Around the World in 80 Trades, Channel 4
Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant, Channel 4
Five Minutes of Heaven, BBC2

A market analyst loses money hand over fist, way out of his depth in foreign markets. Does this sound familiar?

Telly asked us to sympathise with the devil last week, come he in the form of a sectarian killer, a tyrannical king, or a "market analyst". A colleague on the business desk of this newspaper assures me that market analysts are different from bankers, but I remain unconvinced. Conor Woodman, a former City boy who used to broker deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds, told us he grew bored by his job (yes, as a "market analyst") and quit, hence his decision to withdraw £25,000 of his own money and head off Around the World in 80 Trades, haggling with the world's oldest business brains, and using the profit from each transaction to fund the next leg of his journey.

"Forget the economic doom and gloom," Woodman pleaded in his introductory voice-over. Easy for you to say, I thought, watching him swan off to Sudan with a TV crew in tow. Crouching in a truck bed on the way to his first trade, with the camel merchants of Khartoum, Woodman disputed the notion that money is the root of all evil. "Without trade and the pursuit of wealth," he argued, "no one would know about anything beyond their own front door .... [It's] the reason people interact."

Happily, this total banker – sorry, "market analyst" – was in for a rude awakening. Thanks to his ignorance of camel sales etiquette, most of the traders declined to interact with him at all. Thousands of pounds in the hole, he thought he'd better try something a little easier, and changed quickly from an explorer into a tourist, flying 2,000 miles south to Victoria Falls for a bungee jump. Oh, and to close a deal with Craig, a white, English-speaking Zambian coffee grower, whose beans he proposed to export to South Africa.

Despite finding himself in the more comfortable surroundings of a Starbucks-style Cape Town coffee shop, Woodman failed yet again to make a trade. For a "market analyst", he seemed to do very little analysing of his markets, and it turned out Craig's coffee was actually a bit rubbish. Finally, he managed to shift a few bags for a knock-down price. This week he's off to Asia, where he plans to flog red wine and chilli sauce to the middle classes, and haggle some livestock and stones out of Kyrgyzstani horse traders and Chinese jade miners. I know where I expect him to meet with success, and it ain't with the horse traders. Or the miners.

If Woodman promised something exotic but produced something familiar, then in Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant, David Starkey gave us something familiar and made it seem new again. Starkey may be the foremost Henrician of our age, but even Jonathan Rhys Meyers couldn't make the Tudors tedious, what with all that sex and blood and blood and sex and more sex.

No, Starkey's skill in this series is to illuminate not only the gripping history but also the work of the historian. Far more engrossing than dodgy re-enactments were the scenes in which he pored over original source documents, describing them as "magical objects". From them, in his quest to explain the tyrant's inner life, Starkey deduced the impact of Henry's mother on his handwriting and thus his education. He uncovered, too, the future king's correspondence with childhood heroes from the Dutch humanist scholar Erasmus to Philip, a swashbuckling archduke of Burgundy.

Throughout, Starkey reminded us that history is formed from a mixture of fact and guesswork. Five Minutes of Heaven did something similar for television itself. This genre-bending one-off drama concerned an abortive meeting – organised by a TV production company – between Joe Griffin (James Nesbitt) and Alastair Little (Liam Neeson), who, as a young UVF gunman in Belfast in 1975, shot Griffin's brother dead in front of him.

Griffin, Little and his crime are all very real, but their present-day meeting was imagined by screenwriter Guy Hibbert, helped by speculative interviews with both men. The film's first half worked hard to expose the shortcomings of the medium. To elucidate the minds of such real-life protagonists is beyond the powers of television, it seemed to suggest – let alone for it to become a tool of reconciliation, the stated aim of the fictional documentary.

Griffin was asked to do a second take of a heart-rending moment, because the director was unhappy with the camerawork. Eventually, he decided he couldn't meet his brother's killer on camera after all. And Little's self-justifying narration was later revealed to be a false TV construction, too, a prepared speech to camera that also required a reshoot.

Yet, in Neeson's hands, that speech was magnificently persuasive, and when the pair did finally, fictionally meet, Hibbert's script and two superb central performances conspired to move me deeply anyway. That's the power of television, I guess.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all