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
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk