Naturally, this involved quite a lot of arm-waving and shouting, while the cameramen strained to make up for the rocks' comparative immobility by skipping around like mountain goats. And there were also some faintly annoying gimmicks - a Stars and Stripes hoisted above some Scottish hills to illustrate the point that Scotland is geologically a missing fragment of North America; a visit to a sweetshop to make a bad joke about rock.
This was all rather unnecessary since, as Uncle Aubrey had already shown, every rock tells a story, through the animals and plants embedded in it (if there are no animals embedded in it, that can be even more interesting: it may be a piece of primeval rock from the days before life existed on earth). The nice thing about The Essential Guide..., though, was that while it dressed the stories up, it didn't hide them altogether. Anna Grayson, who without discipline may yet shape up as the Jilly Goolden of geology, may have been a little excitable about Scotland's American connection, but her account of how it came to collide with England and how the evidence for this was put together was still utterly lucid. Even the sweetshop episode had a useful point to make: sweets are made the same way as rocks - the inside of a Crunchie looks like spongy volcanic scoria because both are formed by rapid heating and cooling, with gas being blown through.
Geology also played a role in Floyd Uncorked (C5), in which Keith Floyd has been invited to drink his way across France, a concept that has all the devastatingly simple appeal of sending Salman Rushdie to check out Iranian tourist resorts, or Peter Finch blowing his brains out on screen in Network. Floyd among the alcohol is less scary than Floyd among the cholesterol, though. The French have invented many thousands of ways of making solidified fat digestible: here, we saw Floyd drooling over bread studded with pork scratchings, and not a cardiologist in sight.
What they do have is Jonathan Pedley, a wine-master who is supposed to be teaching Floyd how to taste wine (the inference seems to be that it doesn't usually touch the sides on the way down), and to instruct him in the differences between grape varieties and - most importantly - the soil of the various vineyards they visit: Kimmeridge and clay for Chablis, something a bit crumblier for Beaune. Having your face ground into the dirt can be fun; you just have to know what you're looking for.
At least The Baby Business (BBC2) doesn't have a geologist's problems about making its subject visually appealing: any time the producers feel the viewer getting restless, they can stick in a couple of babies and let the goo take its course. But the baby-shots were the only sentimental moments in Catherine Bennett's tough swipe at the fertility industry. Bennett's case was that in-vitro fertilisation, which has so far created 30,000 children in this country alone, is a far from unmixed blessing. The availability of IVF makes it harder for couples to accept life without children; but four out of five treatments fail (the gamble visualised, rather crassly, by a roulette wheel). Success rates vary tremendously between clinics, and the figures can be confusingly presented. Meanwhile, there are high risks of multiple births, increasing the danger of death or disability for one or more children, and a possible link with ovarian cancer. All this is sobering and sometimes tragic, but Bennett overstated her case. As one doctor pointed out, even with triplets, every child is a small miracle; and to ignore the miracles that IVF has pulled off you'd have to have a heart like, say, a rock.
tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 3 Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
- 4 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 5 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
Christmas Day TV guide 2014: What to watch from Strictly Come Dancing to the story of Frozen
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Felicity Jones on being Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything: 'I didn't want her to be a saint'
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader