Award-winning comedy returns

The weekend, especially Saturday, is for many a time to relax and unwind after the rigours of the week - but TV thinks differently.

The boring and bland songfest that was The Voice may have been muted on BBC1, but the pace is ratcheted up with the frenetic Pointless Celebrities and the continuing historical histrionics in the second series of Atlantis.

Over on ITV1, it’s the ninth year for Simon Cowell’s tightly-scripted juggernaut Britain’s Got Talent, sandwiched between two sporty little numbers.

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This starts off in Manchester with some high-speed antics in Ninja Warriors UK (thousands of miles away from its Japanese original, Sasuku) and then later Playing To The Whistle, an interesting blend of quiz questions and physical challenges.

After the weekend break, there’s an upbeat start to the week with the tense, four-part drama Safe House (ITV1, Monday) set in the Lake District.

Former Dr Who Christopher Eccleston heads the cast as ex-cop Robert who, with his wife, Katy (Marsha Thomason), has turned his remote B&B into a “police safe house.”

Their “guests,” the Blackwells (Jason Merrells and Nicola Stephenson), must pretend to be ordinary holidaymakers, but this ruse only serves to expose the weakness in the arrangement and why they are being targeted by a known criminal, who always seems to be one step ahead of the police.

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While this drama gets into gear, it’s the end of the road this Sunday for two more recent favourites. However, it’s just a temporary break from cracking crime in Northumberland for Vera (ITV1) who will be back later for a sixth series, with a similar return to the screens for the dream team of Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson in a second instalment of the ratings hit Poldark (BBC1) based on the third and fourth books of author Winston Graham.

That’s for the future, but for now there’s a return of W1A (BBC2, Thursday), the award-winning comedy about the mad, parallel world of the BBC as experienced and endured by Ian Fletcher as the Beeb’s hapless Head of Values played by Hugh Bonneville.

Fans will be glad to hear that the bicycle-riding Ian now has his own office, but this doesn’t help as executives get locked in the wrong part of Broadcasting House while preparing to welcome Prince Charles, and, if that wasn’t bad enough, the Corporation seems to be in danger of losing coverage of Wimbledon.

Losing and winning is also the theme of the topical comedy Ballot Monkeys (getting underway last night on Channel 4) set on the battle buses of the four main political parties - Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP - as they get out and about on the campaign trail.

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Whatever the outcome of the Election, this five-part series looks a winner with a script penned hours before transmission by Drop The Dead Donkey and Outnumbered creators Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, and delivered by a star cast headed by Ben Miller, Sarah Hadland, Trevor Cooper and Hattie Morahan.