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TV and radio listings will be updated every Friday
Pity poor Katherine Howard. Bored, naïve and a bit of a spoilt brat, she’s about to try Henry VIII’s patience. Not a good idea as history – which in truth this daft but largely fun series has never appeared overly concerned with – testifies. The bits with Henry’s festering leg aren’t for the squeamish.
MM Kaye’s epic bestseller gets an equally epic adaptation over 20 weekday episodes. For those unfamiliar with the novel, it focuses on young Ashton, an English orphan adopted by a Hindu nursemaid in 19th-century India. Renamed Ashok, the lad finds himself at the centre of momentous events. Also at 7.45pm.
The excellent series that looks at a contemporary issue through the prism of the past returns. The first episode considers Nick Clegg's u-turn on tuition fees in the light of a similarly damaging about-face by Robert Peel in 1829. Jonathan Freedland hosts. Later in the day, Great Lives (4.30pm, Radio 4) finds playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah
speaking up for Marcus Garvey.
What was life (and death) like at Rome’s Colosseum? A documentary that uses CGI to recreate the opening games at the great stadium, in 80AD. Also this week on Five, Secrets Of The Vanishing Sphinx (8.00pm, Thursday 3rd February) focuses on the vast and enigmatic statue at Giza.
The fact that children were key to Britain’s economic success during the Industrial Revolution is a truth that’s often overlooked. Professor Jane Humphries’ documentary cast a critical eye on 19th-century exploitation and explores the grim conditions endured by all too many of our forebears as youngsters.
Sky Atlantic, which draws its programming in great part from HBO, launches amidst much fuss. Turns out a historical drama is the first big-hitter on the channel, with critically acclaimed Boardwalk Empire focusing on organised crime in 1920s Atlantic City. Martin Scorsese directs the opener, which stars Steve Buscemi. (Continues Wednesday 2nd February.)
Whether you’re talking jazz, soul food, politics or literature, the story of Harlem is central to the Afro-American experience. Journalist Michael Goldfarb explores the history of a Manhattan borough that’s now undergoing gentrification via just one street and the way this locale has changed since 1910. Part one of two; repeated at 12.05pm, 3.05pm, 8.05pm and 1.05am .
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce’s famous victory against Edward II in June 1314. Although Scotland’s independence wouldn’t be fully acknowledged for another 14 years, with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, Bannockburn was none the less a decisive moment.
Sometimes against the odds, the modern-day builders using Roman methods to construct a Roman villa push on. This week, they have the dangerous and difficult job of putting up the structure’s oak frame. Meantime, plumber Kevin has to source 200,000 tiny mosaic tiles.
With the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the American Civil War approaching, here’s a two-part documentary that examines the life and times of the president who abolished slavery. The figure that emerges is no shining idealist, but a pragmatic politician and a man of his times who seriously contemplated deporting freed slaves.