TV & radio guide - Saturday

December 23, 2000

» The West   (10.15 am BBC2). "Fight No More Forever, 1874–1877". Today’s episode includes Custer’s defeat at the hands of the Sioux. The final two episodes are on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (9.05 am and 8.35 am respectively).
Classic Challenge (11.40 am BBC2, also Mon 10.45 am, Thurs 11.55 am). Composers challenged to create new pieces of music in a short time, beginning with Stephen Warbeck composing a piece to be performed on a cross-channel ferry. (On Monday, Dominic Muldowney writes something for a bingo hall; Thursday’s programme features Karl Jenkins composing for Manchester’s Chinese New Year celebrations.)
Choir of the Year (12.10 BBC2, also 10.45 am Monday, Mon 5.05, Tues 1.40). Recordings from the semi-finals of this year’s competition. The final is on Wednesday at noon (also BBC2).
Fires Were Started (12.40 C4). Wartime classic film by director Humphrey Jennings (see C4 8.05 for more Jennings).
The Medieval Ball (2.30 R4). Terry Jones’s final programme on the medieval world view focuses on maps as tools of commerce and diplomacy.
The Nativity (El Niño)
(6.30 BBC Knowledge). World premiere of John Adams opera, live from Paris.
The Real Alan Clark
(7.05 C4). How reliable are the late MP’s diaries? Documentary that has already given rise to a few news stories.
Talking to Gotham
(7.10 R3). Interval feature about Ric Burns, film-maker and historian (and brother of Ken) whose latest project is a ten-hour documentary about New York … There’s another programme the following Saturday (7.05), when George Plimpton is the subject.
Humphrey Jennings: The Man Who Listened to Britain
(8.05 C4). Belatedly marking the fiftieth anniversary of his death, this is an excellently straightforward introduction to the work of an underrated documentary filmmaker. Jennings, who died in September 1950, completed his best work during wartime, as everybody in this film acknowledges: indeed, in the words of Lancaster University’s Jeffrey Richards, "we remember the  War through Jennings’s images." The hour-long documentary includes excerpts from his films such as Spare Time , Listen to Britain and Diary for Timothy ; there are also revealing contributions from biographer Kevin Jackson, Jennings's daughter Mary Lou, Mike Leigh and some of the people who worked with the director. Earlier the same day (at 12.40, also C4), his wartime classic Fires Were Started is being shown.
Song of the Earth (8.10 BBC2). David Attenborough goes "in search of the origins of human music". Which means that we get both animals (whales, reed warblers, gibbons) and humans (Sumatran war dances, Joseph Haydn, Jimi Hendrix): intriguing but inconclusive.
Our Mutual Friend (9.00 UK Drama). Dickens dramatisation revived.


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