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.
The Mayan Apocalypse 2012
Saturday 7th January, 10.00pm
We’re all doomed. To put that another way, there’s a Mayan prophecy that cataclysmic events will take place on 21 December, 2012. Paul Murton travels to the USA and the rainforests of Guatemala to explore the Mayan civilisation and predictions the end of the world is nigh.
Pick of the Week
Illuminations: The Private Lives Of Medieval Kings
Monday 9th January, 9.00pm
Dr Janina Ramirez hunts through the British Library’s collection of illuminated manuscripts collection to see what they reveal about the medieval world. She begins with the Anglo-Saxon rulers who created a united England, and highlights include stories of a royal who had a reputation for chasing nuns and a royal family tree fully five metres long.
The Essay: British War Films Of The 1950s
Monday 9th January, 10.45pm
Historian and journalist Simon Heffer discusses films about the second world war made in the 1950s. What do they tell us about Britain in the decade. In five weekday episodes, the films under consideration are The Cruel Sea, The Colditz Story, The Dambusters, Carve Her Name With Pride and Dunkirk.
The Long View
Tuesday 10th January, 9.00am
Jonathan Freedland presents the series that considers current debates and issues through the prism of the past. First up, he looks at plans for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee this year. How do they compare with celebrations to mark Victoria’s 60 years on the throne?
The Mystery Of Edwin Drood
Tuesday 10th January, 9.00pm
Charles Dickens’ final, unfinished novel gets a two-part adaptation. Concludes Wednesday 11 January, so let’s hope scriptwriter Gwyneth Hughes came up with an ending. Also look out for Arena: Dickens On Film (BBC Four, Tuesday 10 January, 10.00pm) and Unfinished (BBC Two, Thursday 12 January, 9.00pm), in which journalist Alastair Sooke focuses on uncompleted literary works.
The Story Of Musicals
Tuesday 10th January, 9.00pm
The documentary series exploring how West End musicals conquered the world continues with the 1980s era of mega-productions, when the likes of Cats, Phantom Of The Opera and Les Misérables made millions. Contributors include Trevor Nun, Elaine Page and Richard Stilgoe.
Time Shift: The Rules Of Drinking
Wednesday 11th January, 9.00pm
Yes there are rules to lushing it up, in the sense that social attitudes to alcohol have altered radically down the years. Archive footage helps to chart the change from an era when women were excluded from the boozer to today’s non-sexist but destructive binge culture.
The Grammar School: A Secret History
Thursday 12th January, 9.00pm
The two-part documentary on Britain’s grammar schools concludes with the 1960s, a decade of huge social upheavals when the idea of a two-tier education system began to be questioned. Contributors include Neil Kinnock, Michael Wood and Edwina Currie.
But They Are Only Russians
Friday 13th January, 11.00am
John Sweeney contrasts the attitudes of journalists Walter Duranty (1884-1957) and Gareth Jones (1905-35) towards famine in Stalin’s Soviet Union during the 1930s. Moscow-based Duranty won a Pulitzer despite denying that anyone was starving, while Jones, who exposed the truth, was vilified.
The Lark Ascending
Friday 13th January, 7.30pm
Dame Diana Rigg explores the perennial popularity of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, written as the clouds of war gathered over Europe in 1914. The programme concludes with a performance of the piece at the Public Hall in Shirehampton, near Bristol, where it was publicly debuted in 1920.