From Michael Caine impersonations, through wacky panel shows to wry comedy horror, here are our top TV picks for this month.  

Carnage 

Simon Amstell established himself as the owner of a sharply funny mind as the host of Popworld and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and the writer-star of late, lamented sitcom Grandma's House. Here, he raids the BBC archives to assemble a mockumentary recounting the history of veganism as viewed from the perspective of the all-vegan Earth of 2067.

Overturning all manner of preconceptions, ­not least that vegans might be the most po-faced, joke-allergic people on the planet,­ this smart, prickly iPlayer exclusive may just persuade you to burn your Nando's loyalty card, or at least hide it when out in public.

What is it? Clever, pointed satire that offers plenty for carnivores and non-carnivores alike to get their teeth into.

Why should I tune in? If you’re still decrying the absence of Chris Morris from our screens, have doubts about global sustainability, or want the validity of your existing diet confirmed or challenged.

Best character? Among the gems Amstell has retrieved from the archive, look out for the Bland clan, positioned as the poster family for 1970s veganism: the kind of pallid, beardy types who, as the film argues, tend to give an entire movement a bad name.

Watch on: BBC iPlayer 

 

Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule

In our heavy-weather world, any show committed to enabling 25 minutes of joy per week should probably have been stamped out.

Primetime Dadaist Hill has been casting around for vehicles ever since the magnificent TV Burp signed off back in 2012; his triumphant return, couched as an attempt to stall an alien invasion by uploading funny clips, is basically an excuse to mess about in a television studio with various game celebrities—a panel show where the host's either a genius or a madman, and the rules are entirely, gloriously arbitrary.

What is it? Knowing, postmodern light entertainment that consciously courts the adjective “silly”.

Why should I tune in? If you fancy the idea of celebrities being ranked by the surprisingly disparate fees their autographs command on eBay, or of watching Eamonn Holmes shaking his maracas to the original Spanish version of "The Birdie Song".

Best episode? Episode Two of the current run, simply for the look of benign bemusement on Kathy Burke's face.

Best character? Seasoned Hill fans should be delighted to see the return of talking cat Stouffer in Episode Four. (Everybody else: stand down.)

Watch on: ITV1, ITV Hub 

 

Inside No. 9—Series 3 

League of Gentlemen alumni Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s fiendishly clever series of one-offs, each half-hour a standalone, set entirely within a room tagged with the number nine, showed no signs of flagging inspiration over the course of its third iteration.

From the superb opener, a magnificently ghoulish recreation of a creaky Seventies TV drama, to the final, barbed art-world satire that claimed no less than Peter Kay as a victim in its very first minute, every episode reworked a formula that showier small-screen comedy often discards to its peril: well-crafted scripts, enacted by superlative performers.

What is it? A different show each week, overseen by two supremely gifted and versatile writer-performers.

Why should I watch it? If you miss the halcyon days of The Twilight Zone (or Hammer House of Horror).

Best episode? For sheer formal invention, “The Devil of Christmas” takes some beating, but restaurant squabble “The Bill” and karaoke-booth roundelay “Empty Orchestra” are exceptionally well performed.

Best character? Shearsmith's Dave in “Diddle Diddle Dumpling”, gradually losing it over the fate of a shoe he finds abandoned at the side of the road. Everyday madness, made terribly, tragically funny.

Watch on: BBC iPlayer 

 

Prison Break 

American television may be about to fall into the same rut as American movies: endless revivals, putting newish spins on old favourites. Last year, it was Gilmore Girls and The X-Files; this year, Prison Break, Twin Peaks and Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Fox's nine-episode Prison Break reboot will have to negotiate the death of a main character during 2009’s The Final Break, and the show's great Achilles heel: that those odd-numbered seasons set inside prisons worked, and those even-numbered seasons in which the characters were at liberty to roam the wider world—didn’t.

What is it? The muscular efforts of down-on-their-luck brothers Michael and Lincoln Burrows (Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell) to escape the US correctional system.

Why should I watch it? At its best, this was gripping serial drama, hooking us on the perilous, nuts-and-bolts business of hole-digging and fence-vaulting. 

Where did we leave it? That 2009 wrap-up suggested that one brother had been freed not just from prison, but life itself, though the new season has news for us.

Best character? The thoughtful Miller made Michael one of modern television’s great stoics, but it wouldn't be Prison Break without Robert Knepper’s indelibly loathsome T-Bag.

Watch on: Fox UK 

 

The Trip to Spain 

Transferring from the BBC to Sky—well, even comedians have bills to pay—the latest instalment of Michael Winterbottom's Trip series (previous destinations: the Lake District and Italy) reunites the lightly fictionalised variants of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon somewhere in the Balearic.

Details have been scarce, but we can assume the following will be on the menu: a fair amount of bickering tempered by awkward, blokey British bonding; a relentless stream of celebrity impersonations; and, resonating somewhere in the background, a continued rumination on what a funny business it is to grow old.

What is it? Part-travelogue, part-stand-up special: a hybrid drama-documentary format showcasing the fond chemistry between two cherishable performers.

Why should I watch it? If you're only too aware of the sand passing through the hourglass; or simply to perfect your Michael Caine impression.

Where did we leave it? With “Steve” and “Rob” returning from France, still none the wiser as to the ways of the world, or its women.

Best impression? Coogan pips Brydon when it comes to Michael Caine, but the latter's Tom Jones and Ronnie Corbett are ones for the ages.

Watch on: Sky Atlantic 

 

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