Pick of the week
Simon Schama greets Richard II in his History of Britain this week (Wednesday 9.00 BBC2), but there’s no room to mention the greatest poet of his reign, Geoffrey Chaucer. A pity, but never mind – BBC Radio is making up for the omission by celebrating the 600th anniversary of his death. The fun begins with over four hours dedicated to the poet in Chaucer Night , beginning on Saturday (from 7.15 R3). The programme includes archaeologist Tim Tatton-Brown, who retraces the pilgrim’s route between London and Canterbury, there’s music from Chaucer’s time plus items on the poet’s stay in Italy; his life as a soldier, diplomat and courtier; his use of English; and his influence on later writers. Among the experts gathered together are historians Caroline Barron, Vanessa Harding and Derek Keene, medievalists Felicity Riddy, Miri Rubin and David Wallace, musicologist Christopher Page, Chaucerian Helen Cooper, linguist Tom Burton and film historian Ian Christie, and inevitably, Andrew Motion of course. At the same time, Radio 4 has an Archive Hour featuring versions of the Canterbury Tales by Nevill Coghill and others (Saturday 8.00), while Sunday’s Bookclub is a discussion of The Miller’s Tale. The Afternoon Play – 2000 Tales (Monday onwards, 2.15 R4) is an attempt to do for Britain today what Chaucer did for 14th-century England, with a series of linked dramas by a variety of writers such as Rukhsana Ahmed, Nick Darke, Marcy Kahan, Glyn Maxwell, John Mortimer and Andrew Rissik.
Here are a select few of the many Chaucer websites: the (US-based) New Chaucer Society , Chaucer Resources and the Chaucernet electronic forum.
(All times pm unless stated.)
FRIDAY October 20
I Have a Right to… (8.30, repeated Saturday 2.30 am World Service). The second of this human-rights-around-the-world series is about "food versus freedom" – economic development and human rights. This is part of a major BBC World Service global project, with programmes in 13 different languages. Visit the ‘I have a right to...’ website.
Night Waves (9.30 R3). Kathleen Raine on William Blake; plus the power of spectacle in Ancient Rome.
SATURDAY October 21
How to be President (10.30 am R4). Bill Buford recalls the 1968 US presidential election.
The Sky at Night (11.35 BBC2). A repeat from late last Sunday night: Patrick Moore and Iain Nicolson discuss dark matter and the fate of the universe. More Moore at www.bbc.co.uk/skyatnight .
The Century Speaks (2.30 R4). Changing attitudes to marriage and divorce, the role of women and ethnic minority communities are dealt with in this week’s extracts from the BBC oral history project.
The Shakespeare for the Millennium Lecture (6.30 R3). "How Not to be a Hero": Boston University-based English poet-critic Geoffrey Hill on Coriolanus.
Correspondent: Who Killed Lumumba? (6.50 BBC2). How Belgium and the USA are implicated in the deposing and assassination of the Congo’s first prime minister in 1961. More on the programme at www.bbc.co.uk/correspondent .
Chaucer Night (from 7.15 R3) and Archive Hour (8.00 R4). See Pick of the week .
Meet the Ancestors (7.35 BBC2, not Wales). A re-run of "The Lost Souls", the one where Julian Richards goes to a Buckinghamshire burial ground and gets the experts analysing the remains of a 12-year-old girl from the tenth century.
Finest Hour (8.05 BBC2). A repeat of this series about 1940 continues.
Beastly Business: Tactics of Terror (10.30 BBC2). About animal rights protesters and the activities that are (in some cases) terrorising research scientists. For another look at the subject, see Wednesday’s Money Programme (7.30 BBC2), where the laboratories of Huntingdon Life Sciences are the focus.
World Series Baseball (12.05 am C5; also Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, times vary). For the armchair sports fanatics out there, here is Channel 5’s major contribution to British television: live baseball coverage. So here’s the start of the fall classic, which will feature the New York Mets vs. the New York Yankees or the Seattle Mariners (The American League championship was still undecided at the time of writing). Go Mets!
SUNDAY October 22
In the Psychiatrist’s Chair (11.15 am R4). John Pilger sits down with Anthony Clare.
The Book Show (11.30 am Sky News, repeated 8.30). Nigella Lawson, James Patterson, Sarah Bradford (biographer of Jackie Kennedy) and playwright Willy Russell.
5 Live Report (12 noon R5). "Experimenting With Us": Are patients taking part in clinical trials of drugs without consenting?
