operations they worked on, including Cold War campaigns and coups carried out by covert agents. Some of the contributors, now well into their retirement, remain resolute in their view of the job – one says: “If we had any doubts, I would shoot you.” He’s laughing, but you know he’s deadly serious.

Using interviews, archive footage and reconstructions, the series looks in detail at missions around the world – including Operation Jawbreaker (the CIA’s post-9/11 campaign in Afghanistan), Operation Pimlico (the Le Carre-esque code-name given to the “audacious” exfiltration of KGB colonel and British double agent Oleg Gordievsky from Moscow in 1985) and the 1981 plot to kill Pope John Paul II – as various figures describe their role and how events unfolded. VL

Rugby World Cup 2023: France v New Zealand
ITV1, 6.45pm (kick-off 8.15pm)
The Rugby World Cup begins in Paris at the Stade de France with this suitably epic encounter between hosts France and three-time winners New Zealand. Along with Ireland and South Africa, these two sides are widely tipped to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. England, who made the final four years ago, are well off the pace after losing at Twickenham to Fiji last week. The All Blacks have overwhelmingly the better record, but France have reason for optimism. They broke a decade-long run of losses the last time these two sides met – at this very stadium in 2021. Led by diminutive genius Antoine Dupont at scrum half, France have developed a formidable style of play marrying Gallic flair and ruthless accuracy. The All Blacks were humbled by South Africa in their last warm-up match, suffering their worst ever defeat, although lucky forward Jordie Barrett avoided a ban after receiving a red card. JT

Mozart’s Great Mass at the Proms
BBC Four, 7pm
There’s a starry line-up of vocal soloists – Nardus Williams, Lucy Crowe, Jess Dandy, Benjamin Hulett and Robert Davies – as John Butt conducts the Dunedin Consort. Mozart’s stunning work takes up the second half; in the first, the Baroque ensemble perform a series of shorter pieces by JS Bach and CPE Bach. VL

Our Lives: Our Sea Forest
BBC One, 7.30pm; NI/Wales, 8.30pm
A chance to learn the remarkable story of Eric Smith, a septuagenarian who has been diving in English waters since childhood. It follows his mission to restore the once vibrant kelp forests off the Sussex coast, reduced to an almost barren desert in the late 1980s by winter storms and inshore trawling. VL

The World After Stonehenge
PBS America, 7.35pm
After the success of The World of Stonehenge, Neil Oliver continues his investigation into ancient Britain and the people who populated its wild, sprawling isles with this four-part series. Visiting key archaeological sites and talking to experts, he traces how the Bronze Age gave way to economic and social uncertainty before prosperity returned once again with the Iron Age. VL

Channel 4, 9pm
A welcome return for one of the most consistently entertaining shows on the box. As ever, it’s a testament to good editing and canny selections by producers of the ordinary viewers who critique this week’s TV from their sofas (and being ruthless about which participants to drop with each new series). VL

The Great Songwriters
Sky Arts, 9pm
This watchable series diving into the songwriter’s art finishes with an appreciation of Kenny Loggins – aka The King of the Movie Soundtrack – who wrote hits for, among many others, Footloose, Caddyshack and Top Gun. Loggins talks about his career and performs a selection of his tracks. As ever, there’s generous archive to get stuck into. VL
Mrs Brown’s Boys
BBC One, 9.30pm
A new series – the first in a decade – of the Marmite comedy. Regardless of whether you love it or loathe it, it’s fair to say that Brendan O’Carroll (as Mrs Brown) and co are essentially reworking one joke – an interfering Irish mammy who swears a bit – and corpses a lot. But if it’s your thing, that won’t get in the way of enjoying these four episodes. VL

Sitting in Bars with Cake (2023)
Amazon Prime Video  
Adapted from Audrey Shulman’s hit blog and book, Sitting in Bars with Cake tells the story of a shy, single woman who struggles to date or find the romance in everyday life; down and uninspired, she turns to baking for solace. With Black-ish’s Yara Shahidi in the lead role, it’s a heartwarming film packed with personal growth, tender musings on modern relationships, and, of course, delicious-looking cakes.

Scream VI (2023) ★★★
Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.15pm  
The latest in the long, long line of instalments in the lucrative slasher franchise is, to some extent, a return to form. If blood, gore and the usual Final Girl is the form we’re thinking of, that is. Four survivors of the Ghostface murders leave Woodsboro behind for a fresh start in New York City. However, they soon find themselves in a fight for their lives when a new killer embarks on a bloody rampage.

Relic (2020) ★★★★★
BBC One, 11.25pm
Natalie Erika James’s sad, ghoulish film is one of the finest horrors in years. Though it’s about fears of growing old, being old, and being near the elderly, Relic heroically transcends the path of cheap exploitation; based on the director’s own story of her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, and the sense of estrangement from the sufferer that the condition can create for family members, it’s eerie and moving as well as frightening.

The Queen (2006) ★★★★
ITV1, 11.25pm  
Helen Mirren’s uncanny portrayal of the late Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears’s drama is reason enough to watch. The plot, which offers a riveting insight into the monarchy and the central position which it continues to occupy in British life, focuses on the tug of war between the Royal family and Tony Blair (an excellent Michael Sheen) over how best to deal with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.

Television previewers

Stephen Kelly (SK), Veronica Lee (VL), Gerard O’Donovan (GO), Poppie Platt (PP), Gabriel Tate (GT) and Jack Taylor (JT)