There is nothing pallid about the BBC's new Ivanhoe (Sun BBC1), which delights in the muck and realism of 12th-century life in a way that Scott's historically wobbly novel never did. Ivanhoe, in case you didn't know, is King Richard I's right- hand seigneur, falsely accused of betraying the Lionheart to the blackmailing Austrians. He returns to England to clear his name, betroth himself to the already betrothed Rowena and generally rid the kingdom of weaselly Prince John (a delicious cameo of depraved weakness by Ralph Brown). The stills of actor Steven Waddington (imagine the Liverpool defender Mark Wright with a bad perm) make you worry that he might be in the Anthony Andrews class of Ivanhoe, but he translates better in the flesh, as it were. The adaptation is by Deborah Cook and the direction, by Stuart Orme, delights, as it should, in the out-and-out romance of the piece (eyes are lighted in moments of passionate significance, for example). Good stuff. I shouldn't be surprised if this becomes the Poldark de nos jours.
The other must-see of the weekend is a repeat - David Hinton's Bafta Award-winning film, Children of the Revolution (Sat BBC2), reuniting classical musicians who studied together at Beijing's Central Conservatoire during the Cultural Revolution. "Studied" is a relative term here, as most of their time was spent forming Red Guard units, beating and "re-educating" their teachers, and categorising composers as either "useful and harmless" (Beethoven fell into this one), "useless and harmless' or "useless and harmful". Eventually Chairman Mao had no more use for his child crusaders and packed them off to Inner Mongolia, where they had nothing left to do but till the semi-barren fields and purge each other. A stunning insight into a little understood moment in history. By coincidence or not, the ongoing People's Century (Sun BBC1), now dumped on to late Sunday evening, looks at the 20 years of Mao's "great leap forward". For the truer understanding of this tumultuous epoch, though, catch Children of the Revolution.
Back with classical musicians, Naked Classics (Sun C4) this week looks at child prodigies - including a 10-year-old Korean girl who knocks off perfect violin adagios like most children her age knock off blotchy water colours of crooked houses and stick people. It's up to Nigel Kennedy, once a child prodigy himself before he was re-invented in his thirties as a punk rebel, to read out the dictionary definition of a prodigy - "something monstrous or abnormal".
Assignment (Sun BBC2) exposes another destination for paedophile sex tourism, Sri Lanka. According to the UN, one in five tourists to this beautiful but dirt-poor island, come to have sex with under-age children - mainly boys. The childrens's value in the scheme of things is articulated by a pimp, who offers an undercover journalist an all-in package for $50 of "a hotel, air-conditioning, a boy, Fanta Cola...".
The big picture
Thirty Two Short Films
About Glenn Gould
Sat 10.55pm BBC2
Before you go and see the much raved-about Shine, here's a chance to compare it with another virtuoso piece about a pianist - Francois Girard's excellent and truly original movie about the eccentric Canadian ivories tickler Glenn Gould (above). Gould's life (he died in 1982 aged 50) is remembered in 32 brief snatches (some dramatised, others featuring the real Gould) - a structuring device borrowed from Bach's Goldberg Variations.
The big match
World Professional Darts
Sat 4pm BBC1
The only sport unlikely to be affected by the weather this weekend is the Embassy World Darts Championship. For those of you hitherto unconcerned with the upheavals in the world of feathers, the sport is going the way of boxing, with the top players fighting it out in the Sky-sponsored WDC World Darts Championship (current champ Phil Taylor), while the rump (or should that be the gut?) throw for the Embassy World Championship down in deepest Surrey. Bullseye refugee Tony Green (above) is your commentator.Reuse content