Television choices: Women take the throne in a regal and racy period drama


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The Independent Culture

The White Queen

Sunday 9pm BBC1

BBC1's £20m co-production with the US cable channel Starz (purveyors of Da Vinci's Demons) is a 10-part adaptation of Philippa Gregory's femme-centric take on the Wars of the Roses, The Cousin's War. The first three novels have been conflated to bring us a trio of heroines – Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson, left), the “commoner” wife of King Edward IV; Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale), mother of Henry Tudor; and Richard's III's ill-fated consort, Anne Neville (Faye Marsay). It begins with Max Irons as a strapping young Edward IV, and his courtship of Woodville, the titular White Queen. Filmed in Belgium, with enough nudity to satisfy fans of The Tudors, it's a racy overview of an under-explored period of English history.

Goodbye Granadaland

Saturday 8.30pm ITV

“Like a jerry-built comprehensive school,” is Richard Madeley's refreshing description of the Granada television studio complex in Manchester after various former ITV luminaries have gushed about its “iconic” status. The complex, which hosted the first television appearance of the Beatles, is closing after 57 years. Peter Kay (above) hosts this last hurrah.

Airport Live

Monday 8pm BBC2

A bit like Springwatch, but with runways and terminals: all this week, Dallas Campbell, Anita Rani and Dan Snow (above) go behind the scenes at Heathrow. Tonight, Snow finds out how the airport grew from a row of tents, Rani discovers how weather affects the airport each day, and Campbell goes first class in an Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger aircraft.

Something for Nothing

Tuesday 8pm Channel 4

The consumer journalist Harry Wallop (above) presents a sort of high-end Superscrimpers, revealing how to live well for free. He begins with a night on the town, including how to eat a complimentary restaurant meal, holding his own “swishing” (swapping old clothes) event, and throwing a no-expense party. Access to social media seems to be key.

Horizon – Fracking: the New Energy Rush

Wednesday 9pm BBC2

A topical documentary, given recent reports that shale gas could answer the UK's energy needs for the next 50 years. The geologist Iain Stewart (above) travels to America to find out what can be learned from the US experience of fracking, meeting people who have become rich from it, as well as those worried about the risks to their communities.

First Dates

Thursday 9pm Channel 4

The brave new world of online dating is dissected in this interactive reality show, in which eight couples each week have their first date – in a restaurant rigged with unobtrusive cameras in the style of 24 Hours in A&E. If the couple decide not to meet again, then viewers can put themselves forward as a next date, and have that broadcast on television.

Wild Shepherdess with Kate Humble

Friday 9pm BBC2

The Wakhi shepherds of Afghanistan inhabit a mountainous isthmus so remote that even the Taliban don't bother with it, which is good news for them, and good news for Kate Humble (above). Having recently started a new life on a Welsh sheep farm, Humble leaves her flock to hang out with shepherds in some of the world's most inhospitable climes.