Television choices: Battling to get the real truth against deceit and duplicity
TV pick of the week: Secret State
Wednesday 10pm Channel 4
The MP Chris Mullin's 1982 novel, A Very British Coup, imagining an establishment backlash against the election of a working-class, left-wing Labour leader (remember them?), was turned into a Bafta-winning Channel 4 drama. It's now re-imagined with Gabriel Byrne as Tom Dawkins, deputy PM when the four-parter begins, and coping with the fallout from an explosion at an American-owned chemical works. Although at this stage Dawkins seems more sincere than radical (perhaps integrity is the new radical), Byrne gives the impression of a man biding his time. Charles Dance lurks in the background, Gina McKee plays a journalist and Mullin has a cameo as a vicar presiding at the PM's funeral. What is the symbolism of that?
The Late Great Eric Sykes
Saturday 8.45pm BBC2
The rest of this evening on BBC2, with a brief respite for QI XL, is dedicated to the much-loved comedy writer and performer who died in July. Eddie Izzard, Russ Abbot and Michael Palin lead the tributes. Plus, there is a 1979 episode of Sykes – his long-running sitcom co-starring Hattie Jacques – at 10.30pm, and a handsome 2001 Arena documentary profile at 10.55pm.
Obama: What Happened to Hope? with Andrew Marr
Sunday 7.30pm BBC2
As America prepares to go to the polls on Tuesday, Andrew Marr looks back at President Barack Obama's term in office. Through informal and candid interviews with some of Obama's White House staff and those who have worked closely with him, Marr assesses how far the presidency has lived up to the huge expectations of four years ago.
Monday 2.15pm BBC1
A flagship daytime drama, this five-part adaptation of Charles Dickens's The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby runs each afternoon this week. Updating the novel from the Victorian boarding school to contemporary care homes, Andrew Simpson plays the eponymous orphan, sent to work in his sinister uncle's flagship old people's home.
Tuesday 10.35pm BBC1
Good to know that even Britain's most successful crime writer, the Rebus creator Ian Rankin, procrastinates, drinking coffee and doing sudoko puzzles before settling down to write. Rankin writes one book a year, and this is his six-month video diary as he bashes out the latest – listening to Tangerine Dream CDs and consulting a green manila folder full of cuttings and jottings.
Great Contintal Railway Journeys
Thursday 9pm BBC2
Armed with a copy of Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide for 1913, Michael Portillo begins his new series with the most popular route across Belle Epoque France, from London to Monte Carlo, imbibing absinthe in Paris and a spin on the Riviera gaming tables. And by Eurostar he doesn't have to endure a Channel crossing by packet boat.
Attenborough's Ark: Natural World Special
Friday 9pm BBC2
"This is a dodo," says David Attenborough, patting a stuffed model of the extinct bird at the start of a programme in which he nominates 10 endangered creatures for salvation. Eschewing tigers and other obvious headline-grabbers, he selects such rarities as Darwin's frog, Priam's birdwing butterfly and the black lion tamarin.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
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 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Germany sees 'visible rise' in support for far-right extremism in response to perceived 'Islamisation' of the West