Television choices: Marathon trip to trace a line of descent from African origin


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The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week: Meet the Izzards

Wednesday 9pm BBC1

It's a sort of DNA version of Who Do You Think You Are? as the "comedian, actor, marathon runner and transvestite" (why stop there?) Eddie Izzard, explores his ancestry by way of spitting into a test tube. Or, as the introduction to this two-part documentary (the second episode is on Thursday) puts it: "We follow humanity's journey from our shared origins in Africa 10,000 generations ago all the way to Eddie Izzard." The journey actually begins in Bexhill-on-Sea, where Izzard's father, John (his mother died of cancer when Izzard was six), gives a sort of genealogical pep-talk before his son packs his nail varnish and jets off to Namibia to meet his eldest relatives, the Kalahari Bushmen, in order to retrace his ancestors' footsteps out of Africa.

Flight of the Rhino: Natural World

Saturday 8.30pm BBC2

It's a problem flagged up by David Attenborough in his recent BBC1 series, but in South Africa last year 668 rhinos were killed for their horns and at this rate there could be none left in the wild in 15 years. This film travels with the helicopters being used in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park to carry endangered black rhinos to a new site.


Sunday 9pm Channel 4

It may not concern the hunt for Bin Laden – here the quarry is a home-grown British terrorist suspect – but in other ways there are similarities between Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty and this absorbing new Guy Hibbert drama. The actor David Oyelowo returns to Spooks territory as a loner MI5 agent convinced that a local Muslim man is planning an atrocity in London.

Her Majesty's Prison – Aylesbury

Monday 9pm ITV1

An effective deterrent to crime – unless you are the type who glories in gang culture and violence – this two-part documentary spends five months at the eponymous (and, on this evidence, hellish) young offenders' institution in Buckinghamshire. We begin with Northern newcomers taking a hostage in a bid to get a transfer closer to home.

The Fried Chicken Shop: Life in a Day

Tuesday 9pm Channel 4

In Yonni Usiskin's strangely life-affirming (unless you are a battery broiler) Cutting Edge film, a busy fried chicken franchise fast-food joint on Clapham High Street in south London is armed with mini-cameras to spy on the diverse human life stopping to buy chicken wings and to look at why such eateries are worth £4bn annually in the UK.

Murder on the Victorian Railway

Thursday 9pm BBC2

The first murder on British railways was committed in 1864, when a banker was slain on a Hackney-bound train – sparking a debate that revealed Victorian anxieties about steam and the iron roads multiplying in their midst. This drama documentary uses dialogue taken from court transcripts, letters and memoirs. Robert Whitelock stars.

The Swing Thing

Friday 9pm & 1.05am BBC4

Stephen Poliakoff's Dancing on the Edge has sparked the scheduling of a number of jazz-related documentaries, including this repeated history of swing – from the jazz clubs of the Twenties that sparked a youthful cultural revolution, to Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, by way of some of the most iconic stars of the century: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller.