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TV tonight: Elle Fanning's Catherine the Great

The Guardian logo The Guardian 03/01/2021 Ammar Kalia, Ali Catterall, Jack Seale, Phil Harrison and Paul Howlett
a group of people standing next to a forest: Photograph: Nick Wall/Hulu © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Nick Wall/Hulu

The Great

Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning that are standing in the grass: The Great. © Photograph: Nick Wall/Hulu The Great.

9pm, Channel 4

Elle Fanning stars as 18th Century Russian royalty Catherine the Great in this deeply entertaining tale of power plays and punishment. We open with a young Catherine travelling to Russia to marry the Emperor, Peter (Nicholas Hoult). She soon learns that Peter is petulant and spoiled, though, and despite her thwarted efforts to make a life for herself nonetheless by building a women’s school, it begins to dawn on Catherine that the only way for her to have a happy life might be to remove Peter from the picture… Ammar Kalia

The Great New Year Bake Off

7.40pm, Channel 4

Fielding, Lucas, Leith and Hollywood once again enter the tent, while previous star contestants Helena and Henry from 2019, Nancy from 2014, and 2018 winner Rahul, vie for the Festive Star Baker title. And there’s a jolly little sing-song round the piano to round off the celebrations. Ali Catterall

A Perfect Planet

8pm, BBC One

The new Attenborough epic profiles the phenomena that were necessary for life on Earth to develop. First: volcanoes. Their heat and minerals give iguanas a nesting site, bears a salmon-rich feeding ground and, in the episode’s most stunning sequence, flamingos a caustic Tanzanian pool to breed on. Jack Seale

A Teacher


Gallery: 20 movies that turned 20 in 2020 (Espresso)

10pm, BBC Two

This small screen adaptation of Hannah Fidell’s film of the same name stars Kate Mara as Claire Wilson, a popular young teacher at a Texan high school, whose clandestine affair with 18-year-old pupil Eric (Nick Robinson) soon spells disaster. Tonight’s double bill sees Eric and Claire’s flirtation begin. AK

Max Richter’s Sleep

10pm, BBC Four

Composer Max Richter stars in this delightful film charting his performances of an eight-hour work entitled Sleep, in which audience members are invited to camp out while his music plays. Artist and Richter’s creative partner Yulia Mahr also screens personal archive footage of their collaborations. AK

And Finally… With Trevor McDonald

10.20pm, ITV

A neat idea, this: based on the notion that the tone of the times is sometimes best reflected by the small things, this two part doc sees the newsreader look back on three decades of his trademark news footnotes. What do the tiny, eccentric, light-hearted stories say about Britain? Phil Harrison

Film choice

Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Saving Mr Banks. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar © Provided by The Guardian Saving Mr Banks. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

Saving Mr Banks, 5pm, BBC Two

The origins of the film legend that is Mary Poppins, served with a big spoonful of sugar by director John Lee Hancock. Emma Thompson is the wonderfully crotchety PL Travers, protective author of the book that Tom Hanks’s Walt Disney is desperate to bring to semi-animated cinematic life. Paul Howlett

Live sport

Premier League Football: Burnley v Fulham 11.30am, Sky Sports Main Event. Followed by fixtures at 2pm and 4.15pm.

Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Bath 2pm, BT Sport 1. Gallagher Premiership match.

German Football: Bayern Munich v FSV Mainz 05 4.45pm, BT Sport 2. Clash from Allianz Arena.

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