Icons of the 20th Century (12 noon C5). Masculinity explored through images of James Dean, Elvis Presley, David Bowie etc., in the first of a new series. Not to be confused with C4’s occasional daytime series Icons , which this week has Audrey Hepburn’s fans talking (Monday 1.05 C4).
Music Matters (12.15 R3). On the Austrian musical scene today.
Book Club (4.00 R4). More Chaucer: discussing The Miller’s Tale with Cardiff University’s Ruth Evans. See Pick of the week (at the top of the page).
Adventures in Poetry (4.30 R4). Cambridge English don Peggy Reynolds begins a series on well-loved poems with reactions to Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade.
Bach Year (4.45 R3). Joshua Rifkin on JSB’s time in Leipzig, when he composed over 100 cantatas (among other things), with contributions from Bach scholar Christoph Wolff.
Wildlife Showcase: Bush Demon (5.25 BBC2). The mongoose in Spain.
The Happiness Lectures (5.40 R4). This week, David Lodge reprises the lecture on happiness he gave to Birmingham University earlier this year.
Sunday Feature: Faultline (5.45 R3). Part three of Dennis Marks’s exploration of the old Austro-Hungarian empire goes down the Danube to Budapest, ventures into Transylvania and follows in the footsteps of Bartók in the Southern Carpathians.
The Natural World (6.05 BBC2). Deadly Vipers.
Room for Improvement (7.15 R4). Laurie Taylor returns with his idiosyncratic chat show.
Near Miss (9.00 C4). An old Equinox repeat about the problems of air traffic control in New York.
Sunday Play: The Monument (9.40 R3). The play by Eduardo de Filippo (1900-84), translated and transposed to Liverpool by Peter Tinniswood. Preceded by a short feature in which de Filippo’s widow talks about the playwright.
Hunting Hitler (9.00 History Channel). Hitler’s wartime headquarters and the plots against him.
Superhuman (9.10 BBC1). Part two of Robert Winston’s frontiers-of-medicine series looks at "spare parts" for the human body, from cochlear implants (with film of an operation by Richard Ramsden, Manchester University) to transplanted hands… ending with speculation about breeding genetically modified pigs to provide transplantable hearts for humans.
Panorama (10.15 BBC1). "Digging the Dirt", on the US presidential campaign and the Democrat and Republican "war rooms"; on the look-out for harmful information on their opposing candidates.
The South Bank Show (10.45 ITV). On some of the many ways Bizet’s (Merimée’s?) Carmen has been represented on film, stage and television.
Who’s Afraid of the Ten Commandments? (12.20 am ITV). The "controversial" tenth one, about coveting. With Howard Jacobson, Amanda Pooler, Karen Armstrong and Nick Cohen.
History of Britain (11.45 BBC1). A repeat of episode four.
MONDAY October 23
The Other Side: Stonehenge 2000 (2.15 am C4). What happened at this year’s summer solstice.
History Quest (8.00 am, repeated 11.00 am, repeated 2.00, 5.00, 8.00 BBC Knowledge). On Indian soldiers who fought for Britain in World War Two. Plus What If? (10.00 am, repeated 1.00, 4.00, 7.00, 10.00) on what might have ensued if the Spanish Armada had won.
Composer of the Week (9.00 am R3 and rest of week) is Prokofiev.
Start the Week (9.00am R4). With Marianne Elliott (on the history of the Ulster Catholics – featured in last week’s THES) and BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson.
Book of the Week (9.45 am R4 and rest of week) is Wordsworth, A Life by Juliet Barker.
Running the Empire (11.00 am R4). Peter Jones on Trajan (repeat).
Metro (3.45 and for the rest of the week). Philip Sweeney on the Paris Metro - past and present. (repeat).
Last of the Medicine Men (7.30 BBC2). Benedict Allen’s shaman quest continues in Mexico’s Sierra Madre desert.
Volcano (8.00 C4). Climbing the remains of Krakatoa, plus Mount Usu in Japan and a crater lake in New Zealand.
The Top Job (8.00 R4). Peter Hennessy on the constitutional parameters of prime ministerhood.
University Challenge (8.00 BBC2). Manchester vs. Sidney Sussex, Cambridge.
Equinox: Einstein’s Biggest Blunder (9.00 C4). Cosmologists can be enthusiastic company, as last year’s BBC2 series The Planets showed. This programme – originally announced in April, then postponed – also manages to convey some of the excitement of scientific thought as it explores the ideas of Imperial College’s Joao Magueijo and Andy Albrecht. They are the theoretical physicists who have proposed that the speed of light may not always be constant everywhere in the universe, thus upsetting Einstein’s basic theories. David Sington’s film does its best to explain the implications, and also gives us a basic history-of-science primer on the development of relativity theory, concluding that "even when [Einstein] was wrong, somehow he is right".
