Television choices: More operatic aspirations for free-thinking Mercury


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The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week: Freddie Mercury - The Great Pretender: An Imagine Special

Tuesday 10.35pm BBC1

The 25th anniversary of Freddie Mercury's triumphant Barcelona project with the operatic soprano, Dame Montserrat Caballé, is the peg for this richly sourced and oddly moving look at the flamboyant performer's career outside Queen – complete with insightful new interviews with Brian May and Roger Taylor. Although it was actually written by the bassist John Deacon, Queen's 1984 "I Want to Break Free" reflected Mercury's thinking at the time – and although his first solo album flopped, he soon found inspiration in his love of opera and ballet – as well as recording with Michael Jackson. Those results are broadcast here for the first time, but don't hold your breath.

The Thick of It

Saturday 9.30pm BBC2

Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) is in particularly pitiless form as deposed leader Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front) makes her farewells ("You have all the charm of a rotting teddy-bear by a graveside," is one of his more printable invectives). But the last laugh is against Tucker, as the PM calls for a inquiry into leaking to the press – The Thick of It's version of Leveson.


Sunday 9pm Channel 4

Carrie (Claire Danes), still in her brunette wig and brown contact lenses, makes contact with Fatima, the wife of Hezbollah's Beirut commander with information to sell. But is Fatima's news a breakthrough or a trap? Brody (Damian Lewis) is meanwhile watching events from 6,000 miles away, ensconced with the chiefs of staff in a bunker – and he isn't a happy US congressman.

Wonderland: Walking with Dogs

Monday 9pm BBC2

A simple but effective documentary, as Vanessa Engle hangs out on Hampstead Heath interviewing dog-owners. With the vicar who finds a canine chum helps his pastoral outreach, the servant hired to pick up the mess left by five Bichon Frises and the ex-wife of a bankrupt living in a hostel with her Weimeraner, all of human life is here.

Grand Designs

Wednesday 9pm Channel 4

Kevin McCloud has brought his passion and (its flip-side) disdain to bear on 100 building projects now, and this centenary episode features the most ambitious projects to date – a couple's plans to convert a 150-year-old water tower in central London into a luxury home. The Grade II-listed ruin features 6ft-thick walls, but also 360 degree views over the capital.


Thursday 10pm BBC2

Hebburn, a fictional town in the North-east, "is where dreams come to die", according to Jack (Chris Ramsey), introducing new wife Sarah (Nixon) to his parents (played by Jim "Vic Reeves" Moir and Gina McKee), siblings and drinking mates in this reasonably amusing new sitcom written by the Tyneside stand-up Jason Cook.

Stand Up to Cancer

Friday 7.30pm Channel 4

That is the rallying cry of a benefit concert that concludes Channel 4's week-long programming to raise awareness of the Big C. Davina McCall and Alan Carr host, Cheryl Cole opens the show with her new single, and Dr Christian Jessen intercuts the ensuing acts to explain the science behind new cancer trials it is hoped can be funded by viewer contributions.