"It starts with good intentions, then we all end up in a huge room sitting on golden chairs listening to boring speeches." This could be said of quite a few grand projects, but Nick Fraser is in fact talking about the European Union in RUEU? A Trip Around the European Union (Saturday 5.50 BBC2), a 60 minute documentary co-produced with Danish television and the Franco-German ARTE satellite channel. Half French and half English, Fraser is an engaging guide, gradually becoming disillusioned as his filming proceeds through the corridors of Brussels, the little-used (and little-loved by its users) Strasbourg parliament building and an EU anti-racism centre in Vienna. It takes a visit to Romania with an EU parliamentary committee for Fraser to realise that the "democratic blunder" of Strasbourg is preferable to the tyranny of Ceausescu and his palaces. With as much French and German as English spoken, it’s good that BBC2 is continuing its subtitling policy here.
There is more on the EU in the EUtopia documentary series still running on BBC Knowledge (Thursday 11.30 am, repeated 1.30, 3.30, 5.30, 7.30). This week’s episode features German women who have married local shepherds on the Greek island of Skyros, and two ageing couples in Northern Finland.
(All times pm unless stated)
FRIDAY December 1
Zero Gravity (11.00 am R4). The creative potential of weightlessness, with a group of Moscow-based dancers, acrobats and filmmakers. Sounds like the kind of programme that would look better with moving pictures.
Performance on 3: Whiteman's Radio Rhapsody (7.30 R3). Recreating a pre-war programme from New York’s Radio City Music Hall. » Performance on 3
Russia: Gold Domes, Black Earth (8.30 World Service, repeated Sat 2.30 am). Three-part series by Tim Whewell on Russia and its history begins by considering the role of the intelligentsia.
Conquistadors (9.00 BBC2; 9.30 in Wales). Part two of Michael Wood’s historical adventure is about Pizarro’s destruction of the Incas and his "greatest plundering raid in history". Wood retraces the trail that Pizarro and his men took into the capital of Cusco as well as into the "lost valley" where Incan ruler Manco made his last stand. In Cusco, Wood is assisted by historian Efrain Trelles, and Juan Ossio from the Catholic University of Peru shows Wood a rediscovered Inca account of the conquest. » Conquistadors
Friday Play: Describing Music to Carl (9.00 R4). The theme of Jerome Vincent’s docu-drama is the meaning of music to a deaf boy - and includes contributions from philosopher Jonathan Ree (whose I See A Voice, published last year, was about cultural attitudes to deafness) and deaf performer Paul Whittaker.
Night Waves (9.30 R3). The two Cubas (of Havana and Miami).
Meetings with Remarkable Trees (9.50 BBC2; 10.20 in Wales). "The Squire’s Walking Stick". Ireland’s tallest oak - which happens to be on author Thomas Pakenham’s land.
The Old Devils (11.00 UK Drama, also Saturday 11.10, Sunday 11.25). Re-run of Andrew Davies’s 1992 adaptation of Kingsley Amis’s novel. An earlier Amis novel, but a more up-to-date Davies adaptation, is screened on Sunday in Take a Girl Like You (9.00 BBC1).
SATURDAY December 2
The Medieval Ball (2.30 R4). Terry Jones (ex-Monty Python Chaucer enthusiast) begins a four-part series examining how the medieval world saw itself through its maps, with Hereford Cathedral’s Mappa Mundi featuring heavily in the first programme.
RUEU? (5.50 BBC2). See Pick of the week at the top of the page.
Black Holes (6.25 C4). Repeat featuring Stephen Hawking and others talking about the mysterious phenomena (presumably not as up-to-date as last Thursday’s Horizon).
Open Court at the British Museum (6.50 BBC2). Behind the scenes of the expanded museum with curators, scholars and Norman Foster. The museum’s new Great Court is unveiled on Wednesday - when a National Lottery Special comes live from the BM (Wed 8.00 BBC1). » QE II Great Court opening
Zoë (7.20 C4). Glyndebourne-commissioned "teenage opera" by composer John Lunn and screenwriter/librettist Stephen Plaice.
House Detectives (7.40 BBC2). A Spitalfields, London, Georgian survival. » House Detectives
Archive Hour: You’re Through to the Show, Caller (8.00 R4). The 50-year history of the radio phone-in.
Secrets of the Ancients (8.10 BBC2). Repeat series: this week, the one where they try to recreate Archimedes’ claw in Syracuse (Italy, not New York state). With engineer Jo da Silva, archaeologist Roger Wilson, mathematician Chris Rorres and others.
Days in the Life (8.55 BBC2). The "gathering of the tribes" - the poetry counterculture in the Albert Hall, 11 June 1965.
Telling Tales (9.50 BBC2). Alan Bennett recalls his boyhood piety. (A final 15 minutes from Bennett’s past on Wednesday, 9.45 BBC2).
