Television choices: A welcome return for first-class cringe comedy Fresh Meat


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The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week: Fresh Meat

Monday 10pm Channel 4

The scheduling of the first two series of Sam Bain's and Jesse Armstrong's student comedy mimicked the university year by starting in early October, so it's a later-than-usual, but still hugely welcome, return for Vod, Oregon, Howard, JP, Kingsley and Josie - except that Josie has transferred to university in Southampton, her inclusion here a stroke of comic genius.

Renaming the house "Pussy Haven", JP (Jack Whitehall) starts a dry-slope skiing society with a strict admittance policy described as "eugenics run by FHM". Vod (Zawe Ashton) has meanwhile returned from her travels with an amorous South American she soon bores of, and Howard manages to land a proper date. The outcome is genuinely heartbreaking.

Live from the National Theatre: 50 Years on Stage

Saturday 9pm BBC2

Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Derek Jacobi, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch are among the players as Nicholas Hytner directs a selection of the most memorable scenes from the company's productions, including excerpts from Hamlet, The History Boys, Guys and Dolls and War Horse.

Richard Hammond Builds a Planet

Sunday 9pm BBC1

What took God six days takes Richard Hammond only 60 minutes, but then you can't put anything past these Top Gear guys, not least their ability to make popular science programmes. With the help of a garden gnome, a machine gun and a mobile volcano, Hammond succinctly explains how our planet was put together.

Autism: Challenging Behaviour

Tuesday 9pm & 2.25am BBC4

Applied behaviour analysis is a controversial treatment for autism that uses rewards and punishment to treat children such as Jeremiah. This film visits Treetops in Essex, the only state school applying ABA, whose deputy head admits that she initially thought "it was like dog training". For some parents, it's their last best hope.

Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood

Wednesday 10.15pm PBS America

When Casablanca won three Oscars in 1943, many of its cast and production team were émigrés from Nazi Europe. More than 800 film professionals fled their homeland after the rise of Hitler in 1933. The second part of this documentary considers the careers of Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang and Fred Zinnemann. Sigourney Weaver narrates.

Don't Panic: the Truth about Population

Thursday 9pm BBC2

More than half the world's population may have been added since the 1960s, but the future of our planet might not be as gloomy as figures suggest, says the statistician Hans Rosling. Illustrating a lecture with 3D graphics and film reports, Rosling explains how we might be saved by a global trend towards smaller families.

Elvis Costello: Mystery Dance

Friday 9pm & 1.10am BBC4

After the recent David Bowie overkill, here's a documentary about his equal (at least) as a songwriter, Declan MacManus – aka Elvis Costello, who guides us round his native Liverpool, where his career began. His years as a "new wave geek" are given short shrift, while there's an account of how Costello nearly became the new John Lennon to Paul McCartney.