TV choices of the week (19/05/2012): A jubilant study of our small-island ancestors


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The Independent Culture

TV pick of the week

The Great British Story: A People's History

Friday, 9pm BBC2

The oncoming jubilee must have seemed like a timely moment to take stock of us British, "a resilient and creative people", according to Michael Wood, punching above our weight in historical terms. Wood's landmark series promises to show our island race in a fresh light, starting with the observation that there were black people here – Moorish centurions – before there were any English. Roman Britain, which is where he starts, was as cosmopolitan as we were going to get for another 1,400 years. Not that civilisation ended as soon as the Emperor Honorius sent his "Dear John" letter in 410 AD, announcing troop withdrawal. Wales might even have been the last remnant of empire, clinging on long after the Visigoths sacked Italy.

The Bridge

Saturday, 9pm, BBC4

Saga cries – as momentous a moment for fans of The Bridge as Garbo laughing was to Thirties movie-goers – while also (under Martin's tutelage) praising her subordinates. Progress indeed for televison's most original heroine. The final two episodes of this terrific Danish-Swedish thriller, which sees the killer unmasked, include a climax set, as you'd expect, on the Oresund Bridge.

Channel 4's Comedy Gala

Sunday, 9pm, Channel 4

Viewers of BBC2's ongoing documentary series Great Ormond Street may need no further encouragement to put their hands into their wallets, as Jessie J introduces a third annual fundraiser for the London children's hospital. Lee Evans, Michael McIntyre, Jonathan Ross, Micky Flanagan, Kevin Bridges, Jo Brand, Keith Lemon and Alan Carr top the bill.

Gok Cooks Chinese

Monday, 8.30pm, Channel 4

Who knew that Gok Wan was raised above a Chinese restaurant? His father, "Poppa Wan", the former chef-patron, is in the family kitchen to help his fashionista son recreate old favourites, although Gok's habit of speaking for "Poppa" means it's essentially a one-man show as he cooks food that's "better than sex, shoes or handbags". To start, simple egg-fried rice.

Hit & Miss

Tuesday, 10pm, Sky Atlantic

I can buy Chloë Sevigny as a transgender hitman/woman, less so as an Irishman/woman. Apart from the decision to lumber this wonderfully natural actress with an unnatural accent, Paul Abbott's six-parter – Sky Atlantic's first home-grown drama – begins crisply, as Sevigny's Mia discovers that she is the father of an 11-year-old boy, and guardian to a feral brood.


Wednesday, 8pm, ITV1

A don feels humiliated when her internet-dating video is leaked on to a website and watched by her students, being found dead the next morning in what appears to be a suicide. Nah – a third party is, of course, involved, with Toby Stephens among the guest suspects, while the Morse creator Colin Dexter makes his once-in-a series cameo. See if you can spot him.

Grandma's House

Thursday, 10pm, BBC2

The final episode of Simon Amstell's gently hysterical sitcom finds him being forced out of the house, Auntie Liz declaring that "It's like a drug addict, you can't keep supporting them." Salvation, it seems, comes in an unexpected invitation to join the beloved Ben Theodore in Hollywood, although highlight of the night has to be Clive's rendition of "Sex on Fire".