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TV and radio listings will be updated every Friday
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.