Pop Goes The Bible!
Saturday 17th December, 10.30am
Marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, Paul Gambaccini goes in search of pop tunes inspired by the holy book. These include U2’s 40 and Yahweh, Leonard Cohen’s modern standard Hallelujah and the Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn! The songwriter’s trick, it turns out, is often to set ancient stories in a modern context.
Archive On 4: The European Dream
Saturday 17th December, 8.00pm
Sir John Tusa looks back at how the European Union came into being. Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first Chancellor, emerges as a key figure: having survived the horrors of the Nazi era, he saw surrendering a degree of economic control as a price worth paying to bind Germany to the west and keep it safe from Stalin.
Pick of the Week
The Roasts Of Christmas Past
Sunday 18th December, 9.00pm
Here’s a light-hearted documentary that explores British TV’s relationship with the Christmas roast down the years. As well as seeing how dramas and sitcoms have portrayed the meal, the documentary also looks at the feast’s pre-telly history, and ponders the difficulties encountered by Nigella and co as they try to give turkey and trimmings a new twist.
The People’s Post Office: A Narrative History Of The Post Office
Monday 19th December, 1.45pm
Dominic Sandbrook’s excellent history of the Post Office concludes this week with five more weekday episodes. His first subject is the telegraph system, which was nationalised as early as 1870 in the name of creating a bigger and more efficient network. As ever, there’s an omnibus edition on Friday (9.00pm).
How New Is The New Philanthropy?
Monday 19th December, 8.00pm
Hugh Cunningham looks at charitable giving in the Victorian era. In part, it’s a tale of criticisms of philanthropy: some of our forebears, it seems, jumped early on the idea of creating a dependency culture. He also looks at the way the poor helped the poor.
The Essay: The Writer’s Dickens
Monday 19th December, 10.45pm
Five authors look at the craft of Dickens’s prose. In the first of the weekday shows, Tessa Hadley explores how Dickens described his character’s houses. Other episodes consider childhood and the transition to adulthood, poverty and misery, Dickens’s mastery of the episodic form and Christmas.
The Butlins Story
Tuesday 20th December, 8.00pm
Hi-de-hi! It’s 75 years since the first Butlins holiday camp, located in Skegness, opened its doors. Featuring home movies and the memories of holidaymakers, this documentary traces the history of a national institution. We also hear tales of the famous names who got a showbiz break at Butlins, including Ringo Starr, Roy Hudd and Status Quo.
Downton Abbey: Behind The Drama
Wednesday 21st December, 7.30pm
For those anxiously waiting for the Downton Christmas Day special, this behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the show is made may help alleviate the suffering. Featuring interviews with the stars of the show and its creator, Julian Fellowes. Hugh Bonneville, aka Robert, Earl of Grantham, narrates.
The Art Of The Night
Wednesday 21st December, 9.00pm
On the shortest day of the year, Waldemar Januszczak explores works that portray the hours after the sun has gone down, including paintings by Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Edward Hopper. What is it about the night that inspires artists and just what are the technical challenges of painting when it’s, well, dark?
Jerusalem: The Making Of A Holy City
Thursday 22nd December, 9.00pm
Simon Sebag Montefiore traces the story of Jerusalem in the post-Crusades era. It’s a tale that encompasses the revival of the city under the Mamluks, its conquest by the Ottomans and, closer to the present day, the effect of the emergence of Zionism. Last in the series.
The Many Lovers Of Miss Jane Austen
Friday 23rd December, 9.00pm
Professor Amanda Vickery reappraises an author whose first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published 200 years ago. Shame to say the title here isn’t a new revelation of a scandalous past, but a reference to the way Austen’s fiction has been enjoyed by so many
readers down the years.
The Joy Of Country
Friday 23rd December, 9.00pm
What is it about country music that makes it endure? Filmmaker Andy Humphries goes back to the 1920s as he traces the genre’s evolution, a tale that’s in great part about the tension between rural authenticity and rhinestone-studded showbiz. Expect tunes from the likes of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.