TV & Radio

TV and radio listings will be updated every Friday

UK Confidential 1981
UK Confidential 1981
Radio 4
Friday 30th December, 11.00am

It’s that time of year again, when government papers are released to the wider world. Martha Kearney considers what official documents reveal about life in 1981, a year of rapidly rising unemployment, a fairytale royal wedding (or so we thought) and tensions in Britain’s relationship with European neighbours.
 

Mrs Dickens’s Family Christmas
Mrs Dickens’s Family Christmas
BBC Two
Friday 30th December, 9.00pm

Charles Dickens has long been associated with heartwarming depictions of Christmas. But how might the festive season have seemed through the eyes of Dickens’s wife, Catherine, from whom the writer became estranged? Sue Perkins investigates, portraying Dickens as a man who saw women as either virgins or frumps.

Punt PI
Punt PI
Radio 4
Saturday 31st December, 2.00pm

Where exactly did the Battle of Watling Street, where tens of thousands of ancient Britons were massacred by the Romans, take place? In a lighthearted documentary, comedian Steve Punt turns detective as he travels along the A5 to hunt for the site of an epic encounter.

A History Of Ancient Britain Special: Orkney’s Stone Age Temple
A History Of Ancient Britain Special: Orkney’s Stone Age Temple
BBC Two
Sunday 1st January, 9.00pm

Neil Oliver explores a recently rediscovered temple on Orkney that predates Stonehenge by 500 years. The vast site holds out the promise of revolutionising our understanding of our Neolithic forebears, and finds so far include painted wall decorations and even Stone Age paint pots.

In Our Time: The Written Word
In Our Time: The Written Word
Radio 4
Monday 2nd January, 9.00am

In a five-part series broadcast on successive weekdays, Melvyn Bragg explores how the written word has shaped the world’s intellectual history. First up, he looks at the technology behind writing on clay, wood or parchment. Subsequent shows consider the invention of the book, and how the written word has impacted on science, religion and history.

Armando’s Tale Of Charles Dickens
Pick of the Week
Armando’s Tale Of Charles Dickens
BBC Two
Monday 2nd January, 9.00pm

Armando Iannucci argues that we shouldn’t see Charles Dickens’s work simply as part of the Victorian canon of great literature. Rather, he says, get in the thick of the prose, and you discover that Dickens still has plenty to say to the 21st century on such subjects as corruption, the legal system and money (or a lack thereof).

King George & Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued The Monarchy
King George & Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued The Monarchy
BBC Two
Tuesday 3rd January, 9.00pm

Elizabeth II’s grandparents rescued the institution of the monarchy from potential disaster, inventing the Windsor brand that endures to this day. Documentaries shown on successive nights profile George the unlikely moderniser whose bullying alienated his son, Edward; and Mary, who evolved from obedient wife to formidable matriarch.

Black Is A Country
Black Is A Country
Radio 4
Thursday 5th January, 11.30am

With its symbol of a fist clenched in defiance, Black Power politicised African-American music. This two-part documentary looks at the growth of the Black Arts movement in the late 1960s, and features contributions from such luminaries as Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp and the late, great Gill Scott-Heron’s co-writer, Brian Jackson.

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The Grammar School: A Secret History
BBC Four
Thursday 5th January, 9.00pm

Hard to believe in these days when public schoolboys dominate the cabinet, but Britain’s grammars once gave us prime ministers and leading figures in many other fields too. In a two-part series, David Attenborough and Joan Bakewell are among those looking back at schools that aimed to educate the best and brightest, whatever their background.
 

Sicily Unpacked
Sicily Unpacked
BBC Two
Friday 6th January, 9.00pm

Art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon and chef Giorgio Locatelli team up to explore the history and cuisine of the Mediterranean island. It may sound like a curious idea, but this works. First up, the duo explore the markets of Palermo and the 12th-century Zisa Palace.