Watching (10.35 BBC2). Tom Sutcliffe on the unseen in cinema. The final programme in this series, on slow-motion and freeze-frame effects, follows on Sunday (11.00, 11.30 in Wales).
SUNDAY December 3
The Two Cultures? (2.25 am C4) What science can tell us about our appreciation of art. Oxford art historian Martin Kemp and UCL psychologist Chris McManus are among the experts. (Interesting repeat from May last year).
5 Live Report (12 noon R5). Were abandoned children in Ireland used as human guinea pigs for pharmaceutical trials?
Writing Poetry (4.30 R4). Andrew Motion begins a three-part series with the sonnet.
Bach Year (4.45 R3). Ton Koopman interviewed. » Bach Year
A Samba for Saro-Wiwa (5.40 R4). Zina Saro-Wiwa on living in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
The Sunday Feature: The John Tusa Interview (5.45 R3). David Sylvester, art critic. » Sunday Feature
Changing Stages (7.05 BBC2). Richard Eyre on the legacy of Brecht and Beckett, with Harold Pinter, David Hare, Edward Bond, etc. » Changing Stages
Sunday Play: Ghosts (7.30 R3). New Ibsen adaptation by Doug Lucie, starring Penelope Wilton and Paul Rhys (to be repeated on the World Service the following Sunday). » Sunday Play
The Difference (8.00 C4). Final (and perhaps the least satisfactory) of this population-genetics series which spends unnecessary time on the ideas of Charles (The Bell Curve) Murray. (If, as programme one argued, most "white" North Americans have some "African" genes, why bother with work that puts people into crudely determined racial groups?) There are also some more interesting contributions, for instance from UCL’s Robert Turner on functional brain imaging and Yale psychologist Robert Sternberg on different types of intelligence. Perhaps the following day’s The Difference Debate (Monday 11.55 C4) will question some of the series’ bald assertions.
The Third Reich in Colour (8.00 C5). Max Hastings introduces German and American archive film from 1937–45.
Behold the Man (8.00 R2). Why was Jesus so special? Current theological thinking, plus narrative by Derek Jacobi. » Behold the Man
Lions - Spy in the Den (8.00 BBC1). One-off documentary following a pride of lions.
Take A Girl Like You (9.05 BBC1). Continuation of Andrew Davies’s latest frockudrama, based on Kingsley Amis..
Panorama (10.15 BBC1). On police corruption. » Panorama
The South Bank Show (10.45 ITV). Organist Gillian Weir profiled.
Watching (11.00 BBC2; 11.30 in Wales). Tom Sutcliffe on slow-motion and freeze-frame effects, with Danny Boyle and Mike Leigh among the directors interviewed.
MONDAY December 4
Composer of the Week (9.00 am R3 and rest of week) is Brahms.
Start the Week (9.00 am R4). Featuring Margaret Drabble on George Orwell, and Peter Linebaugh on early American history.
Book of the Week (9.45 am R4 and rest of week) is Alan Clarke’s diaries.
No Ice in Weymouth (10. 45 am R4, repeated 7.45 and for rest of week). The world of Jane Austen, from her novels and letters.
Random Edition (11.00 am R4). Peter Snow peruses the Manchester Times of 28 March 1829. Featuring Andrew Roberts on the Duke of Wellington’s duelling.
When Knights Were Bold (3.45 R4 and for rest of week). Michael Rosen with a five-part exploration of history in children’s fiction. Part one, "Slaves and Centurions" concentrates on the Romans, from Rosemary Sutcliffe to Asterix.
Lemurs of the Stone Forest (7.00 C5). Documentary abut Madagascar.
Pyramids and Prophets (8.00 C4). Second of two repeats featuring David Rohl.
Saving the Patient (8.00 R4). New ways for GPs to work … Final programme in series examining the government’s intended NHS reforms.
University Challenge (8.00 BBC2). More highest-scoring losers from the first round: St John’s, Oxford, vs. Edinburgh.
Animal ER (8.30 C5). Behind the scenes at the Royal Veterinary College.
What the Romans Did for Us (8.30 BBC2, not N Ireland). Daily life on Hadrian’s Wall (recently visited for both Simon Schama’s history marathon and Piers Gough’s C4 architecture series) … Later, the Open University’s re-runs of The Romans in Britain (12.30 am BBC2) feature Guy de la Bédoyère at - guess where? – Hadrian’s Wall. » Roman Britain
Horror in the East (9.00 BBC2). Two-part exploration of Japanese conduct in World War Two, featuring archive film and recollections of both Japanese and Allied PoWs. Put together by ace history documentarist Laurence Rees, of The Nazis - A Warning from History and War of the Century ilk.
Animals that Changed the World (9.00 R4). Rats. » Animals
War Months (9.00 Discovery Channel). More episodes from the Second World War. » The War Months
Neanderthal (9.00 C4). First of two programmes featuring actors dressed up as early humans and a commentary full of phrases such as "we now know…" No experts are seen talking, but the series advisers are Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum and Oxford’s Paul Pettitt, and the pseudo-Neanderthal language used is that devised by Anthony Burgess and Desmond Morris for the 1981 film Quest for Fire. This series is no better (in fact, worse) than BBC2’s ape-man earlier this year.
