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TV and radio listings will be updated every Friday
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.
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.
Tom Baker narrates the Greatest Story Ever Told or, more prosaically, a history of cinematic epics, including Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments and Cleopatra. On Wednesday 4 January, Timeshift: The Smoking Years (BBC Four, 9pm) turns its attention to tobacco and a recent past when pub bars were sometimes quite literally obscured by ciggie fumes.
Giles Fraser, until recently Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, heads for Bethlehem to tell the story of how Roman emperor Constantine established the tradition of celebrating the birth of baby Jesus. Constantine, it turns out, was less keen on promoting Christ the radical, who spoke up for humility and peace.
Reflecting its status as ITV1’s biggest hit, Downton Abbey gets the prime slot in the channel’s Christmas Day schedules. Ahead of a third series next year, we rejoin the Earl of Grantham and his household for Christmas 1919, where lavish celebrations can’t hide underlying tensions.
The Dickens on the BBC season to mark the bicentenary of the author’s birth continues with a five-part weekday adaptation of his novel set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. In The Tale Of A Tale Of Two Cities (Radio 4, Thursday 29 December, 11.30am), Frances Fyfield views the original manuscript of the book.
In the middle decades of the 20th century, philanthropic giving was in decline while the welfare state was in the ascendancy. In today’s cash-straitened times though, as Professor Hugh Cunningham explores in the final part of his excellent series on philanthropy, we’re again considering the role that charitable giving might play within society.
Biographer Dr Paula Byrne thinks she may have found a portrait of Jane Austen that’s been lost for two centuries. Can this really be true? Martha Kearney joins Byrne to look on as the picture comes under the scrutiny of (no doubt suspicious) art historians and forensics experts.
The Fab Four never have recorded a Christmas single, but fanclub members could look forward to a flexi-disc with messages from John, Paul, George and Ringo. Alexei Sayle revisits these discs, and recalls the festive seasons of 1963 and 1964, when the Beatles played panto shows. No way, you say? Oh yes they did!
The story of young orphan Pip is re-told in a three-part adaptation written by Sarah Phelps. A starry cast includes Gillian Anderson, David Suchet, Douglas Booth and, playing the convict Magwitch, Ray Winstone. Continues on Wednesday 28 December and Thursday 29 December.