What to watch during the World Cup if you can't stand football

What to watch during the World Cup if you can't stand football

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For those who are football-averse, the terrestrial TV schedules for the rest of June look misshapen and diseased, distended into unnatural shapes by aggressive clusters of World Cup fixtures. Thanks to Russia’s relatively sympathetic time difference, these seemingly endless group games squat over daytime and early evening while highlights dominate the post-News at Ten slot. But don’t despair. There is a life raft of excellent counter-programming out there to enjoy if you are prepared to seek it out. Here is one option for each day of the group stage. You’ll just have to imagine the accompanying wallchart …

Missions

Jeanne Renoir (Hélène Viviès) in Missions.



Missions. Photograph: BBC/Empreinte Digitale

Watch instead of … Russia v Saudi Arabia

If it feels as though blasting off into space might be the only way to avoid the cultural din of the World Cup, BBC4 has just the ticket. The climactic double bill of Missions – the freaky French sci-fi drama set on Mars – screens on the day everything kicks off in Moscow. Watch the first four episodes on iPlayer while the opening game is on to catch up.
10pm and 10.20pm, Thursday 14 June, BBC4

Queer Eye

Watch instead of … Egypt v Uruguay

Anyone for Fab Five-a-side? The rebooted Queer Eye returns for a second eight-episode season, with makeover galácticos Antoni, Tan, Karamo, Bobby and Jonathan resuming their quest to make the world more fabulous, beginning with a winking but ultimately heartfelt road trip to the backwater town of Gay, Georgia (population 130).
Series available in full from Friday 15 June, Netflix

Blind Date

Blind Date.



Blind Date. Photograph: So Television/Channel 5

Watch instead of … Croatia v Nigeria

If the prospect of the 8pm Group D clash leaves you cold, click over to Channel 5 to witness how comfortably and caustically Paul O’Grady has taken over the from his old pal Cilla on the resuscitated ITV dating show that is otherwise reassuringly unchanged.
Saturday 16 June, 8.30pm, Channel 5

The Swingers

Watch instead of … Costa Rica v Serbia

Holland may not have made it to the finals but the country is well-represented by this darkly delicious suburban turbo-soap, returning on Sunday night. If you skip all three Sunday World Cup matches, you could get completely up to speed with the bonkers season one on All4 before season two starts later that evening.
Sunday 17 June, 10.05pm, Channel 4

Versailles

Versailles.



Versailles. Photograph: Tibo & Anouchka, Capa Drama, ZodiakFiction & Docs, Incendo, Canal+

Watch instead of … Tunisia v England

Vive les Bleus! Save yourself the stress of watching England’s first game by checking in with the third season of Versailles – the raunchy, backstabbing period drama about the Sun King that features a disproportionate amount of mooning – on iPlayer, ahead of episode three later that night.
Monday 18 June, 9pm, BBC2

Cloak and Dagger

Watch instead of … Colombia v Japan

Already fed up with hearing pundits prattle on about effective striking partnerships? Catch up with this under-the-radar but atmospheric Marvel drama about two alienated teens in New Orleans who (eventually) discover they have complementary dark and light superpowers.
New episodes available every Friday, Amazon

Conviction: Murder in Suburbia

Watch instead of … Iran v Spain

If you (rightly) suspect Spain will steamroller Iran in their Group B matchup, forego the action at the Kazan Arena to catch up on the first part of this forensic true-crime doc before part two airs at 9pm. The UK not-for-profit Inside Justice team re-examines the case against Glyn Razzell, jailed for murdering his wife Linda in 2003, leading to a potentially crucial polygraph test.
Wednesday 20 June, 9pm, BBC2

Snatches: Moments From Women’s Lives

Snatches - Moments from 100 years of Women’s Lives.



Snatches – Moments from Women’s Lives. Photograph: Amanda Searle/BBC

Watch instead of … Argentina v Croatia

This memorably titled new series of eight 15-minute monologues, written and performed by women, is screened from Monday to Thursday, beginning with Romola Garai as an actor relating a sordid tale of the casting couch. Catch the first trio on iPlayer before episode four airs.
Thursday 21 June, 10pm, BBC4

Shooter

Watch instead of … Serbia v Switzerland

Injury time! Ryan Phillippe broke his leg during the last season of the gung-ho sniper drama Shooter, causing it to wrap up two episodes early. Now he’s back and presumably match fit to resume what has become a personal vendetta against the wily Russian marksman Solotov.
Episodes weekly from Friday 22 June on Netflix

Luke Cage

Luke Cage.



Luke Cage. Photograph: David Lee/Netflix

Watch instead of … South Korea v Mexico

Inject some soul into your football-free Saturday by binge-watching season two of what is arguably Netflix’s best Marvel show, and definitely the one with the best soundtrack. Hefty smoothie Luke is getting used to life as the bulletproof hero of Harlem, until a bad dude called Bushmaster steps up.
Season two is available in full from Saturday 23 June on Netflix

Poldark

Watch instead of … Poland v Columbia

Why watch Poland when you could feast your eyes on Poldark? Season four of the picturesque period drama has been nudging the brooding war hero ever further into the political arena. iPlayer can easily provide access to Ross with his top and tricorn off before episode three airs on Sunday night.
Sunday 24 June, 9pm, BBC1

Preacher

Preacher.



Preacher. Photograph: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Watch instead of … Saudi Arabia v Egypt

After two seasons of ultra-violent high jinks, the road-trip drama about a damaged priest with something inside so strong, a hard-partying Irish vampire and the extremely capable woman who comes between them returns for more profane shenanigans.
Episodes available weekly from Monday 25 June on Amazon

James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction

Watch instead of … Iceland v Croatia

Experience the excitement of exploring the unknown by working out exactly how to watch AMC on your BT set-top box. Then experience the excitement of exploring the unknown with James Cameron’s snazzy Story of Science Fiction (As Told By Me and All My Movie Star Pals).
Tuesday 26 June, 9pm, AMC from BT

CelebAbility

CelebAbility



CelebAbility. Photograph: Jack Barnes/ITV

Watch instead of … Switzerland v Costa Rica

ITV2’s sun-baked scoring contest Love Island is doing fine work providing wall-to-wall non-soccer content. Now that show’s beloved narrator, Iain Stirling, also has his own wacky spinoff, a heightened celebs-versus-civilians contest centred around ridiculous physical challenges, recently returned for a second season. If you’d rather just stick to watching Stirling’s main gig, fear not: Love Island continues deep into July.
Wednesday 27 June, 10pm, ITV2

Outlander

Watch instead of … Japan v Poland

There is no Tartan Army invading Russia this year, but if you want to see a strapping red-haired Scotsman attempting to acclimatise to a foreign country, Outlander hunk Jamie is in 18th-century Paris seeking Bonnie Prince Charlie (while his formidable wife Claire is introduced to waxing).
Thursday 28 June, 9pm, More4



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