Television choices: Intricate web of secrets and stealth drives active agent


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The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week: Spies of Warsaw

Wednesday 9pm BBC4

It is 1937, and Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier (played with considerable dash by David Tennant), a highly decorated soldier from the First World War, is the French military attaché stationed in Poland – and he's taking a covert interest in suspicious German tank movements across the border. You may need that information because although Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais have made a good job of adapting the American author Alan Furst's spy novel, the background isn't made entirely clear. Janet Montgomery plays the love interest who makes Mercier's espionage activities more complicated – she's a lawyer attached to the League of Nations – while a refreshingly unfamiliar Anglo-Polish cast deepen the authenticity.


Saturday 9pm & 10pm BBC4

Dane-dram fans in mourning for the The Killing can find deep solace in the return of prime minister Birgitte Nyborg (the excellent Sidse Babett Knudsen), who, one year on from the first season, is visiting troops in Afghanistan. Back home, she is holding off signing her divorce papers, while reporter Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) works for right-wing tabloid Ekspres.

Mr Selfridge

Sunday 9pm ITV1

ITV's department-store drama had to be pulled in the autumn when BBC1 pipped them to the post with The Paradise, but now returns in the prestigious Downton Abbey slot, with Jeremy Piven (scene-stealing lawyer Ari Gold in Entourage) as the flamboyant Harry Gordon Selfridge, the visionary who brought American-style shopping to Oxford Street.

The Polar Bear Family and Me

Monday 9.30pm BBC2

"I'm not sure if I like that", says the cameraman Gordon Buchanan as a polar bear bashes his perspex hide – Buchanan's mission being to get closer to these carnivores than anyone before, spending a year with them in the Arctic. But he has hardly set foot on terra firma when a young adult male bear (the most dangerous) decides he smells like lunch.

Don't Blame Facebook

Tuesday 10pm Channel 4

Friends arrested on terror charges at a US airport after a joke tweet, and a McDonald's employee sent to jail after hacking a superstar's Facebook page, are two of the stories featured in this documentary about people who have made extraordinary blunders on Facebook and other social media websites, revealing the dangers of sharing too much information online.

The New Normal

Thursday 9pm E4

"I would like to have a skinny blond child who doesn't cry...", says Bryan (Andrew Rannals), one half of a gay couple from LA, as he shops with his partner for a surrogate mother. Enter Goldie (Georgia King) a working class single mom, whose own mother (Ellen Barkin) is homophobic. This frisky US sitcom is from the Glee creator Ryan Murphy.

First Time Farmers

Friday 8pm Channel 4

A new observational documentary series, looking at all aspects of farming life through the eyes of the younger generation, begins in Herefordshire, where Robbie is trying to make a successful business from his mum's struggling pig farm, Ed returns to the family farm after quitting his city job, and third-generation farmer Nick is trying to escape the family business.