TV choices of the week (19/05/2012): A jubilant study of our small-island ancestors
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.
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.
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".
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
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Arts & Ents blogs
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 2 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 3 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 4 Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
- 5 Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
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