Titanic: Born in Belfast (History, Sky 073, 7.30pm). The story of the building of the largest ship afloat at the time of her maiden voyage. There are archive interviews with people who saw the vessel being built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in 1911, and also with film producer Bill MacQuitty, who made the first Titanic disaster movie, A Night to Remember, in 1958.
Titanic (TV1, 8.30pm). It’s been called “Downton-on-Sea” for its cast of first-, second- and steerage-class passengers, and one thing’s for sure: never has there been so much dramatic irony in a drama. Titanic is a four-part series penned by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes to mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. In an unusual move, he sinks the boat at the end of each of the series’ four parts – telling four separate stories each time. Titanic begins with the upper classes, as represented by Lord Grantham … er, Lord Manton (Linus Roache) and his butler Bates … er, Barnes. There’s his imperious wife, Lady Manton (Geraldine Somerville), and their rebellious daughter, Lady Georgiana (Perdita Weeks). Fellowes’s Lady Manton is fabulously snobbish, and Fellowes, of course, has more leeway with the fictional characters, such as Manton’s solicitor, played by Toby Jones, and his wife, played by … Mrs Bates! Well, Maria Doyle Kennedy from Downton Abbey. But the non-fictional characters are in many ways more fascinating: they include Benjamin Guggenheim, father of Peggy, who dressed in evening wear as disaster approached. He and his valet were last seen sitting in deckchairs smoking cigars and sipping brandy. “First, I will change into something more gentlemanly,” Fellowes has him say, “then we will wait upon events.” There are the newly married Astors, and film star Dorothy Gibson, who survived. But nevertheless, the mix of glamour and tragedy is compelling, and the production, at the cost of $21.5 million, is gorgeous. And, oh, that dramatic irony: “There are davits for 32 lifeboats, why on earth haven’t we used them?” asks the ship’s designer. “Because there is no need,” replies the chairman of the White Star Line. Or how about this yell-at-the-screen moment from a passenger: “It’s so clear and there’s scarcely a ripple.”
The Graham Norton Show (TV3, 8.30pm). Guests are Hugh Grant (who voices the Pirate Captain in the new Aardman movie The Pirates! Band of Misfits; comedienne Jo Brand; Joanna Page from Gavin & Stacey; and musician David Guetta.
Father and Son (TV1, 9.30pm). Dougray Scott’s lugubriousness is put to good effect in this gritty four-part drama; he plays a former gang kingpin who has settled into the quiet life in Ireland after a stretch in jail, but gets pulled back when his estranged son is accused of a gang shooting. The backdrop is gang and gun violence in the UK, but this is also a thriller, written by Prime Suspect screenwriter Frank Deasy. The son of the title, Reece Noi, gives an astonishing performance, said the Telegraph, and with every episode the suspense notches up, “against a backdrop of intensifying dread”. Sophie Okonedo, Stephen Rea and Ian Hart also star.
Mobbed (TV2, 9.30pm). Why just tell your loved ones that you have a secret family when you can do it with a flashmob? A new US series in which elaborate flashmobs are staged so that participants can reveal something huge to their friends or families. There’s a marriage proposal, an apology, a revelation of love, and an attempted reconciliation between brothers. Whatever happened to saying it with flowers?
7 Days (TV3, 9.30pm). Guests on Dai Henwood and Paul Ego’s panels are Michele A’Court, Nick Gibb, Jesse Mulligan, and Jeremy Elwood.
Portlandia (TV3, 10.05). Tonight, the mayor (Kyle MacLachlan) has to defend … reggae.
The Vampire Diaries (TV2, 10.30pm). Hurrah! It’s the return of Daniel Gillies as the awesome Elijah – Gillies does that vaguely European cool thing so well. Also, Bonnie goes in search of her mother, and Caroline’s nasty daddy (Heroes‘ Jack Coleman) is back to try to free Tyler of his bond with Klaus. Is he a metaphor for awful Christian gay “reprogrammers” or am I reading too much into this? We do get to see Tyler transform into a werewolf a lot, however. Meanwhile, Alaric is intrigued by the new doctor (Torrey DeVitto, in real life married to Paul Wesley) and discovers how she is curing her patients, and – uh-oh – Elena tells Stefan that Damon kissed her.
The Late Show with David Letterman (Prime, 11.30pm). Tonight, basketball legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, comedian Jim Gaffigan, and musical guests Kaiser Chiefs.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Four, 8.30pm). Guillermo del Toro’s visual sensibilities are given a bigger budget and free reign in the sequel to the successful Hellboy; consequently, The Golden Army is a bit bloated, but has some extraordinary sequences and wonderful, grungy, evil fairy-tale creatures. Check out the gatekeeper near the end, whose eyes are in her wings, if you don’t believe us. (2008) 7