ENTERTAINMENT
15/01/2012 12:29 GMT

Top TV Highlights For The Week Ahead: Griff Rhys Jones, Stargazing, Muhammad Ali, MasterChef...

Now Sherlock has disappeared dramatically off our screens, what can fill the gap? Here are our picks for the week ahead:

Monday

The One Griff Rhys Jones - 8.30pm, BBC1

Can it really be 15 years since Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith last sat face to face for one of their trademark meandering duets? Griff's guests are high quality in this one-off show proving to a younger generation why he's not always been a factual TV presenter, but the highlight is, inevitably, when he once again takes his place opposite Mel and they settle like comfy slippers into their lugubrious riff.

Stargazing Live - 8.30pm, BBC2

If anyone can make astronomy cool, it's the combined appeal of Dara O'Briain and Dr Brian Cox. For three evenings in a row, these two take guests and viewers on a rollercoaster ride around the heavens. The moon is tonight's point of enquiry, tomorrow's is the Milky Way, while Cox finally leaves us guessing on Wednesday with his informed take on the prospect of aliens.

When Ali Came To Britain - 10.35pm, ITV1

Prepare for televisual bouquets from all directions as Muhammad Ali celebrates his 70th birthday tomorrow. This offering concentrates on the boxing champion's frequent visits to Britain, which have covered a lot of surprising ground - some unseen before - in the decades since his 1963 debut trip to take on Henry Cooper.

Tuesday

MasterChef - 9pm, BBC1

Two years ago, the Australian MasterChef Final became the third most-watched programme in that country's history. Although it hasn't claimed quite such a grip on our nation's affections, MC has certainly become a backbone of the schedule in its relatively short revamped life. Following flirtations with professionals, juniors and celebs, it returns to its original format as amateurs compete to follow last year's daring culinary visionary Tim Anderson to the title. In a new twist, contestants must start with an invention.

Horizon: Playing God - 9.30pm, BBC2

Spiders' web DNA + goat = goats' milk capable of building human ligaments. This may sound like something starring Jeff Goldblum, but it's the daily work of the brain box biologists tasked with enhancing human life through solving scientific jigsaw puzzles. Ethically unsettling, and mind-boggling to boot.

Wednesday

Jonathan Meades on France - 9pm, BBC4

Meades has long cast his critical eye over casts and communities from the Outer Hebrides to the Baltic states. But, as a long-time resident and even longer lover of France, surely we'll see a softening of his usual forensic, sometimes damning, observations? Not a bit of it - as he kicks off on the eastern border of his adopted country and explores everything vaguely related to the letter V.

Talhotblond - 10pm, C4

Two men and a girl, and a love triangle that ends in murder - nothing new there, except this time the intrigue existed on the internet and neither murderer nor victim ever actually met the femme fatale. This documentary shows how easily something like this can happen as the lines between cyberspace and so-called reality become increasingly blurred.

Thursday

Earthflight - 8pm, BBC1

More stunning nature shots as the programme makers visit South America. Eagles, vultures and tiny, glittery humming birds all take their place in the chorus, but there's only one aerial superstar in this part of the world - the glorious Andean condor.

Putin, Russia and the West - 9pm, BBC2

Running the world's biggest country with a steel fist, controlling oligarchs and their billions, squaring up to western leaders with an unblinking stare, hunting shirtless in ice-cold forests - Vladimir Putin is like something out of a film but, for his critics, many of who slam him from their London exile, he is all too real. This documentary series explores how he's managed to stay in power, talking to highly-placed observers, including Putin himself.

American Idol - 9pm, ITV2

Missing your fix of cheers, tears and catfights? Fret not, the judges of American Idol provide high-quality fodder and, despite Simon Cowell's predictions of a coup de telly, have triumphed in the ratings over their new US X Factor counterparts. And unlike some of the X Factor judges, you can't argue with the professional credibility of Aerosmith's Steve Tyler, producer Randy Jackson and new arrival Jennifer Lopez.

Friday

Room 101 - 8.30pm, BBC1

Frank Skinner returns with a new series of the Orwell-inspired show, where celebrities fight for the right to have their pet hates forever banned to Room 101. In this revamp, three guests - this week Danny Baker, Fern Britton and Robert Webb - must vie with each other to get their respective bêtes noir binned, which makes for lively studio chat.

Paul Simon Night - 9pm, BBC4

BBC4 have made these dedicated musical evenings their speciality, and Simon is another worthy subject. The familiar sounds of the Bridge Over Troubled Water album get a full deconstruction in a repeat of the recent Imagine programme - including the drums, rhythms and unique tool of Art Garfunkel's vocal chords. A recording of a solo Simon concert from last year is included in tonight's line-up, as well as a late-night documentary of him on tour with Mr Garfunkel in 1969, a year before their (first) tumultuous split.