Night Waves (9.30 R3). On Raymond Chandler.
Who Killed Mark Faulkner? (11.20 BBC2, also Tues and Wed). About the short life and death of a homeless, disabled man on London’s streets.
The Difference Debate (11.55 C4). Experts and other opinionated folk discuss the C4 series. (The programme is due to be recorded the day before transmission.)
TUESDAY December 5
Solitude - Choosing to be Alone (11.00 am R4). Peter France with the first of two programmes on hermits, monks and others who have experienced solitude.
When Knights Were Bold (3.45 R4). Michael Rosen with part two of his survey of history in children’s fiction. "Kings, Queens and Peasants" - Captain Marryat, Geoffrey Trease, etc.
Horror in the East (9.00 BBC2). Second half of Laurence Rees’s documentary asks why so many Japanese chose to die rather than surrender.
Case Notes (9.00 R4). The problem of memory loss.
Everyman: A Matter of Life and Death (10.35 BBC1; 11.05 in N. Ireland, Scotland, 11.15 in Wales). Lionel Blue reflects on old age.
Who Killed Mark Faulkner? (11.20 BBC2). Part two: what it takes to survive on London’s streets.
Faces of Islam (11.25 BBC1; 11.55 in N. Ireland, Scotland, 12.05 am in Wales). Writer Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsoud, formerly Christian textbook author Rosalyn Kendrick.
Wizard? (11.30 R4). Repeat of programme marking the publication centenary of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
WEDNESDAY December 6
When Knights Were Bold (3.45 R4). Michael Rosen with part three of his survey of history in children’s fiction. "Empire’s Finest" - Henty, Kipling, etc.
Thinking Allowed (4.00 R4). Fred Halliday of the LSE is Laurie Taylor’s guest, talking about his new book The World at 2000.
Connect (9.00 R4). The new technologies for delivering medication that could make injections redundant.
Telling Tales (9.45 BBC2). The last in Alan Bennett’s series is about his debt to Leeds.
Night Waves (9.45 R3). Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker interviewed, especially about her latest project, a rewriting of the Cinderella story.
The Capture and Trial of Adolf Eichmann (11.00 UK Horizons).
Who Killed Mark Faulkner? (11.20 BBC2). Concluding part of this series on the life and death of a rough sleeper.
THURSDAY December 7
Routes of English (9.00 am R4). Cornish versions of English. » The Routes of English
CrossingContinents (11.00 am R4). Andy Kershaw in the USA, on the deportation of "criminal aliens".
EUtopia (11.30 am, repeated 1.30, 3.30, 5.30, 7.30). Another documentary from the series on Europe features German women who have married local shepherds on the Greek island of Skyros, and two ageing couples in Northern Finland. Although some EUtopia episodes were shown on BBC2 earlier this year, this isn’t one of them.
When Knights Were Bold (3.45 R4). Michael Rosen with part four of his survey of history in children’s fiction. "War and Peace" - Percy Westerman, W.E. Johns, etc.
The Material World (4.30 R4). Research on the genetics of smoking with Oxford’s Robert Walton.
Document (8.00 R4). "Camping with Hitler". How - and why? - did the Nazis try to infiltrate the Boy Scouts.
Analysis (8.30 R4). If globalisation and cyerspace really has taken hold, why do certain businesses cluster together? Diane Coyle on why place still matters.
The Windsors (8.00 C4). This re-edited series reaches Edward VIII’s abdication and George V during the war.
What Rubbish? (8.05 World Service, repeated Friday 2.05 am and 3.05). Susie Emmett concludes her series on the global problem of domestic and industrial waste.
This Meaningless Life (8.45 R3). UWE’s Susan Blackmore with a new series asking scientists how they reconcile their professional activity with their personal beliefs - beginning with Guy Consolmagno, the Vatican’s astronomer.
Horizon (9.00 BBC2). The subject of gender identity, with the case of a Canadian boy who grew up as a girl; the ideas of psychologist John Money, who thinks gender is a product of nurture; and those who don’t agree, such as Milton Diamond.
The Science of Crime (9.00 C4), a three-part Equinox special that begins with the psychopathic mind. Researchers Robert Hare, James Blair and Adrian Raine talk abut their findings on the brains of psychopaths. (Next week, forensic science with Kathy Reichs.)
Leading Edge (9.00 R4). Mazes and mathematicians.
Paolozzi (11.25 BBC2). Portrait of Edinburgh artist Eduardo Paolozzi, first shown on BBC Scotland.
Open Science (from 12.30 am BBC2). Including Biosphere 2 (2.30 am), on that experiment in Arizona, and Cosmic Recycling (3.00 am) on the death and birth of stars.