Television choices: How we came to this from lowly origins is Marr-vellous
TV pick of the week
Andrew Marr's History of the World
Sunday 9pm BBC1
It may sound like one of those cod-portentous titles, like Monty Python's Meaning of Life, but then fair play to the big-eared fella for having the ambition to go 68,000 years better than Kenneth Clark's Civilisation – the 1969 series that took in a mere 2,000 years of human history. This co-production with Discovery intercuts Marr with reconstructions of early Homo sapiens, Ancient Egyptians and so on, as he begins with humanity's great journey out of Africa, and the startling fact that most of us are descended from one woman from one tribe. Marr's sub-Churchillian delivery does have its moments, as when he discusses man's destruction of the Neaderthals. "It is also probable, I regret to report," he growls, "that we liked to eat them."
The Thick of It
Saturday 9.55pm BBC2
It does sometimes seem like just one-long exchange of well-crafted insults, but Armando Iannucci's comedy of political (bad) manners is one of the most purely enjoyable things on television. This week a reluctant Peter Mannion (Roger Allam) has been dragooned into a "thought camp" in a rural hotel with no mobile signal. And then the proverbial hits the fan.
Monday 8.30pm BBC2
Television's campest chef – morphing, it seems, into Nanette Newman – returns, as Nigella Lawson "brings the spirit of Italy into the kitchen using ingredients available in any English supermarket". Has she been in Costcutter recently? The link to Italy is Lawson's gap year in Florence, while her Tuscan fries, heated from cold oil, look intriguing.
Later Live with Jools Holland
Tuesday 10pm BBC2
A return to probably the world's greatest television music show, as the Beach Boys play songs from their latest album That's Why God Made the Radio, as well as hits from the back catalogue. John Lydon's Public Image Ltd sample their first new album in 20 years, and The xx showcase songs from their follow-up to their Mercury Prize-winning debut album xx.
JK Rowling – Writing for Grown-Ups: a Culture Show Special
Wednesday 10pm BBC2
The Hogwarts scribe talks about the creation of The Casual Vacancy, her hotly anticipated "adult novel" (because, of course, Harry Potter is not for adults), which is published tomorrow. She reveals the inspiration for the story, set in a small English town, and discusses the challenges of new literary territory.
Thursday 9pm ITV1
The lives and loves of four women related to soldiers serving in Afghanistan – starting, in time-honoured fashion, with a death. Claire Skinner (Outnumbered), Antonia Thomas (Misfits) and Nicola Stephenson (Brookside lesbian snogger) lead the cast, while Greg Wise plays the type of officer who would command his wife to "pull yourself together" at a funeral.
Servants: the True Story of Life Below Stairs
Friday 9pm BBC2
The historian Pamela Cox, whose grandparents were in service, dispels the nostalgia about life below stairs in this timely new series. Downton Abbey isn't mentioned by name, although the ITV drama gets one thing right – the strict hierarchy among the servants. Otherwise anonymity and invisibility was order of their 17-hour days.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?
Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
Lucy, film review: Scarlett Johansson will blow your mind in Luc Besson's complex thriller
JK Rowling pens new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians