Television choices: The journalist and the jazz man hit all the right notes


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week: Dancing on the Edge

Monday 9pm BBC2

Stephen Poliakoff was researching his 2003 drama The Lost Prince when he discovered that the future King Edward VIII and his brother, George, used to frequent jazz clubs – and those findings now gain dramatic fruition in his new five-part saga about a black jazz band in early Thirties London. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as fictional band leader Louis Lester, Matthew Goode plays the music journalist who champions him, John Goodman is an American plutocrat who's not very nice to the ladies, and Mel Smith makes a welcome return to our screens as a hotel manager. This opening episode is studded with Poliakoffian tropes and grace notes, but even a couple of languid set pieces can't completely get in the way of a good story.


Saturday 9pm & 10pm BBC4

Prime minister Birgitte Nyborg's (Sidse Babett Knudsen) private and public lives collide in the concluding double-bill of the Danish political drama, as daughter Laura is sent to a private clinic just as Birgitte defends her health reforms. And there's a conflict of interests for the loved-up spin doctor Kasper and journalist Katrine.

Wonders of Life

Sunday 9pm BBC2

As David Attenborough's Africa ends with a bang, Brian Cox's new series feels not so much wondrous as a tad boring – like a worthy biology lesson, with a lot of padding (and padding about) and over-long sequences about single-cell organisms, catfish (actually Cox nervously holding one of these vicious critters is funny) and so on. It's the senses this week.

Danny Baker's Great Album Showdown

Tuesday 9pm & 3am BBC4

Those who think that baby-boomer music nostalgia is getting out of control may wish to be elsewhere as Baker's guests choose their favourite records of yesteryear from different genres, beginning with rock. Jeremy Clarkson, the former Smiths producer Stephen Street and the writer Kate Mossman are the first to vindicate their vinyl.


Wednesday 9pm BBC1

Ending his triumphant series, David Attenborough pulls back the focus from the wildlife to show the booming human population sharing their continent. "What is the future for wild Africa?" he asks, as rare beasts are hunted for meat or, in the case of the black rhino, for their horns. More hopefully, Massai warriors have now called an entente cordiale with their local lions.

How to Build a Bionic Man

Thursday 9pm Channel 4

From prosthetic arms and legs to artificial organs, science is beginning to catch up with two centuries of art, from Frankenstein to RoboCop. Bertolt Meyer, who has a bionic hand himself, investigates, while a team creates a complete "bionic man" for the first time, using state-of-the-art limbs and organs borrowed from some of the world's leading laboratories.

Monty Don's French Gardens

Friday 9pm BBC2

"Je m'appelle Monty," says the roving gardener, as he gets himself to a nunnery in the Cévennes, inviting a mother superior to sniff a cucumber (I know, it's almost indecent). The "gourmet garden" is his subject this week, or the potager as they say in France. I like Monty Don's observation that the Gallic potager is about "vegetables doing what they are told".