Television choices: On the frontline of the fight against Assad


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The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week: Syria: Across the Lines - Channel 4 Dispatches

Wednesday 10pm Channel 4

A vivid behind-the-headlines account of the civil war in Syria, the documentary-maker Olly Lambert having spent five weeks on either side of the Orontes River that divides the (mainly) Sunni insurgents from the loyalist troops of Bashar al-Assad.

Seen from this rural frontline, the conflict seems to be congealing into unwinnable sectarian strife, as the Free Syrian Army – unaided by the West – struggles to use weaponry looted from government forces, and Lambert joins a rebel attack across the Orontes, the raiders only having 80 bullets between them. Assad's men have plenty of rockets with which to retaliate – and they do. "There will be vendettas for 50 years as a result of these crimes," says an old man.

Doctor Who

Saturday 6pm BBC1

If, as has been reported, Matt Smith is to leave the show, may I suggest that it might be a good thing. It's not Smith's fault, but the remorseless larkiness of the scripts that feed into his way of playing the Doctor are beginning to rob the series of any genuine tension. Or so it seems to me, as the Time Lord and Clara are on a stricken Soviet submarine in 1983.


Sunday 8pm ITV

Return of the Inspector Morse prequel, set in 1965 Oxford and again starring Shaun Evans as the rather priggish young detective. Anton Lesser is a welcome addition to the cast, playing Morse's antagonistic new martinet of a boss, as a series of gas meter swindles and post-office raids is put into the shade by the murder of a respectable GP in a public lavatory.

The Hoarder Next Door

Monday 9pm Channel 4

More than a million people in the UK are now hoarding. Really? Either way, there are enough to provide case studies for a second series of this show, in which the psychotherapist Stelios Kiosses helps hoarders de-clutter in just six weeks. First up for a quick fix is the primary-school teacher Jo, 62, who has managed to fill her home with text books, toys and magazines.

Royal Paintbox

Tuesday 10.35pm ITV

Prince Charles is in amiable buffer mode as he guides viewers around works of art created by his ancestors. It's who made them, rather than the works themselves, that are of interest, because the Duke of Edinburgh's painting of the Queen eating breakfast, the Queen's juvenile lino-cut of a horse, and Queen Victoria's various watercolours are, frankly, not up to much.

Maureen Lipman: If Memory Serves Me Right

Thursday 9pm BBC1

Deeply affected by how the loss of her father's short-term memory changed him ("He lost his ess-ence," she says of the former Hull shopkeeper), the actor Maureen Lipman says that she constantly worries about losing her own power of recall – especially given her need to learn lines. But how does memory work? And is there any way of improving it?

The Ice Cream Girls

Friday 9pm ITV

Another ITV thriller set in a seaside town, but this adaptation of Dorothy Koomson's bestseller promises a tighter grip than Broadchurch. It switches between 1995, when two teenage girls are accused of murdering their schoolteacher, and the present, when the less pretty and popular one (Jodhi May) leaves prison for the crime she insists she didn't commit.