Nature (9.00 R4). A day in the life of the Masai Mara.
War Months (9.00 Discovery Channel). Episodes seven and eight: Desert Rats, land girls, the Battle of Cape Matapan, etc.
Night Waves (9.30 R3). Peter Hall’s Tantalus assessed; A.S. Byatt interviewed.
TUESDAY October 24
Tormented Genius (1.30 R4). Mental illness and musical genius – are they related? The first of two programmes in which John Florence wonders about the mental states of Gesualdo, Beethoven, Schumann, et al.
File On 4 (8.00 R4). The failures of the witness protection programme.
Life Before Birth (9.00 R4). Part two of this series, already broadcast on the World Service, asks the experts about what the foetus can "learn" in the womb.
Night Waves (9.30 R3). Architect Frank Gehry, and the Turner Prize short list.
Love Is Not Enough (10.35 BBC1; 11.05 in Wales, N. Ireland and Scotland). The final episode of this fly-on-the-wall adoption series.
Post Mortem (11.05 C5). A new series about forensic science, made by HTV Wales.
<b class="redtextmedium">WEDNESDAY October 25</b>
Natural Design (8.00 am, repeated 11.00 am, 2.00, 5.00, 11.00. BBC Knowledge). The parallels between design in evolution and manufacturing.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Future (11.00 am R4). Douglas Adams on the digital future, with contributions from laptop inventor Alan Kay and AI authority Chris Langton. Adams’s website is at www.douglasadams.com .
Incredible Journeys (1.30 BBC2). One journey in the life of a rattlesnake (repeat).
Thinking Allowed (4.00 R4). Laurie Taylor with Bhikhu Parekh of Hull University, on multiculturalism.
Tomorrow’s World (7.00 BBC1). A pregnant elephant… and making spacecraft more user-friendly.
The Money Programme (7.30 BBC2). Recent attacks by protesters on Huntingdon Life Sciences’ research laboratories are threatening its future. Is this good or bad news?
The Commission (8.00 R4). Cover-ups in the medical professions – a return to the topic that Channel 4 spent a good few hours on earlier this month.
Frontiers (9.00 R4). Origins of species: evolution’s biggest puzzle.
A History of Britain by Simon Schama (9.00 BBC2). In part five, "King Death", Schama talks us through over a hundred years, with special attention to The Black Death and its consequences; Richard II and the Peasants’ Revolt. Then a quick skip through the Wars of the Roses leads to a final sequence on the Paston family and their letters. Website and links at www.bbc.co.uk/history .
Night Waves (9.30 R3). Gore Vidal gives another interview.
THURSDAY October 26
Crossing Continents (11.00 am R4). Julian Pettifer in the Basque country.
The Material World (4.30 R4). The mysterious single waves known as solitons, with explanation from Alan Boardman (Salford University) and Chris Eilbeck (Heriot-Watt).
EUtopia: Walk to Work (7.30 BBC Knowledge). The documentary series about various aspects of Europe, eight episodes of which were shown on BBC2 in the summer, is now apparently having its remaining programmes shuffled on to the BBC’s digital channel. (By contrast, in Germany, all 20 were shown on mainstream television.) This programme follows a group of protesters on a march from Brussels to Cologne in May 1999 to put forward the "People’s Demands" for social justice. For an overview of the whole EUtopia series, see the production company’s airing schedule here .
Behind the Wire (8.00 R4). David Cesarani on the wartime internment of "enemy aliens". This second programme concentrates on how the US treated people of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor.
Extraordinary Ancestors (8.00 C4). Investigating some family histories from Cardiff.
Costing the Earth (9.00 R4). CFC gases and the ozone layer; Chernobyl’s legacy; the greenness of the Olympics. This - the final programme in the current series - updates earlier investigations.
Horizon: The Lost World of Lake Vostok (9.00 BBC2). About the huge lake under the Antarctic ice, and what the British, Russian and US scientists might find there.
The Science of Secrecy (9.00 C4). The decoding of the Zimmermann Telegram in 1917, and the unsung Old Etonian who did it. See the website at www.channel4.co.uk/nextstep for information about the series’ associated puzzles.
Dispatches (9.30 C4). The Search for Lucie Blackman, the Briton who disappeared from a Tokyo night club in July.
Open Science (from 12.30 am BBC2). Beginning with The Next Big Thing: The Reality of Risk , a discussion (co-produced with Harry Kroto’s Vega Science Trust) on questions of safety, from BSE to vaccination.